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American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Earn More Membership Rewards

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The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is a status symbol that offers generous rewards and perks to people with superb credit. With this travel card, you’ll earn points on flights as well as everyday purchases. Here’s what you should know before applying.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Benefits and basics

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express’s rewards rate is one of the highest among American Express cards. You’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines; 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The card also comes with a decent sign-up bonus: Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $195, but if you use the card frequently and are sharp about redeeming points, you can make up for that expense in rewards fairly easily. Sign-up bonus aside, if you put more than about $3,200 worth of flights booked directly with airlines on the card, you can break even on this deal, taking the $100 airline fee credit into account.

Note that because this is a charge card, you are required to pay the balance in full each month.

Here are some of the card’s standout features:

Annual $100 airline fee credit. The annual $100 airline fee credit that comes with this card can be used to cover incidentals, such as baggage fees, airport lounge day passes and in-flight refreshments. If you travel frequently, you’ll easily use up this credit.

Transfer partners. You can transfer your Membership Rewards points to several airlines and hotels, sometimes at a 1:1 ratio. This makes it an excellent card for people who already have loyalty accounts elsewhere. If you transfer and redeem judiciously, you may be able to get upward of 2 cents of value out of each point. This chart shows how much points and miles are worth in various programs.

Hotel upgrades and credits. If you stay at least two consecutive nights at a hotel in American Express’s Hotel Collection, you’ll get a credit of up to $75 on certain dining, spa and resort expenses, as well as any upgrades that are available. Keep in mind that some of the hotels in this collection are on the pricier side.

All in all, this is an excellent card for frequent travelers who can afford to pay off expenses in full every month.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Pitfalls and other possibilities

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express isn’t a perfect fit for everyone. Here’s why you might want to go for another card.

Limited international acceptance. Outside the U.S., American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa and MasterCard. Even though the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express comes with no foreign transaction fees, you may want to carry a backup card to use instead when traveling abroad.

Low statement credit redemption value. While you can redeem Membership Rewards as statement credit, that redemption option will only give you a value of 0.6 cent per point. In this case, a cash-back card, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, would offer a better rewards rate.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express doles out 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 spent a year — then 1%), unlimited 3% on gas and select department stores, and 1% elsewhere. It also comes with a sign-up bonus: Special Offer - Earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply This card has an annual fee of $95, but (sign-up bonus aside), you’ll come out ahead if you spend about $1,600 on groceries every year.

No airport lounge membership. The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express allows you to use the $100 airline fee credit to cover day passes for airport lounges — exclusive clubs in airports that generally serve complimentary food and drinks. But that credit may only be enough for about two airport lounge day-passes. If you want to visit these lounges more frequently, The Platinum Card® from American Express may be a better pick.

American Express Platinum Credit Card
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With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get access to airport lounges worldwide, including Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges, as well as free enrollment in Priority Pass Select. Its annual fee of $450 is relatively steep, but considering that a one-year pass to Delta Sky Club Lounges costs $450 for a single person, this card offers excellent value. The card also comes with an annual $200 credit to offset airline incidentals like bag fees or in-flight meals, plus a big sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply

Should I get the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express?

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express may not be the best card for you if you don’t travel often, or if you don’t like booking flights directly with airlines. But if you’re a frequent flier looking for a travel rewards card that offers redemption flexibility and big earning potential, this card could be an excellent pick.

Updated September 2, 2015

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @ideclaire7.