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American Express Gold vs. AmEx Premier Rewards Gold: What’s the Difference?

April 15, 2016
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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This page is out of date

In October 2018, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express was rebranded as the American Express® Gold Card, reviving the original name of the product. The new card has an all-new suite of rewards and benefits, meaning this page is out of date. See our details page for the American Express® Gold Card for the current offer.

In 1966, American Express introduced a gold-colored “executive” credit card that became one of the first and most famous premium cards. A half-century later, the company offers two similar-looking but not entirely identical gold cards: the American Express® Gold Card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. If you’re wondering what the difference is, you’re not the only one. The Nerds get this question a lot.

The most obvious difference is the annual fee, which is higher for the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express after the first year. But there are also differences in how they earn rewards. Let’s take a quick look at the two cards.

At a glance
American Express® Gold Card Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
Annual fee $0 for the first year, then $160 $0 for the first year, then $195
Rewards rate 1 point per dollar spent;
2X points on flights booked directly with airlines;
2X points at U.S. restaurants
1 point per dollar spent;
3X points on flights booked directly with airlines;
2X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets
Verdict: For an extra $35 per year, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is a better option. You’ll get higher rewards for just a bit more money.
Good for:
  • Someone who wants rewards for dining and travel
  • Someone who wants a lower annual fee
  • Someone who wants rewards for travel, dining and everyday spending
  • Someone who doesn’t mind a slightly higher annual fee
Bad for:
  • Someone who wants to carry a balance
  • Someone who wants cash back
  • Someone who wants to do a balance transfer

How the benefits compare

American Express cards offer many benefits to their members, but the cards with higher annual fees offer more. Both of these cards have annual fees and both offer many of the same benefits:

  • Annual fee is waived for the first year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Membership Rewards® program to redeem points for travel, gift cards and merchandise.
  • Preferred seating at select concerts and events.
  • Presale window to buy tickets to select concerts and events.
  • Access to the American Express Auto Purchase Program.
  • Travel assistance, such as roadside service, car rental insurance, baggage insurance, travel accident insurance.
  • Extended warranties on merchandise purchases.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers premium roadside assistance, which means AmEx will send help in an emergency 24/7, and all expenses are covered. With the roadside assistance program on the American Express® Gold Card, you’ll get help to find a tow truck or get gas delivered, for instance, but you’ll pay for these third-party services.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers a $100 airline travel credit annually to cover expenses like baggage fees or in-flight WiFi charges; the American Express® Gold Card does not.

How the rewards stack up

With both the American Express® Gold Card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you earn one point for every dollar spent. But the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express pulls ahead with its “3/2/1 Accelerator,” which earns you:

  • 3X points when you book flights directly with the airlines.
  • 2X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets.
  • 1X points on all other qualifying purchases.

You can also enhance your rewards with the American Express® Gold Card, although not as quickly. According to the American Express website, you’ll earn:

  • 2X points when you book flights directly with the airlines.
  • 2X points at U.S. restaurants.
  • 1X points on other purchases.

Say you spend $2,000 on flights each year, $200 a month on gas, $500 on groceries, $300 on dining out, and $200 on other purchases. With the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you’d earn 32,400 points per year. With the same spending using the American Express® Gold Card, you’d earn 22,000 points.

NerdWallet values Membership Rewards points at 0.5 to 1 cent apiece, depending on how you redeem them. So the extra 10,400 points you’d earn with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express would be worth $52 to $104 — more than enough to cover the difference in the annual fee.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express usually has a better welcome bonus.

You can see whether you pre-qualify for a better offer on this card or other AmEx credit cards at NerdWallet’s American Express Pre-Qualified Offers page.

Redeeming rewards

You can transfer your points to eligible frequent flier programs in 1,000-point increments, and American Express says that, for most airlines, 1,000 points equal 1,000 miles. There are some exceptions, though:

  • British Airways and Iberia: 250 points = 200 Avios; must be transferred in 250-point increments.
  • El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 points = 20 Matmid points.
  • Hilton: 1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points.
  • JetBlue Airways: 250 points = 200 TrueBlue points; must be transferred in 250-point increments.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 points = 333 Starpoints®.
  • Virgin America: 200 points = 100 Elevate points; must be transferred in 200-point increments.

Through Membership Rewards, you can also redeem points for gift cards and merchandise or use them to buy stuff on Amazon.com, pay for Uber rides or pay for charges to your card.

Comparing fees

Fee-wise, these cards are practically the same except for the slightly higher annual fee (after the first year) on the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Because they are geared toward travelers, neither card charges a foreign transaction fee.

Which card is right for you?

It all comes down to the annual fee and the rewards. For an extra 35 bucks for the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you’ll earn rewards much faster, you’ll get a bigger welcome bonus, and you’ll get the $100 credit for airline fees.

If the extra rewards outweigh the higher fee — and they usually will if you use the card regularly — then the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is your better bet.