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How Do I Know If the AmEx Gold Card Is Right for Me?

Nov. 13, 2019
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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If you’re a foodie who likes to travel, the American Express® Gold Card might be your ticket to bonus Membership Rewards points that can earn you free travel faster.

The card has been a staple in the American Express portfolio of cards for years, and a popular option for travelers. But the card got a revamp late last year that makes it even more attractive.

Changes to the AmEx Gold Card

In October 2018, AmEx made significant changes to the card. In addition to changing the name from the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to the more simply named American Express® Gold Card, the issuer also doubled the earning rates in the popular supermarket and restaurant categories from 2x to 4x and added a dining credit. Terms apply.

Now, you get a $10 monthly statement credit when you use the card for food deliveries through Grubhub and Seamless, or at Boxed, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The Cheesecake Factory and participating Shake Shack locations. Terms apply. That can add up to $120 annually.

Then, this past June, AmEx broadened the restaurant category to include dining establishments worldwide in the 4x bonus earning category. Terms apply.

On the downside, the card’s annual fee has gone up from $195 to $250, and the fee is no longer waived the first year. Terms apply. But the higher fee can be easily offset by the big welcome bonus, annual credits, and other card benefits — as long as you use them.

» Learn more: Full review of the AmEx Gold Card

Earning ability

For starters, you’re eligible for this welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. That’s worth at least $350 if you redeem your Membership Rewards points directly through AmEx Travel. And the offer can be worth much more if you transfer those points to one of American Express’ 19 airline transfer partners. Terms apply.

In addition to the 4x earning at restaurants worldwide, cardholders also earn 4x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 a year in purchases. Terms apply. Everyone has to eat. So whether you’re ordering in, dining out, or buying groceries and cooking at home, you’ll be racking up Membership Rewards points fast. This can add up considerably, especially if you’re shopping for a family or picking up the tab for more than one person.

You’ll also earn 3x points on flights booked through AmEx Travel or directly with the airlines. And the card has a $100 annual airline credit for incidental fees like checked bag fees and seat selection fees on an airline you choose. The card has no foreign transaction fees, which is great for overseas travelers. Terms apply.

» Learn more: 13 benefits of the AmEx Gold Card

Is the card worth the fee?

You may be wondering if the card is worth the increased annual fee, especially since the fee isn’t waived the first year. If you take advantage of the monthly statement credit for food deliveries (which adds up to $120 per year) plus the $100 annual airline credit, the $250 annual fee is reduced to only $30. Terms apply. The card will easily pay for itself the first year if you use those credits and earn the welcome bonus points.

The American Express® Gold Card really opens the door to increased earning ability in the popular dining and supermarket categories. But if you don’t travel much or plan to use the $100 airline credit, and you’re only buying food for yourself, those benefits may not be as valuable to you. Also, if you book your travel through an online travel agent like Expedia, you won’t earn 3x points on those flights.

If you want to do the math behind the potential earnings to see how many points you can accrue the first year, estimate how much you spend on food annually and quadruple that number to come up with the points you can earn. Then look at your airline travel budget and triple that figure to come up with the potential points earned. Add those two numbers together to see how many points you would earn on bonus categories. All other spend earns 1 point per dollar. Terms apply.

You may also want to compare that number of points to what you could earn with a cash-back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer to decide whether the American Express® Gold Card is right for you.

When deciding if this card is right for you, keep in mind that you’ll earn the welcome offer once you meet minimum spending requirements. The value of those points alone more than covers the first year of holding the card. You may need to rethink membership when the annual fee comes along in the second year, but the first year will pay for itself for most people and gives you the opportunity to really boost points balances with generous bonus categories and determine whether the card makes sense for you going forward.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best airline credit card for you
Making the most of the AmEx Gold Card
Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies

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