American Express Gold Card Review: Dining Rewards Royalty

This card features rich benefits for foodies, including high ongoing rewards at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets and an annual dining credit, among other perks.

Claire TsosieOctober 29, 2020

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Our Take

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: For dining enthusiasts who can maximize the annual credits on this card, it's well worth the annual fee.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Credit Card

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$250

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High rewards rate in certain categories

  • $100 airline fee credit; hotel upgrades and credits

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Transfer partners

  • Annual dining credit

Cons

  • American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard internationally

  • No lounge membership

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$250

Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

For high-spending foodies, the American Express® Gold Card is dining rewards royalty.

The $250-annual-fee card earns 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases a year) and a $120-a-year dining credit, among other perks. Terms apply.

Points are worth 1 cent apiece on average, according to NerdWallet valuations. Assuming you didn’t redeem the annual credits on the card (more on that later), that means you’d have to spend at least $6,250 per year to earn enough rewards on this card after the first year to make up for the annual fee, making it a poor choice for frugal folks.

But for those who spend plenty on food and can take advantage of all the card’s annual credits, it’s a winner.

American Express® Gold Card: Key features

Card type: Rewards.

Annual fee: $250.

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards:

  • 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, including those made through third-party processors like Square and Toast .

  • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year.

  • 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

  • Terms apply.

Membership Rewards points are worth about 0.5 cents to 1 cent each depending on how you redeem them. Travel and gift card redemptions are generally the most valuable. Points are also transferable and can be worth even more if redeemed strategically after being transferred to other loyalty programs.

Airlines:

  • Aer Lingus.

  • AeroMexico.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air France/ KLM.

  • Alitalia.

  • ANA.

  • Avianca.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • El Al Israel Airlines.

  • Emirates.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Iberia Plus.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Qantas.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Hotels:

  • Choice Hotels.

  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts.

For transfer ratios, see AmEx's website.

APR: See terms.

Nerd tip: This product is technically a charge card. Unlike traditional credit cards, charge cards don't typically let you carry a balance and require instead that pay your bill in full every month. However, this card offers two different features — "Plan It®" and "Pay Over Time" — that allow it to function more like a traditional credit card. Plan It® lets you set up a payment plan for eligible purchases, during which you pay a monthly fee instead of interest charges. With this feature, you know how much you'll pay each month. "Pay Over Time" lets you finance eligible purchases over a term with interest. There is a limit to the amount you can finance with a Pay Over Time plan.

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits:

  • $100 annual airline fee credit. (NOTE: This benefit is ending after 2021).

  • $120 annual dining credit (available in monthly credits on select purchases).

  • Eats Pass from Uber: Get a complimentary one-year pass to Uber's restaurant takeout and grocery delivery membership. This subscription normally costs $119 a year, and it offers a $0 delivery fee, 5% off restaurant orders over $15, and a $0 grocery delivery fee over $30 (select markets).

  • Metal card.

  • Terms apply.

Why you might want the American Express® Gold Card

the annual credits Are Potentially Valuable

The American Express® Gold Card comes with $220 worth of annual credits — a $100 airline fee credit and $120 dining credit. Terms apply. These can effectively cancel out most of the card’s $250 annual fee, provided that you use them. That could potentially make this card much more valuable than other dining cards that offer similarly rich ongoing rewards. Keep in mind that this might require some extra effort on your part, given the restrictions on these goodies. Here’s how these credits work:

  • $100 annual airline fee credit. This can be applied toward incidental air travel fees, such as baggage fees, at one selected qualifying airline. You can change your airline of choice via AmEx’s website once each year, during the month of January. Credits are applied within four weeks of purchase. Terms apply. (NOTE: This benefit is ending after 2021).

  • $120 annual dining credit. You’ll get this $120 in monthly $10 credits on your account that can be applied toward purchases made with select partners: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. (Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports and racetracks are excluded, according to the issuer.) Credits will be applied within two to four weeks of your purchase posting to your account. These monthly credits don’t roll over from month to month; if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. Terms apply.

For someone who visits The Cheesecake Factory at least once a month and frequently checks bags with a certain airline, maximizing these credits is easier than rolling off a log. But if you wouldn’t normally spend money this way, the credits might not be as valuable as they seem.

Points are transferable

For foodies and travelers, the American Express® Gold Card offers a rich spread of ongoing rewards, including 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, and 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply. What really makes these points worthwhile, though, is the potential to transfer them to travel partners.

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to several other loyalty programs, including frequent flyer programs from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates. A caveat, though: When transferring to U.S. airlines, you'll also have to pay a fee of $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99. You're better off avoiding those fees when possible.

To be sure, the Membership Rewards program offers plenty of other redemption options. But compared with transferring points, they generally aren’t as lucrative. If you’re craving flexibility or don’t travel frequently, you might be better off with another card.

There's A solid Welcome bonus

The American Express® Gold Card’s welcome bonus isn’t exactly a showstopper; the real value of this card lies in its ongoing rewards and benefits. But for those looking to rack up Membership Rewards points, it gives the card’s overall value a solid boost. The current offer is as follows: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply. Assuming you can get 1 cent out of each point, it's not the largest bonus around, but it's potentially enough to cover your airfare on your next trip.

About those bonus rewards

Previously, cardholders were reporting that the American Express® Gold Card hasn't consistently credited them with the bonus rewards they're due on restaurant purchases. The issue has arisen when restaurants have used third-party payment processors, such as Square and Toast. This was an issue for purchases made at restaurants, in particular, since so many rely on processors like these. The card's competitors didn't appear to have the same problem.

However, in June 2019, AmEx confirmed to NerdWallet that it had updated its system so that these types of purchases when dining should automatically earn bonus rewards. The issuer recommends cardholders contact American Express customer service when they believe they should have received additional rewards.

Why another card might be better

The Annual fee is Steep

For folks who maximize the American Express® Gold Card’s annual credits and spend plenty in the card's bonus categories, the card is worth every penny, even at $250. But for those who can’t, a card with comparable rewards — but without the annual fee — is a smarter choice. That’s why you might want to consider the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

This card offers an excellent 3% on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. Because it offers cash back, rather than points, the rewards are more flexible and easier to redeem. Like the American Express® Gold Card, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. It also comes with a solid welcome bonus.

The benefits are complicated

For every rich benefit the American Express® Gold Card offers, a parade of small, annoying caveats seems to follow. You get a $120 annual dining credit! But it’s just in $10 monthly increments and can be used only on select purchases. You can transfer points! But with some airlines, you'll have to pay a fee to do so. You get 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets! But there’s an annual spending cap. Terms apply.

If you don’t have time for that kind of tedium, a flat-rate cash-back card could be a much better fit for you. Consider the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, for example. It offers an impressive 2% cash back — 1% back when you make purchases, and an additional 1% back when you pay them off. It also has an annual fee of $0. The downside: It charges foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. But if this isn’t a deal-breaker for you, it could be an excellent choice.

Should you get it?

The American Express® Gold Card isn’t the perfect dining credit card for everyone, and it’s not trying to be. But for folks who can make the most of the annual credits and spend plenty on dining, groceries and airfare, it can one of the most rewarding options available.

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please visit this page.

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