American Express Gold Card Review: Dining Rewards Royalty
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For dining enthusiasts who can maximize the annual credits on this card, it's well worth the annual fee.
Pros & Cons
Flexible rewards redemption
Has annual fee
Requires good/excellent credit
This is an excellent pick for folks who are more interested in luxury travel benefits. With an annual fee of $695, the card offers extensive airport lounge access, Uber credits, airline fee credits and more.
Compare to Other Cards
See Pay Over Time APR
20.49%-27.49% Variable APR
16.49%-27.49% Variable APR
0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended Credit Score
690850good - excellent
Recommended Credit Score
690850good - excellent
Recommended Credit Score
690850good - excellent
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, 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 of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants.
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 with American Express Travel.
1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.
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.
APR: See terms.
This card offers two features — "Plan It®" and "Pay Over Time" — that allow you to finance certain purchases over a period of time, but it is not a traditional credit card because some charges must be paid in full. 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.
$120 annual dining credit (available in monthly credits on select purchases.)
Up to $120 a year in Uber Cash ($10 per month).
Why you might want the American Express® Gold Card
The annual credits are potentially valuable
The American Express® Gold Card comes with up to $240 worth of benefits that 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 benefits work:
$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, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select 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.
Up to $120 a year in Uber Cash. Add your card to your Uber account, and each month you'll automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for U.S. Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. These monthly allotments of Uber Cash don’t roll over from month to month; if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. Terms apply.
For someone who uses Uber and visits The Cheesecake Factory at least once a month, 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, 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 with American Express Travel. 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 offer
The American Express® Gold Card’s welcome offer 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 of Card Membership. 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% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target), plus 1% on all other purchases. 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, 8% cash back on purchases through Capital One Entertainment and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cards booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply).
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, 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.
To get a sense of how these cards compare with the competition, visit NerdWallet’s list of best credit cards to get.
Should you get it?
The American Express® Gold Card isn’t the perfect dining 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.