The Bottom Line: For dining enthusiasts who can maximize the annual credits on this card, it's well worth the annual fee.
Quick FactsView rates and fees
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Pros & Cons
High rewards rate in certain categories
$100 airline fee credit; hotel upgrades and credits
No foreign transaction fees
Annual dining credit
American Express isn’t accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard internationally
No lounge membership
Alternate Pick: Luxury benefits
For high-spending foodies, the American Express® Gold Card has joined the ranks of dining rewards royalty.
Once a so-so travel card, the card added new benefits in October 2018, making it a far more appetizing option — especially to those who spend plenty on dining and groceries. The $250-annual-fee card now features 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases a year) and a $120-a-year dining credit, among other perks. Terms apply.
There's a catch, though: Cardholders report having trouble getting the bonus rewards they're due when dining at restaurants that handle credit card transactions through companies like Square and Toast. American Express has said it is working on the issue, but in the meantime, it pays to take a close look at your statement. More on that below.
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 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at U.S. 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 on amextravel.com.
1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.
Intro APR: None
Foreign transaction fees: None.
$100 annual airline fee credit.
$120 annual dining credit (available in monthly credits on select purchases).
Why you might want the American Express® Gold Card
You can maximize the annual credits
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.
$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 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.
You spend plenty on food and want transferable points
For foodies and travelers, the American Express® Gold Card offers a rich spread of ongoing rewards, including 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. 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 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 cent 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.
You want that 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 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. Assuming you can get 1 cent out of each point, that’s worth $250. It's not the largest bonus around, but it's potentially enough to cover your airfare on your next trip.
Beware the bonus rewards issue
Cardholders report that the American Express® Gold Card hasn't consistently credited them with the bonus rewards they're due on restaurant purchases. The issue arises when restaurants use third-party payment processors, such as Square and Toast. This is a big issue for purchases made at U.S. restaurants, in particular, since so many rely on processors like these. The card's competitors don't appear to have the same problem.
American Express's terms and conditions state: "Purchases made through a third-party payment account or on an online marketplace (with multiple retailers) will not qualify for additional points. A purchase may not qualify for additional points if the merchant submits the purchase using a mobile or wireless card reader or if you use a mobile or digital wallet.”
However, as of February 2019, AmEx said it has updated its system so that more of these purchases would earn bonus rewards. Even so, the problem has not yet been completely fixed. The issuer recommends cardholders contact American Express customer service when they believe they should have received additional rewards.
Why another card might be better
You Can't stomach the annual fee
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 — hold 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, and has an annual fee of $0. 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 sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
You value simplicity
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 on groceries! 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. In any event, until the issues with bonus rewards are worked out, know that the card may require a little maintenance to ensure you're getting what you deserve.
To view rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please visit this page.
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