The American Express Gold Card is a fantastic card for domestic food purchases. This card is for those who spend heavily in restaurants and at grocery stores stateside and want to travel too.

Formerly known as the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card, this card was revamped in 2018. Amex raised the card’s annual fee to $250 (NOT waived the first year) and added some new benefits.

Is this golden charge card a good one?

Earning

The Gold Card earns 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points on US Restaurants and Grocery Stores. But the 4x points are limited to the first $25,000 in purchases. It also earns 1x points on all other purchases.

The Gold Card has a public sign-up bonus of 35,000 MR points. This sum can be earned after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months. There is a targeted bonus of 50,000 points for the same minimum spend. Because of Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule, I suggest going for the highest bonus possible even if it means waiting.

Burning

Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Amex has multiple options for redemption:

Transfer Partners

American Express’ 21 transfer partners are this card’s most valuable redemption option. They are the reason why points and miles enthusiasts love Membership Rewards so much. Amex transfers points at a 1 MR to 1 partner currency ratio unless otherwise noted.

Hotels

  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton (1 MR = 2 Hilton Honors Points)
  • Marriott

Airlines

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aero Mexico (5 MR = 8 Premier Points)
  • Air Canada
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • Air Italia Millemiglia
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca Lifemiles
  • British Airways
  • Delta Airlines
  • El Al Israel Airlines (50 MR = 1 Matmid Point)
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue (5 MR = 4 TrueBlue Points)
  • Nippon Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).

Other Options

You can redeem points for paid travel, but I don’t recommend doing so. This option gives you a value of 1 CPP toward airfare, and between 0.75 and 0.85 CPP for hotels, cars, cruises, or whole vacations.

Gift cards, merchandise, and statement credits are not recommended. You will earn less than 1 CPP using these options. If cash back or gift cards are what you want, this card is probably not for you.

Benefits

While the Gold Card doesn’t have the benefits of the Platinum Card, Amex doesn’t leave card-members empty handed. Amex revamped this card in 2018 and part of the revamp was the addition of benefits.

Airline Fee Credits

This card gives you $100 per year in airline incidental fee credits. Amex intends them to be used for things like in-flight purchases and checked bags. But people have used them for gift cards. The trick is to buy multiple gift cards under $50 sporadically throughout the year.

Dining Credits

You will receive $120 in dining credits for select restaurants each year. But the catch is that Amex gives you one $10 credit each month, making this benefit hard to use. Amex did this with the Uber Credits on the personal Platinum Card.

These credits are only useful for tipping if you eat at the select restaurants. Otherwise, they are useless.

Hotel Collection

After booking a hotel room through amextravel.com and using your Gold card to pay for everything, you will receive a $75 statement credit and a room upgrade. The room upgrade could be worth hundreds of dollars (and possibly justify the card’s annual fee), depending on where you stay.

Baggage Insurance

This benefit covers up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags.

Extended Warranty

You will receive an extra year of warranty on purchases with warranties of 5 years or less.

Roadside Assistance

Amex covers roadside assistance issues up to four times per year if you find yourself stuck on the side of the road. If you don’t have AAA, this benefit could be very powerful.

Secondary Car Rental Insurance

This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental after your regular insurance’s policy kicks in.

No Foreign Exchange Fees

You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.

Global Assist Hotline

This benefit is a phone number that you can call if you’re stuck more than 100 miles away from home. Amex will give you access to various emergency services to help you.

Return Protection

If you’re unhappy with a purchase, this benefit helps you get your money back. Amex is the best in the industry in helping cardholders with returns.

Rules & Regulations

This card is subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule, which states that you can only receive a sign-up bonus on any card once ever. Therefore, you should apply for this card when the sign-up bonus is 50,000 points.

Similar Cards

American Express Everyday Preferred Card

This card is a more conservative alternative to the Gold card. It earns 3x MR points at US Grocery Stores and 2x points at US Gas Stations for a $95 annual fee. Like the Gold Card, the annual fee is NOT waived the first year.

If you use your card at least 30 times per month, you will receive a 50% points bonus. You can earn 4.5x points at Grocery Stores, 3x at Gas Stations, and 1.5x on everything else with the bonus. This bonus makes the Everyday Preferred a better earner at Grocery Stores for a much smaller annual fee.

The Everyday Preferred has a public sign-up bonus of 15,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending just $1,000 in the first 3 months. The bonus has been as high as 30,000 points in the past.

I would recommend this card over the Gold Card for those who don’t want a high annual fee. People who cannot use the Gold Card’s benefits will also be better off with this card. Both cards have the same redemption options and standard Amex perks. If you find Amex’s credits and the Hotel Collection useless, this card is a better alternative.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred is Chase’s version of the Amex Gold Card. It earns 2x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on Travel and Dining.

This card has a $95 annual fee and a public sign-up bonus of 50,000 UR points. But you must spend a hefty $4,000 in the first 3 months to earn the points.

The Sapphire Preferred is the better card if you like Chase’s travel partners or travel portal. If you can’t afford the sign-up bonus and/or you like Amex’s travel partners more, the Gold Card is better.

Citi Premier

Citibank’s mid-tier travel card is an alternative (or possible complement) for those who travel internationally. It earns 3x Thank You (TY) points on Gas and Travel. You can also earn 2x points on Entertainment and Dining.

The Citi Premier has a $95 annual fee and a public sign-up bonus of 50,000 TY points. But you must spend a hefty $4,000 in the first 3 months to earn the points.

If you fly internationally, the Citi Premier is a great complement or alternative to the Gold Card. However, if you fly domestically more often, the Gold Card is a much better option.

Final Draw

The American Express Gold Card is great for travelers who spend a lot on dining and groceries at home. It’s best suited for these purposes, despite not having any foreign transaction fees.

The high annual fee and the lack of substantive benefits make this card a pass for me. For a better balance between rewards and annual fee, I recommend the Everyday Preferred Card. If you want more benefits, the Platinum card is better than the Gold Card.