In late 2018, American Express released a refreshed version of the . While the card issuer bumped the annual fee up to $250 for this new offering, they introduced an intriguing combination of perks and earning categories that could be ideal for consumers who love dining out and eating fancy foods.
For example, this newer version of the card lets you earn 4x points at U.S. restaurants and on your first $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1X. You can also receive up to $120 in dining credits at participating partners each year along with other food-related perks.
Without a big welcome bonus, however, the American Express® Gold Card could be a hard sell. In this review, we’ll share how we rate this card, its bonus structure, and why the annual fee could be well worth it.
American Express® Gold Card: Key Takeaways
- Excellent earning structure: Earn 4x points at U.S. restaurants and on up to $25,000 in spending at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1X. Terms apply.
- Welcome bonus: While the welcome bonus on this card isn’t huge, it’s better than nothing, and it makes up for the annual fee the first year.
- Dining benefits: Receive up to $120 in dining credits each year at participating restaurants. Also get 20% back as a statement credit at U.S. restaurants with a limit of $100 during the first three months you own the card. Offer available to new Card Members who apply by 1/9/2019. Terms apply.
- Points transfer: The American Express Membership Rewards program lets you transfer points to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs.
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Gold Card: Giving Foodies a Reason to Celebrate
If you’re someone who loves dining out and spends a ton of money on food at specialty supermarkets, the offers an excellent value proposition. Not only will you rack up 4x points for each dollar you spend at U.S. restaurants, but you’ll also get 4x points on $25,000 worth of spending at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1X. That’s a lot of money to spend at the store, and it could make this card a smart option for caterers, restaurant owners who shop at the grocery themselves, or even big families with giant grocery store bills.
The American Express® Gold Card also offers other benefits for foodies, although they’re harder to use. You can qualify for a $120 dining credit each year at participating restaurants, for example, but the credits are doled out in $10 monthly increments and only if you use them. You can also get 20% back on restaurant purchases with a limit of $100, but that perk is only good for three months to new card members who apply by 1/9/2019.
In terms of other ways to earn points, the offers 3x points on airfare booked with airlines or through AmexTravel.com. That makes this card better than some cards that earn AmEx Membership Rewards, but less fruitful than the since it offers 5x points on airfare.
Speaking of American Express Membership Rewards, you’ll be delighted to learn that the points you earn with this card can be used in a number of ways. Not only can you transfer points (mostly at a 1:1 ratio) to airlines like Delta, Aeroplan, British Airways, and Air France/Flying Blue, but you can also transfer to Hilton Honors, Choice Hotels, and Starwood Preferred Guest.
Another benefit we love about this card is its $100 airline fee credit that can be used to cover incidentals such as in-flight meals and checked bags. Finally, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use your card to make purchases abroad.
American Express® Gold Card: Why You Should Pass
While the American Express® Gold Card offers a very interesting lineup of perks some foodies and dining enthusiasts may love, there are a few downsides that may be difficult for certain consumers to get over. For starters, the card comes with a $250 annual fee and a welcome bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first three months. Since the first-year fee pretty much wipes out the welcome bonus, American Express isn’t doing much to entice people to get on board.
It’s also difficult to understand this bank’s incessant need to create barriers that make it difficult to access cardholder perks. The American Express® Gold Card is a good example of American Express making consumers jump through hoops. For starters, their $100 airline credit is only good for one airline and you have to select your airline ahead of time.
Second, the $120 dining credit is doled out in $10 monthly increments and only for participating restaurants. If you read the fine print, participating restaurants are limited and include “Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.” It seems strange that American Express would tout the $120 dining credit so loudly on their home page when it can really only be utilized by a select number of people who dine at a small selection of participating restaurants every single month.
You also have to “enroll” your card in the program to get this benefit, which means it is not automatic.
In summary, the American Express® Gold Card offers some interesting benefits but it also makes these benefits difficult to access. Most people don’t want to pay $250 for a rewards card that doesn’t offer a big welcome bonus to begin with, but it will be even more difficult for consumers to get over all the qualifiers this card places on its perks.
Who This Card Is Good For:
- Consumers who dine out often and spend a lot of money at restaurants
- Anyone who wants another way to earn more points with American Express Membership Rewards
- People who spend $2,000 per month at U.S. supermarkets
Who Should Pass:
- Anyone who won’t maximize the 4x categories
- People who don’t want to pay a big annual fee
- Consumers who don’t like complicated rewards structures or perks that are hard to earn
How Does It Compare to Other Cards with Big Dining Bonuses?
While it’s hard to say which competing card aligns with the American Express® Gold Card the most, you should also consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® before you sign up for this card.
Not only does the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer airline and hotel transfer partners through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but it also doles out 3x points on all travel and dining purchases. You also get a $300 annual travel credit that’s applied to all travel purchases automatically, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and other perks.
This chart shows how these two cards compare:
|American Express® Gold Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve®|
|Earning Structure||4x points at U.S. restaurants and up to $25,000 spending at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1X; 3x points on airfare from airlines or through AmexTravel.com; 1x points on all other purchases. Terms Apply.||3x points on travel and dining; 1x points on all other purchases|
|Cardholder Perks||$120 annual dining credit at select restaurants and $100 airline incidentals credit with one airline. Terms Apply.||$300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, and get 50% more travel through the Chase travel portal|
While the American Express® Gold Card does offer the higher rate of 4x points at U.S. restaurants and extends that rate to $25,000 in spending each year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1X), the Chase Sapphire Reserve® still comes out ahead. First, it offers 3x points on dining at all restaurants — not just restaurants in the U.S. Second, the $300 annual dining credit applies to all travel purchases without any limitations or enrollment required.
Another benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the fact that you get 50% more travel when you use points from this card to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. When you use points from the American Express® Gold Card to book travel through AmexTravel.com, on the other hand, you only get one cent per point in redemption value.
The downside of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is that it does have a $450 annual fee. However, this fee is mostly offset but the $300 annual travel credit you get automatically when you use your card for travel purchases throughout the year.
Hate Big Annual Fees? Try This Card Instead
If you are against paying big annual fees each year but want to earn more than 1 point per $1 on dining and have the ability to transfer points to travel partners, you should also consider the . This card waives its $95 annual fee the first year, but you earn 2x points on dining and travel and you can transfer points 1:1 to popular partners like Southwest Airlines and Marriott Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
If you want a card that lets you earn points you can use for travel, there are a ton of flexible travel credit cards to consider. The American Express® Gold Card is only one such option, but it could be a smart choice if you spend a ton of money at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets each year.
If you do choose to sign up, just keep in mind that some of the card’s perks won’t come easy. For example, you have to choose an airline ahead of time to receive your airline credit, and you have to enroll your card and dine at participating restaurants to get the full $120 in annual dining credits. As always, it’s important to read your card’s terms and conditions and full offer to make sure you understand them.
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