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There has been a ton of hype over the American Express® Gold Credit Card since it launched. Now that the initial excitement has died down, it’s time for a clear-headed review of the card. This is a great product for its primary audience: people who spend a lot on U.S. dining and at U.S. supermarkets.

Welcome Offer

There is a 35,000 point welcome offer for the American Express Gold credit card. You can earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Note that American Express has begun denying welcome offers to many people. You’ll find out whether you’re eligible when you attempt to apply for the card.

Annual Fee

The American Express Gold credit card carries a $250 annual fee (See Rates and Fees). This is expensive compared to a card with similar benefits and no annual fee.

Annual Fee Offsets

Like the Platinum card, there are ways to get back most of the annual fee. However, make no mistake: cash-back benefits are designed for breakage and these are harder to collect than you’d guess.

First Offset

The first offset is a $100 airline fee credit. Get up to up to $100 in statement credits annually for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline. This is relatively difficult to use in practice, however, because you have to nominate a specific airline for which the credit is used. To maximize the credit, buy two $50 airline gift certificates from either Southwest or American Airlines, both of which reliably credit as fee offsets.

Of course, you’re then stuck with gift cards, so be sure that you’d fly either of these airlines. The “gift certificate trick” also works with Delta, although it is less reliable because some gift certificate orders are processed through a partner website.

Second Offset

The second offset with the American Express® Gold Card is the hardest one to use. On paper, Amex offers a $120 dining credit, but it’s heavily restricted. It’s not a $120 lump sum but is instead dribbled out at $10 per month. Miss using the credit in a given month? It’s gone, and won’t carry over to subsequent months.

While Amex uses the term “dining credit,”, the credit is effectively a discount valid only at the following merchants:

-Grubhub

-Seamless

-Cheesecake Factory

-Ruth’s Chris Steak House

-Shake Shack (excludes Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports, and racetracks)

If you order frequently from food delivery services (i.e. GrubHub), you’ll be more likely to maximize this benefit. Amex is banking on you not doing this.

If you were to max out the dining and airline credits, you’d be saving $220, $30 less than the $250 annual fee.

Points Earnings

The headline points earnings are eye-popping at 4x at restaurants and supermarkets, and 3x on airfare. However, when you read the fine print, you’ll find that Amex’s generosity has limitations.

While this probably won’t affect most people, 4x points earnings are only at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. More painfully, supermarket earning is capped at $25,000 per year; spending beyond this threshold credits just one point per dollar (there is no cap on bonused restaurant spend).

3x on airfare also has a loophole: travel purchased from online travel agencies (like Expedia, Vayama or Priceline) is excluded. You must purchase airfare directly from the airlines or from American Express Travel in order to be eligible for the 3x rate. Given that the best fares are often sold by online travel agencies, this is a significant limitation.

If you’re looking to earn unlimited points on dining and travel, you may want to instead consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. While the Preferred only earns 2x points per $1 spent on dining and travel, there aren’t as many limitations. You can earn transfer your points to Chase’s many travel partners and earn an unlimited amount of points on dining and travel worldwide. Plus, you won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees. The annual fee is also much lower, at only $95.

Foreign Transaction Fee

There is no foreign transaction fee (See Rates and Fees) with the American Express® Gold Card. However, do note that Amex sets its own exchange rates. Depending upon the currency, these can be more or less favorable than Visa or MasterCard. Additionally, you may find that American Express cards aren’t accepted super widely abroad.

Tip: If you want to/plan to travel and would like to utilize credit card perks, check out our list of the best travel credit cards for 2019. If you plan on traveling internationally, you’ll want to check out our post on the best credit cards for international travel.

Purchase Protection

If an item you buy is damaged, stolen or lost within 120 days, you can be reimbursed. The maximum you can get reimbursed is $10k per occurrence and $50k per year.

Note that for residents of New York, Indiana, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, coverage duration is 90 days.

Return Protection

According to Amex, “If you try to return an eligible item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, American Express may refund the full purchase price excluding shipping and handling, up to $300 per item, up to a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year per Card account, if you purchased it entirely with your eligible American Express® Card. Purchases must be made in the U.S. or its territories.”

Car Rental Insurance

Amex offers its standard secondary car rental insurance. This is comparable to MasterCard but is more limited than Visa.

Baggage Insurance

With the American Express® Gold Card, you can get insurance coverage for over $500 in checked bags and $1,250 in carry-on bags.

Roadside Assistance

The key benefit with the American Express Gold Card is 10 free miles of towing as well as jumpstarts and flat tire assistance. Up to 4 claims a year are allowed.

Final Thoughts on the American Express Gold Credit Card

Overall, the benefits of this card are pretty good, but not as good as they might first seem. If you make a lot of purchases each year on dining and at supermarkets, this card could treat you quite well. However, there are other cards out there (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Capital One Venture) that offer returns on spending that are almost as good without as many gotchas to watch out for.

What do you think about the refreshed version of the American Express Gold card? 

Link to apply: American Express® Gold Card

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here

Caroline Lupini

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American Express Gold Credit Card Review
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