American Express® Gold Card Review: Hundreds of Dollars in Credits and Massive Rewards

Lyle Daly is a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

The American Express® Gold Card used to be a pretty “meh” rewards card. Back in the days when it was called the Premier Rewards Gold Card® from American Express, it was the forgotten middle child in the American Express lineup, stuck between the feature-heavy Platinum Card® from American Express and the card issuer’s more affordable rewards cards.

Then 2018 came to a close and American Express decided to revamp its Gold Card. It added a dining credit, jacked up the rewards, and raised the annual fee. For the fashion-conscious consumer, it also offered a rose gold card design option. All these changes have certainly made the American Express® Gold Card a better card, but how much better? Let’s find out what it offers and where it ranks among the best cards on the market.

American Express® Gold Card
Our Bottom Line

The welcome offer, dining and airline credits, and premium rewards more than justifies the annual fee.

What we Like:
  • Big welcome offer
  • 4x points for dining and U.S. supermarkets
  • Up to $100 in travel statement credits
Key Scores:
4.5 5 Perks
3.5 5 Fees
3.5 5 APR
Perks 4.5/5
Fees 3.5/5
APR 3.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $250
  • Regular APR: See Rates & Fees
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Highlights
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. 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.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Rates & Fees

The information for this card has been collected independently by The Ascent and not provided by the issuer. Therefore, some terms may be out of date. Visit the issuer's website for more information.

What I like

Earn up to 4 points per $1 -- The American Express® Gold Card earns:

  • 4 points per $1 at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets for up to $25,000 per year in this category
  • 3 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com

There’s no denying it -- 4 points per $1 is an incredible rate and makes the American Express® Gold Card one of the best choices for dining and U.S. supermarkets.

Welcome offer-- You can earn a welcome offer of 35,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months. To be honest, this is a little lackluster compared to some of the most impressive welcome offers, but there’s still nothing wrong with a free 35,000 points.

$120 annual dining credit -- You can receive dining credits of $10 per month when you use your American Express® Gold Card at select participating restaurants and food delivery services. You must enroll first to receive your credits.

$100 annual airline fee credit -- You can receive an annual credit of up to $100 for incidental airline fees with one airline of your choosing. Examples of incidental airline fees include in-flight purchases and checked baggage charges.

No foreign transaction fees -- If you’re going abroad, you don’t need to worry about extra fees when you use your American Express® Gold Card.

Why you can trust me

Credit cards are one of the main topics I write about, so I’ve researched almost every card on the market and used many of them in my personal life. In terms of credit card rewards, I’ve earned more than 500,000 rewards points and over $1,000 in cash back. I’ve used the American Express® Gold Card and its predecessor, the Premier Rewards Gold Card® from American Express.

What could be improved

$250 annual fee -- The American Express® Gold Card isn’t cheap to carry around, and the annual fee isn’t waived for the first year, either. With the card’s $250 price tag, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you can make use of all its credits and other benefits.

4 points per $1 only at U.S. businesses -- Considering the American Express® Gold Card is a travel rewards card, it’s disappointing that the card only earns its 4-points-per-$1 rate at restaurants worldwide and supermarkets. Other popular travel cards that offer bonus points on dining expenses offer that worldwide.

What you need to know about charge cards

Like several other cards in the American Express lineup, the American Express® Gold Card is a charge card, not a credit card. With charge cards, you need to pay your bill in full every month, meaning you can’t carry a balance like you can with credit cards.

There’s also no pre-set spending limit on charge cards, although that doesn’t mean American Express will let you charge an unlimited amount on your card. How much you can spend will depend on the annual income you entered on your application and your payment history with the card issuer.

American Express does offer a Pay Over Time feature with its charge cards, but you will need to pay interest. For that reason, you should only get the American Express® Gold Card if you’re planning to pay in full every month. If you may need to carry a balance, then low-interest credit cards would work better for you.

What are American Express points worth?

American Express Membership Rewards® points are worth approximately $0.015 to $0.02 per point, as that’s what you can expect to get when you use them well on travel redemptions.

The American Express Membership Rewards® program has several airline partners where you can use your points to book international business or first-class tickets, and on those type of redemptions, it’s possible to get well over $0.03 per point.

On the other hand, if you were to use your points for cash back, you’d only get $0.006 per point, so you need to be careful about choosing the right redemption option.

How to redeem American Express points

You can redeem your points online through your credit card account. Here’s how:

1. Log in to your American Express® Gold Card account.

2. Click on “Rewards” in the menu at the top of the page.

There’s also an “Explore Rewards” button that you can click. Either one will take you to the Rewards page.

3. Choose the option you want and proceed through the redemption process.

You’ll have the following options:

  • Pay with Points at Checkout
  • Redeem for Gift Cards
  • Cover Your Card Charges
  • Book Travel
  • Transfer Points
  • Go Shopping

Don’t let all those options fool you. Most of them will get you a subpar value for your points, and the only one worth using is “Transfer Points.”

Is the annual fee justifiable?

The annual fee is justifiable if you’re planning to use your American Express® Gold Card regularly and you can take advantage of the credits it offers.

Between the $120 in annual dining credits and the $100 in airline fee credits, you could get a total of $220 in credits from the card. With its $250 annual fee, the card would be costing you $30 per year after you take the credits into account.

For a card with such a high rewards rate, $30 per year isn’t much. Let’s be conservative and say that you’ll get $0.01 per point from your rewards. It would take just $750 per year in U.S. supermarket and restaurant worldwide spending to earn 3,000 points, which would have you breaking even on the annual fee.

How it stacks up against other rewards cards

The American Express® Gold Card has areas where it ranks near the top among rewards cards, but it also lacks certain perks that other cards have.

Reward rates are one area where the American Express® Gold Card shines, as 4 points per $1 at restaurants worldwide and supermarkets is more than most cards offer. Its $220 in total annual credits is also a big perk, and you’d only get more total credits from cards with annual fees of $400 or more.

However, one common travel benefit that’s missing from the American Express® Gold Card is a credit for the Global Entry or TSA Precheck program. Several travel cards have this, including the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, both of which have only $95 annual fees.

As of Nov. 18, 2019
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card
Rating image, 4.0 out of 5 stars.
4.0 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.0 out of 5 stars.
4.0 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Read Full Review
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Read Full Review

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months, equal to $500 in travel Bonus: 50,000 bonus points- a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Rewards Program: Unlimited 2 miles per $1 Rewards Program: Unlimited 2 points for every $1 on travel & dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 17.49% - 24.74% Variable Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that Annual Fee: $95

Highlights:

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Highlights:

  • Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

You also don’t get any airport lounge access with the American Express® Gold Card. To be fair, that’s only a standard perk among cards with higher annual fees in the $450 range, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

How to best use this card

The American Express® Gold Card works best as your primary card that you use for all your expenses. That way you can maximize your rewards and use its credits to the fullest.

To get the most out of your card, make sure that you:

  • Use it for all your spending at restaurants worldwide and supermarkets.
  • Choose an airline you use often for your $100 airline fees credit.
  • Pay your bill in full every month. Since this is a charge card, you’re not supposed to carry a balance. You can through the Pay Over Time feature, but it’s not worth the interest.
  • Only redeem your points by transferring them to airline or hotel travel partners.

How to apply for the American Express® Gold Card

If you’re ready to pull the trigger on the American Express® Gold Card, here’s what to do:

1. Visit the card’s page and click “Apply Now.”

2. Enter all the required application information.

3. Submit your application and wait for a decision.

Is this card right for you?

Since it has such specific benefits, the American Express® Gold Card will only be right for certain types of cardholders. You should think about applying if you:

  • Have high spending at restaurants worldwide and supermarkets.
  • Dine at least once per month with the restaurants and food delivery services partnered with American Express.
  • Incur at least $100 in airline fees per year.
  • Travel with any of the airlines or hotels partnered with American Express where you could transfer your points.

This card is also particularly valuable for big spenders. While it doesn’t have the largest welcome offer, it does have very high rewards rates, so you can earn points quickly if you’re spending at least $1,500 to $2,000 per month using your card.

Just be sure you can pay off your balance in full each month because this is a charge card.

For a complete list of rates and fees for the American Express® Gold Card, please visit this page.

About the Author