For decades, American Express has been one of the most prestigious names in the credit and charge card world. It isn’t just living off its reputation, either, as it has a variety of excellent cards and a rewards program with transfer partner after transfer partner.
The top two cards in the card issuer’s lineup are the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. The latter is obviously the most luxurious option -- I’m not exactly a jewelry expert, but even I know that platinum tops gold.
But does platinum top gold when it comes to these two cards? To find out, I’m evaluating all the important features and fees with each card. This showdown comprises six total categories, and since the first five are the most significant for a travel rewards card, they’ll count for two points apiece. The last category’s less important, so it will be a one-pointer.
This category’s about as clear-cut as it gets.
The American Express® Gold Card isn’t cheap, and at $250 per year, it occupies a strange middle ground between the many cards with $95 to $100 annual fees and the premium cards that will cost you $400 or more.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is in a whole different league of expensiveness at $550, which is the most I’ve seen for a credit card. You’re paying $355 more for it per year, except for the first year when you’d pay $550 more.
To be honest, the welcome bonus on the American Express® Gold Card isn’t that impressive. There are many cards available with much bigger bonuses that will charge you half the annual fee. The only point in its favor is the low spending minimum.
The Platinum Card® from American Express has the superior bonus, albeit with a larger spending minimum to meet. The $5,000 minimum in three months comes out to an average of $1,666.67 per month. That’s certainly doable, but keep in mind that the $550 annual fee doesn’t count towards that minimum.
Both cards have reward rates that are good, but limited. Where other card issuers go with wide-ranging travel, dining, and entertainment bonus categories, American Express is much more specific. This results in fewer opportunities for cardholders to earn extra points.
That criticism aside, the reward rates are close between these two cards. The Platinum Card® from American Express has that impressive five points per $1 rate for three types of purchases. Even though you could pick up a lot of points this way, three somewhat-limited bonus categories still feel like a letdown on a card that costs $550 per year to own.
You get a lower rate of three points per $1 on flights booked through airlines from the American Express® Gold Card, but it also earns you two points per $1 in several popular spending categories. Almost everyone buys groceries and gas, so you probably won’t have any trouble earning extra points.
It’s close, but the versatility of the American Express® Gold Card tops the big rewards rate of The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Most of the travel credits on these cards will be either very helpful or completely useless depending on how you typically spend your money, which is why you’ll want to make sure that you can get the most out of either card’s credits before you apply.
Both cards come with a credit for airline incidentals, although the American Express® Gold Card only covers $100 compared to $200 with The Platinum Card® from American Express. Unfortunately, this credit doesn’t apply to your airfare. It’s most useful if you fly and check a bag often, but don’t have a credit card with any specific airline to get free checked baggage.
The Platinum Card® from American Express pays for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, by far the most useful of these travel credits. It also credits you $15 in Uber rides per month and $35 for Uber rides in December, a decent perk if you’re a frequent customer of the rideshare service.
With far more credits available, The Platinum Card® from American Express is the winner.
Between rewards, credits, and annual fees, the question that comes to mind is, “Will the card be worth it?” The table below can help you figure that out.
First, a few notes on how the table is set up. I’ve listed each card and its annual fee, followed by the total annual credits they have. For The Platinum Card® from American Express I divided the $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit by five because although you can get the credit every four years, the membership technically expires after five.
Next, I listed the amount of points you’d need to earn to offset the annual fee. This assumes you’ll get $0.01 per point, a reasonable number that many cardholders can top. The final box includes the amount of annual spending it would take at each rewards rate to earn that many points.
|Card||Annual Fee||Total Annual Credits||Points Required to Offset Annual Fee|
|Amex Gold Card||$250||$100||15,000 points, value of $150|
|American Express Platinum||$550||$420||13,000 points, value of $130|
This assumes you use all your credits every year. If you’re unsure you can do that, these cards probably aren’t for you.
You’ll have the same redemption options with each card, so there won’t be any scoring for this section. It’s here simply to explain the most common ways to redeem Membership Rewards points.
Transfers to travel partners -- The American Express Membership Rewards program has an impressive roster, and I’ve listed the current travel partners below. All transfers have a 1:1 ratio except for those with different ratios noted in parentheses. This is the only redemption method I’d recommend using.
Airlines -- AeroMexico (1:1.6), Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, El Al Israel Airlines (50:1), Emirates, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Plus, JetBlue (1.25:1), Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
Hotels -- Choice Hotels, Hilton Hotels and Resorts (1:2), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (3:1)
Purchases through American Express Travel -- Redeem your points at $0.01 per point for airfare and $0.007 per point for all other travel purchases. If you need to book airfare and can’t get an award ticket, then this will work in a pinch.
Cash back -- Redeem your points as a statement credit towards previous charges at $0.006 per point. You’d be much better off with a cash-back card if this is your desired redemption option.
Airport lounge access is usually only available with the most expensive cards, and that holds true here. You won’t get any lounge access with the American Express® Gold Card. If you spring for the The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get to enjoy the best lounge access of any card.
That lounge access includes the Priority Pass Select membership that’s become standard with most high-end credit and charge cards. The Priority Pass network offers decent coverage throughout the United States and excellent coverage internationally. Most of the Delta Sky Clubs and American Express Centurion Lounges are in the United States, with the Centurion Lounges having a reputation as some of the best in the business.
You can add authorized users to your account with either card at no cost. With the American Express® Gold Card, you get up to five free before you need to start paying a small amount per card. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’re free to add as many Gold Cards as you’d like free, or you can pay to get additional Platinum Cards.
Even though the American Express® Gold Card makes you start paying after five authorized users, that probably won’t be an issue. Unless you’re handing out cards to the whole family, you’re unlikely to need more than that.
I am giving The Platinum Card® from American Express the smallest of edges here, though, because if you spend the $175 on up to three Platinum Cards®, your authorized users will get the same lounge access and Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit. You could conceivably come out ahead the first year if you had two or three authorized users who both used their cards to cover Global Entry/TSA Precheck fees.
Even though the scoring played out like this, I don’t think The Platinum Card® from American Express is almost twice as good as its brother. It has a wider range of features, but those come at a much higher price.
One thing about American Express cards in general is that they’re more specialized than what you get from Chase and Citi, where cards are more “one size fits all.” Whichever American Express card you’re thinking of getting, you should carefully examine its benefits to verify that you can use all of them.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is best suited for those who:
You’re better off with the American Express® Gold Card if you:
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