Amex devalues Gold Card benefits: Is it worth keeping the Amex Gold Card?

American Express has put an end to the long-popular practice of using the American Express Gold Card airfare incidental credit to purchase airline gift cards. So, is it worth keeping the Amex Gold Card?

The Amex Gold Card comes with an annual $100 airline credit (to be used on a single airline) which is supposed to be used on things such as checked bags, seat fees, on-board food and beverage, lounge day passes, etc. 

However, for the longest time, cardholders found success in buying gift cards from airline such as Delta and Southwest. 

Why gift cards were valuable? 

Unless you fly a lot, it’s going to be hard to come up with $100 worth of incidentals on a single airline. Sure, you can buy food or drinks on the plane, but unless you were already planning on doing so, you’re not getting any value. 

While checked bags do add up, if you fly one airline a lot, it’s probably best to get the co-branded airline credit card to cover those fees. 

But, purchasing a gift card was an easy way to get value as it could go towards the cost of a flight. 

I was planing to purchase two $50 Southwest Airlines gift cards, but, unfortunately, procrastination got the best of me, and I wasn’t quite quick enough

Because I typically either fly Alaska Airlines (I have the Alaska Visa Signature card so I get free checked bags) or Southwest (two free checked bags), airline incidentals don’t do me a whole lot of good for me. I don’t buy food or drinks on the plane.

Although I wasn’t able to cash in on gift cards before American Express put an end to it, I was able to get a bit of value as we decided to check a bag on our Delta flight to our honeymoon, so I was able to use $60 out of the $100 on our round-trip flight. 

But, these changes have me thinking: Is it worth keeping the Amex Gold Card?

The value of the Amex Gold card 

The key to paying annual fees for credit cards is making sure you’re getting value out of the card. Every time I have a card renewing, I always do the math to make sure an annual fee is worth paying for.

In this case, the annual fee for the Amex Gold Card is $250. 

Here are the main benefits to the Amex Gold Card:

  • 4x on worldwide restaurants and US grocery stores 
  • 3x on travel booked with Amex Travel 
  • $120 per year on statement credits with Grubhub, Seamless, Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shake Shack ($10 per month) 
  • $100 annual airline credit 
  • $100 hotel credit with a 2-night stay at an American Express Hotel Collection Property
  • Rental Car Insurance 
  • Extended Warranty & Purchase Protection

If you quickly do the math, you’ll see that there are $320 worth of “credits” per year which is much more than the $250 annual fee. But, let’s actually look at the math.

4x bonus on Worldwide Restaurants and US Grocery Stores + 3x on Amex Travel

I value Amex Membership Rewards at 1.5 cents per points. Some other sites have it at 2 cents per point, but I like to be conservative. 

~$3,600 at restaurants and grocery stores per year = 14,400 points ($216)

(Again, this is a conservative amount for restaurants and grocery stores)

~$0 on Amex Travel ($0)

(I’ve never used Amex Travel)

This is worth $216 to me.

$120 per year on statement credence with Grubhub, Seamless, etc

We eat out at least once per month through Seamless, so this is a good deal for us. It would be money we would already spend. This is worth $120 to me.

$100 annual airline credit

Is it worth keeping the Amex Gold Card? I might get a little use by checking bags on Delta Airlines. Photo by Delta Airlines.
Is it worth keeping the Amex Gold Card? I might get a little use by checking bags on Delta Airlines. Photo by Delta Airlines.

As I covered above, I’m not going to get a whole lot out of this moving forward. I’m going to guess that I will have one checked bag per year on Delta. I might buy some food and drink in order to spend more “free money”, but it’s not money I wouldn’t have already spent.  So, this is worth $30 to me.

$100 hotel credit with a 2-night stay at an American Express Hotel Collection Property

I’ve never stayed at an American Express Hotel Collection Property, so this holds no value to me right now. My hotel stays are usually at IHG or Hyatt thanks to my annual free night certificatesThis is worth $0 to me.

Rental Car Insurance & Extended Warranty & Purchase Protection ($0)

I always use my Chase Sapphire Reserve card for rental cars due to the 3x on travel and the insurance. I’ve never used the extended warranty or purchase protection, so I’m going to guess that I will not get any value out of this.  This is worth $0 to me.

Final Valuation

As you can see, I’m getting roughly $366 in value from the benefits. Additionally, the $3,600 I “spend” annually on groceries and restaurants is a really conservative number so it could be even higher.

Final Thoughts 

I was really frustrated by the changes by American Express to finally crack down on using the airline incidental credit to purchase gift cards. However, after doing the math, I’m still very clearly coming out on top. 

I will definitely keep this card as I love the many American Express transfer partners. If you spend a lot of groceries and eat out a good bit, the American Express Gold Card could be a good card for you to get as well.


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