American Express Gold Card: Earn Membership Rewards Fast

Due to its bonus structure, the American Express Gold Card is one the more popular American Express Cards on the market, and it’s also a great card for someone getting into the points and miles game.

Because the American Express Gold Card earns 4x at worldwide restaurants and 4x at grocery stores, it’s easy to rack up a lot of points very quickly on everyday expenses.

The Important Stuff

  • Earn 40,000 bonus after spending $2,000 in three months of being approved for the card.
  • $250 (not waived for the first year)
  • 4x points on US supermarkets and restaurants up to $25,000 per calendar year; 3x on flights booked with airline or amextravel.com; 1x on everything else back on all purchases
  • $100 airline fee credit; monthly cash-back statements with Seamless, Grubhub, etc.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • NerdWallet suggests a needed credit score above 690 to be approved for this card

Who should get this card?

Someone who…

  • has good credit and is looking for a mid-premium travel rewards card.
  • puts a good amount of their spend on groceries from supermarkets and US restaurants.
  • values Amex membership rewards more than Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Details

Analysis

While this card comes with a $250 annual fee, it provides great bonuses on everyday spending. It comes with 4x points on US supermarket purchases as well as worldwide restaurants. Additionally, you’ll receive 3x on airfare purchases with the airline or amextravel.com and 1x on everything else. It’s a great card for starters – it’s on our list of the best starter credit cards to earn points and miles.

The card also comes with several perks that can be useful. While the $100 airfare credit used to be better when you could buy Southwest or Delta gift cards, it’s still not horrible.

The cardholder has to select a single airline for the $100 airfare credit each calendar year. It can be used on things like checked bags or inflight purchases. The possible airlines are:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

The credit can be used on the following items:

  • Airline change fees
  • Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships
  • Booking fees
  • Checked baggage fees
  • In-flight fees and entertainment
  • Seat assignment fees
  • Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi (since it’s directly sold by Southwest Airlines)

Assuming you’re planning on spending $100 on one of those airlines, it theoretically knocks down the annual fee by $100.

The $10 monthly restaurant credit is fine – probably better depending on where you live. It comes in the form of a statement credit and will work at Seamless, Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or Shake Shack. It’s great if you frequent those sites/restaurants, and again would knock down the annual fee even more.

It also comes with a lesser-known perk, but one that could be valuable. If you book a hotel through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel, stay at least two nights, you will receive a $75 hotel credit as well as a room upgrade. Probably not applicable to many, but a fun perk. It also comes with purchase protection and lost baggage benefits to other premium cards.

How to earn Membership Rewards

Everyday Spend

The earning potential through everyday spend is perhaps the best thing about the American Express Gold Card. You can earn 4x the points at US restaurants and supermarkets, 3x on airfare and 1x on everything else. Food is typically a large amount of someone’s spend – and this captures most of your food spend at a high bonus rate. You can earn even more Membership Rewards when you pair this card with either the American Express Platinum card (5x points on airfare). It’s our favorite card for US supermarket and restaurant purchases.

Amex Offers

We wrote an entire article specifically about finding value in Amex Offers. But, in short, they allow for bonus points or cash back. This can be not only an easy way to earn thousands of bonus points for making purchases you were already going to make but also a good way to recoup some of the annual fee through statement credits.

Ways to redeem Membership Rewards

Travel Partners

The transfer partners for Membership Rewards do have some overlap with Chase. In general, Chase has better hotel transfer partners while American Express has better airline partners. There are 18 airline transfer partners and three hotel partners. Regardless, having a transferable points card makes redeeming much easier.

Chase Ultimate RewardsAmerican Express Membership RewardsCapital One Venture MilesCiti ThankYou Points
Aer Lingus AerClubAeromexicoAeromexicoAir France/KLM
Air France/KLM Flying BlueAir Canada AeroplanAir Canada AeroplanAvianca
British Airways AviosAir France/KLM Flying BlueAir France/KLM Flying BlueCathay Pacific
EmiratesAlitaliaAlitaliaEtihad Guest
Iberia PlusAll Nippon AirwaysAviancaEVA
JetBlue TrueBlueAsia MilesCathay PacificGaruda Indonesia
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerBritish Airways AviosEtihadJet Airways
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsCathay PacificEVAJetBlue True Blue
United Airlines Mileage PlanDelta SkymilesFinnairMalaysia AIrlines
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubEl Al Israel AirlinesHainanQantas
IHG Rewards ClubEmiratesQantasSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Marriott BonvoyEtihad AirlinesQatarThai Airways
World of HyattHawaiian AIrlinesEmirates Turkish Airlines
Iberia PlusSingapore Airlines KrisFlyerVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
JetBlue TrueBlue
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Choice Hotels
Hilton Honors
Marriott Bonvoy

AmexTravel.com

When you log in to your American Express account on AmexTravel.com, you can use some or all of your points to book a flight, hotel, cruise or vacation package. It’s very similar to redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards through the Chase Travel Portal.

The only thing to know is that in order to use points, you must you at least 5,000 of them.

Final Thoughts

The American Express Gold Card is a mid-level premium card – it has some perks and good bonus categories, but also isn’t a true premium level card like the American Express Platinum card of a Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It doubles as a great card that everyday people can earn lots of points thanks to the bonus categories of grocery stores and restaurants.

If you’re not quite ready for a card that carries a $250 annual fee, a good conservative alternative would be the American Express Everyday Preferred Card. Similarly, if you don’t eat out, don’t get this card, get the American Express Preferred card because of the higher grocery bonus.


 

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