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American Express just refreshed their Premier Rewards Gold Card and renamed it “American Express Gold Card.” It is now a metal card, and even offers a a ‘Rose Gold’ metal option that’s only available through early January.
Most importantly the card raises the bar for points-earning at US restaurants and US grocery stores, while retaining strong points-earning on airline spend. And they’ve added a new monthly credit for dining.
Today’s changes to the product – for me – make it the most rewarding card for ongoing spend, although it’s still important to use another card for spending outside of bonus categories because you never want to earn just one point per dollar on anything.
Initial Bonus Offer to Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards Points and $100
American Express is offering 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. In addition there’s a limited-time offer through January 9, 2019: 20% rebate in statement credits for US dining purchases for the first three months of cardmembership, up to $100 per account.
American Express Gold Card: Best Points-Earning Card for Ongoing Spend?
There’s a standard (boring) formula for cards these days, commonly referred to in the industry as “3, 2, 1” — triple points on spend with a card’s own brand, double points on some other category, and one point per dollar one everything else.
That’s not the case here. They’ve gone to four points per dollar in two different categories. Here’s the bonus earn structure:
- 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. Restaurants
- 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. Supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
- 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines and amextravel.com
The card will no longer offer 2 points per dollar on gas, though current Premier Rewards Gold Card Members will continue to receive that bonus until October 4, 2019.
American Express Gold Card Earns One of the Most Valuable Currencies
American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to,
- Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore
- oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia
- SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
- Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
- Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Starwood (soon to be Marriott)
The real winner here is ANA for its really great Star Alliance award chart — sure they require roundtrip bookings, but nothing wrong with a throwaway Tokyo – Honolulu coach return segment when booking first class US-Asia.
Etihad, Singapore, and Air France KLM have really useful spots though all participate with other transferable currencies. Etihad lets you book American Airlines awards at American’s pre-devaluation miles pricing. Singapore and Air France offer lots more award space to people using their miles instead of partner points.
Hawaiian is useful for booking their own metal flights to Hawaii, especially now that you can no longer use American miles to fly between the mainland and Hawaii on Hawaiian.
Airline Fee Credit
Since mid-2015 the card has offered a $100 airline fee credit: up to $100 in statement credits per year for incidental expenses like baggage fees at one selected airline.
The offering has been similar to the larger airline fee credit offered with The Platinum Card® from American Express. In my experience what that means is selecting American Airlines as my preferred airline and then a $100 electronic gift card gets reimbursed. Since it’s not supposed to work that way this could change at any time.
Another thing to note is that the benefit is based on calendar year not cardmember year. So if you get the card now you can use the $100 credit still in 2018, and then at the beginning of 2019, meaning getting $200 in credits during your first cardmember (annual fee) year.
Ongoing Dining Credit
The new American Express Gold Card has a $120 annual dining credit which gives enrolled cardmembers up to $10 per month in statement credits for using the card at:participating Shake Shack locations, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Grubhub/Seamless.
As you can see from 4 points per dollar on US restaurant spend, and a monthly dining credit, American Express really wants to capture cardmember dining spend. That’s the new battleground card issuers are fighting over.
I hosted a panel at Cardcon last month which included the Capital One executive who runs the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card which offers a $500 bonus after $3000 spend within 3 months of account opening; $0 annual fee the first year (then $95); 4% back on dining (and entertainment), 2% at grocery stores, and 1% everywhere else.
We talked about capturing business from new affluent consumers through their dining spend, an approach based on the oft-repeated insight that millennials prefer experiences over things, and the social aspect to paying for a meal with friends (and so the extent to which card design on a good dining card matters, and becomes a talking point, to socially sell the product to others).
Limited-Time Card Design Option
Card design for a dining product matters and American Express has invested in metal at a lower price point than before. There are two card options — Gold and Rose Gold. Existing Premier Rewards Gold customers can request one.
The Rose Gold option will be available only through January 9, 2019. I admit I like that because not only is it an attractive design but it won’t be something everyone has, it will remain unique.
Annual Fee – Worth It
The new American Express Gold Card now has an annual fee of $250, which applies during the first year. The previous fee for the Premier Reward Gold Card was $195. Existing cardmembers will have this new fee go into effect with card renewal dates April 1, 2019 onward. Current cardmembers get the new benefits at their current annual fee, and anyone whose cards renew before then will get another full year of benefits at that lower fee.
The $55 increase in annual fee is more than offset by $120 in potential dining credits. And the increased points-earning alone should be worthwhile for anyone spending $128 a month in dining and groceries [$1536 in annual spend produces an extra 2 points per dollar worth 1.8 cents apiece in my estimation or $55.30 in value]. If you spend more than that you come out ahead even without the dining credit.
Think about it another way. The $100 airline fee credit and $120 dining credit nearly cover that full $250 fee if you use them both. In the past the airline fee credit could be taken based on calendar year and so twice in the first cardmember year, easily putting you ahead in year one when combined with the dining credit.
Is This the New Best Rewards Card?
Earning Chase points and American Express points are similar in value. Chase has United, which trumps Delta, and Hyatt which offers better value for transfers than American Express’ Marriott relationship (and far more than Amex’s Hilton relationship). But American Express has more transfer partners. Both have Air France and Singapore. American Express has Etihad, ANA, and Aeroplan.
The question, for me, then is whose card earns the most points? This is a more valuable card for US restaurant spend than Sapphire Reserve and basically matches on airfare. It also gives 4 points per dollar on US grocery store spend. (Sapphire Reserve can also be tough to get approved for, my expectation is that approvals for this card will be easier.)
What is lacks is bonus spend on travel that isn’t airfare. However if you have a credit card with your preferred hotel chain you’re well-covered there already. It’s lacking bonuses for spend outside the U.S., a blind spot for American Express generally. Still most cardmembers are going to come out ahead with more points on U.S. spend.
Three points per dollar on airfare is trumped by The Platinum Card® from American Express which offers five. It’s the single best return on grocery store spend, and most people don’t put out more than $2000 a month to grocery stores. It’s the single best return on restaurant spend as well, and that’s uncapped. This is a real home run for ongoing earn for spend.
Of course you should still put unbonused spend on a card that offers more than one point per dollar. For instance The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on your first $50,000 in charges each year and the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card will earn at least 1.5 points per dollar spent each billing cycle you use the card at least 30 times.
I’m Going to Start Using This Card
I used to have a Premier Rewards Gold card, so I do not expect to be eligible for a new cardmember bonus signing up. My wife is a current cardmember, I’m thrilled for the new benefits on the American Express Gold Card, and so I expect that I’ll become an authorized user on her account. Then I’ll put all of my US restaurant and grocery store spend on the card — and she can pay the bill.