Credit Cards Credit Card Reviews

American Express Gold Card Review

overall rating
2.9

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The American Express Gold card offers an unprecedented 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on up to $25,000 spent each calendar year at U.S. supermarkets, making it among the best dining and groceries rewards cards. It also offers an outstanding 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. To help make up for a $250 annual fee, cardholders will also receive up to $120 each year in dining credits at select chains and a $100 annual airline fee credit on an eligible airline.

American Express® Gold Card

overall rating
2.9
American Express® Gold Card
On American Express' Secured Site.

Current Offer:

Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) N/A - See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee $250
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants and at US supermarkets (up-to $25,000 per year). 3 points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee This card does not offer balance transfers.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

Currently rated one of our

  • Best Credit Cards for Groceries

Full Review of American Express Gold Card

Pros
  • Exceptional points rewards on flights, dining, and supermarket purchases

  • Dining and airline fee credits largely justify the cost of the annual fee

  • Redemption options include 1:1 transfers to many airline and hotel partners

Cons
  • The annual fee is more than double that of many other cards

  • American Express isn't accepted as widely as Visa and Mastercard

  • Superstore and warehouse-club purchases don't earn supermarket rewards

Pros Explained

  • Exceptional Rewards on Flights, Dining, and Supermarket Purchases: The 3 points per dollar spent with airlines beats the rates of most cards, even dedicated airline cards, which typically offer 1 or 2 points per dollar. Some cash-back credit cards offer 4% back on dining, and the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express gives you 6% back on the first $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1%. But if you plan your points rewards carefully, you may be able to squeeze more value than those cards provide out of the American Express Gold Credit Card’s 4X rewards rate on dining and supermarkets and its flexible redemption options.
  • Dining and Airline Fee Credits Largely Justify the Annual Fee: Much of the card’s $250 annual fee can be justified if you used its $100 airline-fee credit on checked-baggage charges or in-flight purchases and redeemed the $10-a-month dining credit at Shake Shack, or a few other eligible chains, or through ordering via Seamless or GrubHub. And with the card’s high rewards rates at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, that justification is even easier. 
  • Redemption Options Include Airline and Hotel Transfer Partners: Redeeming your rewards directly with Amex will give you up to 1.54 cents per point in value according to Investopedia's points valuation model. Alternatively, you can transfer your points to the card issuer’s airline and hotel program partners and potentially get more value than that. For example, the card allows 1:1 transfers to airline miles with most carriers, and miles are estimated to have an average value of 1.6 cents apiece (if transferred to Delta or a few other airlines, for example), according to Investopedia's valuation model. Points transferred to Hilton Honors earn two points in that program, with each point worth 0.44 cents on average.

Cons Explained

  • The Annual Fee Is More Than Double That of Many Other Cards: Cards with rich rewards often cost $95 or so a year, making the American Express Gold Credit card's $250 fee among the pricier ones out there, short of super-premium cards with their $500-plus fees. If you don’t eat out or travel frequently enough to maximize the card's dining and airline credits, or you’re generally averse to fees, the card's cost may outweigh its benefits for you.
  • American Express Isn't Accepted as Widely as Visa or Mastercard: While an increasing number of retailers are accepting American Express, you'll still have an easier time with both big and small merchants if you have a Visa or Mastercard. That's especially the case abroad, where American Express' reach is somewhat limited. 
  • Superstore and Warehouse-Club Purchases Don't Earn Supermarket Rewards: If you buy most of your groceries from retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco, or Sam's Club, you won’t be able to take advantage of the card's generous supermarkets rewards rate. Instead, you'd need to change your spending habits to shop more at actual supermarkets.

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Rewards Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
    Rewards Strategist
  • Avatar for Frequent Diner Persona
    Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
    Frequent Diner
  • Avatar for Head of Household Persona
    Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
    Head of Household
  • Avatar for Driver/Commuter Persona
    Incurs gasoline or other commuting expenses each month
    Driver/Commuter

The American Express Gold Credit card is best suited to people who eat out and fly enough to justify the card's $250 annual fee through its generous dining and airline rewards and credits. With rich rewards on supermarket spending, the card is also a fine choice for those who spend heavily on groceries. However, it's also a card for those willing to master the use of points in rewards programs, as opposed to the simpler solution of receiving money in your account by using a cash back card. 

On average, American households spent $7,729 on groceries and eating out in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With that spending alone, you’d earn 30,916 points per year with this card. That annual spending could be worth a few hundred dollars, and possibly more depending on how you use or transfer those points. 

The 3 points per dollar spent directly with airlines and through amextravel.com would also deliver decent savings for frequent flyers. Let's say you flew five times a year, and each time paid the average domestic fare, which is $362 according to industry group Airlines for America. You'd earn more than 5,000 points with the card, which could translate to $108 or so a year towards flights when converted to airline points.  

Finally, the card is best suited to someone who plans to pay their balance in full each month. It's a charge card, so there’s no option to carry a balance on most purchases.

American Express Gold Card One-Time Offer

As a new cardholder, you'll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. If you redeem your points for travel directly with Amex, the one-time offer could be worth up to $500, which isn't a bad return on spend for $4,000 worth of expenses in just three months. 

Even converted through a less lucrative option, the one-time offer points might still justify the card's annual fee in full for the first year. That allows you some time to test-drive the card and determine whether it’s the right fit for you before its renewal fee looms.  

Rewards Earning Details

The card offers 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on the first $25,000 spent each calendar year at U.S. supermarkets. You'll also earn 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and through amextravel.com. On all other purchases, you’ll receive 1 point per dollar.

It's important to note that while you’ll net points by eating at restaurants worldwide that accept Amex, only purchases at U.S. supermarkets are rewarded. Also, flights booked with third-party services such as Kayak and Trivago are not eligible for bonus rewards.  

Rewards Redemption Details

You can redeem your points in many different ways, with varying redemption values. The options, with values per 10,000 points redeemed, include statement credits toward card charges ($60), paying with points at checkout ($50 to $70 in most cases), or buying gift cards from Amex ($50) or a host of airlines, restaurant chains, or retailers (from $70 to $100, depending on the company.) 

If you redeem your rewards by transferring them to one of Amex's partners, however, you may be able to get more for your points than these amounts. 

Transferring Points

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to a host of airline plans and several hotel loyalty programs. Airline and hotel programs typically have dynamic pricing structures, which allow you to maximize the value of your points based on how you redeem them. 

The most generous of Amex's partners offer 1.6 to 2.0 points per Amex point redeemed, while most trade "at par"—that is, an airline or hotel point for every Amex one. Here's a list of Amex’s partners and the transfer ratios:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub: 1:1 
  • AeroMexico Club Premier: 1:1.6 
  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 1:1 
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue: 1:1 
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia: 1:1
  • ANA Mileage Club: 1:1 
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 1:1 
  • British Airways Executive Club: 1:1
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 1:1
  • Choice Privileges: 1:1
  • Delta SkyMiles: 1:1
  • EL AL Israel Matmid Club: 1:0.02
  • Emirates Skywards: 1:1
  • Etihad Guest: 1:1
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: 1:1
  • Hilton Honors: 1:2
  • Iberia Plus: 1:1
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: 1:0.8
  • Marriott Bonvoy: 1:1
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer: 1:1
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 1:1
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: 1:1

How to Maximize Your Rewards

Using your card everywhere you buy is the first step. Be especially attentive to using only this card in the categories for which it offers the richest rewards, such as dining and groceries. Try to concentrate your food shopping at supermarkets over alternative retailers that sell food; purchases at superstores and warehouse clubs do not earn rewards, nor does food bought from convenience stores. Try, too, to buy non-food items you need at the supermarket, since all purchases made at supermarkets qualify for the 4-points-per-dollar rewards. 

When it comes to using your hard-earned points, consider skipping the generally pricey redemption options offered by Amex in favor of transferring your points to partners. Making the most of partner programs means not only joining them, naturally, but familiarizing yourself with their conditions and staying abreast of any changes to them, including time-limited specials or bonus opportunities. 

If you have a flight or hotel stay coming up, check for itineraries with Amex's partners and compare what it would cost you in points or miles to the cash price. Make a rough calculation of the comparative benefits. If you can get more than a cent per point or mile out of the redemption, it's more than you'd get from the point rewards you’d earn by booking directly through Amex.

American Express Gold Card's Outstanding Benefits

The card offers up to $120 in dining credits each year—that's $10 per month in automatic statement credits when you use your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. Before you start swiping, though, enroll in the program. Otherwise, you’ll be paying the full bill out of pocket. Be aware, also, that you need to use the credit every month, since it won’t roll over to the next one if it isn't used.

The card also comes with a $100 annual airline fee credit. The caveat is that you'll need to choose a single qualifying airline once per year, and the credit only counts toward things like checked baggage fees and in-flight meals—not for tickets or seat upgrades.

Standard American Express Benefits

  • The option to pay over time on eligible charges of $100 or more
  • Special benefits at The Hotel Collection properties 
  • Baggage insurance plan
  • Rental car insurance
  • Premium roadside assistance
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Purchase protection
  • Return protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership
  • Access to Amex Offers

Cardholder Experience

American Express ranks second in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study, ranking among the best across all categories. Amex offers free access to your FICO credit score, which most other major card issuers offer and can be helpful if you’re working to build or maintain a credit history. 

If you have questions, you can reach a customer service representative by phone 24/7, which is also standard among major card issuers. There's also a live chat option when you’re logged into your account, which isn’t a standard feature.

Remember, though, that you may run into acceptance issues that you might not have with a Visa or Mastercard credit card.

Security Features

American Express offers security features that are mostly standard for the credit card industry. One exception is the ability to freeze and unfreeze a particular card in the Amex mobile app, which is a useful feature if the card is lost or stolen.

Our Verdict

The American Express Gold card is an excellent choice for people who spend a lot on groceries and dining out. It also doubles as a fine travel card, with generous rewards for booking flights and a $100 fee credit to offset baggage charges and in-flight purchases (limited to a single airline). 

Given its hefty annual fee, though, the card may not pay off, at least after the first year, if you don't buy a lot of groceries at supermarkets. The same may apply if you don't dine out a lot, and so won’t benefit much from its exceptional restaurant rewards or $10 monthly credit at select dining chains. 

It's also not ideal for those who prefer to be rewarded in a simple way, in cash. If you’re uninterested in becoming a scholar of rewards programs, a generous cash back card might be a better choice. One such Amex option is the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card, which has generous supermarket and gas cash back rewards and a far lower ($95) annual fee than the American Express Gold card.

Apply Now
For American Express® Gold Card
on American Express' Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
American Express® Gold Card
overall rating
2.9
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) N/A - See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee $250
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants and at US supermarkets (up-to $25,000 per year). 3 points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.