Gold vs. Platinum Amex Card: An Overview

Let’s face it, there’s a secret pleasure attached to American Express “precious metal” cards, whether Gold or Platinum. Whether it's from decades of tv brand advertising or simply because you know your boss carries one, you have decided to join the club because membership has its privileges. You can imagine your restaurant server or local merchant lifting taking notice when you hand over the iconic card brand with the metallic sheen. Perhaps the status buzz comes from the cards being “charge” rather than “credit,” which means the bill is paid off in full at the end of the month. The message is always: “I can afford this and not go into long-term debt to pay for it.”

But when it comes time to choose a premium Amex card, how do the gold and platinum cards compare? The American Express Gold card carries a $250 annual fee while the Platinum card has an eye-popping $550 annual fee, as of April 2020.

Over 10 years of use, the Platinum will cost you an additional $5,500, and a side-by-side comparison confirms that the Platinum card is basically a Gold card with some attractive add-ons. As a result, it's best to make your decision based on whether you will value and use the additional features year in and year out. If so, the Platinum card may well be worth the higher annual fee.

Key Takeaways

  • If you travel by air a lot every year, either domestically or internationally, the American Express Platinum card carries strong advantages and benefits.
  • Gold card is geared toward people who are big shoppers, eat out a lot, and do a lot of everyday spending.
  • Gold card costs $250 per year, and Platinum card costs $550 annually.
  • Platinum cards must be paid off in full every month. Gold card owners can carry over certain balances with interest.

The American Express Gold Card

The Gold card comes with an annual fee of $250, and there is no annual fee for adding any additional cards to a Gold account. One of the biggest perks for any cardholder is the membership rewards program, which allows consumers to earn points as they use their credit cards.

The Gold card is geared toward people who are big shoppers, eat out a lot, and do a lot of everyday spending. American Express Gold cardholders can earn four points for every dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases), three points for every dollar spent booking flights with airline companies or through the American Express travel website, and one point for every dollar spent on any other purchase.

As of April 2020, first-time cardholders are also eligible for 35,000 points after you use your card to make $4,000 in purchases for the first three months of account membership.

Unlike traditional credit cards, American Express charge cards do not have a regular APR or charge interest, as all balances must be paid in full each month. However, the Gold card does offer cardmembers the flexibility to pay for purchases of $100 or more over time at a set interest rate.

Other benefits include up to $120 in dining credits each year—up to $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. But, cardholders must enroll in the program to be eligible. The card also offers a $100 airline fee credit every calendar year when checked baggage or in-flight meals are charged to the Gold card. This card also offers an extended warranty program, purchase protection, return protection, Amex preferred seating on airlines, and roadside assistance.  

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Amex card offers members five points for every dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or through the American Express travel site, five points for prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com, and one point for every dollar spent on other purchases.

The Platinum welcome bonus as of April 2020 gives cardholders 60,000 points when they spend $5,000 or more in the first 90 days of account membership. This is the equivalent of $600 for flights booked through the Amex travel website. However, if you decide to add up to three additional cards on your Platinum account, expect to pay an extra annual fee of $175. Each card after that will be billed a $175 annual fee, as well.  

The Platinum card is great for people who love to travel. There are obviously many more perks that come with the Platinum card than with the Gold, especially when you consider the higher annual fee. Rewards can be used for merchandise, gift cards, dining, shopping, entertainment, or for use at the Amex travel website. Points can also be transferred to other frequent flyer programs. 

The Platinum card offers Uber ride credits in the United States, giving cardholders a maximum of $15 in credits each month. The card also comes with an annual $200 incidental airline fee credit on the eligible airline of your choice, giving passengers complimentary checked baggage and an in-flight meal with qualifying airlines.

Members also get a $100 hotel credit with bookings at qualifying The Hotel Collection properties through the Amex travel website. Other benefits include (but aren't limited to) a $100 or $85 statement credit for the Global Entry program or TSAPre✓ program respectively, complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi at more than a million hotspots, emergency travel medical insurance, and premium roadside assistance. Given all of these features, it is truly the add-ons of the Platinum card that add value and can bring down the cost.

For those who can afford to live at a very VIP level, the Platinum card offers a slew of extras such as discounts on private jet and limousine rentals and a dedicated concierge service to assist in managing travel details. American Express even holds reservations at exclusive restaurants worldwide should you require feeding when you travel. 

Special Considerations

There are other costs to consider besides annual fees. Both cards are charge cards, which means that balances must be paid in full at the end of each month. The first late payment made will incur a fee of $28. Any additional late payments in the following six months will result in a $39 charge per month for a gold card in April 2020. The same rules apply to any payment that is returned by the cardholder's bank. In order to keep the account in good standing and keep a spotless credit score, it is always important to make payments on time every month.

There are no interest charges on the Platinum account because it must be paid in full each month. However, there is more flexibility with the Gold card, which offers cardholders the option of carrying a balance on certain purchases over $100 with interest. The annual percentage rate (APR) for this feature is 20.49 percent. Interest also accrues on late and returned payments at an annual rate of 29.99 percent.

Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee, making it easier to use them when cardholders are abroad. Amex stopped charging the over-limit fee in October 2009, so cardholders are not charged a fee for going over their limit, which is dynamically set over time vs. a preset limit as with traditional credit cards.