Let’s face it, there’s a secret pleasure attached to American Express “metal” cards – whether Gold or Platinum. You can imagine the waiter straightening a bit or the shopkeeper lifting her eyebrows when you hand over the centurion-emblazoned card 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 your metal, how do the gold and platinum cards compare? The American Express Gold card costs $250 per year while the Platinum card has an eye-popping $550 per year fee. 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 use the add-ons year in and year out. If so, the Platinum card may well be worth the higher annual fee.

Gold vs. Platinum: The Basics

There are a number of different factors that break up the two cards, from fees, how rewards points are granted and other perks such as insurance for car rentals and travel, purchase protection and entertainment-related benefits. 

The Gold card comes with an annual fee of $250, while the Platinum card's is much steeper at $550. There is no annual fee for adding any additional cards to a Gold account. 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.  

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. American Express Gold cardholders can earn four points for every dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and 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. First-time cardholders are also eligible for a 25,000 point signing bonus when they make $2,000 in purchases in the first 90 days that the account is open.

The Platinum 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 gives cardholders 60,000 points when they spend $5,000 or more in the first 90 days. This is the equivalent of $600 for flights booked through the Amex travel website. 

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. 

Gold Perks

The Gold card is geared toward people who are big shoppers, eat out a lot and do a lot of everyday spending. Amex also offers a limited edition Rose Gold colored card for those who prefer something a little more stylish.

For accounts opened before January 9, 2019, American Express will give a 20% credit up to $100 for any purchases in the first three months made at restaurants across the U.S. Dining at participating restaurants can earn members up to $10 in statement credits each month. 

Other benefits include 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.  

Platinum Perks

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.

The Platinum card offers Uber ride credits in the United States, giving cardholders a maximum of $200 in credits each year. The card also comes with an annual $200 airline fee credit, giving passengers complimentary checked baggage and an in-flight meal with qualifying airlines. Members also get a $75 hotel credit when 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. 

Other Fees

There are also other costs to consider besides annual fees. Both cards are charge cards, which means that balances must be made at the end of each month. The first late payment made will incur a fee of $27. Any additional late payments in the following six months will result in a $38 charge per month. 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 made 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 20.24%. Interest also accrues on late and returned payments at an annual rate of 29.99%. 

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. 

The Big Differences

So far, the cards stack up as similar (with the noted differences and limitations – generally more generous with the Platinum card). And as we said, it’s 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

The Bottom Line

So which is the best card for you? If you travel by air a lot every year — either domestically or internationally — the American Express Platinum card carries strong advantages, particularly with its airport lounge access, hotel benefits, zero foreign exchange fee and concierge service. If you value the perks, the increased insurance coverage and spend at a high enough level to justify the high fee, go Platinum. But if you only travel occasionally and mostly use your card for local purchases, the Gold card will probably suffice for your metal fix.