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How I used my American Express Gold card for tickets to Japan

Looking to plan a new trip? Find out how to optimize your experience with the American Express Gold card.


Here’s how my family flew to Japan and stayed in a Kyoto hotel for free. Learn how you and your family can, too.

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Using my American Express® Gold Card helped me score international tickets to Japan – not just for me, but for my entire family. Here’s how you can make your Amex Gold Card work for you.

I’d heard the stories about people using points to book trips to exotic locations and often wondered how they managed to use one credit card to secure an over-the-top luxurious vacation. To be honest, I wasn’t dialed in to how a particular credit card could yield such unbelievable travel benefits.

I researched the best travel credit cards and decided to apply for the Amex Gold Card. It is one of the best ways to have my day-to-day spending work for my travel plans.

After all, the Amex Gold card offers:

  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.con
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases

Using our points from the Amex Gold Card, I booked tickets for our family of three to fly to and from Japan entirely with points. It’s a trip that would typically cost $5,000. Read on to learn how I did it!

Use day-to-day purchases to maximize your points

In order to accumulate the maximum amount of points, we decided to designate our Amex Gold Card for all our day-to-day purchases, like grocery store visits, dining and other general purchases.

I rush to the grocery store almost every week – why not have my credit card help my family and me secure vacation fun in the future? For grocery purchases, we earned four points for every dollar spent. Even dining outdoors works for our benefit, too, no matter if we eat domestically or internationally. This is convenient whether your family wants to try the newest restaurant in town or grab a quick bite at Subway or Rubio’s – these purchases also earn consumers four points for every dollar.

We made certain that we always had our Amex Gold Card handy and were purposeful in keeping this as our designated dining out and grocery store card. These points definitely helped toward our free tickets to Japan.

Points roll over year-to-year

With busy work schedules and family commitments, I didn’t want to worry about our Amex Gold card’s points expiring. The knowledge that our points would roll over from year to year gave me peace of mind. International travel was a bucket list goal for us, especially a family trip to Japan, and we didn’t feel the need to spend our points on other purchases. Knowing that purchases on our Amex Gold would eventually lead to a dream trip to Japan gave our accumulation of points a purpose.

Book travel on your schedule

With hectic work and school schedules, I need a card that works on my timeline. The Amex Gold Card allows vacationers to book their travel whenever they want because there are no blackout dates – cardholders have the flexibility to book a trip during Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holidays. We booked our Japan trip during peak times in the fall and didn’t have to keep looking to see if specific dates were available.

Amex Travel makes finding flights and hotels easy

With the Amex Gold, you are required to use your points via American Express Travel – or by transferring to one of Amex’s travel partners. This might sound inconvenient, but the ease of booking flights through their website allows you to quickly see what flights are available and how many points are needed for booking. I didn’t have to switch screens, and it took less than 30 minutes to book our flights and set up our hotel.

Customer service if and when you need it

When booking international travel, it helps to contact a representative to find out more about a particular destination. While trying to book our Kyoto hotel, we consulted customer service representatives from Amex to help us find the ideal place to stay in the city. There is typically not a wait when you call or contact a representative online.

Transaction charges are waived for international purchases

As we traveled throughout Japan, we continued to use our credit card without worrying about additional fees and transaction charges. While other cards can add 2% or 3% on foreign transaction fees, we had the freedom to start accumulating points for our next trip without paying any extra for the privilege.

Presale and preferred tickets for concerts

I am an avid concertgoer and love taking advantage of concert offers before tickets go on sale to the general public. I’ve scored tickets to Coldplay and Adele for discounted prices with my Amex Gold card.

Earn points by spending

As new cardholders, we were rewarded with an additional benefit. After six months of using our Amex Gold Card, we received 60,000 bonus points. The only requirement had been that we spend $4,000 during the first six months of using the card. Since we used the card for most of our purchases, we were able to meet that dollar requirement pretty quickly. These extra points allowed us to plan our Japan trip sooner.

Bottom line

During the latter half of 2021 and 2022, many people will be ready to travel again to their must-go domestic and international destinations. Get a head start on earning points toward your dream vacation or next getaway. For my family and me, making Amex Gold our go-to card for everyday purchases helped us make our dream of traveling to Japan come true.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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