American Express has launched an updated version of its Gold Card that offers bonus points on dining and can even be ordered in rose gold. Is it worth it?
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Dear Cashing In,
I have an American Express Gold Card. I read recently that there are going to be some changes to the card. Is it still worth hanging on to? – Janie
Anybody who has paid attention to trends in reward cards in the past few years has probably noticed there is a lot of action at the top end.
There are now a handful of popular cards that command annual fees of $450 or more, and they come loaded with perks such as airport lounge access.
These come in addition to reward cards with no annual fees or annual fees in the less-than-$100 range.
Battle for the middle ground in the rewards cards space
Now, though, American Express is trying to stake out some middle ground between those expensive cards with lounge access and the less expensive cards.
For years, American Express was the leader in premium cards, but lately it has been besieged by competition from the likes of Chase and Citi.
The new version of the American Express Gold Card is more expensive than the old version, but it also amps up the perks.
As with evaluating any card, you need to closely examine the card’s benefits and see how they line up with your spending habits and interests. You wouldn’t want a card that gives category bonuses in areas where you spend little money.
Is the updated Amex Gold Card worth it?
Let’s look a little more closely at the American Express Gold card. While some cards seem aimed at frequent travelers, the new version of this card seems targeted at people who like to dine out.
- It costs $250 a year, up from $195. But it also gives you 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) and comes with a $10-a-month statement credit when you use it with online food-ordering services Grubhub and Seamless, or at The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House or participating Shake Shack locations.
- It also has a few travel perks, such as giving up to $100 in statement credits for incidental airline fees, such as baggage fees or on-board meal purchases, plus 3 points per dollar spent on airline tickets and purchases at American Express’ online travel portal.
In some ways, the new American Express Gold Card might be better than even more expensive cards, since its earning rate of 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants is superior even to, say, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns triple points on dining out and travel after earning your $300 travel credit.
However, if you are applying for the card for the first time, the introductory bonus is a bit meager, at just 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 within the first three months. By comparison, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, although it comes with a $450 annual fee.
You could even find other rewards cards that offer similar category and introductory bonuses that charge no annual fee.
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, for example, offers 3 points on travel and dining purchases, no annual fee and comes with a 30,000-point introductory or welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
In that way, the American Express Gold Card is continuing the trend away from large welcome bonuses in favor of perks that may keep customers from canceling the card once they earn the bonus.
La ‘carte’ en rose
American Express is also playing up the style of the updated card, since that is important to some customers.
Until Jan. 9, 2019, the card is available in “rose gold” (pink), in addition to the usual gold color.
That might seem like a small detail, but the appearance of a card and the “wow” factor are sometimes key in deciding on a card.
Personally, I think you’d be smart to disregard a card’s appearance and focus on its costs and benefits.
Is the American Express Gold Card for you? You decide
So, is it an appropriate card for you? That’s hard to say. Overall, compared with other cards, the earning rates are strong, the welcome bonus weak and the annual fee higher than most, but lower than other premium reward cards.
As usual, the decision comes down to what is most important to you. The new American Express Gold Card should certainly be in the conversation.