2018 American Express Gold Card Review – WalletHub Editors
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This card is no longer open to new applications.
The Verdict: Although its metallic moniker might fool you, the standard American Express® Gold Card (American Express is a WalletHub partner) is far from a top-of-the-podium choice for your wallet. It’s a charge card – meaning you have to pay your bill in full every month – that requires excellent credit for approval and begins assessing a $160 annual fee in the second year your account is open. In return, you will receive exceedingly average rewards: up to 2 points per $1 spent and the promise of modest hotel discounts.
As a result, this card isn’t even the best the Amex Gold brand has to offer, with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express providing significantly better rewards at just a slightly higher price point. But we’ll tell you more about that more golden gold card another time. This review will focus on the ins and outs of the standard version, which is ultimately a costly offer best used by frequent flyers and foodies who always pay their bill in full, if used at all.
Up To 2 Points Per $1 Spent: You will earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airfare purchased directly from airlines and on travel purchases made thru amextravel.com. All other purchases, including travel arrangements booked through third-party comparison websites such as Kayak.com or Expedia.com, will yield 1 point per $1 spent. The Amex Gold Card’s earning rates are therefore roughly in line with the 1.17 points or miles per $1 spent that the average non-cash-back rewards card provides.
Points earned with the American Express® Gold Card can be redeemed at a ratio of 0.85 cents per 1 point (i.e. 10,000 points = $85) for gift cards and travel purchased through Amex’s online booking tool. Other redemption methods (e.g., cash back and merchandise) provide less value.
- $75 Credit & Free Room Upgrade On Certain Hotel Stays: If you use your card to book a hotel reservation for at least two nights through amextravel.com, you will automatically receive a discount of up to $75 when you check out: $1 off your bill for every $1 spent during your stay, excluding room rates, taxes and fees. Depending on availability when you check in, you might also be able to enjoy your stay in an upgraded room at no extra cost.
Ability to Add Up To 5 Authorized Users For Free: Some rewards cards charge additional annual fees for authorized users given the added earning power that more cardholders provide. However, the American Express® Gold Card is not among them, which means you can give cards to family members and reap additional rewards from their spending.
With that being said, you should be wary of adding too many authorized users to any credit card, especially one with No Preset Spending Limit (see The Lowlights). You don’t want to wind up with a balance that prevents continued use of your account until the bill is paid.
- $160 Annual Fee Beginning Year Two: The standard Amex Gold Card does not offer any sort of initial bonus, which means most interested applicants are looking for more of a long-term solution than a quick rewards score. The fact that this card follows an annual-fee-free first year with a $160 recurring membership charge therefore figures to be highly relevant to your decision about whether to apply. If your travel plans do not enable you to benefit from $75 hotel discounts, you will have to spend about $9,410 per year just to break even ($160 = $9,410 * 2X points * 0.0085).
No Preset Spending Limit (NPSL) Creates Confusion: This card’s No Preset Spending Limit feature doesn’t mean that it lacks a limit entirely. Rather, it just means that you won’t ever know exactly what your spending limit will be each month and that your credit utilization might be inaccurately reported to the major credit bureaus. As a result, the feature could lead to your card getting unexpectedly declined in an emergency situation and your credit score suffering undeserved damage.
You can find more information about NPSL cards in our No Preset Spending Limit Study.
No Financing Capabilities, Just Late Fees: The fact that Amex Gold isn’t suitable to financing big-ticket purchases is important to note, as it limits the card’s versatility, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. No charge cards allow users to carry a balance from month to month and continue to make purchases, at least not as a standard service. However, that does not mean you will avoid getting hit by late fees if you fail to pay your bill in full by the due date. Amex Gold charges up to $38. That means it’s a bit more punitive than the average credit card, which has a $35.5 late fee, according to WalletHub’s latest credit card landscape report.
With that being said, American Express does offer a “Pay Over Time” feature with this card but only to users who meet certain eligibility criteria that you need to sign in to your account to see. That means you won’t know if you’ll be able to finance anything before you get approved. If you do get approved and you are eligible for “Pay Over Time”, purchases of at least $100 or certain travel charges can be paid down with interest.
Other Things To Consider
- No Foreign Transaction Fee: Foreign transaction fees have been steadily vanishing in recent years, and Amex Gold is one of a growing group of cards that will not penalize you for spending money outside the U.S. This will benefit you as it relates to both traveling abroad and making purchases through internationally based merchants. It will also enable you to save, on average, more than 6% on currency conversion, according to WalletHub’s Currency Exchange Study.
- Access To A Variety Of Amex Cardholder Benefits: From special access to concerts and other events to the ability to leverage a 24/7 global-assistance hotline while traveling, American Express Gold membership does have its fair share of peripheral perks. They shouldn’t dictate your decision to apply, but they are nevertheless nice to know about in advance.
- Fee For Transferring Points To Travel Providers: Although you can book travel through Amex’s online reservation portal without sacrificing value, transferring your earnings to another loyalty program (such as one tied to a specific hotel chain or airline) in order to pool points is going to cost you: $6 per 10,000 points, up to a maximum of $99. As a result, you’re better off opening a card affiliated with your travel provider of choice instead of losing money in translation with Amex Gold if you foresee yourself needing to make a transfer.
Compared To The Competition
American Express® Gold Card
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
|Annual Fee||None 1st yr, $160 after||None 1st yr, $195 after||$550||None 1st yr, $89 after|
|Rewards Bonus||N/A||25,000 points||60,000 points||40,000 miles|
|Rewards Rate||1 - 2 points / $1||1 - 3 points / $1||1 - 5 points / $1||2 miles / $1|
|Purchase Intro APR||Not Offered||Not Offered||Not Offered||Not Offered|
|Transfer Intro APR||Not Offered||Not Offered||Not Offered||0% for 12 months|
Transfer Fee: 3% (min $5)
|Regular APR||N/A||N/A||N/A||17.24% - 24.24% (V)|
|Editors’ Rating||2.0 / 5||2.8 / 5||3.0 / 5||5.0 / 5|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More|
Rates & Fees
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