American Express Gold Card Review: Perks for Foodies and Travel Buffs [2020]

If you spend a lot on dining and travel, the American Express Gold Card may prove to be an asset for your wallet.
Last updated Sep 23, 2020 | By Matt Miczulski

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After an overhaul in October 2018, the American Express Gold Card changed from being an average travel card to becoming a dining rewards powerhouse. The revamped earning structure boasts generous rewards rates, up to $120 in dining credits each calendar year, and many competitive travel benefits.

With a slew of perks and a sleek metal design, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement about the Amex Gold Card. But before you decide if this particular travel rewards card is right for you, you should take a closer look at how the card works and which benefits it includes. Keep reading this American Express Gold Card review for all the info you need to make a smart decision.

Big Rewards for Dining Out

Benefits

  • 35,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • High rewards rate in certain categories
  • Up to $100 airline fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • No lounge access benefit
  • Has annual fee

In this Amex Gold Card review

Who should get the American Express Gold Card?

We’ve all got to eat, and if you love to dine out — or dine in — this card can offer excellent returns. With 4X points earned at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and restaurants worldwide as well as a $120 dining credit, you can find great value in this card if you spend regularly in these areas.

Along with the many perks for self-professed foodies, you also earn rewards on travel. With 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, a $100 Amex airline fee credit, and a $100 hotel credit when you book a stay through The Hotel Collection, the American Express Gold Card can keep you rightfully satisfied if you enjoy traveling. If you’re looking to travel abroad, you'll be happy to know this card has no foreign transaction fees either.

Cards like the American Express Gold Card are typically geared toward people with good to excellent credit, and since it’s a charge card vs. a credit card, you’ll need to be able to pay off your balance in full each month — unless, of course, you’re taking advantage of the Pay Over Time feature.

If you rarely travel or dine out and can’t put the annual credits to good use, a cashback credit card like the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express might make more sense for you instead of paying the Amex Gold Card's $250 annual fee.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Card issuer American Express
Annual fee $250
Welcome bonus Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
Reward rate 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and at restaurants worldwide, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Intro APR N/A
Foreign transaction fee None

American Express Gold Card benefits and perks

  • Generous welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months after account opening.
  • $120 dining credit: After enrolling, you can earn up to $10 in statement credits each month at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations for an annual savings of up to $120.
  • Annual airline fee credit: Cardholders can select one qualifying airline and receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees, like checked baggage fees or inflight meals, are charged to your card.
  • No foreign transaction fee: The Amex Gold Card ranks high among the credit cards with no foreign transaction fee. You can travel abroad without having to worry about racking up unnecessary charges every time you swipe your card.
  • Trip delay insurance: If your flight is delayed more than 12 hours, you can also be reimbursed for up to $300 in unexpected expenses per trip.
  • Other travel insurance: If you pay for a car rental with your Amex Gold Card, you can also be covered by rental car insurance. Your luggage will also be covered by Amex's baggage insurance plan.
  • Shopping benefits: Purchases made with this card could also be eligible for purchase protection and extended warranty protection. This could be make this card a great fit if you need a credit card for a large purchase.
  • Payment flexibility: It’s a good rule of thumb to pay off your balance each month, especially with a charge card. But if you need some flexibility, this card's Pay Over Time benefit allows you to carry over a balance on eligible charges of $100 or more. Just be aware that this will cause you to be charged interest.

Drawbacks to this card

  • Annual fee: The perks and bonus points of this card don't come without a cost. You'll pay an annual fee of $250.
  • No lounge benefits: While this card has great earning potential when it comes to travel purchases, it does not feature some of the luxury perk of other travel credit cards. If that's important to you, then you might want to explore the benefit differences between the Amex Gold vs. Platinum cards.

Earning & redeeming Amex Membership Rewards

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look how your points can add up with the Amex Gold Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of 1 cent per point.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $994

Year two earnings: $644

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome bonus, and the annual fee. 

In our calculations, we also assigned all travel spending to the 3X for flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com. So if some of your travel budget is allocated to hotels and other travel purchases, as opposed to airfare, then you will see lower earnings. That said, the value of this card is potentially boosted by hundreds of dollars each over what is indicated here if you take advantage of the annual dining credit and airline fee credit. 

Best ways to earn

The American Express Gold Card is an excellent choice for foodies who also enjoy traveling. Whether you eat in or dine out, this card could be a great way for you to earn nearly free travel.

Category Rewards rate
U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and restaurants worldwide 4X
Flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com 3X
All other eligible purchases 1X

Maximizing your redemptions

The value of your Membership Rewards points will vary depending on how you redeem them but generally ranges between 0.5 cents to one cent each. You can redeem your American Express Membership Rewards by booking through American Express Travel or you can transfer points to participating hospitality partners. If you consider getting an equal match on your points as collecting the most value, the clear winner among your redemption options is transferring your Amex points to an eligible frequent traveler program. 

Maximum Value Value per point
Transfer to frequent traveler program 1:1
Moderate Value Value per point
Redeem for paid travel 0.7 cents to 1 cent
Shop Amazon 0.7 cents
Statement credit 0.6 cents
Lowest Value Value per point
Gift cards 0.5 cents to 1 cent
Shop with merchant partners 0.5 cents

Amex Gold transfer partners

If you prefer to book through another loyalty program, there are a number of airlines and hotels that are Amex transfer partners. Most Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio with these travel partners, with some exceptions. With the following airlines, you could use your Amex rewards to book nearly free flights.

Amex Airline Transfer Partner Airline Alliance Transfer Ratio
AeroMexico SkyTeam 1:1.6
Air Canada Star Alliance 1:1
Alitalia SkyTeam 1:1
Aer Lingus N/A 1:1
Air France SkyTeam 1:1
All Nippon Airways Star Alliance 1:1
Avianca LifeMiles Star Alliance 1:1
British Airways Oneworld Alliance 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyTeam 1:1
EL AL Israel Airlines N/A 50:1
Emirates N/A 1:1
Etihad Airways N/A 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines N/A 1:1
Iberia Plus Oneworld Alliance 1:1
JetBlue Airways N/A 5:4
Singapore Airlines Star Alliance 1:1
Qantas Airlines Oneworld Alliance 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Airways N/A 1:1

If you want to use your Amex Membership Rewards for your lodging, you can also work your way toward staying at a hotel for free.

Amex Hotel Transfer Partner Minimum Transfer Transfer Ratio
Choice Hotels 1,000 1:1
Hilton Honors 1,000 1:2
Marriott Bonvoy 1,000 1:1

Amex Gold Card FAQs

What credit score do you need to get an American Express Gold Card?

Just like other premium rewards cards, you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify, so aim for a FICO score above 670 for the best chance of getting approved.

Does the Amex Gold Card get you access to airport lounges?

Unfortunately, no. While the American Express Gold Card comes with a variety of travel benefits, you would need The Platinum Card from American Express in order to gain complimentary access to American Express lounge networks. If you're open to getting a card from a different credit card issuer, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve will offer you a ton of luxury travel benefits that more than compensate for the card's annual fee.

Is the American Express Gold Card worth it?

If you can maximize the $220 in annual credits and are a big spender in the card’s bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card may be worth every penny, even with the $250 annual fee.

Does the American Express Gold Card pair well with other cards?

Yes, especially when combined with other strong American Express cards within the Membership Rewards program, such as The Platinum Card from American Express and the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card.


Other cards to consider

If the benefits of the American Express Gold Card don’t offset the annual fee in your eyes, a card with comparable rewards and a lower annual fee may be a smarter choice.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a generous sign-up bonus that can help kickstart your travel plans and is an excellent option if you like to travel and dine out. The Sapphire Preferred offers many similar benefits to the Amex Gold, including travel insurance coverage and DoorDash benefits, but with a much lower annual fee of $95.

If you're more interested in travel benefits, then The Platinum Card from American Express would be a better fit. With this card you'll get lounge access, a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit, elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, and much much more.

Big Rewards for Dining Out

Special Offer

Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $15 in free U.S. Uber rides each month ($20 in December)
  • $200 airline fee credit each year
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Terms apply