American Express Gold Card Review

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The American Express® Gold Card offers good value for cardholders who earn rewards on food purchases, and then use those rewards to pay for travel. There is a catch, though—a high annual fee.

American Express® Gold Card

overall rating
3.8
American Express® Gold Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) N/A
Annual Fee $250
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants and at US supermarkets (up-to $25,000 per year). 3 points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. 1 point per $1 on other elgible purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
1.1
for Fees
2.4
for Rewards
4.3
for Credit
4.0

Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.

With its bonus points coming from purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, and for travel, this is a rewards card meant for people who like to eat and roam. That’s because cardholders are well-advised to spend the points they earn by eating on a wide array of travel: airfare, cruises, hotels, and lots of other travel experiences. These generally have the best redemption value. The Gold Card offers plenty of travel perks, too. 

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • Lots of travel credits and perks

  • Lots of rewards redemption options

  • Very high rewards earnings rate on food and airfare purchases

Cons

  • High annual fee

  • Limited financing options

  • Narrow rewards categories

Pros Explained

  • No foreign transaction fee: This is a must-have on travel cards.
  • Lots of travel credits and perks: These benefits solidify the Gold Card as a good choice for travelers who want more than points in exchange for their frequent travel purchases. 
  • Lots of rewards redemption options: Membership Rewards is a flexible program. Even though points values differ by redemption option, it's still nice to have choices.
  • Very high rewards earnings rate on food and airfare purchases: The Gold Card has some of the best rewards rates for foodies—especially if they love to travel. 

Cons Explained

  • High annual fee: This card offers a lot of value, but at a steep price. You can get the same rewards earnings rates for no annual fee with the Uber Visa, for example.  
  • Limited financing options: The Gold Card is a charge card, meaning cardholders are expected to pay their balances in full every month. Amex will allow cardholders to carry a balance from month to month on specific purchases over $100. 
  • Narrow rewards categories: American Express recently expanded the Gold's restaurants category to include dining purchases worldwide, but other limits remain. If airfare isn't the main source of your travel spending, you can get better travel rewards elsewhere.

American Express Gold Card’s Welcome Offer

Unlike many cards with similar rewards rates, the American Express Gold Card offers a welcome offer—and a good one. You get 35,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. That breaks down to $1,334 per month.

Depending on how you redeem your points, those 35,000 Membership Rewards points could be worth an equivalent dollar value of $125 to $462. (More on that calculation below.)

The welcome offer you see may vary depending on your internet browsing history.

Earning Points & Rewards

Every dollar you spend on purchases with this card will earn at least 1 American Express Membership Rewards point. However, you get more points for certain purchases:

  • 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 spent per year
  • 3 points per $1 spent on airfare purchases directly from airlines or through American Express Travel

Because credit card networks use the IRS’ Merchant Category Code (MCC) system to classify purchases, some stores where you might buy groceries (Target, for example, or Costco) are not classified as supermarkets or grocery stores, and grocery purchases there may not earn the 3 point bonus. The same is true for restaurants that are located within other establishments like cruise ships or hotels. Those buys may only earn points at the regular, 1 point per $1 spent, rate. 

Important:

The bonus for grocery store purchases is capped at the first $25,000 spent on groceries annually.

Redeeming Rewards

Use your rewards by logging into the Membership Rewards portal or through your credit card account, depending on how you want to use your points.

  • Book travel: 0.5 cents to 1 cent, depending on type of travel and destination
  • Redeem for gift cards: Up to 1 cent 
  • Pay with points at checkout: 0.5 cents to 1 cent, depending on retailer
  • Cover your card charges with a statement credit: 0.6 cents 
  • Shop the Amex shopping portal: 0.5 cents

Another option is to transfer your points to one of 22 airline or hotel rewards travel partners. In general, you can transfer points to their rewards programs in 1,000-point increments. You’ll also pay an “excise tax offset fee” of 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99 per transfer (that’s the first 165,000 points you transfer).

How to Get the Most Out Of This Card

Make sure you spend at least $4,000 on this card within the first three months so you earn the 35,000-point welcome offer—this is simply too good to pass up. After that, take a few minutes to enroll in the benefit programs that require sign-ups (more on those below), because taking advantage of those almost make up for the annual fee.

Finally, keep the card in your wallet and use it when you’re at the supermarket or dining out, since this is how you’ll earn the most points. 

A good rule of thumb is that if your points are worth more than 1 cent per mile each for a reward flight or purchase, it’s a pretty good deal. Our analysis of American Express Gold Card points found the best value for points was in points transfer to JetBlue’s TrueBlue program: 1.32 cents per mile.

American Express Gold Card’s Excellent Perks

  • $100 annual airline fee reimbursement: Enroll in this benefit to get reimbursed for airline fees on the carrier of your choice. You can get up to $100 back in statement credits each year when you use the card to pay fees for checked bags, in-flight drinks and meals, and in-flight internet (but not for the cost of a ticket or seat upgrades), on your chosen airline. 
  • Coverage for lost luggage: This plan will reimburse you for up to $1,250 per person on your reservation and $250 for “high-risk equipment” like cameras or sporting equipment. 
  • Travel accident insurance: If you, your spouse, or your children become permanently disabled or die on a trip paid for with this card, you or your beneficiaries can receive up to $250,000 as compensation.

American Express Gold Card’s Other Features

The Gold Card has several benefits you might like if you're a big traveler, diner, or shopper:

  • ShopRunner membership
  • Up to $10 per month reimbursed for purchases at participating restaurants and food vendors (enrollment required)
  • Access to ticket presales and exclusive events for Amex cardholders
  • Travel assistance hotlines for planning and emergency purposes
  • Lowest hotel rate guarantee
  • Premium roadside assistance, paid for by Amex on up to four covered emergencies per year
  • Purchase return protection
  • Extra benefits when you use your American Express to put down at least $2,000 on a car purchase
  • Supplemental car insurance when you waive coverage from a rental car company
  • Extended warranties
  • Lowest advertised price match

These benefits are typical of travel rewards cards with annual fees.

Customer Experience

American Express consistently gets good marks for its customer service. In fact, according to a 2019 J.D. Power report, it ranked second only to Discover in terms of customer satisfaction. It scored 838 (out of 1,000), well above the industry average of 806.

The company provides 24/7 customer support via phone and chat. Aside from that, you can manage your account through the American Express app, which can also show you any special perks or benefits available near your current location.

Security Features

American Express offers basic, industry-standard security features. Amex also offers a free credit monitoring service called MyCredit Guide, which is available to anyone, even non-cardholders. It provides a VantageScore 3.0 credit score and other credit watching tools. Cardholders can also check their FICO Score 8 through their account page online or via the app.

American Express Gold Card’s Fees

The Gold Card’s fees are in line with industry standards.

For American Express® Gold Card

Compare This Card

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CURRENT CARD
American Express® Gold Card
overall rating
3.8
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) N/A
Annual Fee $250
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants and at US supermarkets (up-to $25,000 per year). 3 points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. 1 point per $1 on other elgible purchases.

Our Methodology

  • At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.