How to maximize your American Express® Gold Card benefits

Young couple drinking wine in a fancy bar and maximizing the benefits of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressImage: Young couple drinking wine in a fancy bar and maximizing the benefits of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

In a Nutshell

To get the most out of this powerful travel rewards card, take advantage of its benefits and consider transferring your Membership Rewards® points to participating programs.
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Before we get into all the bells and whistles of the American Express® Gold Card, let’s review how the card earns points with the Membership Rewards® program.

Most travel rewards cards earn points or miles, but the American Express® Gold Card earns a specific kind of currency: Membership Rewards® points.

You can redeem these points through the Membership Rewards program for travel, gift cards, entertainment or merchandise, or you can transfer points to a selection of frequent-traveler programs.

The American Express® Gold Card makes it easy to rack up Membership Rewards points with your daily purchases. You’ll earn three points per $1 spent on airfare purchases made directly from airlines or at; four points per $1 spent for purchases at restaurants, and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year, then one point per $1 after that); and one point per $1 spent on other purchases.

Depending on where you spend your money, that’s potentially more points than you’ll get with other cards.

What are Membership Rewards® points actually worth?

It depends on how you redeem, but Membership Rewards points are usually worth 1 cent per point or less. Points can be redeemed for travel and gift cards at up to 1 cent per point, statement credits at six-tenths of a cent per point or online shopping at up to half a cent per point.

You might be able to squeeze even more value out of your Membership Rewards points if you transfer them to an eligible travel partner. More on that later.

For now, let’s dive into some strategies you can use to maximize the value of your American Express® Gold Card, like taking advantage of American Express Purchase Protection and transferring your Membership Rewards points to participating programs.

1. Make sure you qualify for the welcome offer

Before you apply for the American Express® Gold Card, make sure you can comfortably meet the spending requirements to qualify for the welcome offer. If you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of card membership, you’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points — not a bad way to get started in the program.

The welcome offer is the fastest way to boost your Membership Rewards points balance, but we don’t recommend stretching your expenses to qualify for it.

2. Use your rewards benefits, including hotel credits

This card offers a hotel credit of up to $100 on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities plus a room upgrade at check-in, if available, when you book a prepaid hotel stay of at least two consecutive nights at participating properties through American Express Travel.

Unless you have another hotel-specific card, or a high-powered rewards earner like the Platinum Card® from American Express in your wallet, make a habit of paying for all of your hotel expenses with the American Express® Gold Card.

3. Consider transferring Membership Rewards points to participating programs

As we alluded to above, transferring Membership Rewards points to a participating frequent traveler program can unlock higher redemption values. It just might take a bit more legwork on your part.

Before you transfer points to a participating program, look for rewards you’d want to redeem with partner programs.

Once you find an option you’re interested in, calculate whether transferring Membership Rewards® points gives you more value for each point.

Note that you might pay a fee for the miles you transfer to participating frequent flyer programs, too.

You can currently transfer points to programs like Marriott BonvoyTM, Hilton Honors and Delta SkyMiles®.

Transfer rates vary, with some programs accepting up to a 1:1 points transfer ratio. Just keep in mind that looks can be deceiving, and 1,000 points/miles with one program might translate to a lot more value than the same number of points/miles with another program. That’s why it pays to do some research ahead of time.

What are credit card points and miles (really) worth?

4. Don’t overlook the lesser-known travel perks

Some of the most useful benefits of rewards cards are often hidden beneath the flashier ones, but it pays to do some extra digging with the American Express® Gold Card.

For example, with this card, its travel insurance benefits is a must-have if you’re on the road a lot.

Just remember: You must pay for your ticket in full with your card to qualify for the baggage insurance plan.

Another money-saving benefit you might not be aware of? Car rental loss and damage insurance. But not all car types or rentals are covered, and coverage is not available in every country.

These travel benefits do have limitations and exclusions, so make sure to read about the benefits in full on your card benefit paperwork.

5. Take advantage of shopping benefits

The American Express® Gold Card takes some of the pain out of buying — and, just as importantly, returning or replacing — certain items.

A manufacturer’s warranty can be extended by the length of the original guarantee if it’s less than one year and by one additional year if the original warranty is between one and five years.

The coverage is limited to the amount you charge on your card, subject to maximum limits. That’s a pretty great benefit to have in your back pocket in case you’re dealing with a stingy store warranty.

American Express Purchase Protection, another big-time shopping benefit, offers reimbursement for qualifying items.

Bottom line

It pays to know the rewards and benefits options offered by the American Express® Gold Card.

Capitalizing on lesser-known benefits such as purchase protection, warranty extension and baggage insurance can quickly pay for the card’s annual fee.

Add in the hotel credits, and the card becomes even more valuable.

But these tips don’t just apply to the American Express® Gold Card.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to dig into the terms and conditions of any rewards card to see how you might be able to save some extra money.

You might be surprised at how far a piece of plastic (or metal, in the case of the Platinum Card® from American Express) can go.

Other premium travel rewards cards to consider

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Three points per $1 on travel and dining worldwide, plus a $300 annual travel credit and more
Platinum Card® from American Express Five points per $1 on eligible flight purchases on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year as of Jan. 1, 2021, then one point per $1, five points per $1 on eligible hotel purchases, plus a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year for baggage and other incidental travel fees at one qualifying airline of your choice

About the author: Lance Cothern is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. His work has appeared on Business Insider, USA and his website, Lance holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in … Read more.