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This offer is no longer available on our site: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
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 credit 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; four points per $1 spent for purchases at U.S. 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 the super-premium Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns five points per $1 spent on eligible airfare purchases and hotel bookings but only one point on other spending.
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, merchandise for up to seven-tenths of a cent per point, statement credits at six-tenths of a cent per point or entertainment 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.What are credit card points and miles (really) worth?
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.
5 ways to maximize your American Express® Gold Card benefits
- Make sure you qualify for the welcome offer
- Use your rewards benefits, including airline fee and hotel credits
- Consider transferring Membership Rewards® points to participating programs
- Don’t overlook the lesser-known travel perks
- Take advantage of shopping benefits
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 $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of card membership, you’ll earn 35,000 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.
Since the American Express® Gold Card is a charge card, you’ll have to pay your balance in full each month. If you think you’ll have trouble meeting the welcome offer requirement and paying off your balance each month, this probably isn’t the card for you.
The American Express® Gold Card offers an airline fee credit of up to $100 per calendar year.
To use this nifty rewards benefit, you must select a qualifying airline and charge fees for any incidentals, such as baggage fees and in-flight food and beverage purchases, to your card.
Incidental air travel fees must be a separate charge from airline ticket charges to qualify.
Because this benefit only applies to one airline per calendar year (starting in January), it pays to think carefully before choosing your qualifying airline. Are you likely to fly with that airline several times this year? Then that airline is probably a good bet.
This card also offers a hotel credit of up to $75 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 like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express 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.
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’ll pay a fee for the miles you transfer to participating frequent flyer programs.
You can currently transfer points to the following participating programs.
- Alitalia MilleMiglia
- Asia Miles
- British Airways Executive Club
- Delta SkyMiles®
- Etihad Guest
- Hilton Honors
- Starwood Preferred Guest®
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.
Some of the most useful benefits of rewards credit cards are often hidden beneath the flashier ones, but it pays to do some extra digging with the American Express® Gold Card.
Natasha Rachel Smith, a personal finance expert with rewards website TopCashback, specifically calls out the card’s travel insurance benefits as must-haves.
“You can rest easy by knowing your luggage may be insured up to $1,250 for carry-ons and $500 for checked bags if damaged, lost or stolen,” she says.
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.
When you use your card to pay for a vehicle rental in full, you can decline the collision damage waiver from the car rental company and can be covered by your card if the rental car is damaged or stolen.
However, not all car types or rentals are covered, and coverage is not available in every country.
You’ll also qualify for premium roadside assistance. Towing up to 10 miles, flat-tire changes, lockout services, gas delivery, winching and jump-starts are included at no additional cost up to four times per calendar year.
Note that the cardholder has to be present with the car, and some cars, such as rentals, are not covered.
These travel benefits do have limitations and exclusions, so make sure to read about the benefits in full on your card benefit paperwork.
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 is 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 of $10,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year. 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.
“If what you bought got damaged, lost or stolen in the first 90 days from the date of purchase, American Express may pay up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year,” Smith says. Coverage is limited to the amount you charged on your card.
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, premium roadside assistance and baggage insurance can quickly pay for the card’s annual fee.
Add in the airline fee credits and 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 credit 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 dining, plus a $300 annual travel credit and more|
|Platinum Card® from American Express||Five points per $1 on eligible flight purchases, plus a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year for baggage and other incidental travel fees at one qualifying airline of your choice|