Today American Express has officially launched the rumored American Express Gold Card. If that sounds like a card you’ve heard of before, I don’t blame you. They’ve long had variations of gold-colored cards under different names, and most notably for personal users was the “Premier Rewards Gold” card. This new “American Express Gold Card” will take the place of the Premier Rewards Gold card, and it offers a very compelling set of benefits.
Right now most miles/points/travel aficionados’ go-to credit card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and for good reason. It’s a card that offers 3x points on travel and dining, and while it has a massive $450 annual fee, it also gives you back $300 on travel purchases every year. The effective annual fee (assuming you’d spend that $300 anyway) is “just” $150. So basically, if the points you think you’ll earn will be worth more than $150, you’re coming out ahead with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. That card also offers Priorty Pass Lounge benefits as well.
But now there’s a new entrant in the competition for space in your wallet. The new American Express Gold Card offers the following major benefits:
- $250 annual fee, not waived the first year
- 4x points on dining
- 4x points on grocery shopping (up to $25k/year)
- 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline
- $100 airline fee credit, intended for baggage fees and in-flight food (in the past this has worked for gift cards with some airlines)
- A $10 per month dining credit that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations (Excludes Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports and racetracks.)
If you ask me, this is a very compelling credit card. The optimist would say that the $250 annual fee is offset almost entirely by the $100 airline fee credit and the dining credits. The pessimistic view, of course, is that the airline fee credit isn’t a true “travel credit” like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which applies to all travel purchases. And the dining credits are very limited and I would think most people would have to go out of their way to make use them. Amex needs to get their act together and get rid of these customer-unfriendly “gotcha” terms & conditions. There is also no bonus for hotel, car rental, or other travel spend.
But on the flip side, 4x on dining and grocery shopping is significant and 3x on airline purchases are very strong benefits (remember, the personal Amex Platinum offers 5x for flights booked with the airline).
Many of these decisions, of course, come down to the sign-up bonus. Much of the success of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is attributed to not just the benefits of the card, but also to the huge 100K point sign-up bonus it offered when it debuted. This new Amex Gold Card is offering a two-part sign-up bonus:
- 50,000 points after spending $2k in the first 3 months (click here for the offer)
- A statement credit of 20% (up to $100) on restaurant purchases in the first 3 months. Or put more simply: spend $500 on restaurants, get $100 back in the first 3 months.
American Express is not waiving the $250 annual fee the first year and is offering a rather small amount of bonus points for a card that is at the very least a mid-range premium card. Just yesterday the offer on the old version of this card was 50,000 bonus points and the fee was waived the first year. Those that signed up before today are winners, as they got the points, annual fee waived, and the new benefits since their cards will be converted. There are also reports that they’ll get grandfathered in with some of their old benefits, like 2x on gas.
This is a coin flip for me, and I think many others will also be on the fence on whether to get this and ditch the Sapphire Reserve card. If Amex came out and offered a big bonus and waived the fee it would be a no-brainer to make the switch. But they didn’t, and the airline fee credit and food credits are not as easy to use as they could/should be.
If you’re on the fence, here’s a few quick scenarios that might help you decide which card to get. Of course there are other considerations like where the points transfer to and whatnot, but I think you’ll get the gist of how you should decide.
Who should cancel the Chase Sapphire Reserve for the Amex Gold Card?
If you got this card and ditched the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’re probably the kind of person that spends most of their credit card spend on eating out, groceries, and airfare. You also probably have Priority Pass Lounge access with another premium card (Amex Platinum or a premium hotel card, to name a few options). You should have another credit card that earns multiple points for other travel purchases, especially for hotel spending (a hotel credit card would be ideal here if you’re loyal to one brand). You should also be confident that you can make use of the airline fee credit and at least a portion of the monthly food credits.
If that describes you, it’s probably a good idea for you to make the switch.
Who should keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve and avoid the Amex Gold Card?
If, however, your spending habits include spending significant amounts of money on non-airfare related travel (hotels, car rentals, ride sharing, etc.) and the card is the only one you have that offers Priority Pass membership, then you’ll want to stick with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you value the ease of the $300 travel credit and don’t want to worry about using Amex’s airline fee credit, the CSR is a good card to keep.
I really want to like this card, and no doubt many others will try to sell you on the 4x points. At 25,000 bonus points I would sit this out, but now that the 50,000 point offer is available I’m a bit more inclined, especially given the other first-year bonus of $100 on restaurants in the first three months (I’ll hit that cap with no problem). But frankly, it really is a coin flip. I will probably keep my CSR also and could possibly get rid of this card after the first year.
If Amex were to make the airline fee credit a true travel credit, and make the $10 monthly credits available to all restaurant spend, I would drop the CSR and get this in a heartbeat.