Amex Gold lost its shine (for me)

The Amex Gold Card has become relevant again now that it will offer 4X at restaurants worldwide as of June 6th (previously it offered 4X only in the US).  That’s a nice improvement to the extent that restaurants outside of the US accept Amex.

Last October I was pretty excited about the Amex Gold Card.  In the post “Is 4X worth $250 per year? How much are those Amex Gold 4X categories (grocery & dining) worth?” I wrote:

The new American Express® Gold Card offers an eye-popping 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar for spend at restaurants and grocery stores in the United States (grocery store 4X is limited to $25K spend per year).  That’s great.  Unfortunately, the card also offers a great big annual fee: $250.  Is 4X worth that fee?

First, consider that the card offers other valuable benefits:

  • $120 dining credit: $10 per month credit for spend at GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and Participating Shake Shack locations
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: Get reimbursed for airline fees charged by your selected airline, up to $100 each calendar year.

If you already spend at least $10 per month with one of the dining credit merchants, then the dining credits should be nearly as good as cash back to you.  Otherwise, you will likely value this benefit far less than face value.

Similarly, the airline fee credit could be almost as good as cash if you know how to take full advantage of it (see: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?). Otherwise, you’ll probably value this benefit well below $100.

To determine whether the Amex Gold card was worth its high sticker price, I argued that the ability to earn 4X at US grocery stores (up to $25K, then 1X) was worth 2 cents per dollar above the best alternative, and the ability to earn 4X at US restaurants was worth 1 cent per dollar above the best alternative (see the original post for the logic behind these values).  With that info, I created this worksheet:

Your worksheet

Fill out these values to determine how much the Amex Gold card is worth to you:

  • $120 Dining Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: ____________
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: ____________
  • 4X at US Restaurants:
    • Weekly restaurant spend: ____________
    • X 52 =  ____________
    • X .01 = ____________
  • 4X at US Grocery Stores (up to $25K):
    • Weekly grocery spend: ____________
    • X 52 =  ____________
    • X .02 = ____________
  • Total annual value: ____________

If the total annual value is significantly more than the annual fee, then keeping the card each year makes sense.

And, in that same post, I filled out the worksheet based on my own situation at that time:

My worksheet (example)

Here are my values:

  • $120 Dining Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: $80
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: $80
  • 4X at US Restaurants:
    • Weekly restaurant spend: $150 (it’s probably much more than that actually)
    • X 52 =  $7,800
    • X .01 = $78
  • 4X at US Grocery Stores (up to $25K):
    • Weekly grocery spend: $200
    • X 52 =  $10,400
    • X .02 = $208
  • Total annual value: $80 + $80 + $78 + 208 = $446

$446 is significantly higher than the card’s $250 annual fee, so it’s definitely a keeper for me.

Things have massively changed

Since I posted the above worksheets in October 2018, a number of things have changed both in general and with my situation:

I haven’t been using the $10/month restaurant credits every month

I thought I’d easily earn $10 per month with the Amex Gold card thanks to regular Grubhub orders and occasional Ruth’s Chris happy hours.  And I have earned the $10 easily most months, but not every month.  That fact reduces the amount I value of the Gold card’s dining credits.

Citi Prestige now earns 5X at restaurants worldwide.

Prestige 4th Night Free

To me, I see 4X Membership Rewards and 5X Citi ThankYou points as being roughly equal.  But even though the Gold card will offer 4X at restaurants worldwide as of June 6, that doesn’t change the fact that Mastercard is accepted in far more places.  Regardless, since I have the Prestige card, I don’t value the Gold card’s 4X restaurant category above what I get with the Prestige card.

See: Prestige rocks my wallet for 2019.

I bought a Samsung watch.

When I combine this watch’s Samsung Pay capability with my US Bank Altitude Reserve card, I earn 3X (4.5%) everywhere.  This lowers the relative value of 4X Membership Rewards at grocery stores to only .5% compared to my best alternative.

See: 3X everywhere, on my wrist.

I signed up for the Ebates Visa.

One of the advantages of earning 4X Membership Rewards at grocery stores with the Amex Gold card rather than 3X with the US Bank Altitude Reserve is that there is less danger in getting shut down by Amex than by US Bank when buying gift cards at grocery stores.  With the Ebates Visa tied to a Membership Rewards Ebates account, I can earn 4X Membership Rewards buying gift cards from home.  That is way preferable to frequent trips to the grocery store.  Plus, there’s no need to worry about the Gold card’s $25K per year limit on 4X at grocery stores.

See: Ebates Visa with Membership Rewards. Everything you need to know.

My new Amex Gold worksheet

Here are my updated values:

  • $120 Dining Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: $80 now $60
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: $80 (unchanged)
  • 4X at Restaurants (worldwide as of June 6):

    • Weekly restaurant spend: $150 (it’s probably much more than that actually)
    • X 52 =  $7,800
    • X .01 = $78 now $0 (I earn more points with my Prestige card)
  • 4X at US Grocery Stores (up to $25K):
    • Weekly grocery spend: $200
    • X 52 =  $10,400
    • X .02 = $208
    • X 0.005 = now $52
  • Total annual value: $60 + $80 + $0 + $52 = $192

$192 is less than the card’s $250 annual fee, so the Amex Gold card is no longer a keeper for me.  When the next annual fee comes due I’ll call to cancel.  If they offer a retention deal worth significantly more than $58 ($250 annual fee – my $192 value estimate), then I’ll keep it another year.  Otherwise, bye bye Gold card.

Does the Amex Gold still shine for you?

Just because the Gold card has lost its spot in my wallet doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for you.  It is still the best card for US groceries if you spend more than $6K per year.  And it’s still one of the very best cards for restaurants (worldwide as of June 6).  To get an idea if it’s worth the $250 fee for you, fill out the worksheet below in order to estimate the card’s annual value.

  • $120 Dining Credit ($10 per month at various restaurants and food delivery services). If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: ____________
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. If I could buy this as a membership, I’d pay: ____________
  • 4X at Restaurants (worldwide as of June 6):
    • Weekly restaurant spend: ____________
    • X 52 =  ____________
    • X .01 = ____________
  • 4X at US Grocery Stores (up to $25K):
    • Weekly grocery spend: ____________
    • X 52 =  ____________
    • X .02 = ____________
  • Total annual value: ____________

If the total annual value for the Amex Gold card exceeds $250 by a considerable margin, then you should consider getting this card, or keeping it long term if you already have it.

You can find more info about the Amex Gold Card here.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Ricardo
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Ricardo

I am buying a $10 Ruth Chris gift card every month and plan to use them all together I one meal, also combining with local costco $100 Ruth Cris gift card for $80. I have gotten $10 credits from amex.

dfos
Guest
dfos

How are you buying $10 gift certificates I can’t find them anywhere

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Interested to know how are you’re able to buy $10 GC when the minimum seems to be $25 on RC’s website?

Ricardo
Guest
Ricardo

I go to the bar area and buy a $10 gift card. No problem but it cannot be recharged. I have a local Ruth Chris.

meijiOrO
Guest
meijiOrO

But the terms say “Not valid on gift cards or merchandise purchases.”. I’d love to buy gift cards at Shake Shack or Cheesecake Factory instead since I’m on a diet.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

I’m buying Cheesecake Factory GCs every month in person. The only problem you can’t recharge an existing card, so you will have many $10 GCs at the end.

Debit
Guest
Debit

Why do you say this? I was able to add guns to an existing card. Are you saying it won’t trigger the credit?

Debit
Guest
Debit

*guns = funds

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Good to know cause the cashier said that the card is already active and couldn’t add funds to it. I’ll try again.

wwllmm
Guest
wwllmm

There is no/smaller chance of shutdown w/ the ebates card? Any DP’s on this?

Bill
Guest
Bill

I’m bit sure if I understand your worksheet. Why is the dollar multiple 0.01 for restaurants instead of 0.04? It’s easy to get a cent per point in cash via the no-fee morgan stanley card, so it’s at least worth that.

Jcb
Guest
Jcb

Because it’s only worth 1 cent pp more than the next best option (typically). See the original post about the Gold card that he linked.

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

Just remember it’s only worth that small amount more if you can get/have the Uber Visa. If you can’t (barclays), the value proposition of Amex gold goes up.

Bill
Guest
Bill

That’s a bit of a funny way to compare them. Apples to Apples would be to compare the effective cashback rates of the two cards given expected spend and deducting the annual fee.

zmicer88
Guest
zmicer88

AmEx offers on my and AU cards have helped me recover the annual fee and even make a profit. This is an element missing in your calculation Greg. I’d value it at at least $100 per year.

MalMel
Guest
MalMel

But not if you don’t get those great offers. I have yet to get any that I read about.

zmicer88
Guest
zmicer88

Ralph Lauren on 5 cards made $50 in profit alone. This is just one example. 2 AUs also had Loews 10% off (up to 1K) and Staples 10% off (up to $500) – this is enough to pay for another year of the card. But this is a fair point – I might not get as lucky next year or the year after

miafll
Guest
miafll

We got the same Lowes and Staples offers among the no fee Biz Plus card and the Bonvoy biz card, even the Everyday card, NOT on the Gold Card, just sayin. You can only get one offer across all cards of the same cardmember anyway.
Again the point is, other AMEX cards get just as good and as many offers if you are lucky. It is very random, cannot be counted on to offset the AF.

miafll
Guest
miafll

I get more AMEX offers on no fee cards than the Gold card. I would not use it to justify the offsetting of the cost especially this is not a guaranteed thing.

Belinda
Guest
Belinda

I almost got rid of this card earlier in the year. They offered a $75 bonus on $1500 spend. So I use it a bunch going out to eat and I figured the travel credit and Amex offers would suffice to justify the fee this year. I used it all over Hong Kong going out to eat…ugh…NOW they offer the 5x on international dining. Going forward I would rather just use my Citi prestige card for hotel and 5x dining while on international travel. Hope I remember to cancel.

sam
Guest
sam

@Greg- Did you have to freeze SageStream and ARS to get the Ebates card Approval? Thanks

Debit
Guest
Debit

Only the point about ebates visa makes any sense. Every other point is non sensical. Just because there are alternatives doesn’t make your original any less worthy. There are switching costs and the alternative needs to be much better to consider switching.

Brands
Guest
Brands

Debit, I disagree. If Greg has another card where he can get just as much value, and he is going to keep that other card for the other benefits it offers (4th night free on the Prestige and travel credit, for example), then Greg needs to calculate the additional value he derives from the Gold card in order to determine whether the $250 annual fee is worth the cost. Otherwise that $250 is being wasted, since he is getting the same value elsewhere on a card that he is going to keep anyway.

Debit
Guest
Debit

Yes. If you are getting one card only then do this analysis. But the gold card by itself has positive NPV. So why would you not get it. Assuming Greg has no issues in liquidation.

I have a CNB card that gives 3.5% back. Amex gold gives back 4x back so 8%? The $250 will roughly need $5000 in grocery spend per year to breakeven not counting any other benefit.

That’s about $400 per month. Doesn’t sound bad. I got it. And the latest safeway gift card made it even easier.

This analysis is flawed.

George
Guest
George

Your analysis is more flawed. The page refreshed and I lost my long comment explaining it, but suffice to say that no card exists in a vacuum, so positive net value for a card “by itself” assumes you’re not giving up earnings on another. The two together may be worth less than that other one by itself (and this one by itself may be worth less still). For Greg’s spending, Prestige+[rest of wallet] > Prestige+[rest of wallet]+Gold > Gold+[rest of wallet].

Debit
Guest
Debit

Is the 25k grocery limit card year or calendar year?

Mike
Guest
Mike

calendar year

Amit
Guest
Amit

Which MS’er would not spend $25k in a month at grocery store leave alone $25k in a year.

miafll
Guest
miafll

At locations where the grocery stores do not sell $500 Gebits with CC payments or dont even carry the $500 Gebits. There are PLENTY of such locations in the US, outside your area.

C H
Guest
C H

Your worksheet is off – you don’t account for 4x.

miafll
Guest
miafll

My card was from a targeted offer with first year free before the change. The first AF to be billed remains $195. Even so I would not keep the card because it is a CHORE to drive to Cheesecake factory to buy the $15 GC then the following month to get a take out lunch for 2 for another $1- to $16 net of the prev $15 GC. Not convenient at all to use the $10 monthly credit.

Then 2 local grocers do not code 4x on Gold but no problem showing as grocery on TD’s no fee card which earns 2x cash rebate at grocery. It gets tired to call every month to get back what should have been for $100 to $150 total we usually spend at those places (primarily fresh fishes from the Caribbeans).

The card only value so far is from the occasionally useful AMEX offers, like the 10% rebate up to $20 on insurance payment. Unfortunately useful AMEX offers are far and few in between the past 2 years.

For international travels, it is no denying that many places dont take AMEX cards unless at the hotels or at higher end restaurants. Last Nov we saw countless restaurants in Brisbane and in Sydney, give 3% discount if paid with cash, and if paid with CC, ONLY VISA is accepted. Oh, at hotels they charge surcharges on credit card payments with AMEX incurs the highest fee at 2.7%, so even the AMEX Bonvoy card is at disadvantage comparing to Chase’s cards. In Hong Kong many famous chain restaurants do NOT take credit card at all, either cash or the cash equivalent of Octopus card.

So this card will go even though my fee is only $195 (AMEX sent a letter to rectify it after the initial confusion when the Gold replaced the PRG)

On top of that, my bet is, AMEX will send out targeted offers in the future, as my current one is the 3rd iteration with the last 2 from targeted offers.

The bottom line is, there are other cards on the market that has same earning power, even the same currency (the eBate card) but either cost much less or cost nothing.

All the hoopla of the new Gold card does not even survive its first year!

Mike
Guest
Mike

The only thing I would question is relying long term on the Ebates Visa. There’s no way Amex will let people continue printing MR with a Visa card. I would hit it as hard as you can now because they’ll definitely shut that down at some point, possibly even this year

Rick
Guest
Rick

Tip of the day – Dining credit reimbursed on Boxed.com

Gmoney
Guest
Gmoney

And there are some amex offers for those too

huey judy
Guest
huey judy

AmEx Gold can’t hold a candle to Chase Reserve for me. The perks are great, and I really appreciate the customer service … being forced to call AmEx and talk on the phone to someone who can barely understand did it for me. Once you’re used to Reserve’s customer service and easy communicating, you’ll be unable to get excited about AmEx. AmEx was my go-to card for 30 years. It’s a sad turn of events for them, at one time the pinnacle of a good card.

THEsocalledfan
Guest
THEsocalledfan

4X MR vs 3x altitude is clearly better just as 3x UR was to 3x altitude. (and I am I huge altitude guys). That is worth more than you assigned if transferring to airlines IMHO. Plus, how can you give up the 4X at grocery? That is only a bit over 2K MS a month! Can’t the king of MS multi task? 🙂

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

If you have Ink Cash, you can get 5x in OS stores, and they are frequently running promotions for Visa and MC GCs. The advantage of Amex is that the grocery stores sell $500 denominations, which are much easier to liquidate.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

How do you get 0.5% for groceries? 4*2=8, which is 3.5% more than Altitude Reserve.

Omer
Guest
Omer

You said “This lowers the relative value of 4X Membership Rewards at grocery stores to only .5% compared to my best alternative”. Is that means you value 1 membership rewards points at 1.25 cents?

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Considering that I spend around $600-700 per month on a grocery stores with this card, let’s say $650, and I value Amex grocery spend at 3.5% more than Altitude (4*2 – 4.5 = 3.5), and I value restaurant credit at $80, and air credit at $100, then the math is:
80 + 100 + 650*12*0.035 = $453, which is $203 more than the AF. I think it’s a keeper.

Omer
Guest
Omer

No way Amex memberships points are worth 2 cents a point. something around 1.5 would be more appropriate

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

I routinely get more than 2cpp when transferring to BA, AF, SQ, VS, NH, etc

miafll
Guest
miafll

Only if you convince yourself that you actually would PAY out of pocket cash for your premium cabin tickets. Obviously you dont. So telling yourself you get that high return is just a “feel good” exercise.
By that measure I routinely get over 10c per mile on many of J/F redemption but that is NOT the actual cash price I would pay for something similar or close enough – still a comfortable flatbed which is most important part of premium cabins. So I would not tell myself how great a value of the MR pts or UR or TYP would worth. That said, UR pts indeed have a guaranteed value of 1c to 1.25c to 1.5c depending on which card you own and how you redeem it Much easier to use too, no need to be subj to award availability for a starter.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

I mostly buy economy, business only for flights of more than 10 hours, which I rarely take.

Thetruthserum
Guest
Thetruthserum

Exactly!!!! Been saying this since I got in the game.

Joaquin
Guest
Joaquin

If the dining credit was not split in credits of 10 dollars, I might have a use for the 120 dollar benefit, just like the flying. I do not use that every month so this is not valuable. Did the math with grocery and restaurant and did not work. Called AMEX and downgraded to Green. No retention offer, no inquiries, nothing and I am cardholders since 1990.

miafll
Guest
miafll

You should just cancel it because Green has no meaningful benefit. There are no fee AMEX personal card (Everyday) and business card (business plus) to keep your membership reward pts alive. No reason to downgrade to Green.

james
Guest
james

What about 4x at giftcards.com

zmicer88
Guest
zmicer88

What do you mean?

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

Why not peg the price of MR in your calculations at 1.55 cpp (same as posted RRV), instead of 1.25 cpp? I understand being conservative, but let’s be fair to Amex and compare apples to apples.

trackback

[…] my post yesterday (Amex Gold lost its shine – for me) I’m a fan of this card.  Just because it isn’t right for me doesn’t mean it […]

Jason
Guest
Jason

where online can we buy vgc with 4 percent back?

WR2
Guest
WR2

You can discount the 4xMR by another 1/4, since Chase Freedom reliably has grocery stores and restaurants as a category once a year.

Gmoney
Guest
Gmoney

No, because that is capped at 1500, whereas the AMEX gold is 25k for the year. Buying 1k or so of GC and 500 of grocery is easy to do a month

Bee
Guest
Bee

We recently used the Gold card’s priority pass for free entry at an airport lounge at LAS, it was fantastic for a two hour layover, especially with 3 kids!

trackback

[…] Amex Gold Card.  First, I explained why I plan to cancel the card when the annual fee comes due: Amex Gold lost its shine (for me).  Next, I published info about the latest enhancements to the Gold Card: Amex Gold fights back […]

trackback

[…] 5X points on dining and purchase of airfare. For this reason, Greg at Frequent Miler said, “Amex Gold lost its shine (for me).” Given his situation, I can understand his thoughts, but it doesn’t alter the course […]