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Earlier this week I was going to discuss my reasons for disliking the American Airlines Gold Card but because the Amex website decided that it wasn’t going to let me view the Gold Card webpage I didn’t get around to doing that.
At the time I mistakenly thought there was an outside chance that Amex was temporarily pulling the card to revamp it in response to the changes to Citi’s Prestige card but it all just turned out to be one big glitch – today all is back to normal and I can access the Gold Cad page once again.
Anyway….on with the blog post
American Express Personal Gold Card – Benefits & Earnings
Right now this is what the standard offer on the Gold Card looks like:
- Annual fee of $250
- Sign-up bonus of 35,000 points after spending $2,000
- 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. Restaurants
- 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. Supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
- 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines and amextravel.com
Also, the American Express Gold card offers the following:
- A $120 annual dining credit which gives enrolled card members up to $10 per month in statement credits when they use their card at any of the following dining partners:
- Participating Shake Shack locations
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Ruth’s Chris Steak House
- A $100 airline fee credit per year for incidental expenses like baggage fees at one selected airline of the card member’s choice
- $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon check-in, when available, when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights at a hotels in Amex’s Hotel Collection.
- No foreign transaction fees.
What I Don’t Like
This is a very Amex-ish card and I don’t mean that in a good way – the benefits could be great but Amex makes some of them too specific or deliberately too hard to use…and that’s very annoying.
The Dining Credit Issue
The headline number of $120 sounds great until you realise that it’s spread over 12 months and only applicable at an incredibly limited number of eateries – if you don’t use GrubHub/Seamless I can imagine this being quite a tricky benefit to use economically.
Why not lower the annual dining credit and make it useable everywhere and in one go?
That would make it a lot easier to use but wouldn’t do Amex any good – Amex has deliberately set up the dining benefit in this way to make it hard to use which should ensure that there are a significant number of people who let most of the benefit lapse.
The Airline Credit Issue
The airline credit is annoying as it works in exactly the same infuriating way as the airline credit on the Platinum Card from American Express.
You can only use the credit on one airline which you have to choose at the beginning of the year (not much good to people who don’t stick to one airline or know what their travels look like for the year ahead) and it isn’t valid on airfare spending.
This credit is only really meant to work for airline fees (like those you pay for checked baggage or seat assignments) so it’s often not really much use to anyone with good airline status (or, in some cases, mediocre airline status) because those are things status gives you for free anyway.
The credit sometimes works for lounge memberships which, admittedly, can be useful but there are stories of some memberships triggering the benefit while others don’t….and then there’s the issue of people who already have lounge memberships though other credit cards already.
There isn’t much point in using the airline credit on a lounge membership if you already hold a credit card that gives you just that.
If you’re an American Airlines or Delta flyer you can circumvent this restriction by buying gift cards (which come with limiting factors of their own)….but should you really have to game the system to get value out of a published benefit?
This is another example of Amex setting up a benefit in such a way as to maximise the chances that a lot of cardholders don’t take full advantage of it.
The Hotel Credit Issue
The $75 hotel credit would be a very nice thing to have if you weren’t forced to (a) book two nights and (b) book through Amex’s hotel collection.
Booking through Amex’s hotel collection has the same results as booking through most other 3rd parties in that the large hotel chains will not recognise a guest’s status or offer the guest any elite credits or points earnings on his/her stay.
If you’re looking to book a boutique hotel or don’t care about hotel points/status then this may not be too bad…..but how many readers does that description apply to? It definitely doesn’t apply to me.
Why couldn’t the hotel credit apply for all hotel bookings? Amex could even reduce the credit to $50 and it would still be a vast improvement if it was useable more universally.
The Restaurant Earnings Issues
There are two issue here:
- Why limit the earnings to US restaurants?
- Why is Amex still having issues with crediting points for legitimate earnings?
Limiting the bonus you can earn on dining to US restaurants is just plain cheap….and with the Citi Prestige Card now offering 5 points/dollar at all restaurants worldwide the Gold Card is being shown up (yes, the Prestige has a higher headline annual fee but when you net off all the benefits suspect there isn’t much between the cost of these two cards)
It’s bad enough that Amex is limiting dining bonuses to US establishments only but when the card issuer isn’t even crediting legitimate spend correctly you know things are bad.
Greg over at Frequent Miler reported as far back as last November that Amex wasn’t awarding bonus points for legitimate dining spend at various locations countrywide (even when the eateries were correctly coded as restaurants in the Amex system). That’s nothing short of terrible customer service….and this is still going on.
Presumably, eventually, Amex will credit cardholders with the points they’re owed but I suspect it will only be crediting the cardholders who notice the issue and complain. Can you see Amex retrospectively crediting people’s accounts with points if they haven’t noticed the error?
The American Express Gold Card could be a genuinely good card were in not for Amex making life deliberately difficult for cardholders.
The annual fee is $250 (which doesn’t sound too bad when you first read the benefits) but for $250 I don’t expect to have to jump through hoops to make the most of the benefits a card offers.
Why make the airline rebate so hard to use? Why make the dining credit so annoying to use? Why force cardholders to choose between status benefits and the hotel credit offered by the Gold Card? Why limit the dining bonus to US restaurants when the card is clearly (in part) aimed at those who travel (no foreign transaction fees, a hotel credit and an airline credit)?
If you’re prepared to play games I’m sure the Gold Card can work for you (especially in the first year) but, funnily enough, most people don’t want to play games. Most people just want a good solid credit card to use….and this isn’t it.
Right….bring on the anger from the Gold Card lovers out there 🙂