Middle Age Miles

[UPDATED: 50k Sign-Up Bonus Available Through Referral Links] New Amex Gold Card Released Today – Great Rewards, Ho-Hum Sign-Up Bonus, Higher Fee

The new Amex Gold Card – limited edition rose gold version

* We’re updating our post from this morning and bringing it back up to the top of our page.  Doctor of Credit is now reporting that sign-up bonuses of 50,000 MR points are available through referral links.  Some Doc readers have posted their referrals in the comments to the article we’ve linked above.  [Doc also says that a 50k sign-up bonus is available via an Incognito browser window. We have not been able to replicate that. We did, however, replicate the 50k bonus offer through clicking on multiple referral links.

*** Do not apply for the 25k sign-up bonus, please!!! ***

* Middle Age Miles does not have a referral link at this time.  We expect to have one early next week, and we’ll post it and add it to our Sign-Up Links page at that time.

* And finally, I’m quite happy to say that we were correct in our analysis that you’re best served to wait on the 25k sign-up bonus offer and see if a better offer comes along. It only took about 2 hours to wait!

Introduction

Today, Amex has replaced its Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) card with an updated version of the same product, now known simply as the American Express Gold Card.

First, the good news: The updated card has outstanding bonus categories for food – 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar of spend at US restaurants, and 4x MR per dollar at US supermarkets (with a cap of $25,000 per year on the supermarket category).

And the bad news: The annual fee on the card is now $250, with the first year’s fee not waived.  Previously, the annual fee on the card was $195, with the first year waived.  Also, the sign-up bonus is only 25,000 MR points.  With the PRG card, although the most recent public offer was 25,000 MR points, most people were able to pull a higher offer for 50,000 MR points.

Details & Analysis

Here is how Amex lays out the key features and benefits of the updated Amex Gold card:

We’ll take a closer look at the most important features of the new card, along with our analysis of how it stacks up and fits into our credit card portfolio:

The Bonus Categories

The new bonus category structure is the outstanding feature of the updated Amex Gold card.  Most importantly, the updated Gold card has absolute best-in-class bonus category earning in two categories where we spend a lot of money – US restaurants and US supermarkets.

Here is the points-earning and bonus category structure:

  • 4x MR points at US restaurants
  • 4x MR points at US supermarkets, on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 3x MR points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • 2x MR points for other purchases made on amextravel.com
  • 1x MR points on everything else

At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, this is about a 6% rebate on your spend at US restaurants and supermarkets.  These are categories where we and many other people spend thousands of dollars a year, making these bonus categories incredibly valuable.

Up to now, most of our restaurant spend has been put on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which earns 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar (or a legacy Chase Ink business card that also earns 3x UR).  At 1.5 cents per UR point, that’s a 4.5% return.  The new earning structure on the Amex Gold card would bump up our earning by 1.5 cents per dollar of spend.  If we spend $10,000 at US restaurants in a year, that would increase our earnings by $150.

[In fact, it might be worth even a little more, as in practice we tend to get slightly better value for our Amex MR points than our Chase UR points.] [Also, this new earning structure on the Amex Gold card impacts how we value our Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card and our keep-or-cancel decision on the CSR.  If we move all of our US restaurant spending over to the Amex Gold card, that materially decreases the value we get from our CSR.]

As for supermarkets, the new 4x earning on the Amex Gold card is even better for us.  Up to now, our supermarket spending has been put on a handful of cards – either:

  • the Amex Hilton Ascend card, which earns 6x Hilton Honors points at supermarkets – at 0.5 cents per Hilton point, this is effectively a 3% return
  • the Amex Everyday card, which earns 2x MR points at supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year, which can also earn a 20% bonus if you use the card 20 times during your monthly statement cycle – this is also effectively a 3% return (but capped), which could go up to 3.6% if you have enough transactions (which we don’t, unless we go out of our way)
  • the Amex Blue Business Plus card, which earns 2x MR points everywhere, up to $50,000 per calendar year – again, this is effectively a 3% return
  • or, to meet whatever sign-up bonus or spending-threshold bonus we might be working on at the time

So, for the most part, we’re talking about an increase from 3% return to 6% return on our grocery spend, which is great.  If we spend $5,000 on groceries in a year, that alone would increase our earnings by $150.

In addition, given that many grocery stores sell gift cards, the US supermarket bonus category gives us an opportunity to leverage our 4x MR / 6% rebate into many other areas where we spend money.  This could further enhance the value proposition of the new Amex Gold card.

The Sign-Up Bonus & Annual Fee

Amex has set up an interesting structure for the sign-up bonus for the Amex Gold card that we haven’t seen before.  It has 2 parts:

  • Earn 25,000 Amex MR points after you spend $2,000 on the card within the first 3 months  [See the top of this article – a 50,000 MR point sign-up bonus is now available through referral links. DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS CARD WITH THE 25,000 POINT BONUS!!!]
  • Receive 20% statement credit back on spend at US restaurants within the first 3 months, up to a cap of $100 back (that is, 20% back on your first $500 in US restaurant spend)

Given that the card has best-in-class points-earning on US restaurant spend, it’s a no-brainer to hit the $500 in spend and get the $100 statement credit.  Therefore, you’re looking at a sign-up bonus of 25,000 MR points plus $100.  At a baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, that’s effectively $375 + $100 = $475 total value of the sign-up bonus.

There’s nothing per se wrong with a sign-up bonus worth $475, but it does seem a little light for a premium card with an annual fee of $250 that’s not waived for the first year.  Combine that with (a) Amex’s once-per-lifetime sign-up bonus rule, and (b) historically, sign-up bonuses of 50,000 MR points (and first-year fee waived) have been available on the predecessor PRG card (including as recently as yesterday, using an Incognito window in a Chrome browser), and I wouldn’t be too anxious to jump on the current sign-up bonus.

Other Features and Benefits

The new Amex Gold card is still a charge card, not a credit card.  Balances must be paid off in full each month (subject to enrollment in Amex’s Pay Over Time feature; be sure to wait for a MR points incentive before you sign up for Pay Over Time!).  As a charge card, the Amex Gold card is not subject to Amex’s 5-credit-cards-per-person limit.

Amex promotes 3 other major benefits of the updated Gold card:

  • Up to $10 credit per statement to offset purchases at the following restaurants/food services: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Shake Shack (except for Shake Shacks at ballparks, stadiums, airports and racetracks).
  • $100 airline fee credit – select one qualifying airline and receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees are charged by that airline to your Amex Gold card.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Dining Credit: Amex markets this as a “$120 Dining Credit,” so be sure you are aware of the limited number of places you can use this benefit as well as the $10/statement cycle limit.  Many people can use it easily and organically with Grubhub or Seamless, but we haven’t used those services.  And we typically don’t eat as often as once a month at Cheesecake Factory/Ruth’s Chris/Shake Shack (and $10 wouldn’t get you too far at Ruth’s Chris anyway!).  But I do love Shake Shack.  With a new location near us in Legacy West, plus the location at New York New York in Vegas and the soon-to-open Shake Shack in downtown Seattle on Westlake, I’m guessing we would be able to get the $10 statement credit during most months.

Airline Fee Credit:  If you get this card, be sure to go into your Benefits section and choose an airline for your fee credit.  You must do this before you’ll receive this benefit.  Although this is marketed as a statement credit for “incidental fees,” there are numerous reports that you can buy an airline gift card for $50 or $100 and receive the credit.  I can personally vouch for many successful statement credits on Amex cards with American Airlines gift cards of up to $100.  I’ve also read many successful reports for buying $50 Delta GCs and $50 or $100 Southwest GCs.

No Foreign Transaction Fees:  For a long-time, I didn’t think this was a big deal.  Everyone has a card with no foreign transaction fees and knows when to use it, right?  But then one of my friends casually advised another friend that he should use a card with no foreign transaction fees on his overseas travels, and later learned that this advice has saved his friend literally hundreds of dollars!  Anyway, be sure to use a card with no foreign transaction fees on all of your international travels!

Flipping through the other updated terms and conditions of the Amex Gold card, I see a few other things worth mentioning:

  • It’s a metal card – woo hoo!  And it comes in 2 colors – a unique limited edition rose gold card like you see in our featured image at the top of this post, and regular Amex Gold.
  • The terms do mention Amex’s Pay Over Time feature.  Amex regularly offers a bonus of 10,000 MR points to enroll in Pay Over Time.  So, (1) it seems like the new Amex Gold card may be eligible for Pay Over Time, and (2) don’t sign up for it unless and until Amex offers you a 10,000 MR point bonus to enroll!
  • There is no annual fee for up to 5 additional cards (Authorized Users).  Given that Amex sometimes offers MR point bonuses for adding AUs, this may be useful to some.  Also, spend on AU cards will have the same MR point earning as the primary card, including bonus categories.
  • The card is eligible for Amex “Preferred Seating” benefit, which can give enhanced access for concerts and theatre performances.
  • The card is eligible for Amex’s Instant Card Number program.  If you apply and are approved for a card, you can receive a temporary card number instantly, which can be used for online purchases.  We have seen reports of people receiving compensation when an Instant Card Number was offered, but failed for some technical reason.  The compensation was probably more valuable than it would have been to actually receive the Instant Card Number.
  • The card includes Premium Roadside Assistance.  Up to 4 times per calendar year, you may receive, at no additional cost, towing up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, a flat tire change when you have a workable spare, lockout service when the key is in the vehicle, and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel.  If you need this, it could be very valuable.
  • Return Protection, for 90 days, up to $300 per item, with a maximum of $1,000 per year.
  • ShopRunner Benefit for 2-day free shipping from many online merchants.
  • MR points are transferable to Amex’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
  • Access to The Hotel Collection, which can include $75 incidental credit on hotel stays of 2 nights or longer when booked through Amex Travel.  We’ve never used it, but I can see where it might be useful for non-chain hotels where you couldn’t get a better discount.
  • The Travel Collection  – this is supposed to be a premium travel discount/benefit program, but the reviews I’ve seen to date haven’t found any value in it.

What Happens to Existing Amex PRG Cardholders?

Reports that I’ve seen, including this one from NerdWallet, say that existing Amex PRG cardholders will have access to the higher rewards and dining credit right away, as of today (October 4).

NerdWallet also reports that as of today, current PRG cardholders will no longer get 2 MR points per dollar spent at US gas stations.  Right now, we’re not sure if that also impacts people who have held the PRG card for less than one year, given that there are legal protections against changing card benefits within the first year.  We’ll report back as we learn more.

Existing cardholders should be able to get a new metal card, including rose gold, by calling Amex customer service.  We’ve seen reports that rose gold cards will be available starting tomorrow (October 5).

Again, according to NerdWallet, existing cardholders will have to start paying the new annual fee of $250 (increased from $195), for account anniversaries occurring after April 1, 2019.  If your annual fee comes due between now and April 1, 2019, you should still have the lower $195 annual fee for another year.

Can I Product Change to the New Amex Gold Card?

With the new and valuable bonus categories on the Amex Gold card, I could see some existing Platinum cardholders wanting to product change into it.  Typically, Amex does allow product changes among the same family of cards.  That would mean that Amex personal Platinum cards could be downgraded to the new Gold card.  Normally, that would result in a pro-rated annual fee – that is, for the rest of the cardholder year, Amex would give a pro-rated refund of the annual fee for the Platinum card ($550) and charge a pro-rated amount of the annual fee for the Gold card ($250).  We don’t have any data points yet for this particular situation, but under Amex’s normal rules, this type of product change would be possible.

Note that other cards, such as Amex’s co-branded personal Platinum cards and its Business Platinum cards, would not typically be able to be product changed to an Amex Gold card.

Likewise, if you have a personal Amex Green card, it would typically be possible to upgrade to an Amex Gold card if you’ve had the Green card for at least one year.

I would consider a product change to the Amex Gold card only if you’ve had the Amex PRG card in the past.  By making a product change into the Gold card, you’d make yourself ineligible for a sign-up bonus on this card later.  Also, if you have a Green card and are thinking of upgrading, I would sit tight and see if Amex offers any upgrade bonuses for the Gold card.

Should I Apply for the Amex Gold Card Now?

Tough question.  The first thing I’d say is that I would not burn a Chase 5/24 slot to get the Amex Gold card now.  Getting through the Chase cards first is more valuable, plus I think this is a close call even if you’re over 5/24 or not concerned with it.

Beyond that, my instincts say that the best play is probably to wait for a while to see if a higher sign-up bonus becomes available.  It’s once-per-lifetime on the sign-up bonus, so you want to maximize it.  As we mentioned earlier, historically it hasn’t been difficult to get a 50,000-point sign-up bonus on the predecessor PRG card, with the first-year annual fee waived.  That offer was effectively worth $945 – that is, $750 for the MR points and $195 for getting the annual fee waived under the old fee structure.  The current offer is only half that.  It sure seems like a reasonable play to hold out for a while and hope for a better offer.

[Again – See the top of this article – a 50,000 MR point sign-up bonus is now available through referral links. DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS CARD WITH THE 25,000 POINT BONUS!!!]

On the other hand, the sign-up offer isn’t really bad, and the 4x returns on US restaurants and US supermarkets are truly best-in-class.  So if you’re going to get the Amex Gold card at some point, you’re leaving points on the table by not getting it sooner rather than later.  If you spend a lot on dining out and groceries, the difference could add up.  For someone who will buy GCs at supermarkets, there’s also a play to maximize the $25,000 cap for 2018 by getting the card now, and then having the cap reset for 2019.  Although I’d sit tight, I certainly think it’s a reasonable decision for someone who spends a lot at US restaurants and supermarkets to go ahead and apply now.

Hat Tip to NerdWallet and Doctor of Credit for information helpful to this article.

What do you think about the updated Amex Gold card?  Will you apply now?  Will you get a metal rose gold card?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments!


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