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Middle Age Miles

Amex Gold Earns 4x at Restaurants Worldwide Starting Today (Plus Other Amex Gold Changes) – How Does This Impact Our Strategy?

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The Amex Gold News

Today (June 6, 2019), Amex has introduced a new positive change to its Amex Gold personal card – the card will now earn 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points at restaurants worldwide.

Previously, the Amex Gold card had a 4x bonus earning category for restaurants, but it was limited to restaurants in the United States. Amex’s broadening of this benefit to now apply globally is absolutely a positive change to the card and makes it even more valuable.

How Does This Impact Our Strategy?

We travel internationally about 4 times a year, often for a week or more at a time. When we travel, one of our largest expenses is dining. We don’t have exact numbers, but a reasonable estimate would be that we may spend $3,000 a year on dining outside the US. Thus, increased points-earning for international dining is meaningful to us, albeit not life-changing.

Through the end of 2018, we paid for most international dining in one of two ways – we either used our US Bank Altitude Reserve through Apple Pay to earn 3x US Bank points (4.5% points rebate at 1.5 cents per point), or our Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points (also a 4.5% points rebate at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per UR point).

In 2019, this situation changed with the introduction of 5x ThankYou Point (TYP) earning on dining globally on the Citi Prestige card. Using the Prestige, we could now earn a 6.25% points rebate on international dining (at our baseline value of 1.25 cents per TYP). From the beginning of 2019 until now, Prestige has remained best-in-class for international dining.

Turning back to the Amex Gold – Our baseline value for MR points is 1.5 cents per point; thus, 4x points-earning provides a points rebate of about 6.0%. But that said, even our standard-minimum MR redemption using Pay With Points for airfare almost always results in a return of at least 1.6 cents per MR point. At 1.6 cents per MR point, then 4x points-earning would become a 6.4% points rebate, slightly better than the Citi Prestige.

Thus, for us, it’s basically a toss-up between putting international dining on the Citi Prestige or the Amex Gold card.

For dining in the US, we’ve faced this same decision matrix for the past few months. We’ve been splitting our US dining spend between the Citi Prestige and Amex Gold. Amex Gold is generally our default, but if we have any concern about whether 4x points will automatically apply on the Gold card (this has been a recurring issue for Amex, as we discussed in this article) we put it on our Prestige instead. The main reason we default to the Amex Gold is that it’s been easier for us to earn Citi TYPs through other methods recently, primarily through using our Citi AT&T Access More card.

For now, we’ll use the same decision process & strategy for international dining – put the charges on our Amex Gold card by default; use Citi Prestige as a back-up if we have doubts about 4x coding with Amex or if we’re someplace where Amex isn’t accepted.

Perhaps the more important impact going forward, though, has to do with our keep-or-cancel decision early next year when our next Citi Prestige annual fee hits. To this point, we’ve already been leaning toward closing our Citi Prestige card when the fee hits, because we’ll have a difficult time justifying the fee in light of Citi’s evisceration of the 4th-night-free hotel benefit on the card after 8/31/2019. (Technically, we’ll almost certainly product-change to a different Citi card rather than outright closing the account.)

The addition of 4x earning on global dining on the Amex Gold card further tilts the tables in favor of closing/product-changing our Citi Prestige card next year. With the Amex Gold 4x option, this removes yet another of the areas where the Prestige card had been undoubtedly best-in-class, thus further reducing the value from holding a Prestige card.

Barring a major improvement to the Prestige’s benefits, it’s now even more squarely on the chopping block a few months from now.

Other Amex Gold Changes

Addition of Boxed to the $10/Month Dining Credit

One of the benefits of the Amex Gold card is a $10/month dining credit. This credit is very limited, only applying to a narrow set of dining options – Shake Shack, Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris, Grubhub and Seamless.

As of today, Amex has added the grocery delivery service Boxed to the list of vendors where you can receive the $10/month dining credit.

This has zero impact for us, as we don’t use Boxed. Prices seem too high and online delivery too inconvenient for Boxed to be a viable option for us when live close to a Walmart for groceries for which we’re price-sensitive and a Market Street for high-quality produce and meats.

We’ll continue to use our $10 monthly credits for Shake Shack cheeseburgers and an occasional splurge at Ruth’s Chris.

Rose Gold Card Back as an Option for New Card Approvals Using Referral Links

Amex also announced that it will once again offer its special-edition rose gold-colored Amex Gold card for a limited time. According to Amex, rose gold cards will be available only through referral links, and only for a few weeks from now through July 17, 2019.

Of course, the rose gold color is merely cosmetic; the card has the exact same features as any other Amex Gold card. But some people like it, and it’s certainly novel.

If you’re interested in the Amex Gold card, please read our full analysis of the card and its benefits here:

The current sign-up bonus for the Amex Gold card through a referral link is 40,000 MR points (worth $600 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point). The sign-up bonus requires $2,000 in spend within the first 3 months after approval. Note that this is not an all-time high sign-up bonus for this card (the high is 50k MR points); however, this offer is the best offer available at this time that we’re aware of.

If you can self-refer or have a significant other or best friend who can refer you, you’ll probably want to use their referral link. Beyond that, we’d appreciate it if you apply using our referral link:

Other Amex Changes (On All MR-Earning Cards, Not Just Amex Gold)

Finally, Amex is making some other changes to its card terms & conditions, mostly impacting authorized users and the ability to transfer MR points to authorized user loyalty program accounts. These changes seem targeted at points brokers, those who sell MR points or tickets purchased with MR points to third parties (against the program terms & conditions).

We won’t go through all of the detailed changes here, as our friend Grant from Travel With Grant did a great job of that earlier this week. Here’s a link to Grant’s article if you’re interested in the details:

These changes don’t impact our own credit card or points-and-miles strategies at all.

How will the 4x MR points-earning on global restaurants and the other Amex changes impact your own card and points-and-miles strategies? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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2 thoughts on “Amex Gold Earns 4x at Restaurants Worldwide Starting Today (Plus Other Amex Gold Changes) – How Does This Impact Our Strategy?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      You bet. You did a fabulous job of reading and deciphering all the fine print so I didn’t have to! 🙂

      On the Amex side, I’m anxiously awaiting the rumored refresh of the Green cards and trying to optimize an Ascend-to-Aspire upgrade.

      I saw you have a meet-up coming in SF in a couple of weeks. It’s tempting to show up, but we’re set to be in Vegas (again) on the date. That would be a fun thing to do though someday!

      Have a great weekend! ~Craig

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