When the refreshed American Express Gold Card launched last year, it made a huge splash and generated a lot of excitement in travel hackers, myself included. It didn’t take long for me to apply for my very own rose gold edition. The medal card is beautiful, and the 4X on dining and groceries multipliers are hard to beat. The airline credits were a match made in heaven for my Southwest Companion Pass, and the dining credits seemed pretty easy to use.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase with this card didn’t last very long. After managing my gold card as well as my husband’s for a few months, I have quickly realized the problem with it. And I have to admit that American Express’ gold card strategy was brilliant.
$10 Per Month Dining Credit
When I signed up for the card, there was no doubt in my mind that using $10/month on Seamless or Grubhub would be a piece of cake. After all, you could choose from any restaurants on these platforms, right? The husband and I eat plant based, but there were some solid food options close to us that offered delivery or pickup.
The reality was, however, that we do not regularly order delivery or takeout, and I find myself ordering on Seamless just to use the $10 credit, which might have been worth it if not for the often unreasonable delivery fee and minimum. For example, we usually order between $25-$30 worth of food from our favorite local restaurant. Sounds great on paper with the $10 credit, but we have to pay a $4.99 delivery fee no matter how much food we order. On top of that, I noticed recently that there is a consistent 75 cent markup on every single food item, which can quickly add up. Between the markup, delivery fee, and tips, we could be paying for over $10 for $25 worth of food.
An alternative is of course to pickup food instead to avoid any minimums or surcharges for delivery. However, you will still have to pay for the markup, and we often found ourselves wondering why we can’t just sit down and eat instead of wasting a bunch of plastic containers.
Of course, if you are someone who already consistently orders from Seamless/Grubhub, or actually lives by and goes to a Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris, you could still get value out of this benefit, but remember, you are paying for it in the form of an annual fee. With these credits plus the airline credit not even covering the annual fee, I don’t see how you can consistently get outsized value out of this benefit.
$100 Airline Fee Credit
Ah, the once amazing airline fee credit. When Amex used to reimburse gift cards, this was a great perk that effectively stacked with the Southwest Companion Pass. I would buy a $100 gift card, and get almost $200 in value (less taxes and fees for the companion). Doing this makes it possible for me to fully cover the annual fee on the card. Alas, this “loophole” didn’t last long for me, and Amex closed it back in June. There are still some ways of getting cash equivalents out there, but I’d say the gift card trick was the very best while it lasted. I have since (perhaps stupidly) used it on an Early Bird purchase and got some very nice drinks on our flight to Hawaii.
What About the Great Multipliers
One of the biggest selling points of the gold card was its amazing multipliers. 4X at restaurants and grocery stores are indeed easy to use, and I still use this card everywhere I can between signup bonus runs. The airline multiplier is pretty much useless to me since I am either flying Southwest–almost never paying cash–or I’m flying internationally and want much better travel protection than Amex can offer. In the case of the latter, I’ve been using my husband’s Chase Sapphire Preferred. The CSP doesn’t have the best protections but is still leaps and bounds ahead of Amex’s almost nonexistent travel protections.
The largest issue with these multipliers for me, though, is the fact that I don’t use the card enough to really justify keeping it just for the multipliers. I apply for a new credit card every two to three months, and all of my minimum spend activities are organic spend from our day to day expenses, which usually work out to be right around the amount of minimum spend needed. We don’t own a small business or have other ways of churning, so a lot of the times, the card we use to pay for groceries and at restaurants is whichever card that needs the minimum spend.
With the high maintenance low value credits and seldomly used multipliers, along with the lack of other worthwhile benefits, I could not find a good reason to keep this card around for a second year. Of course, this is just my personal experience with the card, and others might have a completely different take.