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The American Express® Gold Card used to just be thought of as the “little brother” of the vaunted Platinum Card. But in 2018, Amex made some changes to this card that turned it into a powerhouse in its own right, but only if you know how to maximize its features and benefits. I’ve had this card since shortly after it was introduced, and here’s how I’ve managed to get the most value from it.

How the American Express Gold Card works

New applicants earn 35,000 points after spending $2,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide, and 4X points on up to $25,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1X. It also offers you 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Other benefits include up to a $10 monthly credit towards purchases from Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. You also receive an annual airline fee credit of up to $100 for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline. There’s a $250 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees. (See rates and fees.)

Related: 5 Credit Card Perks That Are Almost Too Good to Be True

How to squeeze the most value from the American Express Gold Card

I got the card in 2018 and I quickly went to work utilizing its benefits. First, it became the only card that I used for all U.S. supermarket and restaurant purchases, and the 4x points I earned allowed me to rake in the rewards. Next, I made sure to utilize the card’s $10 monthly credit towards featured restaurants. At first, I mostly just bought a slice of cheesecake to go from the Cheesecake factory, once each month. The cheesecake was delicious and cost about $8 after taxes, and I always added a tip to bring the total to exactly $10, the amount eligible for the credit. I used it at Shake Shack once before I discovered that I could order lunch from a nearby Thai restaurant using Grubhub. Like my slice of cheesecake, the total was about $8 after taxes, and I just added gratuity to round it up to $10.

I also designated a Southwest as my airline to get the $100 annual fee credit. In both 2017 and now in 2018, I’ve been able to use the fee credit for purchases like in-flight beverages, in-flight wifi and early boarding privileges. So by the time I reach the first anniversary of my account, I will have received $120 in restaurant credits and a total of $200 in airline fee credits, for a direct value of $320. This is more than the $250 annual fee, so I’m actually coming out $70 ahead in my first year as a cardholder. In my second year as a cardmember, I’ll only be able to receive the $100 fee credit once, which combined with the $120 in restaurant credits will leave me with a net cost of $30. But when I combine year one and year two of my account, I’ll still be $40 ahead.

Related: The Citi Premier Card is Now Offering 60,000 Bonus Points

How to use American Express Gold Card points

The American Express Membership Rewards program has 19 airline transfer partners, and you can receive tremendous value from transferring your points to miles, and using those miles for expensive flights. It also has three hotel transfer partners, and I’ve saved money by transferring my points to Hilton Honors points at a 1:2 ratio.

Bottom line

Once you do the math, it will be easy to see why the American Express® Gold Card is such a great value. It gives you the chance to earn a lot of bonus points, without having to pay the huge annual fee of the Platinum Card. And when you use these points wisely, you’ll go farther and pay less than you might have ever thought possible.


Intro image by Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock
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