The American Express Gold card has a special place in my heart: the ability to get 4x at US Supermarkets on up to $25K in spend per year (then 1x) and 4x dining worldwide was far and away special when this card debuted. Amex took a unique approach in offering an “extra-premium” card with an annual fee that put it between the traditional ~$95 fee cards and the $500+ ultra premium products. As the time, grocery spend was a category in which there was virtually no competition but themselves and one would have thought it would stay that way with such a large bonus multiplier. However, given the fact that the Citi Premier now offers 3x at grocery stores, the Freedom cards come with a limited-time first year bonus of 5x on up to $12K, and the Sapphire Reserve will now offer 3x on up to $1K per month through April 30, many of us are likely asking the question that is set to be facing me this week when my annual fee posts: does it make sense to keep your Amex Gold card?
First stop: Greg’s Premium credit card worksheet
Greg has previously created and written about a resource that can help one decide which of the premium / ultra-premium credit cards are keepers. It’s not a big stretch to say that the spreadsheet has been wildly popular. See this post: Which Premium Cards are Keepers? Version 3.4.
You definitely want to review the spreadsheet, but these are the benefits it takes into account on the Amex Gold card:
- $100 airline incidental fee credit
- $120 dining credit ($10 per month credit for spend at GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and Participating Shake Shack locations)
- 3x points for flights booked with all airlines or on amextravel.com
- 4x points at US Supermarkets (on up to $25K in purchases per year, then 1x)
- 4x points at restaurants worldwide
- Hotel collection $100 credit for stays of 2 nights or longer
If you can easily assign a value to each of those categories, you can quickly see whether or not the card is worth its annual fee. However, in my case, I felt like the spreadsheet didn’t tell the whole story. Given the oddity that is 2020, I’m sure others will be in a similar boat in some ways, so I wanted to write a post sharing my thought process as I go through valuations (and add one more important category).
Hotel collection $100 credit for stays of 1 nights or longer ($0)
This is simple: I’ve never used this benefit. I have searched a couple of times for opportunities, but haven’t ever found it to be a compelling option (perhaps in part because of access to programs like Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and Chase Luxury Hotel Collection). This benefit has $0 in value to me.
3x points for flights booked with all airlines or on amextravel.com ($0)
This is another easy goose egg: given that Amex offers no travel protections, I have no desire to book on an Amex card when I can easily book on a Chase card that comes with trip delay / interruption, lost baggage reimbursement, trip cancellation insurance, etc. If I don’t care about those benefits, I can use my Chase Freedom Unlimited to book through the Ultimate Rewards portal for 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on my no-annual-fee card. This benefit is a nothingburger to me.
$120 dining credit ($10 per month credit for spend at GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and Participating Shake Shack locations) ($20)
I should note that in addition to the above ways to use the credit that Greg includes in the spreadsheet, it can also be used at Boxed.com.
That said, I don’t use this benefit nearly as much as most folks probably can. I have said since the beginning that I only expect to use this benefit 5 or 6 times per year simply because there is no GrubHub where I live and though my wife likes the Cheesecake Factory, the nearest location is a solid hour away (and the nearest Ruth’s Chris and Shake Shack are farther). I’ve actually never even eaten at a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. Thus, I only expected to use these credits when traveling and then it depended whether my trips and needs lined up in separate months, etc.
With 2020 being 2020, as you may expect, I have used this benefit even fewer times than expected. I have received the credit exactly 3 times since last anniversary. I can’t value that at full face value since I may not have even ordered from GrubHub in those instances were it not for the credit, but neither do I think I should value the card long-term based on the anomaly that is 2020. Also, now that Lyft Pink membership (which you can get for free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve) gives you GrubHub+ benefits, I am at least likely to score a better deal with GrubHub the next time I order. To be conservative, I’ll value this at $20 this year (with the recognition that I will likely – or at least hopefully – be able to get more value next year).
$100 airline incidental benefit
We value this at $90 in the spreadsheet and I’m…
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