This article is part of a refresh of our reward credit card reviews. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be revisiting, adding to and updating all of our in-depth credit card features. You can read the current series here.
Those who are new to the idea that flying first class and staying at luxury hotels can be done without a six-figure salary, often want to go all out straight away. However, making ten credit card applications in one go is probably not the best idea.
So where should you start?
Last week I reviewed the free Hilton Honors Platinum Visa card, with its very valuable free night voucher. In that article, I highlighted the reasons why it makes an excellent ‘first card’ for anyone just getting into the world of loyalty programs and points.
I also namechecked the Amex Gold card as the other card I tend to recommend when people ask me which card they are best off applying for to start earning miles and points.
Today, I’m going to focus on the Gold card, otherwise known as the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card, and the reasons why it’s such a compelling candidate as your first stop for a travel rewards card.
This card currently offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points (equivalent to 20,000 Avios points or other miles) when you sign up and spend £2,000 within your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
Membership Rewards points convert at a 1:1 ratio to various frequent flyer programs including British Airways Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Emirates Skywards and Etihad Guest miles. These points also transfer to hotel loyalty programs such as Hilton and Starwood. They can also be cashed out for gift cards at numerous retailers including M&S or Amazon.
For more information on Membership Rewards points and how best to use them, read our complete guide here.
What are 20,000 points worth?
You have plenty of options available when it comes to redeeming your points:
British Airways Avios
Your 20,000 Membership Rewards points are worth 20,000 British Airways Avios. That alone is enough miles for a return trip for 2 people to Paris, Amsterdam or Geneva!
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
20,000 Virgin miles is enough for an off-peak return to New York. Or more than enough for one way in Premium Economy to the Carribean.
MR points transfer at 1:2 ratio to Hilton. This means that your sign-up bonus is worth 40,000 Hilton Honors points. That is enough for a free night in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London- Docklands Riverside for example.
Your points also transfer at 1:3 ratio to Club Carlson. This means that your sign-up bonus is worth 60,000 Club Carlson points. That is enough for a free night at the Park Plaza Riverbank London for example.
You could choose to cash out your points for a range of gift card options. 20,000 Membership Rewards points can be exchanged for a £100 voucher at the likes of Amazon, M&S, Harrods or House of Fraser.
This card is free for the first year.
Thereafter the fee is £140 a year. However, the fee is refundable pro-rata if you chose to cancel the card at any point during the year. This is a feature unique to Amex. This means if you did decide to keep the card for the second year you need not consider the £140 fee a sunk cost.
As of 25th April 2018, this card is now a credit card rather than a charge card.
Representative 57.6% APR variable. Based on purchases rate 22.9% p.a. variable and a £140 annual fee.
Other card benefits
- Free airport lounge passes – These can be used in any lounge that participates in the ‘Lounge Club’ network worldwide. Further visits will cost £15 per person.
- 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points – after spending £15,000 on your card in a year. These will typically post to your account 3/4 weeks after your account renewal date.
- $75 in-hotel credit plus an upgrade – This offer can be redeemed multiple times over 350 4* and 5* hotels worldwide when booked via the Amex Travel service.
Day-to-day earnings rate
Cardholders will generally receive 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on their card.
You can earn bonus points for the following types of transactions:
- Foreign currency transactions and airline transactions will earn a bonus point, for a total of 2 points per £1.
- Transactions made with Amex Travel will attract an additional bonus point for a total of 3 points per £1.
In terms of using this card for your day-to-day spending, you will have to analyse your key areas of spending. If you are spending a decent amount directly with airlines or plan on booking a good amount of travel through Amex Travel, earning two or even three points per £1 is an excellent return.
Alternatively, if your focus is on earning Avios points, and you aren’t spending a great deal on travel/direct with BA, you may be better off putting your daily spending on something like the British Airways Premium Plus card (review here) which earns 1.5 Avios per £1.
Until recently, the Virgin Atlantic Black credit card offered a very good 2 miles per £1 on its Amex card, but that card is now closed to new applicants.
Am I eligible for the welcome bonus?
You are eligible for the sign-up bonus UNLESS you hold or have held one of the Amex Green, Gold or Platinum charge cards or American Express Rewards credit cards in the last 6 months.
You WILL still receive the sign-up bonus on this card if you hold/have held either of the BA Amex cards, SPG card, Platinum Cashback card, Nectar Card or any other Amex issued by Barclays, Lloyds, TSB or MBNA.
Amex will generally allow you to hold 2 of their charge card products and 2 of their credit card products at any one time. Platinum and Green are the other charge cards available while credit cards include the 2 British Airways cards and the Nectar credit card.
The above isn’t a hard and fast rule. I’ve held the British Airways Premium Plus, Starwood and Nectar credit cards at the same time without issue. It is one to be aware of though, as some have reported being declined for cards after exceeding those limits in the past.
There are NO minimum income requirements to be eligible for any cards issued by American Express. This restriction was removed a number of years ago.
All things considered, the sign-up bonus on the Amex Gold card is the most flexible and lucrative offer available on any ‘free’ card in the UK.
If you are just dipping a toe into the whole loyalty points world this card is one of the ideal ways to make a start. A ‘free’ return trip to Paris or Amsterdam should definitely whet your appetite for more.
Even if you chose not to convert to airline miles or hotel points, this bonus is worth at least £100 if you cashed out your points for an Amazon or House of Fraser gift card. The variety of options when redeeming your points means there is something for everyone.
Does the Amex Gold card make sense for you?
Disclaimer: The information provided by Tricks of the Trade is intended solely as a helpful guide to relevant travel rewards card products and their various features and offers. You should always conduct your own research as recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.