Key takeaways

  • The American Express® Gold Card’s rewards structure benefits cardholders who spend big on dining out, getting groceries and traveling.
  • The annual credits with this card go a long way toward justifying the annual fee — provided you can use them.
  • If you can’t stomach the annual fee or your spending doesn’t line up with the bonus categories, there are plenty of alternative rewards cards for you to consider.

Deciding whether the American Express® Gold Card is worth the $250 annual fee can be tricky, especially since Amex has so many popular rewards credit cards to choose from. For example, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card* lets users earn the same type of rewards — in the form of Amex Membership Rewards® points — with no annual fee at all. Then there’s The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with far more perks despite its much higher annual fee of $695.

All things considered, the Amex Gold’s benefits can more than make up for the annual fee. From there, the exceptional rewards rate and welcome offer make this card a spectacular deal for the right type of spender.

But, is the Amex Gold Card worth the $250 annual fee in the long run? Keep reading to find out when and if the Amex Gold’s annual fee is worth paying — especially for the first year.

When is the Amex Gold worth the annual fee?

If you’re looking for a card that offers generous rewards and some perks that aren’t too difficult to use, the American Express Gold Card could be an excellent fit. The following scenarios are ones where picking up this card and paying the $250 annual fee can make a lot of sense.

You want to earn a generous welcome offer

The value proposition for this card is outstanding for the first year. If you earn the welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards® points (earned after spending $6,000 in your first six months), these points can be worth up to $1,200 in transfer partner travel according to recent Bankrate valuations.

You spend a lot on dining out and groceries

Beyond the generous welcome offer, this card lets users earn 4X points on restaurant spending worldwide (plus on takeout and delivery in the U.S.); 4X points on U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points); 4X points on Uber Eats purchases; 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel; and 1X points on all other purchases.

If you max out the 4X spending category at U.S. supermarkets each year, you could rack up 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points — worth up to $2,000 in transfer partner travel in that category alone.

Flexible points are ideal for your rewards goals

Also, keep in mind that this Amex card earns flexible points that work within the American Express Membership Rewards program. These points can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and travel through the Amex travel portal.

Frequent travelers also love the fact that Membership Rewards points transfer to an array of Amex hotel and airline partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Delta SkyMiles and Hilton Honors.

The Amex Gold annual credits are useful for you

The Amex Gold Card provides up to $120 in Uber Cash each year for U.S. Uber rides and U.S. Uber Eats orders. Note, this credit is doled out in increments of $10 per month, and any unused cash expires at the end of the month.

Cardholders also can receive a dining credit worth up to $120 per year ($10 per month). This credit can be used for purchases at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and participating Shake Shack locations. Enrollment is required to receive this credit.

Finally, the Amex Gold Card comes with a hotel experience credit worth up to $100 when you book an eligible stay with The Hotel Collection. This credit kicks in for stays of at least two consecutive nights when you book with American Express Travel. It can be used for eligible dining, spa and resort activities. You may also receive a room upgrade upon arrival (if available).

When is the Amex Gold not worth the annual fee?

With all this being said, there are definitely scenarios where the Amex Gold Card doesn’t make any sense at all. Here are a few instances where that may be the case.

Earning cash back is your biggest priority

If you actually prefer to earn cash back, the Amex Gold Card may not be your best bet. After all, American Express Membership Rewards points can be worth approximately 2.0 cents each when used to book travel through Amex travel partners, but redemption ratios are much lower for other options.

As an example, you’ll only get up to 1 cent per point in value for gift cards, and you’ll only receive 0.6 cents per point in value if you redeem your rewards as a statement credit.

The annual credits on this card are not useful to you

If you cannot use the $120 in dining credits or the $120 in Uber and Uber Eats credits on a regular basis, it may be more difficult to justify the $250 annual fee on the Amex Gold. This issue is complicated further by the fact that both of these credits are doled out in $10 monthly increments, and the credits do not roll over from one month to the next.

You don’t spend a lot on food each month

Finally, you may be better off with a different rewards credit card if you rarely spend a lot on dining out or at U.S. supermarkets. The Amex Gold Card really shines in these categories due to its exceptional rewards rate, yet that doesn’t mean much if you usually spend more elsewhere.

Should you get the Amex Gold?

The American Express Gold Card’s generous rewards structure makes it a great fit for frequent travelers and those who want to maximize rewards on grocery and restaurant purchases. And its annual credits alone add up to more than the $250 annual fee.

But the restrictions on annual credits mean you might not be able to use them at your favorite eateries. And you’ll only earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel — not on other travel spending. If you don’t eat out often, travel only occasionally or want to earn bonus rewards on other types of travel, the Amex Gold may not make sense for you.

If you can’t decide whether the Amex Gold’s annual fee is worth it, there are other cards with a lower annual fee or no annual fee that offer similar rewards or perks.

For example, the Amex EveryDay Credit Card comes with no annual fee and lets users earn points in the American Express Membership Rewards program. Cardholders earn 2X points on up to $6,000 in spending at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1X points), 2X points on prepaid rental cars booked through American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, cardholders can receive a 20 percent boost in rewards points if they use their card for 20 or more purchases within a billing period.

The bottom line

For years, the Amex Gold has been one of the most popular rewards cards available, and it’s likely worth it for anyone who can maximize its perks. But if you’re unsure about the Amex Gold because its benefits are too specific — making it harder to recoup the annual fee — that’s perfectly understandable. There are plenty of other rewards credit cards to consider, including those on our list of the best credit cards for restaurants. Either way, it never hurts to spend time comparing all of your options before you make a decision.

*All information about The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.