Last year around this time I took on a new job and uprooted my family from the Chicagoland area and moved to Memphis. Knowing that I had major moving expenses on the horizon, I wanted to take advantage and net some healthy bonuses from credit cards.
I applied for a few credit cards including The Platinum Card From American Express. As the annual fee posted this month, I decided to evaluate if keeping the card, and its $550 annual fee, was worth it.
Recently American Express rebranded The Gold Card, improving earnings on restaurants and groceries to an unrivaled 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar and after reading through the changes realized that this card could suit my family, and budget, better. After careful analysis, I decided to adopt The Gold Card into my wallet.
Gold Card Benefits
Prior to this rebranding, The American Express Gold Card lacked compared to other mid-tier cards. The recent changes have shifted my thinking though, and this card comes with a pretty handsome repertoire of skills and perks:
- 4x points on spending at US restaurants
- 4x points on spending at US supermarkets (up to $25,000)
- 3x points on spending directly on airlines or amextravel.com
- $120 dining credit ($10/month) at Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and GrubHub or Seamless
- $100 airline fee credit
- No foreign transaction fees
- Book The Hotel Collection on American Express Travel and get a $75 credit on a two or more night stay.
- Premium Roadside Assistance (4x a year)
- Purchase Protection for 120 days ($10,000 event/$50,000 year)
- Return Protection for 90 days ($300 event/$1,000 year)
- Extended Warranty on purchases (up to 2 years)
- Additional Cards are $0 for up to 5 extra cards
Reasons to Keep My Platinum Card
The American Express Gold Card costs $250 annually, a bargain compared to the Platinum Card’s top-of-the-world $550 fee. I now need to be able to to find an extra $300 worth of value for my family to justify keeping the Platinum Card.
Airline Fee Credit – One category in which the Platinum card wins is the more generous $200 airline credit. As the bulk of my travel is domestic and done through Southwest, we do not incur too many baggage fees or other airline charges. However, I put this in the win column for keeping the Platinum Card as our primary airline, Southwest, codes gift card purchases so that they qualify for a credit. Value: $200 Platinum/$100 Gold
Uber Credits for the Platinum Card vs Dining Credits for the Gold Card – For the Platinum card, we have used our Uber credits while traveling to save on car rentals, or if we have no vacations or airport trips planned, on UberEats each month during the last year. The $15 credit per month ($35 in December) typically covers taxes, delivery fees, and my 4-year-old’s dinner. Therefore, I can account for the entire $200 credit each year. While The Gold Card offers a $120 credit dining credit, at $10 month, this credit is less useful to us as a family due to the expensive preselected restaurant choices. Not to mention the cheapest option, ShakeShack, is 3.5 hours away and Seamless does not serve the Memphis area. The only option for us to use these credits is through Grubhub, so I valued this at 2/3s the stated value. Value: $200 Platinum/$80 Gold
Saks Fifth Avenue Credit – This benefit was added in July 2018 so at the time of writing this post I was only able to use this benefit once. For this credit, I ordered a $115 Ralph Lauren sweatshirt that after a sale, coupon, and free shipping cost me a total of $1.44. If I kept this card for another year, I would use the full $100 credits offered. Value: $100 Platinum
5x Points on Flights – This area is another where the Platinum Card wins over the American Express Gold Card, which only offers 3x points on flights. However, there have only been one or two instances in the last year when I booked a flight on my American Express Platinum card vs. my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Overall, I prefer the travel protections and benefits offered by my Chase card, so I do not value this much. Value: $37.50 Platinum/$22.50 Gold (Based upon $500 of flights)
Platinum Card-Only Benefits
After looking at some of the major categories, it would seem that the additional value could be made up in the other benefits, as I’m $5 short of offsetting the extra $300 fee. Therefore, let’s examine some of those benefits that are only offered to the Platinum Card holders.
Global Lounge Access – This is a benefit that looks good on paper, and if I were traveling as a single or couple, would probably value a bit more. Traveling with a 4-year-old means that we do not travel light and that setting up shop in a lounge, and then moving to our gate later is a pain. In the last few years, I can count on one hand the number of times we have used this benefit. Value: $25 Platinum
Global Entry/TSA Credit – My wife and I got our Global Entry covered two years ago when we both signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. In the last year, we got my son a passport and used the credit to pay for his Global Entry cost. We won’t use this benefit for another years. Value: $0
SPG Gold/Hilton Gold Status – As I am currently a Platinum Elite Member member at Marriott, automatic SPG Gold through the Platinum Card means nothing to me. As most of my stays will be with Marriott, due to some annual credit card free night, and travel packages I do not see myself staying at a Hilton property next year. Value: $0
Boingo WiFi Access – I get mobile service at all US airports and have unlimited data. Therefore, this service adds no value to my family. Maybe if I did more international travel, I would probably be able to find more value here. Value: $0
Reasons in Favor of Switching to The Gold Card
After looking into the Platinum Card only benefits, the scales are slightly tipped in favor of keeping the Platinum card; that is until you examine the major point of American Express’s rebranding: The 4x point multiplier.
Point Differential – This is where the American Express Gold Card now shines, especially for families that spend most of their time in the US. As a family, we spend ~$100 a week on groceries or about $5,200 a year at supermarkets. On top of that, we typically spend another $100 a month dining out (more if we are on vacation). I have about $6,500 a year in spending that will directly hit the 4x categories.
I also think there is a possibility that some of my fuel purchases, typically done at the supermarket, might code within the 4x multiplier as I’ve had that happen in the past. Without counting that into my calculations, I figure that by switching my primary spending to this card I will net an additional $348 in rewards per year over the Platinum Card. Even comparing this card to my Chase Sapphire Preferred I will gain an additional $292 in value per year by opening a new Gold Card. Value: $96 Platinum/$444 Gold
American Express Gold Card
$5,200 supermarket x 4 = 20,800 Membership Rewards Points @1.5 cents = $312
$1,200 dining x 4 = 4,800 Membership Rewards Points @1.5 cents = $72 + $20 statement credit x 3 months
Total = $384 or 6% return per year, or $444 or 6.9% during the first year
American Express Platinum Card
$5,200 supermarket x 4 = 5,200 Membership Rewards Points @1.5c = $78
$1,200 dining x 4 = 1,200 Membership Rewards Points @1.5c = $18
Total = $96 or 1.5% return
Chase Sapphire Preferred
$5,200 supermarket x 1 = 5,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points @ 0.02c = $104
$1,200 dining x 2 = 2,400 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points @0.02c = $48
Total = $152 or 2.3% return
Other Factors that Favor Switching to the American Express Gold Card
Two other small things that added additional value to my decision was:
Roadside Assistance – The coverage per American Express extends four times a year to towing up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change when Card Member has a workable spare, lockout service when the key is in vehicle and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel. As someone who has three cars that are ten years old in the house this adds some piece of mind that if my wife and son are driving out of town to see family, they won’t be stuck on the road. Plus adding this benefit from a credit card means I can drop this item from my car insurance policy saving me money. Value: $40 Gold/Platinum
Extra Cardholders – Another benefit that is clearly in favor of The Gold Card. American Express lets you have five additional cardholders, perfect for big families, at no additional cost. The Platinum Card charges you $175 if you want any additional cards. I can add my wife as a cardholder and not pay any extra fee. Value: $175 Gold
Final Calculation and Thoughts
- Benefits: $562.50
- Point Value: $96
- Annual Fee: -$550
- Total Value: $148.50
- Benefits: $417.50
- Point Value: $444
- Annual Fee: -$250
- Total Value: $611.50
The Gold Card is more than a 4x winner for my family than the Platinum Card. This doesn’t even factor in the extra 25,000 Membership Rewards points, or $375 worth of value that comes with signing up for the card. Plus, I can’t put a price on getting your wife, who loves all things pink, a new Rose Gold colored Amex card.
This is a winner.