Amex Gold relaunched today – some good news, mainly bad news

This news was embargoed by Amex until 9am which is why this article is later than usual.

American Express has relaunched the Preferred Rewards Gold card today.  This has involved a rejig of the benefits package which, for many people, makes it a poorer deal.

This is the new benefits package you will receive when you apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card:

Amex Gold 350

  • Earn 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in your first three months
  • Earn one Membership Rewards point for virtually every £1 spend on your Card
  • Earn one additional Membership Rewards point for virtually every £1 spent directly with airlines
  • Earn one additional Membership Rewards point for virtually every £1 equivalent spent in a foreign currency
  • Earn two additional Membership Rewards point for virtually every £1 spent at amextravel.co.uk
  • Get 10,000 Membership Rewards points after each year of Cardmembership, when you spend £15,000
  • Two complimentary lounge visits per year to use at over 350 airport lounges globally
  • 10% off Hertz car rental rates, plus a complimentary one card upgrade and additional driver fee waived
  • $75 hotel credit and room upgrade where available at over 350 hotels globally including Hilton, InterContinental and Sofitel
  • Annual fee of £140 after the first year, which is free

Let’s look at the new benefits:

You no longer earn double points for supermarket or petrol spend in your first year or for all travel spend in subsequent years.  It has been replaced by a far weaker ‘double points on airline spend’ and ‘double points for spend at amextravel.co.uk’.

Double points on overseas spending has been retained.  If you are spending your employers money then this continues to be a great card to use when travelling.  Because Amex levies a foreign exchange fee of almost 3%, most people would be better off using a card with no foreign exchange fees.  The Lloyds Avios Rewards card, for example, has no FX fees and lets you earn Avios points on your foreign spending.

You earn 10,000 bonus points if you spend £15,000 in a year.  This is an increase on the current 7,500 points.  If you spend exactly £15,000 then you will have earned 1.66 Membership Rewards points per £1 which is not at all bad.

You retain the two Lounge Club passes annually.  Whilst this benefit is unchanged, it is becoming more valuable because of the forthcoming Aspire lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 and the new Escape lounge at Stansted, both of which are likely to accept Lounge Club passes.

$75 in-hotel credit and a room upgrade at 350 4-5 star hotels globally.  This looks like a slimmed down version of Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts focussed on upper tier rather than luxury hotels.  The value is entirely dependant on whether you book into any of these hotels during your membership year.  It is also possible – although this has yet to be confirmed – that only Best Flexible rates will be covered and not cheaper non-refundable rates.

Annual fee of £140, an increase of £15.

Hertz benefit added.  This may or may not have any value – the free additional driver may be useful to some people.  The 10% discount can probably be beaten by using other airline or hotel discount codes.

The change that surprises me most is the removal of the supermarket and petrol ‘double points’ in year one.  People who took out Gold tended to hold it for the full first year, even if they didn’t see the value in the £125 fee thereafter, because it was an excellent card to use at the garage and the supermarket.  This also meant they kept it in their wallet at all times.

Once a card is out of your wallet or purse, it slips out of your mind.  Even if people keep the card for 11 months in order to charge occasional airline tickets to it (a good deal at 2 points per £1, without a doubt), it will almost certainly be kept in a desk drawer until needed.  That does not build up the emotional bond required for people to pay the fee going forward.

I continue to believe that Amex is missing a trick by not waiving foreign exchange fees on cards with high annual fees.  It would make a substantial difference to the overall Amex Gold package and would give people a real reason to keep the card.

As a long-term package, it may or may not work for you.  The potential expansion of Lounge Club to Terminal 5 and Stansted means the lounge vouchers are worth having.  Having a Lounge Club card also allows you further lounge visits for just £15 each which is a decent deal at, say, Plaza Premium in Heathrow Terminal 2.

You would probably offset the annual fee through the lounge passes and the 10,000 points for spending £15,000.  The issue is that many people will NOT spend £15,000.

It is a little odd having a card which only requires a £20,000 household income to get it but which requires you to earn far more (in order to spend £15,000 a year to bank the 10,000 points) to make it worthwhile keeping it.   Amex is effectively encouraging people to take out the card with no intention of renewing it by making the main renewal benefit out of the reach of many people.

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Comments

  1. With regards to the Hilton $75 credit, can exisiting cardholders benefit from this?

    Thanks

  2. Mattsan1 says:

    Presumably those of us with the card at the moment don’t lose existing 1st year benefits mid-year?

    Is there any indication as to whether travel spend points will remain in year 2 for those of us with it at present beyond the year end?

    Matt

  3. I just rang Amex to clarify the impact on me. They confirmed that the new “benefits” will apply from Jul 15 (my renewal date). Incredibly disappointing for me as the 2 points for travel spend bonus was one of the major selling points.

    The agent suggested that most people were massively positive about the changes, which I find surprising. The $75 hotel credit is scant compensation for having to book through Amex travel and as is pointed out the Hertz bonus is a bit of a nothing.

    Interestingly the agent showed no concern when I pointed out that I would be cancelling my card; I wasn’t pointed towards any alternative products. I wonder if this a plan to thin-out the ranks of the Gold card holders?

    • I also just spoke to Amex. The agent said the new “benefits” will be phased in, but couldn’t tell me the exact date. They did confirm that it will not be before my renewal date (October). They said they ‘were trying to aim the card more at frequent travellers’ which I find a bit odd given the loss of double points on non-airline travel spend and of course the 3% FX loading (my main gripe with the card which I mentioned on the phone).

      • Agree entirely. Frequent travel involves a lot more than airline spend (hotels, train tickets etc…). I have no idea why they have done this,

  4. sandgrounder says:

    Oh I am annoyed. I have just passed 12 months but held the card for a little longer to use the two passes. I have been intending to refer my wife before I close the account, but I postponed until we get back from holiday. I probably still will for the 29k, but the lack of first year bonus points means it goes in the drawer as soon as the 2k is spent. I mourn the passing of this great package.

  5. Does anyone know when the BAPP card increases their sign up bonuses.

    • going on the past two promos, they’re due one this month.

      i’ve lost the bit of paper that i jotted the dates down on but the last two (admittedly too few data points to form a trend) have had their start dates 3 months apart…

    • What is BAPP please?

  6. RIccati says:

    You don’t have to have AMEX-issued cards for Cardmember offers. I think one or two a year come across up on AMEX online account which are worthwhile.

    MBNA, Lloyds and Barclaycard-issued AMEX register for the popular AMEX Network offers just fine.

  7. darrenf says:

    I’m a non-driver (so no petrol), and I spend considerably more with airlines than supermarkets (all leisure, no work). Unless I’m misreading everything, this means I come out ahead?

    • Andrew says:

      Under the old scheme you got double points for all travel spend (including airlines) so the double points on airlines isn’t really a new benefit at all.

  8. It still remains a great deal and as part of a card churning strategy it remains at/near the top of the list. The loss of double points on supermarket spend is annoying but if used as part of a wider strategy on credit card churning and trying to meet a minimum spend to trigger a bonus it doesn’t have that big of an impact.

    My main annoyance is the foreign transaction fee remains and yet Amex want to promote the card for the frequent traveller?!

  9. Nothing is free. Every time you use your card for ‘free stuff’ you incur the opportunity cost of the any benefit using another card would have got you. I’m sure you’re right that they *feel* the long term benefits for them are better but that doesn’t mean that they will be – that analysis will have been based on assumptions which may or may not prove true.

  10. Paul L says:

    I am in a similar position to you. I am recently started my second year while I decide which card to go for next. They recently sent me an advert for the gold credit card so I was thinking of getting that bonus before I move on. I will probably get the gold again in the future but won’t keep the card for the whole year (Or, I may keep it for the hotel benefit during the free year but won’t put day to day spend on it like I do now).

    When raffles mentioned a while back they were reviewing the gold card I was thinking they would make the petrol/supermarket bonus permanent and reduce the spend requirement for the annual bonus, that way they would attract people to keep the card for subsequent years.

    I guess Amex don’t need to worry because, like you, my next card will probably be an Amex anyway.

  11. Already called Amex once to cancel the Gold card nd got 3 months double points on every purchase. With these changes there is no way I am keeping it for another year, will be time for that telephone call again

  12. What is BAPP please?

  13. Louise says:

    If I cancel my gold do the lounge club passes dissapear too? Annoyingly up for renewal on 1st May but want to use a lounge a few weeks later!

    • No, as soon as you cancel, they go too. You could always take a chance, but be prepared to see the entry charge on your cancelled card later.

    • LC passes will not work after you cancel the card.

      If you’re due a 7.5k bonus then you might as well wait for that before cancelling.

      If not, wait till you’ve used the passes before cancelling!

      • How long does the bonus take to post? And you receive pro-rats refund rught?

        • About a month after renewing. If you cancelled as soon as it turned up (and you moved the points out) it would have cost you 1 month of fee, so £13-ish. If you have a flight coming up, it is probably better to wait and use the new Lounge Club passes first.

  14. Another avenue closed for earning reasonable points.
    I’ve recently applied for the platinum card and downgraded to gold, as earning opportunities were better, and I didn’t use any of the platinum benefits.
    Had already hit the £15k target on my PRG and was going to cancel next month after referring my wife, for a platinum card, and forfeit the 7.5k renewal bonus, as it’s not due until November but I’ll just cancel her card after she hits the spend bonus and keep the gold until I get my referral bonus and then cancel.
    The gold was great for petrol and supermarket spend, although I still think I can get 2.4 Avios per £ instead of the 3 MR per £ at Tesco’s.
    Overall though a pain in the bottom :-(

  15. Frenske says:

    Shame about changes, but still it will be my next card next month. I cancelled it a year ago to get the AmEx Cash Back card, which earned me about me £240 CASH but half of that is due to the bonus in first 3 months. Now it is less attractive. So it looks like my churning routine will be 1 year Gold, 1 year Cash back.

  16. Has anyone got experience of the Hertz upgrade feature? With my RBS account one of the perks is a one class upgrade (at the time of booking) with avis. This saves me £100s of pounds a year as it often allows you to get an SUV in the states for about 40% off.

    It’s only any good to me if its available at booking though, upgrades which are subject to availability on collection wouldn’t work. I can’t see on the website which it is, does anyone know?

    • I don’t have any experience but found this in the t&c’s:
      “Complimentary one-car-class upgrade is subject to availability and based on availability of larger car at time of rental.”
      It looks like you don’t find out until collection.

      If you search flyertalk for the Amex Platinum version of one class upgrade the few posts about it seem to confirm this.

  17. Can someone tell me what the hotel benefit is for uk platinum cardholders? Posts above suggest it is similar to the $75 hotel offer on gold, but when I try and look at the Fine Hotels on amex it says it is only for US platinum cardholders!

    • The only three hotel schemes for Plat (apart from the various loyalty statuses) that I know of are the (1) Amex UK Hotels Collection, (2) Fine Hotels & Resorts and (3) Small Luxury Hotels – all offer potential upgrades/breakfast, the FHR ones also offer a credit on the booking (either food, room or spa). For FHR you can view the brochure online and can book if you login with your Plat details to the Amex UK website, but I tend to prefer calling them to make sure that the room type I’m booking is eligible for upgrade.

  18. Matthew Hamer says:

    I need to cancel soon but I’ve got 44k points in there and I’m already in to the 2nd year of membership….arghh.

    “If you end your Card Account and leave at least one
    other Linked Card in the Programme open, you will
    continue to earn Points in your Points Account with
    those Linked Cards.”

    Is there a good way around this, as I don’t know what to spend the points on yet.

    • No. You can downgrade to Green but the fee is £60 on that so not much difference – not sure if you still pay separately to access Membership Rewards if you are Green.

      You could get the Gold CREDIT card (see Avios Promos page in the top menu for the link). This is meant to be cancelled when you cancel Gold CHARGE but sometimes the agents let you keep the credit card. This fulfils the requirements of a linked card and so your MR account stays open.

  19. TigerTanaka says:

    Mine will be cancelled as soon as I get my 7,500 points for spending £15k this year. I use this card mainly for booking travel (but not with Amex travel) and the odd bit of overseas spend so the changes are a real negative for me.

  20. Scott Barkla says:

    I have used this card extensively for UK train travel (always works) and a lot for hotels (very hit and miss). I never use it for airlines.

    This card is almost useless to me now. It earns nothing more in MR than the UK Plat card, so there’s no point in having both.