Why Amex Gold is the ideal starter Amex for a miles and points newcomer

Back in October I wrote this article on why I thought the Hilton HHonors Visa was an ideal starting point for someone looking to get their first miles and points credit card.

Today, as part of a few ‘beginner focussed’ articles running over Christmas and New Year, I thought I would take a similar look at the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card. I mention this card quite a bit on Head for Points but if you are new to this hobby then it might not be fully clear why I recommend it highly.

Let’s get the boring bits out of the way first. Amex Gold is a charge card and not a credit card. This means that you MUST pay off your full balance at the end of each month. There is NO facility to roll over your balance and pay interest. Suffice it to say that that charge cards are only suitable for you if you always clear your balance each month.

(If you don’t always clear your balance, I don’t recommend ANY miles and points cards to be honest. The interest rates are usually around 22%, whilst specialist ‘low rate’ cards like this one can be as low as 6%.)

Secondly, whilst you may think that Amex has a slightly lofty reputation if you have never had one before, there is no longer a minimum income requirement. This doesn’t mean that they will accept anyone – it means that the gap between your income and expenditure is more important than your income alone.

Thirdly, forget the idea that ‘no-one accepts Amex’. B&Q is the only major retailer that does not take American Express. Every other big chain takes it. You will have issues in some smaller stores, and it is rare that you can pay a bill with an Amex, but acceptance (as a % of your shopping bill) is good.

With that out of the way, let’s look at why I rate the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card.

Amex Gold 350

The card is free for the first year

Amex Gold has an annual fee of £140. This is waived in your first year, so you can have some time to see if it suits you or not. You can cancel at any point. If you continue after the first year, you can still cancel at any time and get a pro-rata refund on your fee. Amex is the only UK card company to do this.

The sign-up bonus is VERY generous

You get 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (worth 20,000 Avios) when you sign up and spend £2,000 within three months. This is a very generous deal because ….

The rewards scheme is a valuable convertible currency

You can transfer Membership Rewards points into MANY different things. Take a look at their website.

We tend to focus on airline schemes (1:1 into Avios, Virgin Flying Club, Flying Blue, Delta Skymiles, Etihad Guest, Emirates Skywards etc) or hotel schemes (1:2 into Hilton HHonors, 1:3 into Club Carlson, 2:1 into SPG).

In reality there are lots of other options, including High Street gift cards. I wrote this article on how to get the best value from Membership Rewards points. It is possible, if you are smart, to get over £200 of value from your 20,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus.

‘Convertible currencies’ are worth more. It is better to have 50,000 Amex points than 50,000 Avios points. Why? Because your 50,000 Amex points would get you 50,000 Avios points if you needed them – but they could also get you a heck of a lot more besides.

You get 2 free airport lounge visits per year

As an Amex Gold cardholder you receive free membership to Lounge Club, a global network of airport lounges. Each year you get 2 free visits – either 2 visits for yourself or 1 visit for yourself and a guest.

In recent weeks this benefit has got more valuable. It already included the fantastic Plaza Premium lounges in Heathrow T2 and T4. It also now includes the Aspire lounge in BA’s Terminal 5 and the brand new Club Aspire lounge in Terminal 3 I reviewed this week.

It is also likely that the big new Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 5, opening in 2017, will be included in Lounge Club.

The Lounge Club website shows you which lounges you can use. Additional visits after your two free ones are charged at £15 per person per visit. You receive 2 additional free passes each year if you renew your Amex Gold membership.

10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for spending £15,000 per year

The earning rate on Amex Gold is 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent. This is OK but not exceptional – although you should put some value on having a ‘convertible’ currency rather than being forced into taking Avios, Virgin miles etc via a dedicated airline credit card.

However, if you can spend £15,000 per year on your Amex Gold, the maths changes. You would receive 10,000 bonus points at the end of your card year. If you spent exactly £15,000, this means you would have earned 25,000 points – a rate of 1.6 points per £1. This is very good going.

Those are the key perks as I see them. There are various other benefits attached to the card as well, including:

double points for foreign spending (but there is a 3% fee for FX charges, so this is only a good deal if you are spending money your employer will reimburse)

double points on airline transactions

10% discount and free additional driver on Hertz bookings

$75 in-hotel credit and an upgrade (based on availability at check-in) when booking 350 4-5 star hotels worldwide


The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is a low cost (zero cost, actually, in Year 1) and high reward way to begin a relationship with Amex.

(You can also get the sign-up bonus if you already have an American Express card. The only people who are disqualified are those who have had a Gold, Platinum or Green charge card in the last six months.)

Tie it in with the Hilton Visa that I discussed here – for places where Amex isn’t accepted – and you’ve got the best two options to get your miles and points hobby started.

Over time your card needs may change, as I discussed in this article, but Amex Gold is a good way to get started. Even if you eventually decide that the miles and points hobby is not for you, there are still plenty of other valuable ways to use your Membership Rewards points.

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold application page is here.

Bits: last day for 2,400 Avios on LEGO, Swissport strike off
£15 off £25 Amazon purchase for ALL Amex Gold and Platinum holders
About Head for Points

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  1. Aldi don’t. Costa don’t in all their stores. I find it hit and miss – one assumes most high street/online stores do and independents more often don’t but it’s not a given!

  2. Sorry – OT. Does my Lloyds Cc Avios upgrade voucher entitle me to go from premium to business? Or only to PE? And then I’d need to search for a PE flight to be able to upgrade to business? Doesn’t sound as appealing/lucrative that way.

    • Edit. Know the answer to the above. Is there generally availability in PE then when searching avios long haul flights? Just had a quick look and couldn’t see anything.

      • You don’t need WTP availability. Just find CW availability then by using the voucher you’ll just pay WTP Avios, with the voucher covering the balance. WT to WTP, WTP to CW or ET to CE are all fine – CW to F and all-CW LCY flights are not.

      • Interestingly I have received an email from Avios today that I have received a voucher in my account as I’ve hit the spent target.
        My excitement has vanished when I saw a quote LHR to DXB in Aug in J, so using the voucher plus 80,000 Avios + £506.77
        How come this is a good value? Same flight cost me £844 + 30,000Avios end of December or add another 20,000 Avios and fly in J on BA Companion voucher
        Am I missing something, as this does not look thrilling to me at all?

        • You would be adding another 40k using the 241 as 80k is a peak day.

          The voucher saves you 1/3rd of the Avios needed for a CW flight – you can’t argue with the value there, especially for solo travellers.

          • Thanks Rob, that does make sense, but must admit that’s a poor value for me personally for club world

  3. Just taken this card btw.

  4. OT: Hampton Newport changing from category 1 to 2 effective 11 January. Looks like our efforts to explore new areas of UK will be taking us to South Wales next summer.

  5. Graham Walsh says:

    Am I dreaming or isn’t there a free Amex card you can downgrade the Amex Gold to, so that you keep your MRs alive? I’m sure you mentioned it a while back Rob.

    So what’s the best strategy to transfer out to if you churn Amex Gold? Over to your preferred Airline/Hotel partner? Or would it be a good idea to upgrade to Platinum?

    • Green Card is free but you need to pay a fee (£60?) to use membership points with it and thus keep them alive.

    • There is a free Gold credit card but you will not be able to get any more sign up bonuses on Gold or Plat while you hold it.

    • There is a free Amex Credit Card which earns MR, it’s Gold coloured with no Lounge Club, signup bonus etc. Available with a long interest-free period via the usual channels

    • Gold credit card, only available by comparison sites. Even I am not allowed to promote it. There is an article if you search.

  6. I had an Amex gold 3 years ago, for a year. I’ve had the BAPP ever since. If I wish to get the Amex gold again, will the first year again be free, or have I used that privilege up?

  7. Hi,

    I took out a BAPP card in September. Once I hit the £10k spend and received my 2-4-1 BA voucher last month, I downgraded to the BA free card to get a pro rata refund.

    My card is now showing that if I spend another £4k spend by September I will receive another companion voucher. Presumably it is a computer glitch and they are referring to my total spend of £16k, meaning I need to spend another £4k to make £20k, triggering the threshold for the BA free card.

    My questions is, will I receive another 2-4-1 voucher once I hit £20k (given that I have already received one voucher for spending £10k)?

  8. “B&Q is the only major retailer that does not take American Express” – there is an easy way to get round this, which is by buying their gift cards online, as they are managed by 3rd party (Voucher Express) that accepts amex. They come in both plastic gift cards which are posted, or an e-gift card which you get by email. I recently bought some kitchen units this way, and called the gift card number (0371 200 2144) as the website wouldn’t let me spend £8k on gift cards! As it was such a large amount I was transferred to their commercial team who put the order through and posted the cards out…I thought the postage cost was worth the points!!

    • can buy gift cards from Tesco too. obviously not as lucrative now that bonus clubcard points are no longer offered

  9. OT: With the BAPP card, currently you get the extra AVIOS before February 2017. You need to spend 3k within 3 months. Does the extra AVIOS prior to Feb 2017 only count if you hit that total before Feb or just I need to get my card prior to Feb?

    This will help make my decision on getting the BAPP or just the standard BA card where it is only 1000 pound spend which I could do in 1 month. Thanks

  10. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    To confirm, is the Gold to Platinum route now dead or can the upgrade still occur but without triggering another slew on bonus MR points?

    My HH Diamond expires Mar 17 and in Apr 17 I have a stay booked that I want to be at least HH Gold for to qualify for the free breakfast.

    My plan is to get Amex GC now and then upgrade nearer the time to secure HH Gold via the Platinum card and then cancel not long after. I’m relatively point rich so my objective here is to limit the cash spent and not maximise the points.This would mean only 1mth outlay for Platinum.

    • I would also appreciate any up to date experience of gold to platinum upgrade. The link posted under Rob’s platinum review still seems live but it was posted on 30/10/15…

      • Best bet is to call up Amex. I got offer of 15,000 membership reward points for a £1,000 spend.

        • Thanks Lev. I think I’m in the same position as Mr(s) Entitled: mid-churn so don’t currently have either card to discuss with Amex over the phone. I want the Plat benefits during the summer but would prefer to be on the free option for the next 6 months! Helpful to know that upgrade deals are possible though so thanks again for replying.

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Lev441, was this a recent conversation with Amex?

          • It was a month ago. Received the card end of Nov

            I’d spent £15k in the previous year on the gold card – not sure if this made a difference or not..

  11. LaineyLing says:

    Does anyone know how you use the free lounge access with the Amex Gold?
    Do you need to prebook or do you simply turn up with the lounge pass and Amex and they can use this to see if you still have the two free visits tagged to your account?

    Apologies if the answer is readily available; I did try Google, the little guidebook, and emailing lounge club but I am still unclear on how to do so.

    • Turn up with your Lounge Card and they will swipe it. Sometimes they check to the boarding card. No need to show your Amex as it should be linked.

    • Yep just swipe in just done it at stansted in the escape lounge and it is pleasantly quiet.

  12. Hi folks, any idea why, as a Plat card holder, I can’t refer someone the Gold? It only lets me refer people for the Plat. thanks

  13. Hi,
    I’ve got Miles & more AMEX card. Does anyone know if it’s possible to transfer the air miles from M&M to AMEX Gold?

  14. Merry Christmas to all.