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:
- 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 It has been replaced by a far weaker ‘double points on airline spend’ and ‘double points for spend at amextravel.co.uk’.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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