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

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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  It has been replaced by a far weaker ‘double points on airline spend’ and ‘double points for spend at amextravel.co.uk’.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 (101)

  • Mark says:

    Any idea what this means for existing card holders?

    • Nathan says:

      Too right. If I lose Triple Travel Points when I renew, I have zero interest in retaining Amex.

      • Thomas says:

        Just came off the phone to amex and existing card holders will lose triple points on travel unless booked via amex travel.

        What they could not tell me is if stays booked via amex travel count towards hotel status.

        If your renewal date is soon (mine is this month) you will still pay the old rate but NOT retain the current benefits

        • Paul L says:

          Also note that if you take advantage of the new Hotel Collection (for $75, etc) you don’t get the additional points for booking it using amextravel, which seems a bit petty!

          • Rob says:

            That is because it is ‘pay at check-out’ I imagine. Same rules apply to Fine Hotels & Resorts for Platinum cardholders. They could have expressed it better though.

        • JQ says:

          Since when has triple points on travel been a published benefit?

          • Paul says:

            I was thinking that…. I have the card and it’s double points for travel (triple for Amex travel) currently.

  • Andrew says:

    Very sad to see the removal of double points on all travel, supermarket and petrol spend. As you say this has always resulted in me using the card consistently throughout the full first year.

    Without those benefits it will merely become a churning card for me.

    • Worzel says:

      Same here. Maybe Amex have tweaked things to offset their churning costs?
      Rather than keep the card for a year we’ll now be churning more often and if not accepted will move on elsewhere-most likely to cash.

      • Worzel says:

        For clarity:
        …most likely to “cash back”.

      • Tim says:

        Maybe, but the changes actually encourage churning. I have no intention ever of paying an annual fee on a card (foolish perhaps).

        At the moment, I get the card, reach the spending target and take the bonus. I then keep the card for the rest of the free year and put a reasonable chunk of spending on it where I can get two points per pound. I also have a Diamond club card which earns 2 Avios per pound spent, but I value 2MR>2Avios because they give greater flexibility, good value on an occasional transfer to Club Carlson and because there might be an Avios transfer bonus. This means that fuel, supermarket, UK train tickets and overseas business spend (which will add up to perhaps £15,000 in my case) and now that the Diamond club no longer gives me 4 points per pound on BA.com spending (perhaps another £5,000) will go on my Amex Gold rather than my Diamonf club card.

        After the changes, I think I will cancel the card after claiming my sign up bonus. So I get 20,000 MR but Amex looses out on £20,000 of spending put on the card.

        • Worzel says:

          Tim:
          As you say, the changes will encourage churning; and it is likely there will be less individual spend put through.
          The fact that Amex Gold is a charge card and not a credit card (with associated protections) leaves it even less attractive.

          • James67 says:

            …then amex gets fed up with all the churning like they did with SPG card so likelihood is we will see a future reduction in 20k bonus and/or end of first year fee waiver ultimately reducing business for amex and dwvaluing a great card for us. I think amex have potentially shot themselves in the foot.

          • Oliver says:

            When I first clicked on this headline I was worried that they were taking away the generous sign up bonus

  • n says:

    Balls.

  • Nathan says:

    Can you just explain this hotel credit thing a bit more. Is it saying that in a flexible booking you can spend $75 at the hotel for free on an upgrade or in room dining etc?

    • Jamsey says:

      Yes I’m confused by this as well, anybody explain further?

      • Tim says:

        You check in and they give you a room upgrade for free and put $75 on your room account that you can spend on laundry, food, drink, pay for view, wifi or whatever you would normally charge to your room.

        Is this a one off or can you do it every stay. If the latter it is rather attractive to a traveller who stays in the qualifying hotels regularly. If the former, then it is a nice to have freeby values similarly to a couple of free lounge visits.

      • Polly says:

        Yes , best flexible rate is usually quite a high rate, as it means you can change your dates etc without losing your money. Presume they want people to pay more for their rooms, so reward you with this $75 spend and an upgrade. So basically check the hotel websites if you see a cheaper room, non refundable and add $75 to the price, you might be then be better going with the more expensive price in the first place, IF you think your plans might change. The $75 would probably cover basic dinner for two, if that’s how you chose to use the credit. Bit of a faff, but gives people flexibility, I guess.

        • Worzel says:

          Valid for new bookings with participating providers of at least two consecutive nights made online through americanexpress.co.uk/travel. To see an example list of participating hotels visit americanexpress.co.uk/hotelsgold Payment must be made in full with an American Express Card in the Preferred Rewards Gold Cardmember’s name. This benefit is for Preferred Rewards Cardmembers only. The Gold Cardmember must travel on the itinerary booked. The Cardmember will receive the credit as a deduction from the final hotel bill when checking out of the hotel; they will receive $1 for each eligible dollar spent up to $75 USD. Eligible charges exclude charges for taxes, gratuities, fees and cost of room. Additional exclusions based on specific hotel restrictions may also apply (including without limitation purchases within the hotel that are unaffiliated and/or owned by third parties) – see hotel front desk for details. Credit must be used in conjunction with initial stay and cannot be carried over to another stay, is not redeemable for cash and expires at check-out. Credit is non-exchangeable and non-refundable and is applied in USD or equivalent in local currency based on exchange rate on day of arrival. Limit one credit per room, per stay. Room upgrade is based on availability and eligibility at check-in. Three-room limit per Cardmember per stay; back-to-back stays within a 24-hour period at the same property considered one stay. Participating providers and benefits subject to change. Bookings for participating hotels at The Hotel Collection made online at americanexpress.co.uk/travel will not earn 2 additional Membership Rewards points for every £1 spent, but will be earned at the normal rate of 1 point for virtually every £1 spent. Payment must be made with American Express Card only, Cardmembers are not able to pay with Membership Rewards points for bookings made with The Hotel Collection.

          • James67 says:

            Potentially could work for me as I often need flexible rates, or book at last minute when there is little difference in rates. Devil is in the detail though; can see just about everything including laundry being declined on third party basis at many properties. Even room upgrades are often more apparent than real in my experience; some are genuinely great but in other cases rooms on high floors, with a view etc are often touted as upgrades.

        • Tim says:

          Isn’t it a bribe to encorage business people who are on expenses to book the flexible rate rather than the cheapest rate on the basis that they are not paying. It might work for me except that most of my business trips (especially those which arguably do genuinely need some flexibility) are for single nights and we have a 2 night min stay

  • Mez says:

    I’ve already met my £15k target for this year, and my membership year starts in July – any chance I’ll get the increased annual bonus?

    • Jonathan says:

      I’ve just logged into my account and it says I still need to spend £xxxx.xx to get my 7,500 renewal bonus.

  • wetboy1uk says:

    Is it possible to reapply for this card if you have already had the card and cancelled? If so will the first year be free again or will you have to pay the fee of £140?

    • Tim says:

      Yes. After 6 months of not holding a MR earning Amex card you can reapply and if accepted you get treated the same as a new card member. You could do this every 6 months. This is called card churning.

      Obviously Amex don’t like people doing this too much and they may decide to refuse your application if they decide that your behaviour is loss-making to them.

      Personally, I am on my third gold Amex and got the sign up perks every time. I am not, however an aggressive churner and wait much longer than 6 months before reapplying. I also keep my card for 11 months before cancelling and put through a good level of spend in that time. My assumption is that Amex will view me as a moderately good customer.

      One reason for avoiding churning or at least toning it down is because the card is worth having and a refusal in the future would be a set-back. By making the card less attractive to keep in your wallet, Amex are actually encouraging churning.

  • Liz says:

    Bummer – I was going to take this out next month when my Lloyds card with the 6 months double points came to a close. Was planning on using it to hit my £2000 spend on holiday – will probably still take it for the bonus but switch over to the BAPP sooner than planned!

  • Will says:

    Wow us points collectors are being hammered lately. This following fresh on from the BAEC devaluation.

    So my Gold expires next month after the first year. What should I take out next?

    • Polly says:

      The BAPP, maybe wait for a higher bonus. It’s pretty useful and has the wonderful 241