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  It has been replaced by a far weaker ‘double points on airline spend’ and ‘double points for spend at amextravel.co.uk’.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

  • Paul says:

    Thanks for the timely reminder to cancel my card.

  • Alan says:

    Hmm – interesting. I’ve stuck with my Plat card as I manage to get more benefits out of it than the fee, so never had the Gold card. I have however referred a few folk for it and this definitely will make it less appealing for them. Amex really need to do something to upgrade the Plat offering though – given how much higher the fee is they need to looking at some form of bonus points (never understood why Plat earned zero), along with fee-free forex – we’ve been going on about that one for years though! Once my promotional double-points offer ran out I stopped spending on it apart from for Amex Travel offers or when booking through Hertz (just in case any issues) – speaking of Hertz it’d be nice to get that free additional driver benefit extended to Plat too!

    • David says:

      Amex plat already get a free additional driver via the complimentary Hertz gold five star membership although in my experience you have to remind Amex to renew 5star status with hertz every year which is another let down for their plat members who deserve better service.

      • Alan says:

        Five Star only gives free spouse AFAIK, David (and possibly only in the USA?) – I’ve certainly had to pay extra before if I wanted a friend or relative as second driver – I’ve asked in France, NZ, Australia.

      • Keith says:

        The Hertz free additional driver does not apply in the UK (maybe only in the US?). I tried to use it in Glasgow and had quite an argument with the counter staff – it’s not mentioned on their website or anything else on the booking. I lodged a complaint with Hertz when I got back, but needless to say that was fruitless. I swore I’d never use them again…

  • Jon says:

    There was a lot of excitement as to what this embargoed post might be. Everyone seems to think that there is some conversion bonus around the corner (with Tesco, Amex, or whatever).

    Is it not more likely that the points providers are reining it in at the moment? Are the good days behind us and are we just deluding ourselves?

    • Worzel says:

      Can’t imagine they all sat around the table just discussing the Gold Card- BAPP next ?

  • Harris says:

    I already have the card. My questions are:
    What will be the fee after the first year? £125 or £140?
    What will be the bonus on the anniversary? 7500 points or 10000 points?
    Will i retain the double points on ALL TRAVEL (airline,rail,car hire,hotels) or will it change to AIRLINE spend only?

    Is it worth keeping the card after the 1st year or should i cancel and get the Lloyds Avios with double points for the first 6 months giving 2.5 Avios per £1

    • Polly says:

      Why not have both, if you are able to! Seems like the Lloyds one is better as no forex fees , a real bonus.

      • Harris says:

        If i am expecting to spend £7000 in a 6 month period i would be better off by putting it all on the Lloyds card as i will be getting 2.5 points per £1 plus a flight upgrade voucher. I am now debating if amex gold is worth keeping since i will put everything on the Lloyds card for 6 months only. Should i cancel whilst i have the Lloyds, this will also give me the 6 month break, and then reapply for a new amex gold with the 1st year free and a 20000MR points bonus? This will loose me the double on ALL TRAVEL i currently have as i will be under the new t&c’s, right?

        • The_Real_A says:

          Careful that the double points is capped at £2500 per month. I almost got caught out…

        • JQ says:

          You’d still have to pay the £125 fee to maintain the double on all travel, so it would only be worth it if you spent £10000 on travel per year (not including what you might spend on a Lloyds amex)

    • Rob says:

      I think you have to wait for a letter from Amex ….

  • Brian says:

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

    Thanks

  • 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

  • Simon says:

    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?

    • James says:

      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).

      • Simon says:

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

  • 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.