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

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Today I thought I would take a look at the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit 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 as the best ‘starter’ Amex card.  We have a lot of new readers this week, looking at our page view count, so it is good to do some ‘first principles’ stuff.

Let’s get the boring legal bits out of the way first.  The card has a representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  The interest rate on purchases is 22.9% APR variable.

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.

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 credit card.

Amex Gold 350

The Amex Gold 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 Amex Gold 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 Honors, 1:3 into Radisson Rewards, 2:3 into Marrriott Bonvoy).

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 to you. 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.

The Lounge Club website shows you which lounges you can use including many at Heathrow and Gatwick.  Additional visits after your two free ones are charged at £20 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 of American Express Preferred Rewards Gold 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 credit card is a low cost (zero cost, actually, in Year 1) and high reward way to begin a relationship with Amex.

You CAN get the sign-up bonus if you already have a BA, Starwood or Nectar American Express card or any Lloyds Bank-issued Amex.  That’s not a problem.  The only people who are disqualified are those who have had a Gold, Platinum or Green charge card, or the Amex Rewards Credit Card, in the last six months.

You will still need a good Visa or Mastercard for places where Amex isn’t accepted of course.  Here are my suggestions.

Over time your card needs may change – most people move on to the British Airways Premium Plus American Express because of the hugely valuable 2-4-1 voucher – 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.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. Slightly OT, Rob, but do you have any update re the current position of the Curve card and Amex use? Would like to tie in my Gold and BAPP cards. Thanks

  2. Dartmouth says:

    OT – transiting through BKK Saturday morning – looking for lounge access as travelling with family. Any recommendations for paid for access? Anyone paid to get into the KLM-Air France lounge?

    • The Original Nick says:

      @Dartmouth, who are you flying with because BKK is quite big (6 concourses) so you need to do some searching.

    • Mark LLL says:

      Suvarnapumi has lots of lounges airside, there is at least one lounges map in the main concourse after security which shows locations – be careful to note which level you need.

      I liked Miracle lounge (concourse A lower floor, from memory) last July. Lounge Club got me in and for a while I was the only guest. Free WIFI strong. All buffet items good and, as a suggestion to amuse kids, show them the mini Danish pastries labelled in English as ‘Snail cake’.

      • Dartmouth says:

        Thank you, will look that up.

        Flying Thai but no updates yet on gates.

        • Look at what gates your flight is going from in the coming days, then check that against the PP site as they say what gates they’re near.

  3. I think it’s time for me to do another Amex churn – I had planned on doing the Platinum card and maybe something random (Nectar?) for the sign up referral, but is there any advantage to doing Gold over Platinum (other than saving a few weeks of prorated annual fee)?

    • Genghis says:

      By the sounds of it for you, no. For long term spend, Gold is better (10k at £15k, 2MR/£ on FX etc).

  4. Joseph Heenan says:

    “double points on airline transactions” is a really useful one for me (I end up paying for various flights that work then reimburses); between my wife & I we try to keep a gold card open for non-BA airline spend (and most spending is non-BA given the poor offering BA usually has for us Scots).

  5. Hey Rob, I got this card recently (thanks for the referral again) but I have a quick question about the £15k 10,000 point bonus. Do you know if this is credited as soon as you hit the spend threshold, or only at the end of the year? Thanks.

    • Genghis says:

      One month after anniversary

      • Ok thanks guys. Guess I’ll cancel it then as I don’t want to pay the annual fee.

        • Genghis says:

          The fee is refunded prorata. If you’re planning on spending that much and using the card for the free year, IMO it’s worth paying say £12 to get the 10k MRs

    • It’s credited on the year anniversary of the card

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        It isn’t – it takes at least a month and actually 6 weeks for me last time.

  6. Genghis says:

    Yes. It depends what you’re doing with the card exactly. If you want the cash back it’s paid at year end so more of a “long churn”.

  7. Danielle says:

    If you want to buy something at B&Q with your Amex, buy their gift cards. They use an external company for their gift cards which DOES accept Amex. Found this out after spending a lot of money at B&Q….

    • Genghis says:

      But you lose any credit card protection. I’ve used S75 on big retailers for failure to deliver SAD FARTs

      • Haha a fellow Martin Lewis listener I see 😛 (really enjoy his R5 Live Monday lunchtime show on podcast, though did find it amusing when he tried to deal with a points and miles question :D)

        • Genghis says:

          🙂 He’s excellent at what he does but his knowledge of the credit card and points game is rather limited (and therefore occasionally gives poor advice in this area).

      • Scallder says:

        you only need to put £1 on a credit card (as long as the item is more than £100 in total), so can put the rest through gift cards bought with Amex and then £1 on your Visa/MC 🙂

    • You can also buy their gift cards at Tesco, Morrison’s etc. and get advantage of their offers.

    • I do the same when we want to buy from B&Q. Just get gift cards. Was even better when Morrisons offered 1p off a litre of petrol per £10 spend but they stopped that.

  8. TigerTanaka says:

    Greggs is the other significant omission (1,600 outlets and nearly £1bn sales).

    Although to be fair you wouldn’t earn many MRs/avios on a steak bake.

    • If you get the Greggs App you can top up via PayPal linked to your Amex card.

  9. Keith Taylor says:

    I regularly churn the Gold card for both me and my wife, it’s a great way to get loads of MRP/Avios. A quick question though. Is it possible to keep the Amex points somewhere when you cancel the card or do you need to convert and move them out first?

  10. Rob if we cancel the card just after our introductory year (later this month), is it possible to keep the benefit of the second year’s two Lounge Passes even after the card has been cancelled? Or are the Lounge Passes cancelled at the same time as the card is cancelled?

    • They are cancelled when the card is cancelled

    • Cancelled immediately because Lounge Club and Priority Pass cards are only valid if they are linked to an active credit card to fund potential extra guests.

  11. Came across a Starbucks that didn’t accept amex recently as it was as a franchise at a service station. I walked out and got a coffee somewhere else.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      As far as I know they all accept the starbucks app.

      Buy my top ups with my AMEX at 10% discount through my work scheme.

      • Hey CC I did exactly the same a couple weeks ago at Taunton station. Wrote to the Starbucks CS and I was surprised to receive a response in less than 24 hours apologising and sending 2 free drinks vouchers in the post. Also said they’d investigate with franchise management.

        • Cheers Matt, have done the same now. Will be content if they give the management a kick up the bum, drinks vouchers would be a bonus!

      • Unfortunately that’s not correct in my experience. I’ve had Vitality insurance free Starbucks in the past and experienced Starbucks that take the app and will give Vitality drinks, ones that take the app and don’t give Vitality drinks, and some that don’t take the app at all – from memory most recent was a Starbucks concession in a cinema.

    • I had this issue with Wagamamas in Mansfield

  12. Gold is a better earner for us:one partner is the account holder the other the supp. At the end of the year will pick up 10,000 points for putting k15 through it. I’ll refer partner for a Gold card giving me another 9,000 points so 39,000 points in all just in bonuses. Then I’ll close mine down and be the supp on my partner’s Gold card for the next year. We get two points for any overseas travel spend and we travel a fair bit. This includes purchases in Duty Free so other half gets double points for buying tobacco. Try and get that in the UK! Also we don’t have a wallet full of cards anymore.

    The Platinum benefits don’t compare anymore IMHO, as the only real benefits were lounge access and breakfast at Marriott and Hilton for matched Gold status. But we fly business or higher anyway so lounge access comes with that (more reliable than PP) and Marriott dropped breakfast for Gold members. However we – like many people here – have a back up MasterCard or Visa (Hilton Barclaycard). You can get breakfast at many hotels now just by paying with visa.

    The big difference of course is the sign up bonus with Platinum, but now that’s capped at 90,000 points per year and, if you saved them just for flights which are now pretty cheap, then personally think this benefit’s lost it’s sparkle for £450. I can make over 90,000 points a year (includes bonuses) just putting my travel through the Gold card and it’s only going to cost me one months premium (Genghis suggests £12). You don’t get double points for overseas travel spend with Platinum either. Don’t know how Amex Gold insurance compares to Platinum insurance but we have standalone travel insurance anyway.

    Sure everyone’s got a different view though what works for them. We’ve settled in to this card, it just works for us.

  13. BlueHorizonuk says:

    OT – Does anyone know how long it takes Amex Travel to issue an air ticket. Just booked and called BA to upgrade but they said there is no ticket number attached yet and they can’t do it.

  14. Bit OT.

    Has anyone successfully churned the Virgin cards yet?

    IHG Card related – is it still possible to pay off Amex using this card without incurring fees?

  15. Slightly OT: HSBC WE, churnable? If so what is the waiting time?


    • Genghis says:

      Yes. @rams1981 reported this is possible. Believe he waited 6 months+.

      • rams1981 says:

        This is correct… currently waiting for the year to end to cancel as bonus now only paid at the end for the 12k spend.

        • Thanks rams1981, cancelled just before Christmas so I’ll put it on the reapply list for the end of June.

  16. Robin N says:

    Slightly O/T but related to AMEX cards.

    If I book a room using Amex Hotel Collection (via Gold Card) or Fine hotels and resorts (via Platinum) at Marriott/Starwood properties, will I still earn points and night credit and have access to my elite status benefits?

  17. Note to the Amex Gold Credit, perhaps you guys know this already but I certainly did NOT – had quite an unpleasant chat with more than just one Amex customer agent on the phone.

    The initial £1,500 credit limit is (officially explained) not the amount you can be in credit to Amex at a point in time, rather it is the maximum total amount you are (officially) allowed to spend per statement month. IF you went above that by paying off some credit during the statement month, and although the app and the website would tell you that your available credit limit is back up / ‘replenished’, Amex could (in theory, have not seen it happen before) charge you an ‘above limit fee’ of £12 (it says on the last page of the monthly pdf statement).

    And here I was, trying to put flight + hotel + some Christmas shopping onto my newly gained Amex Gold Credit to get some points..

    • Genghis says:

      I’d disagree with this and would complain if charged. Amex have a tendency to not follow their own terms.
      The “over limit” fee of £12 is defined as “if you go over your credit limit at any time”. By definition, credit what you owe someone so does not mean amount spent.

    • I came up against this problem when buying a car on Amex. If you ask nicely they transfer you to someone else who changes the rules on your account (but this was when they were all in Brighton).

      • I had a similar conversation with the Amex CC a few monghs ago, this was on the SPG card and different limits and spends, but the guy was adamand that whilst my credit limit was £20k that actually meant you could only spend £20k a month, i was of the opinion he was talking rubbish, so paid off the part of the balance (half way through the month) and charged a fresh £10k transaction, so £30k spend in 1 month. It all went through with no issues.
        Before you ask, why such ridiculous spend, i was taking advantage of an SPG triple points offer

  18. So I’ve just earned my BA companion voucher and I’ve downgraded my Amex to the blue one to keep the voucher valid. Although I don’t tend to use this amex. My gold card is due for its year renewal in March. I won’t quite make the 15k spend so want to cancel this to reset the 6 months to reapplying.

    Can anyone recommend an amex in the mean time to use? That won’t affect the 6 months reset for the gold card. Thanks

    • Genghis says:

      “So I’ve just earned my BA companion voucher and I’ve downgraded my Amex to the blue one to keep the voucher valid”. Your 241 will remain valid even if cancel completely.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      No need to downgrade to keep your vocher. It’s completely safe when you cancel and then you can get a sign up bonus in 6 months time for a new BAPP

  19. Cheeky but can you refer yourself and get the bonus miles from a Amex Gold to Amex BAPP card ?
    Or vice versa

    • Genghis says:


      • I ask because as a solo traveller the 241 offers are of no interest. So moving every 3 months and picking up the bonuses seem the best way. Probably doesn’t help my credit report !

  20. Slightly OT: Just seen on my BAPP a referral offer of 18k Avios for the next friend, anyone seen this before?

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