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.

(EDIT: this article was updated in April 2019 to reflect changes to Amex’s rules on who qualifies for the bonus points and how many you receive.)

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 Amex Gold sign-up bonus is very generous

You get 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (worth 10,000 Avios) when you sign up and spend £3,000 within three months.

10,000 points is a good 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 £100 of value from your 10,000 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.

Do you qualify for the Amex Gold sign-up bonus?

If you have never held an American Express card before, you will definitely get the bonus.  You can skip the rest of this section!

You will receive the 10,000 bonus points if you have not held a personal or small business American Express card in the previous 24 months.  Cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.

You will not receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job and you receive Membership Rewards points from it. If your Corporate or Business card does not provide Membership Rewards points then you are OK.

You will definitely receive the bonus if you are only a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card. As far as Amex is concerned, that card belongs to the primarily cardholder and does not make you an ‘existing cardholder’.

If you do not qualify for the bonus, you can still apply.  You still receive the other card benefits, including the two free airport lounge passes and ‘no fee in the first year’.

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.

Get 10,000 bonus 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 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.

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

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