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

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Today I want to 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.

EDIT: Until 29th June 2020, the sign-up bonus on Preferred Rewards Gold is doubled to 20,000 points!  We have updated this article to reflect that.

Let’s get the boring legal bits out of the way first.  The card has a representative APR 56.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  The interest rate on purchases is 22.2% 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 Amex Gold 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 £3,000 within six months.

20,000 points is a special offer which runs until 29th June 2020.  The standard bonus is just 10,000 Membership Rewards points.

20,000 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 £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.

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!

Here is the offical wording from the Amex website:

“This new Cardmember offer is only available if you have not held a personal American Express Card within the previous 24 months. If you have held a personal American Express Card within the previous 24 months, you will be entitled to all other Card benefits, excluding the welcome offer.”

You WILL receive the 20,000 bonus points if you have not held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months.  Amex cards issued by MBNA or Lloyds Bank do not count.

You WILL receive the sign-up bonus if you have a Corporate or Business American Express card via your job, even if you receive Membership Rewards points from it.

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.

If you were thinking about applying, I strongly recommend that you do so now whilst the sign-up bonus is doubled to 20,000 Membership Rewards points.

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

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. Is the referral bonus limit of 90,000 just for this card or is it per individual I.e if I get another amex card will I still get referral points on the new card

    • Per card type – 90k per Jan-Dec is def the case for MR cards, not sure if it’s the same number for BA, Nectar etc. but you could for example use up your referral limits on Plat and then make more referrals with BA card.

    • Per card family.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you close your MR account and open a new one you have a new 90k limit

  2. Hi,

    I have received my 20k bonus and 10k for spending £15k.

    The premium BA card is your next recommendation, what is your third recommendation please?


  3. Rob. Good content, but regular topic. Here’s a suggested topic for a follow-up article to consider. What’s the ideal follow on card for an Avios collector after year 1?

    PS I’ve got the Gold charge card, recently cancelled the BA Premium card and don’t have an answer for my current Amex points when I leave the card! Cheers for any thoughts or an article. Cheers.

  4. I’ve had my Amex Gold for nearly 1 year now. I have 290,000 points, but as far as I can tell that gets me very little.

    Take return flights for 5 people to Melbourne, for example. I checked Skyscanner and could get them for £3200. By using my Amex points, I could get rewards via Emirates and pay £2700 plus I would need 650,000 points!

    So I’d need to have spent double with Amex to make a £500 saving. Is that right?

    Just does not seem like that great a deal to me. Perhaps I am missing something though. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Those points are enough to get 5 free nights at the Conrad Maldives which regularly sells for over $1,000 a night, or any other top Hilton property for that matter.

      • Actually I feel a more balanced comment is;

        For 380k you can have 5 nights at the Rangali + seaplane transfers

        Cash rates can be as low as $600/night but substantial Taxes (~23%) are applied on top, reward bookings are normally exempt from these..

    • Genghis says:

      Are you comparing like with like? £ price looks like economy while points price looks expensive for economy (but I’m no expert on Emirates reward scheme). You should be aiming for around 1p per MR.

    • Scott, some deals are far better than others, it appears that you assume that all carriers & routes should be good value for redemptions? If so that is a bit naive.

      Try looking at using MAH, KUL to MEL in Y redeeming with Avios and experiment increasing the cash portion to reduce the Avios required.

      • Scott McCulloch says:

        Thanks for your responses!

        Can i ask how you can find these things out so quickly?

        I jumped onto Honors and could not at all find out how many points each room would cost.

        I signed up for an Avios account and typing in MAH to MEL says that they do not fly that route! I tried many other variations and was getting ‘no flights’-type messages on many of them.

        “Try looking at using MAH, KUL to MEL in Y redeeming with Avios and experiment increasing the cash portion to reduce the Avios required.” – Where exactly do i simply do this?

        How on earth would i know to specifically check> GLA>MAH>KUL>MEL? There are thousands of routes, tens of thousands of combinations (i would have thought). The effort involved is seeming to massively outweigh any benefits?

        I signed up for Virgin Atlantic and can seemingly not check miles+cash out unless i have 3,000 miles in my account, yet i don’t want to transfer them over just to find out – or is that just part of the game?

        Again, aware i must be missing something. I can grasp that a chance-of-a-lifetime stay in a plush Maldives resort for 80% off total price is a fantastic way to use my points though.

        • Genghis says:

          Experience. It’s worth it if you know what to do. Keep reading HfP.

          If you don’t have (m)any HH points, sign out of your account then do the search to find the price per night.

          Avios flights are priced by sector (not zone like other schemes). Try splitting your search into bits (eg GLA-KUL, BA; KUL-MEL, Malaysian, all searching on BAEC). Your tickets won’t be linked and so you wouldn’t want too short a connection.

        • This game is not for you..

    • Scott as another example

      290k could get you 5x one way Virgin Upper Class from HKG to LHR for a total cash outlay of ~£175

  5. Zahid khan says:

    If I have a gold Amex card and referred a friend, can they apply for a BA premium amex card with my referral or is it only gold they can apply for and will I still receive 9k points?

    • They can apply for any other card (BA, Marriott, etc) and you’ll still receive the MR points bonus. Only issue sometimes is the Amex website, but if all working well just tell them to click on ‘other cards’ – you can always try your referral link yourself to see what shows up.

      • And if it doesn’t give you the option for “other cards”, try a different browser. Never seems to work on Firefox for me.

  6. Zahid khan says:

    Thanks Alan!

  7. OT, I know it’s possible to refer friends for the Amex Platinum and earn up to 90k points per year, just to check is this cap per calendar year? Thanks!

  8. A couple of things:
    does this: 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for spending £15,000 per year – apply to the Gold Business Card ?
    Also if I had a card and my colleague was a supplementary card holder – would I be able to get the above bonus (if it applied) & transfer the points in time to cancel the card at the end of the year – for my colleague to become the cardholder and I the supplementary for the following year (and keep doing this and therefore keep the card free). Also how do we go about getting you to refer us ?

    • Genghis says:

      No such annual bonus on biz. Being a supp does not affect being able to get a sign up bonus.

  9. I’ve had this card for almost two years now. If I’ve hit the £15k threshold and my renewal comes up in April, is it worth waiting for the 10,000 bonus points? It says it’ll be credited up to 60 days after renewal so I assume I can’t cancel the card before the points get credited and therefore have to pay 60 days worth of the annual fee? Does anyone know if it’s worth holding for the 10000 bonus points?

  10. Just upgraded the PRG > The platinum card, how long does it normally take for the application to process and to receive the new card?

    • Genghis says:

      If accepted, online acct should show plat straight away. Cards arrive in a few days.

      • Quite a few get “could not give an immediate decision” message. If so, probably about a week to receive a card,keep checking your account as Amex are notorious for bad communication over card acceptance.
        I usually receive my card/s before congratulations message arrives in my inbox. 🙄

        • Yeah I got the ‘Thank you for submitting your request to upgrade to the The Platinum Card’ etc. They said that if accepted, your online account should immediately show the new card, which hasn’t yet, so was just wondering how long it normally takes. Hopefully they arrive next week

  11. James Ryan says:

    I applied for my third Gold Amex cycle before christmas… and was declined!!

    Not sure why as I have an experian score of 999, been an amex holder since 2015, im a home owner, and ive been approved for the same card twice before in the past.

    What now??

    • I don’t know but I’ve just applied for my 3rd one and waiting for the decision 😩. Usually get accepted straight away.

    • How aggressive with churns are you, just out of interest?

      • I’ve been quite aggressive with churns over last year and have just been declined a Gold and Starwood, any idea how long I should wait to clear things up in my credit report?

    • Just found out I was declined for BAPP. Am waiting letter as apparently they can’t tell you over the phone the reason… very weird as have Gold, SPG etc. Also surprised as its a fee paying card…

      • If you’ve got all those cards too it’s probably they feel they’ve lent you all they can. Worth asking about moving credit limit from one of the existing cards.

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