Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

This is the best card for a miles and points beginner

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In this article 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 your best ‘starter’ Amex card.

Let’s get the boring legal bits out of the way first:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
  • You receive two free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further two passes each year if you renew
  • After your two free passes, you can visit further lounges for a small fee
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £140 from Year 2

Representative 56.6% APR variable, from Year 2, based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £140 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases and in Year 1 22.2% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible, which is why we recommend this as the best choice for your first miles and points card.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the two free airport lounge passes and the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with two free airport lounge passes.  These allow either you and a friend, or yourself twice, to visit any lounge in the Lounge Pass network.  You make additional lounge visits for £20 per person.  You receive an additional two free passes each year.

You earn double Membership Rewards points on all airline spend (made directly on an airline website) and all spend made outside the UK.

If you spend over £15,000 in a card year, you will receive an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you renew.

Other benefits include a 10% discount on Hertz car rentals and special deals at 350 selected hotels worldwide, where Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders receive a $75 in-hotel credit per stay.

This article was updated on 1st December 2020, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

Whilst you may think that Amex has a slightly lofty reputation if you have never had one before, there is no minimum income requirement. This doesn’t mean that they will accept anyone, however.  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 and Lidl are the only major retailers that do 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 utility 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.

Why you should get American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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. American Express is the only UK credit card company repay your fee, pro-rata, if you cancel.

The Amex Gold sign-up bonus is VERY generous

You get 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (which convert to 20,000 Avios) when you sign up and spend £3,000 within three months.

20,000 points is a very good deal because ….

The Amex Gold rewards scheme is a valuable convertible currency

You can transfer American Express 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.

Amex Gold is the best beginners miles and points card

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 WILL 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 two 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 two free airport lounge visits – either two visits for yourself or one 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 two additional free passes each year if you renew your Amex Gold membership.

Amex Gold is the best beginners miles and points card

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.  It is more flexible than Avios, Virgin Flying Club 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 – this can be very lucrative if you buy a lot of flights

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

Conclusion

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.

The 20,000 Membership Rewards points bonus is certainly worth having, if you qualify.

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 companion 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.