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. This card comes with a very generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 20,000 Avios amongst other things.

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.

You can apply for American Express Preferred Rewards Gold here.

This is the best card for a miles and points beginner

This article was updated on 1st January 2023, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.

Let’s get the legal bit out of the way first. American Express Preferred Rewards Gold has a representative APR of 71.5% variable, including the annual fee, based on a £1,200 credit limit. The representative interest rate of purchases, and in the first year when there is no annual fee, is 28.1% APR variable.

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’. Every big chain takes it – B&Q was the last hold-out but finally signed up in May 2021. You will have issues in some smaller stores, and it is rare that you can pay a utility bill with an Amex (although you can pay your energy provider with an Amex card), 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.

The Amex Gold card is FREE for the first year

Amex Gold has an annual fee of £160. 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.

Amex Gold is the best beginners miles and points card

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.

20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points are worth, amongst other things:

  • 20,000 Avios
  • 20,000 Virgin Points
  • 20,000 Delta SkyMiles
  • 20,000 Etihad Guest miles
  • 20,000 Emirates Skywards miles
  • 40,000 Hilton Honors points
  • 60,000 Radisson Rewards points
  • 39,000 Marriott Bonvoy points

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 20,000 Amex points than 20,000 Avios points. Why? Because your 20,000 Amex points would get you 20,000 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.

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’.

Amex Gold is the best beginners miles and points card

You get four free airport lounge visits per year

As an Amex Gold cardholder you receive free membership of Priority Pass, a global network of airport lounges. Each year you get four free airport lounge visits – either four visits for yourself or one visit for yourself and up to three guests.

The Priority Pass 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 four additional free passes each year if you renew your Amex Gold membership.

You get £120 of Deliveroo credit per year

Amex Gold comes with £120 of annual Deliveroo credit.

You receive 2 x £5 cashback credits each month. When a Deliveroo order is charged to your card, you receive £5 back.

Get up to 12,500 bonus points each year based on your spending

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 spend over £5,000 per year on your Amex Gold, the maths changes.

You receive 2,500 bonus points for hitting £5,000 on annual spending, and a further 2,500 points for every £5,000 you spend. The maximum bonus is 12,500 points for spending a total of £25,000.

These bonuses mean that you will average up to 1.5 points per £1 on your first £25,000 of spend per year. 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
  • 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
  • free Avis Preferred Plus car rental status
  • $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.

The four airport lounge passes and £120 of Deliveroo credit will come in handy too.

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 responsibly to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.

Comments (2)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dave says:

    I dont see it mentioned, what about the triple points for booking through AMEX travel website?
    If a memeber of IHG and already elite status through other offers, would it be better (in terms of maximising advantage) to continue to build IHG points, or better off booking stays via AMEX and earning their points for spend elsewhere?
    I suppose that’s a difficult question based on how often you stay at IHG and redeem points.

    • Rob says:

      You’re better booking via Hotels.com if you want to use a 3rd party – 10% back on ex-tax spend

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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