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Credit Cards

The Amex Gold is my first card with an annual fee — here's why I picked it

It took me five years to go from my starter credit card with no perks to one with beefier benefits.

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Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

It's easy to spend days, weeks and sometimes even months doing research when you're deciding which credit card you should open next — and understandably so. It's easy to be allured by tantalizing perks like using miles for first class flights and hefty hotel discounts, but it's extremely important to make sure that the credit card you choose aligns with your lifestyle.

It took me five years to decide that I was ready to move on from my starter credit card with barely any perks to one that seemed much beefier in terms of benefits.

It seemed like everyone was wielding a fancy new credit card that promised nearly-free travel with its points and other drool-worthy perks. However, I was in no hurry to be responsible for a second credit card. Especially not one that actually cost money to own.

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But as I built stronger credit card management skills by continuing to make on-time payments, paying off my balance in full and avoiding overspending, I felt ready to finally open a new card. This time, I thought I could handle a card that would offer me more for my good credit habits.

So after researching and thinking about what my personal needs and interests were, I decided that the American Express® Gold Card was best for my goals. Here are some major reasons why I picked the American Express Gold Card.

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $120 dining credit annually ($10 a month) for purchases made with Grubhub, Goldbelly and other eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment)
  • Up to $120 Uber Cash annually ($10 a month) for U.S. Uber Eats orders and U.S. Uber rides (card must be added to Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit)
  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned at restaurants and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,074
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,969

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

I valued rewards points over cash back

I was actually debating between choosing the Amex Gold Card and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The Blue Cash Preferred Card also had some considerable benefits that also suit my needs — 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year, then 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select streaming services, 3% cash back on transit and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, this card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 (see rates and fees), compared with the Gold Card, which has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).

However, the cashback could only be received as reward dollars that can only be redeemed as a statement credit. Personally, I wanted more flexibility in how I could use my credit card rewards. I wanted the ability to purchase gift cards, use points to lower the cost of travel and more.

Both cards were extremely strong contenders that would each fit into my lifestyle needs, but in the end I decided that I valued rewards points more than statement credit.

The spending amount for the welcome bonus seemed reasonable

Welcome offers are a huge draw for many people who are in the market for a new credit card. Typically, the offer entails that if you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening the card, you'll receive bonus perks — usually something like a large amount of rewards points.

The welcome offer for the Amex Gold Card entails spending $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months of card membership to receive 60,000 Membership Rewards® points. According to the American Express points value calculator, this works out to be up to a $600 value, depending on how you choose to redeem the points. However, you can get even more value from these points if you transfer them to travel partners.

Rewards credit cards are most impactful when you're able to pay off your balance in full every month so you don't accrue interest charges. That being said, I didn't want to have to spend a huge amount of money, or more than I normally would, just for bonus points. To me, $6,000 over the course of six months seemed pretty reasonable.

You're rewarded most for spending on food

Groceries are a necessary expense so I figured I might as well get a card that rewards me for my weekly trips to Trader Joe's and any instances where I go out to eat with friends. This card lets you earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants and on takeout and deliveries and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year; then, you'll earn 1X Membership Rewards® points). Spending on food allows you to earn the highest amount of rewards points for this card.

Keep in mind, though, that many credit cards have a limit as to which supermarkets you can earn additional rewards at. I looked up the list for American Express prior to applying for the card to make sure I would earn the maximum amount of points for the grocery stores I frequented.

The rewards for travel seemed perfect for the "average traveler"

There was a point when I had planned on frequent travel every year, but over time traveling became less of a priority to me. Sure, I still love weekend getaways within driving distance and maybe one or two domestic flights a year, but I now consider my interest in traveling to be on the "average" side.

That being said, I knew it wouldn't make sense for me to pay a super high annual fee for a travel credit card that I won't be able to take advantage of as much as I should. At the same time, though, I still wanted to receive rewards for the times when I do travel. The American Express Gold Card doesn't totally prioritize travel rewards but it doesn't ignore them, either.

Cardholders receive 3X points on flights (as long as they're booked through the airline's website or on amextravel.com). And, there are no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) when you use the card internationally. The card also provides some *travel protections, like baggage insurance of up to $1,250 for carry-ons and up to $500 for checked luggage. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

These offers seem pretty reasonable and useful for someone who doesn't plan to travel every single month.

Don't miss: Here are the best ways to redeem Amex Membership Rewards points on flights, hotels and more

You receive points for non-dining and non-travel purchases, too

All other purchases made with the Amex Gold Card will receive 1X points, which means you're still accruing rewards points just for buying things you need to buy anyway. This makes the card feel a bit more versatile.

The additional perks also suited my lifestyle

The Amex Gold Card also comes with a few additional perks like $120 in annual Uber credits and $120 in annual dining credits (that's $10 in monthly credits for each). Enrollment required.

The dining credit can be applied to Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. I thought this was an appealing perk, especially since I know that every once in a while I get the urge to treat myself to cheesecake or a milkshake, or get food delivered to me. Depending on what I order, the $10 monthly credit could mean that I can walk out of The Cheesecake Factory or Shake Shack with a completely free dessert or menu item once a month!

And, the $10 monthly Uber credit comes in handy for me since I don't have a car and sometimes need to go places that require driving. It's nice knowing that my trip can cost a little bit less thanks to the card.

Plus, Amex is one of few card networks to provide exclusive shopping discounts and deals at select retailers through Amex Offers. This is yet another way for me to save money on the brands and services I love. For example, I can earn a large amount of additional rewards points for spending on my favorite high-end perfume brand. Or, I can receive $20 in cash back for spending $100 for groceries at an online store that I already shop at.

The annual fee could easily be covered by taking advantage of monthly credits

The card does have a $250 annual fee, which can seem like an intimidating amount of money for someone who has never paid a fee for a credit card before. However, After seeing that the card basically pays for itself after I take advantage of the $120 dining credit and $120 Uber credit, not to mention the cash back and deal offers for shopping at brands I already love, I felt that it was enough to offset the $250 cost.

Bottom line

I think I made a smart and rewarding decision by picking the American Express Gold Card. The perks I receive from making purchases that I would already make anyway definitely offset the high $250 annual fee. And having spent years building positive credit card habits, I feel very comfortable with managing such a card.

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For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

*Baggage Insurance Plan coverage can be in effect for Eligible Persons for eligible lost, damaged, or stolen Baggage during their travel on a Common Carrier (e.g. plane, train, ship, or bus) when the entire fare for a Common Carrier Vehicle ticket for the trip (one-way or round-trip) is charged to an eligible Account. Coverage can be provided for up to $1,250 for carry-on Baggage and up to $500 for checked Baggage, in excess of coverage provided by the Common Carrier (e.g. plane, train, ship, or bus). For New York State residents, there is a $10,000 aggregate maximum limit for all Covered Persons per Covered Trip.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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