This one is overdue: I was approved for the Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express in December 2015. Oops.
As I said in my last post, I thought these First Impressions posts were getting a little dry. So I’m going to switch up the format a bit. You’ll still get all the pictures of the card and even the packaging if you want to check that out, but we’ll focus a bit more on how to actually use the card.
If you want to truly travel hack your way across the globe, you have to maximize your earning. You have to have a few different cards in your wallet. You have to know which ones to use, where and when to use them.
I think the American Express cards are some of the most classic designs in the business. You know what I mean, somebody takes out an American Express card, you see the funny little dude with the helmet on the front, and “Oh yeah, I know what that is, that’s an AmEx,” You think to yourself. None of this flashy shiny credit card business. Or those silly cards with clear plastic in one corner. Just my opinion of course, but I like the Premier Rewards Gold from American Express.
I’ve also noticed most of AmEx’s higher-earning cards have the helmet guy on the front, whereas the lower-earning cards have relatively plain designs. This may just be a coincidence, but I think American Express wants you to feel that way. Put your Blue card next to your Gold or Platinum card, and you’ll see what I mean. They want you to think the helmet guy is cool, so they put it on their cards with higher fees. The more people that like the helmet guy, the more money they make on annual fees.
Or that may just be my conspiracy theory side…
- $195 annual fee, waived the first year.
- Triple points on airfare directly from airlines, double points on gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants in the US. 1 Membership Rewards point on everything else.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- $100 airline fee credit.
- American Express benefits, like global concierge service, rental car collision insurance, extended warranties, purchase protection, and more.
- Access to AmEx Offers.
The annual fee is steeper than most of the other cards in my wallet, so I’m not sure I’ll hang on to the card past the first year. For some though, the $195 is a drop in the bucket.
Keep in mind that the fee is effectively $95, as long as you use the $100 airline fee reimbursement every year. You pay AmEx $195, they give you $100 worth of free airline money. It’s a pretty good deal.The benefit must be linked to a specific airline prior to using it. If you link your credit to American Airlines, and then pay for a checked bag on United, you’re going to have to eat that cost. It’s quick and easy to switch, but just be sure to remember before flying/buying!
With the fee at effectively $95 now, the PRG becomes much more viable, especially for those that travel frequently on multiple airlines, and prefer to stock up transferable points like Membership Rewards, rather than a specific airline currency.
The other benefits of the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card are fairly standard on a mid-level travel card. No foreign transaction fees, assorted purchase and rental benefits, a concierge phone number, and extra points on travel related purchases. AmEx Offers is great too, but we’ll open that up later.
When do I Swipe the AmEx PRG?
Due to the Premier Rewards Gold’s category bonuses, it makes a great travel card. You earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare directly with airlines, and double points on all US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. Note the triple points does not include purchases from travel agents, online or otherwise. No Kayak, no Priceline, no Granny’s Travels either.
Membership Rewards Points are usually valued at somewhere under 2 cents apiece. At $00.019, you’re getting a 5.7% return on airfare, 3.8% on US food and fuel, and 1.9% back on everything else. The high value of MR points allow the PRG to stand up to some of the best travel cards and straight cashback cards in the industry. No limits on 1.9% back is second only to the Citi Double Cash (effectively 2%) at the moment, and can hold it’s own against Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points: around 2.1% and 1.6% on everyday spend, respectively. If you’re not working on a specific bonus, the Premier Rewards Gold could vary well be the card for you.
Not doing a lot of spend in the triple or double point categories on the PRG? I might recommend the AmEx Everyday Preferred Card: double Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 spend in a calendar year) and 1 point/$ on everything else, with no annual fee.
I’ll be using the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for the following expenses:
- Air travel booked directly with airlines, besides Southwest. Long explanation, but I’ll be using my Chase Southwest Premier, as double Rapid Rewards, combined with a Companion Pass, are more useful to me right now than triple Membership Rewards points.
- Gas, supermarkets, and restaurants stateside.
- AmEx Offers. Usually these offer a great value, either in actual savings, or extra Membership Rewards points.
Obviously, any special spend bonuses trump the above plan, as well as my Discover it rotating 5% categories. I’ll use the Discover for restaurants for April/May/June, since I’d rather take the 5% cashback then 3.8% in Membership Rewards points. You get the idea.
American Express runs a number of cards that earn Membership Rewards points. MR points are a great addition to the traveler’s bank. The points are highly valued due to their flexibility. Membership Rewards can be used for statement credits, to book future travel, and can be transferred to various partners, including the Executive Club with British Airways, Etihad’s Guest Rewards, and Hilton HHonors. Due to their high value, you usually don’t lose too many points during the transfer process.
An American Express card in your wallet opens up the new world of AmEx Offers. They typically come in three flavors: use your enrolled American Express card online or in store, and receive a predetermined dollar value in the form of a statement credit, a statement credit at a certain percentage of the transaction, or additional Membership Rewards points for spending at a certain merchant. You can sign up for the offers on your account online, or through linked social media accounts.
AmEx Offers allows the cardholder to realize some useful savings from time to time. As you can see above, I saved $10 at Advance Auto Parts last month. The best part? Multiple American Express cards = multiple offers. Say you have $10 off a $50 transaction at a certain restaurant. If you have two cards eligible for the offer, sign them both up online. Then, when you get a $100 bill at the restaurant (too many beers, huh?), split the check in half between your two cards, and save the $20!
That is, if those beers haven’t muddled your travel hacking brain at all…
No matter what your spending patterns are, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold can be a great addition to your wallet. Maximize your category spending, and take advantage of the great flexibility of Membership Rewards. You wallet will thank you for it!