When you think of a card with well-rounded benefits and flexible points, easy ways to redeem for travel, a healthy welcome offer, and generous hotel and insurance perks, American Express is often top of mind. While still not as widely accepted as competitors bearing the Visa or Mastercard name, the American Express Gold Rewards Card
Photo by Connally Morris on Unsplash
When you think of a card with well-rounded benefits and flexible points, easy ways to redeem for travel, a healthy welcome offer, and generous hotel and insurance perks, American Express is often top of mind. While still not as widely accepted as competitors bearing the Visa or Mastercard name, the American Express Gold Rewards Card still stands out as one of the most flexible points cards in Canada, featuring a strong earn rate fit for frequent travellers looking to maximize their rewards.
American Express Gold Rewards Card quick facts
2 points per dollar spent on travel, gas, groceries and drug store purchases; 1 point per dollar on everything else
Purchase interest rate
None (this is a charge card and you’re required to pay off your balance in full every month)
Flexible travel redemptions, competitive transfer options to partners like Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy, up to $100 in hotel credits
The American Express Gold Rewards Card packs a punch with impressive points earn rates. You earn 2 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent at eligible gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores and eligible travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises). For everything else, you earn 1 Membership Reward point per $1. Plus, if you book through the American Express travel portal, you earn an additional 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 charged to the card.
For new applicants, a hefty welcome bonus of 25,000 points is offered when you spend a minimum of $1,500 within your first three months of receiving the card.
2. You can transfer your points to other loyalty programs
One of the biggest selling points of the American Express Gold Rewards Card is the flexibility to transfer to partner programs you might already be loyal to, including airline and hotel groups like Aeroplan (Air Canada’s loyalty program), Marriott Bonvoy, British Airways Avios, and others.
Through American Express’ website, you can browse half a dozen programs that allow you to exchange your points at a competitive ratio, enabling you to combine your points pools to access even larger and premium rewards. For example, you can transfer points 1:1 to Aeroplan, and get up to 20% more value out of your points.
3. Flexible travel redemption options
Along with the huge array of transfer options, a major benefit of this card is the flexibility you get when redeeming points for travel within Amex’s own Membership Rewards program. You can apply points towards travel through the American Express Flexible Points Program, which enables you to find the best deals on your own, or you can redeem for travel through the Fixed Points Program which follows a regional redemption chart.
AMEX Flexible Points ProgramThe Flexible Points Program is great for those who want to find deals on their own (whether online, through a travel agent, or via Airbnb). Every 1,000 Membership Rewards points you redeem gets you a $10 credit on your statement, which you can use towards eligible travel transactions; that includes flights on any airline to hotels and car rentals. With a value of $0.01 per point, this is a strong option for the traveller who wants to book travel on their terms, without being tied to a specific airline or blackout dates. The 25,000-point welcome bonus equals a $250 credit on eligible travel transactions.
AMEX’s Fixed Points ProgramWhen used strategically, the Fixed Points Program can offer you a slightly better incentive. This option follows a regional redemption chart, enabling you to book travel domestically and internationally at competitive points redemption rates. Depending on the destination and seat class desired, you can strategically redeem fewer points for travel (up to $0.02 per point on some short-haul flights domestically). Note, though, the Fixed Points Program only applies to the base ticket price, not taxes and fees—but you can cover those charges using the Flexible Points Program and avoid paying anything out of pocket.
4. Travel insurance
Travel insurance is a big reason to pick the American Express Gold Rewards Card. A generous $5 million in travel medical emergency coverage is included for trips up to 15 days, while rental car collision, loss and damage waiver insurance will cover vehicles of up to $80,000. That’s well above the standard $60,000 offered by similar cards. Plus, lost and delayed baggage insurance covers checked and carry-on baggage while in transit for up to a maximum of $500 per trip.
5. You’ll get AMEX Perks
American Express is known to host curated events through American Express Invites, and for its exclusive cardmember offers. Find access to discounts in your area on their website, or take advantage of offers to save on everyday purchases. Plus—the big one for many—Front of Line access gives American Express customers an early chance to purchase tickets for concerts, shows and local events.
6. You’ll get hotel upgrades
Cardholders get a credit of up to $100 USD for qualifying hotel amenities charged to the room during stays at eligible Hotel Collection properties. This gives you a chance to save on upgrades and experiences, like dining, spa services and golf. The credit can’t be applied to the cost of a hotel stay, but you can use it to elevate your experience once you’re at your destination. It’s important to note that taxes and fees are still charged to your card.
7. The American Express Gold Rewards Card is a charge card
Unlike a credit card, American Express Gold Rewards is a charge card. This means there isn’t a preset card limit, which allows for flexibility if you need to make a big purchase; however, the statement balance must be paid in full each month. The approval of transactions is based on your customer record, how long you’ve had the account, and whether you pay your balances on time.
8. Fees and income requirements
The annual fee for the American Express Gold Rewards Card is $150, which is $30 more than similar travel cards. The premium is justified by the hefty welcome bonus, flexible earn and redemption model, and robust travel insurance offerings. The card offers a free first authorized user (whereas other cards charge you upwards of $50 per card, per year), and there is no specified minimum income requirement to qualify, making it more accessible to a wide range of people looking for premium travel rewards.
Are there any drawbacks to the AMEX Gold Rewards Card?
Acceptance is still one of the biggest limitations of any American Express card. While the company is actively improving access to pay with small businesses and offering an easy search feature within their mobile app and website, AMEX cards still aren’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard. While American Express maintains a very large network of merchants, it is wise to also carry a second no-fee Visa or Mastercard credit card in case a store or other vendor doesn’t accept AMEX.
Additionally, while the AMEX Gold Rewards Card offers access to more points-transfer partners than competitor cards, you can find higher accelerator rates on categories like grocery, dining and entertaining on the American Express Cobalt Card (up to 5 points per $1 spent, compared to the maximum of 2 points per $1 spent on AMEX Gold Rewards). However, the American Express Cobalt doesn’t offer the same airline transfer options as the AMEX Gold Rewards Card.
Finally, if you typically carry a balance, you may want to consider a different card, like the AMEX Cobalt or Scotiabank Gold American Express, which operates as a credit card and not a charge card.
The American Express Gold Rewards Card stands out for its flexibility in redemption, transfer partners and competitive fixed-redemption charts. American Express is known to give customers access to a wide array of travel perks and entertainment offers. Plus, with the robust insurance package and generous welcome offer, frequent travellers and everyday spenders alike will find ways to maximize the $150 annual fee.
If you are more focused on the everyday spending, however, the American Express Cobalt may prove to be more lucrative through enhanced earn rates, though travel redemptions may be slightly more restrictive than the American Express Gold Rewards Card.
If a link has an asterisk (*) at the end of it, that means it's an affiliate link and can sometimes result in a payment to MoneySense which helps our website stay free to our users. It's important to note that our editorial content will never be impacted by these links. We try our best to look at all available products in the market and where a product ranks in our article or whether or not it's included in the first place is never driven by compensation. For more details read our MoneySense Monetization policy.