Amex Gold vs. Amex Platinum: Here’s How to Choose

Susan Shain

Susan Shain | Blog

Jun 28, 2019 | Updated Aug 07, 2019

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Chocolate or vanilla? Beach or mountains? Gold… or Platinum?

If you’re wondering what the difference is between these two popular Amex cards, keep reading.

We’ll reveal everything you need to know, and — spoiler alert! — explain why you should choose the American Express Gold card if you’re seeking rewards for dining and groceries, and the American Express Platinum card if you’re after a bevy of luxurious travel perks.

A Quick Look at the Amex Gold vs. Amex Platinum

First off, keep in mind the Amex Gold and Platinum are charge cards, which means you must pay your statement balance in full each month. While we recommend doing that no matter what type of card you have (to avoid paying interest), it’s worth noting you usually don’t have the option to carry a balance with these Amex cards.

Amex does offer some cardholders a Pay Over Time feature, which lets you carry a balance when you make eligible purchases of $100 or more. But we don’t recommend taking advantage of this “opportunity.” Why? Because you’ll have to pay interest.

If you want to float a purchase on a credit card, look for one with a 0% introductory APR. Only do this if you can commit to paying off your balance before the promotional period ends — otherwise, it’s not a wise move.

The Amex Gold and Platinum are both free of foreign transaction fees, which means you can use them abroad without penalty. That said, Amex isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, so it’s not the best issuer for international travel. (If you’re planning an overseas trip, consider these travel cards instead.)

As far as rewards, both cards earn Membership Rewards points, which you can redeem for statement credits, charitable donations, or gift cards.

To get the most value, however, we recommend transferring your points directly to one of Amex’s partners, which include Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Avianca, British Airways, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, Iberia, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Choice Hotels, Hilton, and Marriott.

Note you’ll have to pay a fee of $0.0006 per point, up to a maximum of $99, when transferring points to U.S.-based airlines like Delta, Hawaiian, and JetBlue.

Here’s what else you should know:

Amex Gold Amex Platinum
Introductory bonus 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
Earning power
  • 4X at restaurants worldwide
  • 4X at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year)
  • 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on American Express Travel
  • 5X on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel
  • 5X on prepaid hotels booked on American Express Travel
Annual fee $250 $550

Introductory Bonus & Rewards

For both cards, you can only receive the welcome bonus if you’ve never held the card before.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • With the Gold, 35,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months (Note: We’ve seen private offers for an increased 50,000-point bonus. Though we can’t link to that offer here, you can check if you’re targeted by Googling “Amex Gold credit card” and seeing what pops up.)
  • With the Platinum, 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months

You’ll also earn Membership Rewards points for everyday spending. As outlined above, the Amex Gold has excellent bonus categories, including 4X points at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants worldwide. (The only caveat is it’s not always easy to find international restaurants that accept Amex.)

Amex’s U.S. supermarket category does not include big-box stores like Target and Walmart, or wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. If you frequently shop at those types of stores, check the fine print on these alternative grocery cards, or apply for a co-branded card from your preferred merchant instead.

The Platinum card’s bonus categories are more limited: Your 5X categories include airlines, but hotel bookings must be prepaid through Amex Travel. Another thing to note is that, when booking hotels through Amex’s travel service, you usually won’t be able to use your elite hotel status. So you have to choose between 5X points and your elite status.

When it comes to rewards, we’d declare the Gold the winner, especially if you can land that 50,000-point introductory bonus. It offers an excellent rate at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets — both of which are frequent expenditures for the everyday American.

Fees & Credits

Now let’s talk about what you’ll pay for the privilege of keeping these cards in your wallet. For the Gold card, you’ll pay an annual fee of $250, and will be able to add up to five authorized users for free. (Each one beyond that will cost $35.)

To make its annual fee a little easier to swallow, the Gold card offers the following:

  • Airline fee creditsUp to $100 in annual statement credits toward incidental fees, for things like checked bags or in-flight snacks, at one pre-designated qualifying airline
  • Food credits: Up to $10 in monthly statement credits for purchases made at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and participating Shake Shack locations

If you max out both of those benefits, they add up to $220 per year — thereby reducing the Gold’s effective annual fee to $30. Keep in mind, however, that if you find yourself spending an unplanned $20 at Seamless to “get your credit before the month runs out,” these credits could cost more than they save.

As for the Platinum card, its annual fee is $550. It charges a flat fee of $175 for the first three authorized users, then $175 for each additional card. (Alternatively, you can add up to 99 “Gold authorized user cards” for free, but don’t get confused: These don’t have the earning power of the Gold card that you can apply for. Instead, they have the same rewards categories as the Platinum, and each comes with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.)

The Platinum attempts to make up for its ginormous annual fee with the following slew of statement credits:

  • Airline fee credits: Up to $200 per year toward incidental fees at one pre-designated qualifying airline
  • Application fee credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck$100 every four years, or $85 every four and a half years, respectively
  • Uber creditsUp to $15 per month, plus a $20 bonus in December, for a total of $200 per year
  • Saks Fifth Avenue or credits: Up to $50 from January through June; up to $50 from July through December

Adding up all these potential credits over four years (to account for the Global Entry credit), amounts to $525 per year — essentially reducing the Platinum’s annual fee to $25. 

Remember, however: That’s only if you would’ve made the relevant purchases anyway. While I would use Uber credits or baggage fee reimbursements, I don’t normally shop at Saks — and wouldn’t discount that amount from the annual fee. Instead, I’d view it more like a little bonus.

Since the effective annual fees are basically the same after all the credits are counted, I’d call this category a tie. You should apply for the card whose credits most align with your spending.

Can you upgrade Amex cards? Perhaps, but only from one charge card to another. (You can’t, for example, upgrade from a charge card to a regular credit card, or vice versa.) If you want to upgrade from Amex Gold to Platinum, call the number on the back of your card to ask if Amex is offering an upgrade bonus. Compare that bonus to what you’d earn if you applied for the card outright, and then decide if it’s worth the slight ding to your credit that a new application could cause. Just make sure you get some sort of bonus, because Amex only awards bonuses the first time you hold a particular card. After that, you’ll never qualify for a bonus with that card again.

Travel Perks

Airline Perks

With both the Gold and Platinum, your checked luggage will be covered by insurance: up to $1,250 for carry-ons and up to $500 for checked baggage (when you purchase the entire airfare with your card).

As far as other airline perks, the Platinum has a huge leg up because of its widespread airport lounge access. It comes with membership in the Global Lounge Collection, which has more than “1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries,” including American Express, Airspace, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass Select, and Centurion lounges. Just note that its Priority Pass Select membership doesn’t include non-lounge experiences, like restaurants.

The Platinum card is also known for its luxury concierge service, which can help you make travel arrangements and nab hard-to-get restaurant reservations, among a host of other services.

Though you may have heard about the Platinum card offering complimentary Boingo WiFi, that benefit was recently discontinued. While you’ll have to pay to surf the web on planes, rest assured the WiFi in airport lounges is generally free and reliable.

Hotel Perks

With either the Gold or Platinum, booking a stay of at least two consecutive nights through Amex Travel at a property in “The Hotel Collection” will snag you a $100 credit toward qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities, plus a room upgrade when available.

That’s not where it ends for the Platinum card, however. You’ll also get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status. At both chains, you’ll be eligible for complimentary WiFi, late checkout, and upgrades when available; at Hilton, you’ll also get complimentary breakfast and a fifth reward night for free.

Platinum cardholders get perks at the more than 1,000 properties in the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection, too. These include daily breakfast for two, early check-ins and room upgrades (when available), a “unique amenity” — like a spa or restaurant credit — worth $100, a guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out, and complimentary WiFi. Sometimes you’ll also be able to get additional credits, or even a free night when booking.

Amex Platinum benefits at Fine Hotels & Resorts collection

A sampling of the benefits available to Amex Platinum cardholders from the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection. Image credit: Amex Travel

Car Rental Perks

Both cards cover roadside assistance up to four times per year — even if you’re at your own address. You can get your tire changed, your motor jumpstarted, or your vehicle towed up to 10 miles.

They also provide car rental insurance. The coverage, however, is secondary, which means it’ll only kick in after your regular car insurance pays out. (Here’s where you can find cards with primary car rental insurance instead.)

The Platinum card takes its rental car perks a step further by offering elite status at Hertz and National. (It claims to offer elite status at Avis, but in reality, it includes the lowest level of membership, which anyone can sign up for.)

At Hertz, you’ll get a 15–25% discount, upgrades when available, and a 4-hour grace period when returning the car. At National, you’ll get priority service, waived additional driver fees, guaranteed upgrades, and one free rental day for every six qualifying rentals.

In this broad travel perks category, the Platinum definitely takes the cake.

Shopping Perks

Both the Amex Gold and Platinum cards offer a series of shopping protections, including:

  • Purchase Protection: If an eligible purchase is lost, damaged, or stolen within 120 days (in a handful of states, 90 days), you can claim up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per calendar year.
  • Return Protection: Merchant won’t accept your return? If it’s within 90 days of the purchase date, and was purchased in the U.S. or its territories, Amex may reimburse up to $300 per item, for a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year.
  • Extended Warranty: When you purchase an eligible item with your card, and its warranty is shorter than five years, Amex will extend it by up to two years. Coverage is limited to the amount charged on your card; up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year.
  • ShopRunnerThis complimentary membership will grant you free 2-day shipping at more than 100 online stores.

Clearly, this category’s a tie.

Amex Gold vs. Amex Platinum: Which Is Right for You?

As you can see, there’s no clear right or wrong answer when it comes to these Amex charge cards. To help you decide between the two, here are sample scenarios involving two different types of spenders.

  • Jose loves to wine and dine. He spends about $500 per month at restaurants and $500 per month on groceries (for a total of $12,000 per year), plus $1,000 per year on flights home for the holidays.
  • Yvonne, on the other hand, lives to travel. She takes several international trips each year, spending $6,000 on flights and hotel stays. On groceries and dining out, her budget is more modest: about $500 each month (split between the two categories), for a total of $6,000 per year.

With these spending patterns, here’s what they could earn in the first year (including the publicly available introductory bonuses), depending on which card they held:

  •  Jose: 86,000 points with the Gold; 77,000 with the Platinum
  •  Yvonne: 77,000 points with the Gold; 96,000 with the Platinum

As this quick exercise shows, the Gold is better for everyday spenders, who like to cook, eat out, and take occasional flights.

The Platinum is better for true road warriors — especially when considering all the additional travel perks, such as lounge access, Global Entry application fee credits, and hotel benefits. Its major downside, of course, is its limited acceptance in other countries.

If you’re looking for a similar card with solid travel perks and a more ubiquitous credit card network (Visa), consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) or Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review). With the Preferred, Jose and Yvonne could earn 80,000 and 81,000 Ultimate Rewards points, respectively, in the first year; with the Reserve, they could earn 77,000 and 80,000 points.

Alternatively, if none of these cards feel right to you, consider these other top card picks for travel rewards, dining, and cash back. Or just take a quick look at this list of the best credit cards available.

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