This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the American Express Gold Rewards Card sees me give the card the full on Rewards Canada review process! As you may recall, American Express has asked me to test drive this new card and in return they offered me 50,000 points to experience the earning and redemption process with the card. This is first time we have been able to do a review on a card while we have actually used it and not just on what the card claims on paper. Below you will find the complete review of the card as seen on the main Rewards Canada site.
At the beginning of October American Express Canada re-launched their American Express Gold Rewards Card. This reincarnation of American Express' flagship charge card takes the best features of its competitors and puts them into one package. The card falls into the hybrid travel rewards card category which means you have the option of using the points for any travel booking or you can choose to convert the points to frequent flyer miles and frequent guest points.
The American Express Gold Rewards Card provides an excellent insurance and benefit package that is similar to its primary competitors. The card features a good earning ratio that meets and in some cases exceeds other hybrid and travel points cards like TD's First Class Infinite Visa and RBC Infinite Visa Avion because of the double points earned on certain everyday spending. It has an industry average sign up bonus and is fee free for the primary and all supplementary cards in the first year.
The American Express Gold Rewards Card comes with a $150 primary card annual fee that may seem higher then its competitors but the first supplementary card is free in comparison to the $50 or so seen on other cards. A nice benefit is that the $150 annual fee is waived in the first year of membership. The card offers a 15,000 Membership Rewards point welcome bonus when the new Cardmember spends $500 in the first three months. Additional cards over and above the first free one are $50 (although once again this fee is waived in the first year) which is roughly the same as many of the card's competitors. Since the Gold Rewards Card is a charge card it technically does not have an interest rate like its credit card competitors but should the cardholder miss a payment or not pay off the balance American Express charges a 30% non-revolving annual interest rate.
The American Express Gold Rewards Card earns 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on the card for travel, grocery, drugstore and gas station purchases. For all other purchases the card earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent.
On the redemption side, the Membership Rewards points earned with the American Express Gold Rewards Card can be redeemed for any travel from any provider or they can be converted to frequent flyer miles and frequent guest points. The first option which American Express calls TripFlex, allows the Cardmember to book any travel from any provider they want, be it a travel agency, online booking engine or directly from an airline, hotel, train, car rental company and more and then call Amex to redeem their Membership Rewards points against the charge on their statement. The rate of redemption for the TripFlex option is 1,000 points for a $10 credit with a minimum redemption of 1,000 points. Cardmembers have up to 12 months from the date of travel purchase to redeem points and can use them to pay for only part of the purchase should they choose. The second option of this hybrid card is to convert the Membership Rewards points for frequent flyer miles or frequent guest points. For most Canadians their primary frequent flyer program is Aeroplan and this card offers a 1 to 1 redemption rate on conversions to Aeroplan. Other airlines offered are Alitalia MilleMiglia, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Delta SkyMiles. For all of these other airlines 1,000 Membership Rewards points will net 750 miles in the respective program. For hotel programs, Cardmembers can convert to three frequent guest programs: InterContinental Hotels Priority Club (1,000 MR points = 800 Priority Club points), Hilton HHonors (1,000 MR points = 900 HHonors points) and Starwood Preferred Guest (1,000 MR points = 500 Star points). Beyond these two main redemption options Membership Rewards points can also be redeemed for American Express Travellers Cheques, gift cards and merchandise.
Features and Benefits
As stated above the American Express Gold Rewards Card comes with an insurance package that competes with all the other high end cards. The card features your standard travel accident, baggage and car rental insurance that are found on almost all fee based rewards cards but it also includes some that are only found on a few select cards. These include, trip interruption insurance, hotel/motel burglary insurance and travel medical insurance
The card also American Express' Front of the Line Service which provides advanced ticket and reserved ticket access to some of Canada's most popular events.
What is good about this card
The earning ability of 2 points per dollar for travel, gas, grocery and drug store spend means that cardmembers, particularly those who travel a lot, will be able to earn points at a much faster rate then many of this card’s competitors. Being totally fee free the first year is a nice perk and by not charging for the first supplementary card each year thereafter actually makes this card cheaper to own over other cards. With a one to one redemption to Aeroplan, the card is also one of the highest earning Aeroplan cards on the market when you take into account the 2 points per dollar feature. A good insurance and benefit package means the cardholder is well covered when travelling in Canada or abroad.
What is not so good about this card
There are only a couple of minor details which may keep some people from getting this card. The first is that it is a charge card, for anyone who runs a balance, this card is not for them as the balance has to be paid off every month. Second, some may say that American Express is not widely accepted like its competitors and while this may be true the current trend has more and more merchants accepting American Express everyday. Third, for some people who travel a lot, the lack of Trip Cancellation insurance may push them to a card that offers this benefit and the peace of mind should they get sick, have a death in the family or lose their employment.
By combining the best features from many of its competitors, the American Express Gold Rewards Card as a whole is a great card. I have had the card in my wallet for a little over two weeks at the time of writing and have used the card quite a bit, particularly on gas and grocery spending and plan on continuing to use it as it will replace my American Express Blue Sky credit card. The card will definitely shake up our Top Travel Rewards Credit Card rankings for 2011 in the Hybrid card category. The higher earning ability, the vast redemption options including the ability to book travel yourself and a nice benefit package make this an above average card in the Canadian travel rewards credit card market.
- American Express Gold Rewards Card (American Express Website)