Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The American Express Gold Rewards Card: How does it stack up?

Over the last five to seven years, there has been an emerging trend in the travel loyalty industry when it comes to credit card rewards. It used to be that credit cards were strictly tied into another provider’s loyalty program – or what they call in the industry a co-brand card. These cards, such as those tied into a frequent flyer program, meant you had to keep your loyalty in one program and had no flexibility in choosing how you would like to be rewarded.

With the advent of travel anywhere credit cards, flexibility is the new rewards reality. You’ve seen the ads – “any airline, anytime.” The explosive emergence of these cards would make you think that they all offer the same value. This, however, is not the case. When you look at all the cards in the Travel Points and Hybrid* categories of our latest rankings and how you can be rewarded with each one, you’d be surprised at how different the cards can be.

The primary difference lies in the flexibility the cards offer in terms of redeeming the points or miles you have earned. The American Express Gold Rewards Card is among the most flexible cards in its category, and one of my favourites. Why do I consider the American Express Gold Rewards to be one of the most flexible in its class? Here’s a re-cap:

1. With the TripFlex option, you do not need the full amount of points to redeem for a flight or other travel – you can start at as little as $10 all the way up to the entire amount, right down to the cents.

2. You can book your travel with who you want, when you want, where you want. You can even be on your vacation, put a tour on your card and redeem your points for that charge when you get back from your vacation. The good news for mileage hounds and points junkies is that your bookings are your standard revenue tickets and hotel stays – which means you can still earn frequent flyer miles and frequent guest points while continuing to build up your elite status qualification

3. You have up to 12 months after the charge posts to your account to redeem your points towards it.

4. There is no set reward chart that you have to follow when redeeming for flights, which allows you to redeem the least amount of points possible. Programs that have set reward charts have a maximum ticket price level, and if your ticket does not reach it, you still have to redeem the set amount of points.

5. You are not limited to flights. You can book any travel to redeem your points against whether it is air travel, hotels, car rentals, rail, cruises and more.

See how the Gold Rewards stacks up against the competition:

RBC Avion Visa: You have to book 14 days out to get the best redemption rate and the travel has to be booked through RBC.

Capital One Aspire World MasterCard: You have to the have the full amount of points to redeem against the charge on your card

BMO World Elite MasterCard: To redeem you have to book travel via BMO Elite Rewards and if you book over the phone you are charged a booking fee.

MBNA Travel Platinum MasterCard: You have a set reward chart and only 22 cities in Canada that you can depart from for flights.

CIBC Aventura Visa/MasterCard: You have to book via CIBC’s travel agency and there are only a select amount of redemptions available at their lowest redemption levels

Most other travel points credit cards force you to redeem via their own travel agency and do not allow you to book travel anywhere which typically means you have to redeem before you travel with no option of redeeming afterwards.

Click here to learn more about the American Express Gold Rewards Card,

* "A Hybrid card is a combination of an airline and/or hotel card and a travel points card. You can convert your points to airline or hotel frequent travel programs or use the points to book travel via the credit card's travel agency or with some cards to book travel how you want and then redeem the points against the charge on your account."


  1. The feature you describe seems very similar to what I get with my TD First Class Visa. How does the cashback rate compare?

    Also, from what I understand the Amex has the added benefit of allowing a transfer of points into a range of FFPs, including Aeroplan, no?

    This way, one actually has the best of both worlds (flexible redemption or access to FFP's low-priced rewards).

  2. That is correct, you can transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan, 1:0.75 to British Airways, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific & Delta plus you can also convert to various frequent guest points.

    Cash back rate for Membership Reward points is 1 points = 0.50 statement credit (travel is definitely the better option!)

    1. Redemption against travel charges on the Amex is 50c for every point?? I don't understand how that's possible that's a 50% rate. It's really hard to actually find the redemption rate on Amex's site, I guess they want to keep it a big secret. I did find this "There is a minimum redemption requirement of 1,000 points for a $10 credit and redemptions" which is easy math, that's 1% cash back for regular purchases and on double points purchases (gas, grocery and drugstore, travel) that's 2% cash back. So depending on your spending habits probably around 1.5% or slightly higher. Had a look at the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card below and it's 3x points on almost all purchases with 9x on travel charges booked through Expedia for TD. Most will be at 3x so that works out to 1.5% with a slightly lower annual fee ($120 vs $150) and Visa usable everywhere vs Amex sometimes not accepted. Very similar programs, I guess it depends on your habits for which is better.

  3. hi, you don't mention the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card in your comparison above. What are your thoughts on the TD card? I like the fact you can redeem pts for anything not just flighs. thanks

  4. The TD First Class is very similar in regards to the Amex Gold Rewards Card, both of them offer the most flexibility in redeeming as both cards you can redeem for flights, hotels, car rentals, you name it. The one area the Amex is slightly better then the TD is that you only need 1,000 points to redeem for $10 versus TDs 10,000 to redeem for $50. In terms of base spending, not including bonuses or multipliers you have to spend $1000 on the Amex and $3333 on the TD to be able to redeem at the lowest amount. Not a huge deal in the end for the people who use these types of cards