AMEX Gold Card vs AMEX Blue Cash Preferred
When it comes to earning the biggest return on groceries with American Express, your options come down to two cards: The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred and The AMEX Gold Card. Both cards offer a fantastic return on grocery, but the true question comes down to which card is better? The answer heavily depends on how you plan on redeeming your rewards and how much spend you plan on running through these cards.
Cash Back and Membership Rewards Points
You have several options when redeeming cash back earned with American Express. You can redeem your earnings in the form of a statement credit, for gift cards, or to purchase merchandise. To redeem AMEX cash back, you must have at least $25 in rewards dollars to be able to redeem rewards.
Membership Rewards Points are easily worth 1 cents each, but can be worth more when transferred to their travel partners. Outside of transferring points, they can also be used for a wide variety of other redemptions including airfare, hotels, cruises, retail, statement credits, gift cards, and more.
The AMEX Gold Card features three bonus categories which are U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants, and airfare purchased directly from the airline. The U.S. supermarkets category has a max spend of $25,000 per year in purchases. After that max is hit, you will only earn 1x Membership Rewards Points per $1 spent on supermarket purchases. The other categories on this card have no cap.
The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred features three bonus categories as well which are U.S. supermarkets, department stores, and gas station purchases. The U.S. supermarkets category has a max spend of $6,000 per year in purchases. After that max is hit, you will only earn 1% cash back for the remainder of the year.
For this comparison, I will primarily focus on the shared supermarket category. These calculations also take into account that you can use the full $120 dining credit and $100 airline travel credit the AMEX Gold offers.
|AMEX Gold||Blue Cash Preferred|
|4x Membership Rewards Points||6% Cash Back|
The AMEX Gold Card earns 4 Membership Rewards Points per $1 spent on the first $25,000 in supermarket purchases made during the year. After you hit that cap, you will earn 1 Membership Rewards Point per $1 spent for the remainder of the year. This is an easy return of 4% or higher.
The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card earns 6% cash back per $1 spent on the first $6,000 in supermarket purchases made during the calendar year. After you hit that spend, you will earn 1% cash back in the grocery category for the remainder of the year.
Redeeming Membership Rewards With AMEX
If you plan on redeeming your Membership Rewards Points through American Express (as in not transferring them to partners), you will get a maximum value of 1 cent per point for most redemptions. This would mean you would earn a 4% return using the AMEX Gold and a 6% return with the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred when making supermarket purchases. This puts the Blue Cash Preferred ahead of the Gold Card unless you spend heavy in grocery.
If you spend more than $7,920 per year ($660 per month) in grocery, the AMEX Gold Card will be the better option if you're redeeming Membership Rewards Points at their easy value of 1 cent each. This is because after you pass $6,000 in spend during the calendar year, the Blue Cash Preferred will go from earning 6% down to 1% cash back for the remainder of the year while the AMEX Gold will still earning 4x points up until you reach $25,000 in spend for the year.
That brings up another point: you can use these cards to pick up gift cards from grocery stores and still earn big. Picking up a $100 Staples or Old Navy gift card would still net you an excellent return of 6% cash back or 4x Membership Rewards Points using these cards. This is worth considering if you're trying to pick up cash back or points. Of course, the $25,000 yearly cap on the AMEX Gold Card will take you a lot farther than the $6,000 cap on the Blue Cash Preferred.
Transferring Membership Rewards To Partners
When earning transferable rewards points, the best value will usually come from airline partners and that's the case with Membership Rewards Points. Membership Rewards Points can be transferred to almost 20 different airline frequent programs giving you a good chance at redeeming for a high value. If you plan on redeeming rewards for airline tickets, the AMEX Gold Card will generally be the better option. You can easily get a good value of 1.2 cents to 1.4 cents transferring Membership Rewards Points with little to no research. If you put in the time, you can find redemptions for 2 cents or higher. Generally, the best values will come from first/business class or international travel. For example, a roundtrip flight from Detroit to London on Delta Airlines will cost you a pretty penny.
Those same flights also go for a range of 50,000 to 74,000 Skymiles.
The lowest point value for the days listed is 1.53 cents per point and that's for the $1,320 trip costing only 74,000 Skymiles plus $186 in taxes/fees leaving Thursday the 11th and returning the Tuesday the 23rd. The highest point value is a whopping 6.59 cents per point on the two days that $3,486 flights only cost 50,000 points plus $191 in taxes/fees. If you're earning 4 points per $1 spent with the AMEX Gold, you're looking at a return between 6.13% and 26.36% cents per $1 spent which is a lot more than the 6% the Blue Cash Preferred can earn you.
AMEX Gold's Remaining Categories
|Gold Card Categories|
|Restaurant||4x Membership Rewards Points|
|Airfare||3x Membership Rewards Points|
In addition to earning 4x Membership Rewards Points on supermarket, the AMEX Gold also earns 4x on restaurant purchases and 3x on airfare. The highest amount of cash back you can earn on these purchases is 1.5% cash back with the AMEX Cash Magnet Card. The AMEX Gold Card wins by a land slide when it comes to these two categories even if you redeem the points with AMEX at 1 cent per point.
The AMEX Gold Card, along with the other 9 Membership Rewards Points earning cards, all earn an additional point for purchases made on the American Express Travel portal as well. AMEX's cash back cards will not give you any bonus for these purchases.
Blue Cash Preferred Remaining Categories
|Blue Cash Preferred Categories|
|Department Stores||3% Cash Back|
|Gas Station||3% Cash Back|
The Blue Cash Preferred earns 3% cash back on both department store and gas station purchases. The AMEX Gold Card doesn't feature either of these categories, so you will only be earning 1 point per $1 spent. While the Gold Card is not a good choice, there are a few other Membership Rewards cards that feature the gas station category. You can earn 4x with the AMEX Business Gold, up to 3x points with the Everyday Preferred, and 2x points with the Blue Business Plus Card.
Perks and Benefits
AMEX Gold Benefits
The AMEX Gold Card features monthly and annual benefits that can give the card some really good value. This consists of the $120 Annual Dining Credit and the $100 Airline Credit.
The $120 dining credit featured on the AMEX Gold is split up monthly. Cardholders will receive $10 in credits every month towards the following restaurants:
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Ruth's Chris Steak House
- Shake Shack
Any credits not used during the month will not roll over. The statement credit will applied to the account within a few days. Any spending over the credit will be charged the card as usual.
AMEX Gold Card members will also receive a $100 airline credit annually. Members will need to choose which airline they would like this credit to apply to. Qualifying airlines include:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
After you apply and select your airline, you are able to change your airline once per year in the month of January. Any airline accidentals made with the selected airline will be deducted from the $100 credit over the course of the year. Credits do not roll over to the following year. Accidentals are considered to be purchases such as bag fees, food purchases, seat upgrades and other purchases made with the selected airline that is not part of the original airfare purchase. While technically not considered as accidentals by AMEX, you can also trigger the credit purchasing two $50 Delta Gift Cards (from desktop site) or Southwest gift cards.
Blue Cash Preferred
There are no special perks or benefits specific to the Blue Cash Preferred Card.
Sign Up Bonus
The sign up bonus for the AMEX Gold Card hovers around 40,000 to 50,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of having the card. This has an easy cash value of $400 to $500, but can be transferred to partners for more value. For example, you can use less than half for a one-way trip to London from Detroit on Virgin Atlantic.
The sign up bonus for the Blue Cash Preferred Card hovers around $200 to $250 after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of having this card. You can sometimes get the $250 bonus if you use incognito/private browsing when signing up for the card. Obviously, the sign up bonus requires less spend, but generally has less value than the sign up bonus of the AMEX Gold.
Credit Card Fees
|Fees At A Glance||-||-|
|Authorized User Fee||-||-|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||-||-|
The annual fee for the AMEX Gold Card is $250 annually. If you're able to use all $225 in credits, you're looking at a net fee of only $25. Of course, if you don't normally eat at the places that take the $125 in annual credits, you'd end up spending more money than you normally would. Not including the dining credits, you're looking at a net fee of $150 which can still worth it if you plan on running heavy grocery (or restaurant) spend through the card.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card has an annual fee of $95. You will need to run at least $3,180 in spend per year ($265 per month) for this card to be better than the no annual fee Blue Cash Everyday Card.
Authorized User Fee
There is no fee for adding authorized users to the AMEX Gold Card or AMEX Blue Cash Preferred Card. Adding additional family and friends can help build up points and cash back faster. Since both of these cards feature common everyday categories, I recommend adding users if you can.
Foreign Transaction Fee
The foreign transaction fee for the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred Card is 2.7% while the AMEX Gold Card's is 0%. While you will not get penalized using the AMEX Gold Card overseas, it's categories are strictly tied to U.S. restaurants and supermarkets meaning you will earn no more than 1 point shopping in these categories outside of the United States. Both cards are not ideal for international travel. For restaurants you should consider the Barclays Uber Card. As for grocery, a flat rate 1.5% earning card with no foreign transaction fee like the Quicksilver would be the best choice.
You can use this rewards calculator to calculate how many points, miles, or cash back you can earn based on your spend per category for both cards. This calculator will also give you the dollar value of the cards based on rewards earned and how much each benefit is worth to you minus the fees.
All category spend entered in the first column will carry over to all credit card pages on the site. This means you don't have to re-enter the same information over again. You can use the Copy functions under the Options menu within the Categories & Bonuses section.
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