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The New American Express Gold Rewards Card: Lounge Access, Travel Credits, and More

In July 2021, the American Express Gold Rewards Card was temporarily discontinued, and was poised to be reborn at an unspecified future date.

Today, we’re learning about all the details of the refreshed Gold Rewards Card here in Canada.

Rose Gold is coming, new perks are being added, and the changes are strictly positive despite an increase to the annual fee. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the future holds for one of the most iconic products in American Express’s lineup.

Changes Coming October 18, 2021

For existing cardholders, the upcoming changes to the Gold Rewards Card will kick in as of October 18, 2021. 

Currently, the Gold Rewards Card is closed to new applicants. The card will reopen to new applications shortly, with a waitlist and an associated welcome incentive to be launched in the coming weeks.

Metal Card + Rose Gold Card

The new Gold Rewards Card will be a metal card in the signature gold colour. Existing cardholders will be issued a new metal card upon their current card’s expiry – or if they were to “lose” their current card. 

What’s more, new applicants to the Gold Rewards Card upon its relaunch will have the ability to choose a distinctive Rose Gold colour in addition to the traditional Gold finish. The rollout of Rose Gold will be expanded to existing cardholders in early 2022. 

Annual Fee Increasing to $250

With this round of changes, the American Express Gold Rewards Card will be raising its annual fee from $150 to $250 for the year.

For existing cardholders, the $250 annual fee will be charged on their first cardholder anniversary date on or after October 18, 2021.

However, this will be offset by a $100 statement credit that posts on the same date, ensuring that all existing cardholders get to enjoy the new card’s elevated benefits for at least one year’s time while still paying a $150 annual fee before deciding whether to keep the card at a $250 annual fee. 

A 67% increase to the annual fee is necessarily bad news, right? Wrong, because it’s entirely offset by…

New $100 Annual Travel Credit

The Gold Rewards Card will offer a $100 annual travel credit, similar to the $200 annual travel credit offered on its premium counterpart, the Platinum Card. 

The $100 annual travel credit can be redeemed towards any booking of $100 or more through the Amex Travel online portal, including flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

Since the travel credit also applies to refundable bookings, it’s effectively as good as cash, and it reduces your net annual fee back down to $150 in future years. 

Existing cardholders will be issued their first $100 annual travel credit on their next anniversary on or after October 18, 2021, at the same time that the higher $250 annual fee is charged for the first time (and a $100 statement credit gets posted for the first year). 

That means that existing cardholders can enjoy at least one year of continued usage on the Gold Rewards Card while only paying a $50 net fee, significantly sweetening the deal during this transition period.

New $50 NEXUS Credit

In addition to the $100 annual travel credit, the Gold Rewards Card is also introducing a $50 statement credit on NEXUS purchases.

You’ll earn a $50 (CAD) statement credit once every four years when a NEXUS application or renewal fee is charged to the card. Since the NEXUS application or renewal fee is $50 (USD), this means that you’d still be on the hook for about $15 thanks to the exchange rate.

A NEXUS credit is a common feature on travel rewards credit cards, and you’ll also find similar credits on other cards in the market like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite or the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite. 

Plaza Premium Lounge Visits + Priority Pass Membership

The American Express Gold Rewards Card will be adding airport lounge access to its suite of travel perks. 

Cardholders will receive four complimentary visits to Plaza Premium lounges in Canada every year, allowing you to make use of the Plaza Premium Lounges in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Edmonton – as well as the Air France Business Lounge in Montreal, which is managed by Plaza Premium. 

In addition, cardholders also receive complimentary membership with Priority Pass, although no free lounge visits are included; instead, every admission to a Priority Pass lounge will be subject to the prevailing rate of US$32 per visit. 

This is a weaker Priority Pass benefit compared to, say, the Platinum Card or the Business Platinum Card, which provide unlimited access to Priority Pass’s 1,200+ lounges around the world.

Still, with Priority Pass and Plaza Premium severing ties, the Gold Rewards Card’s stronger lounge access benefits on the Plaza Premium side does make a lot of sense, given Plaza Premium’s robust presence across Canadian airports.

Trip Cancellation Insurance

As a travel credit card, the previous edition of the Gold Rewards Cards had a notable weakness in that it lacked trip cancellation insurance.

That weakness is being addressed as part of the card’s relaunch, with trip cancellation insurance being added to the card’s insurance package as of September 21, 2021. The coverage will be up to $1,500 per insured person, per trip, up to a maximum of $3,000 for all insured persons combined. 

Trip cancellation supplements the card’s existing provisions:

  • Out-of-province emergency medical insurance
  • Lost or stolen baggage insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip interruption insurance
  • $500,000 travel accident insurance
  • Flight delay insurance
  • Hotel burglary insurance
  • Car rental theft and damage insurance

Earning Rates Staying the Same

While it had been speculated that the Gold Rewards Card’s earning rates may change in light of recent adjustments to the Cobalt Card, they will in fact be staying the same:

  • 2 MR points per dollar spent on travel, gas, groceries, and drugstores
  • 1 MR point per dollar spent on all other purchases

How Good Is the New Gold Rewards Card?

Just how much value will the new American Express Gold Rewards Card offer, and where does it fit in among American Express’s overall personal card lineup?

Compared to the previous edition of the product, the increased annual fee of $250 (up from $150) and the new $100 annual travel credit essentially cancel each other out. If you pay the higher annual fee and maximize the travel credit, you’re right back where you started having paid $150 out-of-pocket.

On the bright side, that means that the upcoming changes to the Gold Rewards Card can be viewed as strictly positive, because we’re getting an additional quadrennial $50 NEXUS credit, four Plaza Premium lounge visits per year, and trip cancellation insurance without any increase to the net annual fee.

However, with no changes to the earning rates, the new Gold Rewards Card does still appear to be weaker than the Cobalt Card, which commands a similar annual fee once you factor in the Gold Rewards Card’s annual travel credit ($150 net annual fee vs. $156.88 annual fee on the Cobalt).

The Cobalt’s 5-3-2-1 earning structure (including 5x points on food and drinks) blows the Gold Rewards Card’s 2x categories out of the water, especially now that the Cobalt earns points that can also be transferred to airline partners.

Going forward, it appears that the Cobalt Card is very much positioned as the perfect card for Canadian travellers looking to optimize their return on daily spend, while the Gold Rewards Card is more of a hybrid travel card that offers a travel credit, lounge passes, NEXUS credits every four years, and stronger travel insurance.

Conclusion

The American Express Gold Rewards Card will be undergoing significant changes as of October 18, 2021. The card will soon reopen to new applications once again, and I’d certainly love to see a strong signup bonus to celebrate the relaunch. 

The card will be increasing its annual fee by $100, which is exactly offset by a new $100 travel credit. In addition, we’re getting Plaza Premium lounge access, NEXUS credits, and trip cancellation insurance, along with a shiny metallic finish in either Gold or Rose Gold.

While I’m pleased to see that the much-anticipated changes to the Amex Gold are strictly positive, I do feel like it’s a bit of a missed opportunity for American Express to spruce up the card even more – perhaps with stronger earning rates (like its US counterpart’s 4x points on worldwide dining).

Then again, it may be because American Express has set the bar so high with all of their moves so far in 2021 that I feel somewhat mellow about these changes, and I’m sure a juicy welcome bonus on the refreshed product will leave me feeling golden. 

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28 Comments
  1. Daniel

    Hi Ricky. Do we know how this affect Gold cards that are issued as supplemental to Platinum card holder?

  2. Joel

    Is it a “credit card” or a “charge card”? No option to carry a balance on a charge card but a good way to stay out of debt. Amex definitely want their customers to pay interest $$$

    1. Ricky YVR

      It’ll remain a charge card.

  3. Santiago

    Will existing Cardholders receive four complimentary visits to Plaza Premium lounges ?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes, as of October 18.

  4. MichaelK

    Earning rate needs to improve for me to keep this card given I have the Plat, Aeroplan Reserve and Cobalt. Was waiting to see what the new offer was before making a decision, nothing worth the wait given the earn rates on Cobalt and the new $100 credit for Nexus on Plat

  5. Daniel

    Thanks for the update. Do you know what is happening with the BUSINESS Amex Gold? I have one and the 3 preferred vendor program will be discontinued soon as you’ve reported. TIA

    1. Ricky YVR

      No confirmed updates at this time but I’d expect to see more changes to that card soon too.

  6. John

    The lounge pass is weak. Calgary doesn’t even have a plaza premium lounge absolutely crap compare to lounge key and priority pass which works in almost every lounge. Very sad American Express.

  7. Diego

    I wish that the Plaza Premium Lounge access was for all PP lounges as there are some great PP lounges outside of Canada, and it would be great to be able to access the lounge on the way back from an international trip as well.

  8. Matthew

    Any idea if the Platinum card is next up for some changes? It would be nice to see no FX fees, the mobile insurance and maybe the Nexus.

  9. CM

    Any idea if the supplementary card(s) will still be free? Or is there going to be a change to those as well?

    I am still contemplating if the new and improved card will work for me.

    Thanks.

  10. Kenny

    For those (including myself) who had cancelled the gold card within the past few months, and now given this is being billed as a new product launch; if I were to apply again would I be eligible for the WB?

    1. Joshua

      The card is not a bad proposition overall for 150 dollars. Still don’t understand the purpose of this card in lieu of the new cobalt’s earning and transfer ratios though. Guess the four plaza premium passes will lure some, but you can get four free passes with the Cibc Aventura for free.

    2. Wayne Williams

      As I live in Europe (spain) I struggle to find retail outlets who accept the card thus reward points are scarce. The increase in yearly fee is a real deterent…I need to rethink as I also have a supplement card

      1. AG

        Great review, one thing I noted was that of my four Amex cards, the Gold (I have the CPA) offered both the most, and most relevant special offers. I saved a bunch on this card which was free as a CPA, to subsidize fees on others…this value point is sometimes missed. I would love to know how Amex allocates these offers amongst cards.

  11. DM

    I agree with the sentiments that the updates are disappointing, especially with the earnings rate. So many cards come with the NEXUS fee credit that it’s not a differentiating factor anyway and it’s only applicable once in 4 years – WOW. I am glad I convinced my wife to take up the upgrade offer to Platinum earlier this summer. The platinum card, in it’s current form, is providing substantially high value already and we are yet to use it at any airport or hotel!

  12. BG

    Any news for business gold? Now that 2x plastic is canceled?

    1. Oslerscodes

      Just looking fo clarification on the plastiq changes. I keep my Business Gold exclusively for plastiq and annual fee is approaching. Your comment seems to indicate that it is changing but the sentence ends in a question mark.

    2. Ricky YVR

      I’m expecting some meaningful changes to the business version at some point in the not-too-distant future as well.

  13. CT

    What about signing up bonus MR? Are there MR points for new applications later?
    My wife’s Gold card just expired a few days ago, and I see in her account 2500 MR points automatically added with a $150 annual fee, retention bonus points I guess!

    1. Ricky YVR

      The signup bonus is yet to be announced. I’m hopeful that the card can somewhat mitigate these mellow changes by setting a new standard for signup bonuses – say 60,000 or 75,000 MR points for the $250 annual fee price point? I certainly can’t see it being lower than the Cobalt’s 50K, and if it is, that speaks volumes about which product American Express is choosing to emphasize more.

  14. Tammy

    Hmmmmm. Disappointed. I have the AMEX platinum and was keeping the AMEX Gold because my children (under 18) were additional card holders. The 2X groceries, gas and drug stores was also a key selling point for me. Will definitely have to think this one through. Thanks Ricky for the thorough analysis.

  15. Santiago

    My worry is about the Platinum AF being increased soon

  16. EH

    You can enjoy the same fee you’re currently paying for the first year. Your annual fee will be increasing to $250 on your next Cardmembership anniversary date on or after October 18, 2021. We want you to experience all that your new Card has to offer for the same fee you currently pay by issuing you a statement credit after your annual fee of $250 is billed. This means for the first year, you will enjoy the updated American Express Gold Rewards Card for the same fee as today.
    I am a bit confused. Does it mean AMEX will issue an additional $100 statement credit (not travel credit) to offset the increased annual fee for the first year?

  17. steve

    Absolute crap. This is the best they could come up with? No increased earning rate – a complete joke. Keep in mind that NEXUS is so far behind it will take forever to catch up to get you into an interview. I’ll be cancelling upon renewal. I will wait to see what the Plat card overhaul will be before deciding on that one.

    1. Ezequiel

      Same thoughts. Will cancel and get Cobalt. The earning rate is just a joke.

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