If you’re looking for a new card, you may find yourself struggling to justify a hefty annual fee on a premium card but dissatisfied with the lower number of perks on most mid-tier cards. It can feel impossible to find a perfect “in-between” card.
And you’re not imagining it. There just aren’t many cards that fit into the area between the two tiers. However, one card offers the perfect “in-between” balance — the American Express® Gold Card.
With a lower annual fee (see rates and fees) than premium credit cards but benefits and bonus categories that outshine most mid-tier cards, the Amex Gold may be the “just right” card you’re looking for.
Related: Premium vs. mid-tier credit cards
Premium credit cards: Too much?
The “premium” label is fitting for cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express that come with significant perks but also high annual fees.
Annual fee: $395-$695 (see Amex Platinum rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: $1,000 or more in value, according to TPG valuations. However, generally not much higher than mid-tier welcome offers.
Earning: Over 3% returns on travel or other common bonus categories.
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Pros of premium credit cards: These cards have long lists of perks and benefits like elite status, airport lounge access, travel credits and insurance as well as increased bonus-earning categories. If you can maximize the value of these benefits, you’ll find that the perks far outweigh the cost of an annual fee for a premium card.
Cons of premium credit cards: Premium cards have high annual fees and somewhat limited bonus-earning categories. Since they don’t have substantially higher welcome offers than other cards, you need to ensure you’ll maximize a premium card’s perks and benefits to justify paying its annual fee. This means that in addition to the higher out-of-pocket cost, carrying one of these cards incurs the higher mental burden of keeping track of and redeeming all its perks.
Verdict: A premium credit card is a worthwhile investment for anyone who travels enough to maximize the card’s benefits. However, you may find that the annual fee and work required to maximize the card’s benefits are too high for your current lifestyle.
Mid-tier credit cards: Not enough?
“Mid-tier” is a label we give cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and American Express® Green Card that fall between beginner and premium cards. They carry a reasonable annual fee and have decent welcome bonuses and earning structures. They have some perks but far fewer than what you’ll get with premium cards.
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual fee: Around $100, sometimes waived for the first year.
Welcome bonus: $1,000 or more in value, according to TPG valuations.
Earning: 2%-4% returns on common bonus categories such as travel, dining, groceries and gas.
Pros of mid-tier credit cards: These cards generally offer a solid welcome bonus and have a relatively low annual fee. They also have broader bonus-earning categories like groceries, dining and streaming, giving you more opportunities to earn on your everyday spending.
Verdict: Mid-tier cards are great for anyone who wants to earn on everyday expenses, keep their annual fee costs low and still have some perks like travel insurance. However, anyone looking for luxury travel perks may find these cards lacking.
Amex Gold: Just right?
The shiny gold or rose gold look is just the first of many reasons to love this card. With an annual fee and list of perks that fall squarely between “mid-tier” and “premium,” the American Express Gold Card is a favorite for a reason.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees).
Welcome bonus: Currently, new applicants can receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations) after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership. You could also be targeted for an offer from 75,000 points with the same spending requirement through the CardMatch tool or via a referral link (offer subject to change at any time).
Earning: This card is a foodie’s dream come true, earning 4 points per dollar at restaurants and 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar). It also earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and through Amex Travel and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Pros of the Amex Gold card: On top of its impressive earnings on dining and U.S. supermarket purchases, this card comes with up to $240 in annual credits. You’ll get a $10 monthly dining credit when you use your Gold card to pay for eligible dining purchases as well as a $10 monthly Uber Cash credit when you use your card to pay for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. If you’re able to maximize these credits, your net annual fee cost will be just $10. Enrollment is required.
Cons of the Amex Gold card: The perfect in-between card for some is still too much or not enough for others. If you want to keep your annual fee costs low and won’t maximize the credits on this card, you may be better off with a mid-tier card with a lower annual fee. At the same time, those who travel frequently and look for perks like elite status and airport lounge access in a card will be disappointed with the Amex Gold.
Verdict: The Amex Gold is a great fit for anyone who wants more benefits and earnings than most mid-tier cards but doesn’t want to keep track of all the extras that come with a premium card. Foodies and frequent flyers alike will be pleased with the earnings structure and monthly credits this card offers, but of course, no card is perfect for everyone.
For more on whether this card is a good fit for you, check out our full review of the Amex Gold.
If you want better benefits and earnings than most mid-tier cards offer but are fine with skipping elite status and high annual fees, the Amex Gold is the perfect “in-between” card. Valuable credits and an impressive return on dining, supermarket and flight purchases, along with an annual fee that won’t break the bank, make this a card even Goldilocks would be happy with.
Apply here: American Express Gold Card
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor and Ethan Steinberg.