The American Express Gold Card has to be one of the more popular cards in the miles and points community. For starters, it has great bonus categories such as 4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants and 4X at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year).
It also comes with a welcome bonus of between 35,000 and 50,000 Membership Rewards points. The offer varies but, if you time it right, you can get the higher offer. With a minimum spend of $4,000, it’s manageable for most people.
For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to assume that you’ll spend $2,000 on groceries and dining out which will get you halfway to the minimum spend for 8,000 points. The remaining $2,000 will be on non-bonus categories so you’ll earn 1X points or 2,000 additional points for a total of 10,000 for points earned with spending.
This will leave you with 60,000 Membership Rewards points and that’s the basis for today’s look at how to use the Amex Gold Card’s welcome bonus.
Let’s get into it!
If 60,000 Membership Rewards points suddenly fell in my lap, I know exactly what I’d do! I might sound like a broken record, but the two places I travel to the most are Europe and Israel. Luckily for me, one of Amex’s transfer partners is Flying Blue which is Air France/KLM’s combined frequent flyer program.
The program has strange region definitions and considers Israel to be a part of Europe. There’s no award chart per se, but we know based on experience that the lowest award to Europe or Israel should be 53,000 Flying Blue miles.
Flying to Israel in business class is my preferred trip and will require a connection either in Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS) airports because the award space on the non-stop flights from the U.S. to Israel in business class is hard to come by.
Surcharges are a bit steep at around 200 euro per person, but 53,000 miles to Israel in business class is an amazing redemption.
And I’ll have 7,000 Amex points left over that I can transfer to Delta and use to book a short domestic economy flight. Or better yet, I’ll wait till Delta has one of its frequent award sales.
The Amex Gold Card is one of my favorite cards. It has a permanent home in my wallet, mostly for 4X Membership Rewards at grocery stores. If you’re looking to add the American Express Gold Card to your lineup, you’ll be welcomed with a 60,000-point bonus, which is a great start on building a large Membership Rewards balance.
I’ve been itching to travel to South America, and Argentina specifically. I’d transfer 60,000 points to Aeroplan and book a round trip ticket to Argentina. I’d really be hoping to fly nonstop on United out of my home airport of Houston, but don’t be surprised if the routing takes you up to Canada to fly on Air Canada first.
Taxes and fees are fairly modest, starting at $5.60 on the flight to Argentina and $85.85 for the return.
Getting to fly nonstop for a long-haul international trip with only one credit card bonus? Sign me up!
I’m a bit of an oddball when it comes to selecting destinations because I don’t always go for the traditional choices.
Anna mentioned Flying Blue’s quirky country grouping with Israel being considered Europe. Sounds surprising, right? You might be even more surprised to hear that Algeria and Tunisia also fall into that mileage region for Flying Blue, which makes for some interesting redemptions.
I searched for flight options from Salt Lake City to both Algiers (ALG) and Tunis (TUN) and found itineraries for as low as 29,000 miles each way in economy class. Now that’s a deal I’m willing to book!
A welcome bonus on the American Express Gold Card along with point multipliers on the bonus spending categories will get me enough points to fly to one of these African countries on one award ticket. In case I’m short on miles, I can transfer Citi ThankYou Points or more Membership Rewards earned with another card to make up the difference.
Air France and KLM cover quite a bit of the world, including countries that are former colonies, and their joint frequent-flyer program presents a lot of opportunities to explore many off-the-beaten-path destinations for someone looking for unique experiences.
I’m guessing most of us had at least one 2020 trip planned that never materialized, and for me, that was a trip to Egypt. I have been fascinated by Egyptian history for years, and I was excited to get the chance to see it up close while staying at some of the country’s beautiful points hotels, including the Marriott Mena House Cairo and the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so with 60,000 Membership Rewards points, a major priority for me would be recreating my itinerary once it’s safe to do so. One of the best ways to get from the U.S. to Egypt on points and miles is via Paris on Air France, whose points program, Flying Blue, is an American Express transfer partner.
Flying Blue uses dynamic pricing for its award tickets, meaning you never know what prices you’ll find when you do a search. However, it does give one handy piece of info—it provides a lower boundary for how much a flight between two cities might cost in miles.
From the West Coast, where I live, that’s 34,000 miles one-way, plus taxes and fees. And while actually finding a flight at that floor price is no guarantee, I know it’s possible since I’ve already done it once before!
Of course, a 34,000-mile one-way means that I’d need 68,000 Flying Blue miles to complete the round trip, so if I were starting from zero, the Gold Card welcome bonus wouldn’t quite cover it. Luckily, you can also transfer to Flying Blue from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy, and I happen to have points in all of those programs I could use to top up.
Being Boston based, one thing I get to take advantage of a lot is using Delta miles to fly domestically or to the United Kingdom. With 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, I could fly round trip to London for 50,000 Delta Skymiles flying their partner Virgin Atlantic and have 10,000 miles leftover to fly one way to Orlando, something I’m itching to do. These are both itineraries I’m looking at and excited to book when I’m ready to travel again.
One tricky thing with Delta is they generally charge an excise tax of $.006 per mile transferred from American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta Skymiles. But because of the pandemic, American Express is waiving these fees through December 31, 2020. Just in time to book something for 2021!
So, if I had 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, I’d definitely be preparing myself to book something over to Europe as soon as I had the opportunity to fly there safely and legally.
Final Thoughts on the Amex Gold Welcome Bonus
I often say points are only as good as your ability to use them. With Amex Membership Rewards points, you’ll have tons of airline transfer partners that can help you reach just about anywhere in the world. So, yeah, these points are worth quite a bit.
As you can see from the examples above, just 60,000 Amex points can help you book some pretty sweet travel whether to Africa, Europe, or South America. It’s just a matter of figuring out what trip you want to take next!
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