Confusing Nature of MR Points and Benefits of Gold Card

Old Apr 4, 19, 9:39 am
  #1  
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Confusing Nature of MR Points and Benefits of Gold Card

I feel like there needs to be a discussion about how confusing Amex needlessly makes their rewards and benefits in comparison to other issuers. I'm outlining the Gold card below, but it's similar for the Platinum card.

Amex Gold
  • 4x points on restaurants and groceries (so long as you spend less than $25k on groceries) - simple
  • 3x points on travel - But wait, only airline tickets booked direct with an airline and hotels booked through their travel portal. Useless for anyone pursuing hotel status
  • $120 dining credit - Available at a few restaurants that are pretty common, but wait only $10 a month, use it or lose it.
  • $100 airline credit - Good on pretty much any airline, but wait, you must pick the airline and then it's only on incidentals. They may as well make this a $10 a month too for further confusion
MR Point Redemptions
  • Cash back - NO
  • Pay for specific transactions on your bill - Yes, however it's $0.006 per point so your 4 points per dollar on eating out becomes 2.5% back, travel becomes 1.8% back
  • Shop through Amex - You can buy stuff through their shopping portal, but again, a terrible value
  • Pay for Uber - Yes, actually $0.01 per point so less terrible, but most other banks offer a direct $0.01 conversion per point just to get cash back
  • Pay for Travel - Yes, but again terrible value
  • THE ONLY GOOD VALUE - Transfer points to a travel partner. You'll need to do a lot of research to learn which programs offer the best value in flying you to a particular destination and then transfer points to fly in a J or F cabin. With this you can often get a couple cents per point of value, but it's also tough to find the flight on the date and time that you're looking for.
So for a $250 annual fee you effectively pay $30 after remembering to eat at one of the restaurants they support each month and using the confusing $100 incidental credit. In my case I enjoy Shake Shack, but would I be there every month if not for the credit? Probably not, so there's some extra cost associated with that.

This is all to say, the gold card only seems to be a decent deal if you spend a lot and really value the MR transfer partners. Otherwise it seems like a card with a bunch of gotchas that for most people who don't learn all the intricacies of the benefits would probably be better off with a no fee double cash back card. The card is simply needlessly complicated, they need to get with the program and look at what Chase does with the CSR and CSP cards, benefits that can be explained in less than a minute.So for a $250 annual fee you effectively pay $30 after remembering to eat at one of the restura
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Old Apr 4, 19, 9:45 am
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post
Otherwise it seems like a card with a bunch of gotchas that for most people who don't learn all the intricacies of the benefits would probably be better off with a no fee double cash back card.
You've described functionally every "premium" card. Some cards, particularly the Plat, can easily provide thousands in value for the right spending patterns. If your spending profile doesn't get enough value from your Gold card, you would be better off with a different card.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 9:52 am
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Originally Posted by Beltway2A View Post
You've described functionally every "premium" card. Some cards, particularly the Plat, can easily provide thousands in value for the right spending patterns. If your spending profile doesn't get enough value from your Gold card, you would be better off with a different card.
Sure, that's why I mention the Chase cards since they also appeal to someone who eats out and travels at least a few times a year. With my CSR it's simple, any sort of travel and dining earns 3x points. If I want cash that's $0.01 per point, if I want to book travel through their Expedia portal, that's $0.015 per point. Super simple.

Like I said, the main benefits of the Chase cards can be described in less than a minute, the Amex benefits need an hour so you can outline the specifics.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 10:05 am
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If that works for you, great. Others of us get a lot of value from programs that Amex offers and Chase does not.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 10:57 am
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post

This is all to say, the gold card only seems to be a decent deal if you spend a lot and really value the MR transfer partners.
This has always been so for all Amex Membership Rewards cards. The exception is the Platinum, which gives you a lot of perks that have little to do with spending.

It seems like you are interested in cashback more than anything else - if so, Chase's travel portal is a good deal. I almost never book through travel portals of any kind, so personally I find the Chase structure less appealing (though transferring to United, Hyatt, Southwest, Jetblue, Flying Blue are attractive)

EDIT - One final thing to note is that the Charles Schwab Platinum allows all Membership Rewards points to be redeemed for cash at 1.25 cents per point.
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Last edited by Adelphos; Apr 4, 19 at 11:03 am
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Old Apr 4, 19, 11:00 am
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post
Sure, that's why I mention the Chase cards since they also appeal to someone who eats out and travels at least a few times a year. With my CSR it's simple, any sort of travel and dining earns 3x points. If I want cash that's $0.01 per point, if I want to book travel through their Expedia portal, that's $0.015 per point. Super simple.

Like I said, the main benefits of the Chase cards can be described in less than a minute, the Amex benefits need an hour so you can outline the specifics.
Also, you should look into the Capital One Savor (4% cash back on dining and entertainment) and Uber Visa (4% cash back on dining, 3% cashback on travel)
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Old Apr 4, 19, 12:42 pm
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Doesn’t the 3x rewards on the CSR only kick in after you’ve exhausted the $300 credit? I was thinking about a CSR, because I easily spend $300 on tolls, parking, and Uber over the course of a year just living life, but if I don’t accrue points until I’ve spent the $300 credit that makes things a little more murky.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 12:46 pm
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Originally Posted by Adelphos View Post
It seems like you are interested in cashback more than anything else - if so, Chase's travel portal is a good deal.
Not really - I've been using my CSR for a couple years and have always transferred points if there was an award travel deal available or used the travel portal. The flexibility of having the travel portal as the fallback (with a solid 1.5 cents per point value) is a big plus.

That's really my point, Amex has loads of things that I really like, the benefits as a whole, the idea of travel credits and uber credits, however they're all so restricted in the ways you can use them. If they came out tomorrow and said the MR points can now be used in their portal for 1.5 cpp, cashback at 1 cpp, and all the credits they offer like Uber and travel lost all the silly restrictions, I'd be all about it.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 12:54 pm
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Originally Posted by surfmonkey89 View Post
Doesnít the 3x rewards on the CSR only kick in after youíve exhausted the $300 credit? I was thinking about a CSR, because I easily spend $300 on tolls, parking, and Uber over the course of a year just living life, but if I donít accrue points until Iíve spent the $300 credit that makes things a little more murky.
Yes - however it's really a travel card. If you're not at least travelling a couple times a year then it wouldn't be the ideal card.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:04 pm
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post
.... travel portal as the fallback (with a solid 1.5 cents per point value) is a big plus......
When is $0.015 not really $0.015? When the portal prices are inflated:

Originally Posted by Happy View Post
My recent experiences with the "Chase Ultimate Reward powered by Expedia" show a few things that we all need to be aware

1) the inventory is NOT identical to Expedia.
2) the pricing almost always is 10 to 15% higher on international stuff - be it hotels or airline tickets. Domestic stuff the padding is commonly at 5% sometimes there is none.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post
Like I said, the main benefits of the Chase cards can be described in less than a minute, the Amex benefits need an hour so you can outline the specifics.
That's a bittt hyperbolic. An hour? How long did your post take?

Amex cards, and I'd say the MR ecosystem, are a bit more effort and require more knowledge to optimize than Chase cards and the UR system. I'm not going to disagree with you on that, but I'd say that there is a lot of potential value upside in the Amex corner. The benefits and credits are more YMMV when it comes to easily getting value out of them, there is no easy travel portal or cash back, and some of the transfer partners need a bit of thinking, but depending on your travel and spending habits can be a better value.

I'm flying r/t from the US to Asia in biz later this month on EVA, ANA, and back Asiana for 95k MR points. You can't do that with UR transfer partners. You just can't. You find the Gold card to be a hassle, I find it to be a Gold Mine of MR points. To each their own... and I say that as somebody with as many Chase cards as Amex cards
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:25 pm
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Originally Posted by mia View Post
When is $0.015 not really $0.015? When the portal prices are inflated:
First, I call BS on there being a difference. That poster seems to be using a very small sample size and isn't actually comparing to Expedia (read their previous posts) except in one instance when they were comparing pretax costs at a hotel, they should get the after tax prices and compare.

Second, if there is a 10% discount we're still at 0.0136 cents per point compared to Amex at half of that.

Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
That's a bittt hyperbolic. An hour? How long did your post take?

Amex cards, and I'd say the MR ecosystem, are a bit more effort and require more knowledge to optimize than Chase cards and the UR system. I'm not going to disagree with you on that, but I'd say that there is a lot of potential value upside in the Amex corner. The benefits and credits are more YMMV when it comes to easily getting value out of them, there is no easy travel portal or cash back, and some of the transfer partners need a bit of thinking, but depending on your travel and spending habits can be a better value.

I'm flying r/t from the US to Asia in biz later this month on EVA, ANA, and back Asiana for 95k MR points. You can't do that with UR transfer partners. You just can't. You find the Gold card to be a hassle, I find it to be a Gold Mine of MR points. To each their own... and I say that as somebody with as many Chase cards as Amex cards
I totally agree that there's a lot of upside with Amex on the travel partners, but that's all they have going for them as far as MR goes. If you're not maximizing the value of your points on a transpacific flight in an upper cabin, you're really losing. You have to spend in certain ways (through their portal for hotels), make sure to use your food or uber credit each month, and then redeem your points for those tickets, otherwise it's a bad deal.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:31 pm
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Originally Posted by mia View Post
When is $0.015 not really $0.015? When the portal prices are inflated:
I've also noticed this.. Everytime I find a flight for ~$350 I say to myself "let's use all these URs and redeem them for 1.5 cpp!". Go to the Chase portal, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand: same flights don't appear and only see options of $700+.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:35 pm
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Originally Posted by surfmonkey89 View Post
Doesnít the 3x rewards on the CSR only kick in after youíve exhausted the $300 credit? I was thinking about a CSR, because I easily spend $300 on tolls, parking, and Uber over the course of a year just living life, but if I donít accrue points until Iíve spent the $300 credit that makes things a little more murky.
You do get 3% on dining all the time, even if you haven't used up your travel credit. I exhaust my travel credit very early in the year so I definitely earn a lot of points from travel/dining on this card.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 2:38 pm
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Originally Posted by sethMCOflyer View Post
I$120 dining credit - Available at a few restaurants that are pretty common, but wait only $10 a month, use it or lose it.

[...]

So for a $250 annual fee you effectively pay $30 after remembering to eat at one of the restaurants they support each month and using the confusing $100 incidental credit. In my case I enjoy Shake Shack, but would I be there every month if not for the credit? Probably not, so there's some extra cost associated with that.
You're missing a key part of the dining credit. In addition to that short list of restaurants chains, it also works at Grubhub and Seamless for either delivery (with a fee) or pickup (with no fee). Now, it depends on exactly where you live as to how many restaurants that means, but to people near many restaurants in cities there may be 10x more restaurants that let you do pickup within a couple miles through Grubhub or Seamless than the other restaurants that Amex lists.

I never eat at Shake Shack or any of the restaurants that Amex lists, but once a month I decide to do pickup from a nearby restaurant. I doesn't have to be the same restaurant each month (if Grubhub or Seamless has a variety of restaurants near you, as it does have in my case).
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