There’s only one credit card where I’ve earned an average of over three points per dollar spent over the past year, and that’s the Premier Rewards Gold card. It’s actually one of only three cards I pay the annual fee on and don’t even consider canceling (the other two being the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Starwood American Express cards) thanks to some of the best points accrual rates in the industry.
Admittedly Membership Rewards points have been substantially devalued over the past year or so, though at the end of the day I keep coming back to the card because you can’t beat the sheer number of points you can earn per dollar on this card, as I’ll explain in more detail below.
The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card comes with 25K Membership Rewards® points when you spend $2,000 during your first three months of Card membership; and 15K points when you spend $30,000 within one calendar year. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and is $175 after that (certainly on the high side).
Historically this card doesn’t come with especially good sign-up bonuses, with the exception of select targeted offers. Up until last year American Express was almost always willing to match targeted offers for the general public (meaning many people received 75,000 point sign-up bonuses), though unfortunately they discontinued that practice from one day to the next. I don’t remember ever seeing a public offer of over 25,000 points on this card, though someone correct me if I’m wrong.
How to Earn Points
The earning potential of this card is downright ridiculous. The card accrues three points per dollar spent on airfare, two points per dollar spent on gas and groceries, and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Furthermore, when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you earn 15,000 bonus points.
To put that into perspective, last year I managed to put about $30,000 worth of airfare on the card (mostly tickets for friends/family/clients), so that earned me 90,000 Membership Rewards points, in addition to the 15,000 point bonus, for a total of 105,000 Membership Rewards points. For $30,000 spend, that’s 3.5 points per dollar.
Admittedly not everyone will be able to put that much airfare spend on their card, though even so, if you spend strategically and put your gas, grocery, and travel purchases on this card, the points really add up quickly.
How to Redeem Points
The card accrues Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to programs like Air Canada Aeroplan, All Nippon Airways Mileage Club, British Airways Executive Club, Delta SkyMiles, and many more. The thing to keep in mind is that American Express frequently offers transfer bonuses when transferring points to their partners. For example, it’s not unusual to see a 40-50% transfer bonus to Delta SkyMiles. When you factor in that I was previously earning 3.5 points per dollar spent, we’re looking at an average of over five Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on the Premier Rewards Gold card. Of course this assumes a transfer bonus and spend in specific categories.
There are a ton of ways to spend Membership Rewards points efficiently, though here are a few of the best deals:
1. 120,000 Delta SkyMiles for Korean Air business class to Asia. Recently Expert Flyer added the ability to search business class award space on Korean Air online, which has certainly made it a lot easier to find award space. Award space on Korean Air is excellent (outside of their blackout dates), so this is the most economical way to get to Asia in business class using Membership Rewards points. Add in a transfer bonus from Membership Rewards, and it’s even more of a bargain.
2. 25,000 British Airways Avios points for coach from the West Coast to Hawaii. Most legacy airlines charge a minimum of 35,000 miles for travel from the West Coast to Hawaii, though British Airways charges only 25,000 Avios points roundtrip for coach on either Alaska or American. Membership Rewards recently even had a 30% transfer bonus to British Airways, bringing down the cost further to only 20,000 Membership Rewards points.
3. 140,000 All Nippon Airways Mileage Club miles for Etihad First Class between New York and Abu Dhabi. I flew from New York to Abu Dhabi recently in Etihad first class using Mileage Club miles, and found it to be an amazing value. In the meantime American is also a partner with Etihad, though they would charge 180,000 miles for the same award (and there’s no way to accrue American miles as quickly as Membership Rewards points for credit card spend).
The Premier Rewards Gold card is one of best out there for racking up a ton of points, despite Membership Rewards devaluing their program somewhat over the past year. Right now my credit card spend strategy is pretty simple, when I’m not spending to meet a sign-up bonus.
All of my airfare, gas, and grocery expenses go on my Premier Rewards Gold card. All of my non-airfare travel and dining expenses go on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. And spend in any other category usually goes on my Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card (I keep the card mostly because it offers five nights and two stays towards elite status annually).
Full disclosure: I receive a referral bonus for anyone that signs up through the above links. As always I will only provide a referral link if it offers the best available sign-up bonus.