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In June I picked up the American Express Gold Card with no annual fee due to my active duty military service. This card easily upgrade to an additional American Express Platinum card. Learn more about the AMEX Gold Card and the AMEX active duty military fee waiver.
At first glance this card does not seem that special. The spending category bonuses aren't great, the welcome bonus could be higher, and the benefits are not as extensive as the AMEX Platinum.
However, with no annual fee, and a few tricks, this card becomes quite powerful for military servicemembers. Here are the features making this card worthwhile:
- 35,000 Membership Reward Points welcome bonus with only $2000 spend (easy minimum)
- 4X points on U.S. restaurants and grocery stores (including DECA Commissary)
- $120 annual dining credit
- $100 annual airline credit towards the airline of your choice (can be used for gift cards)
- You can product change (PC) or upgrade this card to an AMEX Platinum card after 1 year (details below)
AMEX Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards are one of two of the most flexible credit card reward systems. Other than Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Membership Rewards allows the most valuable transfers to airline and hotel partners. This allows you to book awesome business and first class tickets on great airlines.
You can also use the points for Amazon purchases, booking travel through AMEX's portal, and buying gift cards. Usually though, you should save your points up for a transfer to a travel partner for the most valuable redemptions. MR points are frequently valued at 1.5-2.5 cents per point or 100 points = $1.50-2.50.
4X Points at Restaurants and Grocery Stores
This is an awesome benefit. You can get 4 Membership Reward points for every dollar spent at US restaurants and US grocery stores. DECA Commissaries OCONUS should still qualify for the “US” grocery store category, because of the way they process credit card transactions.
The 4X points at restaurants is great when you are in the States. If you're travelling internationally it's better to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve and receive 3X Ultimate Rewards. The CSR recently updated it's military policy and now has no annual fee for military members and spouses.
$100 Airline Credit w/ AMEX Gold Card Military
Similar to the $200 airline credit offered on the AMEX Platinum, this card offers a $100 airline credit. The fine print says it's not good for airline gift cards, but check the FlyerTalk forums and Reddit for data points.
Many cardholders report airline gift cards ARE reimbursed by a statement credit within 3-4 days after purchasing the gift card. This is my experience as well. This year I purchased an American Airlines gift card on July 2 and received reimbursement on July 7.
Combined with a few AMEX Platinum card airline credits, you could rack up a significant number of gift cards on a single airline.
Upgrade (Product Change) Gold Card to a Platinum
The best part of the Gold Card is one year after you open the account you are eligible to upgrade to the American Express Platinum card. This is true even if you already have another AMEX Platinum.
As long as you keep the Gold Card on a separate login for your AMEX online account, you should be offered the upgrade link online. Even if you added the card to your current login on AMEX, you can drop the card from your login and create a new login to manage the card. As long as the AMEX online account doesn't have another Platinum card attached to it, you should be able to upgrade your card.
This is an awesome way to add more AMEX Platinum cards to your inventory. Since military servicemembers pay no annual fees on AMEX cards, you can stack all the benefits on the AMEX Platinum.
AMEX Platinum Benefits for Military Members
Let's say you and your spouse each have a “vanilla” (regular) AMEX Platinum, a Schwab Platinum, and an upgraded AMEX Gold Card to Platinum. That's six AMEX Platinum cards with no annual fees, saving you $3300 in annual fees.
You'll also get all the welcome bonuses for these six cards as you build your Platinum Portfolio, which could be worth 300,000+ MR points.
But wait, there's more. Since each Platinum card comes with it's own benefits, every year you'll get:
- $1200 in Uber credits (6 x $200), also valid on Uber Eats
- $1200 in airline fee credits (6 x $200)
- $600 in statement credit at Saks Fifth Avenue (6 x $100)
- Free Priority Pass access to airport lounges and Centurion Lounges
- 2 Free Global Entry membership ($200 value)
- Free Hilton Honors and SPG Gold Statuses
This is free money you're leaving on the table by not building your Platinum card collection as a military member. Start building your collection today with the American Express Gold Card and pick up the easy welcome bonus now. Then, after a year upgrade the card to a Platinum and reap the Platinum benefits.
If you have upgraded your Gold Card to a Platinum, let me know in the comments! Marcus upgraded his Gold Card and described how easy it was in the comments below.