Now here’s another reason to love the Amex Gold card! Amex is more liberal regarding merchant categories.
So, as you may recall, Chase adjusted what it considers a restaurant a while back. As a result, coffee shops, bakeries, etc. no longer count as restaurants, and do not earn 3x or 2x points when using your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred card, respectively. But guess what? Amex doesn’t have the same restriction.
Amex Restaurants Category
Because Amex doesn’t restrict the restaurant category the same way Chase does, making life just a little bit easier. The reason for this, of course, is because you don’t have to think about which card to use for each dining establishment you visit. Plus, as I’ve detailed in a previous post, places you think of as dining establishments but are actually coded as grocery stores, still earn the same bonus too.
So, for example, Kona Coffee Purveyors at the International Market Place is a coffee shop. And when Chase made the change, I went from earning 3x points down to one. As a result, I ended up putting spend at that merchant on my Marriott Rewards Premier Visa for 2x Marriott points or my Freedom Unlimited for 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points. But with the Amex Gold, I earn 4x points at Kona Coffee Purveyors.
Amex is More Liberal Regarding Merchant Categories, Final Thoughts
Honestly, had I know this difference in merchant categorization exists, I probably would’ve jumped on the Amex Gold bandwagon earlier. It’s irritating to have to think about which restaurants do and don’t qualify for bonuses, and so the Amex Gold makes life easier. And there’s the fact that it earns more points on dining spend than the Sapphire Reserve does either way.
Of course, regardless of earning power, a card is only worth it if you see value in the points. And, in my opinion, Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards are a close match. Yes, Membership Rewards doesn’t have Southwest, British Airways, or Hyatt as transfer partners, among others. But, Amex does have Hilton and Hawaiian Airlines as transfer partners.
And it’s not like you have to choose one over the other. I see value in keeping both cards, especially because they come with completely different benefits. It’s also worth reminding that the Gold card’s bonus doesn’t apply to restaurants and supermarkets outside of the US. So, you’ll still want to use your Sapphire Reserve/Preferred for all foreign dining spend.