American Express is a pretty good card issuer overall (with exceptions like the once-per-lifetime policy on bonuses, the restricting of Amex Offers to a single card, etc). The customer service is something that has been great over the years and their products cover a wide range of travel for airlines and hotels.
American Express Finally Made a Great Move for Global Travelers Who Like Earning Points
But, one of the glaring issues with them – in my eyes – over the years has been their lack of support for award earning abroad. For a company that makes products that cater to travelers, restricting those travelers from earning the same bonus points internationally that they earn on spending in the US was a major oversight.
Part of this problem had been the lack of vendors/retailers that accepted Amex overseas and the fact that (until a couple of years ago), they actually still charged foreign transaction fees. Now, most of their cards have done away with the foreign transaction fees and slowly but surely, more vendors accept Amex.
The Key Benefit – Earning 4X Points on Dining Abroad with the Amex Gold Card
In the past, I keep the Amex cards out of the top wallet positions when abroad since Chase would actually reward me the bonus points on categories that worked in the US – with things like dining and gas. This month, the popular American Express Gold Card joined the fun of international points collecting by awarding travelers with 4X points on dining abroad (same as in the US).
Great First Step in Rewarding International Spending in Categories
This is more than just about dining – this is a significant step by American Express realizing their need to provide travelers with bonus points while traveling internationally. I would imagine that we will see additional categories earning bonus points abroad just like in the US. The slow rollout is how Amex moved with removing foreign transaction fees so my guess is we will see this rollout at the same (slow) pace.
The next great step would be the ability to use Amex Offers at locations outside the US. As of now, there are some Hilton offers that are targeted to geographic regions (Mexico and Europe) so we know they are moving more in that direction. Being able to earn statement credits on stays at like Waldorf Astoria properties anywhere in the world would be a great move in making Amex Offers more valuable.
The Reason Amex Made This Move Now
Of course, Amex took this view on why they are now offering (in this article by Forbes): “We’ve seen an upward trend in international spend by Gold cardmembers,” Sodja continued. “They are passionate about dining, whether Stateside or abroad, and we know they love earning points. So we wanted to give them more opportunities to do so in the areas that they care about.”
It is sad to see that they are making this move because travelers are using the card abroad. That meant that these travelers were missing out on bonus points that could have been earned when using the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3 points on dining) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred (2 points on dining). It also means that Amex is looking at how their travelers are using their cards internationally instead of recognizing that members aren’t using their cards abroad.
Hopefully, we will see Amex turn on the ability to earn bonus points on things like gas abroad as well. As someone who rents cars in many places, getting some bonus points on $7 per gallon of gas sounds like it will take some of the sting out of the purchase. 😉