Trying out the Amex Gold dining credit at all 6 merchants
The American Express® Gold Card is one of the two cards that I carry with me in my day-to-day life.
That's because it offers a solid 4 points per dollar spent in two categories I spent a lot on: at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 point per dollar).
Apart from the $10 monthly Uber credit, which I find easy to use, I make sure to put a reminder in my calendar to take advantage of another perk: a monthly $10 dining credit.*
Now, this credit can't be used at just any restaurant or takeout or delivery service. There are just six participating merchants offering this benefit: The Cheesecake Factory, Grubhub, Shake Shack, Goldbelly, Wine.com and Milk Bar. (Note that two previously eligible brands — Boxed and Ruth's Chris Steak House — left the program in early August 2022. And our executive editor Scott Mayerowitz has long used Seamless in New York City, which has its own app but is now owned by Grubhub, and has always triggered the $10 credit.)
Over the course of a month, I tried out all six merchants to see how I could maximize the credit at each one. Here was my experience, with some tips on which items to aim for and how to stack free shipping and promo codes.
*Enrollment is required.
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What I ordered: One slice of mango key lime cheesecake.
Out-of-pocket cost: $0.
This merchant was the one I was most excited about. I'm originally from Australia, and even though I've lived in the U.S. for over seven years, I'd never been to The Cheesecake Factory — until now.
When I told my friends that I was going to The Cheesecake Factory to "do research" for work, they were very confused.
I chose to dine in, but you can also pick your order up and still trigger the credit. I ordered one slice of mango key lime cheesecake for $7.95, and with tax and a 20% tip, it came out to exactly $10.
But don't worry — I made the most of my meal by ordering other items off the restaurant's extensive menu and charged those to a separate bill (earning 4 points per dollar in the process). After all, I had to make the most of my inaugural visit.
Related: The best credit cards for dining in 2022
What I ordered: One burrito with sofritas as protein filling (and no extra charges for add-ons like guacamole) picked up from Chipotle.
Out-of-pocket cost: $1.20.
Grubhub is probably the most easily-accessible merchant on the Amex Gold card benefit, given that the delivery platform partners with so many locations around the country. As a result, you're sure to find an eatery near you. I chose a Chipotle location a five-minute drive from my house.
I could have had my entire purchase covered if I ordered just an appetizer and maybe a drink, but I wanted a full meal. Even though I paid $1.20 out of pocket, it was a filling feed.
You're most likely to maximize your dining credit with Grubhub by picking up your food rather than paying a delivery charge and driver tip for someone to bring it to you. Also, Grubhub frequently has promo codes that you can take advantage of.
What I ordered: One 'Shroom Burger and one serving of fries.
Out-of-pocket cost: $2.21.
First of all, I have to call out that Shack Shake has a very easy-to-use mobile app for pickup, and these orders should trigger the $10 credit. However, you can choose to dine in if you wish.
I chose the mushroom burger and fries and paid $2.21 out of pocket, but you could save money by just getting a burger with no fries or opting for the grilled cheese with fries instead — that would put you under $10.
Note that the dining credit does not apply to Shake Shacks located at stadiums, airports or racetracks.
What I ordered: One 26-piece butter cookie box from Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, delivered to my apartment in Austin, Texas.
Out-of-pocket cost: $15.46.
The Goldbelly website can be frustrating to navigate, but it's worth noting that most gifts start in the $30-35 price range. (Note that you can buy gift cards and merchandise on the website, but these do not trigger the dining credit.)
I chose this cookie box from a bakery in New Jersey, listed at $29.95 with free shipping. The Rakuten cash back shopping portal Chrome extension alerted me to 1% cash back through Goldbelly, which is not significant by itself. However, a Rakuten promo code that populated at checkout gave me another $4.49 off, bringing my out-of-pocket cost down to just over $15.
Note that if you're not currently a Rakuten member, you can join through this link and enjoy a one-time bonus of $30 (or 3,000 Amex points) after spending $30 within 90 days.
Be sure to factor in shipping costs when ordering through Goldbelly. If you're looking to maximize your purchase, opt for merchants that offer free delivery.
What I ordered: One cheese and snacks gift basket, delivered.
Out-of-pocket cost: $22.
One of the cheapest products at regular price is vegan wine Avaline Duo bottles with a tasting video with Cameron Diaz for $58.25 including shipping. That sounds fun.
However, there is also the cheese and snacks basket, which usually retails for $35 but was on sale when I purchased it at $24.99. Add on the $6.99 shipping charge to Texas and it came to just under $32 total.
Note that shipping rates vary according to the number of bottles and the size and weight of the order.
What I ordered: One 6-piece cookie tin, delivered.
Out-of-pocket cost: $32.
Milk Bar tends to be one of the pricier merchants, with most products in the $50-100 range.
The cheapest product for delivery is the cookie tin that I ordered for $27. Add on a flat $15 shipping fee and you're up to $42 total. That works out to be $7 per cookie, much higher than the 60 cents per cookie that I got through Goldbelly.
However, if you live in (or are visiting) New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston or Las Vegas, you can save money by purchasing in-store at a Milk Bar bakery in one of those cities.
The Amex Gold earns a solid 4 points per dollar at restaurants, including takeout and delivery with services like Grubhub (in the U.S.). At our valuations, that is worth an 8% return on your purchase.
I looked at my Amex Gold statement after I completed all six purchases, and, as expected, Grubhub, Shake Shack and The Cheesecake Factory all coded as restaurants, earning me 4 points per dollar spent.
However, the other three merchants — Goldbelly, Milk Bar and Wine.com — only earned me 1 point per dollar spent.
That means that on my flat $10 purchase at The Cheesecake Factory, I actually made 80 cents back. This is because I had the $10 dining credit cover the purchase and then earned 40 points on it.
You are likely to get the most out of your Amex Gold dining credit if you use it at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory or Shake Shack. This is because they have the lowest-priced items out of the six participating merchants, and all three of them code as restaurants to earn 4 points per dollar.
However, given that you get the $10 credit each calendar month, you may want to try out different merchants. The more expensive ones might be useful for buying gifts and wine in the lead-up to the holiday season or for celebrations throughout the year.
Finally, you can stack this credit with free shipping, promo codes and cash back through shopping portals.
If you don't currently have the American Express Gold card, you can earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. However, be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're targeted for an even higher offer (subject to change at any time).
Related: Our full American Express Gold card review.Want more credit card news and advice from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter. What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: Related: The best credit cards for dining in 2022 What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: What I ordered: Out-of-pocket cost: Related: Our full American Express Gold card review.