Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.
The Mastercard® Gold Card™ is an extremely exclusive travel rewards credit card. You get what you pay for: Its $995 annual fee (and $295 annual fee per additional authorized user) – higher than virtually any other card on the market – supports a very generous rewards program that offers a 2% return on airfare and cash back redemptions. The Gold Card belongs to the high-end Luxury Card brand, which also includes the less generous Titanium Card ($195 annual fee) and Black Card ($495 annual fee).
Purchases made with the Gold Card earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent, with no higher earning rates on special categories, but also no restrictions or limitations on earning. Airline redemptions and cash back redemptions value points at $0.02 apiece, doubling the value for gift card and merchandise redemptions.
The Gold Card realizes its true potential (and potentially compensates for its eye-popping annual fee) in the VIP travel benefits department. Its travel perks include complimentary airport lounge access at more than 1,000 Priority Pass airport lounge locations in more than 500 cities worldwide, a $100 Global Entry application fee credit, a $200 annual airline credit, 24/7 concierge availability, global luggage delivery, airport meet-and-greet service, and more. And it’s coated with real, 24-karat gold, so it’s an unmistakable status symbol.
The Gold Card earns 1 point per $1 spent on everything. Points never expire, provided your account remains open and in good standing, and there are no restriction on the number of points you can earn.
The two ideal ways to redeem points earned with your Gold Card are cash back statement credits and airfare. Both effectively offer a 2% return on your spending by valuing points at $0.02 apiece – in the case of airfare redemptions, regardless of the underlying cost of the ticket, route, carrier, or other factors. As an example, a 10,000-point redemption is worth $200 in airfare and cash back via statement credit.
You can redeem for both cash back and airfare in increments as small as 50 points ($1 value). For airfare, this obviously means that partial redemptions combining points and cash are possible.
Alternative redemption methods include general merchandise and gift cards offered by hotels, rental car companies, and retailers. Minimum redemption amounts vary for these options, which usually value points at $0.01 apiece.
Airport Lounge Access With Priority Pass Select Membership
Gold Card membership entitles you to a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which confers access to 1,000 participating airport lounges in more than 500 cities worldwide. There’s no limit to the number of times you can invoke your access privileges.
Annual Airline Credit
You receive a $200 annual airline credit every year your account remains open and in good standing. The credit can be redeemed for virtually any airline purchase, including class upgrades, baggage fees, on-board purchases, and more. The credit is automatically applied to your account as a statement credit.
Global Entry Fee Application Credit
Gold Card membership comes with a $100 credit toward Global Entry application fee, redeemable at a time of your choosing. You’ll need to invoke this benefit at least once every 5 years to keep ahead of your Global Entry membership’s expiration.
Airport Meet-and-Greet (Meet & Assist)
Gold Card users can tap “professional representatives” charged with escorting them through the ticketing and security lines at airports, helping them find their gates, and carrying their bags if necessary. Meet-and-greet service is a great way to avoid bureaucratic snags and lines at unfamiliar airports.
Global Luggage Delivery
Gold Card membership entitles you to global luggage delivery service, which you can use to ship bags to a variety of international destinations prior to your arrival. This helps you avoid the annoying aspects of lugging, checking, and claiming bags. On-time delivery is guaranteed.
Gold Card members can take advantage of professionally chauffeured transportation in most domestic and international destinations, with pick-up arrangeable in advance at your hotel, office, airport, or home.
Car Rental Deals and Discounts
Mastercard partners with major rental car companies to give Gold Card members special deals and discounts on rental cars. Discounts vary, but the Hertz partnership is a good example: Card users get complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership, 10% discounts on short rentals (less than 4 days), and 10% discounts with optional free 1-class upgrades (for example, from mid-size to full size) on longer rentals
24/7 Concierge Service
Gold Card members enjoy 24/7, white-glove concierge service from dedicated concierges who serve only Luxury Card members. Their services include help with travel bookings, recommendations for first-time travelers to new cities or countries, help obtaining hard-to-get reservations, and more.
Gold Card users get special (and occasionally members-only) access to Mastercard’s ever-shifting lineup of “Priceless” events and experiences. “Priceless” events are frequently invite-only or limited to VIPs (including high-end Mastercard members). Events can include hot tickets such as VIP access at pro golf tournaments, private dinners with award-winning chefs, and curated city experiences in exotic places such as Dubai. Additional fees and expenses, such as airfare, may apply.
All Luxury Card members, including Gold Card holders, get complimentary subscriptions to LUXURY MAGAZINE, Luxury Card’s quarterly glossy mag whose content caters to an affluent readership and covers such topics as technology, architecture, real estate, autos, and travel.
Other Luxe Travel Benefits
Gold Card membership comes with a slew of other perks, including special privileges on trips taken with more than 20 cruise lines and priority booking of yachts and private jets. Additional fees and expenses for these perks may apply.
Mastercard-Backed Travel and Shopping Benefits
This card has a nice lineup of down-to-earth travel and shopping benefits, many of which are common features of travel insurance policies. Notable perks include:
- Complimentary loss and damage coverage on car rentals paid in full with the card
- Baggage delay insurance, which provides reimbursement (up to coverage limits) on checked bags delayed during common carrier travel
- Travel accident insurance for catastrophic events on common carrier travel
- Purchase assurance, which provides reimbursement up to the purchase price (subject to limitations) for items lost or damaged within 90 days
- Price protection, which provides reimbursement of the difference (subject to limitations) should you find a lower advertised price on an identical item within 120 days
- Extended warranties on items with existing manufacturers’ warranties of 24 months or less
The Gold Card has a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for 15 months from account opening.
The Gold Card’s purchase APR is 17.24% from your account opening date. After the end of the 15-month balance transfer promotion, the balance transfer APR is 17.24% as well. There is no penalty APR.
This card has a $995 annual fee that is not waived in the first year. Each additional authorized user costs $295 per year. There is no foreign transaction fee. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%, while balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%. Late and returned payments both cost up to $37.
This card requires excellent credit. Any notable issues in your credit history are likely to disqualify your application.
- Airfare Redemptions Double Regular Point Values. The Gold Card values points at $0.02 apiece when redeemed for airfare, regardless of the demand, dollar cost, destination, carrier, or other factors that frequently affect airfare redemption values. Though $0.02 per point is not a stellar valuation, it’s better than the typical value offered by major carriers for domestic flights, and its predictability (always $0.02 per point, no matter what) makes it easier to plan ahead for redemptions.
- Cash Back Redemptions Exceed Expectations. Cash back redemptions also provide a 2% return on all spending – turning a 10,000-point redemption into a $200 statement credit, for example. By comparison, the vast majority of traditional cash back credit cards value points at $0.01 apiece. If you spend very heavily throughout the year, you can make significant progress toward offsetting this card’s annual fee – for instance, $50,000 in annual spending equates to $1,000 cash back, no matter what you spend on.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access at 1,000+ Priority Pass Select Locations. Gold Card users get complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges in approximately 500 major destinations around the world. It’s easier to find Priority Pass lounges than branded lounges operated by big U.S. carriers, such as Alaska Airlines, Delta, and United, so this membership is definitely a better deal than, say, Delta Sky Club or United Club. If you’re able to use your Priority Pass membership every time you travel (or nearly so), this benefit can make a big dent in the Gold Card’s annual fee.
- Very Generous Travel Benefits. The Gold Card has some other valuable travel benefits, notably the $200 annual airline credit and the $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Some other benefits don’t have fixed dollar values, but are nonetheless useful: discounts on rental cars, meet-and-greet service at the airport, 24/7 concierge service, and global luggage delivery. Taken together and exploited to the fullest along with the airport lounge benefit, they can more than offset the Gold Card’s recurring fee.
- Long Introductory APR Promotion on Balance Transfers. Unusually for an exclusive travel rewards card, the Gold Card has a generous introductory balance transfer promotion: 0% APR for 15 months from account opening. If you hope to get your existing credit card debt under control without foreclosing opportunities to earn travel rewards points or enjoy exclusive benefits, the Gold Card should be high on your list.
- Decent Value on Other Redemption Options. Though it’s best to stick to airfare and cash back redemptions, the Gold Card offers above-average redemption values on non-cash, non-airfare options as well. In most cases, general merchandise and gift cards (including hotel and rental car certificates) value points at $0.01 apiece. Many competing cards, including branded cards such as the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express ($450 annual fee) and non-branded cards such as The Platinum Card from American Express ($550 annual fee), value points redeemed on non-cash, non-travel items at less than $0.01 apiece.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. The Gold Card never charges foreign transaction fees, making it a great choice for frequent international travelers.
- Extremely High Annual and Authorized User Fees. At $995, the Gold Card’s annual fee is higher than just about any other travel card on the market. For couples and families, the $295 annual authorized user fee adds to the expense. These fees are prohibitive for the vast majority of the card-holding public, including anyone who doesn’t travel with predictable frequency. If you can’t fully exploit the Gold Card’s considerable travel benefits or spend heavily enough ($50,000 or more per year) to offset the annual fee, this is not your card.
- Low, Flat Point Earning Rate on All Purchases. All Gold Card purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent – the standard base rate for most travel and cash back rewards credit cards. While not awful, this rate is decidedly mediocre, and there’s no way to accelerate your earnings above and beyond it. This means that the highest possible rate of return on spending with the Gold Card is 2% – pretty good, but not amazing, especially in light of the hefty annual fee. Compare the Gold Card’s earning rate with that of Citi ThankYou Premier, which earns 3 points per $1 spent on travel and 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment.
- No Sign-up Bonus. The Gold Card has no sign-up bonus, a curious omission for a travel card. For a potentially generous sign-up bonus, look to the Platinum Card from American Express, whose bonus is worth $400 when redeemed for travel.
- No Recurring Loyalty Bonus. The Gold Card also has no annual loyalty bonus. That’s unusual among exclusive airline and hotel credit cards, which frequently offer free or discounted flights and nights – or enough bonus points to reduce or eliminate the cost of a flight or stay – on cardmembers’ sign-up anniversaries. Some exclusive travel cards go even further – for example, Citi Prestige cardholders automatically get the 4th night free on stays of 4 nights or longer.
- Credits Aren’t as Generous as Some Competing Cards. The Gold Card’s $200 annual airline credit and $100 Global Entry application fee credit certainly help around the margins. However, they’re not world-beating, especially in light of the Gold Card’s excessive annual fee. Citi Prestige, another exclusive option, has a $250 annual air travel credit.
The Mastercard® Gold Card™ is quite unlike any other credit card on the market. For starters, there’s the small matter of its 24-karat gold exterior – a marker of exclusivity if there ever was one. On more practical measures, the Gold Card is no less unusual. It values cash back points at $0.02 apiece, double the standard for regular cash back credit cards, though the mediocre point-earning rate blunts the impact. It also has a surprisingly generous 15-month 0% APR balance transfer promotion. And it has no sign-up bonus, a big drawback relative to its travel card peers.
On other measures, the Gold Card looks more traditional. It has an extensive – but not groundbreaking – lineup of VIP travel benefits designed to reduce the stress, inconvenience, and expense associated with frequent travel. If you’re a committed road warrior who doesn’t have time to follow the herd, the Gold Card should be high on your list. On the other hand, if you’re content to travel with the masses, there are plenty of more practical – and far less expensive – options.