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The Mastercard® Gold Card™ is an extremely exclusive travel rewards credit card. But 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 slew of valuable travel benefits, high-touch concierge service available 24/7, and 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 more affordable Mastercard® Titanium Card™ ($195 annual fee) and Mastercard® Black Card™ ($495 annual fee).
Purchases made with the Gold Card earn 1 point for every $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. Terms and conditions apply.
The Gold Card realizes its true potential (and compensates for its eye-popping annual fee) in the VIP travel and shopping benefits department. Its travel and shopping perks include (but aren’t limited to):
- Super-valuable benefits at more than 3,000 participating hotels and resorts worldwide
- Complimentary airport lounge access at more than 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounge locations in more than 500 cities worldwide for the cardmember and all traveling guests
- A $100 Global Entry and TSA PreCheck application fee credit
- A $200 annual airline credit
- 24/7 concierge availability by phone, email, and live chat within the app
- Airport meet-and-greet service
- VIP perks with Fandango
- Lyft credits
- Complimentary subscription to Shoprunner (a $79 value)
And the Gold Card is coated with real, 24-karat gold, so it’s an unmistakable status symbol.
The Gold Card earns 1 point for every $1 spent on all eligible purchases. 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 Gold Card has no confusing tiers, rotating categories, or redemption thresholds. You never have to wait to redeem your points, and no bank account is required for cash back redemption.
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.
Airport Lounge Access With Priority Pass Select Membership
The Gold Card entitles the cardmember and ticketed traveling companions to complimentary, unlimited access to about 1,300 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select, a global airport lounge network. Priority Pass Select has lounges in more than 100 countries and 500 cities worldwide, including about 31 restaurant lounges where Gold Card members enjoy dining discounts around $30 per visit. Lounge access is always complimentary for all guests of the cardmember, including friends that are not direct family.
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.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Fee Application Credit
Gold Card membership comes with a $100 credit toward your TSA PreCheck or 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 membership’s expiration.
24/7 Concierge Service
The Gold Card comes with 24/7, white-glove concierge service from a dedicated cohort of professional concierges that serve only Luxury Card members. Available by phone, email, and live chat within the app (very helpful for avoiding costly international calls, these concierge services include:
- Help making restaurant or club reservations, which is especially helpful in foreign markets where apps like OpenTable are unreliable and language barriers make DIY reservations difficult
- Help with complex travel and tour bookings
- Securing tickets to events large and small
- Arranging car rental and limousine service anywhere in the world
- Arranging flower, grocery, and dry goods deliveries at home or abroad
- Inventory and pricing research for hard-to-find items
- Directions to gas stations, supermarkets, parking garages, tourist attractions, and more
Luxury Card Travel Benefits
Cardmembers enjoy an average value of $500 annually in benefits and services per stay at over 3,000 properties around the world, according to Luxury Card. That’s just an average: The more you stay at participating properties, the greater the value you’ll capture.
Participating brands include Montage, St. Regis, Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, Ritz Carlton, Fairmont, and more. Typical benefits include spa credits, room upgrades, complimentary food and beverages, early check-in, late check-out, and welcome gifts. For example, a one-night stay at California Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills includes breakfast for two (a $50 value each), plus a $100 resort credit, free WiFi, and complimentary use of the hotel’s car within two miles of the resort.
Mastercard-Backed Travel Benefits
The Gold Card has a few more down-to-earth benefits backed by Mastercard, too. Many are commonly included in standard travel insurance policies, but you don’t have to pay extra for them unless explicitly indicated. The highlights:
- Baggage delay insurance, which provides reimbursement (up to specified limits) for checked baggage delayed significantly on common carrier travel.
- Travel accident insurance coverage on common carrier travel
- Complimentary rental car insurance (loss and damage waiver) when you pay the full cost of the rental on your card.
- Trip cancellation and interruption coverage, subject to limitations and exclusions.
- 10% discount on eligible Onefinestay bookings.
Additional Mastercard Benefits
The Gold Card has some non-travel benefits backed by Mastercard as well. Highlights include:
- Join Fandango VIP and earn double the points when you use your Gold Card (250 points per ticket). Earn 500 points to get a $5 VIP + reward.
- Enjoy complimentary cell phone protection up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per covered card in a 12-month period (maximum two claims). Each claim is subject to a $25 deductible.
- Use your Gold Card to earn 5% cash rewards on eligible Boxed orders, then use your rewards on future purchases.
- Take at least 5 eligible Lyft rides per month using your Gold Card to earn a $10 Lyft credit.
- Receive 2-day free shipping and free return shipping on eligible purchases when you sign up for a complimentary ShopRunner membership using your Gold Card.
Another key Mastercard benefit, Mastercard ID Theft Protection, features monitoring on the covered cardmember’s:
- Email addresses
- Debit/credit cards/prepaid cards
- Bank accounts
- Web logins (username and password)
- Medical insurance cards
- Driver’s license
- Loyalty cards
- Affinity cards
- Passport number
- Vehicle insurance cards
- Social Security number
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.
The Gold Card has a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for 15 months from account opening. Terms and conditions apply.
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.
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.
- High-Touch Concierge Service. Cardmembers enjoy 24/7 service from dedicated concierges available by phone, email, and live chat within the app. They can help with everything from dinner and transportation reservations in unfamiliar international markets to snagging hard-to-find supplies closer to home. For travelers abroad, concierge access through the app can significantly reduce the cost of international phone calls.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access at 1,300+ Priority Pass Select Locations. Gold Card users get complimentary access to more than 1,300 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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, up to 2 per year.
- Travel Credit Isn’t as Generous as Some Competing Cards. The Gold Card’s $200 annual airline credit certainly helps around the margins. However, it’s 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, Luxury card offers more affordable options with many of the same perks and benefits: the Mastercard Black Card and the Mastercard Titanium Card.