With travel on hold for the indefinite future, many points collectors face the following dilemma: wait to redeem until travel is back on the agenda, or cash in now for gift cards or statement credits and get slightly less value out of each point.
For cardholders of American Express travel credit cards – like the American Express Cobalt – that decision has just become a whole lot easier.
Until September 30, 2020, American Express is increasing the value of American Express Membership Rewards points when redeeming for statement credits by 42%.
The temporary increase means you’ll now get more value when using AMEX Membership Rewards points to pay down your card’s balance, as follows:
That’s a solid return on points you could previously only get on travel redemptions like flights and hotel stays. It also effectively turns some of the best travel credit cards in Canada – the AMEX Cobalt Cardand AMEX Gold Rewards Card – into cash back credit cards for the next five months.
In our opinion, these changes are particularly exciting when looking at the American Express Cobalt. The Cobalt earns 5 points per dollar on groceries and restaurants (including delivery services), which now essentially works out to 5% in statement credits – an earn rate no other cash back card can beat when not factoring in welcome offers. Plus, they're now also offering 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada and the ability to transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs.
- Annual fee: $155.88 (charged at $12.99 monthly)
- Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership
- Earn 5 points per $1 on dining and groceries
- Earn 2 points per $1 on gas, taxis, public transit and travel (air, water, rail, or hotels)
- Earn 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
- Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
- Welcome Offer: up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year
In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 2,500 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your Card. This could add up to 30,000 points in a year - enough for $300 in statement credits redeemed towards purchases charged to your Card, or $225 in American Express® Prepaid Cards. You’ll want to keep in mind though, since the 30,000 point welcome offer is dished out over the course of a year in increments of 2,500 points every month, you won’t be able to use most of the bonus points with these new redemption rules. You can also now earn a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
It’s also worth noting that if you do choose to hold on to your points until booking travel is an option again, you could still reap more value from points on travel by strategically using AMEX’s Fixed Points redemption chart or transferring points to other loyalty programs. But if you want to keep things simple, avoid thinking about redemption tables, and save now, this new change is by far the best way to go.
Statement credits for other major rewards programs
Do you not collect AMEX Membership Rewards points? Wondering how your credit card points program compares? Here’s a breakdown of point values for some of Canada’s major rewards programs:
Rewards programs adapting to COVID-19
These moves by American Express are a positive sign that rewards credit cards issuers are making adjustments during these unprecedented times. And, while American Express has made the most impactful change, they haven’t been alone. Aeroplan recently announced changes that makes it easier for members to achieve elite Air Canada Altitude status while Scotiabank held off on a modification to the Scotia Rewards Program planned for May that would slightly lower the value of points on certain non-travel redemptions like statement credits and gift cards.