Jane Switzer, Freelance Content Specialist
When the American Express (AMEX) Cobalt was first released, it made a strong play for the millennial/young professional cohort (its launch was even hosted at a pop-up and featured a guest list of social influencers). Fast forward to today, and the AMEX Cobalt is better recognized for what it’s always been: one of the best rewards cards for almost everyone – from downtown millennials to families in the burbs.
That’s because the American Express Cobalt offers some of the biggest points multipliers for dining, groceries and travel-related purchases, along with flexible redemption options with no airline restrictions whatsoever.
Below, our AMEX Cobalt review breaks down the card’s top features and highlights why it’s made our list of the best travel credit cards in Canada for several years running.
American Express Cobalt Review Summary
If you’re looking for a well-rounded, lucrative rewards card that’s just as great for everyday spending as it is for travel, the American Express Cobalt has got you covered. Cardholders can take advantage of the strong travel insurance, impressive welcome bonus and flexible point redemption options.
Offering an industry-leading five times the points (valued at $0.01 per dollar) on eligible restaurants and food delivery purchases, three times the points on eligible streaming services, and twice the points on travel and daily transit, the American Express Cobalt easily takes our prize for best overall travel credit card. Aside from that, the card’s welcome bonus gives new users the ability to earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which they spend $500 on the card. Altogether, that could add up to a possible total of 30,000 extra points in their first year - that's $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.
- Great welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points in the first year
- Flexible and easy point redemption, allowing cardholders to redeem their Membership Rewards for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or purchases. Frequent flyers can also transfer their points 1:1 to several loyalty programs.
- Earning potential for restaurants and takeout is significantly higher than most other cards
- Access to Front of the Line Presale and Reserved tickets to concerts, theater performances, movie screenings, and culinary events, along with other special offers
- Strong travel insurance package including up to $5,000,000 in travel emergency medical
- No fee for additional authorized users (an average fee of $30 - 50 on other comparable cards)
- Monthly fee of $12.99 (coming to an annual fee of $155.88, which is higher than most other rewards cards)
- American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
- Travel insurance package does not cover trip cancellation or medical coverage for cardholders over the age of 65
- Airport lounge access isn’t provided, which may be disappointing to frequent travels
American Express Cobalt Review Details
Earning points and travel redemptions
The American Express Cobalt’s biggest advantages are its flexibility and high earn rate on everyday purchases – particularly in the dining and travel categories.
Since these points can be redeemed to cover the cost of flight tickets and hotel stays at a rate of 1,000 points for $10 (the equivalent of 1%), that means you’ll essentially earn 5% back on all your food spending and 2% on travel and transit purchases.
You could even (potentially) reap more value out of each of your points through AMEX’s Fixed Points Travel Program, which lets you redeem points based on a chart-system for round-trip flights to get upwards of 1.5% per point.
In either of the above scenarios, you can redeem points to cover taxes and fees for flights on any airline of your choice with no blackout dates.
Aside from travel-related rewards, you can redeem points for purchases from Ticketmaster at a rate of 2,000 points for $20 (which equals to 1%, the same value if you were to use points for a flight).
Points can also be redeemed as statement credits to pay off your card’s bill, though in this case, you’d get a lower return of 0.7% per point. You could also redeem for gift cards or merchandise, but both could also result in lower point values. It’s for those reasons that it’s almost always better to stick to using the AMEX Cobalt for travel-related redemptions and the occasional free concert ticket.
The AMEX Cobalt offers a unique first-year rolling bonus, whereby new cardholders will pocket 2,500 extra points each month at least $500 is spent on the card — up to a maximum of bonus 30,000 points. That's enough for $300 in statement credits redeemed towards purchases charged to your Card, or $225 in American Express® Prepaid Cards.
That’s one of the best credit card promotions in Canada and more than double the card’s annual fee for the first year. The only drawback is that you won’t get the entire bonus points in a lump sum, which may be a disadvantage if you were hoping to use all your bonus points in one go for a travel redemption soon after you signed up. Plus, if you aren’t accustomed to using credit consistently for your everyday purchases, you could potentially stand to lose out on the full value of this bonus.
The American Express Cobalt has the full suite of insurance you’d expect from a top travel card, from purchase protection and extended warranty coverage to travel insurance, including:
Some standouts from the above table worth calling out include the fact the card offers $5 million in emergency travel medical coverage (versus the $1,000,000 typically offered by comparable cards), and its $85,000 in credit card rental car insurance (which is a notch higher than the standard $65,000 in coverage). The only real downside is its emergency medical insurance, which lasts for 15 consecutive days versus the 21 days provided by some other cards. Furthermore, the American Express Cobalt does not include trip interruption / cancellation insurance.
American Express Invites
Joining the Amex family means access to American Express Invites, which includes ticket pre-sales and reserved seats to some of the biggest concerts, movie screenings, and culinary events. With the ability to snatch up tickets before they’re available to the wider public, you won’t have to lose out on your chance to see your favourite bands, performances, and shows live.
Fees, income requirements, and interest rates
The AMEX Cobalt has a unique annual fee structure. It charges a $12.99 fee every month as opposed to $155.88 once every calendar year.
Personally, we’re fans of this structure because it can make it easier to work out if you’re earning more back in points every month than you’re paying in fees. With that said, while $12.99 each month makes it seem more affordable, it’s $155.88 annually nonetheless.
On a positive note, the AMEX Cobalt doesn’t charge an additional fee for adding authorized users. In comparison, some other rewards cards charge upwards of $50 per supplementary cardholder.
While most credit cards of the same calibre as the AMEX Cobalt have strict annual income requirements – usually anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 – that’s not the case here. That’s right, the AMEX Cobalt doesn’t have a specific income requirement.
Now, that’s not to suggest everyone is guaranteed to get approved, as you’ll still need to have a good credit score (at least 660 is recommended) and a steady stream of income. But it does mean your application won’t be automatically ruled out because you don’t fall in a specific income bracket.
As a rewards credit card, there’s little to no surprises as far as the AMEX Cobalt’s interest rate. It charges a standard annual percentage rate of 20.99% for purchases (which is completely avoidable as long as you pay off your balance in full) and 21.99% for cash advances.
Unlike some other American Express Cards, the AMEX Cobalt is a conventional credit card and isn’t a charge card. So, just like any Visa or Mastercard, the AMEX Cobalt comes with a credit limit and you’re not required to pay off your balance in full every month (though, again, it’s always better to do so to avoid interest charges).
The AMEX factor
Unfortunately, American Express is accepted at fewer places than Visa or MasterCard (there’s no master list of merchants, but here are some major retailers that do accept AMEX). That said, if you carry the American Express Cobalt in combination with another card from a different provider for cases when AMEX isn’t accepted, you won’t have to compromise much in terms of your everyday spending.
One knock against the AMEX Cobalt is that it offers fewer transfer options when compared to other American Express Cards.
Now, with that being said, points on the AMEX Cobalt can be converted to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1 to 1.2 ratio. So, the 5X spending category on eats and drinks gives you 6 Bonvoy points per dollar, which you can go onto redeem for stays at over 7,000 hotels worldwide. Since we’ve calculated the average value of 1 Bonvoy point to be $0.0117, you could stand to get more value of your points through this transfer option, though it can vary depending on which hotel you’re staying at.
Overall, the American Express Cobalt is one of Canada’s best travel credit cards for people who want flexibility in how they’re rewarded for eating out and getting around. The rolling bonus structure, all-inclusive spending categories, and points redemption structure make this card stand out in the rewards arena.
To see how the American Express Cobalt Card fits with your individual spending profile (and whether the annual fee is worth it), check out our card matching tool.
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