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The best American Express credit cards in Canada for 2022
While American Express may be the smallest of the three major credit card companies in Canada (the others being Visa and Mastercard), it’s also the only one to issue its own credit cards rather than rely on a bank or credit union.
When it comes to premium perks and top-notch rewards, American Express is virtually unmatched. Plus, more Canadian businesses are accepting AMEX cards than ever before, making it a great time to consider one. Let’s look at our picks for the best American Express cards in Canada below.
Best overall American Express card
What makes the American Express Cobalt arguably the best rewards card in Canada is its impressive array of bonus categories. Users can earn a whopping five points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, bars, and food deliveries, two points per dollar on transportation and travel, three times the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada, and one point per dollar on everything else.
While the card’s annual fee is a little higher than average at $155.88, its manageable $12.99/month payment schedule makes it easy to handle. Plus, in your first year with the card, you can earn 2,500 points for each month you spend $500, up to a maximum of 30,000 points.
Outside of its generous welcome offer and point values, the American Express Cobalt also provides flexible point redemption options for travellers.
Users have the choice to either: redeem points for hotel stays or flights on virtually any airline at a flat rate of $10 per 1000 (1 cent per point); use AMEX’s Fixed Points Travel Program to get special redemption rates and potentially earn up to 50%-75% more point value on round trip flights out of Canada; transfer points to select hotel partners like Marriott Bonvoy; or use the Pay with Points program to use your points for regular card purchases like gas and groceries. You can also redeem points for prepaid cards to use for any purchase at a rate of roughly 0.8 cents per point. Plus, you can also now transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs.
It also won't cost you extra to add authorized users, meaning you'll avoid annual fees should you have to share the account with a loved one.
The American Express Cobalt also provides a wide variety of insurance benefits, including:
- travel emergency medical ($5 million for 15 days)
- travel accident ($500,000), $500
- flight interruption
- baggage loss/delay
- car rental collision/loss damage waiver for vehicles up to $85,000
Also, as with many other Amex cards, users get access to ticket presales and reserved seats for concerts, movie screenings, and culinary events, along with other special offers.
- Earn 5x points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, bars, and food deliveries (one of the best earn rates in Canada for this category), 2x points on transportation and travel, 3x points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
- Welcome offer: earn 2,500 points for each month you spend $500, up to a maximum of 30,000 points
- Very flexible point redemption options: use Fixed Points Travel Program for flights/hotels, or Pay with Points program for everyday purchases like gas and groceries.
- Ability to transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer programs, earning you even more
- No cost for additional users
- Comprehensive travel insurance
- Annual fee of $155.88 is higher than average (but is able to be paid monthly)
Best cash back American Express card
Offering no annual fee, a generous welcome bonus, and no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, the American Express SimplyCash card should catch the eye of anyone looking for a solid flat-rate cash back card with a few extra perks.
New users who apply for the card will get a promotional rate of 4% cash back on all purchases for the first six months (up to a cash back total of $200), after which the rate will fall back to its standard 1.25% across the board. Plus, while there is a cap on the welcome bonus, there’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn with the card’s regular rate, allowing you to rack up savings for as long as you’d like. There’s also no annual fee for additional cardholders, so you can earn even more by adding extra users to your account. And, if you have a friend or family member who would rather have their own card, a successful referral will net you an additional $750 in cash back.
While the American Express SimplyCash comes with the standard purchase protection and buyer’s assurance coverage typical to cards of this type, it has one feature that makes it stand out among competitors: $100,000 travel accident insurance - a rarity among non-travel cards with no annual fee.
- No annual fee for primary or additional cardholders
- Welcome bonus: 4% cash back across the board for the first six months (up to a cash back maximum of $200)
- Earn an extra $750 cash back for a successful referral - a huge bonus when you combine it with the potential earnings of the welcome offer
- No limit to how much cash back you can earn on the standard rate
- Features $100,000 in travel accident insurance - a rarity among non-travel no-fee cards
- The card’s standard earn rate of 1.25% isn’t particularly compelling when stacked up against some other no-fee cash back cards
- Not a lot of redemption flexibility: cash back can only be applied once a year as a statement credit
Best no-fee American Express card
The American Express Green Card takes our prize for best no-fee American Express card due to its healthy welcome bonus, point accelerator for travel purchases, and redemption flexibility.
New cardholders can earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points right off the bat when they spend $1000 on the card in the first three months. After that, you’ll get a standard earn rate of one point per dollar, but you can double that when you book travel expenses through American Express Travel.
Another great feature of this card is how many redemption options you’re given. Users can choose to cash in their points on travel (booked on American Express Travel Online through the Flexible Points Travel Program), gift cards and merchandise through Membership Rewards, groceries and other everyday purchases through Pay with Points, or eligible purchases at Amazon.ca. Not only that, but you can also transfer your points to travel loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy.
And, of course, American Express Green Card users will also enjoy the same benefits as all AMEX cardholders: Front of the Line presales and reserved tickets as well as American Express Experiences ranging from entertainment, dining, and retail.
- No annual fee
- Welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1000 in the first three months
- Opportunity to effectively double your points when booking travel through American Express Travel
- Flexible redemption options: travel, gift cards/merchandise, everyday purchases, Amazon.ca
- Transfer your points to loyalty programs like Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy
- Standard earn rate of one point per dollar isn’t particularly competitive with other no fee rewards cards
- Fairly lean insurance package extended warranty and purchase protection only. If you’re interested in more comprehensive coverage, other no fee cards offer more in this area.
Best American Express travel card
If you’re an American Express fan looking for a flexible travel card with a great welcome bonus, the American Express Gold Rewards Card should be on your radar.
The card offers a respectable two points per dollar spent at eligible gas stations, drug and grocery stores in Canada. You'll also earn two points per dollar on eligible travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more). Outside of that, you'll earn one point per dollar spent in all other categories.To redeem points, simply log in to your account for a statement credit.
One excellent feature of the American Express Gold Rewards card is its generous signup offer. You can earn up to a total of 70,000 Membership Rewards points (a $700 cash value) when you sign up by September 20, 2022. Broken down, it looks like this:
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you sign up and spend $3000 in the first three months
- Earn 10 points per dollar on food and drinks for the first three months (up to a maximum of 20,000 points - a $200 cash value)
Considering the fact that 60,000 points is enough to redeem for a round-trip flight to almost anywhere in Europe with the American Express Fixed Travel Points Program, that's an excellent incentive. In addition, you'll get one free additional Gold Rewards card (a $50 value) to help you earn points even faster.
Another thing that makes the American Express membership rewards points so appealing is the fact that you can transfer them to Aeroplan and Avios on a 1:1 basis. Points can also be transferred to other programs, including but not limited to the Starwood Preferred Guest, Asia Miles, and Delta SkyMiles programs. Plus, American Express points don’t expire, so you can transfer your points only when you need to.
While travelling abroad, there's certainly no shortage of perks with the American Express Gold Rewards card.
As a Cardholder, you'll have access to an annual $100 CAD travel credit. This can be used once a year towards any single travel booking of $100 or more charged to your Gold Rewards Card through American Express Travel Online.
You'll also be treated to complimentary membership in Priority Pass™ – one of the world’s largest independent airport lounge programs. Enjoy complimentary refreshments and WiFi as you wait for your flight in a quiet, spacious atmosphere. In addition to that, you’ll get to enjoy four complimentary visits per calendar year to Plaza Premium Lounges across Canada. Enrollment is required and entry fees apply. Plus, the card comes with a thorough travel insurance package, covering you in case of out of province/country emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, flight delay, and more.
As an added bonus for frequent travellers to the U.S., you'll also receive a $50 CAD statement credit when a NEXUS application or renewal fee is charged to your American Express Gold Rewards Card.
- 2x points per dollar spent at eligible gas stations, drug and grocery stores in Canada, and eligible travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more)
- Welcome bonus: earn up to a total of 70,000 Membership Rewards points (a $700 cash value) when you sign up by September 20, 2022
- one free additional Gold Rewards card (a $50 value) - allowing you to earn more even faster
- $100 CAD annual travel credit - offsetting the card’s annual fee
- Transfer points 1:1 to a number of different loyalty programs (Aeroplan, Avios, etc.)
- Complimentary Priority Pass™ membership granting you access to a wide network of airport lounges worldwide
- Extensive travel insurance package
- $50 CAD NEXUS statement credit
- Annual fee of $250 may be prohibitive to some users
Best American Express business card
If you can get past its slightly-intimidating $499 annual fee, the American Express Business Platinum Card contains more than enough perks and advantages to make it worth your while.
Let’s start with the welcome bonus: new users can earn a staggering 110,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $7,000 on the card in the first three months. That’s equal to a statement credit of $1,100 you can throw right back into your business - a fairly substantial savings. Not to mention the possible extra 225,000 points you could get if you successfully refer a friend or family member.
In addition, you’ll earn 1.25x the points for every dollar spent across the board. Plus, there’s no limit to how much you can earn and your points never expire, giving you the freedom to collect at your own pace. You’ll also get up to 55 interest-free days to put more cash in your pocket.
As a business owner, you’ll also get access to valuable resources such as quarterly and annual expense management reports, giving you the ability to easily track company spending.
Travelling for business is always better when it’s comfortable, and one of the biggest draws of this card is the sheer amount of travel perks it offers. Cardholders will get access to four different airline lounge programs (Plaza Premium Lounges, Priority Pass, The Centurion Lounge, and Delta Sky Club), ensuring you’ll likely get a quiet place to wait for your flight wherever you are. When it comes to accommodation abroad, you’ll also get complimentary membership in Fine Hotels & Resorts, The Hotel Collection from American Express, and the Premium Hotel Program. Plus, if you’re flying out of Toronto’s Pearson airport, the card is your key to priority security lanes, getting you to your gate faster. There’s also its thorough travel insurance coverage, insuring you against emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, lost or stolen baggage, and more.
And, as with many American Express cards, the redemption flexibility of the Business Platinum card is quite high. Use points for travel, statement credits, Amazon.ca purchases, plus gift cards and merchandise.
- Welcome bonus: earn 110,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $7,000 on the card in the first three months (an $1,100 cash value)
- Get an additional 225,000 points for a successful referral
- Earn 1.25x the points per dollar on all purchases
- No limit on points or expiry date
- Get 55 interest-free days
- Quarterly and annual expense management reports
- Tons of travel perks: get access to four different airport lounge programs, three different hotel programs, priority security lane access at Toronto Pearson airport, plus an extensive travel insurance package
- $499 annual fee may be prohibitive to some users
- Employee cards are $199 each annually (or downgrade to AMEX Business Gold cards for $50 each annually) - a cost that can really add up if you need multiple employees on your account
Best American Express premium card
If you’re a frequent traveller who likes to treat themselves while abroad, the Platinum Card from American Express is one to consider. While its annual fee is steep ($699), the premium benefits and lucrative sign-up bonus it offers make it worth the hefty price tag for the right cardholder.
The card currently offers a massive welcome bonus, allowing you to earn 90,000 welcome bonus points after charging $6,000 in net purchases to the card in the first three months. Plus, earn a total of 10 points for every $1 on eligible eats & drinks purchases for the first three months (up to 20,000 points) for a possible total of 110,000 points (offer ends September 20, 2022). Alternatively, you could convert these points to Aeroplan Miles at a 1:1 ratio. 60,000 Aeroplan points are enough for two round-trip tickets to anywhere in Canada and the continental U.S. Enjoy flexible ways to use your points such as statement credits for any eligible purchase charged to your Card, new travel purchases booked on American Express Travel Online through the Flexible Points Travel Program, and eligible flights through the Fixed Points Travel Program.
And once the bonus period ends, you’ll still enjoy 3 points for every $1 in card purchases on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada, 2 points for every $1 in card purchases on eligible travel, and 1 point for every $1 in all other card purchases, making it easy to rack up points fast.
For frequent travelers, The Platinum Card from American Express offers tons of exciting perks that will make any trip feel luxurious and easy.
Cardholders can enjoy unlimited access to the Global Lounge Collection, getting you into a number of participating airport lounges both in Canada and internationally. You’ll also be automatically enrolled in the following hotel status upgrades: Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and Radisson Rewards Americas Gold status. These upgrades offer benefits such as member discounts, additional points earned, room upgrades, free breakfast, early and late checkouts, and more. To normally qualify for these status upgrades, you would typically have to stay anywhere 20 to 40 nights per hotel.
When it comes to travel insurance, you’ll also be well-covered with the Platinum Card and its comprehensive package. Cardholders under the age of 65 are insured for 15 consecutive days of travel, per trip. The card’s travel emergency medical insurance covers you up to $5,000,000 while trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers up to $2,500 per person up to a maximum of $5,000 and $6,000 respectively. Other travel insurance benefits you get includes flight delay, baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, car rental theft or damage, hotel and motel burglary, and travel accident.
- Welcome bonus: earn up to 110,000 Membership Rewards points in the first three months (offer ends September 20, 2022)
- Earn 3x points per dollar on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada and 2x points per dollar on eligible travel
- Unlimited access to Global Lounge Collection
- Hotel upgrades: Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, Radisson Rewards Americas Gold status
- Comprehensive travel insurance packing including (but not limited to) emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and flight delay
- $699 annual fee is very steep and could pose a barrier to some cardholders
Cards summary (+/-)
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Our guide to American Express credit cards
American Express Membership Rewards points
The American Express Membership Rewards points program is often touted as the best in Canada due to its great value and flexible redemption options.
Depending on if you go for the American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum cards, the rewards points you earn can be redeemed for any number of things:
- Flexible Points Travel Program: lets you redeem points for virtually any travel expense (including flights, hotel stays, vacation packages, and car rentals) in flat increments of 1,000 points for $10. You can charge the travel expense to your credit card and apply points against the purchase retroactively at a later date to offset the cost.
- American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum cards are all eligible
- Fixed Points Travel Program: lets you redeem points for only round-trip flights out of Canada according to a chart. This chart breaks up potential travel destinations into six regions - each requiring a set number of points (i.e. 60,000 points for a flight to Europe or 100,000 points for a flight to the middle east). While slightly less intuitive than the aforementioned Flexible Points Travel Program, you can get far greater value (anywhere from 1.75 cents to 2 cents per point) provided you book the right flight and utilize the chart to your advantage.
- American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum cards are all eligible
- Airline Transfers: With this option, you can transfer your points (often at a 1:1 ratio) to a number of frequent flyer programs including Aeroplan and British Airways Avios. Done right, these transfers can help open up the door to even more opportunities to maximize your points values by leveraging the power of other loyalty programs - not just Amex's own program.
- Gold or Platinum cards are eligible (the American Express Cobalt is not)
- Gold or Platinum cards are eligible (the American Express Cobalt is not)
- Hotel Transfers: Similar to airline loyalty program transfers, you can transfer the points you earn on your American Express card to either the Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honours programs.
- American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum are all eligible
- American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum are all eligible
- Other rewards (American Express Cobalt, Gold or Platinum are eligible)
- Ticketmaster: 2,000 points for $20 (1 cent per point)
- Gift cards: (varies but averages around 0.7-0.8 cents per point)
- Statement credits: 1,000 points for $7 (0.7 cents per point)
American Express credit card partnerships
American Express has always been fairly selective about who they team up with. American Express’s current credit card partnerships include:
- AIR MILES: Similarly, American Express also offers 3 AIR MILES credit cards: the American Express AIR MILES Card, American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card and American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card. Each card comes with a welcome bonus of some free AIR MILES (more as you move up the tiers) and helps you earn AIR MILES Rewards Miles.
- Marriott Bonvoy: The Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card from American Express comes with a welcome bonus of 50,000 free Bonvoy Points (3 free nights at eligible hotels) and is associated with the world's largest hotel chain. You will also earn 5 Bonvoy per $1 spent at Marriott International hotels (which encompasses over two dozen major hotel brands including Starwood Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, among others) and 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases charged to the card.
- Scotiabank: Currently, Scotiabank is the only bank in Canada to offer American Express credit cards. One of the most popular American Express credit cards in Canada is the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, which lets you earn up to 5x the points for every $1 spent at certain retailers. They also offer the Scotiabank American Express Card, which earns a flat 1 point for every $1 spent.
- Holt Renfrew: The Holt Renfrew Card from American Express (NOW DISCONTINUED) has no annual fee and lets you earn 1.4 Holt Renfrew Rewards Points for virtually every dollar you charge to the card at Holt Renfrew stores. You can also earn 1 Holt Renfrew Rewards Point for every dollar spent anywhere else, and will receive invitations to exclusive Holt Renfrew events.
American Express also used to be the only credit card company to have a partnership with Costco, until 2014 when that relationship ended and Costco decided to offer its members a Capital One Mastercard credit card instead.
Charge cards vs. Credit cards
American Express has the distinction of being the last major provider to offer charge cards and credit cards, and while they may seem similar enough on the outset, there are a few things that set each apart.
The main feature that separates the two is the ability to carry over a balance. While credit cards allow you to do this while accumulating interest, charge cards typically require you to pay off what you owe in full each month. Because of this, you won’t incur compounding interest and debt the way you would with a credit card. Another benefit is that they don’t carry a pre-set spending limit the way credit cards do. This can allow you to make large-scale purchases as needed without worrying about maxing out your card and hurting your credit. It also won’t affect your credit utilization ratio, as credit bureaus don’t take charge card balances into consideration during this calculation. Both can still help you build your credit, however.
That being said, don’t interpret this as a license to spend as much as you want on the card. You’ll still have a ceiling dictated by your card usage and credit history, among other things. Often you’ll be able to check ahead to see if a purchase you intend to make will be approved by calling your provider or logging onto your online account.
So what happens if you don’t pay your charge card’s full balance on time? In cases like this, you’ll be hit with a late fee, which can be just as damaging to your credit as non-payment of a credit card bill. The main difference here is that, with credit cards, you’re allowed to make a minimum payment to satisfy your bill each month. With charge cards, it’s all or nothing. If you don’t pay in full, you’ll be penalized.
Because of this, eligibility requirements for charge cards are often much stricter than for credit cards. While certain credit cards are designed for those with less-than-stellar credit, charge cards require a good-to-excellent score for approval.
If you’re interested in getting a charge card, American Express currently offers the Aeroplan Card.
American Express Front of the Line program
American Express Front of the Line is a perks and rewards program found on every American Express credit card, no matter the tier or annual fee. It allows members to get special access to presale tickets and reserved seating for major concerts and theatre events.
When it comes to high-demand concerts, it’s never fun having to click the refresh button over and over to secure good seats for you and your friends. With AMEX Front of the Line, however, entire blocks of seating are reserved specifically for members to purchase ahead of time. This way, you’re not competing with nearly as many other fans for coveted tickets, and you can get a better shot at the best seat in the house.
With tickets to big-name concerts getting harder and harder to secure, access to presales is essential if you want to ensure you don’t miss out. AMEX Front of the Line ticket presales allow you to get in before the general onsale starts, giving you a much-needed head start.
Redeeming points for tickets
One great feature of this program is the ability to redeem your Membership Rewards points for event tickets through Ticketmaster.
Simply select the option “Membership Rewards Points from American Express” as a payment method during checkout and enter your card information. You can use your points to pay for part of your tickets or the whole thing, depending on how much you’ve collected, but there is a minimum usage of 2000 points.
Your card will get charged for the total cost, but a statement credit for the applied points will be applied to your account within 48 hours.
More on American Express
American Express (also known as Amex) is a multinational financial services corporation that offers a variety of credit cards, charge cards, travel insurance and traveller’s cheques. While Amex cards are said to account for 24% of the total dollar volume of credit card transactions in the U.S., The Nilson Report showed that American Express held just 3.8% of the market share of purchase transactions made worldwide in 2013. American Express operates in more than 140 countries.
Natasha Macmillan, Business Director of Everyday Banking
With over a decade of experience in the finance industry, Natasha works closely with Canada's top financial institutions - from banks to credit unions - to help Ratehub.ca's 1,200,000 monthly users get matched with the right banking products. read more
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