American Express Cobalt Review

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The American Express Cobalt is the best credit card in Canada if you want to earn points quickly. Simply put, it has some of the highest earning rates for multiple categories. Combine that with the fact that American Express Membership Rewards is the most flexible rewards program, and you’ve got the perfect combination.

While it’s true that Amex isn’t accepted at all retail merchants, the acceptance rate is likely much higher than you realize. There are less than a handful of merchants where I shop regularly, and American Express isn’t accepted. Read my American Express Cobalt review now and find out why this card could be right for you.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
  • 1,250 monthly points when charging $750 each month for a year (15,000 points total)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

Welcome bonus and earn rate

The welcome bonus for the Amex Cobalt card uses a monthly structure. Typically, you’ll get 2,500 American Express Membership rewards points every monthly billing period for the first twelve months, as long as you spend a minimum of $500 on eligible card purchases. Since you can get the bonus 12 times in the first year, that works out to 30,000 bonus points.

However, the most recent offer has been just 1,250 American Express Membership rewards points every monthly billing period for the first twelve months when spending $750 on eligible card purchases. That’s a total of q5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points in the first year as the welcome offer.

As for the earn rate, you’ll get the following:

  • 5 points per dollar spent on eats and drinks
  • 3 points per dollar spent on streaming services
  • 2 points per dollar spent on travel
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Simply put, the American Express Cobalt Card offers some of the highest earn rates from a credit card in Canada. That said, the categories do have a cap of $2,500 per month. Once you exceed that amount, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent.

Those limits may seem high, but you can easily reach them if you optimize your spending. For example, multiple grocery stores sell gift cards for other retailers. You could purchase gift cards there to earn 5X the points and then use your gift cards as needed. This ensures you’re maximizing the points you can earn.

Benefits and perks

Before I get into the benefits and perks of the American Express Cobalt Card, it’s worth noting that the card has a monthly fee of $12.99 ($155.88 a year). While that’s on par with other mid-tier credit cards, the Cobalt Card focuses on the earn rate instead of perks. That said, you’ll get the following benefits.

Travel insurance

  • Emergency Medical Insurance – $5,000,000 – 15 days / Under 65
  • Flight Delay Insurance $500 – 4 hours +
  • Baggage Delay Insurance $500 – 6 hours +
  • Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance – $500 combined per occurrence
  • Car Rental TheftDamage Insurance – $85,000 – 48 days
  • Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance – $500 per occurrence
  • Travel Accident Insurance – Up to $250,000

Although the travel insurance coverages do not include trip cancellation/interruption, it does include major things such as emergency medical, lost or stolen baggage, flight delay, car rental theft and damage, travel accident and hotel/motel burglary insurance.

Mobile device insurance

Mobile devices charged or financed with your Cobalt card are eligible for mobile device insurance up to $1,000. This insurance covers you from theft, loss or damage for up to two years. Your coverage starts on the 91st day following the date of your device so it doesn’t conflict with the included purchase protection.

Purchase insurance

When making purchases with his card, you get purchase protection and buyer’s assurance. With purchase protection, your goods are covered from theft, loss, and damage for 90 days. Buyer’s assurance doubles your manufacturer’s warranty by one additional year.

American Express experiences

As an American Express Cobalt Cardholder, you get access to some exclusive American Express experiences.

  • Front Of The Line Presales – Get early access to some of the most popular concerts, restaurants, sporting events and more.
  • Reserved tickets – American Express has partnerships with many major events where cardholders get access to reserved tickets during the public sale period
  • American Express offers – Cardholders will get special discounts on select merchants. You’ll find these offers in your app or online profile.
  • The Hotel Collection – When you book two nights at properties participating in The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel, you’ll get up to $100 USD in hotel credits and a room upgrade when available.

How to redeem your points

If you’re still reading this American Express Cobalt review, you’ll want to know how your points work. American Express Membership Rewards (MR) is easily the best bank travel loyalty program.

The regular redemption rate of MR is 1,000 points = $10 travel or a statement credit. You can also use your points to redeem flights on the American Express Fixed Points Travel program, which can be incredibly valuable. For example, you can claim 40,000 points for a return flight to anywhere within North America (except Hawaii and Alaska) as long as the base ticket price doesn’t exceed $700. If you maximize this value, your points would be worth nearly 2 cents each which is double the regular redemption rate.

Since the value of statement credits is the same as booking travel through the travel portal, you’re better off booking direct where you can find lower prices or taking dvantage of any status perks you have.

What also makes MR popular is that you can transfer your points to Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy. The transfer ratios are 1:1 for Aeroplan and 1:1.2 for Marriott Bonvoy. I personally value one Aeroplan point at 2 cents, so there’s some good value there.

American Express Cobalt Card eligibility

The American Express Cobalt Card is only available to Canadian residents that are at least the age of majority in the province or territory in which you reside.

None of the banks in Canada, including American Express, disclose what credit score is required to be approved. That said, your credit likely needs to be in at least “good” standing to be considered.

As for the income requirement, American Express doesn’t actually list any income requirements for any of its cards. I personally know students with limited income who have been approved for this card.

How the American Express Cobalt Card compares to others

Even though the American Express Cobalt Card is often considered the best everyday spending card in Canada, you’ll still want to consider other cards before applying.

How the American Express Cobalt Card vs. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

The Scotiabank Gold American Express is often compared to the Amex Cobalt Card since you’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, and entertainment purchases; and 3 points per $1 spent on gas, public transportation, rideshares and eligible streaming service purchases. That said, Scene+ points aren’t nearly as impressive as Membership Rewards. It’s a mid-tier program on my list of the best bank travel rewards programs in Canada, whereas American Express Membership Rewards ranks first.

How the American Express Cobalt Card vs. American Express Platinum Card

Some people also like to compare this card to the American Express Platinum Card. They’re actually very different cards since the Platinum card gives you a ton of travel benefits such as airport lounge access, hotel status upgrades, an annual $200 travel credit, a NEXUS rebate, and Pearson International airport perks. If you want travel perks, the Platinum card makes sense. However, if you want to earn a lot of points, stick to the Cobalt card.

How the American Express Cobalt Card vs. American Business Card

If you’re looking for a business version of the Cobalt card, you’re out of luck. However, American Express Canada does have the American Express Business Edge Card, which has high multipliers (but lower than the Amex Cobalt) in some categories. This card is one of the best business credit cards in Canada since it has the highest earn rate on eligible eats & drinks when it comes to a business credit card.

Final thoughts

My American Express Cobalt review is positive. The card is ideal for people in the following situations:

  • You want to earn rewards fast – The earn rate on the card is the highest in Canada.
  • You have regular monthly spending – The welcome bonus is structured around a minimum monthly spend, so you could earn points fast.
  • You like to travel – Membership Rewards points are highly flexible and can be transferred to Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy. It’s easily one of the best travel credit cards in Canada since American Express Membership Rewards is so flexible.

It really shouldn’t surprise you that the Amex Cobalt Card is on my list of the best American Express credit cards in Canada. This is the card I recommend to almost everyone. Message me if you want a referral link.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

31 Comments

  1. Owen @ PlanEasy.ca on June 13, 2018 at 8:47 AM

    Next year we want to take a trip out east, so this might be a good option to save some money on the flights. Last year we signed up for the WestJet Mastercard and we just booked two return flights to Vancouver for less than $175 per person each way. In total the flights came to $683 with taxes and fees.

    If you’re willing to do a bit of work then these credit card deals can save you a ton of money!



    • Barry Choi on June 13, 2018 at 2:03 PM

      There are quite a few credit cards that can earn you free flights. Another option is the RBC Avion card which is offering 25,000 points after the first purchase.

      There’s also a CIBC trick where if you sign up for all three Aventura cards, you’ll have $850 in travel credits on a spend of $3,000



      • Owen @ PlanEasy.ca on June 20, 2018 at 9:08 AM

        Nice! I’m going to check out those CIBC cards. We want to travel to the east cost next year so that could be a good way to cover the flights. Thank you!



  2. Alex Thompson on July 19, 2018 at 2:24 PM

    I have a couple of AMEX cards, a Canadian based card and two US based cards. I notice that my Canadian card does not have AMEX OFFERS as my US cards do. With my US cards, I can click on targeted offers that show up on my AMEX home page for each card. These targeted offers add up to significant savings as well as points accumulation. I asked AMEX Canada why Canadian card holders don’t have access to Canadian targeted offers but didn’t receive an answer. I receive targeted offers from my CIBC Aeroplan Infinite Privilege Visa so I have ended up using that card a lot more than my AMEX Canadian Gold.

    Why so few targeted offers for Canadian AMEX even though I have all my marketing options ticked to “yes”? I’d prefer to use my AMEX Gold because it has 2x earning whereas the CIBC card has 1.25-1.5, mind you, with the targeted offers and Aeroplan shopping portal, my earn rate is 2x or slightly greater.

    Thanks!



    • Barry Choi on July 19, 2018 at 2:27 PM

      Alex,

      Interesting points about the targeted offers in the U.S. As you’ve stated, many credit card companies already do it in Canada so it is a bit surprising that Amex doesn’t offer any. Maybe they don’t since they’re not the merchant?



  3. Alex Thompson on July 19, 2018 at 3:20 PM

    Hi Barry,

    I tried to send you a screen shot, but it didn’t work. Here are just a few of the 97 AMEX OFFERS that appear on my AMEX Home Page, under my recent transactions. AMEX OFFERS and the ability to transfer my AMEX rewards to various airline programs for flights are the main reasons I stick with AMEX when I am out of Canada. I asked AMEX Canada where the OFFERS were hiding when I log in, and they didn’t understand what I was talking about. Why doesn’t AMEX offer similar saving and earning opportunities here in Canada?

    Get 3X Membership Rewards® Points
    Amazon.com
    Expires
    8/28/2018
    Add to Card

    Uber
    Use your Card for up to $30 off your first ride with promo code UBERAMEX. Terms Apply.
    Learn More
    Add to Card

    Spend $100 or more, get $20 back
    crateandbarrel.com
    Expires
    9/16/2018
    Add to Card

    Spend $40 or more, get $10 back
    California Pizza Kitchen
    Expires
    9/16/2018
    Add to Card

    Save 15% every time, up to $5
    Starbucks
    Expires in 13 day
    Add to Card

    Spend $100 or more, get $20 back
    Banana Republic
    Expires
    9/3/2018
    Add to Card



    • Barry Choi on July 19, 2018 at 3:24 PM

      My guess is that there’s more competition in the US when it comes to credit cards so they’re likely more active when it comes to promotions.

      The same thing could be said about why the US has higher signup bonuses.



    • Meghan on December 23, 2023 at 9:59 AM

      Do you get lounge access with the cobalt?



      • Barry Choi on December 23, 2023 at 10:01 AM

        Meghan,

        No lounge access for the Cobalt.



  4. Alex Thompson on July 19, 2018 at 3:34 PM

    I was thinking along the same line, and my AMEX US did come with a 50K sign up bonus. However, the AMEX OFFERS are a huge perk that I would think Canadian AMEX would be interested in offering since most of their cards are not aligned with Airmiles or Aeroplan which have their own bonus offer programs. Anyway, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with all of the CIBC Infinite Privilege Aeroplan targeted offers which no one at CIBC explained to me when I applied for the card. There was even one month where CIBC offered 15x points which ended up earning me a short haul ticket in one month. Thanks for your answers.



  5. […] not bad for travel purchases, but for dining, it’s a bit low. For example, the Amex Cobalt card gives you a 5% return on dining and the Scotiabank Gold American Express gives you a 4% return. […]



  6. JH on November 20, 2018 at 10:04 PM

    This is a good points card and accepted at all of the restaurants I frequented with the extra points awarded. However, in dealing with AMEX you will find a few irregularities: First they offer a very small credit limit, in my case $2000 when I make over $500k. Because the limit is so small you may go over it very easily; they will not stop you or alert you and continue to have merchants accept your card. This results in a Overlimit Charge. I have been an AMEX card holder since 2004 having previously had a Platinum Card which I didn’t use enough to justify. So I put a few more bucks on the cobalt card in order to take advantage of the points, this resulted in another charge called a Credit Balance Inactivity Fee. Not impressed, think Ill just use my Canadian Tire MasterCard, at least it’s easy to understand, good for gas and less bullshit.



    • Barry Choi on November 21, 2018 at 8:05 AM

      JH,

      I think it depends on the card you apply for. Amex has a few charge cards where there is no limit.



  7. Marco on December 31, 2018 at 12:06 AM

    Hi Barry. How does one transfer from Amex Cobalt to SPG? Secondly I did a test with flights from Toronto to Newark on Amex Rewards and it showed 15K points plus and some taxes. The Air Canada Aeroplan website I think takes around the same. My question is if transferring to Amex Cobalt to SPG to Aeroplan means the 15K points eventually becomes far less, is it not better to just leave 15K points with Amex and book directly from there? I even did a YYZ-IST with Amex Cobalt and Aeroplan but that was a different story. 35K with Aeroplan but 100K with Amex MRS. Wow!!



    • Barry Choi on December 31, 2018 at 6:23 AM

      Hi Marco,

      When you login to your Amex account, under travel or “travel parters” you should see an option to transfer to SPG.

      NEVER transfer from Amex –> Marriott –> Aeroplan as you would be devaluing your points for no reason. If you’re going to book flights, use their fixed mileage program, but even then, sometimes it’s cheaper to pay with cash.

      Alternatively, just sign up for a regular Amex card e.g. Gold or Platinum where the transfer rate from Amex MR to Aeroplan is 1:1



  8. Marco on December 31, 2018 at 11:40 PM

    Thanks Barry for the prompt reply. I basically signed up for the Amex Cobalt to increase my Aeroplan points. Now I just wish I had signed up for the Amex card with the CAD 150 charge and got some points teansferred to Aeroplan on a 1:1 basis. Thia transfer to SPG to Aeroplan is so complicated if not devaluing the points themselves. However their fixed mileage works okay for flights within North America. Enough to get to Newark for the non-stop to Singapore. One can dream 🙂

    I did sign up for the Cobalt card in early November. Do I still qualify for the 10K points if I spend CAD 1500 in the first three months….or was it some other amount. Can’t recall but remember the bonus. .



    • Barry Choi on January 1, 2019 at 9:33 AM

      Marco,

      With the Cobalt card, you earn 2,500 Membership Rewards Select points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in purchases on your Card.

      The Amex Gold card gives 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,500 in the first three months.



  9. Marco on January 1, 2019 at 10:41 AM

    Happy New Year, Barry. Thanks for the Amex Gold info. Hopefully, if I can charge $500 to the card each month then 30K points in one year is good.



  10. Ethan on February 20, 2019 at 12:43 PM

    Hey Barry,

    In your opinion, what is the best Visa or MasterCard that will fill in the short comings of the Cobalt that would complement the card?



    • Barry Choi on February 20, 2019 at 12:58 PM

      Ethan,

      I favour cash back cards as a secondary card to Amex as the assumption is that you won’t do much spending on it so the Tangerine Money-Back card or Rogers World Elite Mastercard tend to be my top choices. That being said, any card which offers the first year free and has a nice sign up bonus is also worth considering such as the TD Aeroplan Infinite Visa or the BMO World Elite Mastercard.



  11. Ethan on February 20, 2019 at 5:43 PM

    Hi Barry,

    I was thinking along the lines between the RBC’s Cashback Preferred World Elite Mastercard or the Scotiabank’s Visa Infinite Passport. With the passport there’s no foreign exchange charges and it has 6 lounge access passes. That would fill in the short comings of the cobalt. What are your thoughts on that?



    • Barry Choi on February 20, 2019 at 8:03 PM

      Ethan,

      The Passport card is one of my favourites, but note it has an annual fee of $139. You do get a sign up bonus of $250 and the lounge passes/travel insurance is easily worth $350+ so there’s a lot of value there.



  12. Ethan on February 20, 2019 at 8:34 PM

    Barry,

    I can also get the RBC world elite and get the VIP chequing account to get the annual fee waived. It also has lounge access. My coworker has it along with the cobalt. He says it’s the perfect combo because it fills in the cobalts short comings. Plus you get cash back.



    • Barry Choi on February 20, 2019 at 8:39 PM

      Ethan,

      You don’t get free lounge passes with that card. You get Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey which allows you to access their lounges for $32 USD per visit. Basically Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey means you get a free standard Priority Pass Membership.

      The Scotiabank card gives you the standard membership AND 6 free lounge visits per year.



  13. […] said, you could technically earn up to 5% in points back on your Amazon purchases if you used your American Express Cobalt card. You’d have to purchase Amazon gift cards at grocery stores where you earn 5 Membership Rewards […]



  14. […] points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, and entertainment purchases which puts in on part with the Amex Cobalt card, but you get no forex fees with this card. 3 points per $1 spent on gas, public transportation, […]



  15. Sam on November 17, 2020 at 8:57 AM

    I’ve had this card for over a year now and have been accumulating quite a few MR-S points through their 5x accelerator on food/dining/grocery etc as well their monthly promotions with key vendors. One key way to maximize points on accelerators like this one on any credit card that has it is to get gift cards for items that aren’t covered under the accelerator at the food/dining/grocery stores. ie I get 5x points on gas, Amazon etc.. because I purchase pre-paid cards at the grocery store where I get 5x the points.



  16. Chris on April 9, 2023 at 2:54 PM

    Hi Barry, just read your piece. Am considering this card but here are my concerns… I will reach the 30K limit on restaurant and travel fairly quickly (streaming no) maximizing out and ending up at 1% on the rest of it. I put through in upwards of 400-500K on my card a year so ultimately I am looking for brass tacks best rate of return. At one time had the Cap One Aspire at 2% and that was great until they devalued to 1.5% and then cancelled my card. I now have the HSBC world elite and didn’t have many complaints until they devalued from 1.5% to 1% in February. 1% is just not enough. I’m not necessarily worried about perks etc. Just cashback in either travel (in a flex redemption like HSBC or Aspire have) or statement credit. So after the thresholds are met on this card –It’s one percent. Is there another card out there (preferably not Amex due to lower merchant acceptance) that gives a better overall base rate of earn on all purchases without categories and caps?

    Thank you in advance

    Chris



    • Barry Choi on April 9, 2023 at 3:53 PM

      Hey Chris,

      So with a $400-$500k spend, I suspect Amex would flag you if you used the Cobalt. They would probably only allow you to use a business card. The Amex Platinum Business Card gives you 1.25 points per $1 spent. That’s a 1.25% return, but if you transferred your points to Aeroplan, you could get more value.

      One alternative is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite business card which gives you 1.5 points per $1 spent (1.5%) return. That’s respectable, but Scene+ has no airline transfer partners.



      • Chris on April 9, 2023 at 4:25 PM

        Thanks for your prompt reply Barry. I’ll check out the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite business card. Not so concerned about airline as I also have an aeroplan business visa. So from my research, 1.5% is about the ceiling these days?



        • Barry Choi on April 9, 2023 at 5:06 PM

          Hey Chris,

          For a base earn, 1.5% is typically the best.

          That said, the simply preferred from American Express card earns you 2% cash back as the base earn rate. However, it’s a personal card so charging the amounts you do will get you flagged.



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