The American Express Cobalt Card is one of the best travel credit cards in Canada and people don’t even realize it. With the ability to earn up to 5% in points on select categories and some excellent points transfer partners, this card is one of the most popular cards in Canada. There’s just one thing I need to mention right away. With the Amex Cobalt card, you earn MR-S points which are slightly less valuable than the regular American Express Membership Rewards points. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something to be aware of which I’ll go into more detail below.

When you look at how the earn rate is calculated and the subscription-based monthly fee, you could argue that American Express Canada designed the Amex Cobalt for younger people (aka. millennials). But, when you look at the features and benefits, you’ll quickly realize that this card is great for a variety of people especially for those who do a lot of spending on their credit cards. Read my AmexCobalt review now to find out what makes it one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada.

Amex Cobalt benefits

  • $10 Monthly fee 
  • 2,500 monthly MR-S points after charging $500 in purchases per month for a total of 30,000 points in the first year
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (Groceries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery)
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel (flights, hotels, trains, public transportation, taxis/Uber)
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included
  • American Express Invites access
  • Free supplementary cards

Unlike most credit cards, the American Express Cobalt has a monthly fee instead of an annual fee. Since the monthly fee is $10, that works out to $120 which is similar to many other credit cards. This may seem like a gimmick, but it’s meant to be a subscription style of credit card which basically allows users to try out the card. They would then be able to cancel at any time without having to worry about losing the money they paid for the annual fee.

The welcome bonus with the Amex Cobalt follows a similar monthly structure. With the Amex Cobalt, you get 2,5000 MR-S points every month, for the first twelve months as long as you spend a minimum of $500 each month. In the end, you would have spent $6,000 in the first year to get the full bonus of 30,000 MR-S points which is quite good.

This style of sign up bonus was likely introduced by American Express so they don’t get as many credit card churners, but I also feel like it made good business sense since the Amex Cobalt gives such a high rate of return on multiple categories. More importantly, since the annual fee is actually monthly, the card almost feels like a subscription service which you can cancel if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough use out of it.

The 5 points earned per dollar spent on food and drinks is one of the highest you’ll get for that category from a credit card in Canada. The 2 points earned per dollar spent on travel is nice since it includes public transportation and taxis/Uber), while the 1 point earned per $1 spent on other categories is pretty standard. 

As you can imagine, this earn rate is great for people who do a lot of spending but there’s a combined spending cap of $30,000 for each multiplier every year. Once you reach a spend of $30,000, you’d earn 1 point per $1 spent. For example, you’d earn 5 points per $1 spent on grocery stores, restaurants and food delivery up to a combined total of $30,000 which works to 150,000 points. Any spending above that amount gives you 1 point per $1 spent

Although the travel insurance package does 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.

How does American Express Memberships Rewards work?

As mentioned, with the Amex Cobalt Card, you earn American Express MR-S points which have a slightly lower value than regular American Express Membership Rewards points. The main difference between the two points programs is that you can’t transfer your MR-S points directly to any airline partners whereas you can with regular MR points. That said, you could transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy and then to one of their partner airlines, but that devalues your points.

The regular redemption rate of MR-S is 1,000 points = $10 travel 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.

If you do decide to book travel on your own, you can go through the American Express travel portal or you can just pay for your travel purchases with your Amex Cobalt card and then have points applied as a statement credit. Both ways count as travel so you’re getting the full value for your points.

Another popular use for the Amex Cobalt MR-S points is to transfer them to a hotel partner such as Marriott Bonvoy. The ratio is 1:1.2 so 10,000 MR-S points are worth 12,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Marriott Bonvoy points can give you good value but it depends on the category of the hotel, the season and what the regular nightly rate is.

Here’s another trick that’s not often talked about since it’s not the best value. With American Express Membership Rewards Points, you can redeem 3,125 points for a $25 prepaid American Express Card. This redemption also applies to MR-S points, so that means when you use your Amex Cobalt Card on groceries where you earn 5 points per $1 spent, you can get 4% back in “cash back” if you redeem your points for a prepaid American Express Card.

For those looking to earn hotel points quickly, you could apply for the Amex Cobalt Card and the American Express Business Edge Card. Both earn you MR-S points, so you can convert them to Marriott Bonvoy points. You could then apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex and you’d have more than 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after meeting the minimum spend.

How the American Express Cobalt card compares to others

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, but Scotia Rewards isn’t nearly as impressive as MR-S. Heck, Scotia Rewards ranks near the bottom on my list of the best bank travel rewards programs in Canada whereas American Express Membership Rewards ranks #1.

Some people like to compare this card to the American Express Platinum Card, but that’s more focused on travel experiences and benefits so I don’t think it makes much sense to compare the two. A better comparison is the American Express Gold Rewards Card which earns you regular MR points. If you use a referral link, you can earn up to 31,000 MR points when you spend $1,500 in the first three months of card membership. That’s a significantly lower minimum spend requirement compared to the Amex Cobalt Card, but the earn rate is lower with the Gold Rewards Card at 2 points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.

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

Final thoughts

My Amex Cobalt review is positive. It’s easily one of the best travel credit cards in Canada when you take advantage of their hotel transfer partners and the Fixed Points Travel Program. If you spend a lot on food and eats, then you need to apply for this card now.

Amex Cobalt Review

25 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
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    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.

  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, […]

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