American Express Cobalt Vs. Scotiabank Gold American Express

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With the changes to the Scotiabank Gold American Express now in place, many people are comparing it to the American Express Cobalt card since they’re now very similar. If you check out the chart below, the features are quite indeed nearly identical, but both cards have subtle differences which could sway your decision when applying for one or the other.

In this American Express Cobalt vs. Scotiabank Gold American Express faceoff, I’m going to into the fine details of each card to help you determine if one is better than the other.

 American Express CobaltScotiabank Gold Amex
Annual fee$10 monthly$120
Welcome bonus2,500 points per month for 12 months25,000 points
Foreign exchange fee2.50%0%
Earn Rate5 per $ 1 spent on grocery and dining, 2 on travel (gas, flights, hotels, etc.), 1 for everything else5 per $ 1 spent on eats and entertainment, 3 on gas, transit and streaming services, 1 for everything else
Travel medical$5,000,000 / 15 days$1,000,000 / 25 days
Trip cancellationNone$2,500 per person with a $10,000 maximum
Trip interruption$500 - 4 hours$500 - 4 hours
Baggage delay$500 - 4 hoursUp to $1,000 per group - 4 hours
Car rental$85,000 - 48 days$65,000 - 48 days

First off, the biggest difference between the two cards is the foreign transaction fees. The Scotiabank Gold American Express has no foreign transaction fees whereas the American Express Cobalt card charges the standard 2.5%. Scotiabank already had a credit card with no forex fees in the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card so it came as a bit of a surprise when it was announced when the Scotiabank Gold Amex would also feature no foreign exchange fees.

The sign up bonus is a touch different for each card. The American Express Cobalt card gives you 2,500 points every month for 12 months but you need to spend $500 each month to get it. That means you’ll spend $6,000 total to get the full signup bonus of 30,000 points. The Scotiabank Gold American Express gives you 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months so it’s much easier to get your bonus.

As for the earn rate, both cards earn you 5 points per $1 spent on food and drinks, but it’s the second multiplier that can be a deal-breaker for some people. With the Cobalt card, you earn 2 points per $1 spent on all travel purchases which includes flights and hotels. The Scotiabank card earns you more points at 3 per $1 spent, but that only applies to gas, transit, and streaming services. Which one is a better fit for you really depends on how much you spend on each category.

The included travel insurance can also make a difference. The Scotiabank card only gives you $1,000,000 in travel medical insurance but you’re covered up to 25 days whereas the Cobalt card gives you $5,000,000 for 15 days. For some reason, the Cobalt card doesn’t give you any trip cancellation insurance but they do give you a little more coverage for your car rental. Overall, I think the travel insurance included with the Scotiabank Gold American Express card is a little better.

Don’t forget about the points

Based on the above, you may have already decided which card is for you, but you also need to factor in how your points can be used. The Scotiabank Gold American Express earns you Scotia Rewards points where 100pts = $1. These points can be used through the Scotia Rewards travel portal or applied directly to travel purchases you made with your credit card.

The American Express Cobalt card earns you Membership Rewards Select (MR-S) points which are a little different compared to regular Membership Rewards points. The main difference is that there are no airline transfer partners with MR-S. You can transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 which is nice. The regular redemption ratio is 100pts = $1 which can be applied to any travel purchase or via the American Express travel portal. You also get access to the American Express Fixed Travel option which can save you a fair amount of points in certain situations.

Final thoughts 

Although the American Express Cobalt Card and the Scotiabank Gold American Express card are similar, there are enough small differences where one card would be a better pick over the other. Take a look at the earn rate, insurance and how you like to redeem your points before you decide which one to apply for. 

American Express Cobalt Vs. Scotiabank Gold American Express

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


  1. Joey on August 18, 2019 at 2:13 AM

    Hello Barry,

    First off I would like to commend you for your very detailed description of all of the cards you write about. So I have been thinking about changing travel cards for a while now. Currently my wife and I have The TD Visa Aeroplan Infinite or Platinum, whichever one is better. I am NOT very happy with it, as I go to Italy every year to visit family, and the Aeroplan is basically USELESS for going to Europe, as it costs you 60kpts to go to Italy, but then you also get charged around $750 in taxes and fees. I can find a flight to England for sometimes under $1000 or to Italy for $1100, so it doesn’t seem worth it for Europe. We do use it as we often go to Toronto to visit family at least once a year, and it only costs 25k points. But they increase flights to Toronto for the whole month of December to 40k points. Their earn rate is also a lot lower at 1.5=$1, but I feel like I accrue points faster. I have been looking at it for NZ, and a few countries in Africa. Some of these airlines don’t charge the fees, so NZ I can find a flight for 90k points and $150 in taxes, and I most recently found a flight to Delhi for 100kpts and around $300 in fees. But other than that, I have not seen many benefits, except for over priced flights in Canada.

    My thoughts have been towards Scotiabank Gold Amex card or The Amex Cobalt. The Cobalt has the fixed travel options, but I just looked at it, and for Europe it is a MAX of $900. Lets be real, from YVR that doesn’t you much further than London (on a good day). To book with the Scotia Amex it’s my under standing that you just book a flight, and if you have enough points the money will be refunded on your card??

    In your opinion, what card would be the best for someone who 1) Travels to Italy once a year 2) Travels to Toronto once or twice a year 3) Puts everything on my card and pays it off every month.

    Sorry for the essay, but I have been researching cards for ages, and you have done the most research out there!

    • Barry Choi on August 18, 2019 at 1:50 PM

      Hey Joey,

      You bring up some good points. Aeroplan CAN be good, but you need to find airlines with low or no fees and availability. That’s often hard to come by. Vancouver to Toronto is a great value at 25K, but they don’t have much seats in busy seasons. Canada to Europe is literally the worst for Aeroplan.

      Here’s the thing about the Amex Cobalt and Scotiabank Gold Amex. With the Amex card, you have the fixed travel program, but with Scotiabank, it’s a straight return of 1%. So even though a flight to Europe has a maximum base fare of $900 for Amex at a cost of 69K points, $900 on Scotiabank would cost you 90K points. Of course there are taxes to factor in, but generally speaking, the Amex Fixed travel program is excellent. With Amex, you can also transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy as you wish so sometimes, that can be the better value.

      You also need to look at the earn rates. I personally think the Amex Cobalt still has one of the best earn rates, but if you’re new to the card, you need to spend $500 per month for 12 months to get the full bonus. With the Scotiabank card, you can get 25K pretty quickly and then the additional 5K after you spend $10k.

  2. Joey on August 23, 2019 at 6:46 PM

    Thanks Barry for the reply,

    So in response to your reply. I went and i read the FINE print with the Amex card. So the $900 on the fixed travel on the AMEX card only applies to the BASE cost. Ie, no taxes. I then went and searched on Lufthansa the price of a ticket to Italy for which i am going to Verona in October. It was 41150. The base price was only $50, then with international surcharge of another $500. So if I am correct……the Amex fixed points (similar to Aeroplan) would only be 60k points…..but then would only cover the base $530 ticket price, and I would be on the hook for the remaining $620 in “taxes” etc. Essentially the same garbage that Aeroplan offers. I am not sure if the $900 would also cover the “international surcharge” that Lufthansa charges. If not, then it is not a very effective rewards system.

    I might have to try to call AMex, but from the footnotes that I read at the bottom, it doesn’t seem that great. Have you yourself used this card by any chance??

    And what do you mean the Scotiabank is a straight return of 1%? i thought you get 5 points per dollar spent on food, restaurants, groceries and a few other things? Also, I tried looking on the Scotiabank website, as the grocery stores also mentioned something like at participating grocery stores. So is it only at certain stores?? I often shop at small Asian grocery stores, as they have the best produce prices in any town!

    I also never stay in hotels, as we like to cook, so its almost always airbnb with a place that has a kitchen so we can cook, unless I am in Asia and its cheaper to eat street food, then often we stay in a hotel, but a cheap one at that.

    • Barry Choi on August 24, 2019 at 9:50 AM


      It really depends on the ticket. For example, I flew to Seattle via Amex fixed travel recently. it cost me 40K points and about $140 in taxes. However, the cash fare would have been $750 so in the end, I got incredible value.

      Amex isn’t exactly like Aeroplan. Aeroplan taxes aren’t necessarily the same as a standard fare. Amex charges taxes based on a standard fare where with Aeroplan rewards, taxes could be higher.

      I don’t have the Cobalt card, but it’s the same rewards as my Platinum.

      WIth Scotia Rewards 1000 points = $10 in travel. With 5X points categories, you’re earning 5%. What I’m trying to say is that, Scotiabank gives you a straight dollar value whereas Amex and their fixed rewards can potentially give you a higher return.

      Merchants are set by Visa and Mastercard so an Asian grocery store such as TnT or even smaller ones should be classified as a grocery store.

  3. Kevin on August 29, 2019 at 11:20 AM

    Hey Barry

    Some clarification on below. With the amex card do you need to used their fixed travel program or you can book directly with any airline or travel site then apply the points to dollar value of the ticket?

    “The regular redemption ratio is 100pts = $1 which can be applied to any travel purchase or via the American Express travel portal. You also get access to the American Express Fixed Travel option which can save you a fair amount of points in certain situations.”

    • Barry Choi on August 29, 2019 at 1:47 PM


      You can book directly with any airline or travel site and then apply your points to the purchase later.

  4. Slim on January 11, 2020 at 10:53 AM

    Hi Barry,
    I have the CIBC Aventura which I use for everyday use and a ATM card for CIBC,I am told American Express Cobalt is the Card for me as no charge for second card and there is a Payback,,,to use with Rogers Mastercard where all purchases abroad incur No Foreign Transfer fees.
    As a Octogenarian ,I am confused by all this Jargon and note even the young ones are.
    We travel to Mexico,Europe twice year,and find Aeroplan miles can be used to purchase the Air ticket but we STill have to Pay cash for Taxes and Airport rates.
    SO my question is 1.Is there any card rewards which covers both the Ticket Purchase and the Taxes?
    2,Is it any benefit for me to Change from CIBC AVENTURA to AMERICAN EXPRESS COBALT…and what are the benefits.
    Changing always has consequences both good & Bad

    • Barry Choi on January 11, 2020 at 11:08 AM


      Your sort of comparing apples to oranges. The Cobalt card is good in the sense that it allows you to earn more points on food purchases but CIBC Rewards and American Express membership rewards are very different. Both programs allow you to claim your points at a 1% return, e.g. 1,000 points = $10 in travel (which would cover taxes). However, you could also use your points for their fixed points programs respectively. Although you’d have to pay taxes when going that route, the value of your points can still be worth more.

      Every rewards program is different so you need to know the ins and outs of them. Then you need to consider your earn rate. For many people, they don’t want to deal with the hassle. You must have a really old CIBC card as they longer allow new cardholders to transfer their points to Aeroplan. With the Amex Cobalt Card, you can’t transfer your points to any airline partners directly.

      Here’s a guide I wrote on the bank travel programs but sticking to your CIBC card may be the best bet.

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