The Best American Express Credit Cards in Canada for 2023
Choosing the best American Express credit cards in Canada is easy since Amex has a card for every type of user. They have travel, cash back, low interest cards, and more. While it’s true that American Express isn’t accepted by all merchants, the cards they offer are incredible. I personally use American as my primary card since their points are so valuable, but I always keep a Mastercard in my wallet as a backup.
If you’re applying for your first credit card, or you’re looking to get another, you should look at American Express cards first. Unlike other companies, American Express has made its cards even more attractive over the years. Choosing just one card is the tricky part (that’s why some people have multiple Amex cards). Generally speaking, you should focus on the type of card you’re interested in. Here’s a list of the best American Express credit cards in Canada and what they offer.
|Credit card||Best card for|
|American Express Cobalt Card||Everyday spending|
|American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card||Cash back|
|American Express Platinum Card||Frequent travel|
|American Gold Rewards Card||Casual travel|
|American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card||Aeroplan|
|Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card||Hotels|
|American Express Green Card||No Fee|
|American Express Business Platinum Card||Business owners|
|American Express Business Edge Card||Freelancers|
American Express Cobalt Card
- $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
- 2,500 monthly Membership Rewards points after charging $500 in purchases each month for a year (30,000 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
The best American Express credit card for everyday spending is the American Express Cobalt Card. This Canadian exclusive card gives you 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks; 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services; 2 points per $1 spent on travel (including public transportation); and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The welcome bonus is normally 2,500 American Express Membership Rewards points for 12 months, so that works out to 30,000 points total.
What’s great about American Express Membership Rewards is that they’re highly flexible. Using them for travel or a statement credit has an equal value. There’s also the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program where you can increase the value of your points. Alternatively, you can transfer your points to airlines and hotel loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy.
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
- $9.99 monthl fee ($119.88 annually)
- Spend $750 each month and get a $40 statement credit for 10 months ($400 total)
- 4% cash back on groceries ($1,200 cash back max)
- 4% cash back on gas purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases
- Travel & mobile device insurance
- Buyer’s assurance & purchase protection
The American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card often appears on my list of the best cash back credit cards in Canada for good reason. You get a straight 4% cash back on groceries and gas. That said, the cash back you can earn on groceries is capped at $1,200 purchases. All other purchases give you 2% cash back. The welcome bonus changes from time to time, but it’s usually increased cash back or a statement credit. Both offers are excellent since it’s money back in your pocket.
American Express Platinum Card
- $699 annual fee
- Earn 90,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $7,500 in the first 3 months
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points on travel, and 1 point on all other purchases
- $200 annual travel credit
- Unlimited airport lounge access
- Hotel status upgrades
If you travel frequently, then the American Expres Personal Platinum Card is easily the best American Express credit card in Canada since it comes with a ton of travel benefits. The welcome bonus is often worth more than 100,000 points. That has a base value of $1,000, but you could easily double that value if you transferred your points to Aeroplan.
You get an annual travel credit of $200, so the annual fee of $699 is more like $499. Plus, you get unlimited lounge access. Normally a membership with Priority Pass would cost you $99 USD and $32 per visit, so there’s a lot of value with the Amex Platinum card when you factor in all the other benefits.
Although some people may not think much about it, the instant Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status you get with this card gives you free room upgrades. For those who travel out of Toronto, you also get access to priority lines, which are often faster than the NEXUS lines.
American Express Gold Rewards Card
- $250 annual fee
- Earn 5,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $1,000 each month for 12 months (60,000 points total)
- Earn 10,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel purchases
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- $100 Annual travel credit
- Priority Pass Membership + 4 annual Plaza Premium passes
If you’re just a casual traveller and don’t like the idea of paying a high annual fee, the American Express Gold Rewards Card is likely a better choice. The annual fee is just $250, but you get an annual travel credit of $100. That means your annual fee is effectively $150 a year. When you factor in the 4 annual Plaza Premium passes you get, this card pays for itself.
What’s also worth noting is the welcome bonus. Although the offer frequently changes, it’s often worth between 50,000 – 75,000 Membership Rewards. That’s pretty generous for a credit card with a reasonable annual fee. If you’re looking to earn Aeroplan points fast, this is an ideal card to get in addition to a traditional Aeroplan credit card.
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
- $599 annual fee
- Earn 50,000 points when spending $6,000 within 3 months
- Earn 7,500 points per month when spending $2,000 each month for 6 months
- Earn 25,000 points per month when making any purchase between months 14-17
- Earn 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada, 2 points on dining and food delivery, and 1.25 points on all other purchases
- Unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for you and a guest
- Free first checked bag, priority check-in and boarding on Air Canada
The American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card is one of the best Aeroplan credit cards and comes packed with features. The welcome bonus is usually worth around 90,000 points and you also get a Buddy Pass. This pass could save you a few hundred dollars as your companion would only pay the taxes for their flight.
Overall, this card is perfect for people who prefer to fly Air Canada. You get a higher earn rate on Air Canada and Air Canada Vacation purchases. Plus, you get Air Canada benefits such as free checked bags, access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America, and preferred pricing on Aeroplan redemptions.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
- $120 annual fee
- 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 in the first 3 months
- 10,000 additional points when you make any purchase in months 14 to 17
- Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
- Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points
With more than 7,000 properties in over 120 countries, it’s no surprise that the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Credit Card is one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada. Marriott has over 7,000 properties in 120+ countries. That means you won’t have any problems earning and redeeming your Marriott Bonvoy points.
The earn rate is 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott properties and 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get a free annual night award up to 35,000 points which will easily offset your annual fee of $120. What’s interesting about this card is that you usually get some extra points if you sign up with a referral link.
American Express Green Card
- No annual fee
- 10,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases
- Earn 1 Additional point per $1 spent on American Express Travel
- Buyer’s assurance and purchase protection
The American Express Green Card is often overlooked, but it’s an excellent, no fee credit card. The welcome bonus is 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,000 to your card within the first 3 months. Remember, you can transfer your points to Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy, so those points can easily be worth $200+. That’s incredible for a no fee card.
Since this is a no fee card, the benefits are pretty basic. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases. That said, any travel booked through the American Express travel portal gets you an additional point per $1 spent, so that’s not bad. If you want a no fee credit card from American express that earns you travel rewards, this is the card to get.
American Express Business Platinum Card
- $499 annual fee
- Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $10,000 in the first 3 months. Must use a referral link
- Earn 1.25 points per $1 spent on all purchases
- Unlimited airport lounge access
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
If you’re looking for a business credit card, the American Express Platinum Business Card is an excellent choice since it gives you 55 interest-free days for your purchases. The earn rate isn’t as high as the personal Platinum Card, but you get 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent. This is great for businesses or self-employed individuals who do a lot of spending on categories that don’t have a bonus earn rate.
It’s worth mentioning that American Express doesn’t typically check to see if you have a business when applying for the card. As in, you could get approved without a formal business. That said, American Express does have the right to ask you to verify you do have a business later if your spending looks suspicious. Now, why would you get this card if you don’t have a business? Because of the crazy welcome bonus, of course.
American Express Business Edge Card
- $99 annual fee
- Earn 55,000 Welcome Bonus points when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn 1,000 points each month when you spend $3,000
- Earn 10 points per $1 spent on office supplies & electronics, rides & gas, and eats & drinks for 6 months up to 75,000 points earned
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on office supplies & electronics, rides & gas, and eats & drinks
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
One of the best American Express Cards in Canada is the American Express Business Edge Card. It’s not as fancy as the Business Platinum Card, but it does have some features that will appeal to freelancers. You’ll earn 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on office supplies & electronics, rides & gas, and eats & drinks. All other purchases get you 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent. Those bonus categories were clearly aimed at people who freelance or have a side hustle.
What is an American Express credit card?
American Express is one of the three credit card issuers in Canada. The other two are Visa and Mastercard. What makes American Express unique is that they offer credit cards directly to consumers, whereas Visa and Mastercard use financial institutions to get their cards into the hands of consumers. That said, Scotiabank is the one traditional bank that also offers American Express cards.
American Express credit cards are highly favoured by Canadians because they have co-branded credit cards with some of the top loyalty programs, such as Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy. In addition, its own rewards program, American Express Membership Rewards, is often regarded as the best bank travel points program in Canada.
While American Express cards are highly regarded, two things work against them. First, its cards aren’t accepted by all merchants. Second, Canada has no credit card without foreign transaction fees that’s issued directly by American Express.
Why choose American Express credit cards?
Okay, if Amex isn’t accepted by all merchants, why should you choose one of the best American Express credit cards for your wallet? The simple answer is that the points you earn are incredibly valuable.
American Express credit cards typically come with some of the highest welcome bonuses. That means you can quickly earn Aeroplan, Marriott Bonvoy, and Membership Rewards points. Not to state the obvious, but the more points you have, the better travel redemptions you get.
You also get some exclusive perks with American Express cards, such as Front of the Line access and Offers.
Types of American Express Cards
Every bank has different types of rewards credit cards. Generally speaking, it can be broken down into two categories: travel and cash back. With American Express, you need to further break down the categories since they have so many different partnerships. If you’re thinking about getting one of the best Amex credit cards in Canada, consider the following types of cards:
American Express Membership Rewards cards
American Express Membership Rewards (MR) is the name of the points program owned by American Express. This program stands out because your points can be redeemed for travel or statement credit at an equal value. This is not common as every other rewards program owned by a bank gives you a lower value for your points when redeeming them for a statement credit instead of travel. In addition, MR points can be transferred to various hotel and airline loyalty programs.
American Express credit cards that earn MR points include:
- American Express Cobalt Card
- American Express Gold Card
- American Express Platinum Card
American Express Aeroplan cards
American Express, along with TD and CIBC, are the official credit card partners of Aeroplan, the loyalty program of Air Canada. Admittedly, all three providers have similar Aeroplan credit cards. While this may seem redundant, it’s a good thing for consumers. Essentially, you have multiple credit cards where you can sign up and earn a lot of Aeroplan points fast. If you want to travel hack, then you should consider getting one of the following American Express Aeroplan cards:
- American Express Aeroplan Card
- American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
American Express Marriott Bonvoy cards
Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty program of Marriott International, which is over 8,000 properties in more than 130 countries. If you’re looking to stay at hotels for free, you must collect Marriott Bonvoy points. American Express is the only credit card company in Canada that offers Marriott Bonvoy co-branded cards. You can earn extra points at Marriott properties and an annual free night certificate with one of the following cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
American Express Air Miles cards
Air Miles used to be a decent travel loyalty program, but it has undergone massive changes in recent years. Although you can now redeem your points for more flights, it’ll also cost you way more points. In addition, Air Miles has lost many retail partners. In other words, the value proposition isn’t there anymore, especially when compared to Aeroplan. That said, if you like the program and happen to shop at a merchant that still uses Air Miles, such as Metro, you should consider one of these cards:
- American Express AIR MILES Credit Card
- American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
- American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
American Express cash back cards
If travel rewards aren’t your thing, then consider a cash back card. Tehcanilly speaking, any American Express credit card that earns you MR points can be considered a cash back card since you can use your points as a statement credit. However, American Express does have two formal cash back credit cards:
- SimplyCash Card from American Express
- SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
How to pick an American Express credit card
Although my list of the best American Express Credit Cards is based on categories, some people still struggle to pick one card over the others. Always consider the following factors when applying for a new credit card.
When looking at the best Amex credit cards in Canada, consider the welcome bonus first. American Express is very generous with its sign up offers with many of them being worth hundreds of dollars. Heck, the American Express Platinum card typically has a welcome bonus worth more than $1,000. Keep in mind that every sign up offer has a minimum spend requirement to get it, which is typically in the thousands. If you can naturally spend that amount, then choosing a card with a huge welcome offer could be worth it.
Type of rewards
Besides the welcome bonus, the type of rewards you’ll earn is the most important factor to consider when choosing an American Express card. The first decision to make is cash back or travel rewards. If you opt for travel rewards, you need to decide on which type of travel rewards you want to earn. Once you’ve answered that question, which card you get should become more obvious.
In an ideal world, you’ll want to pick a card that gives you an increased earn rate on categories that you do most of your spending. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a card that matches up perfectly with your spending habits, so just choose one which will give you the most bang for your buck.
Some people are against annual fees and can’t imagine paying what American Express charges for some of their cards (up to $699 per year). While that’s understandable, you need to look at the value you’re getting out of the card. If the card comes with an annual fee of $599, but the benefits you get each year are worth more than that, then the annual fee is irrelevant. That said, if you prefer to pay nothing, American Express does have a few no fee cards.
Every one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada comes with different benefits. Most people will gravitate towards travel insurance, but make sure you read the fine print. For example, some cards include trip cancellation, while others don’t. Other benefits to look out for include airport lounge access, mobile device insurance, travel credits, and free checked bags.
How American Express Membership Rewards work
American Express Membership Rewards is easily the best bank travel rewards program. You get more redemption options and transfer partners than any other program. The real value of MR is how you use your points.
- 1,000 Membership Rewards points = $1 off travel or a statement credit
Besides travel and statement credits, you can use your points to redeem gift cards and merchandise. While it’s nice to have additional options, the value for these redemptions typically won’t exceed more than .80 cents per point.
That said, there are a few ways to increase the value of your Membership Rewards points.
American Express Fixed Points Travel
One feature of American Express Membership Rewards is the Fixed Points Travel program. Depending on where you’re flying from and where you’re flying to, it’ll cost you a fixed number of points to redeem a flight. There’s a maximum base ticket price, but this actually benefits you if you can max out the value.
For example, a short haul flight within Canada and the U.S. will cost you 15,000 MR points, and there’s a maximum base ticket price of $300. If your base ticket price is at least $300, you’d be getting a value of 2 cents per point. This can be very handy for people booking last minute when flights cost more.
Membership Rewards transfer partners
Another reason why MR points are so popular is that you can transfer your points to multiple airline and hotel loyalty programs.
- 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,000 Aeroplan points or Avios points
- 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 750 Flying Blue Miles, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles or Etihad Guest Miles
- 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,000 Hilton Honors points
- 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points
Being able to transfer your points to other programs gives you more options. For example, it’s widely accepted that 1 Aeroplan point is worth 1 cent. By transferring your points over, you could instantly double the value of your points compared to a regular MR redemption. Alternatively, it may be of value for you to transfer some points to Marriott Bonvoy if there’s a specific property you’re looking to stay at for free.
What are Amex offers?
Another benefit of having an American Express card that warrants its own section is the American Express offers you get as a cardholder. Through the app, American Express will send special offers to its cardholders that can save you quite a bit. For example, some of the recent offers included:
- $175 credit at eligible restaurants
- $100 one time credit on a restaurant purchase
- $50 credit when spending $200 at Marriott
- $150 credit when spending $400 on Amex Travel
- $100 credit when spending $500 at Shangri-La Hotels of Canada
- $20 credit when spenidng $50 online at Best Buy or Indigo
- $5 credit when spending $15 at Subway
- $5 credit when spending $20 at Dollarama
Basically, every year offers more credits than what the annual fee is worth. You’ll also notice that some of the offers listed can be combined, so you can get multiple credits with a single purchase. Admittedly, you won’t be able to take advantage of every offer, but there are enough that will appeal to everyone.
American Express Refer a friend
American Express has a highly lucrative referral program. The concept is simple. Current cardholders can refer friends and family to a card they currently have. Both the person making the referral, and the person accepting the referral get extra points.
For example, someone holding the American Express Platinum Card could refer a friend to the card. If the person approved, both people would get 10,000 MR points.
To get your referral link, all you need to do is go into your online account, You’ll see it once you’re logged in. You can refer up to a maximum of 15 people a year.
Note that you can also refer people to cards you don’t have as long as they belong to the same family of cards. For example, if you have the American Express Cobalt Card, you could refer someone to the American Express Gold Rewards Card.
American Express Front of the Line
American Express cardholders get access to presale tickets to some of the hottest entertainment events thanks to the Front of the Line benefit. It’s not just concerts you get presale access to, it also includes movies and theatre performances. American Express will email you about Front of the Line access whenever there’s a show near where you live. That said, you technically get worldwide access as long as American Express is a partner.
Even if tickets have gone on sale to the general public, you could still get access to an exclusive block of seats that are being held for American Express cardholders. For example, Mirvish productions has a deal with American Express in Canada, so most of their shows have seats just American Express Cardholders.
Does American Express charge foreign transaction fees?
The answer is yes and no. None of the credit cards issued directly by American Express has no foreign transaction fees. That means you’ll be paying a 2.5% premium whenever you make a purchase in any currency that’s not Canadian dollars. That said, there is one exception. The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, which earns you Scene+ points does not charge foreign exchange fees.
How to apply for an American Express credit card
Applying for one of the best Amex credit cards in Canada is easy, just follow these steps:
- Browse and compare the American Express cards above
- Click apply now
- Check that you meet all the qualifications
- Fill out your personal details
- Wait for approval
- When the card arrives, activate it
Your card should arrive within 10 business days. If you’re applying for a high-end card, such as the American Express Platinum Card, it may arrive in two days since it’s expedited to you. Don’t forget that there’s a time limit for you to reach the minimum spend requirement to get your welcome bonus.
We hold an SPG Amex card (our preferred card) since Chase bailed on it’s Mariott Visa Card in March of this year.
We also hold a TD Aeroplan card.
We prefer our SPG points to Aeroplan but since AMEX is not as widely accepted, having both works BUT the additional charge now of a Foreign Curency Transaction fee is adversly affecting our travel budget.
We need a card to use when we travel out of Canada that won’t blow our budget by two additional fees: a foreign transaction fee as well as another ‘annual’ fee! Been considering the Home Trust card……with the concept that even when travelling we might still use the SPG Amex when staying in a Marriott or Starwood property IF the points earned might nearly equal or better the FCT fee ……are we on the right track? ….or is there something else you’d suggest!
Appreciate your help!
That’s EXACTLY what I would do. Generally speaking, I value 1 SPG point at about 1 cent. Since you get 5 points per $1 (CAD) spent on eligible purchases at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards properties, you’re essentially getting a bit over 5% which offsets the 2.5% currency exchange fee.
The HomeTrust card is good since it has no fees, but it’s kind of hit and miss since it has a few issues that I don’t love e.g. can’t change PIN, 10 transactions per day.
The Rogers World Elite Mastercard has no fee and charged the 2.5% forex fee, but you get 4% back in purchases made in a foreign currency. Also note that currently the Scotiabank Passport Infinite card has a 25K sign up bonus (worth $250), but comes with an annual fee of $139. You could basically test that card out for “free” for a year.
The Rogers World Elite Mastercard sounds interesting. If you’re a traveler, would it be something you would recommend?
Just be aware that the 4% back in points must be spent on something sold by Rogers. Like your Rogers TV or phone bill, or blue jays tickets.
That’s correct but you can request a once per year statement credit. Rogers also recently announced you’ll be able to redeem your cash back on more stuff. That should come into play in March.
[…] Finally, if you charge the full airfare or car rental to your SPG Amex Canada card, you instantly get travel accident, car rental theft and damage, flight delay, baggage delay, lost and stolen baggage, and hotel/motel burglary insurance. It should be noted that travel medical insurance is NOT included. This doesn’t change the fact that the SPG Amex Canada is one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada. […]
Just to clarify, H Trust’s website says they send you a pin my mail and I assume you can change that to a PIN of your choice.
Are you saying:
1. that we are stuck with the PIN they mail out…or
2. once changed to a PIN of our choice, we are then not able to change that one/first choice?
Thanks for clarifying
The PIN you’re assigned cannot be changed. It’s a bit of a pain. You also need to alert them when you’re travelling or else a block will be put on your card.
Indeed, I own this card. The benefits are just as great when compared to the other good ones there in the market.
Agree to most of the content you have written, thanks!
I wish AMEX Canada offered the Hilton AMEX like their US counterpart. If you have any pull please put a bug in their ear to offer us this choice.
It sucks that in Canada we only have 2 hotel credit card options the Marriott Bonvoy AMEX and MBNA Best Western MasterCard.
The U.S. Hilton Amex card is indeed excellent. I can assure you that Amex pays little attention to me and likely does not care about my opinion =D
Outside if sign up bonuses and travel benefits the cobalt and personal platinum look to have pretty similar earn rates for points. I have the Cobalt and am good now but now much travel would you think is needed to justify upgrading?
With the recent Cobalt changes, there’s really no need to get the Platinum unless you want the welcome bonus and travel perks. Since you can transfer your Amex points Aeroplan, there is some value still. I personally value Aeroplan points at 1.5-2 cents each, so the current bonus could’ve easily worth $1,700. The annual $200 travel credit effectively makes your annual fee $499. If you fly regularly, the lounge access can be nice too.
My Cobalt card is now my daily card, but I kept the Platinum since I’ll hopefully be travelling regularly soon.
That said, there are easier ways to earn Aeroplan points fast. E.g. CIBC and TD Aeroplan cards.