The Canadian credit card market consists of three main players: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Many Canadians have mixed feelings about American Express Cards, and admittedly, I used to be one of them. Some common complaints I often hear are:

  • Most places don’t accept American Express
  • they have high interest rates
  • Annual fees are expensive

However, most of that is misinformation, and American Express cards are some of the most rewarding on the Canadian Market.

Where is American Express Accepted in Canada?

It’s true that American Express has limited acceptance compared to Visa and MasterCard, mainly due to higher processing fees paid by the merchant. As a result, many small retailers still don’t accept Amex in Canada, although that is slowly starting to change. Below is a chart of Canadian retailers that accept American Express, both in-store and online:

Gas/Convenient Store
7-11
Canadian Tire Gas Bar
Chevron
Esso
Husky
Mac’s
On the Run
Petro Canada
Safeway Gas Bar
Shell

Grocery/Drug Store
IGA Marketplace
London Drugs
Safeway
Save-on Foods
Shoppers Drug Mart
Sobeys
SPUD.CA
Urban Fare
Walmart
Whole Foods Market

Big Box/Online
Amazon
Apple
Bestbuy
Canadian Tire
eBay
Home Depot
Home Hardware
Lowe’s
Staples
The Brick

Restaurant/Entertainment
Browns Social House
Cactus Club
Cineplex
Earls
McDonalds
Moxies
Starbucks
The Keg
Ticketmaster
Tim Hortons

Retail
H&M
Homesense
Hudson’s Bay
Indigo/Chapters
Lululemon
Nike
Sport Chek
Toy’s R Us
Winners
Zara

Travel
Air Canada
Airbnb
Avis
Best Western
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Hertz
Marriott Hotels
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Starwood Hotels and Resorts
WestJet

Enough retailers accept American Express that my Gold Rewards Card is my ‘top of wallet’ card (the card I use most often for everyday spend). I use a CIBC Aerogold Business Visa for retailers that don’t accept American Express, and I use an Alaska Air MasterCard from MBNA for retailers that don’t accept either (Unfortunately the Alaska Air MasterCard is no longer available through MBNA for new applications).

Which Canadian American Express Card Should I get?

That really depends on a few factors:

  • How much do you spend annually on credit cards?
  • How often do you travel?
  • Do you mind paying an annual fee for additional benefits?
  • Are you a small business owner?

American Express Canada has four Membership Rewards cards; two personal and two for small business. Below I will outline the key benefits for each card:

The American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • Earn 30,000 Membership Reward points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership and adding an authorized user during the initial application
  • First year annual fee waiver – a savings of $150
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 on gas, grocery, drugstore, and travel purchases
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 on everything else
  • Comprehensive insurance benefits, including out-of-province medical
  • Earn 5,000 Membership Reward points for each approved referral

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

The American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Business Platinum Card

In addition to the family of Membership Reward cards, I would also consider the two Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards from American Express. SPG is my favourite overall loyalty program for hotel redemptions and flexible airline transfer partners. Those who are considering the SPG card should act fast, as Marriott and SPG have merged, and the future of both programs is unknown.

The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

  • Earn 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership (free night redemptions start at 2,000 points per night)
  • Earn 2 SPG points for every $1 at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels
  • Earn 1 SPG point for every $1 on everyday purchases
  • Complimentary SPG and Marriott Gold status after spending $30,000 in a calendar year
  • Complimentary weekend night stay at a category 1-4 SPG property after spending $40,000 in a calendar year
  • Transfer SPG points to 30 participating airline programs, usually at 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 mile bonus for each transfer of 20,000 points
  • Comprehensive insurance benefits
  • $120 annual fee (not waived the first year)
  • Earn 10,000 SPG points for each approved referral

The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

  • Earn 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of membership (free night redemptions start at 2,000 points per night)
  • Earn 2 SPG points for every $1 at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels
  • Earn 1 SPG point for every $1 on everyday purchases
  • Complimentary SPG and Marriott Gold status after spending $30,000 in a calendar year
  • Complimentary weekend night stay at a category 1-4 SPG property after spending $40,000 in a calendar year
  • Transfer SPG points to 30 participating airline programs, usually at 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 mile bonus for each transfer of 20,000 points
  • Comprehensive insurance benefits
  • $150 annual fee (not waived the first year)
  • Earn 10,000 SPG points for each approved referral

If you’re having a tough time deciding which card is right for you, check out more in depth reviews of The American Express Gold Rewards Card, The Platinum Card, or The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card. Alternatively, fill out our online questionnaire for a personalized consultation from PointsWise specific to your travel goals!

Why Every Canadian Needs An American Express Card

It’s really simple: American Express offers the most rewarding credit cards on the Canadian market:

  • Membership Reward points are the most flexible points currency available to Canadians, with transfer options to Aeroplan, British Airways, and Starwood Preferred Guest (amongst others)
  • American Express offers some of the most generous sign-up bonuses for new members, with annual fee waivers on the personal and business Gold Rewards card
  • Referral program: earn bonus points for each friend or family member you refer to American Express
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on gas, grocery, drugstore, and travel purchases with the Gold Rewards card means points can add up very quickly on everyday spending
  • Comprehensive insurance benefits on all cards
  • American Express customer service is industry leading

Forget the old stigma that American Express isn’t accepted in Canada and start rewarding yourself today!