Review: American Express Cobalt Credit Card Canada

Review: American Express Cobalt Credit Card Canada

By |2019-05-28T19:34:47+00:00September 26th, 2017|Categories: American Express, Credit Cards, Reviews|Tags: , |

I really love American Express in Canada!

When I heard Amex was coming out with a new card exclusive to Canada, I was ecstatic to say the least. What’s best, the rumour mill was reporting this would be a Membership Rewards card with some very generous earning potential.

Well, the brand new Cobalt card from American Express launched today and all of the rumours have been confirmed.

The Brand New American Express Cobalt Card

The Brand New American Express Cobalt Card

Amex has shown some innovation with this new product, and it’s clear the card is being geared towards millennials. What’s different? Rather than the annual fee ($120/yr, not waived the first year) being charged on the first statement like most cards, it will be billed monthly at $10/month, sort of like a subscription service (that we millennials love so much). Similar to the annual fee being in instalments, the welcome bonus will be rewarded monthly, as long as a minimum spend is met each month (more on that later). The Cobalt Card will be offered as a credit card, unlike the other Membership Reward products which are charge cards.

American Express Cobalt Card Highlights:

Cobalt Cardmembers receive regular perks, bonus rewards and access to great events. Past Cobalt Perks include:

  • Earning extra Membership Rewards® points for spending on Cobalt
  • Getting statement credits for using your Card with your favourite brands
  • Early access to blockbuster movies, and tickets to VIP concert experiences

 

  • Earn 5 Membership Reward points for every dollar on ‘Eats and Drinks‘, including grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and food delivery services
  • Earn 2 Membership Reward points for every dollar on ‘Travel and Transit‘, including flights, hotels, transportation and gas stations
  • Earn 1 Membership Reward point for every dollar on everything else
  • Insurance is comprehensive, including all the usual flight+hotel coverages, out of country medical, and purchase protection found on other premium cards (trip cancellation excluded)
  • Ability to refer to/from Personal Gold Reward Card (5,000 Membership Reward referral bonus)

 

Cobalt Card Bonus Earning Categories

American Express Cobalt Card Bonus Earning Categories

On the surface, those earning rates are incredible, especially considering transportation, travel, and food likely make up a lot of the average person’s monthly spending. However, there are some caveats to consider before getting too excited.

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card®

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American Express Cobalt Card Lowlights:

  • Membership Reward points earned on this card will not be transferrable to airline partner programs. Ouch. While the earning potential is huge on this card, the redemption options are limited to hotel transfer partners and redeeming through American Express for statement credits or their fixed mileage travel options (both poor value redemptions)
  • The welcome bonus is unlike anything else offered by American Express, with 30,000 points being offered in the first year, split up into 12 equal payments each month, plus a limited time offer of 10,000 Membership Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of membership. Each month the cardmember will be rewarded 2,500 bonus Membership Reward points as long as $500 is charged to the card. So to be eligible for the entire 40,000 points, you need to spend $6,000 on the card spread out over the year, with $3,000 spent in the first 3 months
  • No first year free (yet)

 

American Express Cobalt Instalment Welcome Bonus

American Express Cobalt Instalment Welcome Bonus

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, I was more excited about this card before I read the fine print. Don’t get me wrong, there is still some serious potential in this card, but it’s not quite as great as it could be. My thoughts, both good and bad:

  • As of now, this card provides the best opportunity to earn SPG points on everyday spend, as the MR points can still be transferred to hotel partners. 1 Membership Reward point equals 0.5 SPG points, so essentially you can earn 2.5 SPG points on ‘dining and eating’, which is better than any other card in the world
  • That being said, the future of SPG is unknown, and this opportunity will likely not be around for much longer
  • The spread out welcome bonus is underwhelming. Requiring $6,000 spend for 30,000 Membership Reward points is the richest of any American Express card, including the business cards. Furthermore, being required to use the card continuously throughout the year really limits the potential for repeat welcome bonuses (hopefully this isn’t a trend that continues to other cards)
  • I personally dislike monthly payments, as opposed to one annual fee, though I suspect this will be popular with a lot of people

Comparison With Other Membership Reward Cards:

As a point of comparison, let’s take a look at some of the other options available in the Membership Rewards family:

The American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • 25,000 welcome bonus after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • $150 annual fee ($12.50/month)
  • 2 Membership Reward points on gas, grocery, drugstore and travel
  • 1 Membership Reward point on everything else
  • Comprehensive insurance coverage including out of province medical, purchase protection, and flight+hotel coverage
  • No restrictions for airline and hotel transfer partners
  • Earn 5,000 Membership Reward points for each approved referral

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

The American Express Platinum Card

  • Earn 50,000 Membership Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn 3 points for eligible dining purchases in Canada, 2 points for travel purchases, and 1 point for every $1 spent on everyday purchases.
  • Enjoy a $200 annual travel credit (each calendar year – resets in January) for flights, hotel stays, or car rentals
  • Worldwide airport lounge access, including complimentary Priority Pass membership ($399 USD value) and access the American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Complimentary Gold status with Starwood Hotels and Marriott
  • Industry-leading insurance benefits including trip cancellation and out-of-province medical
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
  • $699 annual fee ($58.25/month)
  • Earn 15,000 Membership Reward points for each approved referral

The American Express Business Platinum Card

Bottom Line:

Personally, I’m not going to rush into getting this card. American Express has a strict ‘two credit card’ rule (charge cards excluded), so applying for this card would mean I would have to cancel one of my SPG cards, which I want to hold on to for now until the future of that program is known. Furthermore, the restricted transfer options really limit my interest, as I generally (~80 percent of the time) transfer my MR points to an airline partner. To apply for the new American Express Cobalt card or to find out more, click here!

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card®

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About the Author:

Champagne taste on a beer budget has always been reminiscent of Tyler’s travel style. Raised in British Columbia, Tyler has an unquenchable thirst for more adventure, which is fueled by leveraging airline and hotel loyalty programs to travel the world in luxury and style.

5 Comments

  1. john m September 27, 2017 at 1:06 am - Reply

    By far the best and most honest analysis I’ve read about the Cobalt so far. For some reason, most of the other blogs seem to be “selling” this card.

    • Tyler Weatherup September 27, 2017 at 1:36 am - Reply

      Thanks for the kind comment! I think a lot of bloggers are excited about the ability to convert to SPG, but I’m not optimistic the opportunity will be around for long, and probably not even for the next 12 months (which is how long it would take to get the entire welcome bonus). Time will tell, but I think this card will end up like many other travel reward cards on the Canadian market – high earn rates with very restricted/fixed value redemption options.

  2. Susan R October 25, 2017 at 8:07 am - Reply

    Can’t wait to start applying your principles,

  3. Justin February 20, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Question,,with cobalt not being able to transfer to airlines etc…is the work around having another class of Amex like the platinum. Would you then be able to transfer your MR, as all the points will accumulate in one pool? New to the game, just trying to get going on the right foot! I have had the Cobalt since November last year and already have 60000+ points. Doing a lot of grocery store shopping and adding gift cards for other stores and fuel. The 5X is working quite well in my favor so far.. If by having the business platinum that I just got in the mail, I am sure hoping to be able to pool all the MR points/bonus points/self referrals in the coming year, and then transfer when applicable to Aeroplan etc.. PS The eBook you have is very informative, got it last night and have started reading! Great resource, thanks.

    • Tyler Weatherup February 20, 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      Hey Justin,

      Unfortunately Amex Cobalt Membership Rewards cannot be pooled with other Membership Reward accounts (unique to the Cobalt Card)

      Where the Cobalt Card really shines is transfers to SPG. While the 2:1 transfer ratio looks unappealing on the surface, being able to effectively earn 2.5 SPG points on the 5X categories is really good value. SPG points are considerably more valuable than Aeroplan or British Airways, so I don’t consider the transfer rate a dealbreaker, especially since SPG points can be transferred to multiple airline partners, or better yet, Marriott Rewards, where you can redeem for a Air + Hotel package.

      Happy you’re liking the information in our new Travel Hacking eBook! If you have any questions about a specific topic, please feel free to email me directly!

      -Tyler

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