Scotiabank American Express Gold Card Introduction
When it comes to travel reward credit cards in Canada, American Express is my favourite issuer. Not only do I love their Membership Reward cards with generous welcome bonuses and useful transfer partners, but they also have a generous referral program, which can help boost award balances quickly. So what’s the deal with the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card?
I get a lot of questions about this card. A lot. So I decided to write a post about it, and debunk some of the myths surrounding this heavily marketed product.
Even though it’s an American Express Card, it doesn’t earn Membership Reward Points
I think this is where a lot of people get confused. It’s an American Express Card, and it’s Gold, so that makes sense, right? Wrong. While Scotiabank uses the American Express network, they are in no way related to the Membership Rewards program offered by American Express Canada. Instead, the Scotiabank American Express Gold credit card earns Scotia Rewards Points, which is essentially a fixed value points currency that can be used towards travel. I’ve received too many emails from readers who got this card expecting to be able to transfer to airline programs, only to be disappointed that the points wouldn’t be helping them reach their goals.
Points Cannot Be Transferred To Aeroplan, SPG, British Airways, etc
Scotiabank American Express Gold Reward Points are much different than Membership Reward points, and cannot be used for transfers to frequent flyer programs such as Aeroplan and British Airways. Instead, they can be used as a statement credit towards travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per point.
Is It A Good Card To Get?
Well, it depends, but generally no. The one aspect I love about travel hacking is the ability to use points for some truly aspirational travel. For example: my trip to Singapore in first class on Japan Airlines using points. This is a trip that would cost in the $20,000 range if paying cash, and I was able to redeem just 150,000 Alaska miles and 80,000 Marriott points and 50,000 Aeroplan miles for the entire trip, plus about $150 in taxes and fees. It would have been equally possible to use Scotia Rewards for the same trip, but it would have cost roughly 2,000,000 points for the same itinerary, which is about 10X what I used with airline/hotel programs.
In general, fixed value currencies such as Scotia Rewards offer more flexibility, since you can redeem points for any travel purchases charged to the card, but it comes at the cost of value.
So Who Is This Card Good For?
Let’s call it what it is: this is essentially a cash back card restricted to travel purchases. So why not just get a cash back card? Because Scotiabank offers some pretty sweet earning rates on category spending. Currently the following rates apply:
- 4X points for every dollar on gas, grocery, dining and entertainment
- 1X point for every dollar on everything else
Earning 4X points on every dollar on some of the most commonly purchased items is great, and blows any cash back card out of the water. The only catch is it can only be used towards travel, though that shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most people reading this blog.
I would recommend this card and the Scotia Rewards program over airline/transferrable currencies for people who fall into the following categories:
- Want to redeem points for cruises
- Want to redeem points for Las Vegas
- Want to redeem points for tropical all-inclusives
- Value flexibility over value when planning award travel
- Plan to fly more economy/domestic trips
While using a fraction of the points is great by using an airline or hotel program, it’s of no value for someone who can’t leave on a Monday instead of a Friday. Furthermore, there are just some destinations, such as all-inclusive packages and Las Vegas, where using airline miles just doesn’t make sense as cash prices are often cheap and using a fixed-value currency can be better value.
Let’s Look At A Practical Example: Las Vegas from Vancouver Area
Flight packages including air and 3-nights in a strip hotel can regularly be found for less than $400 per person. So let’s say for a couple it would cost $800 for this trip.
Using Scotia Reward points you would simply charge the purchase to your card and use points towards a statement credit once the transaction posts to your account. Total cost: 80,000 points.
Using airline/hotel miles, it would cost either 25,000 Aeroplan miles roundtrip per person from Vancouver, or if you were willing to drive to Seattle, 15,000 British Airways Avios roundtrip per person. So let’s say between 30,000-50,000 Membership Reward points (both airline programs are 1:1 transfer partners) plus you need to have flexibility with your schedule.
For hotels, point redemption options are slim, and you’ll likely need to be off the strip a bit. Let’s consider an SPG option – the W hotel. Free nights are 10,000 SPG points per night, for a total of 30,000 SPG points, which is equivalent of 60,000 Membership Reward points (don’t forget about the $35USD resort fee per night, not included on point redemption stays).
So for a similar trip using airline/hotel miles, you’d be looking at 90,000-110,000 miles, which is marginally more, though would require much more flexibility in planning (and arguably the W is nicer than whatever 3* strip hotel is included in the package).
What Else Is Great About This Card?
There are some other factors that make this a card worth having, even if you don’t plan to use it regularly:
- Scotiabank regulary offers increased welcome bonuses with a low minimum spend requirement (though the current offer is only 15,000 Scotia Rewards after spending $1,000 in the first three months)
- Often we see first year free offered on this card, which is becomming less of the norm
- From all accounts, this card seems eligible for repeat welcome bonuses
- Some of the best travel insurance from any credit card in Canada
Scotiabank American Express Gold Credit Card Bottom Line
This is a card that I have, but never use, mainly because I have a lot of flexibility when I plan travel and don’t see a lot of value in a fixed-value redemptions. However, for those who don’t have a lot of flexibility, or regularly book travel where point redemption options are limited, such as Mexico, Las Vegas, or cruises, this may be a great card to consider.
For that group of travellers, I would also recommend The Cobalt Card from American Express Canada, as it earns an even better 5X the points on dining and groceries, and 2X on travel and transportation (including gas). The Cobalt Membership Reward Points are a little different than other Amex cards, and can only be redeemed for statement credits (similar to the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card) or transferred to Starwood Preferred Guest (now the best way to earn SPG points since Amex devalued the welcome bonus on the Starwood Credit Cards). The Cobalt Card is currently offering a bonus of 2,500 Membership Reward points each month you charge at least $500 to the card, up to 30,000 points/year. The annual fee is $10 per month, and not waived the first year.
For those who are interested in the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card, I would wait for a better welcome bonus before applying. Currently Scotiabank is only offering 15,000 points ($150 worth of travel) for new cardmembers, and the annual fee isn’t waived. I suspect we will see an increased welcome bonus and annual fee waiver in the near future!
Do you have a Scotiabank American Express Gold Card? Do you prefer the flexibility of fixed-value programs or do fail to see the value? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!