The banking environment here in Canada means we don’t have as many choices as our southern neighbours when it comes to credit cards. When Canada’s smaller market size is combined with our more conservative banks, the result is a lot of pretty boring cards. Amex, however, upended the status quo last year with its American Express Cobalt™ Card.
The Cobalt Card is Amex’s attempt to attract millennials to the brand, which is traditionally aimed at higher-income households in Canada. But with an easily achievable first-year bonus, strong ongoing category bonuses, and flexible reward options with Membership Rewards Select Points, the Amex Cobalt is a card everyone should consider.
5x on dining, groceries & more
Lots of cards offer bonus points for dining, but the Cobalt category is broader, including restaurants, bars, groceries, and food delivery services in Canada. We all have to eat, so this is a benefit for everybody.
As always, the fine print on category bonuses is key. Amex uses merchant codes to determine whether your purchases are coming from restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, or “services for which delivery of food or groceries is the primary service.” So UberEats and Canada’s hometown hero SkipTheDishes are eligible, but grocery purchases made through more general retailers, like Amazon or Walmart, likely are not.
Based on online reports, despite clearly being food, purchases from meal kit companies like Hello Fresh and ChefsPlate aren’t posting with the bonus, so you may want to put those charges on another card.
That said, most grocery stores carry more than just groceries, so if you’re someone who picks up gift cards from the grocery store for holidays and birthdays, you should be able to earn 5x points on those too. That benefit may be why a key limitation on this benefit came into effect in August 2019 – the 5x bonus will max out at $30,000 in spend annually – anything above and beyond will earn just 1 point per dollar. The limit is based on your card anniversary date, NOT the calendar year.
2x on gas, local transport, and travel
Again, this is the kind of earn bonus that applies to your everyday life, not just jet setting jaunts. With the Amex Cobalt Card, you will earn 2x points on gas, taxis, public transit, and ridesharing services within Canada, as well as on flights, train tickets, ferries, hotels, and tours worldwide.
As with the Food and Beverage bonus, this one relies on merchant codes, so any snacks you buy in the gas station convenience store will likely garner you 2x points, rather than 5x.
1 point per dollar on everything else
The reward bonus categories cover a lot of ground for day-to-day and travel expenses, but on all other purchases, a 1 point per dollar rate applies.
So what can you do with all those points? The answer is almost anything, though the value can vary considerably depending on your choice.
The simplest option, and the lowest return, is to apply the points against individual purchases on your statement. 1,000 points get you $7, or $0.007 per point. Points applied against travel purchases get a noticeable bonus, with 1,000 points worth $10.
Points can also be redeemed for merchandise in the Membership Rewards shop, with values typically in the range of $0.007-$0.01 per point, depending on the item.
But the real value comes from the Fixed Points Travel Program, which lets you redeem points for revenue tickets, and is a program that doesn’t exist in the US. Offering redemption values as high as $0.02 per point, there is potential for huge value here when combined with the 5x spend multiplier.
I’ll have a specific post soon with details on the Fixed Points Travel Program, such as what counts as Popular or Short-haul destinations.
One key warning: the Membership Reward Select Points earned on this card aren’t the same as the Membership Reward Points earned by cards like the American Express® Gold Rewards Card or The Platinum Card®. While there are a few differences, the biggest one for travelers is that Aeroplan transfers aren’t allowed. So keep that in mind when considering the card.
Amex Cobalt first-year bonus
This bonus offer allows you to earn up to 30,000 extra points in your first year as an Amex Cobalt cardholder.
For each monthly billing period in which you put $500 in purchases on your card, you earn an additional 2,500 reward points. Given the excellent category bonuses on many of your everyday purchases, putting $500 per month through this card is a no-brainer, with the potential to earn up to 5,000 points per $500 for the first year.
Convert friends and family to the Amex Cobalt Card and you can get another 5,000 reward points per approved referral to a maximum of 75,000 points.
I track my budget pretty carefully, but I always forget to account for my credit card’s annual fee hitting my account. The Amex Cobalt Card has adopted the more modern and predictable approach of a smaller monthly fee. At $10/month, the annualized total is pretty similar to other rewards cards on the market, but it is also unlikely to take you by surprise.
Cobalt Perks program
Cobalt Cardmembers receive regular perks, bonus rewards and access to great events. Past Cobalt Perks include:
- Earning extra Membership Rewards® Select points for spending on Cobalt
- Getting statement credits for using your Card with your favorite brands
- Early access to blockbuster movies, and tickets to VIP concert experiences
While the perks are quite varied, past offers have included bonus points from retailers like Amazon.ca that provide an easy opportunity to get bonus points from your day-to-day spending.
Ultimately, the Amex Cobalt Card is also an Amex and carries all of the rock-solid protections usually associated with the Amex brand. Insurance coverages include emergency medical, flight delay, baggage delay, hotel burglary, lost or stolen baggage, car rental theft and damage, travel accident, purchase protection, buyer’s assurance, and Amex’s fraud protection guarantee.
Amex Cobalt Card also includes the Amex Front of the Line program, which gives cardholders access to pre-sales for concert and event tickets.
Overall, the Amex Cobalt Card strikes as an excellent gateway into the Amex brand, combining plenty of opportunities to earn reward points, broad reward options, and all the features and protections you’ve come to expect from Amex, plus some perks aimed at millennial interests.
So, what do you think – does Amex’s pitch to millennials resonate for you, or have they missed the mark on this hard-to-pin-down demographic?