The Canadian version of The Platinum Card® announced some significant changes last week (and some less-significant ones, like the card now coming in a metal-ish version).
We’ve been receiving quite a few questions from readers and clients as to whether these are in fact positive changes, so I thought it might be helpful to go through everything in one place.
New Earnings Rates for Canada’s Amex Platinum card
Previously, The Platinum Card® offered a flat 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent. Going forward, the card will offer 3 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining in Canada, 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel, and 1 point for every $1 in all other Card purchases.
In general, I tend to feel that having bonus categories is better than not having bonus categories, but as the Canadian credit card market is a bit spartan this isn’t necessarily an improvement for everyone.
3x points on dining in Canada
If the bulk of your spend is on restaurants in Canada, then the 3x points is certainly compelling, especially as The Platinum Card® earns “full” Membership Rewards points that can transfer to a variety of airlines.
Note that the definition of “dining” for this card includes restaurants, quick service restaurants, coffee shops, and drinking establishments in Canada, but does not include food delivery services.
If delivery is your main source of nutrition, the American Express Cobalt™ Card, with 5x for every $1 on card purchases at eligible restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food delivery in Canada might be a better choice for you. Keep in mind however that the American Express Cobalt™ Card earns “select” Membership Rewards points, which unlike the U.S. version can still be quite lucrative even though they can’t be transferred to airline partners.
2x points on eligible travel
Going forward, The Platinum Card® will earn 2x points on travel services or travel bookings including air, water, rail, and road transport, lodging and tour operator sales. That covers a broad range of travel, but does not include local and commuter transportation.
The American Express® Gold Rewards Card already earns 2x points on travel, so if you have both cards this is a redundant category. Otherwise, and especially since The Platinum Card® is the no-brainer travel card in Canada, this is a significant improvement, as most cardholders presumably spend quite a bit on travel.
1x points on everything else
This could potentially change the value of the card for some folks, as this is a reduction of .25 points on every dollar of everyday spend. But I think most cardholders will come out ahead with the new earnings rates.
Breaking down the new bonus earnings
To keep the math simple, let’s assume that a cardholder is spending $30k CAD per year on the card, evenly divided across the three new categories:
- $10,000/year on dining
- $10,000/year on travel
- $10,000/year on other purchases
Previously, this person would have earned 1.25 points/$CAD on each dollar spent, generating 37,500 Membership Rewards points.
Under the new scheme, they’d earn:
- 30,000 points from 3x dining purchases
- 20,000 points from 2x travel purchases
- 10,000 points on other purchases
At 60,000 Membership Rewards points, this represents a solid improvement for someone with significant spend in the bonus categories, as they’d earn 60% more points under the new scheme.
Even if the bulk of your card spend isn’t dining or travel, however, you may still come out ahead, as long as at least some of your spend is in a bonused category. Consider this breakdown instead:
- $5,000/year on dining
- $5,000/year on travel
- $20,000/year on other purchases
Under the new scheme, you’d earn:
- 15,000 points from 3x dining purchases
- 10,000 points from 2x travel purchases
- 20,000 points on other purchases
Which is still more than the 37,500 you’d have earned previously.
That being said, if you were really only using (or considering getting) this card for everyday spend, you’ll probably want to look at an alternative. Existing cardholders will maintain their 1.25x earnings rate until June 25th, so you have some time to consider your options.
If you want to focus on earning Membership Rewards points, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express continues to offer a flat 1.25x on all purchases.
Schmancy metal* card
The The Platinum Card® is now available in a metallic version, which I can say from experience seems exciting, up until the point where all your wallets and money clips are stretched out from too-thick cards.
The good news for Canadians is that this card should be significantly thinner than metal cards in the U.S., as the metal is actually just a veneer on the front. This will allow you to continue
participating in the 21st Century using contactless payments — something that isn’t really widespread yet in the States.
New cardholders will automatically receive the metal version. Existing cardholders will be sent a metal card when their current one expires, or you can call to request one at any time.
Amex Platinum Canada card details
For the unfamiliar, here’s the general rundown of The Platinum Card®.
At present, the public offer for the card allows you to earn 50,000 Bonus Membership Reward® points by spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of Cardmembership.
There are often better offers if you’re referred by a friend, however, so Canadian readers should feel free to share their links in the comments.
$200 annual travel credit
One of the popular perks of The Platinum Card® is the $200 CAD Annual Travel Credit.
You’ll want to book through the Platinum Card® Travel Service, or online at www.americanexpress.ca/travel, and then can use your credit on any travel booking of $200 or more. There are no restrictions as to the airline, hotel, rail, or cruise company you book with as long as it’s available in their system and you pay with your Platinum Card.
The annual fee is a steep $699 (though you are getting that $200 travel credit), and like most Canadian credit cards you’ll also incur foreign transaction fees if you use the card abroad. Purchases made outside of Canada (or directly with some international airlines) will incur a 2.50% fee.
Like its U.S. counterpart, the benefits are where The Platinum Card® really shines. Perks of the card include:
- Great lounge access with the American Express Global Lounge Collection which unlocks access to over 1200 airport lounges worldwide
- This includes The Centurion® Lounge network, plus a Priority Pass Select membership which allows unlimited visits for the cardholder and one additional guest
- Access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which can offer incredible value for luxury hotel stays, including complimentary upgrades, 4PM checkout, breakfast for two, and ~$100 in on-property perks with each booking
- Complimentary elite status with Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and Resorts®, Radisson Hotel Group Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and Hertz® and Avis® (Hilton is the most valuable of these for most, as cardholders receive Hilton Honors Gold status)
- Premium benefits at the Toronto Pearson Airport including security bypass, complimentary valet car service and discount car care and parking
Amex FH&R amenities can include spa treatments, dining credits, and more!
The Platinum Card® also includes great travel coverage, including:
- Emergency Medical Insurance
- Trip Cancellation Insurance
- Trip Interruption Insurance
- $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance
Terms and limitations, of course, apply to the insurance benefits, so you’ll want to read through the coverage details carefully to avoid any surprises.
Amex Canada Membership Rewards program
While American Express has Membership Rewards programs in several countries, each works a bit differently. In the Canadian market, there are three main ways to use your rewards.
Transfer points to partners
If you’re interested in international premium cabin travel, this is potentially going to be the most lucrative redemption option. On the downside, Canadians don’t have quite as many transfer partners to choose from as some other countries, and not all programs convert at a 1:1 ratio:
Membership Rewards Transfer Partner Transfer Ratio Transfer Time Air Canada Aeroplan 1000 : 1000 up to 30 minutes Alitalia MilleMiglia 1000 : 750 5 business days Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1000 : 750 5 business days British Airways Executive Club 1000 : 1000 5 business days Delta SkyMiles 1000 : 750 up to 30 minutes Etihad Guest 1000 : 750 3 business days Hilton Honors 1000 : 1000 5 business days Marriott Rewards 1000 : 1200 5 business days
Still, you can often get outsized value by transferring points versus redeeming them directly.
Transfer points to Aeroplan to redeem for Swiss business class with very low fees
Fixed points travel
One of the unique features of the American Express Rewards program in Canada is that you can also redeem points directly through Amex at a fixed rate. This program has various tiers, so to maximize value, you’ll want to choose airfares that are as close to the maximum base ticket price as possible without going into the next tier.
For economy travel, the chart is as follows:
And for business class, you’re looking at the following costs:
It’s important to note that when you redeem points this way, you’re only considering the base cost of the ticket, exclusive of the taxes and fees.
So this could be a very good option for airlines that don’t have high fuel surcharges, but wouldn’t be recommended for a ticket with a $5 base fare and $600 in fees, as an example — the points would only cover that $5 base fare.
Get credit for travel-related expenses
As a third option, you can also redeem your points at a rate of 1¢ each for new travel purchases, including taxes, surcharges and fees booked through American Express Travel Services or at americanexpress.ca/travel.
This wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice, but there are circumstances where it could make sense — especially now that you can earn points at an accelerated rate.
Other Membership Rewards cards
While there are a variety of American Express cards in Canada, not all of them earn “full” Membership Rewards points. But points earned with the following cards can all be pooled together and transferred to airline partners:
Card Welcome Bonus Earning Rates The Platinum Card® 50,000 Bonus Membership Reward® points by spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of Cardmembership • 3 Points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining in Canada
• 2 Points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel
• 1 Points for every $1 on all other Card purchases
Business Platinum Card® from American Express 40,000points when you charge $5,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership • 1.25 Membership Rewards® points for virtually every $1 in purchases and get the most out of your business expenses
American Express® Gold Rewards Card 25,000 Membership Rewards® points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership • 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases at eligible gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores in Canada
• 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases for eligible travel purchases, including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more
• 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else
American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card 30,000 points when you charge $5,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership • 1 point for every dollar in purchases charged to the Card
Depending on your spending patterns, it may make sense to have a combination of Membership Rewards cards to accelerate your earnings, but diversifying across other programs may be beneficial as well.
Overall, the updates to The Platinum Card® seem mainly positive, and most heavy travelers will be earning more points than they were previously. It would be great to see these bonus categories expand to purchases outside of Canada, but I don’t think that’s likely.
People using the card primarily for everyday spend will likely want to consider shifting those purchases to a different card.
Canadians — what do you make of the changes to The Platinum Card?