Canada: Winners And Losers With The New Amex Platinum Earning Structure

Filed Under: Canadian Credit Card Reviews
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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 on eligible eats and drinks in Canada, including groceries and food delivery 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®.

Welcome bonus 

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.

Fees

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.

Benefits

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 PartnerTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Air Canada Aeroplan1000 : 1000up to 30 minutes
Alitalia MilleMiglia1000 : 7505 business days
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1000 : 7505 business days
British Airways Executive Club1000 : 10005 business days
Delta SkyMiles1000 : 750up to 30 minutes
Etihad Guest1000 : 7503 business days
Hilton Honors1000 : 10005 business days
Marriott Rewards1000 : 12005 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:

CardWelcome BonusEarning 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 Express40,000points 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 Card25,000 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 Card30,000 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.

Bottom line

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?

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Comments
  1. Hello American friends!

    Great run down Tiffany, I think you very comprehensively summarized the Personal Platinum card and the state of the Membership Rewards program in Canada. Something else to note is that Canadian MR can be transferred to US MR at the prevailing exchange rate which unlocks a bunch more transfer partners for us.

    It’s a tough call between Business Platinum and Personal Platinum now, however the welcome bonus is higher on the Business Platinum. Everything else is the same except for now the point earning rate, Hilton Gold status on the Personal Platinum and the metal card now.

    If anyone’s interested in the Canadian Platinum card, using my referral link is always appreciated: http://amex.ca/share/aNDREZLkSJ?CPID=100200329

    And Business Platinum for good measure: http://amex.ca/share/andrezjeqy?CPID=100200329

  2. The Canadian version of the platinum card is several levels below the US version.
    Canada’s credit card market has no hope.

  3. It’s nice the blog starts covering overseas credit cards. I am based in Mexico and can say the credit card market is starting to become more competitive with banks recently introducing welcome bonus offers…
    Citi Bank merged with the National Bank a while ago and introduced cards like the Citi Prestige in Mexico. The cool thing is that here the annual fee is free when you’re part of the private banking, and the 4th-night benefit isn’t going away any soon. It also has a fixed-points redemption program for airfare and although they excluded first class about a year ago, it is still a great value. The award chart is pretty much like AA’s but it is valid for travel on any airline and any date not subject to availability, providing you book 21 days before the date. There are no taxes added.
    If only there were bonus categories! Here, the card earns 1.5 (Mexican) thankyou points per dollar spent.
    Well, this comment was now very long, but it is really interesting to see how credit cards (even from the same issuers) differ from country to country.

  4. Great article Tiffany!

    This is indeed a great card that should be part of your wallet if travel is important for you. What i like the most about this card are the very solid insurances you’re getting from it (now even better thanks to travel earnings 2X points). And not to mention it but the Priority Pass unlimited is a great benefit too.

    Otherwise, this card is frequently getting interesting offers from American Express throughout the year.
    All in all, I’d say that the yearly pricepoint is indeed scary at first but all benefits factored in, you definitely get more from it (at least in the 1st year) 😉

    Should you’d like to give it a try, as suggested from Tiffany, you’ll get an even larger bonus upon subscription with a referred link.

    Here’s mine: http://amex.ca/share/gautilxfo5?XLINK=MYCP

  5. This will allow you to continue using contactless payments — something that isn’t really widespread yet in the States.

    Note that the completely metal card from the States can support contactless payments, just call Amex and ask for a contactless version of your card. It’s still completely metal—there’s no need for the Canadian version to be “kinda metal” with a veneer on the front.

  6. Thank You Tiffany for the detailed info!

    For the Amex travel chart one may want to think of whether it is better to use Amex travel chart or transfer to a frequent flyer program. If ticket price is high then it may be worth transferring points to a frequent flyer program like Aeroplan, transfer is instant.

    Below is my Amex referral link anyone is feel free to use it.

    http://amex.ca/share/kingtnG9Ep?XLINK=MYCP

  7. First the SPG points earning rate going down the toilet, now the platinum… 99% of my spend if “other” categories…I will stick to the 2% cash back.

  8. @keitherson

    We don’t get many benefits (other than status) or statement credit offers up here in Canada, no airline credits, Saks Fifth or Uber credits. There’s a shop small offer each year which gets you $5 credits at 5 different merchants and the occasional special offer, but not much in terms of ongoing credits.

  9. Certainly a great news. A few points of add:
    1. I was proactively sent the new card which comes in a nice package so it looks like existing cardholders don’t have to do anything
    2. I spend a lot of time abroad and typically the bonus on restaurants gets credited even outside of Canada. My understanding is that Amex cannot guarantee the bonus for stores outside of Canada.

    As other commentators suggested above, you’ll get an additional 10k using a referral link. If you’re interested, my link is http://amex.ca/share/gaspasMA6K?CPID=100200325

  10. There is a 2.5% fx fee on this card, so no go. For any charges in foreign currencies or any travel, I am using HSBC MasterCard. It’s no fx fee, and effectively 3% cash back on travel and 1.5% cash back on everything else. Or transfer points to Singapore and a couple of other airlines.

  11. Be mindful of refunds that posted following the changeover.
    I found that a purchase which was made prior to the changeover, and refunded after the changeover, that the refund could end up debiting at the new earning rate then was originally credited with the old earning rate.
    If you find this, call in for a adjustment.
    See screenshot for a example.
    https://ibb.co/JmHJdWq

  12. WOW you are so lucky. In Australia the annual fee is $1500 for Platinum and yes you do get a $400 travel credit. However from 01 Apr the earn rate has been cut. Now 1 point for every AUD. plus the distressing news of transfer rates. For all airlines it was 1 AMEX point = 1 airline mileage point. From April this will move to 2 AMEX points = 1 airline mileage point. It was about 3 years ago that AMEX move to the newly announced Canadian earn rate. So all of you in Canada are very lucky compared to us in Australia

  13. In Canada, we don’t get the AMEX offers, which in the US seem to be quite interesting and valuable.

  14. I don’t really like the changes made to the card unfortunately given that using AMEX is already a struggle at most establishments, let alone restaurants. You’ll be lucky if your restaurant pick does take AMEX, more likely than not you’ll need to use their locator tool in order to find which restaurants take the care. 3x on an almost unusable category save for your morning coffee does nothing for me.

  15. Have any Canadian platinum holders used the airline discount benefit program? Do you know if WestJet is included? Can’t seem to find much online about that benefit.

  16. Be careful when charging non USD-denominated foreign purchases to Canadian AmEx. We are robbed twice, as the purchase is converted to USD first, and only then to CAD at heavens know the spread they hammer us with…
    Furthermore, the C$200 travel credit is given once in a calendar year nowadays, rather than based on a twelve-month period from the yearly card issuance anniversary…

  17. Happy to refer to the 60,000 bonus membership rewards points offer.

    Lots of value with this card especially in the first year. Unlimited priority pass lounge entry for yourself and a guest. Access to the amazing Amex centurion lounges and also Delta lounges. $200 annual travel credit.

    Perhaps one of the best features is the fast track offer to Star Alliance GOLD status via the Shangri La JADE status that is included with the card. Simply register and fly three segments on Singapore airlines and you have Kris Flyer Gold status for a year.

    http://amex.ca/share/kevinko1ia?CPID=100200325

  18. @Paul
    American Express only charges the foreign exchange commission once. In my experience their exchange rate is competitive, but not consistently the best or the worst which makes it hard to compare. Obviously any card with no FX fee is probably a better choice since you’d get the 2.5% savings plus the reward earnings of 1-2%.

  19. @James
    Yes, WestJet is included in the airline discount benefit program. My travel agent mentioned it to me when i was getting a quote. Unfortunately I don’t know the amount of the discount since it was a complex itinerary but I don’t think it was very significant. WestJet has general discount codes available which I’d use since I prefer to to have more control over doing bookings.

  20. I find it interesting that I saw this on the FB Plat group (this article) and that AMEX didn’t email me as a Plat card holder about any of these changes. They have emailed me consistently about the SPG card changes.

    I think it is a real shame that we don’t have an AMEX card that doesn’t charge 2.5% fx fee. I would have thought the SPG would be perfect for that, as it is a travel card and AMEX should be aiming for people to use it at Marriott properties world wide.

    I’m glad about the 2 points for travel, I’ll move my regular spend to my other cards I guess, and I don’t really eat out that much but I guess I can use my plat card for dining out.

  21. Great work Tiffany, I would love to see your take on the massive changes to Amex card holders coming for Australia.

  22. @Canadian Platinum, they sometimes has some pretty good offers. There was one a bit over a year ago where if you spent over $200 at Pearson Duty Free you would get a $200 credit to your account. Conveniently, I was traveling through Pearson at the time of the offer. So, basically I got $200 worth of liquor for free. They had a similar promotion recently but you only received a $50 credit on a $200 purchase; not bad but not as good as the previous one.

  23. @Aztek. Amex has marginally better offers if you live in Toronto. (your example of the great Pearson Airport offers).

    For the rest of us plebes since we don’t live in “Toronto the good” we don’t exist as far as Amex is concerned. No offers outside of YYZ!

    For that reason I cannot see any value in any AMEX product so will be cancelling SPG and Gold in the next year!

  24. i only put hotels and flights on this card because of its travel insurance. so i’m happy with this news.

    otherwise the only reason i get the card is because of priority pass and amex lounges, and because i can get this for others for $175 a year.

    points go into avios, when gets me cheap toronto-new york flights on long weekends.

    anything else is just gravy.

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