Best American Express Credit Cards in Canada in 2019
With over 20 credit cards in the Canadian market, American Express now has a firm foothold in our country and provides residents with access to competitive rewards programs and lucrative card features. After some high-profile struggles in recent years, the credit card network has reinvigorated its offerings with an emphasis on payment technology, now supporting both Apple Pay and Android Pay. It’s also made its products accessible to a wider range of consumers: minimum income requirements have been reduced, and Amex now offers low-fee and low-interest cards in addition to the lux cashback and rewards cards that it has historically been known for.
The higher interchange fees that Amex charges have historically resulted in Amex cards being declined by some merchants, but they are now more widely accepted in Canada than you might expect. Nonetheless we recommend that Canadians supplement one of the below cards with a card from Visa or Mastercard to ensure that all their bases are covered.
Best Lifestyle Rewards Amex
Love great food? Don’t dine out without the Amex CobaltTM card. The CobaltTM accrues a massive 5 points per $1 on dining and drinking out (even delivery), 2 points per $1 on travel, and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Each point is worth about $0.01, and they’re redeemable on a wide variety of card purchases like streaming service subscriptions, retail spending, food, movies, and events.
Cardholders can also take advantage of a very lucrative introductory deal, which runs for the first year of card membership and pays out consecutive bonuses for reaching spending goals. You can earn 2,500 points for each month that you spend $500 or more on the card, for as much as 30,000 points in total. The card costs a relatively low $10 per month, which is more than covered in rewards points by those high-octane urbanites that dine out with regularity.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete American Express CobaltTM card review.
Best Travel Rewards Amex
American Express is generally one of the best credit card processors for travellers, and the most globetrotter-friendly card they offer might be the Scotiabank Gold Amex card. It helps cardholders earn points quickly on their most common expenses, and then enjoy them on future adventures. You’ll receive 5 points per $1 on groceries, dining, and entertainment, 3 points for every $1 you spend at eligible gas stations, daily transit, and then 1 point per $1 on everything else. The points can be spent with superior flexibility, either through the Scotia Travel Centre or by redeeming them retroactively after booking.
There are few other Canadian credit cards that offer the same level of travel benefits for this price point—$120 per year—as the card also includes access to airport lounges worldwide, and a solid travel insurance package. For those who can spend $1,000 in the first three months, a bonus of 15,000 points is also in the cards. If you don’t want to bend to the stricter limitations on point redemption and travel choices that define other cards, you should give the Scotiabank Gold Amex a close look.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete Scotiabank Gold Amex review.
Best Premium Amex Card
Many of the best travel benefits and upper echelon benefits are included with the American Express Platinum Card, like comprehensive travel insurance, airport lounge access, fast Membership Rewards earnings, and an annual travel credit. Cardholders will have access to a $200 Annual Travel Credit to use on one-time travel or hotel bookings through American Express Travel, plus complimentary entry into hundreds of airport lounges around the world—an exclusive membership worth around $399 USD. The Platinum Card is primarily intended for those who travel and spend enough to justify its $699 annual fee, with a 50,000-point introductory bonus rewarded to cardholders who spend $3,000 during their first 3 months.
Amex’s rate for earning Membership Rewards points applies to all spending at 1 point per $1, accelerated to 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel, and 3 points per $1 spent on eligible dining in Canada. Points are redeemable on travel, hotels, merchandise, and cash credits. Other premium features include automatic status at many hotels, some extra privileges like car valet and security bypass at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, and of course a suite of travel insurance that includes Out of Province/Country Emergency Medical Insurance*, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance*, Flight and Baggage Delay Insurance*, Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance* and more.
*For full details, current product information and Terms and Conditions, click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
Learn more on The Platinum card from American Express on our review.
Best Cash Back Amex
Few credit card benefits are as simple and transparent as cash back, and Amex has a contender for the top cash back card in Canada with its SimplyCash Preferred card. New cardholders will appreciate the ability to earn a whopping 5.00% cash back for the first 6 months on everything they buy (maximum $300 in cash back), and then a still-competitive 2.00% afterwards. As a secondary bonus, each approved friend that you refer to Amex grants you another $500 in direct cash back, up to a maximum of $3,000 cash back annually. There’s no limit to the total amount of cash back that you can earn across all spending platforms.
With a 2.00% flat earn rate rate, no limits on purchase categories or a cash back ceiling, the card’s $99 annual fee is worthwhile. Moreover, it wouldn’t be an Amex without a suite of great travel protections like emergency medical and travel accident insurance, or the inclusion of Front of the Line advance access, reserve tickets, and more.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete SimplyCash Preferred Card review.
Best Balance Transfer Amex
Like its predecessor the SimplyCash card, the New SimplyCash card from Amex has a valuable balance transfer deal, but one that’s slightly different from the previous iteration. New cardholders with an existing balance can transfer it to the card and pay just 1.99% interest for 6 months. After the 6-month double-promotion ends, the balance transfer interest rate returns to 19.99%. Referring a friend earns the cardholder $100 per approval, up to a maximum of $1,500 annually. You earn a base cash back rate of 1.25% on eligible purchases after a 3-month promotion rate of 2.5% (capped at $150 in cash back).
There is a nice variety of additional perks that make the New SimplyCash card more valuable, like the inclusion of automatic coverage for rental cars, travel accidents, new purchases, and more. As a part of the American Express family, the card also includes access to special offers and events beyond the capabilities of Visa or Mastercard. In other words, it lends a helping hand to those who are struggling financially, but will also grant them access to perks normally enjoyed by higher-tier cards—and all without an annual fee.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete New SimplyCash Card review.
Best Amex Promotion
Some people hunt for a new credit card based exclusively on the purposefully-enticing introductory bonuses that many issuers offer, and that’s perfectly fine. For American Express, there is one card that particularly stands out in this regard: the American Express Gold Rewards credit card. A welcome bonus of 25,000 points awaits those who spend just $1,500 in their first three months, and points are spent with limitless flexibility, simply by making an eligible travel purchase and then applying points for a statement credit later.
Points accrue at a rate of 2 per $1 on eligible expenses and 1 per $1 for everything else, and they can be transferred to Aeroplan and other airline programs at a ratio of 1:1. Add in a 10% discount when renting cars at Hertz and an excellent travel insurance package, and the $150 annual fee feels much less steep.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete American Express Gold Rewards card review.
Best No Annual Fee Amex
Though Amex offers amazing rewards and cash back levels via a variety of cards, the most lucrative typically come with annual fees of around $100 or more. Our best no annual fee card for Amex is the Scotiabank Amex card. Although it’s a ‘free’ card, it nonetheless offers an introductory bonus of 5,000 points for spending $500 within 3 months.
At a rate of 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases, cardholders can accrue points via their natural spending inclinations and use them later to save on trips. Like other Amex travel cards, points are redeemable via retroactive statement credits—just make a purchase with the card and pay for it with points later. You can also spend them on merchandise and other special offers. Finally, cardholders can feel safer during their travels with a selection of basic insurance benefits, like travel medical, interruption, accident, and rental car damage.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete Scotiabank American Express card review.
Best Premium Amex
Each credit card issuer offers a premium card for those with deeper pockets, which typically comes with killer benefits and a sky-high price to match. For Amex Canada, this card is the Scotiabank Amex Platinum. For the hefty annual fee of $399, cardholders will earn 4 points per $1 on their gas, grocery, dining, and entertainment expenses, and then 1 point per $1 everywhere else. But this isn’t what puts the card in the premium league. Members also get 30,000 points after making a single purchase on the card, and enjoy VIP airport lounge access, Hertz #1 Club membership, a VIP status to popular global events like Fashion Week in NYC, and more.
The card also comes with an impressive travel insurance suite, which includes coverage for travel medical, trip cancellation and interruption, flight delay, rental car collision and damage, delayed and lost baggage, travel accidents, and hotel burglary. Finally, it wouldn’t be a travel Amex card without the ability to pay for any travel expense retroactively with statement credits, or extended warranties and protection for new purchases. It’s truly the full package for those that can reconcile the annual fee.
Best Low-Interest Amex
American Express Essential Card
Though American Express was once known for cards with high interest rates that were not suitable to those who carry balances, the Essential credit card challenges that reputation. It has no annual fee, and an annual interest rate of just 8.99% on purchases and cash advances. This makes carrying a balance from month to month much less burdensome.
This Amex card also makes itself ‘essential’ for escaping interest on existing balances as well, not just the ones stemming from purchases made with it. With a 1.99% rate for 6 months on balances transferred from another credit card, you can save money on your ongoing expenses but also defray the interest collecting on older debts as well. After the 6 months is over, the rate charged on your transferred balance rises to the competitive 8.99% already being charged on purchases and cash advances.
The Essentials card further lives up to its name thanks to a comprehensive array of the must-have features for those who need a financial helping hand. The low interest rate and no annual fee deal is improved by the addition of insurance coverage for new purchases, as well as $100,000 of coverage against travel accidents.
You can learn more about the card by reading our complete American Express Essential card review.
Didn’t Find Your Amex Here?
If you’re looking for an excellent American Express card for your wallet, but didn’t find it in the list above, post a comment below or email us with your criteria and we’d be happy to make some personal suggestions. Thanks!
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*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.