The newest credit card in Canada is the American Express Cobalt Card, launched just last month. Most American Express cards have great rewards, but this card takes it to a new level, with 5 points per dollar on dining and groceries.
[Post updated Feb 2019]
Improved Offer for the American Express Cobalt Card
The current bonus for the American Express Cobalt Card is 30,000 American Express MR points. You earn 2,500 bonus points per month when you spend $500 in that month. Tallying up the monthly bonus yields 30,000 points the first year.
However, you can almost double the points you earn with grocery and dining transactions, which earn 5 points per dollar. If you spend $1,000 on Groceries and Dining per month, the bonus is as follows:
- Months 1-2: Spend $1,000 ($12,000 total) – Total Bonus: 90,500
- 12,000 Points (1,000 x 12) – Base Earn
- 30,000 (2,500 x 12) – Welcome Bonus
- 48,000 (12,000 x 4) – Category Bonus
The total points you earn in this scenario is a whopping 90,000 American Express MR points. The is absolutely phenomenal – which equals 7.5 points per dollar spent. While you may not spend $1000 on groceries, it is very easy to “increase” that amount. The trick is gift cards. At my local store, you can buy gift cards for any store – gas, electronics, retail, office supplies, you name it. You will still get 5x points since the transaction will show up as in the groceries category.
Earning with the AMEX Cobalt Card
The best part about the American Express Cobalt Card is the bonus points you can earn for select transactions. First, you earn 5x points on Groceries, Dining, and Food Delivery Services. This is equal to a 5%+ return. If you spend only $1,000 a month on this category, you earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points. Furthermore, you earn 2x points on Transit, Gas and Travel, equal to a 2%+ return. In comparison, most other credit cards earn at most 1-2 points for these transactions.
This is the only credit card in Canada with a bonus multipler on Food Delivery and Transit. The closest other card with these bonuses is the Scotiabank Gold American Express, which earns only 4x points on groceries and dining, with a $50,000 calendar year cap. The Cobalt Card becomes much more attractive relative to the Scotiabank Gold if you are spending more than $25,000 in bonus categories a year. The Cobalt card has no cap or annual limit on the bonus points you can earn. This is game changing and is a major reason to keep the card beyond the first year.
Unfortunately, all other spend is at one point per dollar, making it more worthwhile to use the American Express Platinum/Business Platinum Card or the MBNA Rewards World Elite that earn, respectively, 1.25 Membership Rewards points and 2% Cashback per dollar. Personally, I’ll only be using this card for purchases on dining and groceries. As I already have the Business Platinum Card, I will be using that for other everyday purchases that don’t earn a bonus with the Cobalt Card. I wouldn’t recommend using this card for non-bonused purchases.
American Express MR Select Tier
The American Express Cobalt Card earns Membership Rewards Select points. These are only slightly different from regular AMEX points earned from the Gold or Platinum cards. The primary difference is that the points earned from the Cobalt Card cannot transfer into airlines. These are Aeroplan (1:1), BA Avios (1:1.25 – Transfer Bonus), Asia Miles (1:0.75), Delta Skymiles (1:0.75), Etihad Guest (1:0.75). However, there are still three excellent redemptions that can be made with MR Select points.
1. Transfer to Hotels
Points with the Cobalt Card can be transferred to two hotels programs Hilton HHonors (1:1), and Starwood Preferred Guest (2:1). Hilton is poor value, so Starwood is the best option here. Starwood also transfers at a 1:3 ratio. With the 5x bonus on Groceries and Dining, you earn 2.5 SPG points or 7.5 Marriott points. I value Starwood points at 2.25 USD cents apiece, so you are getting a 7.1%+ return.
Additional Reading: Best SPG Redemptions
2. Fixed Points Travel Program
The American Express Fixed Points Travel Program was released last year. It lets you use a set amount of miles for a flight, which is determined by a zone-based chart. There is a maximum ticket price that the points will cover, but you can buy a ticket that exceeds the amount if by paying the difference.
Notice that the maximum price is the base fare price; this excludes airport taxes and other fees. Take for example, my flight to PointsU Calgary, which is in two weeks. A round-trip flight costs 15,000 points, with a maximum base ticket price of $300. The flights cost $431.
The base fare is $346.
In this case, I pay $131, $46 being the fare difference and the rest being taxes and fees. My AMEX points cover $300 of the base fare, which is 2 cpm. Given you earn 5x points on bonus categories, you can get up to a 10% return!
3. Travel Purchases
With MR Select points, you can offset travel charges on the card at a rate of 10,000 points for $100, a 1 cpm value. This isn’t great, but is a good option if there are no other ways to use your points. You can also use points to erase other charges, but that is at a poorer value of 0.7 cpm.
With the 5x bonus on groceries and dining, you still earn a 5% return redeeming your points this way.
American Express Cobalt Card – Other Benefits
Just like other premium competitors, the Cobalt Card also comes with travel and shopping protections. This includes insurance for flight delays, lost baggage, car rentals, and more, as well as purchase protection and extended warranty. See the full list of coverage here. Overall, the American Express Cobalt Card is one of the best cards out there to reward purchases on groceries and dining, with 5x points per dollar.
This card has the best bonus categories all-around, and the monthly fee of $10 is very innovative. It’s bold for a credit card issuer to go back to the drawing board and create such a stunning new product. I’m excited to get the card soon, and hope other financial issuers make an attempt to match the new competition.
Apply for the American Express Cobalt Card today, and earn up to 30,000 Points!