You are currently viewing The best overall card in Canada (thanks to 5 times more travel rewards)

My favorite among all my cards is excellent to earn a lot of travel rewards… it’s THE best card for Canadian travelers (according to us… and pretty much every other expert). And it currently has its highest welcome bonus in Canada in fact (on a non-premium card).

The American Express Cobalt Card‘s welcome bonus is a bit unique but it will give you a whopping ≈ $744 if you maximize it.

That’s phenomenal! And it’s easy to maximize it since the card’s everyday earn rate is 5 points per dollar at so many retailers. That rate is also the best in Canada, by far.

Look… even if you wanted to get only one card, THIS is the one. You just can’t go wrong with the best card in Canada.

In short, the American Express Cobalt Card is perfect both for those getting started with travel rewards or for pros who want to earn the most points possible.

And the card has no minimum income requirement; it’s accessible to all. But however, it requires a bit more spending than all other cards in Canada to unlock the welcome bonus. But it’s not that much if you follow our tips below.

(If you prefer, there are 6 other cards that give you over $500 with lower spending requirements to unlock the welcome bonus.)

So here is our review of the American Express Cobalt Card and its current ≈ $744 welcome bonus.

Important: If you are not one of the Flytrippers readers who have already earned over a million dollars with our welcome bonus recommendations, please read the 5 basics of travel rewards first.

Because we’ll assume you know that welcome bonuses are the key, that having more cards is better for your credit score, that you shouldn’t close your current old cards, that annual fees alone are irrelevant, and that there are 2 types of travel rewards that work very differently.

 

Overview of Flytrippers’ take on the American Express Cobalt Card

Our detailed editorial card reviews always start with a to-the-point section that includes:

  • Why get the card
  • Who should get the card
  • How to get the card

 

Why get the American Express Cobalt Card

Here are the 5 best reasons to get the American Express Cobalt Card:

  1. A great welcome bonus of ≈ $744
  2. The option to redeem as fixed-value points or variable-value points
  3. The best earn rate on most purchases at 5 pts/$
  4. Free additional cards
  5. Good insurance coverage

We’ll explain each one below… but you can also check our complete page on the American Express Cobalt Card for way more details (it’s the beta version of our new card page template).

On the other hand, if you prefer a shorter and simpler version, you can check out our summary page for the American Express Cobalt Card.

 

Who should get the American Express Cobalt Card

Here are the travelers who should consider the American Express Cobalt Card:

  1. Those who want the best card and the best earn rate
  2. Those who can spend $500/month at grocery stores that accept Amex cards (many do)
  3. Those who want more valuable Aeroplan or Marriott points
  4. Those who want the highest possible simple easy-to-use travel credit
  5. Those who are just getting started in the world of travel rewards
  6. Those who don’t want to maximize their free travel by getting multiple cards

So the American Express Cobalt Card is especially good for those who check at least ONE of these 6 main boxes.

If you don’t, take advantage of the similar welcome bonus on the American Express Gold Rewards Card worth ≈ $668… or check out our ranking of the best credit cards in Canada to see your many other great alternatives and still get hundreds of dollars in free travel easily.

 

How to get the American Express Cobalt Card

Here is the 4-step simplified process to take advantage of this deal:

  1. Apply for the American Express Cobalt Card (secure Amex link)
  2. Unlock the monthly welcome bonus by spending $500 per month for the first 12 months
  3. Get 60,000 Amex points if you do the spend in grocery stores (a 30,000 bonus and 30,000 earned at 5 pts/$)
  4. Use points for up to 10 one-way reward flights (≈ $900) OR as a simple credit for any trip ($600)

The welcome bonus is a lot higher so the required spending is also a lot higher than usual, but it’s just $115 per week. That’s not that high. And with our 5 pro tips, it’s really very easy to reach.

For a lot more step-by-step tips, you can soon download our free American Express Cobalt Card guide (download our checklist for when you get a new card to avoid common mistakes and we’ll send you the guide once it’s ready).

My card welcome kit in 2017 (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

Highlights of the American Express Cobalt Card

Here is a detailed look at the 5 best reasons to get the American Express Cobalt Card.

 

1. Great welcome bonus worth ≈ $744

First of all, as I mentioned, Amex points are hybrid and can be used based on your preference between the 2 types of rewards that exist.

So I’ll give you the value of the welcome bonus based on both options but I’ll explain how to use the 2 types in the next section.

 

1.1. How to use the welcome bonus

Our Flytrippers Valuation is based on using your rewards for specific flights as variable-value rewards, including by transferring Amex points into Aeroplan or Avios points, often the most valuable options.

When used that way, the welcome bonus is enough for:

  • $1200 off specific expensive fights
  • 5 roundtrip short-distance flights
  • 3 roundtrip longer-distance flights
  • 1 one-way transoceanic business class flight
  • 10 one-way short-distance flights in other regions
  • 11 completely free nights in Bali and other destinations
  • 6 completely free nights in 50+ countries

You can read the 37 good uses of Amex points for plenty of examples. But that is less urgent than taking advantage of the card’s special offer…

In short, the American Express Cobalt Card‘s bonus can be worth a lot more than our conservative estimate if you make choices to maximize value.

Our Flytrippers Valuation of Amex points is ≈ 1.5¢ per point, but they have a minimum value of 1¢ and can be worth 3 times more too. That’s the beauty of variable-value rewards with outsized value and unlimited value.

 

1.2. How to unlock the monthly bonus

Almost every card in Canada has a very simple bonus structure: Spend X amount in the first 3, 4, or 6 months, and you unlock the welcome bonus.

The American Express Cobalt Card is unique: The welcome bonus is monthly. That’s why it requires a lot more spending and why the card is not for everyone.

The regular welcome bonus is actually 12 separate bonuses:

  • Spend $500/month for the first 12 months

This is easier to reach than it looks. Remember to read our 5 best tips to reach card minimum spend requirements as we also share important mistakes to avoid.

The $500 per month is not that much (just the equivalent of $115 per week since there are 52 weeks in a year), especially if you switch to one of the many grocery stores that accept Amex cards in Canada to buy groceries but also to buy gift cards for many other retailers to maximize your earnings.

You can also skip any month and get the other months’ bonuses, each month is really considered separately (so those with lower spending could concentrate all their expenses in the first 2 months of each 3-month period to reach two-thirds of the total bonus instead of missing out by a bit every month).

That will give you 60,000 Amex points (≈ $900 value). The detailed math is below.

 

1.3. Total welcome bonus value

That means you get:

  • Welcome bonus worth ≈ $900

The American Express Cobalt Card comes with a $156 fee (charged $12.99 monthly) so that’s how you get a net value of $744 ($900 in rewards less $156 in fees). I will come back to the irrational obsession that many have about avoiding annual fees in a second.

That is an absolutely incredible bonus. Literally the best welcome bonus in Canada right now for a non-premium card.

At our Flytrippers Valuation, your effective rate of return is ≈ 12% on the welcome bonus (value you get/amount you spend).

 

1.4. Simpler travel credit option

If instead of the more valuable but more complex options, you want your rewards to be simpler travel credits… you can do that. It’s worth a bit less and that’s it.

But it’s still very rewarding and it’s still one of the best in Canada:

  • Welcome bonus worth $600 as a fixed-value travel credit

In other words, you’d get $444 in net value this way. A $600 travel credit applicable to any travel expense, less the $156 fee.

Very good, but as always, it’s much less than if you use the points as variable-value rewards.

 

1.5. Welcome bonus math

For those who are interested, here is the detail of our Flytrippers Valuation of the American Express Cobalt Card.

The welcome bonus will give you 60,000 Amex points:

  • 30,000: Get 2,500 points every month if you spend $500 (for the first 12 months)
  • 30,000: The $500/month will earn you another 2,500 points per month at the 5X earn rate

Just as a reminder… it’s a great example of why it makes no sense to avoid cards with annual fees just for the sake of avoiding fees. Annual fees alone are irrelevant: it’s the total net value that matters, always. A $156 card that gives you $900 is obviously better than a $0 card that gives you $0… if you know how to do the math.

(Look… it’s a good reflex to avoid fees normally. But with travel rewards, it just doesn’t make sense—the world of travel rewards is a very counter-intuitive one.)

 

2. Flexibility of having many redemption options

Some want points to be flexible so that they are easy to use even if they are worth a little less (as a simple travel credit; fixed-value rewards), while others prefer being flexible and investing a bit more time to maximize points that can be worth exponentially more (as slightly more complex points; variable-value rewards).

The American Express Cobalt Card gives you the option to do both.

And most importantly, it’s amazingly rewarding no matter the option you choose. Although of course, it’s potentially more rewarding if you use the points as variable-value rewards, as always.

In short…

If you want it to be simple, your points give you a travel credit that can be used for literally any travel expense of your choice. It’s super flexible. The most flexible type of rewards out there.

If you want more potential value, your points can also give you:

  • Discounts on specific flights with the Amex fixed price program
  • Discounts on specific flights by transferring to Aeroplan, Avios, or others
  • Discounts on specific hotels by transferring to Marriott points

If you choose the right flights or hotels and plan trips around them, it can give you literally twice as much value. Unlimited value.

You can mix and match any way you like too, it’s really 100% flexible. And points never expire.

 

2. Best earn rate in Canada at 5 pts/$

You’ll earn 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on many purchases. For your info, 5 Amex points = 5 Aeroplan points.

Here is what 5 Amex points per dollar give you:

  • 5% back as a simple travel credit
  • ≈ 7.5% (or even 10% if you maximize them) as Aeroplan points

The American Express Cobalt Card earns 5 points per dollar on food: groceries, restaurants, food delivery, coffee shops, bars, etc.

But it’s not just on food. I mentioned this pro tip earlier: buy gift cards at your grocery store and you’ll get 5X on just about every purchase from major retailers, since most of them offer gift cards at the grocery store.

For example, at most grocery stores, you can also buy gift cards for gas stations, giving you 5 pts/$ on gas too! Clothing stores, hardware stores, Amazon, IKEA… it works almost everywhere.

Many grocery stores in Canada accept Amex cards, and 5 times more free travel is worth switching grocery stores for.

Needless to say, even just 5% back is simply phenomenal value.

Most people get 1% or 2% back, now we’re talking 5 times more on so many of your purchases with the American Express Cobalt Card. The exact same purchases, but 5 times more free travel at the very least.

And since you can transfer points to variable-value rewards programs, you can even get outsized value and unlimited value.

I already mentioned it, but for example: spending just $1,200 at grocery stores will get you a Toronto-New York one-way reward flight! Much better than getting just 1% right, which would be a pathetic $12 back!

You’ll also earn:

  • 1 pt/$ as the base earn rate
  • 2 pts/$ on gas, transit, and travel expenses (you’re better off buying gas gift cards at 5X at the grocery store instead)
  • 3 pts/$ on streaming services (although again, buy a Netflix gift card at the grocery store at 5X)

 

4. Free additional cards

The American Express Cobalt Card also gives you free additional cards (sometimes called supplementary cards). In other words, you can get cards for others in your household so that you can all use them separately to reach the minimum spend requirement for the welcome bonus—and earn more points all the time too. You can get 9 free cards and the minimum age is 13.

Usually, the key to earning more free travel in two-player mode (the travel rewards hobby for couples) is to each get the same card to double up the rewards from the welcome bonuses. It’s logical: if you use points for two, you need to earn points for two.

But since the American Express Cobalt Card’s welcome bonus is unique and requires more spending, unless you can easily spend $1,000 per month, it’s best to get just one now and another next year (and we’ll have a pro tip for that second card, sign up below if you want to get it first).

 

5. Good insurance coverage

Apart from the free travel you earn, the best reason to get into the travel credit cards hobby is to get free insurance coverage, as you might already know. It makes no sense not to be covered since you can get it for free!

The American Express Cobalt Card includes:

 

Where Amex cards are accepted

As I mentioned earlier, in terms of grocery stores… many grocery stores accept Amex cards, and for 5X more free travel it’s worth switching grocery stores for (that’s what I did myself back in 2017 when I got my American Express Cobalt Card).

Yes, it’s true: American Express cards are a little bit less widely accepted than Visa and Mastercard. But only very slightly, and it’s really not as true as most people think, or as it once was—even Walmart, Tim Hortons, and Dollarama now accept them!

In 2018 alone, there were 96,000 locations in Canada that started accepting Amex. There are hundreds of thousands of businesses where you can pay with Amex.

I haven’t updated this figure yet, but during the first half of 2019, over 80% of my own personal expenses (outside of unlocking my many new welcome bonuses of course) were on one of my 4 Amex cards. Over 80% of expenses is pretty good.

Even if you can’t use it for 100% of your expenses, it would be crazy to deprive yourself of the amazing benefits just because of that. What matters is unlocking the welcome bonus, because welcome bonuses are the key! You know this if you read the travel rewards basics, but it’s really bad for your credit score to have just one card anyway!

 

Summary

The American Express Cobalt Card is the best card in Canada. If you want to maximize your free travel, chances are it’s a great card for you. With the great welcome bonus, the redemption flexibility, the amazing earn rate, the free additional cards, and the good insurance coverage, it’s no surprise that we at Flytrippers love it.

Have any questions about the American Express Cobalt Card? Ask me in the comments below.

 

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Featured image: Costa Rica landscape (photo credit: Ralph Kayden)

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are purely our own. Redemption values evoked are also Flytrippers’ own and solely based on our own points valuation estimates as described. All offers described on the Flytrippers website are subject to the financial institutions’ latest terms and conditions that can be found on their website.

Offers from financial institutions change quickly; it is your responsibility to ensure the accuracy of these offers on their website when applying for a card. Flytrippers will not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the offers or the result of your actions.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click on the provided links to proceed to product website. All the information was independently collected by Flytrippers and not provided by financial institutions.

Flytrippers’ website does not contain all available credit card offers or all available credit card companies on the market. Flytrippers never shares an offer if it is not considered advantageous for certain travelers, at its sole discretion.

No author on Flytrippers’ website is a financial advisor, a financial planner, a legal professional, or a tax professional and no author on Flytrippers’ website can in any way be considered as such.

All articles and pages on Flytrippers’ website are merely personal opinions of a general nature and are for informational purposes only and should not be considered as advice for specific situations. It is your responsibility to perform your own personal research to make sure that travel rewards points are appropriate for your own situation.

The opinions expressed on Flytrippers’ website are those of the authors only and have not been provided, approved, endorsed, or ratified by any third party mentioned on the site.

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 64/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Soup

    Hi Andrew, did the welcome bonus for this card get lowered recently? Because the Amex website is listing the welcome bonus as up to 50,000 points, not the 87,500 points mentioned in this article. I would like to know if I missed out on this incredible promotion and if so, whether or not you think it will return at some point? Thank you!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, it’s still 87,500 points that you’ll get, it’s just that banks always only mention the bonus part of the stash you’ll earn. But you’ll also earn points on the minimum spend you have to do to unlock the welcome bonus, and that’s what we include in our Flytrippers Valuation. In this case, since it’s so easy to hit that $500/month at restaurants and grocery stores (for food… or gift cards) so we assume you reach the entire welcome bonus at 5X, giving you a total of 87,500 Amex points after you’ve unlocked the welcome bonus.
      Here is the detailed breakdown that you can always see for each card in our ranking of the best credit cards in Canada (https://flytrippers.com/best-credit-cards-canada/):

      1. Soup

        Thank you for the clarification! Cheers!

  2. Catherine Sanderson

    Big fan of you guys. Been following you for a couple years now. Just got the AMEX Cobalt card and will be gong after the 72,000 points at $500 per month. Using your tip to buy gift cards at Sobey’s which is where AMEX is accepted here.

    Got the MB Amex last year and enjoyed 10 free nights in Spain at the Hotel AC Almeria in February just past. Wonderful! AND just got my free night certificate.

    Very interested in why and how you use both your Cobalt and your MB Amex cards. Why keep both? Waiting anxiously for your new posting on that topic.

    All the best and keep up the great work.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hello! Glad we could help:) So basically, I use my Cobalt for most of my spending (outside of the welcome bonuses for other cards that I regularly unlock during the year) because I buy gift cards to everything at my grocery for 6x Marriott points.
      Everything else that is not a “bonus category multiplier” on any other card, I always use the Marriott card for 2 pts per dollar (but even if I wouldn’t, it makes little sense to cancel that one because of the incredibly valuable certificate each year).
      For other non-grocery category multipliers, I use a few other cards. For example, my Platinum Card has great travel insurance and 2X points on travel, so I use it for the travel bonus category multiplier.
      Hope this answers your question:)
      Glad you enjoyed Spain, I actually stayed at that hotel myself in October, but just for one night on a coastal roadtrip!

      1. Catherine Sanderson

        Yes that helps alot. Thanks again. Merci Beaucoup!!

  3. Sandra Dance

    Since we’re only able to eat our groceries these days and not travel, do your points expire?

  4. Catherine Sanderson

    Okay, that’s what I feared but I may still be able to get the $500 per month spending goal anyway. Thanks for getting back to me!

  5. Catherine Sanderson

    Can you tell me if you buy groceries at Walmart do you get the double bonus points?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi Catherine, no banks can’t know what you buy. Category bonuses are based on how the retailer is coded, so you have to be in an actual grocery store to earn 5X. Some convenience stores code as food establishments too, but Walmart will not unfortunately.

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