The American Express Cobalt™ Card Review
Welcome offer of up to 30,000 Membership Rewards® points (worth approx. $300)
Earn 5X the points on eligible eats & drinks, 2X the points on eligible travel & transit, 1X the points on everything else
Includes comprehensive travel insurance for the cardholder
Flexible redemptions – use points for travel, event tickets, gift cards, merchandise, a statement credit, and more.
- $10 monthly fee
- In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 2,500 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your Card. This could add up to 30,000 points in a year
- Rewards: Earn 5X the points for every $1 spent on eligible eats and drinks, 2X the points for every $1 spent on eligible travel and transit including hotels, public transit, and gas, 1X the points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
- Other perks: travel insurance, free supplementary cards, exclusive entertainment access
- Minimum Income Eligibility Requirement: N/A
- Recommended credit score: Fair to Good
- Interest on Purchases: 19.99% | Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99%
- This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own
About the American Express Cobalt™ Card
The American Express Cobalt™ Card earns a top spot as one of the best rewards credit cards in Canada, but its real claim to fame is the points-earning potential on food purchases. With this card, you’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, cafes, and even food delivery services. That’s incredibly lucrative. You’ll also get 2 points per $1 spent on gas, transit, and travel like buses, taxicabs, or hotel stays, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Let’s break this down. Say you spend $12,000 annually on food and drink, $1,200 on gas per year, and $6,000 on everything else, you’d earn 68,400 Membership Rewards points. That’s a value of up to $684. Add to that the welcome bonus of up to 30,000 points (worth approx. up to $300) and you’re looking at a card with a value of up to $984—and that’s before the travel insurance.
To maximize the value of your points, you can use them for travel through the AMEX travel portal or via the Fixed Points Travel Program. Alternatively, you could redeem your points for a statement credit, gift cards, or merchandise, but at a lower value compared to travel. In other words, your points can get you pretty much anything — even purchases at Amazon.ca.
The American Express Cobalt™ Card carries a sweet insurance bundle including up to $5 million in out of province/country emergency medical, $250,000 of travel accident coverage, flight and baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, up to $500 in hotel burglary protection, and up to $85,000 in car rental theft and damage coverage. Cardholders get access to The Hotel Collection from American Express®, which gives you benefits like free room upgrades at over 600 participating hotels and resorts in over 30 countries worldwide. You also have American Express Invites which get you access to exclusive events, presale tickets, and special offers.
Card Features & Benefits
In addition to generous earn rates and one of the most flexible redemption processes around, the American Express Cobalt™ Card carries better-than-average travel insurance and some valuable perks.
- Excellent earn rates: Get 5 points per $1 spent on eligible food and drink, 2 points per $1 on spent gas and transit like buses or taxicabs, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
- A welcome offer that’s worth it: New cardholders can earn up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when they spend $500 per month for the first 12 months (2,500 points per eligible month for a maximum of 30,000 points). This offer is worth up to approximately $300.
- Boosts in top spending categories: Boosted earn rates don’t mean much if they’re in categories you rarely use. Five points per dollar on food and drink includes grocery shopping, restaurants, cafes, bars, and food delivery. The 2 point per $1 category covers public transit like the bus and subway and car hires like taxicabs, plus travel spends like hotel stays.
- Flexible redemptions: American Express Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for virtually anything you want to spend them on. When you use them as a credit against your card, they go towards retail, restaurant purchases, entertainment, or bills. Book flights through the Fixed Points Travel Program, or travel at American Express Travel Online, and they get you closer to that getaway. Or, you can use them at Membershiprewards.ca for gift cards or merchandise. And if that’s not quite enough choice, you can even redeem them for purchases on Amazon.ca.
- Up your hotel game: Cardholders get access to The Hotel Collection from American Express®, which means you can get a free room upgrade and a hotel credit of up to $100 USD for amenities like a spa visit, room service, or golf at over 600 participating hotels and resorts in over 30 countries worldwide.
- Travel insurance: The American Express Cobalt™ Card comes with some heavy-duty travel protections including up to $5 million in travel emergency medical, $250,000 of travel accident coverage, flight and baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, up to $500 in hotel burglary protection, and up to $85,000 in car rental theft and damage coverage.
- Installment program: If you want to make a big purchase and need to pay it off over time, you can make monthly installments for a fixed fee.
- American Express Invites: With Front Of The Line® Advance Access and Front Of The Line® Reserved Tickets, the best tickets to the hottest events will be available to you during presale and the regular sale period.
Pros and Cons
The American Express Cobalt™ Card is designed to help you earn points pronto. The generous welcome bonus of up to 30,000 points will get you started and the 5 point-per-dollar earn rate on food and drink alone will ensure your account stays topped up. Perks like access to The Hotel Collection and American Express Invites are nice incentives. The card’s better-than-average travel insurance package rounds out the offer, making it an attractive option for those looking to pay $120 (at $10 per month for 12 months) in annual fees.
One thing to be wary of with this card—and with every American Express card—is that it’s accepted at fewer retailers in Canada than Mastercard or Visa. This means that you won’t be able to cash in on those sweet Membership Rewards at some grocery stores, notably Costco and any of the Loblaws family of stores. In that case, you’ll want to add another credit card for groceries into your wallet so you don’t miss out on any chance to earn points.
- Excellent welcome offer — 30,000 Membership Rewards points are worth up to approx. $300
- Get rewarded big time for food purchases
- Accessible — No minimum annual income requirement
- Generous earn rates in top spending categories
- Flexible rewards that never expire — Redeem points for gift cards, tickets, concerts, travel, hotel stays, or simply apply a credit to your statement
- Includes up to $100 USD hotel credit — When booking a stay through The Hotel Collection, you can get up to a $100 USD hotel credit on qualifying hotel amenities charged to the room, such as dining, spa, golf or other hotel facilities.
- Includes robust travel insurance coverage
- Access to exclusive American Express Invites
- No first-year fee waiver
- Less widely accepted than Visa or Mastercard
How the American Express Cobalt™ Card compares
As a reward card in the $120 annual fee range, the American Express Cobalt™ Card occupies a crowded field. Its headline benefits are the good earn rates and flexible redemptions but there are other cards that boast similar selling points, like the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card. Let’s break it down before rendering a verdict.
The American Express Cobalt™ Card gives 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent at eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, and on food delivery, 2 points per dollar on travel and transit, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card has a similar earning structure, offering 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 on groceries, dining, gas and transit and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Like the American Express Cobalt™ Card, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card offers a travel insurance package but it’s slightly inferior, lacking trip cancellation coverage. On the other hand, it includes up to $1,000 in new mobile device coverage—a perk absent in the American Express Cobalt™ Card. Both cards have proprietary membership perks so your decision between American Express Invites and Visa Infinite privileges may be a matter of personal preference. Both cards come in at $120 annually, but the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card charges it once per year rather than monthly.
Regarding welcome offers, the two cards again come close. The American Express Cobalt™ Card lets you earn up to 30,000 Membership Rewards® points (worth $300) in the first year. The welcome bonus of 40,000 BMO Rewards points is worth less money (around $266) but new members also get a first-year fee waiver (worth $120).
Perhaps a look at everyday spending is the best way to measure each card. Using our example from above of a spend of $12,000 per year on groceries, $1200 per year on gas, and $6,000 on everything else, we calculated around $684 in rewards with the American Express Cobalt™ Card. With the same spending on the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, you’d earn up to $480 in BMO Rewards points, but the card’s $50 annual lifestyle credit boosts that to $530.
When we add in welcome offers, the American Express Cobalt™ Card bumps to around $984. The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card jumps to approximately $916.67. That’s a difference of $67 with an edge to the American Express Cobalt™ Card but remember: the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card is more widely accepted. And the American Express Cobalt™ Card has a monthly fee of $10.
American Express Cobalt™ Card BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card Potential first-year rewards earnings (includes welcome offer) $984
Annual fee $120 billed at $10/month $120 (first-year fee waiver) Travel insurance Out of province/country emergency medical insurance (for under age 65), $250,000 travel accident, flight delay, baggage delay, hotel burglary, lost or stolen baggage, and car rental theft and damage coverage Up to $5M in out-of-province or country emergency medical insurance, common carrier, and car rental collision/loss damage coverage Mobile device insurance No Yes Membership American Express Invites with Front of the Line Advanced Access, Reserved Tickets, and E-Updates
Visa Infinite with perks like Visa Infinite Dining Services, Entertainment Access, Luxury Hotel Collection, Wine Country, Troon Golf Benefit, and 24/7 Concierge Other perks Up to a $100 USD hotel credit on qualifying hotel amenities, complimentary room upgrade at check-in when booking a stay through The Hotel Collection $50 annual “lifestyle credit”; $1,000 in new mobile device insurance More Info Visit Site Visit Site *Based on card purchases of $12,000 annually on food purchases, $1,200 annually on gas, and $6,000 annually on everything else. Includes first-year welcome offer.
The American Express Cobalt™ Card is a good choice for people looking for a rewards credit card to use for groceries, food and drink, transit, and travel—in other words, everyday purchases. The welcome offer alone is worth nearly four times the annual fee, and with regular billing of only $10 per month, it’s dead simple to pay. The ability to accumulate points fast, plus the flexibility of the reward program promises a satisfying and valuable experience. Plus, the card’s little extras—like travel insurance and hotel credits—will delight once travel is back on the roster.
There are some drawbacks to this card that become clear when you compare it with competitor cards. For example, it’s a little lean on insurance aside from travel and shopping. More and more cards are offering new mobile device insurance, for example—a perk that’s missing here. Also, American Express cards are less widely accepted in Canada than Mastercard or Visa, an issue that could stunt your earning potential especially if you’re a frequent Costco or Loblaws shopper. That said, the American Express Cobalt™ Card is an extremely popular choice for everyday spending which is why it has a place on our list of the best American Express cards.