American Express Cobalt Review – The Amex Cobalt Card Is One Of The Best In Canada
The American Express Cobalt is one of most effective rewards cards in Canada. The 5x earning power of this AMEX in key spending categories, flexible points system and other rewards benefits make it a top choice for Canadian travel hackers. This review on the AMEX Cobalt will help answer if it’s the right credit card for you in Canada.
Every year while I churn through travel rewards cards to earn their larger sign up bonuses, I like to have a daily use card.
One card that offers solid earning potential, various benefits and that ladders into a flexible rewards program. A daily soldier that has better earning potential on any purchases I make after hitting those minimum monthly spends on the other card’s introductory bonuses.
Based on my spending habits, that card this year is the new American Express Cobalt.
American Express Cobalt – Big Travel Rewards Earner In Canada
Despite not having a large upfront sign-up bonus and using a unique earning and fee structure, this card is still a winner for me personally.
The Cobalt was launched in September 2017 and immediately caught my attention. Why? The 5x multiplier food and drink multiplier and value of the rewards points when using the Fixed Points Travel Program from American Express. Not to be forgotten is the ability to transfer points into Starwood Preferred Guest rewards system at 2.5x should you choose to (better than the 1x on the actual SPG Amex card).
Another bonus is the free supplementary card for your significant other. This can help you fast-track your rewards collection.
It was being dubbed “the millennial rewards card”. However, given the multipliers I think the card has a broader appeal. The earning rate is one of the best available on the Canadian rewards card market.
Over the first 12 months I expect to easily net $750-$900++ in travel value from the American Express Cobalt. All while still churning other rewards credit cards at the same time.
American Express Cobalt Details
- 30,000 bonus points in the first 12 months (2,500 monthly when you spend over $500 that month)
- 5x points on food and drinks, including groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and food delivery
- 2x points on travel and transit, including airfare, hotels, taxi, Uber and gas
- 1x points on any other purchases
- $10 monthly fee (totals to $120 annual)
- Free supplementary cards
- 19.99% APR
Additional AMEX Cobalt Card Benefits
- Ongoing Cobalt Perks Program offers, including 10x point flash bonuses, deals at partner providers and other exclusive perks
- Front of the Line American Express Invites for concerts, events, sports and more
- Immediate points redemption for any purchases through the mobile app
- Travel insurance
- Purchase protection
- Fraud protection
- Rental car insurance
- Travel benefits
The Best Things About The American Express Cobalt
5x Points Categories
The multiplier on food and drinks, including groceries, restaurants, bars, etc. is best in class earning potential. The ability to generate 5x points on your everyday food and drink buying will fast track your points accumulation.
- Tip: Purchase gift cards for your other stores or shopping needs at your grocery store to earn 5x. For example, buy your LCBO, Amazon, Hudson’s Bay, Best Buy iTunes or other retailer gift cards at the grocery store. You’ll get 5x on the purchase as it will be categorized as a grocery merchant transaction. Buying directly at these other retailers with your Cobalt card would only earn you 1x.
The monthly bonus points system is unique and different from most rewards cards. However, it still gives you a solid return. Spending $500 monthly on this card will unlock an additional 2,500 bonus points each month in the first year.
The $500 spend is an easy target to hit and allows you to churn other cards at the same time. I use the Cobalt for all my food, drink, transportation and gift card purchases to make most of the multiplier categories. While using another rewards card, like the American Express Gold, American Express Platinum or SPG by American Express, for other purchases to hit their sign up bonuses.
Points Redemption Breadth
Once you’re ready to put your points into action, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. You can use the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program, cash in the points as a statement credit, transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest (2:1) or use one of the other redemption avenues American Express offers.
The best bang for your buck will definitely be through the Fixed Points Travel Program or by transferring points to Starwood Preferred Guest.
Fixed Points Travel Program
With the 5x points multiplier you will unlock the opportunity to redeem for a short haul flight at 15,000 points in no time. $3,000 in spending through these 5x category will get you to that 15,000 points threshold (not to mention monthly bonuses or other spending).
The ability to fly round trip to Europe for 60,000 points is attainable with focused spending on the 5x category and ensuring you reach the $500 monthly bonus. If you’re only using the Cobalt and not another card (or perhaps you’re still using another card and do a lot of spending for the family or business).
In the first 9 months of using the Cobalt, let’s assume this spending:
- 5x Spending: $750 monthly x 9 months x 5 = 33,750
- 2x Spending: $300 monthly x 9 months x 2 = 5,400
- 1x Spending: $250 monthly x 9 months x 1 = 2,250
- Bonus: 2,500 points x 9 months = 22,500
That’s 63,900 points. You’re off to Europe!
Starwood Preferred Guest Transferability
As mentioned, an amazing benefit of this card is the ability to transfer points into the Starwood Preferred Guest system. This unlocks access to other lucrative rewards programs like Aeroplan, British Airways and over 30 other airline partners.
Converting to SPG points from our Member Rewards Points comes in at a 0.5:1 ratio. However, because of the 5x category we can actually be earning 2.5:1 SPG to Member Rewards. This is unmatched earning potential and accrues points better than the SPG by AMEX card.
If you convert 20,000 or more points from SPG to one of these other rewards programs, like Aeroplan or British Airways, you will also get an additional 5,000 bonus points. Essentially putting the earn ratio at 3.125:1. Again this is best in class!
You can also transfer to Hilton HHonours at 1:1 if you wanted to. I’d stick with SPG but Hilton might fit your travel rewards system better.
Note: Starwoods was taken over by Marriott so we could see changes in late 2018 or 2019 on the rewards program for SPG but time will tell on that.
Free Supplementary Card
Adding a supplementary card to your account is free. This typically costs $50+ with most travel rewards cards, but not with the Cobalt. You can get your significant other or immediate family a free card to boost your earning potential.
Travel And Shopping Insurance Coverage And Benefits
The Cobalt includes a variety of insurance coverage for both travel and shopping purchases made on the card.
From out-of-province medical to flight delay or baggage delay insurance, the travel insurance is consistent to other big rewards cards. In terms of purchases made on the card, the purchase protection plan and warranty extension are added benefits.
Potential Cobalt Downsides
American Express Merchant Acceptance
As with any American Express, one of the drawbacks is that it’s not universally accepted by all merchants. However, I’ve found that few and far between in 2018 through my own experiences.
No Short Term Sign Up Bonus
Mentioned above is the unique bonus system of the Cobalt. As opposed to other travel rewards cards that offer the bigger 3-month sign up bonus, the Cobalt has a monthly bonus. For each month you spend $500 or more, you will earn 2,500 rewards points.
So if you’re looking to churn and burn quickly, this card isn’t the right fit. That’s why I’ve dubbed it as my long-term hold daily soldier rewards card.
No Fee Waived
I’ve found less rewards cards are waiving the 1st year fee these days and the Cobalt is the same. Their unique fee will run you $10 monthly. However, with the 5x and 2x categories and 2,500 monthly bonuses you’ll easily out earn that cost.
Conclusion: AMEX Cobalt Review – Top Rewards Credit Card In Canada
While it still has some imperfections, the American Express Cobalt is a great travel rewards credit card for those able to maximize the 5x category spending (and the 2x travel is great).
Despite not having the big upfront sign up bonus, the card still provides great value and ability to accrue points. The 12 month 2,500 bonus will still give you solid rewards return if you cross that monthly $500 spending threshold.
The Cobalt is a great daily use card that you can actively focus your food and drink spending on. If you’re like me, you can use that Cobalt for only 5x and 2x category spending and then churn other cards at the same time to unlock their introductory bonuses.
The Cobalt has a home in my wallet over the next year and if it fits your spending habits, I’m sure you will find the great value in it too.
Sign Up For The AMEX Cobalt Canada Card Now
Apply for the Cobalt today and start earning your travel rewards points.
Here are some other posts you might want to checkout:
- SPG Amex Canada Review – Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
- Travel Hacking Resources Guide For Americans And Canadians
- 89 Personal Finance Tips – Budget, Save, Make, Invest & Better Manage Your Money
- Canadian Money Apps & Services – To Help You Make, Save & Manage Money
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