Three Reasons The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card Is A Great Long-Term Choice

The Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is the perfect card for business owners who travel at least once a year. The card comes with a 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points welcome bonus, though it’s in Year 2 and beyond, when the annual Free Night Award kicks in, that the real magic begins.

Add in Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite status and the card’s comprehensive insurance package, and you’ll want to keep your Marriott Bonvoy Business Card for years.

Released in early 2019, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card has made a splash amongst Canadian business owners as a card that offers a fantastic ROI.

In this post, I’ll let you in on all the numbers that show why the card is such a great a long-term investment, and why you’ll want to keep it in your wallet for years to come.

To make things easier to follow, I’ve broken the post down into the following sections:

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Card’s Main Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points
Annual Fee $150
Additional Card Annual Fee $50
Travel BenefitsAnnual Free Night Award: 1 free night at a participating property with a room rate of up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status every year you charge $30,000 to your card
15 Elite Night Credits every calendar year
Points Earning Rate • 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on eligible Marriott Bonvoy properties
• 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at stand-alone gas stations
• 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at restaurants, quick service restaurants, coffee shops and drinking establishments in Canada
• 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on travel services and travel bookings, including air, water, rail and road transport, but not including local and commuter transportation
• 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on any other purchase
• 15,000 bonus points when transferring 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to frequent flyer programs like British Airways Avios or Air Canada Aeroplan
• 10,000 bonus points per every approved referral
Business Benefits • Business and Expense Management Tools
• Business Insurance Coverage
• The annual fee for main and supplementary cards may be tax deductible
• Payment flexibility (pay in full or carry a balance)
• Up to 99 supplementary cards for employees
American Express Invites
Travel Coverage • Travel Emergency Assistance
• Travel Accident Insurance up to $500,000
• Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance
• Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
• Baggage Delay Insurance
• Flight Delay Insurance
• Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
Purchase Coverage • Purchase Protection® Plan
• Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan
Business Coverage • Employee Card Misuse Protection
Eligibility 1. You are a Canadian resident and have a Canadian credit file.
2. You are the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Type of Card • Credit Card
Applied interest rate • 19.99% on purchases
• 22.99% on funds advance

Looking Beyond The Welcome Bonus

We value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents apiece, since they can be transferred to airline programs like British Airways Avios or Air Canada Aeroplan at a rate of 3:1, and those programs’ points are worth 2-3 cents apiece when used on flights to Asia or Europe.

That means that the 50,000 points welcome bonus that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card has a value of about $400, making it clearly worth the card’s $150 annual fee. But what about after the first year?

This post will explain why the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card offers excellent value to Canadians, both in the first year and for many years beyond that.

3 Reasons The Marriott Bonvoy Business Card Is A Great Long-Term Choice

Benefit #1: Annual Free Night Award

Every year after your first anniversary, you’re eligible for a free night at a participating Marriott Bonvoy property worth 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or less. In our opinion, this is the single most valuable benefit that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.

It’s a long-term benefit that you get every year, as long as your account is in good standing and hasn’t been canceled before the award is issued. There are no minimum purchase requirements, no minimum number of nights booked in a Marriott Bonvoy property during the year… nothing! Your biggest concern for this annual free night award will be deciding in which of the thousands of Marriott Bonvoy properties across the globe to use it.

Understanding Marriott Categories

Finding out which hotels offer the right room rate is simple enough, though, because as I explain in my post on the personal Marriott Bonvoy Card, Marriott classifies its hotels and properties into 8 categories, depending on the number of points you have to trade in to stay for a night.

The total number of points needed depends on several factors: the price of the hotel, whether you’re traveling in low season or high season, and whether or not the hotel participates in the PointSavers program. Here’s the complete list of categories, with the PointSavers rates in brackets:

Hotel Category Off Peak Standard Peak
1 5,000 (4,000) 7,500 (6,000) 10,000 (8,500)
2 10,000 (8,000) 12,500 (11,000) 15,000 (13,000)
3 15,000 (12,000) 17,500 (16,000) 20,000 (18,000)
4 20,000 (17,500) 25,000 (22,500) 30,000 (27,500)
5 30,000 (27,500) 35,000 (32,500) 40,000 (37,500)
6 40,000 (35,000) 50,000 (45,000) 60,000 (55,000)
7 50,000 (45,000) 60,000 (55,000) 70,000 (65,000)
8 70,000 (65,000) 85,000 (80,000) 100,000 (90,000)

As you can see, the 35,000 points limit for the free night award could get you a room in a hotel anywhere from Category 1 – 6.

Category 5 Case Study: Booking A Free Night At The St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino

An example of a great redemption is a room at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino.

Marriott Bonvoy Business card free night award at the St Kitts Marriott Resort
St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino

In this case, you could use your free night award to book a room for up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and save, depending on the season, about $270 USD, as shown below. This particular room has a king bed and a spacious balcony, perfect for your St. Kitts vacation.

Category 5 hotel booking through Trip-Advisor
Actual room rate you would have to pay if you were to book with cash instead of using the free night award

There is an incredibly large number of hotels where you can redeem your Free Night Award, and the value of the benefit is how much you’ll save on the room ($269, in this case). In any case, it’s very easy to see that this benefit alone outweighs the $150 annual fee, and will for as long as you keep the card in your wallet.

And we’re just getting started…

Benefit #2: Gold Elite Status + 15 Annual Elite Night Credits

These are actually two long-term benefits that work in conjunction to improve your experience when staying at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel. To understand the value of these benefits, you first need to understand what “Gold Elite status” and “Elite Night Credits” mean.

The Elite Night Credits program is divided into different levels or tiers that you progressively reach the more you stay at Marriott Bonvoy properties.

After signing up to the program, you initially start off as a regular member who earns an Elite Night Credit for every night stayed at a Marriott Bonvoy property.

Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status

Every night you stay in a Marriott Bonvoy property you receive one Elite Night Credit, which determines the status you’ll have the following year. Here are the number of Elite Night Credits you need to earn within one year to reach each status level:

  • Silver Elite Status: 10 Elite Night Credits
  • Gold Elite Status: 25 Elite Night Credits
  • Platinum Elite Status: 50 Elite Night Credits
  • Titanium Elite Status: 75 Elite Night Credits
  • Ambassador Elite Status: 100 Elite Night Credits

When you charge $30,000 to your Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card in one year, you’ll bypass the regular membership structure and receive Gold Elite status, whether you’ve stayed in Marriott Bonvoy properties or not. You’ll also receive 15 Elite Night Credits every year, giving you a significant head start on the higher tiers.

Benefits Of Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status

Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status comes with plenty of great perks you can capitalize on every time you stay at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Earn 25% more Marriott Bonvoy points from the loyalty program for eligible purchases
  • 250 or 500 Marriott Bonvoy points gift upon check-in at participating hotels
  • Enhanced Room Upgrade
  • Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi
  • 2 PM late checkout

How Much Is Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status Worth?

The following table shows my estimated value for each of these benefits. The numbers correspond to a single 2-day stay at a full service Marriott Bonvoy property. To make things easier to follow, I’ll assume an average room rate of $200 per night ($400 for the two nights) and an average value of 0.8 cents per Marriott Bonvoy point, as mentioned above.

Benefit Value (For a single 2-night stay)
25% bonus Marriott Bonvoy points $6
250 or 500 Marriott Bonvoy points check-in bonus $2 – $4
Complimentary Room Upgrade (subject to availability) $20 – $100
Complimentary enhanced internet access (estimated at $1 per day) $2
TOTAL $30 – $112

This is a good estimate of the value of the Gold Elite status for a single 2-night stay at an average Category 4 or 5 hotel. If you stay at a higher category hotel, spend more nights or, better yet, if you stay at a hotel more than once during the year (to get the check-in bonus several times), the final value of the Gold Elite status multiplies.

Reaching Platinum Elite Status With The Marriott Bonvoy Business Card

After achieving Gold Elite status, the 15 Elite Night credits that the card includes will get you that much closer to the threshold you need in order to upgrade to Platinum Elite status. Platinum Elite status gives you really great benefits at Marriott Bonvoy properties like:

  • 50% bonus points on hotel stays at participating properties
  • Enhanced Room Upgrades that include special suites
  • Welcome gift of your choice upon check-in. Whenever you check into a participating property, you can choose a gift between complimentary breakfast, special amenities or points (either 500 or 250 Marriott Bonvoy points, depending on the property)
  • Annual gift choice award. Apart from the check-in gift, once a year you can choose one of five different gifts: 5 nights of suite upgrades (Marriott calls them “Suite Night Awards”), Silver Elite status awarded to a friend, 5 Elite Night credits, a 40% discount on your favourite mattress, or a donation of $100 USD to charity.

Benefit #3: Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Card comes with extensive travel, business and purchase insurance policies. The generous coverage in health insurance, life insurance, personal effects protection, trip delay, trip interruption and more, stacked on top of all the other benefits of the card, make it an even sweeter deal.

But just like the Business Platinum Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card also offers special insurance policies geared toward protecting small businesses. In particular, the Employee Card Misuse Protection may cover small businesses against unauthorized charges made to the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card if you terminate the Supplementary Cardmember and cancel their Card within 2 business days.

If you want to learn more about all the embedded insurance policies that come with every Amex card, as well as other stand-alone insurance plans that American Express offers, you can read our dedicated post on American Express Travel Insurance. That’s where you’ll learn all the details about coverage, making claims, and what all the footnotes and fine print means.

How Much Is The Marriott Bonvoy Business Card’s Insurance Coverage Worth?

As with so many other perks, this one is very tough to put a price on. However, if you were to choose an insurance plan as extensive as the one that comes with your Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, it would cost much more than the $150 annual fee on this card.

The Bottom Line

The long-term benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card are fantastic. You’ll save hundreds of dollars per year using your Annual Free Night Award, potentially hundreds more with your Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, and be safe and secure thanks to an impressively comprehensive insurance plan that covers both you and your business.

If you’re a Canadian business owner who stays in a hotel at least once per year, this card will boost your travels and give you an excellent return on your investment at the same time.

AIR MILES Onyx™ Status Review

AIR MILES Rewards is one of Canada’s biggest independent loyalty programs, and it counts both its members and sponsors by the thousands. It classifies its members or collectors according to how many miles they earn every year, and the AIR MILES Onyx™ status is the highest class of them all. As an Onyx member, you’ll get the whole package of benefits that only the most loyal elite collectors can get.

Learn what’s so special about the Onyx status and why signing up to an American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card is the best way to get the most out of this loyalty program. Hint: A Great welcome bonus is just the beginning…

The AIR MILES Onyx and Gold Status

Everyone wants to be a VIP wherever they go, and achieving high elite status levels in loyalty programs is one way to do it. See what it means to be at the top of the AIR Miles Rewards program with the AIR MILES Onyx status

In this post you’ll find:

#1 What Is AIR MILES Onyx

Simply put, AIR MILES Onyx is the highest possible elite status in the AIR MILES Rewards program. It brings in the best benefits that AIR MILES Rewards has to offer, including great travel and shopping perks, as well as access to unforgettable events. It took AIR MILES a while to follow in the footsteps of other loyalty programs like Aeroplan who were already offering several levels of rewards by 2014. But in the end, everything fell into place and the Onyx Status was born.

A Quick Take On The AIR MILES Onyx Benefits

To give you a spoiler of what it means to be an AIR MILES Onyx collectors, here are all the perks that come with it:

Travel Benefits • Access to more flights and better seats
• Up to 40% less miles on select flight redemptions
• 10% discount on accompanying partner ticket paid in cash
• Special prices on some vacations packages and cruises
Shopping Benefits • Discounts of up to 20% on all merchandise rewards
• Personal Shopper service to help you purchase anything outside the catalogue (Like a shopping concierge) at no extra cost
• Buy anything you want with your Dream miles at the Cash miles exchange rate of 9,500 miles per every $1,000 ($0.105/mile)
Customer Service BenefitsSpecial dedicated service line for priority at the AIR MILES Call Center
Other Perks • Get invited to special Onyx only events
• Access to contests for entertainment tickets as well as the chance to meet & greet your favorite artists
• Monthly giveaways, contests and movie tickets

But before we go headlong into all the details behind each of these benefits, lets review all of the AIR MILES statuses so that you can get a good grip on what’s so special about Onyx.

#2 Elite Status Levels In The AIR MILES Program

All loyalty programs offer different levels of rewards and redemptions depending on how “loyal” you are to the brand. In other words, the more you purchase and spend within the program and earn points (in this case air miles), the more benefits you’ll receive for your spending.  In this sense, the AIR MILES Rewards program is no different from other loyalty programs, and it offers three different rewards levels or statuses, depending on the number of miles you earn each calendar year (January 1st through December 31st):

  • Blue Status (from 0 to 999 annual miles)
  • Gold Status (from 1,000 to 5,999 annual miles)
  • Onyx Status (6,000 annual miles or more)

#3 What Do I Get In Each Status

That’s the key question! It’s not about how cool the name is; it’s what it means to be in each level. Check out the following table and compare all the perks and benefits you get with each status in the AIR MILES Rewards Program. The last column is where you want to aim at, since the Onyx status has it all.

STATUS Blue Gold Onyx™
Flights, merchandise and events Standard Prime Premium
AIR MILES Perks
AIR MILES Stage Pass
Discounts on Flights   Up to 30% off Up to 40% off
Discounts on merchandise rewards   Up to 10% off Up to 20% off
Exclusive Events  
Top Service    
Personal Shopper Service    

Blue Status

The Blue Status is the basic collector status, and you get it just for signing up to the AIR MILES program and getting your Collector’s Card. In short, being in the blue status doesn’t really mean much, and it’s not an elite status. To go elite you need to spend and earn miles. While you are in the Blue, you get access to the standard flights, merchandise and events redemptions, with the possibility to earn and redeem either Dream Miles or Cash Miles. AIR MILES Perks and Stage Pass give all collectors, including the blue ones, access to special offers, discounts, redemptions and passes to popular events.

You’ll remain in the Blue Status every year you earn less than 1,000 miles. Blue Status is your starting point, but what’s next?

Gold Status

If you reach 1,000 or more miles, but less than 6,000 miles during the calendar year, AIR MILES will cover you in gold. The first thing you’ll notice once you’re half way up the status ladder, is that you immediately gain access to more flights than before, with better schedules, and you can access better merchandise and events that weren’t available to you when you were in Blue status. You’ll still have access to all the perks in the Blue Status, of course, but you will also get these Prime AIR MILES benefits, and they can be of great value.

The most valuable Gold Status benefit is, without a doubt, the up to 30% discounts you could get on select flights. This could really add up to big savings if you do the math. Of course, 10% discounts on some consumer products and merchandise don’t hurt either.

#4 Benefits Of The AIR MILES Onyx Status!

Now that we’re clear on all the things that the Blue and Gold statuses include, we finally got to where you want to be: The Onyx Status.

We already gave you a heads up on the pros that come with this tier, but here well review the top benefits and show you what they’ll be worth to you as an Onyx collector:

Travel Benefits Of The AIR MILES Onyx Status

Travel benefits of the AIR MILES Onyx status

Even though the AIR MILES program has been known to be a bit weak in the travel department, the upgrades that come with the Onyx AIR MILES status really make a difference:

Even though the AIR MILES program has been known to be a bit weak in the travel department, the upgrades that come with the Onyx AIR MILES status really make a difference:

Premium Flight Rewards

In terms of flights, Premium means that you gain

  • Access to more and better flights
  • Access to more seats
  • Better schedule flexibility

This can really help take the edge off finding available seats on the flight you want to book, which is something some blue and even gold collectors have been known to complain about.

Discount Of Up To 40% On Select Flight Redemptions

Compared to Gold Collectors, AIR MILES Onyx collectors enjoy an additional 10% in discounts on select flight rewards. This makes savings go up to 40%. This is a really valuable benefit, as it could increase your miles value by 67%, as long as you can find a flight to use it on.

10% Discount On Companion Ticket Paid In Cash

This is a benefit that is also available for Gold collectors, but it’s still well worth mentioning here. Whenever you book a flight reward with your dream miles, you can buy a second ticket for a companion in cash, and you’ll get a 10% discount.

Shopping Benefits Of The Onyx AIR MILES Status

Shopping benefits of the AIR MILES Onyx status

Shopping and merchandise rewards is what the AIR MILES program is most famous for, but the Onyx status takes this to another level.

With these shopping benefits, you’ll not only get more value from your miles, but you’ll also give your dream miles the ultimate flexibility.

Premium Merchandise Rewards

As with the premium flight rewards, premium merchandise means that you’ll get access to all of the products and merchandise availabe in the AIR MILES catalogue.

Discounts Of Up To 20% On All Merchandise Rewards

The discount that comes with the AIR MILES Onyx status in the merchandise rewards category isn’t as great as the one on flight redemptions, but it’s still a great way to stretch your miles even longer. Additionally, there’s also the fact that these discounts are a lot easier to find than the select discounted flights, so in the end this benefit could offer more value.

By reducing the amount of miles you need by 20%, you’ll effectively increase your dream miles’ value by 25% (I’ll explain below)

Personal Shopper Service

The Personal Shopper Service is almost like having a concierge but only for shopping, so let’s call it a “Shopping Concierge”. The personal shopper service basically puts an entire team at your disposal to look for and shop for any item you might possibly want,

not just the ones in the AIR MILES catalogue!

You can buy literally anything you want, from a brand new iphone to a Mercedes, all straight out of your dream miles balance, without paying a single cent.

A Benefit With No Fineprint

You’re probably thinking “There’s gotta be a catch somewhere!” but there isn’t:

  • Hidden fees? Not a single one. The service is completely free of charge to Onyx collectors. AIR MILES doesn’t just give you access to the service, they literally give it to you. All you have to do is call, request your product and the gears will get into motion.
  • Lower value for your miles? Not even that! You can buy anything you want with your Dream Miles at the regular Cash Miles exchange rate of 9,500 miles per every $1,000 ($0.105/mile).

If you think about it, in a way, this benefit is almost like having the ability to transfer dream miles to the cash balance, and additionally dropping the $750 cap per transaction. It actually lets you save all your miles in your dream balance but without losing the ability to use them as cash miles for merchandise purchases.

Additional AIR MILES Onyx Perks

First Class Customer Service

Customer service benefits of the AIR MILES Onyx status

Onyx collectors get an independent priority customer service line so they don’t have to wait for a service rep to become available. Instead of calling the regular customer service line, you call 1-844-399-ONYX (6699) and receive priority service.

This is something good to have in case you need any help, especially considering that AIR MILES has tens of thousands of members all across Canada, which can sometimes saturate the regular customer service line.

Access To Exclusive Onyx Events And Attractions

Additional AIR MILES Onyx perks

Great once-in-a-lifetime experiences can be hard to find and plan out, but AIR MILES takes care of its Onyx collectors by pampering them with things like

  • Exclusive wine tastings
  • Exclusive meet & greets with celebrities like famous chefs and artists
  • Fine dining experiences, and more.

To top it off, you also get discounts of up to 20% in spa and golfing experiences ( see the list at the AIR MILES Onyx Rewards page)

#5 With AIR MILES Onyx Status, You Can Boost your Dream Mile’s Value By 25% To 67%

Remember that by being an Onyx collector you can get select flights for 40% fewer miles and select merchandise for 20% less. Here I’ll show you that this benefit translates into an increase of 25% to 67% in the value of each mile.

A Hypothetical Case Study: A 40% Discounted Flight

Suppose you find a flight that normally costs $1,000, but it’s offered in AIR MILES for 12,500 Dream miles. That would give you a value of $1,000 / 12,500 miles = $0.08 per mile, or 8 cents.

Now suppose that you’re an Onyx Collector ant that the said ticket is eligible for a 40% discount. This means that it’ll cost only 7,500 miles. However, the value of the ticket is the same $1,000, because it’s the exact same flight. Now, your miles are worth more, because you’re getting the same value for less miles. In fact each mile will be worth, in this hypothetical case, $1,000 / 7,500 miles = $0.1333 per mile, or 13.33 cents.

THAT’S 67% MORE THAN THE ORIGINAL 8 CENTS PER MILE VALUATION!

Have a go and do your own numbers, it’ll be the same every time, no matter how much value the flight you choose will  originally give your miles:

  • If it’s an average deal that gives blue collectors 10 cents per mile, being Onyx will get you 16.67 cents per mile.
  • If the reward flight gives regular members 12 cents per mile, with your Onyx Status, you’ll get 20 cents per mile!

By the same logic, if a $100 product is worth 1,000 miles (at a valuation of 10 cents per mile), the AIR MILES Onyx 20% discount will let you have it at 800 miles, giving you a value of 12.5 cents per mile.have to pay for select merchandise will increase your miles value by almost 25%.

That’s an increase of 25%!

#6 How Do I Reach Onyx Status?

As I mentioned above, to reach each status you need to earn a minimum amount of miles. To learn how, let’s first take a closer look at the AIR MILES program:

A Different Sort Of Loyalty Program

The AIR MILES Rewards program has some differences and similarities with other loyalty programs like Aeroplan, Membership Rewards and the Marriott BonvoyTM program. The most important differences reside in the way earning rates are expressed and in the way you store and redeem the air miles you earn, but there are other more subtle differences as well.

The first difference with other popular programs, is that AIR MILES is an independent loyalty program, in the sense that it’s not tied to a particular brand or merchant, like Aeroplan, which is tied to Air Canada for example. AIR MILES is owned and run by LoyaltyOne Inc., a company that provides loyalty solutions to other companies in a B2B (business-to-business) model. It’s actually the partner companies who offer you reward miles through LoyaltyOne Inc., for your purchases. This basically translates into three things:

  • Each partner merchant has its own rewarding scheme, depending on the terms agreed with LoyaltyOne.
  • There are literally hundreds to thousands of merchants in Canada where you can shop and earn AIR MILES Rewards miles.
  • There are also hundreds of different ways to redeem your points.

AIR MILES members are called Collectors, and when you sign up, you receive an AIR MILES Collector’s Card, reminiscent of the Aeroplan Card you get when you join that loyalty program. Just like in the latter case, you show this card at eligible merchants to earn points on purchases, and you use this card to pay for eligible purchases with your miles.

A Different Way To Express Earning Rates

Earning rates in the AIR MILES Rewards program are expressed a bit differently from other programs. Instead of miles per every $1, they are expressed as the amount you have to spend on purchases to earn each mile.

To compare earning rates when expressed like this, you have to consider that the lower the number, the better the earning rate, because you need to spend less to earn each mile. If the amount of dollars is four times greater, the earning rate is four times lower.

Let me show you what I mean with the following example of a $140 purchase at different typical earning rates:

Earning Rate Total Purchase Miles Earned
$35 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $35 = 4 miles
$20 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $20 = 7 miles
$15 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $15 = 9.33 miles
$10 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $10 = 14 miles
$5 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $5 = 28 miles

Comparing the first and last earning rates will clearly show what I just said: $5 per mile is seven times lower than $35, but you earn 28 miles on a $140 purchase, which is seven times greater than 4 miles.

This has some other setbacks apart from this unintuitive way to interpret the earning rate. The biggest problem is that you can’t add these earning rates when you earn more than one rate on the same purchase(something you can actually do with an Amex AIR MILES Credit Card), but we’ll get back to that further down the post.

Many Ways To Earn Air Miles

AIR MILES provides plenty of ways for you to earn miles and become an Onyx AIR MILES Collector. As a loyalty program, the first one is obvious: shopping at partner brands. However, the list doesn’t stop there, and you’ll see that the AIR MILES program has a lot more to offer. Pair it with one of American Express’ AIR MILES credit cards, like the AIR MILES Platinum and the AIR MILES Reserve, and you’ll multiply your options and increase your rewards.

Shopping at Partner Brands

As stated above, you can buy at any of AIR MILES Rewards’ partners or sponsors and receive points for your purchases. This includes both in-store and online purchases. To earn your miles, all you have to do is present your collector’s card to the cashier or at check-out, and you’re set.

Check out the FAQs section at the end of this post where you’ll find a complete list of all the AIR MILES Sponsors, along with their respective miles earning rate offers.

Double Dipping: Earn Miles Twice With An Amex AIR MILES Credit Card

This is a great way to boost earnings and it’s as simple as paying with your card at AIR MILES Sponsors. If you show your collectors card, you’ll ear miles thanks to the AIR MILES program, and if you pay with your Amex AIR MILES Card, you’ll earn additional miles, courtesy of Amex.

Earn Miles On ANY Purchase With An American Express AIR MILES Credit Card

With any one of American Express’ different AIR MILES credit cards (like the AIR MILES Platinum, Business Platinum, Business and the Reserve), you’ll earn miles on any purchase, not just on sponsors. There’s always a preferential rate for buying at AIR MILES sponsors and other eligible purchases, and a lower rate for all other purchases.

However, the bottom line is simple enough: every time you use your card, you’ll earn miles!

Special Rewards: Booking Hotel Stays Through AIR MILES Travel Hub

As a special offer, if you book and pay for hotels through AIR MILES’ online travel booking system, Travel Hub, you could earn as much as 1,000 Miles per night, depending on the property. Additionally, if you book any hotel before the end of 2019, you’ll also receive an extra 75 miles bonus.

With this method, you could get some seriously high earning rates. If you book a room at the Boston Park Plaza, for example, paying the $190 would get you, at the normal rate of $5 to a mile:  $190 x 1mile/$5 = 38 miles.

However, if you book through travel hub, you’ll receive 440 miles per night.

That’s over ten times what you would get, just for booking through their travel service!

Buying AIR MILES Rewards Miles

Picture this scenario:

It’s December 30th and you check your annual miles earnings and see that you’re only short by 100 miles to reach AIR MILES Onyx status (in other words, you’re at 5,900 miles). You’re soooo close, and you don’t have too many options, given how little time you have. What are your options?

  1. Make a purchase to earn the extra miles
  2. Get those extra miles somehow, or
  3. Forget about Onyx for another year

Of course, nobody wants to have to choose the third option, but the first one implies making a $2,000 purchase at the average $20 per mile rate. You spent so much on christmas already that putting forth an extra 2K for a random purchase seem unreasonable.

What can you do?

  • You can buy your miles.

Yes, you can, but they’re not cheap! You pay 30 cents per mile, which is 2 to 3 times what those miles will be worth to you in the end, so it’s something to keep as a last resort. However, in the present circumstances, spending $30 to get the extra miles so that you can enjoy all the benefits Onyx offers for an entire year seems more than reasonable.

#7 How Much Would I Need To Spend On Purchases To Reach Onyx Status

Climbing up the status ladder in the AIR MILES Rewards program isn’t easy, especially if you have to do it by yourself, without the help of an Amex AIR MILES credit card.

To compare, I’ll summarize all the amounts you would normally have to spend to reach each level at both the best and the average earning rates the AIR MILES program offers, which are $5 and $20 per mile respectively. I’ll also include the amounts you would need if you had an Amex AIR MILES Platinum or Reserve card in hand, assuming you pay for everything with your card at the Amex rate of $10 per mile.

AIR MILES STATUS (needed miles) AIR MILES Average Earning Rate ($20/mile) AIR MILES Best Earning Rate ($5/mile) Amex AIR MILES Platinum ($10/mil) + Average Earning Rate ($20/mile) Amex AIR MILES Reserve ($10/mil) + Average Earning Rate ($20/mile)
Blue Status (0 miles) $0 in purchases (you get it just for joining AIR MILES) $0 in purchases (you get it just for joining AIR MILES) $0 in purchases (you get it just for joining AIR MILES) $0 in purchases (you get it just for joining AIR MILES)
Gold Status (1,000 + miles) $20,000 annually (almost $1,700/month) $5,000 annually ($417/month) $6,667 annually ($556/month) $0 in purchases (you get it automatically with the Reserve)
ONYX STATUS (6,000 + miles $120,000 annually ($10,000/month) $30,000 annually ($2,500/month) $40,000 annually ($3,333/month) $0 in purchases (you get it automatically with the Reserve)

Breaking Down The Numbers

As you can see in the previous table, at the average earning rate for AIR MILES collectors, which is 1 mile for every $20 in purchases, you would need to spend $120,000 on purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors in the course of one year! This worst-case scenario amounts to $10,000 every month! Not all Canadians have the wallet or the stomach for that kind of spending!

You can do a lot better if you decide to earn all your points on InterContinental Hotel Group properties, which offer the best earning rate of any AIR MILES sponsor, but you’d still have to spend $30,000 a year. That’s like staying at a luxury resort for a whole month! It’s a bit unrealistic.

Luckily, Amex AIR MILES Credit Cards can really help!

Just by signing up to the Amex AIR MILES Platinum, which has the same earning rate as the Reserve, things start looking a little easier. You need $40,000 in purchases at AIR MILES sponsors in order to earn miles twice, but it’s a lot more doable because you’re not limited to hotel stays at a single hotel chain. That’s three times faster just for being a Platinum AIR MILES Cardholder.

#8 Automatic Onyx Status With The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card

The AIR MILES Platinum helps a lot, like you just saw, but who wants to spend $40,000 to get to the AIR MILES Onyx status, when you can get it automatically just by signing up to the Amex AIR MILES Reserve! What’s more, you won’t have to wait till the next calendar year to enjoy your benefits. You start off in the AIR MILES Rewards program like a Pro – Right at the top of the chain, ready to get the most out of every mile!

Add in a 2,400 miles welcome bonus, an annual partner flight ticket worth another 1,700 miles, worldwide lounge access and comprehensive travel insurance, and the $299 annual fee will look like a joke.

#9 Is The AIR MILES Reserve Card Worth The Annual Fee?

Without a doubt. All benefits combined could give you up to 3X return on the initial $300 investment during the first year, thanks to the welcome bonus. After that, you’ll still be able to get away with an ROI of at least 100%

#10 FAQs

What is the earning rate on AIR MILES sponsors?

There are many AIR MILES sponsors or partners, and each has its own rewarding scheme. In the following tables you’ll find the full list of all in-store and online partners along with their respective earning rates:

In-Store Partners

• Ace ($20 per mile)
 • ADI ($50 per mile)
 • Alamo Rent-A-Car (5 miles per day of rental)
 • Auto Plus UniSelect
 • Best Western (20 miles per stay)
 • Budget Car & Truck Rental ($15 per mile)
 • Cedarlane Laboratories ($25 per mile)
 • Co-op Atlantic ($30 per mile)
 • Co-op Country Store ($30 per mile)
 • Craftsman Collision ($15 per mile)
 • FOODLAND ATLANTIC ($20 per mile)
 • Fountain Tire ($20 per mile)
 • Gerrie Electric ($30 per mile)
 • Gescan ($30 per mile)
 • Global Pet Foods ($20 per mile)
 • Goodyear ($20 per mile)
 • HearingLife Canada (N/A)
 • Hudson’s Bay Rewards (N/A)
• IGA (Excludes Quebec Stores) ($20 per mile)
 • IGA Express ($10 per mile)
• Intercontinental Hotel Groups (IHG)
    o  InterContinental Hotels and Resorts ($5 per mile)
    o  Crowne Plaza ($5 per mile)
    o  Hotel Indigo ($5 per mile)
    o  Holiday Inn ($5 per mile)
    o  Holiday Inn Express ($5 per mile)
    o  Staybridge Suites ($5 per mile)
    o  Candlewood Suites Hotel ($5 per mile)
 • Irving Oil (1 mile per 20L)
 • Jean Coutu ($15 per mile)
 • Jiffy Lube ($20 per mile)
 • Johnsons Insurance ($20 per mile)
 • Kent (N/A)
 • Lawtons Drugs ($20 per mile)
 • LCBO ($30 per mile)
 • Les Marchés Tradition ($20 per mile)
 • Lowes ($20 per mile)
 • Lumen ($30 per mile)
 • Lumino Health (100 bonus miles)
 • Macdonalds Consolidated (N/A)
• Manitoba Liquor Marts ($30 per mile)
 • Manulife (N/A, earn miles for your Quote)
 • Metrobus (N/A)
 • Metro ($20 per mile)
 • National Car Rental (10 to 40 miles per day of rental)
 • Needs (N/A)
 • Nettoyeurs Daoust ($10 per mile)
 • NLC Liquor Stores ($25 per mile)
 • NSLC (N/A)
 • OSSO Electrical ($30 per mile)
 • Pharmasave ($10 per mile)
 • Primus ($15 per mile)
 • Rachelle-Béry ($20 per mile)
 • Reno Depot ($20 per mile)
 • Rexall ($20 per mile)
 • RONA (Excludes ACE) ($20 per mile)
 • RSA ($20 per mile)
 • Safeway Grocery ($20 per mile)
 • Safeway Liquor ($20 per mile)
 • Safeway Pharmacy (7 miles for $20, conditions apply)
• SaskEnergy ($20 per mile)
 • Shell AVIATION ($25 per mile)
 • Shell Bulk Fuel (1 mile per 100L)
 • Shell Residential Heating Oil ($30 per mile, or 1 mile per 30L of oil)
 • Shell Retail ($10 in-store purchase per mile, or 1 mile per 15L of fuel)
 • Sobeys Atlantic ($20 per mile)
 • Sobeys Ontario ($20 per mile)
 • Sobeys Urban Fresh ($20 per mile)
 • Staples Canada ($40 per mile)
 • Thrifty Foods ($20 per mile)
 • Thrifty Foods Liquor ($20 per mile)
 • TIMBER Mart ($15 per mile)
 • United Van Lines ($30 per mile)

Online Partners

• Addition Elite ($20 per mile)
 • ALDO Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Allposters.com ($20 per mile)
 • Amazon Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Anthropology ($20 per mile)
 • Apple Store Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Ardene ($20 per mile)
 • ArrivalGuides ($35 per mile)
 • ArrivalGuides at Cost Travel Club ($35 per mile)
 • Art.com ($20 per mile)
 • Backcountry ($20 per mile)
 • Banana Republic Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Barnes and Noble ($20 per mile)
 • Bed Bath & Beyond ($20 per mile)
 • Bench ($20 per mile)
 • Best Western Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Bloomingdale’s ($20 per mile)
 • Blue nine ($20 per mile)
 • Bobbi Brown ($20 per mile)
 • Bogs Footwear ($20 per mile)
 • Bowflex ($20 per mile)
 • Buffalo David Bitton ($20 per mile)
 • Canada Post ($20 per mile)
 • Candlewood Suites ($20 per mile)
 • Canon ($20 per mile)
 • Clinique ($20 per mile)
 • Club Monaco Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Competitive Cyclist ($20 per mile)
 • Crocs ($20 per mile)
 • Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Dell.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Dell.ca Small Business ($20 per mile)
• Designer Shoe Warehouse ($20 per mile)
 • Dynamite ($20 per mile)
 • Dyson Canada ($20 per mile)
 • eBay.com ($20 per mile)
 • Expedia ($35 per mile)
 • EXPRESS ($20 per mile)
 • Footlocker ($20 per mile)
 • Forever 21 Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Forzieri Canada ($20 per mile)
 • French Connection Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Gap Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Garage.ca ($20 per mile)
 • GLOBOShoes.com ($20 per mile)
 • Groupon ($20 per mile)
 • Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Holiday Inn Express ($20 per mile)
 • Hotel Indigo ($20 per mile)
 • Hotels.com ($35 per mile)
 • HP Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Hudson’s Bay ($20 per mile)
 • Indigo.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • J.Crew ($20 per mile)
 • JC Penniy ($20 per mile)
 • Keurig Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Kobo ($20 per mile)
 • Lacoste Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Lands’ End ($20 per mile)
 • Le Château ($20 per mile)
 • Lego Shop ($20 per mile)
 • Lenovo ($20 per mile)
 • Lids.ca ($20 per mile)
• LL Bean ($20 per mile)
 • Mackage ($20 per mile)
 • Macys.com ($20 per mile)
 • Madewell ($20 per mile)
 • Marciano ($20 per mile)
 • Mark’s ($20 per mile)
 • Matt & Nat ($20 per mile)
 • Miscrosoft Store Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Minted. ($20 per mile)
 • Murad ($20 per mile)
 • Neiman Marcus ($20 per mile)
 • NewEgg.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Nike ($20 per mile)
 • Norton by Symantec ($20 per mile)
 • Origins ($20 per mile)
 • Orvis ($20 per mile)
 • Overstock.com ($20 per mile)
 • Penningtons ($20 per mile)
 • Priceline.com ($35 per mile)
 • Proactive+ ($20 per mile)
 • Quicksilver ($20 per mile)
 • Reitmans ($20 per mile)
 • REVOLVEClothing.com ($20 per mile)
 • Roots ($20 per mile)
 • Rosetta Stone ($20 per mile)
 • ROXY Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Royal Canadian Mint ($20 per mile)
• Saks Fifth Avenue ($20 per mile)
 • Sephora ($20 per mile)
 • Shoes.com ($20 per mile)
 • Shopbop ($20 per mile)
 • Sierra Trading Post ($20 per mile)
• SOIA & KIO ($20 per mile)
 • Sole Society ($20 per mile)
 • Spafinder Wellness 365 ($20 per mile)
 • Sport Check ($20 per mile)
 • Sport Experts ($20 per mile)
 • Staybridge Suites ($20 per mile)
 • Steve Madden ($20 per mile)
 • StrawberryNET ($20 per mile)
 • Suzy Shiar ($20 per mile)
 • The Body Shop Canada ($20 per mile)
 • The Shoe Company ($20 per mile)
 • TOMS Canada ($20 per mile)
 • TurboTax Canada (N/A)
 • Vistaprint ($20 per mile)
 • WagJag ($20 per mile)
 • Wayfair ($20 per mile)
 • WaySpa Gift Card ($20 per mile)
 • Weight Watchers Canada ($20 per mile)
 • YvesRocher.com ($20 per mile)

When comparing the different earning rates in the tables, it’s clear that you’ll get the best deals with hotels stays and purchases. The absolute best earning rate is 1 mile for every $5 at any of the Intercontinental Hotels Group properties. The worst-case scenario would be ADI, where you’ll need to spend $50 to earn a single mile. The average earning rate for this category is very close to 1 mile for every $20 in purchases. In the case of online stores and retailers, most offer a rate of $20 in purchases for every mile, but a few fetch offer each mile for $35.

Are there special rewards to earn miles?

Yes, there are. One is booking hotels through AIR MILES’ online travel booking system, Travel Hub, you could earn as much as 1,000 Miles per night. There are also occasional limited time offers on select sponsors where you can earn a lot more miles than you would just for the purchase alone.

Can I buy air miles?

Yes, you can, but they’re not cheap! You pay 30 cents per mile, which is 2 to 3 times what those miles will be worth to you in the end, so only keep this as a last resort, and only when you’re short by a few miles. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

The American Express Platinum Canada: A Review

The American Express Platinum Canada comes with worldwide airport lounge access, a $200 annual travel credit, platinum hotel memberships, travel medical insurance, a sleek metal card and 50,000 Amex MR points—which we value at $1,500—on top of it all.

It’s been one of our top two favourite cards in Canada for years, and offers exceptional value to Canadian travelers. Every Canadian who flies once or more per year should have an American Express Platinum in their wallet.

This American Express Platinum Canada review is broken down into the following 10 sections:

#1 The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On Dining3
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On Travel2
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases1
Companion Tickets
Fine Hotels & Resorts Exclusive Benefits
Hotel Elite Statuses
Amex Platinum Concierge
American Express Invites
Comprehensive Travel Insurance
Annual Fee$699

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

#2 Four More Special American Express Platinum Benefits

Amex Platinum Special Benefit #1: Worldwide Airport Lounge Access (Priority Pass)

On top of the 50,000 Membership Rewards points that come with your Amex Platinum Card (when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months), you also receive a Priority Pass Prestige membership, which holds a value of $429 USD per year. Your Priority Pass membership gets you into more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world without paying a dime. All of the lounges have free food (some offer full meals, while others have an array of snacks), drinks (many, though not all, offer alcoholic drinks as well), and many include additional amenities like nap rooms, showers, libraries, printing, and games rooms.

My Priority Pass is definitely the American Express Platinum benefit that I use the most, and it’s completely changed the way that I travel. I seriously can’t imagine flying without stopping in the American Express Platinum lounge first now.

Where can you use your Canadian Platinum lounge benefit in Canada? How about the 24-hour SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver (YVR)?

American Express Platinum Card for Canadians
The SkyTeam Lounge at Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Or the National Bank Lounge in Montreal (YUL)?

American Express Platinum Card for Canadians
You get free access to the National Bank World MasterCard Lounge at Montreal International Airport (YUL) thanks to your Canadian Platinum lounge benefit

Toronto (YYZ) has a whopping seven Priority Pass lounges—plus the American Express Lounge at Pearson—and you’ll be able to access all of them for free.

You’re stepping up your travel game already.

Amex Platinum Special Benefit #2: $200 Annual Travel Credit

This is exactly what it sounds like: $200 for you to use on travel, every single year. In the past 3 years alone, I’ve used my $200 travel credit on a flight to Asia, a flight to South America, and a flight to Europe.

The Amex Platinum Card comes with a $200 annual travel credit you can use anywhere in the world!

Pro Tip: Use your $200 annual travel credit on the first hotel or flight booking you make with your Platinum Card. You don’t want to forget to use it!

Amex Platinum Special Benefit #3: Hotel Elite Statuses

Your Amex Platinum also upgrades your statuses with a handful of hotel chains. This means you get special benefits: exclusive discounts, early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfasts and more.

These are the sort of status upgrades you can expect with your Amex Platinum Card:

Amex Platinum Special Benefit #4: American Express Front Of The Line

Front of the Line gives American Express Cardmembers exclusive access to ticket pre-sales and reserved seating at concerts, musicals, sporting events and much more.

The best thing about Front of the Line is in the name itself: you get access to tickets at the biggest shows (think Justin Bieber and Beyoncé) before everyone else. These shows are known for selling out in seconds, but with Front of the Line, you’ll always get your ticket. Past performances that Front of the Line has had pre-sale access to include Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Wicked, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Billy Elliot, West Side Story, Imagine Dragons, The Lion King and many more.

Front of the Line always offers great seats close to the action at these events. They also send periodic emails to let you know when artists are coming to town so you never miss a show.

#3 How To Turn 50,000 Points Into 65,000 Points

The 50,000 welcome bonus points that come with the American Express Platinum are great, but if you know what you’re doing, you can actually turn them into 65,000 pretty simply.

How? At least once per year, American Express offers a 30% transfer bonus when you transfer your points to a program like British Airways Avios or Aeroplan. Just by transferring your points smartly, 50,000 Membership Rewards points all of a sudden become 65,000 Avios points.

. Just by transferring your points smartly, 50,000 Membership Rewards points all of a sudden become 65,000 Avios points.

You just gained another 15,000 points—worth at least $300 if you use them at a value of 2 cents per point or above—just for being in the loop.

Here are 3 realistic scenarios of the value you can achieve with the Amex Platinum:

Very EasyVery EasyModerate Difficulty
Redemption TypeCash (against statement balance)FlightsFlights with creativity
Redemption Value Per Point1 cent2 cents3 cents
Total Value Of 65,000 Points$650$1,300$1,950
Less: Annual Fee($699)($699)($699)
Plus: $200 Annual Travel Credit$200$200$200
Profit From Points-$50$600$1,250
Additional BenefitsYesYesYes

Most of you will find yourselves in columns 2 or 3 in the $801-$1,451 profit range, since you can just read our other blog posts like how to get cheap flights to Asia and how to get cheap flights to Europe to find tons of flights that get you 2-3 cents per point of value.

But if you’re ambitious and want to push your points even further, it’s completely possible to surpass what’s listed above with a value of 3 cents per point or more. Just  send us an email and we’ll help you sift through your options to ensure you get a great bang for your buck.

#4 How To Use Your 65,000 Points

Case Study #1: Visiting Asia

Suppose you want to take a trip to Hong Kong to visit family or friends. The Amex Platinum is your perfect companion, since one of the easiest, best ways to use your 65,000 Avios points is on direct flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.

Since Cathay Pacific is a premium airline, these flights normally cost at least $1,000 from Vancouver, and even more from Toronto. You won’t be paying anywhere close to that.

Roundtrip flights from Vancouver to Hong Kong cost just 60,000 Avios points + $90 in taxes and fees. Roundtrip flights from Toronto to Hong Kong cost 70,000 Avios points + $100, though you can pay a little bit more in cash (~$50) and drop the points down to 65,000 if you want.

American Express Platinum Card for Canadians
How does a $90 roundtrip flight to Hong Kong sound? It’s yours with the Amex Platinum for Canadians.

Of course, Hong Kong isn’t your only option. Tokyo is a bit closer than Hong Kong, so flights between Vancouver and Tokyo are just 50,000 points.

Are you getting excited yet?

Case Study #2: Going Round-The-World

Let’s suppose you want to go around the world using your Platinum card.

No problem.

If you’re in Vancouver, you can fly from Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver (or the opposite direction) for 74,700 points + $742 in taxes and fees.

Yes, 74,700 is a bit more than 65,000, but don’t worry—you’ll earn the extra 10,000 points (and more!) after a few months of using the card.

Toronto works just the same.

Flying from Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto (or the opposite direction) costs just 74,500 points + $761 in taxes and fees.

Did you ever imagine you could fly around the world for $750?

That’s the power of the Amex Platinum.

RoutePoints NeededTaxes & Fees
Roundtrip: Toronto to Hong Kong70,000$100
Roundtrip: Vancouver to Hong Kong60,000$90
Round-the-world: Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto74,500$761
Round-the-world: Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver74,700$742

These round-the-world trips offer a value of well over 4 cents per point, meaning the $699 fee you paid just saved you several thousand dollars on flights.

#5 Is The Amex Platinum Canada Worth The $699 Annual Fee?

Absolutely.

Here’s the magic in the $699 annual fee: it’s impossible not to make money by having this card, even after paying the fee.

Huh? Sounds confusing, right?

Here’s how it works.

If you use your 50,000 points in the worst way possible, they’re worth $700 to you. Why? Because American Express allows you to apply your points against your statement balance at a value of one cent per point, which means 50,000 points = $500. Add in your $200 travel credit for 2019 and you’re at $700.

It’s impossible not to make money with the Amex Platinum Card.

And that’s not even considering the other benefits you get from the card. The travel/emergency/baggage insurance and additional purchase insurance (for theft/damage of your items), the worldwide airport lounge access, the premium hotel memberships, and everything else you see here everything else you see here are all just cherries on top.

So even if you use your points in the worst way you could—by applying them to your statement balance as a cash equivalent—you still come out way, way ahead.

But if you use them in the ways we’ve suggested in sections #3 and #4 above, you can reasonably expect to save $800 or more after accounting for the annual fee.

#6 Amex Platinum Travel Insurance

The Platinum Card also comes with an impressive American Express travel insurance policy. Here’s what the policy includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

#7 The Amex Business Platinum Card

This entire review has been about the Amex Platinum Card, though there’s also an American Express Business Platinum Card for Canadians, too. There are a few key differences between the two cards:

  • 40,000 welcome bonus points for the Business Platinum Card (10,000 less)
  • $499 annual fee for the Business Platinum Card ($200 less)
  • No $200 annual travel credit for the Business Platinum card

Since the Platinum Card’s higher annual fee is offset by its $200 annual travel credit, the biggest difference between the two is that you get 10,000 fewer welcome bonus points with the Business Platinum Card.

#8 Three Less Expensive Cards To Consider

Even though we’ve clearly shown how you can save thousands of dollars with the Platinum Card, the $699 annual fee still rubs some people the wrong way.

So here are a few less expensive, high-value cards you can consider instead:

#1 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card

Released in March 2019, the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card is the best travel credit card available in Canada right now. It comes with an incredible 60,000 welcome bonus points at an annual fee of just $120. You also receive a free hotel night every year after the first year with the card, which you’re able to use at some of the swankiest hotels in the world. While this current offer lasts, we can’t recommend the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card highly enough.

#2 The Amex Cobalt Card

The Amex Cobalt Card is the best everyday spending card available right now. Why? Because you can get up to 10% cashback on your spending when you use the Cobalt Card at coffee shops, restaurants, bars and grocery stores coffee anywhere in Canada.

#3 The Amex Gold Rewards Card

You can think of the Amex Gold Canada as the classic American Express card. It comes with 25,000 welcome bonus points, which is enough for a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America. With its $150 annual fee, the Gold Rewards Card has offered good value for years, though the current offer on the new Marriott Bonvoy™ Card provides better value right now.

#9 How To Apply For The American Express Platinum Card

Applying is as simple as clicking the button below, taking 3 minutes to fill in the application form, and waiting a few days for your card to arrive!

It’s important to take action now, though—the welcome points bonus used to be 75,000 on this card, but Amex has reduced it several times over the past few years. Grab yours while this sweet offer is still available.

Is The Amex Platinum Canada The Best Travel Credit Card In Canada?

If not the best, the Amex Platinum is certainly one of the best Canadian credit cards of 2019. While the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card has recently grabbed a lot of attention for its incredible 50,000 points welcome bonus with just a $120 annual fee, the Platinum Card offers great value-for-money, too.

#10 FAQs

What Is The New American Express Platinum Metal Card Like?

Honestly—it’s pretty cool!

If you didn’t already know, the American Express Platinum is now made of metal. It has a significant heft to it, weighing in at 19 grams (for reference, a typical plastic American Express credit card weighs 5 grams). It’s sure to impress your friends when you “accidentally” drop it on the table as you pay.

All new Platinum cardholders now receive the metal card, so that’s a nice bonus on top of all the other benefits we’ve talked about above. Existing cardholders can also request to have their old plastic card exchanged for a metal card at any time.

How Can I Sign Up With An American Express Platinum Referral?

To get the best available welcome points bonus, which is currently 50,000 points, sign up here. After you’ve signed up, you can refer your own friends to the American Express Platinum for a referral bonus of 15,000 points.

What Is The American Express Canada Exchange Rate?

All foreign purchases are made at the American Express foreign currency exchange rate, which tracks the bank rate very closely with small fluctuations above and below that rate. A 2.5% commission is charged on top of that on all foreign purchases regardless of the currency.

How Does American Express Travel Work In Canada?

American Express Travel is Amex’s online travel portal for buying flights, booking hotels and rental cars, and getting support from some of the best travel concierges in the business.

The $200 annual travel credit that comes with your Amex Platinum can be used either directly through the American Express Travel platform or as a statement credit after you’ve made a travel-related purchase with your card.

What Is The Amex Concierge?

The Amex Platinum Concierge is definitely an under-rated benefit of the Platinum Card. It’s totally free for as long as you have the card, and is there to offer you 24/7 assistance with a whole host of things.

Need a table for four at a fully-booked place in Paris or New York? No problem. Looking for the perfect gift for a friend visiting from out of town? Easy.

I mainly use the Platinum Concierge to help me build travel itineraries when I’m visiting a new city, and they’ve done a remarkable job. After a minute or two on the phone getting to know my preferences (Do I like fancy restaurants or low-key joints? Do I prefer museum hopping or getting lost walking around a neighbourhood? etc.), they send back a document of 30+ pages outlining restaurants and bars to check out, cultural attractions, events taking place when I’m there, and a lot more. It takes them 24-48 hours to compile it all, which is extremely quick.

You can request help using email as well, though I find just calling them up is faster (you never have to wait on hold) and easier.

How Good Is The Amex Platinum, Anyway?

If you’re like most Canadians, you’ll love your Amex Platinum Card. It’s numerous perks and benefits make it a great choice for frequent travelers, and if you spend your points wisely, you’ll more than make up for its annual fee.

If you enjoyed this Amex Platinum Canada review, share it with your friends here.

Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card: A Review

The American Express® AIR MILES® Reserve Credit Card is the best AIR MILES credit card that Amex has to offer. The welcome bonus of 2,400 miles coupled with Onyx™ Status in the AIR MILES program can be worth up to $400, but it doesn’t stop there. The long-term benefits of this card will make paying the annual fee a laugh. A small example is the 1,700-air-miles complimentary partner ticket, which alone almost single handedly covers the fee. Add in an impressive insurance package, worldwide lounge access with four complimentary visits, and other benefits on the side, and you’ll happily sign up before you finish reading this post.

Find out why this is the perfect travel card for occasional travelers, offering the best value when you travel once or twice a year.

The Amex AIR  MILES Reserve Card
The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card

As one of Canada’s biggest independent loyalty programs, AIR MILES® Rewards is used and trusted by thousands. After Amex partnered with AIR MILES to bring forth the American Express® AIR MILES® Credit Card family, that number has grown even more. Of all these cards, I find that the benefits that come with the Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card are the ones that best balance its annual fee, and give you more besides. In this Amex AIR MILES Reserve review, I’ll show you why I consider this card as the best choice among all the AIR MILES Credit Cards from American Express.

To make it easier to navigate, this post is divided into the following sections:

#1 The Amex AIR MILES Reserve’s Basic Features And Benefits

Welcome Bonus 2,400 AIR MILES Rewards miles
Miles Earning Rate • 1 Air Mile per $10 in eligible purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors or standalone grocery stores, gas stations and drugstores in Canada
• 1 Air Mile per $15 on everything else
Travel Benefits • Complimentary Annual Companion Flight Ticket worth up to 1,700 miles
• Access to FlexFly redemptions
• Access to AIR MILES business class seats
• 4 complimentary Priority Pass lounge visits per year
• Access to Toronto Pearson Airport Priority Security Lane
Comprehensive Travel and Purchase Coverage
Automatic Onyx Status
Optional Balance Transfer Offer
Insider Access
Front of The Line
Type of Card Credit Card
Applied Interest Rate • 19.99% on purchases
• 22.99% on funds advances
Annual Fee $299
Additional Card Fee $50
Benefit for Additional Cardmembers

#2 Pros & Cons Of The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card

PROS CONS
• Great long-term benefits like an annual partner ticket worth over $200 and automatic Onyx Status in the AIR MILES program
• Great Lounge Access offer for the occasional traveler
• Impressive travel and purchase coverage
• Earn Air Miles on any purchase
• Great earning rate on AIR MILES sponsors even when compared the AIR MILES program’s own earning rate
• More flight redemption possibilities including business and first-class tickets as well as better itineraries
• The choice to use your miles to pay for taxes and fees completely avoiding the need for cash when redeeming your miles
• Unlimited earning potential (no caps on earning)
• Low annual fee for a premium card
• Contrary to other offers, the welcome bonus alone doesn’t cover the annual fee during the first year
• The earning rate doesn’t give you a great overall return on purchases. Other Amex cards can give you a lot more
• $750 cap on daily redeemable Cash miles (in-store or online)
• No Amex Concierge Service even though it’s a premium reserve card

Before diving into the details behind all the features and benefits of this card, it’s important to understand how the AIR MILES Rewards program works.

#3 An Overview Of The AIR MILES Rewards Program

The AIR MILES Rewards program, as you may have imagined, is a loyalty program. However, there are some differences between this loyalty program and others we’ve covered before such as Aeroplan, Membership Rewards and the Marriott BonvoyTM program.

A Different Sort Of Loyalty Program

The biggest difference with the AIR MILES program is that it’s an independent loyalty program, unlike Membership Rewards, which is tied to American Express or Aeroplan, which is tied to Air Canada. Three key features of this program include:

  • Each partner merchant has its own rewarding scheme, depending on the terms in which it signed up with LoyaltyOne, the company that runs AIR MILES.
  • There are literally hundreds to thousands of merchants in Canada where you can shop and earn AIR MILES Rewards miles.
  • There are also hundreds of different ways to redeem your points.

AIR MILES members are called Collectors, and when you sign up, you receive an AIR MILES Collector’s Card, reminiscent of the Aeroplan Card you get when signing up to that loyalty program. You show this card at eligible merchants to earn points on purchases, and you use this card to pay for eligible purchases with your miles.

A Different Way To Express Earning Rates

Earning rates in the AIR MILES Rewards program are expressed a bit differently from other programs. Instead of miles per every $1, they are expressed as the amount you have to spend on purchases to earn each mile.

This makes it a bit bothersome when you want to compare earning rates, especially if you want to compare with other loyalty programs. The bottom line is that the higher the number, the lower the earning rate.

Let me show you what I mean with the following example of a $140 purchase at different typical earning rates:

Earning Rate Total Purchase Miles Earned
$35 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $35 = 4 miles
$20 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $20 = 7 miles
$15 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $15 = 9.33 miles
$10 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $10 = 14 miles
$5 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $5 = 28 miles

Comparing the first and last earning rates will clearly show what I just said: $5 per mile is seven times lower than $35, but you earn 28 miles on a $140 purchase, which is seven times greater than 4 miles.

This has some other setbacks apart from this unintuitive way to interpret the earning rate. The biggest problem is that you can’t add these earning rates when you earn more than one rate on the same purchase(something you can actually do with your Amex AIR MILES Reserve), but we’ll get back to that further down the post.

Two Different Kinds Of Miles

Here I’ll highlight another oddity of AIR MILES Rewards: The miles you earn are automatically split between two balances: your Cash Balance, and  your Dream Balance. Miles that go to your cash balance are called Cash Miles, whereas the ones that go to your dream balance are called Dream Miles. You can choose what portion of the miles that you earn go to each of the two balances (in 10% increments), but make note that, once in one balance, miles can’t be transferred to the other.

Cash Balance for Cash Rewards

You use your cash miles to pay for Cash Rewards, which you use to get discounts at AIR MILES sponsors, either in physical stores or online.

You trade in 95 cash miles for every $10 in discounts, and there’s a cap at $750 in accumulated discounts each day.

Dream Balance For Dream Rewards

Dream Rewards are the more traditional way to use miles. They work like any other loyalty rewards redemption you’ve come across in the past, in the sense that you pay the whole price of different rewards exclusively with your miles, and you choose those rewards by logging into your collector’s account in the AIR MILES website.

There are four Dream Rewards redemption categories:

  • Merchandise
  • Events and attractions
  • Stage Passes
  • Travel

Some of these categories offer better value than others, but it’s sure great to have options.

AIR MILES has 15 partner airlines with which you can redeem your miles for flights. It also partnered with five of the world’s best hotel chains, giving you access to literally thousands and thousands of dream hotels around the world.

#4 How Much Are The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Miles Worth

As usual, miles value depends on how you redeem them. Since there are two types of air miles, which you can redeem in different ways, we’ll look at them separately:

Cash Miles’ Value

This is the easiest to assess value of any loyalty rewards points. There’s only one redemption value for cash miles: You trade in 95 miles for a $10 cash discount coupon.

This translates to a value of:

$10 / 95 miles = $0.105 or 10.5 cents for each mile.

As you can see, air miles are worth close to 10 times more than other loyalty points like the Marriott BonvoyTM points, for example, which are worth close to 1 cent per point.

Dream Miles’ Value

There are different types of redemptions for Dream miles. Here’s an estimate of the value you can get out of each type:

  • Merchandise Dream Rewards: 6 to 7 cents per mile
  • Events And Attractions, and Stage Passes: 10 to 12 cents per mile
  • AIR MILES Flights Program: 10 to 12 cents per mile
  • Hotel Bookings: 12 or more cents per mile

The Bottom Line On Air Miles Value:

As you just saw, the value of each miles will go from about 6 to more than 12 cents ($0.06 to $0.12/mile). However, the best estimate we can make, the one that will always hit the bullseye, is the Cash miles value of 10.5 cents or $0.105 per mile.

After seen all the redemption categories and the value you can get in each case, I’ll give you some easy to follow advice on how to get the most out of every mile:

  • It’s a good idea to use your miles for cash rewards because it’s where you’ll get a good and consistent value
  • If you prefer dream rewards, then spend your dream miles only on hotel stays or on special events. It’s where you’ll get the best value.
  • Even if you follow the previous advice, do the math every time you plan to redeem your miles and make sure you’re getting a good deal.
  • Just because AIR MILES’ site says that something is a great once-in-a-lifetime deal or opportunity doesn’t mean that it is. Always do the math first.

Air Mile Value For Onyx Collectors

The average 10.5 cents I just mentioned is the value that regular AIR MILES members or Blue Collectors will get out of their miles. However, as you’ll learn in the section covering the AIR MILES Status, Onyx members – a status you get automatically with your new Amex AIR MILES Reserve – could get up to 67% more from each mile when they redeem them for special discounted flights only available for that tier. This could raise the value of each mile to over 17.5 cents or $0.175/mile.

You’ve gotten a couple of previews of some of the benefits that come with the Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card, but now it’s time to really dig into the details:

#5 Amex AIR MILES Reserve Benefit #1: The Welcome Bonus

Once you’re approved for your new Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card for the first time, and after you charge $3,000 in purchases to it before your third month as a cardmember, you’ll receive an enticing welcome bonus of 2,400 AIR MILES Rewards Miles (or simply miles or air miles). The AIR MILES Rewards program offers over a thousand different ways to redeem those miles.

Using Your Bonus To Pay For Flights

Regarding travel, you could use those points to pay for a domestic long-haul flight during the high season, or a round-trip ticket within your Canadian province, both in economy class.

A world map depicting in white shaded regions how far the Amex AIR MILES Reserve welcome bonus will take you from Toronto
The white shaded region represents how far your bonus will take you if you depart from Toronto

Using Your Bonus To Pay For Hotel Stays

You can also use them to pay for stays at thousands of different hotels around the world, including Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental, just to name a few. The bonus is enough for 2-3 nights on some great 3 and 4-star hotels many great destinations, or even for one night at any of the following beautiful hotels in Paris:

Four great Parisian hotels you can book for one night with the Amex AIR MILES Reserve
Four great choices to stay in Paris for one night with your welcome bonus

Having said that, this bonus is only 400 miles higher than the 2,000 bonus miles that come with the AIR MILES Platinum Card. This is rather disappointing because the annual fee on the reserve is over four times higher. At the basic rate of 10.5 cents/mile, the bonus would translate to $250, which doesn’t even cover the annual fee. However, when you consider the fact that you could get up to 67% more value from your miles with the Reserve Card, thanks to the automatic Onyx Status, these 2,400 miles suddenly start feeling like 4,000. It won’t go as high as two or three times the annual fee, but at least it’ll be more than enough to make signing up for this card a good deal.

Overall, this benefit alone could be worth over $400, making the Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card an easy choice for an investment.

#6 Amex AIR MILES Reserve Benefit #2: Miles Earning Rates

The earning rate on the AIR MILES Reserve is the same as in the AIR MILES Platinum Card. A great feature of these AIR MILES Credit Cards is that they earn miles on all purchases, not just on AIR MILES sponsors. There are two slightly different rates:

You’ll get 1 mile for every $10 on eligible purchases

This means that on a $60 eligible purchase, for example, you’ll receive 6 miles deposited directly to your AIR MILES Collector’s account (split between the two balances). Eligible implies one of the following four categories of purchases:

  • Purchases at any AIR MILES sponsor or partner
  • Gasoline stations in Canada (Stand-alone)
  • Grocery stores in Canada (Stand-alone)
  • Drugstores in Canada (Stand-alone)

This makes it very easy to get the best earning rate on common everyday expenses like food, medicines and gas.

1 mile for every $15 on all other purchases

In this case, a purchase of the same $60 will get you only 4 miles. The good thing here is that the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card rewards you for any purchase, while AIR MILES alone will not. In fact, the 1 mile for every $15 earning rate is better than what most AIR MILES sponsors themselves offer (which averages to $20 for each mile)

Now, you may be wondering:

Are these good Earning Rates, or bad ones?

Since they are expressed differently from the earning rates on other cards such as the Aeroplan Reserve, the Cobalt, or the Marriott BonvoyTM Amex cards, it’s a bit hard to compare these earning rates straight up. The answer to this problem is simple though: we just have to know how much the miles are really saving you on your purchase.

Suppose you made a $100 purchase at the 1 mile per $10 rate. That means you’ll receive 10 miles for your purchase. Valuated at an average of 10 cents per mile, those 10 miles are worth $1.

So, basically, your AIR MILES Reserve is really only giving you back $1 on a $100 purchase. In other words, you get 1% back. To put things in perspective, the Amex SimplyCash Card gives you that same return, but it’s free. The Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card gives you 2% back on all purchases, which is twice as much, and it’s a lot cheaper as well. If you compare it with the Amex Platinum Card, it looks even worse.

Either way, 1% is still better than 0%, and this card comes with other great benefits that’ll tilt the balance in the right direction.

#7 Double-Dipping: Earning Miles Twice With Your Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card

How does this work? It’s beyond easy! As a collector (read AIR MILES Rewards member), you’re entitled to earn miles on every purchase at partner brands, as we just showed you. But as an American Express AIR MILES Reserve cardholder, you’ll also get 1 mile for every $10 of the same purchase, no matter how much that merchant awards. This is because, in the second case, it’s Amex that’s rewarding you for your card purchase, not the merchant.

Put two and two together, and you’re earning miles twice when you show your AIR MILES Collector’s Card AND you pay with your Amex AIR MILES Reserve.

Finding out how this adds up isn’t that hard, but, reader beware, it’s not as simple as adding earning rates. Remember that earning rates in the AIR MILES program are expressed differently from other cases!

Let’s look at a simple example so that you’ll learn to work out your own numbers:

Case Study: Buying a $600 laptop at Amazon.ca

Ok, so Amazon.ca is one of AIR MILES’ sponsors. This means that by paying for your laptop with your Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card, you’ll earn miles twice. But at what rate?

Reviewing past sections of this post, you’ll get 1 miler for every $10 thanks to your Amex card + 1 mile for every $20 awarded by Amazon.ca, through the AIR MILES program.

The first mistake you might be tempted to make is to assume that this adds up to a rate of $30 for every mile, but it doesn’t work that way. Remember that the higher the number, the worse the rate, so $30 to earn a mile is worse than any of the two separate rates.

One way to work it out is to figure out how many miles you get with each rate, and THEN add the miles:

Purchase Value: $600
Miles earned with your card purchase: $600 x 1mil/$10 = 60 miles
Miles earned for the sponsor purchase: $600 x 1mil/$20 = 30 miles
TOTAL: 90 miles

This works out to 1 mile for every $6.67 of purchases at Amazon.ca.

#8 Amex Reserve AIR MILES Credit Card Benefit #3: Annual Companion Ticket

This is one of the Amex AIR MILES Reserve’s best long-term benefits. Once every year, when you redeem your miles for an AIR MILES flight reward, you will get a complimentary ticket for a companion for the same itinerary, worth up to 1,700 miles. Those 1,700 miles can easily be worth close to $280 when you combine them with the Onyx Status that comes with your card (read below for more on the Onyx Status).

There are other Amex cards that offer a similar benefit. One example is the AeroplanPlus Reserve Card that also offers an annual partner ticket worth up to 25,000 aeroplan miles. However, the key difference with the AIR MILES partner ticket benefit is that you’re not limited to a 1,700 miles flight ticket. You may still use this benefit even if your flight costs more than 1,700 dream miles. All you have to do is pay the extra miles of your partner’s ticket with your dream balance, and you’re both set to go.

This added flexibility really enhances this benefit’s value, and it practically ensures that you will be able to redeem it for the maximum 1,700 miles.

#9 Amex AIR MILES Reserve Benefit #4: More Flexibility In Flight Redemptions

Ok, so you know that AIR MILES offers its own flight rewards with its airline partners. However, the partners list is limited, and unless you’re an Onyx collector (which, thankfully, you will be if you sign up for this card), you won’t have access all the flights they offer. This slight setback of the AIR MILES Rewards program, is overcome by Amex for its cardmembers, by offering two additional benefits:

Access To Air Miles Business-Class Flights

This is an exclusive benefit of the AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card. AIR MILES Flight Rewards are strictly for economy-class flights, no matter where you go. It doesn’t even matter if you’re an Onyx Collector. However, by signing up to an American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card, you’ll also be able to pay for business-class flights within the AIR MILES Flights program.

Access to FlexFly Redemptions

What do you do if the destination you want simply isn’t covered by any of AIR MILES’ partners? This is a frustrating scenario that many collectors come across once in a while. If you find yourself in this situation, FlexFly redemptions can help. This is yet another Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card exclusive, and it’s as simple as redemptions get: book any flight, on any carrier, in any class you want, and pay for it with the miles in your dream balance.

Amazingly, the redemption rate for the FexFly benefit is of 770 miles for every $100, which turns out to be 13 cents per mile, which is not bad at all!

#10 American Express AIR MILES Reserve Benefit #5: Lounge Access

Airport lounges absolutely change the way you experience travel. The problem is that, in most cases, to access any lounge requires that you be a member of that lounge club, and memberships can be expensive.

The AIR MILES Reserve Card comes with a Priority Pass membership that not only gives you access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide at no extra cost, but it also throws in four complimentary lounge visits per year. You could be chilling out in the newly added Primeclass Lounge Zurich, whether you’re departing from or just in transit in that city’s international airport.

Primeclass Lounge, Zurich, Switzerland
The bar at the Zurich Primeclass Lounge
Primeclass Lounge, Zurich, Switzerland
Some of the inviting snacks and refreshments you can enjoy at the Lounge

What’s so special about lounge access?

Lounges aren’t just comfortable places to sit and rest. Most establishments also offer a wide array of services that make them a great place to be before you go. These services include things like

  • Refreshments, snacks, hot and cold beverages and even alcoholic beverages, in case you’re hungry, thirsty, or you just want a hot cup of coffee
  • Showers to freshen up before your flight
  • Nap-rooms where you can sleep during long layovers
  • Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi
  • Business centers where you can print or fax anything you need, make an important phone call or give your presentations some finishing touches
  • Satellite or cable TV
  • Newspaper and magazine stands to keep up with the latest news
  • Some lounges even go as far as to offer massage chairs, spas and playgrounds.

The Amex AIR MILES Reserve’s Lounge Access Is A Great Choice For Occasional Travelers And Frequent Fliers Alike

The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card includes a Priority Pass Lounge membership that grants you access to all of its lounges, four complimentary visits, and a reduced additional-visit fee of just $27 USD.

When Does The Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card’s Lounge Access Offer The Most Value?

This membership plan is like having the Priority Pass Standard membership (which costs $99 USD), and four prepaid visits (which would run for a total $128 USD). So just by signing up, you’re already saving about $300 CAD.

But the kicker is that the reduced additional visit fee saves you $5 USD every time you visit a lounge after the fourth visit. This makes the AIR MILES Reserve’s lounge access better than any of the membership plans Priority Pass offers, at least for the first 16 visits, even after paying for twelve of them!

The bottom line is that signing up to the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Card’ is the cheapest way to get Priority Pass lounge access if you travel between 4 and 16 timer every year.

This makes it a great choice for both infrequent fliers (those who travel only a few times a year), as well as for frequent fliers that travel a little more than once a month. If you don’t travel at all, of course, then this benefit doesn’t offer you any value.

If you’ve never experienced an airport lounge, this is your opportunity to do it with style and at the lowest price possible.

#11 Amex AIR MILES Reserve Benefit #6: Optional Balance Transfer Offer

As a way to attract new members, Amex provides the Optional Balance Offer with the Reserve AIR MILES Card. To be eligible for this offer, the only condition is that you’re not already an Amex cardmember (i.e., you don’t own any charge or credit card issued by Amex Bank of Canada)

What Is The Optional Balance Transfer Offer?

This is an offer for new American Express cardmembers, who can opt to transfer their debts from other credit cards to the AIR MILES Reserve Card upon enrollment. As long as you don’t fall behind on your minimum payments, you’ll get a preferential interest rate of just 1.99% on all transferred balance during the first 6 billing cycles (read months).

In short, it’s a way of helping Canadians pay off their debts by lowering the interest incurred because of the balance they carry every month. It’s like taking a low-interest loan with Amex to pay for your other credit cards.

Pay off your other credit card debts with the Air Miles Reserve Card

Some cash cards offer similar offers, and some even go the length of charging 0% interest and increasing the interest-free period to 1 year. However, the good thing about the AIR MILES Reserve Card’s offer is that Amex doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee, whereas the others do.

How To Opt For The Balance Transfer

Considering that you’re not already an Amex cardmember and are, therefore, eligible for this offer, all you need to do is opt in for the offer when filling out your online application.

That being said, there’s a limit to how much balance you can transfer to your Amex AIR MILES Card account.

How Much Of My Balance Can I Transfer To My New American Express AIR MILES Card

The maximum amount you can transfer is limited to $7,500 or 50% of your assigned credit limit, whichever is smaller.

Let’s look at the numbers of three simple examples to show you how this works:

  • Suppose you have a balance of $2,000 and a credit limit of $6,000. In this case, since 50% of your credit limit is $3,000 and this number is smaller than $7,500, than you can transfer a maximum of $3,000. Consequently, in this particular case, you could transfer your whole balance of $2,000.
  • Now suppose that you have a balance of $8,000 and a credit limit of $20,000 (50% of which being $10,000). Contrary to the previous case, you can’t transfer your whole balance because it’s higher than $7500. Furthermore, since $7,500 is less than $10,000, then you can transfer a maximum of $7,500.
  • Finally, suppose you have a balance of $8,000 but a credit limit of just $10,000 (50% of which is $5,000). You obviously can’t transfer the whole $8,000 balance for the same reason as above. However, since $5,000 y less than $7,500, then in this case you can’t transfer $7,500 either. You can only transfer a maximum of the said $5,000.

When Should You Opt For The Balance Transfer Offer?

One very important thing to consider is that after the low-interest promotional period of 6 months expires, any unpaid transferred balance will be subject to the current funds advance interest rate. As of today, this means that from under 2%, the interest rate jumps up to 22.99%.

That’s an over 10-fold increase in interest rate.

You’ll also immediately lose the low preferential rate and get the funds advance rate if you fall behind on your payments, even during the first six months. Additionally, if you fall behind again, you’ll lose that rate as well and get 26.99%. The bottom line is that it hurts to pay late.

I’ll summarize all this information into simple actionable advice.

You should only apply for the balance transfer if:

  • You’re financially responsible and never miss a payment, even if it is the bare minimum.
  • The current interest rate on your debt is greater than 22.99%, no matter how long you plan to carry a balance
  • Your current interest rate on your balance is between 1.99% and 22.99% but you think you can pay off the entire balance in 6 months or less.

You should definitely not apply for the balance transfer if:

  • You frequently find yourself missing payments or not paying the minimum on time.
  • If the current interest rate on your balance is actually lower than 1.99% (obviously)

If your current interest rate is lower than 22.99% but you can’t pay the debt by the end of six months, it may still make sense to transfer the balance to the AIR MILES Card from American Express. It all depends on the difference between the two interest rates, and how long you think it will take you to pay off the entire debt.

#12 An Amex AIR MILES Reserve Exclusive: Automatic Onyx Status In The AIR MILES Rewards Program

This is one of the great benefits that come exclusively with you Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card.

The AIR MILES Rewards program offers three different levels of rewards, depending on the number of miles you earn each calendar year (January 1st through December 31st):

  • Blue Status (from 0 to 999 annual miles)
  • Gold Status (from 1,000 to 5,999 annual miles)
  • Onyx™ Status (6,000 annual miles or more)

Depending on which status you achieved, you’ll get access to more and more benefits.

What Do I Get In Each Status In The AIR MILES Program?

That’s the key question! It’s not about how cool the name is; it’s what it means to be in each level. Check out the following table and compare all the perks and benefits you get with each status in the AIR MILES Rewards Program. You’ll want to compare the last column with the other two, because that’s what comes with your American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card:

STATUS Blue Gold Onyx™
Flights, merchandise and events Standard Prime Premium
AIR MILES Perks
AIR MILES Stage Pass
Discounts on Flights   Up to 30% off Up to 40% off
Discounts on merchandise rewards   Up to 10% off Up to 20% off
Exclusive Events  
Top Service    
Personal Shopper Service    

The Onyx Status

Becoming an Onyx Collector without the help of your Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card isn’t easy, because you need to earn a minimum of 6,000 air miles during one calendar year. This amounts to $120,000 in purchases, or to roughly half of that if you have the Amex AIR MILES Platinum , which has the same earning potential as the Reserve, but without the automatic Onyx status.

So you would need to spend $5,000 to $10,000 a month to get to Onyx Status by yourself. That’s one steep climb. It sure is great that your new American Express AIR MILES Credit Card brings in Onyx Status, but what will that mean to you?

Keep reading to find out:

Access to Premium flight, merchandise and event rewards.

This means that you get the whole package. You start off with access to all the rewards that AIR MILES has to offer, which translates into the possibility to book better flights, more routes, with more schedule flexibility. Not only that, you can also use your miles to pay for taxes and fees, avoiding the need to pay with cash altogether.

Better Discounts On Flights And Merchandise Than With Gold Status

Onyx collectors enjoy an additional 10% in discounts compared to Gold collectors in both flight and merchandise rewards. This makes savings go up to 40% on select flights and to 20% on eligible merchandise. This is a really valuable benefit, as it could increase your miles value by 67%. Here’s why:

Boost your Dream Mile’s Value By Up To 67%

Suppose you find a flight that normally costs $1,000, but it’s offered in AIR MILES for 12,500 Dream miles. That would give you a value of $1,000 / 12,500 miles = $0.08 per mile, or 8 cents.

Now suppose that you’re an Onyx Collector ant that the said ticket is eligible for a 40% discount. This means that it’ll cost only 7,500 miles, but the value of the ticket is the same $1,000, because it’s the exact same flight. Now, your miles are worth more, because you’re getting the same value for less miles. In fact each mile will be worth, in this hypothetical case, $1,000 / 7,500 miles = $0.1333 per mile, or 13.33 cents.

THAT’S 67% MORE THAN THE ORIGINAL 8 CENTS PER MILE VALUATION!

Have a go and do your own numbers, it’ll be the same every time, no matter how much value the flight you choose will  originally give your miles.

By the same logic, the 20% discount in the miles you have to pay for select merchandise will increase your miles value by almost 25%.

If you manage to spend your entire welcome bonus on Onyx discounted flights, the 2,400 miles could easily be worth $400! That’s $100 over the annual fee.

The question is, will you join one of the biggest loyalty programs in Canada and enjoy from day one all the benefits it has to offer?

#13 The AIR MILES Reserve Card’s Insurance Coverage

As an American Express premium Canadian Credit Card, the AIR MILES Reserve offers an impressive insurance package that will keep your mind at ease when you travel, as much as whe you shop.

Travel Coverage

The following table shows all the travel insurance policies that come embedded into your card, as well as their respective coverage limits:

Policy Description Coverage
Emergency Medical Insurance Covers for accidents or illnesses that require medical attention, during the first 15 days of your trip. $5,000,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance Used to waive the rental company’s own daily car insurance policy Rental Car with a maximum MSRP of $85,000
$100,000 Travel Accident Insurance AD&D policy to protect you against accidents while in transit $100,000
Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance Covers for lost personal effects or damage to your luggage while in transit $500
Flight & Baggage Delay Insurance Covers for hotel, restaurant and out of pocket expenses when flights or your baggage are delayed for a long time $500
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance Covers for lost personal effects if your hotel gets burglarized $500

A very important feature of the embedded insurance coverage of the Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card is that it covers for any number of trips throughout the year (something referred to as Multi-trip policy in the insurance world). Additionally, it not only covers you, but your spouse and any dependent children you may have, as long as they are traveling with you, of course.

Purchas Coverage

Apart from these travel insurance policies, the Amex AIR MILES Reserve also comes with the standard Amex purchase coverage:

Policy Description Coverage
Purchase Protection® Plan Insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for 90 days after purchase $1,000
Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to 1 extra year $1,000

How To Be Eligible For Coverage

One key condition to be eligible for coverage in all the policies I just mentioned is that everything has to be paid for with your Amex AIR MILES Reserve Card. Other conditions obviously apply, such as exclusions, limitations, pre-existing conditions, etc., but that happens with any insurance policy.

If you want to learn more, you can read our post on American Express Insurance.

How Much Is The Reserve AIR MILES Credit Card Insurance Worth?

It’s hard to estimate exactly how much you’re saving by having this insurance coverage. You’ll be hard pressed to find a policy that’ll cover you, your spouse and any dependent children under 23, as well as any additional cardmember, his or her spouse and dependent children, for an unlimited number of trips, every year.

If you add in the fact that insurance prices also depend on age, gender, pre-existing medical conditions and stability periods, calculations get even harder.

Regardless, here’s a quick estimate only considering the two most valuable policies, which are the travel Emergency Medical Insurance and the Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance:

Emergency Medical Insurance Value

An annual, multi-trip $5 million travel medical insurance policy for one 35 year old traveler in perfect health costs an average $80, give or take. Add in your spouse and one child and the cost, at the very least, doubles. If you add in more children and additional cardmembers, you’ll be pushing well over $300.

Car Rental Theft And Damage Insurance Value

For a rental car worth $85,000 or less, Theft and Damage insurance can cost $16 to $23 per day. Therefore, paying with your AIR MILES Reserve Card for a short, 3-day rental could be saving you anything from $48 to almost $70. And that’s only for a single very short trip.

The bottom line is that, by using your Amex Reserve AIR MILES Credit Card year after year, and by traveling and renting a car at least once a year, you’ll be saving well over $120 in travel insurance alone, but as a conservative estimate, I’ll round this up to $100.

#14 Four Other Special AIR MILES Credit Card Benefits

Special Benefit #1: Use Miles To Pay For Taxes And Fees

When I go flight-hacking, I always try to pay the least amount as possible with cash, that’s what my points are for! However, most loyalty rewards programs will only let you pay for the base ticket price with their reward points, and not the taxes and fees. These can go as high as one or two hundred dollars for international flights on certain carriers.

You could say hey! that’s not a problem, I’ll just pay for the fees with my Amex card and get rewarded and keep boosting my rewards balance. The thing is, since taxes and fees aren’t classified as purchases, they won’t earn you miles or any other kind of points for that matter!

With the Amex AIR MILES Reserve, you get a neat benefit that allows you to pay for taxes and fees with your miles, avoiding the use of cash altogether.

Special Benefit #2: Avoid AIR MILES Booking Fees

This is a simple benefit but it could be worth a lot if you travel frequently. If you book travel through AIR MILES while being a Reserve cardmember, AIR MILES will waive the booking fee whether it’s an online booking or by phone. Those fees are always in the $2-$8 range per trip, per traveler.

That’s another $64 you could save if you travel twice in a year with your spouse and two children!

Special Benefit #3: Insider AccessTM

Insider AccessTM is about seeing your favorite artists LIVE, for FREE!

A couple of times every year, Amex opens up a contest for American Express AIR MILES Cardmembers (sporting either the Amex AIR MILES, AIR MILES Platinum or AIR MILES Reserve credit cards) so they get a chance to win free tickets to their favorite shows.

In some cases, you need to answer some skill-testing questions to enter the contest. You can also participate and enter more than once (usually limited to one entry per day) to increase your chances of winning.

To give you an idea of just how great the prizes are, the most recent contest was for two tickets to see Jennifer Lopez’s “It’s My Party” world tour in Canada. Last year, it was Shania Twain and Bon Jovi

https://www.themarcocorporation.biz/AmexAirMilesContest/contests/c39/JenniferLopez2019.jpg

To keep an eye out for the latest contest, all you have to do is visit American Express Insider Access to find out which event is coming up.

Special Benefit #4: Front Of The Line

Front of the line gives you access to many benefits regarding some of the most sought after concerts and special events. These benefits include getting advanced tickets before they are sold to the general public, and reserved tickets so that you’ll always have an extra chance to buy them even if they run out for everyone else.

Additionally, you get other perks as well on special venues and locations like at the Budwiser Stage where you can get in through a special priority line, and enjoy the show at the Amex lounge.

#15 Is The AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card Worth The Annual Fee?

Absolutely! Even though almost $300 may seem steep at first glance, the benefits will clearly outweigh the fee year after year, as long as you travel at least once or twice annually.

And that’s without counting in the welcome bonus!

To estimate how good of a deal this is I’ll make the following assumptions, based on four trips per year:

  • I’ll value each mile at 16.7 cents apiece due to the Onyx Status and use round numbers.
  • As I explained above, I’ll value the Priority Pass lounge access at $300 CAD .
  • I’ll value the insurance coverage at $100, in order to be as conservative as I can.
  • I’ll value each AIR MILES Booking fee waiver at an average $5 per booking, therefore in four trips you would save $20

Let’s see how this card performs during the first year and for the long run:

Benefit During The First Year After The First Year
Welcome Bonus $400 N/A
Complimentary Partner Ticket $300 $300
Lounge Access $300 $300
Insurance Coverage $100 $100
Booking Fee Waiver $20 $20
Annual Fee ($300) ($300)
TOTAL PROFIT: $820 $420
Additional Benefits

This is a conservative estimate, and it still works out to return of almost 300% during the first year and over 100% every year after that. Even if we valued the partner ticket at 10 cents per mile, it still works out to over 100% in return. The question is, will you get your hands on this card, or will you let it pass?

#16 FAQs

Can I transfer dream miles from my dream balance to my cash balance?

No you can’t. What you can do is choose what percentage of your miles go to each balance. That way you’ll always have the miles you need for the rewards you want.

How Do I Protect My Cash Balance Against Unauthorized Use?

All you have to do is log into your AIR MILES profile and lock your cash account. That way no one will be able to use your cash miles (not even you) until you unlock them. If you download the AIR MILES app, you’ll be able to lock/unlock your Cash Balance anywhere, anytime. Consequently, you can keep your account locked all the time, and only unlock it once you’re at the cashier.

If My Collector’s Account Is Locked, Will I Still Earn Miles?

Yes, you will. Locking your account only stops cash miles from going out of your account, but it doesn’t stop them from going in. You can keep your account locked all the time and only unlock it when you’re about to pay with your miles.


The Amex Cobalt Card: A Review

With a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 MR points, a 5X earning rate on eligible eats & drinks (including groceries and food delivery) and a monthly fee of just $10, the Amex Cobalt Card is one of the best credit cards for most Canadians.

It’s probably our favourite card of 2019, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Apply with confidence today.

The American Express Cobalt card has been receiving a lot of attention since its fall 2017 launch, and with good reason: it’s an extremely compelling offer. $10/month for a card that gets you 5X the points on food and drink purchases in Canada and 2X the points on travel purchases anywhere in the world is an excellent deal.

But of course, as we’ve come to expect from American Express through their other offers—like the Platinum Card, the Business Platinum Card and the Business Gold Rewards Card—there’s much more to the Cobalt than meets the eye. Once you learn the ins and outs of this card, I’ll be surprised if you aren’t applying for one of your own by the end of this post.

This credit card is marketed at millennials and near-millennials, so if you fit either of these, you’ll definitely want to give the Cobalt card a closer look.

Pros & Cons Of The Amex Cobalt Card

PROSCONS
• Monthly fee of just $10 with no annual fees
• Up to 30,000 MR welcome bonus points for using your card every month
• $100 in hotel credit annually
• Save up to 15% on your purchases during the first year of card membership
• One of the best and most flexible points earning rates of any credit card in Canada
• Points are easy to use
• Up to 9 additional additional Cobalt Cards for free
• $30,000 cap on the 5X earning rate (equivalent to 150,000 MR)

Amex Cobalt Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus• 2,500 MR points every month you charge at least $500 to the Cobalt Amex Card, for a total of up to 30,000 MR points
Travel Benefits• $100 hotel credit for spa, restaurants and other amenities at The Hotel Collection participating properties
• Complimentary room upgrades at The Hotel Collection participating properties
Monthly Fee$10
Additional Card FeeUp to 9 free additional cards
Points Earned Per $1 Spent• 5X on eligible eats and drinks, including groceries and food delivery
• 2X on eligible travel & transit
• 1X on everything else
American Express Invites
Travel Coverage• $5,000,000 Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country)
• $250,000 Travel Accident Insurance
• Flight Delay Insurance
• Baggage Delay Insurance
• Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
• Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
• Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance
Purchase Coverage• Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan
• Purchase Protection Plan
Eligibility• Canadian citizens or residents
• A valid Canadian Credit file
• An account in good standing (recommended credit score of at least 650)
Type of CardCredit Card
Applied Interest Rate• 19.99% on purchases
• 22.99% on funds advances

The Amex Cobalt’s Monthly Fee

The Amex Cobalt Card is the first and only American Express card to offer a monthly fee in lieu of an annual fee. This makes the Cobalt Card extremely affordable for most Canadians, because you don’t have to pay one single, bulky annual fee. Instead, the annual fee gets split up across twelve more manageable payments, and those payments are just $10/month.

American Express Cobalt Card for Canadians
Where will you use your new American Express Cobalt Card?

What Are Membership Rewards Select Points And How Much Are They Worth?

The value of any loyalty program’s points depends on how you use them. Keeping this in mind, American Express has always offered a lot of flexibility regarding what you can do with your Membership Rewards points.

Normally, I recommend using your American Express points on flights, since you can get exceptional deals like these that we mention in our post on the Platinum Card:

Roundtrip Toronto to Hong Kong
70,000 points
$100 total taxes/fees
Roundtrip Vancouver to Hong Kong
60,000 points
$90 total taxes/fees
Round-the-world Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto
74,500 points
$761 total taxes/fees
Round-the-world Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver
74,700 points
$742 total taxes/fees

But the difference with the Cobalt card is that you use a different points system when spending your points on flights. American Express has introduced a new tier of points called Membership Rewards (MR) Select, which are usable for just about everything that regular MR points (which you receive with the PlatinumBusiness Platinum and Business Gold Rewards cards) are, including hotel stays and travel purchases, but you can’t transfer them to loyalty programs like Aeroplan or Avios.

As a consequence, rather than valuing these MR Select points at 2-3 cents per point (ilke the regular MR points), I suggest a slightly lower value of 1-2 cents per point (Read on to understand why).

So the Amex Cobalt comes with both good and bad. The bad is the change I just described: the method for redeeming your MR Select points for flights is a bit different, so many of our strategies for flying from Asia to North America for $75 or from Canada to Europe for $50 are less relevant.

But the good is really, really good: once you know how, you can save 10% on your monthly spending using the Cobalt card.

How To Use Your MR Select Points

Even though you can’t transfer your MR Select points to Aeroplan or Avios, there are still a couple of different ways to use them:

  1. For statement credits
  2. For flights
  3. You can transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy™
  4. For purchases in different retailers and Amazon.ca

#1 Using MR Select Points For Statement Credits

This is, by far, the easiest way to redeem your MR Select points. You can choose to exchange 1,000 points for a $10 statement credit towards eligible travel purchases, or you can trade them for $7 towards any other purchase.

When used for a statement credit as I described above, you will get a value of 0.7 or 1 cent per point.

This isn’t a great valuation, but it sure is the easiest type of redemption you can get. It’s absolutely hassle-free. All you have to do is

Step 1: log in to you Amex account through the Membership Rewards site

Step 2: Choose to use your points

Step 3: Select which purchase you want the statement credit to be used for

Step 4: Finally, choose how many MR points you want to use. The minimum is 1,000 points.

#2 Boosting Your Points With Fixed Points Flight Rewards

The one cent per point valuation I’ve suggested above is extremely easy to achieve: all you need to do is apply your points against the spending on your American Express statement, nothing more. However, American Express’ Fixed Points Flight Rewards offer value that’s up to twice as good. Here’s how to capitalize on that.

The table below shows the redemption costs for various destinations around the world using the Fixed Points system. As you can see at the very top, you can redeem 15,000 points to offset $300 (value of 2 cents per point) on short-haul routes like those between Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and New York, as well as between Vancouver and Calgary. Longer flights offer a slightly lower valuation (1.5-1.75 cents per point), though if you choose your routes wisely, they can still save you hundreds of dollars more than what you’re already saving by applying your MR Select points directly against your American Express statement.

At the end of the day, you really can’t lose.

American Express Cobalt Card for Canadians

Redeeming Amex Cobalt MR Select Points For Amex Fixed Points Flight Rewards At A Valuation Of Two Cents Per Point

#3 Transferring Your Points To Marriott Bonvoy

This is another option, in case you’re not keen on using your points as MR points, but would rather build up your balance in hotel loyalty programs like the Marriott Bonvoy program or Hilton Honors.

In the first case, you can transfer your points at a 1:1.25 rate. This means that for every 1,000 MR points you transfer, you’ll receive 1,250 Marriott Bonvoy points. Because Marriott Bonvoy points are valued at around 0.8 cents per point, transferring you MR points at this rate will still give you a final value of 1 cent per MR point:

1.25 MB/MR x 0.8 cents/MB = 1 cent/MR

Therefore, unless you have the option to use them for flights (in which case you could get up to 2 cents per MR point), you wouldn’t be hurting your MR points’ value by transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy points.

The downside would be limiting yourself to only being able to use the transferred points in Marriott Bonvoy participating hotels and resorts.

#4 Using Your MR points For Other Purchases

The last way in which you can spend your MR points is by using them to pay directly for gift-cards and other merchandise at select retailers, and for purchases through Amazon.ca.

As you might have guessed from the value of statement credits, using your points in this way (which is by far the most flexible way to use them), will only give you the minimum value of 0.7 cents per point. This is because you effectively trade off value for flexibility.

Bonus Cobalt Points

Just like its fee, the Cobalt Card’s welcome bonus is also split in 12 equal parts.

Most American Express cards come with a single welcome bonus that you get once you reach a minimum amount charged to the card. The same principle applies to the Amex Cobalt, only on a monthly basis:

You can earn 2,500 bonus Cobalt points, every month, during the first year of card membership. The to get each bonus, you need to charge a minimum of $500 to your Cobalt Card, every month.

If you manage to get the 12 bonuses, you’ll have a total of 30,000 bonus points by the end of the year. At the least possible value of 0.7 cent per MR Select point, this bonus adds up to $210, for a card worth $120. If you ramp it up to 2 cents per MR point, you’ll get back $600.

That’s one sweet deal!

Points Earning Rate Of The Amex Cobalt

You can access three different earning rates with the Cobalt Amex:

  • 5X on food & drinks (with a cap at $30,000 )
  • 2X on eligible travel purchases
  • 1X on all other purchases

The 5X earning rate (5 points per every $1) on eligible food and drink purchases is one of the highest earning rates American Express has to offer. Additionally, American Express is generous with their definition of food and drinks:

Restaurant, quick service restaurant, coffee shop and drinking establishments in Canada, stand-alone grocery stores in Canada, delivery of food and groceries in Canada…

The flexibility of the food & drink category makes it especially easy for anyone to access it, every day. This is exactly what makes the American Express Cobalt card one of the best everyday spending cards available in Canada today.

Upcoming Cap On The 5X Earning Rate

Important Notice: The cobalt credit card has been so successful, that Amex was forced to put a cap on the total amount of points you can earn on food and drinks. The 5X earning rate is limited to a maximum of $30,000 per year, and after that you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent.

As of today, the 2X earning rate on travel purchases is unlimited, but, since it’s also a very good earning rate, things could also change in the future.

If you want to take advantage of all the perks this card offers today, I recommend that you sign up to the Cobalt card soon, before Amex decides to put any more caps on its benefits.

Save 10% on your spending with the American Express Cobalt

As I explained in the previous sections, if you apply for the American Express Cobalt card today, you’ll receive 2,500 MR Select points for every month of the first year that you charge $500 to the card.

On top of that, you also earn 5X points for every dollar you spend on food and drinks.

In other words: you earn 5X the points at all restaurants, bars, cafés, grocery stores, and food delivery services (UberEATS etc.), making the magic $500 monthly threshold fairly easy to hit for most of us (about $120/week in food). And when you do…

You’ll save 10% on that month’s spending.

Here’s the math to show what I mean:

2,500 bonus points for spending $500/month

+ 2,500 points (5X points on $500 spent on food/drinks)

= 5,000 points earned per month

When you apply those points at the one cent per point valuation I mentioned above (which is as simple as applying them against your American Express statement, nothing more), you get $50 back on your $500 of spending. That’s a savings of 10%!

Here’s how it looked when I applied 4,000 of my MR Select points against two flights I’d recently redeemed my regular MR points for on Aeroplan:

American Express Cobalt Card for Canadians

Redeeming American Express Cobalt MR Select Points For Purchases At A Valuation Of One Cent Per Point

Of course, it’s not a problem if you don’t spend $500 per month on food and drinks. Let’s imagine that one month you only spend $300 on food and drinks and the other $200 on something else:

2,500 bonus points for spending $500/month

+ 1,500 points (5x points on $300 spent on food/drinks)

+ 200 points (1X points on $200 spent on other items)

= 4,200 points earned per month

In this case, you end up with 4,200 points, worth $42, for a savings of 8.4%. This trend continues: the more you spend on food and drinks, the higher your monthly savings will be.

While we’re at it, let’s look at some of the other benefits of the Cobalt card.

American Express Travel Insurance And Shopping Coverage

Insurance coverage is very important to most travelers, and the Cobalt Card delivers a very comprehensive set of embedded insurance policies, given how inexpensive this card is.

The Amex Cobalt’s Travel Coverage

The travel-related insurance policies that come with your new Amex Cobalt Card are:

  1. $5,000,000 Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country): This policy will cover virtually any accident that needs medical attention, once you’re on your way. The coverage is for you, your spouse, any dependent children, any additional cardmember, his or her spouse and dependent children, for any number of trips with a maximum duration of 15 days.
  2. $250,000 Travel Accident Insurance: This is an AD&D life insurance policy that covers you and your family while you”re all traveling in a common carrier.
  3. Flight Delay & Baggage Delay Insurance: Two separate policies but with an aggregate maximum coverage of $500. Intended to cover you for unforeseen expenses due to your flight or baggage been delayed for a long time. It includes out-of-pocket money, money for food and even hotel stays.
  4. Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance: This policy can help you recover up to $500 in lost items and personal effects.
  5. Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance: Similar to the Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, it protects you for up to $500 in stolen personal effects if your hotel gets burglarized, as long as your lodgings were paid with your Amex Cobalt Card.
  6. Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance: You can use this policy to waive the vehicle rental company’s own insurance policy and get up to $85,000 of coverage without paying a single dime.

Amex Cobalt Purchase Coverage

Regarding card purchase coverage, the Amex Cobalt Card comes with American Express’ two standard policies:

  • The Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan, which doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to one extra year, on any purchase paid in full with your American Express Cobalt Card.
  • The Purchase Protection Plan, which covers your Cobalt Card purchases against accidental damage and theft, to a maximum of $1,000.

Read our post on American Express Insurance to learn all the details regarding these and other insurance policies offered by American Express Canada.

Free Supplementary Cobalt Cards

Giving your family members (or employees) supplementary cards is a great way to boost your earning rate. While some additional cards require you to pay an additional fee, this is not the case with the Cobalt Amex card.

You can request up to 9 additional cobalt cards for supplementary cardholders, free of charge. The only condition is that he or she be 13 or older.

American Express Front Of The Line

The Amex Cobalt Card comes with American Express Invites, a benefits package for major public events like concerts and shows. These benefits include:

Front Of The Line Advance Access

This benefit lets you purchase or reserve tickets for highly sought after events, sometimes even before they’re on sale.

Front Of The Line Reserved Tickets

These are blocks of seats reserved by American Express exclusively for its cardmembers. With Reserved Tickets you won’t be left out of any major event, even when tickets have sold out for the general public.

Front Of The Line E-Updates

This is a subscription email service that periodically sends you the listings of all the events you can access thanks to your Amex Cobalt Card.

Other Amex Invites Benefits

Special Access and benefits at Budweiser Stage, Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall, including a separate entrance, lounges and bars.

What About Foreign Currency Exchange?

While you earn 2X the points on travel purchases like flights and hotels, you still pay a 2.5% fee on all foreign transactions and foreign ATM withdrawals with the Cobalt card. 2.5% isn’t huge, but if you spend $5,000 over the course of a month-long Europe trip, that’s an extra $125 you’ve thrown away in currency exchange fees. Instead, I recommend picking up the N26 You card, which leverages TransferWise’s technology to offer zero currency exchange fees and free ATM withdrawals around the world. Since getting my N26 You two years ago, it’s been my go-to travel card, and I absolutely love it. With your N26 You card, the sky’s the limit.

The Bottom Line

Once you add in all of the other benefits, this card is an excellent choice. Add it to your arsenal of the Platinum Card, the Business Platinum Card and the Business Gold Rewards Card, and you’re laughing.

So…will you take advantage of the Cobalt card or let it pass you by?

Amex AIR MILES® Platinum Card: A Review

The American Express® AIR MILES® Platinum Credit Card is a great tool to increase your AIR MILES balance. The welcome bonus of 2,000 miles is worth easily $210, more than tripling the $65 annual fee, and making signing up to it a great investment. The possibility to double-dip and earn miles twice will help you get more return on every purchase, and the card’s earning rate of 1 mile for every $10 in purchases is better than what most of AIR MILES’ partners will give you.

In addition, the low annual fee is easily outweighed by a single 4-day car rental, thanks to its embedded insurance coverage. This, along with all its other benefits, make the Amex AIR MILES Platinum a great choice at a low budget

The sleek-looking silver colored Amex AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
The Amex AIR MILES Platinum

AIR MILES is one of Canada’s biggest independent loyalty rewards program and it counts its members by the thousands. With the Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card, you’ll not only join the ever growing number of collectors (read AIR MILES members), but you’ll also get an edge by earning miles on any purchase, and even twice on eligible purchases. In this AIR MILES Platinum Card review, we’ll show you how to make the most of your new Amex card, how to maximize your miles, and how to maximize your return on every mile as well. Keep on reading to learn everything there is to know about the AIR MILES Rewards program and all the benefits that come with the Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card.

To make it easier to navigate, this post is divided into the following 14 sections:

#1 Basic Features And Benefits

Welcome Bonus2,000 AIR MILES Rewards miles
Miles Earning Rate • 1 Air Mile per $10 in eligible purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors or standalone grocery stores, gas stations and drugstores in Canada
• 1 Air Mile per $15 on everything else
Optional Balance Transfer Offer
Insider Access
Front of The Line
Travel and Purchase Coverage
Additional CardsUp to 9 for free
Type of CardCredit Card
Applied Interest Rate • 19.99% on purchases
• 22.99% on funds advances
Annual Fee$65

#2 Pros & Cons Of The Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card

PROSCONS
• A welcome bonus of 2,000 miles that’s worth over three times the annual fee
• Earn Air Miles on any purchase
• Good earning rate on AIR MILES sponsors
• Earn Air Miles twice on eligible purchases
• Unlimited earning potential (no caps on earning) • Includes insurance coverage even though it has a low annual fee
• Doesn’t give you a great overall return on purchases. Other Amex cards can give you more
• $750 cap on daily redeemable Cash miles (in-store or online)
•  Long-term benefits only justify the fee if you plan to rent a car at least 4 days every year
• Not too many travel perks

#3 Amex AIR MILES Platinum Benefit #1: The Welcome Bonus

The Amex Platinum AIR MILES card brings in a 2,000 air miles welcome bonus. The condition to get the bonus is to be a new AIR MILES Platinum cardmember, and to charge a minimum of $1,500 to your card during the first three months of card membership. As you’ll see in the section on how to use your miles, these miles are enough to buy a one-way ticket for a short-haul flight within Canada with any of their airline partners.

If you’re not keen on scouting around for good deals on flights? How about spending them on a new Google Nest Hub that can really help simplify and organize your life.

Google Nest Hub, one of the things you can buy with your Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card's welcome bonus
An example of a merchandise redemption with your welcome bonus

Yes, it’s a bit more than the 2,000 miles that come with the bonus, but to get it you need to spend first, and the needed $1,500 can earn you an extra 150 miles, only 30 miles short of 2,180.

If you’re not into electronics or if you don’t like what AIR MILES has to offer in terms of merchandise, you can always trade them in for $210 worth of cash discounts on purchases at any AIR MILES partner. Since AIR MILES counts its partners by the hundreds, it’ll be very easy for you to find a way to use your miles on something you really need or like.

$210 worth of miles for just $65? That’s what I call return on investment.

#4 Amex AIR MILES Platinum Benefit #2: Miles Earning Rate

Before diving into the Amex AIR MILES Platinum’s earning rate, there’s something I need to explain first:

A Different Way To Express Earning Rates

Earning rates in the AIR MILES Rewards program are expressed a bit differently from other programs. Instead of miles per every $1, they are expressed as the amount you have to spend on purchases to earn each mile. The reason is simple: These earning rates are a lot lower than for other rewards programs because AIR MILES Rewards miles are worth much more than all the other reward points. This makes Air Miles earning rates per every $1 be only small fractions of a mile, which is not a convenient way to express them.

To compare earning rates when expressed like this, you have to consider that the lower the number, the better the earning rate. If the amount of dollars is four times greater, the earning rate is four times lower.

Let me show you what I mean with the following example of a $140 purchase at different earning rates:

Earning Rate Total Purchase Miles Earned
$35 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $35 = 4 miles
$20 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $20 = 7 miles
$15 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $15 = 9.33 miles
$10 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $10 = 14 miles
$5 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $5 = 28 miles

Comparing the first and last earning rates will clearly show what I just said: $5 per mile is seven times lower than $35, but you earn 28 miles, which is seven times greater than 4 miles.

This has some other setbacks apart from this unintuitive way to interpret the earning rate. The biggest problem is that you can’t add these earning rates when you earn more than one rate on the same purchase(something you can actually do with your Amex AIR MILES Platinum), but we’ll get back to that further down the post.

And now, The AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card’s Earning Rate

A great perk with the AIR MILES Platinum Card is that it earns miles on all purchases. But of course, not all purchases are the same, otherwise, what would be the point of loyalty programs, right? There are two categories of purchases and two earning rates:

You’ll get 1 mile for every $10 on eligible purchases

This means that on a $60 purchase, for example, you’ll receive 6 miles deposited directly to your AIR MILES Collector’s account. Eligible implies one of the following four categories of purchases:

  • Purchases at any of AIR MILES’ sponsors or partners
  • Stand-alone gasoline stations in Canada
  • Stand-alone grocery stores in Canada
  • Stand-alone drugstores in Canada

This makes it very easy to get the best earning rate on common every-day expenses like food, medicines and gas.

1 mile for every $15 on all other purchases

In this case, a purchase of same $60 will get you only 4 miles.

Now, you may be wondering:

Are these good Earning Rates, or a bad ones?

Since they are expressed differently from the earning rates on other cards such as the Platinum, the Cobalt, or the Marriott BonvoyTM Amex cards, it’s a bit hard to compare these earning rates straight up. The answer to this problem is simple though: we just have to know how much the miles are really saving you on your purchase.

Suppose you made a $100 purchase at the 1 mile per $10 rate. That means you’ll receive 10 miles for your purchase. Valuated at an average of 10 cents per mile (we’ll explain why further down the post), those 10 miles are worth $1.

So, basically, your AIR MILES Platinum is really only giving you back $1 on a $100 purchase, in other words, you get 1% back. To put things in perspective, that’s the same earning rate on the Amex SimplyCash Card, but that one’s free. The Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card, on the other hand, gives you 2% back on all purchases. That’s twice as much. If you compare it with the Amex Platinum Card, it looks even worse. In its defense, however, 1% is still better than 0%, this card is on the cheaper side after all, and it has other benefits that help make it a good choice.

#5 Amex Platinum AIR MILES Benefit #3: Optional Balance Transfer Offer

As a way to attract new members, Amex provides the Optional Balance Offer with the Platinum AIR MILES Card. To be eligible for this offer, the only condition is that you’re not already an Amex cardmember (i.e., you don’t own any charge or credit card issued by Amex Bank of Canada)

What Is The Optional Balance Transfer Offer?

This is an offer for new American Express cardmembers, who can opt to transfer their debts from other credit cards to the AIR MILES Platinum Card upon enrollment. As long as you don’t fall behind on your minimum payments, you’ll get a preferential interest rate of just 1.99% on all transferred balance during the first 6 months.

In short, it’s a way of helping Canadians pay off their debts by lowering the interest incurred because of the balance they carry every month. It’s like taking a low-interest loan with Amex to pay for your other credit cards.

Tablet depicting debt recovery text
Pay off your debts with other credit cards thanks to your new Amex membership and the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card

This is the same offer made by Amex with the SimplyCash and SimplyCash Preferred cards. Just as in those two cases, the big pro of the AIR MILES Card’s offer is that Amex doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee.

How To Opt For The Balance Transfer

Considering that you’re not already an Amex cardmember and are, therefore, eligible for this offer, all you need to do is opt in for the offer when filling out your online application.

That being said, there’s a limit to how much balance you can transfer to your Amex AIR MILES Card account.

How Much Of My Balance Can I Transfer To My New American Express AIR MILES Card

The maximum amount you can transfer is limited to $7,500 or 50% of your assigned credit limit, whichever is smaller.

Let’s look at the numbers of three simple examples to show you how this works:

  • Suppose you have a balance of $2,000 and a credit limit of $6,000. In this case, since 50% of your credit limit is $3,000 and this number is smaller than $7,500, than you can transfer a maximum of $3,000. In this particular case, you could transfer your whole balance of $2,000.
  • Now suppose that you have a balance of $8,000 and a credit limit of $20,000 (50% of which being $10,000). In this case, you can’t transfer your whole balance, because it’s higher than $7500. Furthermore, since $7,500 is less than $10,000, then you can transfer a maximum of $7,500.
  • Finally, suppose you have a balance of $8,000 but a credit limit of just $10,000 (50% of which is $5,000). You obviously can’t transfer the whole $8,000 balance for the same reason as above. However, since $5,000 y less than $7,500, then in this case you can’t transfer $7,500 either. You can only transfer a maximum of the said $5,000.

When Should You Opt For The Balance Transfer Offer

One very important thing to consider is that after the low-interest promotional period of 6 months expires, any unpaid transferred balance will be subject to the current funds advance interest rate. As of today, this means that from under 2%, the interest rate jumps up to 22.99%.

That’s an over 10-fold increase in interest rate.

You’ll also immediately lose the low preferential rate and get the funds advance rate if you fall behind on your payments, even during the first six months. Additionally, if you fall behind again, you’ll lose that rate as well and get 26.99%. The bottom line is that it hurts to pay late.

I’ll summarize all this information into simple actionable advice.

You should only apply for the balance transfer if:

  • You’re financially responsible and never miss a payment, even if it is the bare minimum.
  • Your current interest rate is greater than 22.99%, no matter how long you plan to carry a balance
  • The current interest rate on your balance is greater than 1.99% but less than 22.99% but you think you can pay off the entire balance in 6 months or less.

You should definitely not apply for the balance transfer if:

  • You frequently find yourself missing payments or not paying the minimum on time.
  • If the current interest rate on your balance is actually lower than 1.99% (obviously)

If your current interest rate is lower than 22.99% but you can’t pay the debt by the end of six months, it may still make sense to transfer the balance to the AIR MILES Card from American Express. It all depends on the difference between the two interest rates, and how long you think it will take you to pay off the entire debt.

#6 Free Additional Amex AIR MILES Platinum Cards

An easy way to quickly build up you AIR MILES balance, is to get help from your closest friends or family members. You can share your credit with your loved ones easily by giving them a supplementary additional card.

With the Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card, you can get up to 9 additional cards, for FREE! You won’t pay a dime, and your loved ones will always have your purchasing power at hand, whenever they need it, even if you’re far away. This makes earning miles a lot faster than it used to be!

#7 Two Other Special AIR MILES Platinum Benefits

Special Benefit #1: Insider AccessTM

Insider AccessTM is about seeing your favorite artists LIVE, for FREE! A couple of times every year, Amex opens up a contest for American Express AIR MILES Cardmembers (sporting either the Amex AIR MILES, AIR MILES Platinum or AIR MILES Reserve credit card) so they get a chance to win free tickets to their favorite shows.

In some cases, you need to answer some skill-testing questions to enter the contest. You can also participate and enter more than once (usually limited to one entry per day) to increase your chances of winning.

To give you an idea of just how great the prizes are, the most recent contest was for two tickets to see Jennifer Lopez’s “It’s My Party” world tour in Canada. Last year, it was Shania Twain and Bon Jovi

Go to Jennifer Lopez's It's My Party world tour, thanks to your Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card's

To keep an eye out for the latest contest, just go to http://amexinsideraccess.ca to find out which event is coming up.

Special Benefit #2: Front Of The Line

Front of the line gives you access to many benefits regarding some of the most sought after concerts and special events. These benefits include

  • Getting advanced tickets before they are sold to the general public and
  • Access to reserved tickets so that you’ll always have an extra chance to buy them, even if they run out for everyone else.

Additionally, you get other perks as well on special venues and locations like at the Budwiser Stage where you can get in through a special priority line, and enjoy the show at the Amex lounge.

#8 A Closer Look At The AIR MILES Rewards Program

The AIR MILES Rewards program, as you may have imagined, is a loyalty program. However, there’s a clear difference between this loyalty program and others we’ve covered before such as Aeroplan, Membership Rewards and the Marriott BonvoyTM program. In those cases, the company that runs the program offers its products and services to loyal clients directly, and rewards them for their purchases. They also have a set of secondary partners who reward their customers under the same loyalty program.

A Different Sort Of Loyalty Program

The first difference is that the AIR MILES Rewards program is an independent loyalty program, in the sense that it’s not tied to a particular brand or merchant. AIR MILES is owned and run by LoyaltyOne Inc., a company that provides loyalty solutions to other companies in a B2B (business-to-business) model. They offer Canadian companies a platform on which to build their loyalty program under the same banner. It’s actually the partner companies who offer you reward miles, through LoyaltyOne Inc., for your purchases. This basically translates into two things:

  • Each partner merchant has its own rewarding scheme, depending on the terms in which it signed up with LoyaltyOne.
  • There are literally hundreds to thousands of merchants in Canada where you can shop and earn AIR MILES Rewards miles.
  • There are also hundreds of different ways to redeem your miles.

AIR MILES members are called Collectors, and when you sign up, you receive an AIR MILES Card, reminiscent of the Aeroplan Card you get when signing up to that loyalty program. Just like in the latter case, you show this card at eligible merchants to earn points on purchases, and you use this card to pay for eligible purchases with your miles (Note: Read below to learn how to use your miles).

#9 How To Earn Air Miles

There are plenty of ways for collectors to earn miles within the AIR MILES program. As a loyalty program, the first one is obvious: shopping at partner brands. However, the list doesn’t stop there, and you’ll see that the AIR MILES program has a lot more to offer. Of course, if you add in a brand new American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card, you’ll multiply your options and increase your rewards.

Shopping at Partner Brands

As stated above, you can buy at any of AIR MILES Rewards’ partners and receive points for your purchases. This includes both in-store and online purchases. To earn your miles, all you have to do is present your collector’s card and you’re set.

In the following tables, you’ll find the complete list of all of AIR MILES Reward’s partners, along with each merchant’s miles offer.

AIR MILES In-Store Partners

AIR MILES Online Partners

• Addition Elite ($20 per mile)
 • ALDO Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Allposters.com ($20 per mile)
 • Amazon Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Anthropology ($20 per mile)
 • Apple Store Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Ardene ($20 per mile)
 • ArrivalGuides ($35 per mile)
 • ArrivalGuides at Cost Travel Club ($35 per mile)
 • Art.com ($20 per mile)
 • Backcountry ($20 per mile)
 • Banana Republic Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Barnes and Noble ($20 per mile)
 • Bed Bath & Beyond ($20 per mile)
 • Bench ($20 per mile)
 • Best Western Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Bloomingdale’s ($20 per mile)
 • Blue nine ($20 per mile)
 • Bobbi Brown ($20 per mile)
 • Bogs Footwear ($20 per mile)
 • Bowflex ($20 per mile)
 • Buffalo David Bitton ($20 per mile)
 • Canada Post ($20 per mile)
 • Candlewood Suites ($20 per mile)
 • Canon ($20 per mile)
 • Clinique ($20 per mile)
 • Club Monaco Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Competitive Cyclist ($20 per mile)
 • Crocs ($20 per mile)
 • Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Dell.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Dell.ca Small Business ($20 per mile)
• Designer Shoe Warehouse ($20 per mile)
 • Dynamite ($20 per mile)
 • Dyson Canada ($20 per mile)
 • eBay.com ($20 per mile)
 • Expedia ($35 per mile)
 • EXPRESS ($20 per mile)
 • Footlocker ($20 per mile)
 • Forever 21 Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Forzieri Canada ($20 per mile)
 • French Connection Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Gap Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Garage.ca ($20 per mile)
 • GLOBOShoes.com ($20 per mile)
 • Groupon ($20 per mile)
 • Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • Holiday Inn Express ($20 per mile)
 • Hotel Indigo ($20 per mile)
 • Hotels.com ($35 per mile)
 • HP Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Hudson’s Bay ($20 per mile)
 • Indigo.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts ($20 per mile)
 • J.Crew ($20 per mile)
 • JC Penniy ($20 per mile)
 • Keurig Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Kobo ($20 per mile)
 • Lacoste Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Lands’ End ($20 per mile)
 • Le Château ($20 per mile)
 • Lego Shop ($20 per mile)
 • Lenovo ($20 per mile)
 • Lids.ca ($20 per mile)
• LL Bean ($20 per mile)
 • Mackage ($20 per mile)
 • Macys.com ($20 per mile)
 • Madewell ($20 per mile)
 • Marciano ($20 per mile)
 • Mark’s ($20 per mile)
 • Matt & Nat ($20 per mile)
 • Miscrosoft Store Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Minted. ($20 per mile)
 • Murad ($20 per mile)
 • Neiman Marcus ($20 per mile)
 • NewEgg.ca ($20 per mile)
 • Nike ($20 per mile)
 • Norton by Symantec ($20 per mile)
 • Origins ($20 per mile)
 • Orvis ($20 per mile)
 • Overstock.com ($20 per mile)
 • Penningtons ($20 per mile)
 • Priceline.com ($35 per mile)
 • Proactive+ ($20 per mile)
 • Quicksilver ($20 per mile)
 • Reitmans ($20 per mile)
 • REVOLVEClothing.com ($20 per mile)
 • Roots ($20 per mile)
 • Rosetta Stone ($20 per mile)
 • ROXY Canada ($20 per mile)
 • Royal Canadian Mint ($20 per mile)
• Saks Fifth Avenue ($20 per mile)
 • Sephora ($20 per mile)
 • Shoes.com ($20 per mile)
 • Shopbop ($20 per mile)
 • Sierra Trading Post ($20 per mile)
• SOIA & KIO ($20 per mile)
 • Sole Society ($20 per mile)
 • Spafinder Wellness 365 ($20 per mile)
 • Sport Check ($20 per mile)
 • Sport Experts ($20 per mile)
 • Staybridge Suites ($20 per mile)
 • Steve Madden ($20 per mile)
 • StrawberryNET ($20 per mile)
 • Suzy Shiar ($20 per mile)
 • The Body Shop Canada ($20 per mile)
 • The Shoe Company ($20 per mile)
 • TOMS Canada ($20 per mile)
 • TurboTax Canada (N/A)
 • Vistaprint ($20 per mile)
 • WagJag ($20 per mile)
 • Wayfair ($20 per mile)
 • WaySpa Gift Card ($20 per mile)
 • Weight Watchers Canada ($20 per mile)
 • YvesRocher.com ($20 per mile)

When comparing the different earning rates in the tables, it’s clear that you’ll get the best deals with hotels stays and purchases. The absolute best earning rate is 1 mile for every $5 at any of the InterContinental Hotels Group properties. The worst-case scenario would be ADI, where you’ll need to spend $50 to earn a single mile.

In the case of online stores and retailers, most offer a rate of $20 in purchases for every mile, but a few fetch a higher price of $35.

Double-Dipping: Earn AIR MILES Rewards Miles Twice With Your Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card

How does this work? It’s beyond easy! As a collector (read AIR MILES Rewards member), you’re entitled to earn miles on every purchase at partner brands, as we just showed you. But as an American Express AIR MILES Platinum cardholder, you’ll also get 1 mile for every $5 of the same purchase, no matter how much that merchant awards. This is because, in the second case, it’s Amex that’s rewarding you for your card purchase, not the merchant.

Put two and two together, and you’re earning miles twice when you show your AIR MILES Card AND you pay with your Amex AIR MILES Platinum.

Finding out how this adds up isn’t that hard, but, reader beware, it’s not as simple as adding earning rates like you may intuit. Remember that earning rates in the AIR MILES program are expressed differently from the other cases!

Let’s look at a simple example so that you’ll learn to work out your own numbers:

Buying a $600 laptop at Amazon.ca

Ok, so Amazon.ca is in the list of AIR MILES sponsors. This means that by paying for your laptop with your Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card, you’ll earn miles twice. But at what rate?

Reviewing past sections of this post, you’ll get 1 miler for every $10 thanks to your Amex card + 1 mile for every $20 awarded by Amazon.ca, through the AIR MILES program.

The first mistake you might be tempted to make is to assume that this adds up to a rate of $30 for every mile, but it doesn’t work that way. Remember that the higher the number, the worse the rate, so $30 to earn a mile is actually worse than any of the two original cases.

One way to work it out is to figure out how many miles you get with each rate, and THEN add the miles:

Purchase Value: $600
Miles earned with your card purchase: $600 x 1mil/$10 = 60 miles
Miles earned for the sponsor purchase: $600 x 1mil/$20 = 30 miles
TOTAL: 90 miles

There is an alternate way to work out a sort of average earning rate, but this method is by far easier to understand. The bottom line, though, is that the Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card can help you get a lot more for every buck, compared to regular collectors.

Earn Miles On Any Purchase With An Amex AIR MILES Card

Nothing new here. With any one of American Express’ different AIR MILES credit cards (not just with the Platinum), you’ll earn miles on any purchase. There’s always a preferential rate for buying at AIR MILES sponsors and other eligible purchases, and a lower rate for all other purchases.

However, the bottom line is simple enough: every time you use your card, you’ll earn miles!

Special Rewards: Booking Hotel Stays Through AIR MILES Travel Hub

As a special offer, if you book and pay for hotels through AIR MILES’ online travel booking system, Travel Hub, you could earn as much as 1,000 Miles per night, depending on the property. Additionally, if you book any hotel before the end of 2019, you’ll also receive an extra, one-time 75 miles bonus.

With this method, you could get some seriously high earning rates. If you book a room at the Boston Park Plaza, for example, paying the $190 would get you, at the normal rate of $5 to a mile:  $190 x 1mile/$5 = 38 miles.

However, if you book through travel hub, you’ll receive 440 miles per night.

That’s over ten times what you would get, just for booking through their travel service!

By the way, if you pay with your American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card, you’ll also get an extra 19 miles, which doesn’t hurt at all!

Way to go AIR MILES Rewards, and way to go Amex!

Buying AIR MILES Rewards Miles

Picture this scenario:

You want to use the miles you’ve been earning on a dream vacation in a beautiful resort, but you’re short by some miles. AIR MILES doesn’t offer split cash/miles redemptions, so you only have two options:

  1. Either you pay the full price in cash, or,
  2. You have to get those extra miles somehow.

There’s one other way to get miles for cases just like this one: You can buy them.

As a last resort, since AIR MILES allows collectors to transfer miles between each other, you could always ask your best friend to give you a hand.

#10 How To Use Your Miles

Here I’ll highlight another oddity of AIR MILES Rewards: you don’t have one, but actually two AIR MILES balances, depending on how you want to redeem them.

Two Redemption Methods, Two AIR MILES Balances: Cash Rewards And Dream Rewards

As I said, there are two ways to redeem miles. One is for discounts on direct in-store or online purchases at partner brands, and the other is the more familiar set of rewards you can choose from in the AIR MILES site.

The air miles you earn are automatically split between two balances: your Cash Balance, and  your Dream Balance. Miles that go to your cash balance are called Cash Miles, whereas the ones that go to your dream balance are called Dream Miles. When you sign up to AIR MILES, and at any time in the future, you can choose what portion of the miles that you earn you want to go to each of the two balances (in 10% increments), but make note that, once in one balance, miles can’t be transferred to the other.

Cash Balance for Cash Rewards

You use your cash miles to pay for Cash Rewards. As I just mentioned, those Cash Rewards get you discounts at AIR MILES sponsors, either in physical stores or online.

The way it works for in-store purchases is by presenting your Collector’s Card or number at checkout, and letting the cashier know that you want to pay with Cash Miles. You have to pay a minimum of $10 in cash (before taxes) and then you can choose how much of a discount you want, in $10 increments.

You trade in 95 air miles for every $10 in discounts. There’s a cap on this redemption method, and you can only reach a maximum of $750 in accumulated discounts each day.

In Canada, cash rewards are an especially versatile redemption method, because, as you saw above, there are literally hundreds of partners at which you can spend your miles. Additionally, it’s the easiest possible way to use your miles, since all you have to do is give your card and choose how many miles you want to trade in. It’s kind of like having $10 coupons redeemable for any purchase whatsoever.

Online redemptions are a bit different, as you have to log into your AIR MILES profile and order $10 virtual coupons or e-Vouchers, which you then use at participating online stores.

Dream Rewards

Dream Rewards are the more traditional way to use miles. They work like any other loyalty rewards redemption you’ve come across in the past, in the sense that you pay the whole price of different rewards exclusively with your miles, and you choose those rewards by logging into your collector’s account in the AIR MILES website.

There are four Dream Rewards redemption categories:

  • Merchandise
  • Events and attractions
  • Stage Passes
  • Travel

 You can choose hundreds to thousands of different redemptions from within these categories. Anything from a new microwave oven and that concert you’ve been dreaming of since you heard it was coming, to flights around the world and stays at 5-star hotels.

Some of these categories offer better value than others, but it’s sure great to have options.

AIR MILES has 15 partner airlines with which you can redeem your miles for flights. These partners are:

  • Westjet
  • Air Canada
  • Porter Airlines
  • Delta Airlilnes
  • KLM
  • AIRFRANCE
  • Alitalia
  • Air New Zealand
  • PAL Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • Canadian North
  • CalmAir
  • Central Mountain Air

It also partnered with five of the best hotel chains in the world, giving you access to literally thousands and thousands of dream hotels around the world. AIR MILES’ hotel partners include:

  • Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Hilton Honors
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
  • Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts

#11 How Much Are My AIR MILES Worth

As usual, miles value depends on how you redeem them. With AIR MILES Rewards Miles, there’s also the issue of two different kinds of miles, but since you can choose to which balance you want your miles to go, we’ll consider them as equal.

 Let’s look at some examples and numbers to see the best way to spend your miles:

Cash Miles’ Value

This is the easiest to assess value of any loyalty rewards points. There’s only one redemption value for cash miles: You trade in 95 miles for a $10 cash discount coupon.

This translates to a value of:

$10 / 95 miles = $0.105 or 10.5 cents for each mile.

As you can see, air miles are worth close to 10 times more than other loyalty points like the Marriott BonvoyTM points, for example, which are worth close to 1 cent per point.

Dream Miles’ Value

Here, we’ll analyze each individual Dream category separately, much like we did before with the Aeroplan miles:

Merchandise Dream Rewards:

In the merchandise category, you can choose from electronics, home, kitchen and cooking, garden, kids and many more sub-categories where you’ll find all sorts of products to meet your every whim.

You can buy a $1.250 cell phone for an average 20,000 miles or a $1,500 4K 65” TV for around 22,000 miles.

At this rate, each Mile is worth about 7 cents, or $0.07. That’s not a great value considering that you can get over 10 cents from cash miles, which are easier to redeem and offer even more flexibility.

Events, Attractions, and Stage Passes:

You can use your dream miles to purchase tickets for major events, concerts and different attractions. In this category you could redeem about 1,800 miles for a pair of tickets to a concert that are worth close to $200. In some cases, the reward even includes other perks like beverages, or complimentary valet parking and the like, which further increases the value you get for each mile.

Things start looking up, as with this kind of redemption you could easily get 10 to 12 cents per mile.

Using Your Miles For Flights

When redeeming your dream miles for flights, you’ll be spending a minimum of 1,200 miles and a maximum of 20,000. The 1,200 miles minimum is for flights within your own state or province during the low season, traveling in economy class. Of course, you have to choose a carrier from within the airline partners list.

Let’s look at a couple of typical case-studies:

Visiting Relatives In The Same Province: Flying from Toronto to Ottawa:

Looking at the AIR MILES redemption chart, you’ll see that this trip will cost you a minimum of 1,200 miles during the low season. The least this trip will cost, according to Google flights, is $230 for the round trip, or $115 for the one-way fare, flying with Porter Airlines, one of AIR MILES partners, as you can see in the image below:

Google Flights graph for airfare prices from Toronto to Ottawa during the low season. showing the lowest price of $230 for the round trip
Google flights price graph for a Toronto-Ottawa round trip

With a price tag of $115 per trip, the 1,200 miles reach an average value of j 9.6 cents each.

Going Far Away: Flying from Ontario to Sydney, Australia

A good example of a big flight is going from Toronto to Sydney. During the High season (December 21st), this flight will cost you 19,000 dream miles. The lowest fare, according to Google flights, is $1,833, giving you a value, again, of just over 9.6 cents per mile.

Google Flights graph for airfare prices from Ontario to Sydney during the high season. showing the highest price of $1833 for December 21st
Across-the-world trip in high season: From Ontario to Sydney on christmas

Booking Hotel Stays With Dream Miles:

Not only are hotel stays and purchases the best category to earn miles, but they’re also a good place to spend them. On most cases, you’ll find deals that’ll get you around 9 or 10 cents per mile, but on some other deals, you’ll do a lot better. One example is a night at the InterContinental Residence Suites in Dubai, where you have to pay 955 miles + $40 in taxes and fees for a 1-night stay in mid-September, in a standard Deluxe room, as you can see in the image below.

An example of a hotel booking with miles in the AIR MILES site. Picture features the InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai
Booking a 5-star hotel in Dubai with your Dream miles

If you were to book it in cash, the same room on the same date would cost $151, taxes and fees included. That means your 955 miles are saving you $111 and thus, are worth almost 12 cents a piece.

The Bottom Line On Air Miles Value:

Now that we’ve seen all the redemption categories and the value you can get out of every mile in each case, here’s some easy to follow advice on how to get the most out of every mile:

  • It’s better to use your miles for cash rewards because it’s were you’ll get a good and consistent value
  • If you prefer dream rewards, than spend your dream miles only on hotel stays or on special events. It’s where you’ll get the best value.
  • Even if you follow the previous advice, do the math every time you plan to redeem your miles and make sure you’re getting a good deal.
  • Just because AIR MILES’s site says something is a great once-in-a-lifetime deal or opportunity doesn’t mean that it is. Always do the math first like I showed you here.

In any case, as you just saw, the value of each miles will go from about 6 to 12 cents ($0.06 to $0.12/mile). However, the best estimate we can make, the one that will always hit the bullseye, is the Cash miles value of 10.5 cents or $0.105 per mile.

#12 The AIR MILES Platinum Card’s Insurance Coverage

Even though the AIR MILES Platinum fee is small, that doesn’t mean it won’t bring travel and purchase coverage. However, don’t be mislead by the name of the card, because its coverage is nothing like the Amex Platinum Insurance. The following table shows the coverage you’ll get when you sign up to the AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card.

Policy Description Coverage
Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance Used to waive the rental company’s own daily car insurance policy Car rental with a maximum MSRP of $85,000
$100,000 Travel Accident Insurance AD&D policy to protect you against accidents while in transit $100,000

Of the two policies, the most valuable is hands down the Car Rental Theft and Damage policy, because you can use it to save yourself the rental company’s policy every time you rent a car. That policy can run for about $16 to $23 per day!

The only condition is that you charge everything to your Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card, as usual.

Apart from these travel insurance policies, the Amex AIR MILES Platinum also comes with the standard Amex purchase coverage:

Policy Description Coverage
Purchase Protection® Plan Insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for 90 days after purchase $1,000
Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to 1 extra year $1,000

It’s nice to know that Amex always has your back, even with its ower end cards.

#13 Is The AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card Worth The Annual Fee?

As it happens with all Amex cards, the first year is an absolute no-brainer, as usual. For starters, the fee is actually very low, just $65, so it doesn’t take much to outweigh it. The welcome bonus alone is worth at least three times as much, so you don’t even have to think about it before signing up for the first time.

Keeping it after the bonus runs out is another matter. It all comes down to your lifestyle. Every American Express rewards card, like this one, is a clear deal if you use it frequently to pay for your purchases. However, even if you don’t use them every day for whatever reason, some cards also offer great value just for keeping them in your pocket.

Let’s look at how the Amex AIR MILES Card performs on both fronts:

Turning The Tide For The Long Haul

There will always be a turning point in which the card’s return on your purchases surpasses the annual fee. After you reach that amount, every other dollar you spend will only bring you profit. We’ll show you a very conservative estimate of the minimum amount in purchases you have to charge to your American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card every year, in order to recover the $65 annual fee.

First, we need to know how many miles you must earn to cover the $65 fee. To keep numbers simple, we’ll round up each miles value to 10 cents or $0.10. Let’s get started:

To get a value of $65 in miles, you need:

$65 / $0.10 per mile = 650 miles

Estimating An Average Earning Rate

In order to convert these 650 miles into purchases, we need to know what your average-earning rate throughout the year will be. To calculate this average, we’ll assume that you split your spending half-and-half between both of the earning rates, which is a fair assumption.

We’ll start by assuming a $100 purchase split evenly on both earning rates. That means $50 @ $10 per mile + $50 @ $15 per mile

The total amount of miles you’ll earn in this case will be:

($50 x 1mile / $10)  +  ($50 x 1mile / $15) = 8.33 miles for the entire $100 purchase

Therefore, your Average Earning Rate will be:

$100 / 8.33 miles = $12 for each mile

The Break-Even Point

With the average earning rate, it’s easy to find how much you have to spend to earn 650 miles, and so, the needed $65:

650 miles x $12 /1 mile = $7,800 in purchases

THE BOTTOM LINE: For the Amex AIR MILES Platinum Card, the break-even point sits at $7,800 in purchases.

You can definitely get a better value than $0.10 per mile (as we explained before), and you could probably reach more than 50% spending at the best rate. Therefore, it’s highly probable that you’ll need less than the estimated $7,800 in purchases. Either way, it won’t be a meager sum, and you’ll get a lot more benefits and return if you charge those same purchases to other Amex cards, like Canada’s best every-day spending card, the Cobalt Credit Card. So regarding card use, the Amex AIR MILES Platinum is probably not your best choice.

What About The Other Long-Term Benefits?

Ok, so getting your annual fee back just for using your card is doable, but it isn’t easy. However, this card comes with other benefits that may give you a head start or even get you past the finishing line. Of all the benefits that this card offers for $65 a year, the one that has the most potential value is, without a doubt, the Car Rental Insurance policy.

Since damage or theft policies for an $85,000 car rental can go for as high as $23/day (with an average of roughly $20/day), the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card can help you save more than $65 in a single 3 or 4-day car rental. Add in Travel Accident and Purchase Protection insurance, Front of the Line, Insider Access and everything else, and you’ll easily be in green numbers.

Summarizing this section, the Amex Platinum AIR MILES Card is a great choice for the first year, as are all Amex Cards. It will keep on being a good choice after that, so long as you either charge more than $7,800 in purchases to it, or use it to pay for four or more days of car rentals during each year.

#14 FAQs

How Do I Protect My Cash Balance Against Unauthorized Use?

All you have to do is log into your AIR MILES profile and lock your cash account. That way no one will be able to use your cash miles (not even you) until you unlock them. If you download the AIR MILES app, you’ll be able to lock/unlock your Cash Balance anywhere, anytime. Consequently, you can keep your account locked all the time, and only unlock it once you’re at the cashier.

If My Account Is Locked, Will I Still Earn Miles?

Yes, you will. Locking your account only stops cash miles from going out of your account, but it doesn’t stop them from going in. You can keep your account locked all the time and only unlock it when you’re about to pay with your miles.

Why The American Express Business Platinum Card Is An Excellent Long-Term Choice

The Business Platinum Card by American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express has offered excellent value to Canadian business owners for years. The card’s impressive 40,000 MR points welcome bonus is enough for a flight to just about anywhere in Europe or Asia, but the long-term benefits – worldwide airport lounge access, impressive travel and business insurance policies, Amex Concierge, and more – also make this card a winner every single year.

One of the things many American Express cardholders love most is how generous Amex is to their new cardmembers. Welcome bonuses regularly reach 25,000 (the Gold Rewards Card), 40,000 (the AeroplanPlus® Platinum Card) and even 50,000 points (the Platinum Card® and the Marriott Bonvoy™ Card), which are exceptional offers if you have any desire to travel the world. The Business Platinum Card offers its own welcome bonus of 40,000 MR points.

But many people don’t see past those welcome bonuses: they believe that once the welcome bonus is gone, much of the value of these cards is, too.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s why this post is designed to show you that the Business Platinum Card® by American Express isn’t just a no-brainer for its huge welcome bonus, but also because of all the long-term benefits that come with it. These benefits outweigh the annual fee every single year, and once you know how to make use of the Business Platinum Card, you won’t want to go back to life without it.

Since we’ll be focusing our attention on the long-term benefits, we won’t linger much on the welcome bonus, as you only get it once during the first year. You can read our separate posts on the Business Platinum Card® and on the personal Platinum Card if you want to learn more about the welcome bonus, how best to redeem your MR points, and how to maximize your return on your initial investment during the first year.

To make this post easier to read, I’ve broken it down into the following sections:

The Business Platinum Card’s Main Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus 40,000 MR points
Annual Fee $499 (may be tax deductible)
Additional Card Annual Fee Additional Business Platinum Card $199
Additional Business Gold Card $50
Travel BenefitsThe American Express Global Lounge CollectionTM:
· The Centurion® Lounge
· International American Express Lounges
· Plaza Premium Lounges
· Delta Sky Club®
· Airspace Lounges
· Escape Lounges
· Priority PassTM

As a Canadian Business Platinum Cardmember, you can also access the following lounges in Canada by presenting your Business Platinum Card:
· Executive LoungesTM by Swissport
· Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport VIP Lounge

Hotel Benefits:
· Fine Hotels & Resorts
· The Hotel Collection from American Express®
· Premium Hotel Program Membership

Car and Limousine Rental Services:
· Hertz
· Avis
· Carey

Additional Travel Benefits
· International Airline Program
· Platinum Card Travel Service
· Special benefits at Toronto Pearson International Airport
Points Earning Rate 1.25 Membership Reward points for virtually every $1 in purchases charged to your Card.
Business Benefits Cash Flow Management
Dynamic Purchasing Power
Expense Management Report
Business Servicing
Business Insurance Coverage
American Express Invites
American Express Concierge
Travel Coverage Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country)
Trip Cancellation Insurance
Trip Interruption Insurance
StandbyMDSM Travel Medical Concierge
Travel Emergency Assistance
$500,000 Travel Accident Insurance
Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance
Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
Baggage Delay Insurance
Flight Delay Insurance
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
Purchase Coverage Purchase Protection® Plan
Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan
Business Coverage Employee Card Misuse Protection
Eligibility1. You are a Canadian resident and have a Canadian credit file.
2. You are the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Type of Card Charge Card
Applied Interest Rate 30% on any unpaid balance

Looking Beyond The Welcome Bonus

If you’ve read our other post on the Business Platinum Card, you’ll know by now that the 40,000 MR can be worth $400 simply by redeeming them for a statement credit. American Express may occasionally offer a transfer bonus, offering a better rate on all transfers of MR points to an airline partner like British Airways Avios or Air Canada Aeroplan, for example, for a limited time. We’ve seen bonuses reach 25% or 30% in the past, which means that if you transfer your MR points to an airline partner at the right time, you may be able to turn those 40,000 points into 50,000 or 52,000 points.

Valued at an average of 2.5 cents per Avios or Aeroplan mile, those 52,000 points turn into $1,300. If you use them to fly creatively, as we show you how to do in this post, you can reach point values in excess of 4 cents per point, which means 52,000 points would be worth more than $2,000 in travel to you.

So there’s no doubt that the welcome bonus is great, and it’ll cover the annual fee completely, making signing up for the Business Platinum Card an easy decision. But the really important question here is: What happens after your first anniversary, when you have to pay the annual fee again?

Three Reasons Why The Business Platinum Card Is A Great Year-Over-Year Investment

Benefit #1: The American Express Global Lounge Collection™

One of the most important highlights of the Business Platinum Card is the incredibly extensive lounge access you get with it. Amex partnered with the best names in the industry to give Platinum Cardmembers a place to relax almost anywhere they travel. Amex’s worldwide coverage is made possible through their own networks, The Centurion® Lounge and The International American Express Lounges, as well as access to other networks such as Plaza Premium Lounges and Priority Pass™. Nevertheless, I’ll give you a short summary of the most important features these lounges offer, and how much they’ll be worth to you.

The Centurion® Lounge

American Express sets itself apart from the competition by being the only card-issuing company to offer its own lounge club to its members: The Centurion Lounge. Inspired by the invitation-only Centurion Card, commonly known as the Black Card, these lounges are exclusively for premium American Express Cardmembers, so only Platinum, Business Platinum, Corporate Platinum and, of course, Centurion cardholders can get in. Today, there are 9 Centurion Lounges around the world, with another six preparing to open their doors.

Centurion Lounge access thanks to your American Express Business Platinum card
The Amex Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Terminal 3

Lounges like the San Francisco Centurion Lounge shown above offer food, drink, resting areas, showers, newspapers, magazines, TV, high speed Wi-Fi, and more.

How Much Is Centurion Lounge Access Worth?

You can’t buy a Centurion Lounge membership, so it’s not possible to give you an exact figure of how much you would have to spend to gain access to these lounges, if you didn’t apply for the Business Platinum Card. Nevertheless, the guest entrance fee is $50 USD per guest, so that could be taken as an estimate of how much it would be saving you, per visit, per person.

Plaza Premium Lounge Access

With the Amex Business Platinum Card, you gain access to all Plaza Premium lounges around the world. There are over 70 different lounges in over 40 different airports that offer great service and a place to lay back and relax while you wait for your flight.

There is a lounge for every taste: some are classier, others are simpler, but they sure beat having to wait on a hard bench for a couple of hours before your departure.

How Much Is Plaza Premium Lounge Access Worth?

Unlike other lounge clubs, Plaza Premium isn’t a membership club, which means that anyone can get in, as long as they pay the entrance fee. This makes it hard to estimate how much this benefit is worth to you, especially considering that there are many different price tags on different classes of lounges. But we can get some rough numbers.

The Plaza Premium lounge access that comes with the Business Platinum Card gives the cardholder and 1 guest complimentary access.

How much are these fees worth? It depends on the lounge you choose.

For example, when I fly out of Toronto Pearson (YYZ), I’ll sometimes head to the Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 1.

Accessing Plaza Premium Lounges thanks to Amex Business Platinum
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) Plaza Premium Lounge (International Departures, Terminal 1)

This lounge costs $43 USD per person, so if you were traveling with a guest, the Business Platinum Card would save you $86 USD.

And that’s only for using it once in one single trip. If you travel frequently, you could save this sort of money every time you fly. There are more expensive lounges in the program as well, and you’ll have to pay more if you want to stay for 5 or 6 hours instead of the standard 2 or 3, so you could easily be saving hundreds of dollars in Plaza Premium lounges alone.

Priority Pass™ – Worldwide Lounge Access

Priority Pass is a behemoth in the airport lounge industry, with over 1,200 lounges in its program. Priority Pass boasts some of the best, most innovative lounges available, like the PrimeClass Lounge at Muscat International shown below, which includes all the regular amenities that you would expect from a great lounge, and other less common like a cinema, children playing area, gaming zones, and more.

Innovative Gaming Zone at the Muscat Airport PrimeClass Lounge of Priority Pass.
Muscat International Airport (MCT) PrimeClass Lounge, available with Priority Pass

How Much Is A Priority Pass Membership Worth?

This is a membership club, and its membership is expensive. Offering three separate membership plans, the one that best compares to the access granted with the Platinum and Business Platinum cards is the Prestige membership for frequent travelers. This is an annual membership plan that grants unlimited, complimentary access to all Priority Pass lounges, all over the world, and it costs $429 USD.

Delta Sky Club

The Delta Sky Club lounge access grants you complimentary access to all Delta Sky Club lounges, as long as you have a Delta flight boarding pass. Additional guest access and fees are subject to terms and conditions of participating airport clubs.

JFK Delta Sky CLub lounge thanks to The Amex  Business Platinum
Delta Sky Club lounge at JFK Terminal 4

How Much Is Delta Sky Club Membership Worth?

The membership included with the Business Platinum Card is comparable to Delta Sky Club’s annual Individual Membership plan, which costs $545 USD. However, we’d say that most Canadian travelers will find their Priority Pass and Plaza Premium memberships more valuable, since there are many more of those lounges in Canadian airports than there are Delta Sky Club lounges, which is more US-focused.

The Bottom Line: Lounge Access

When you add up the retail values of the Priority Pass ($429 USD) and Delta Sky Club ($545 USD) memberships, plus access to the Centurion Lounges and Plaza Premium lounges, you’re saving in excess of $1,000 USD per year. Of course, how much those memberships are actually worth to you depends on how often you fly, but a reasonable ballpark is $25 – $50 per lounge visit.

That means that if you take a roundtrip flight every three months, which is 8 airport visits per year, you’d be saving $200 – $400 per year just in lounges alone. Many of us travel much, much more than that.

Benefit #2: Amex Concierge

Amex Concierge is one of those services that are simply priceless. Sometimes planning a trip can be a hassle, so having an expert to back you up and get things sorted out for you is just what you need to be able to really relax and enjoy the ride. Other times, the stress of work and other day-to-day obligations don’t leave enough time to plan something original for that special occasion you’ve been thinking of.

Whether you need to book tickets for a show you want to see, send a gift and you just don’t have the time to look for one, or need advice on what to do at your city of destination, an American Express Concierge will be there to help.

Having the Amex Concierge service is pretty much like having a 24/7 personal assistant, travel planner and lifestyle counselor, all rolled into one.

How Does Amex Concierge Work?

It’s really simple.

Whenever you have a request, all you have to do is contact Amex Concierge, from anywhere in the world, by phone or by email, to let them know what you need. Any of Amex’s concierges will respond by asking a series of questions to get to know you a little better, get to know your likes and dislikes, and what you expect out of the service.

A little while later, they’ll let you know if he or she can do what you ask, and will get to work on it immediately. The service is completely free for Platinum Cardholders. If the service you’ve requested requires making a purchase (eg. booking flights or hotels, shipping an item, etc.), your concierge will inform you of the charges for your approval before charging them to your card.

Tasks You Can Outsource To An American Express Concierge

People get really creative when it comes to testing the reach of an Amex Concierge. Here are just a few of the most popular things you can ask him or her to do:

  • Send a gift
  • Get tickets to sold-out events
  • Get reservations at highly coveted restaurants
  • Help plan a trip
  • Help plan an event
  • Find special service providers near you
  • And much, much more!

If there’s something you need help with, and you’re unsure whether a concierge will be able to deliver, all you have to do is ask. You’d be surprised at how many things they’re able to help you with.

Benefit #3: Impressive Insurance Coverage

The Business Platinum Card offers highly extensive coverage for everything related to travel, shopping and your business.

The generous coverage in health insurance, life insurance, personal effects protection, trip delay, trip interruption and more, stacked on top of all the other benefits of the card, make it an even sweeter deal.

If you want to learn more about all the embedded insurance policies that comes with every Amex card, as well as other stand-alone insurance plans that American Express offers, you can read our dedicated post on American Express Travel Insurance. That’s where you’ll learn all the details about coverage, making claims, and what all the footnotes and fine print means.

How Much Is The Business Platinum Insurance Coverage Worth?

As with so many other perks, this one is very tough to put a price on. However, if you were to choose an insurance plan as extensive as the one that comes with your Business Platinum Card – one that covers you, your spouse and any dependent children, for an unlimited number of trips, it would cost much more than the $499 annual fee on this card.

The Bottom Line

By now, you can probably tell why I love this card so much. Even by just looking at the three benefits we’ve described here, you get an exceptional return on your $499 investment, the card’s annual fee. Once you add in the different hotel benefits, limousine and car rental benefits, and everything else shown in the benefits table at the beginning of this post, you’ll see why so many Canadians are happy, year after year, with their Business Platinum Cards.

16 Nights In A 5-Star Hotel With The Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card For Canadians

The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card for Canadians is one of the best travel cards in Canada, hands-down. It comes with an exceptional welcome bonus of 50,000 points (required spend: $1,500, conditions apply)—which we’ll show you how to turn into 16 nights at a 5-star hotel—an additional free hotel night every year after the first year, and an impressive travel insurance policy to keep you and your belongings safe and secure.

With an annual fee of just $120, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. Even if you plan to spend just one night per year in a hotel, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card for Canadians is a no-brainer.

The Amex Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card

So why is everyone talking about the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card for Canadians these days?

A few reasons. For starters, its 50,000 points welcome bonus is a seriously impressive one. On top of that, the Marriott Bonvoy platform is one of the most flexible travel rewards programs out there, right up there with Amex Membership Rewards Points.

But the card isn’t only good for hotels—it offers plenty of benefits for those who want to fly, too. Whether it’s buying a flight with your points or staying covered with the card’s travel insurance, there’s a lot you’ll learn to love about the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card for Canadians.

This post is broken down into the following 15 sections:

#1 Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent At Marriott Properties5
Marriott Bonvoy Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
Travel Insurance
Referral Bonus Points10,000
Additional CardsFree
Free Night Award
Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status
15 Elite Night Credits Per Calendar Year
Annual Fee$120

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

Let’s break down some of the items in the table.

Benefit #1: The Welcome Bonus Of The Amex Marriott Credit Card For Canadians

When you sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card for the first time, you can receive a bonus of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. To get the bonus, the only condition is that you manage to charge a minimum of $1,500 in purchases to your card in the first three months of card membership. This evens out to $500 of purchases a month, which isn’t hard for most Canadians.

How Much Is The Welcome Bonus Worth?

It all depends on how, when and where you use your points. As a very conservative estimate, we value Marriott Bonvoy points at around 0.8 cents apiece. At this valuation, which, as I say, is very conservative, the bonus is worth $400, more than tripling the annual fee! There are ways to get much better value, though. With a little bit of creativity, and redeeming only for hotel stays, you can get a value of 1 to 1.5 cents per point. At this valuation, your bonus could be worth $500 to $750. All that for only $120!

Benefit #2: Points Earning Rates

Using your card earns you Marriott Bonvoy points. These points go straight to your linked Marriott Bonvoy™ account, the new loyalty program that united the Marriott Rewards® Program, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Program, and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Program (the “SPG Program) into one. There are two different earning rates, depending on where you make your purchases:

5 Points On Eligible Marriott Purchases

If you use your card to pay for room rates, room amenities and anything else chargeable to your room, at any of the 30 hotel brands affiliated to the Marriott Bonvoy program, Amex will reward you with 5 points for every $1. You can also get the same rate for purchases in any physical or virtual store owned and operated by Marriott Inc. or its partners.

As I said, Amex, and not Marriott, awards those points for using your Amex card. However, since Marriott Bonvoy is a stand-alone loyalty program, to be enrolled as a member means that Marriott will also award you points for the same eligible purchase.

This is very similar to what happens with other cobranded Amex cards like the AeroplanPlus Card Family, which can earn you points twice: once for the card purchase, and once again for the Aeroplan-partner purchase.

Marriott is very generous with its loyal guests, and it awards 10 points per spent $1 dollar to basic Members in most of its participating brands. Add the two together and you’re up to 15 points per $1 with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

2 Points On All Other Purchases

If you book a room through a third party travel agent, or if you make a purchase in any store or merchant that’s not a part of the Marriott family, you won’t get the 5 points per dollar, but 2 points instead. All and all, it’s not too bad an earning rate, because if you manage to get 1.5 cents per point as redemption value, you’re saving up to 3% on all your purchases. This is more than the maximum that some other credit cards will give you in return.

Benefit #3: Referral Bonus

Why would you want to keep this gem of a credit card a secret, when you can earn points by telling your friends about it. Another way of earning Marriott Bonvoy points is with the Referral Bonus. When you sign up to your new Amex Marriott Credit Card Canada, you’ll get a personal referral link. You can use this link to refer friends, family members and other acquaintances to Amex. If Amex approves them for a Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, you’ll receive a 10,000 points bonus.

That’s 10,000 points just for telling your friends about one of the best travel cards in Canada today!

This benefit is capped at 150,000 points per year, so you’re limited to an annual maximum of 15 approved referrals. Don’t let this get you down though, because those 150,000 points plus the welcome bonus can get you two nights in the best Category 8 Hotels Marriott has to offer (read below for more in hotel categories).

Benefit #4: Free Additional Cards

Additional supplementary cards are a great way to earn points faster. Amex allows for up to nine additional cards, free of charge, so you can share your credit with your family or even with employees. In the latter case, it may make more sense to sign up to the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express Card, as it includes a special policy to protect you against unauthorized charges made to your card by unscrupulous employees.

If you’re more of a loner, then this benefit won’t mean much to you. However, if you have a big family and you want them to be able to spend whenever they need to, nine free additional cards can be of great value.

#2 Four More Special Marriott Bonvoy Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card Free Night Award

On top of the 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that come with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, you also receive one free hotel night every year after the first year with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points (Category 1-5 hotel). (Remember, if you don’t know what we mean by Category 1-5, we’ll explain below.) There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you’ll get it every year after your first card anniversary regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on?

How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or how about the Moxy Amsterdam, a new design hotel in one of Amsterdam’s hippest districts?

Moxy Hotel, Amsterdam - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
The beautifully-designed Moxy Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Or the Sheraton in Bali, with its infinity pool overlooking the ocean? Where will you choose?

Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, Indonesia - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
The infinity pool at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort in Bali, Indonesia

As you can see, the opportunities are truly endless for this benefit, as there are currently over 6,800 hotels in Categories 1 through 5. And if you haven’t already clued in, a Category 5 hotel can easily go for $300-500 per night, meaning your $120 annual card fee is worth several times its value through this free night benefit alone.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card so much?

Special Benefit #2: Marriott Bonvoy™ Elite Status

As soon as you get your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, you’ll be upgraded to Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status, which gives you lower hotel rates, late checkout, free internet, a dedicated customer service line, plus 10% more points at Marriott properties. This last benefit is for the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program’s earning rate, not for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card’s earning rate (read this post’s section on The Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status to understand exactly what I mean).

If you manage to spend $30,000 on your card in a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold Elite Status, where you’ll earn 25% more on $1 spent at Marriott properties, complimentary room upgrades, and 2 p.m. checkout on your hotel stays. Keep reading for more details.

There’s more to the Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status than Silver and Gold. We’ll be covering all the Elite Statuses in depth in the following sections below.

Special Benefit #3: 15 Elite Night Credits

Not only does the Marriott Credit Card Canada reward you with Silver Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, it also gives you a head start to achieve the higher levels of the loyalty program. Every year you keep your Amex Marriott Credit Card in your pocket, you’ll get 15 complimentary Elite Night Credits that get you that much closer to reaching all the milestones needed to get to the Gold, Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador Elite statuses.

Special Benefit #4: 5th Night Free

This technically isn’t a benefit exclusive to the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out here, anyway. It goes like this:

Every time you book a Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free! It doesn’t even matter how you paid for those nights -whether with points or cash-, or whether they are free night awards, like the one that comes with your Marriott Amex Card.

There’s nothing more to explain than that, though I don’t need to tell you how amazing of a benefit this is. As you’ll see below, we’ll use this to our full advantage to get as many as 16 nights in a 5-star hotel with your card.

#3 How To Use Your Marriott Bonvoy Points

You have a few options of how to use your Marriott Bonvoy points:

  1. Hotel Stays: The best way to use your Marriott Bonvoy points—hands-down—is on hotel stays. As you’ll see in the case studies below, your card is worth up to 16 nights in a 5-star hotel if you use it wisely. We’ll show you how.
  2. Flights: Flights are the second-best way to use the 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that come with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card for Canadians. We show you below how to get a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America with your points.
  3. Marriott Moments: We won’t talk about Marriott Moments in-depth here, since our focus is on hotels and flights, but you can expect things like VIP Super Bowl parties, private dining with celebrity chefs and more. Here’s the full list of Marriott Moments that you can choose from.

But First…You Need To Understand Redemption Categories

#4 An In-Depth Look At Marriott Bonvoy™ Hotel Categories

Marriott has its properties separated into different “Categories,” with each property falling into a category from 1-8. Put simply, lower Categories correspond to cheaper hotels, but as we’ll see, some creativity enables you to find some truly exceptional properties at the low end of the redemption chart, making your points go much, much further.

Booking a hotel in a given category is as simple as consulting Marriott’s redemption chart below. In brackets we’ve included the PointSavers rates, which are promotional prices 10-20% lower than the regular price that you can sometimes take advantage of. Marriott hasn’t released their peak and off-peak season dates yet, since this is a new setup for them. Sign up for our email list at the bottom of this post if you want our tips for how to book off-peak dates.

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
15,000 (4,000)7,500 (6,000)10,000 (8,500)
210,000 (8,000)12,500 (11,000)15,000 (13,000)
315,000 (12,000)17,500 (16,000)20,000 (18,000)
420,000 (17,500)25,000 (22,500)30,000 (27,500)
530,000 (27,500)35,000 (32,500)40,000 (37,500)
640,000 (35,000)50,000 (45,000)50,000 (55,000)
750,000 (45,000)50,000 (55,000)70,000 (65,000)
870,000 (65,000)85,000 (80,000)100,000 (90,000)

(Note: Marriott announced an update of the Off Peak and Peak redemption rates coming next September 14th. We’ll keep you up to date on what that means to you once the changes are officially released)

There are over 7,500 Marriott Bonvoy properties to choose from, spread all over the world. If you want to use the points you’ve earned with your Amex Marriott Credit Card, you can plan ahead by searching for your ideal hotel in Marriott’s hotel directory, where you can filter results by category, brand, amenities and more.

Let me show you examples of some of the best hotels you’ll find within each category.

Marriott Category 1 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
5,000 (4,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 7,500 (6,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 10,000 (8,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

This is the lowest category in the Marriott Bonvoy program. If you manage to book a room with the PointSavers rates during the Off Peak season, you’ll only have to trade in 4,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be staying in a shack!

Far from it! In this category, you can find awesome new properties like the 5-star Four Points by Sheraton Bijie we mentioned above. There aren’t many 5-star hotels in this category, but there are plenty of 4-star hotels around the world like the brand-new 4-star Protea Hotel Pretoria Loftus Park by Marriott (South Africa).

Visit one of the most Interesting cities in South Africa and stay at the Protea Loftus Park enjoying its rooftop pool, great spacy rooms and beautiful views of Pretoria.

As a matter of fact, almost all Protea hotels and resorts in South Africa belong to Category 1 and are 4-star hotels. There are almost 400 high quality Category 1 hotels to choose from worldwide (396 to be precise) located in many major cities, as well as in less popular destinations. Since price is primarily about location (and then quality, of course), Category 1 hotels in big expensive cities like New York are bound to be mostly Business hotels like the 3-star Fairfield Inn & Suites East Greenbush.

Planning a business trip to New York? A great inexpensive choice is the Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany East Greenbush

Marriott Category 2 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
10,000 (8,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 12,500 (11,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 15,000 (13,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

You can that see the price tag on these hotels start off where category 1 left off. As you would expect, Marriott category 2 hotels tend to be a bit more expensive than category 1, and I’m not just talking about prices in points, but about regular room rates as well. There are almost four times as many Marriott Bonvoy Category 2 properties as there are Category 1 Hotels.

If you’re thinking of a long business trip to Belleville, Ontario, you should definitely consider staying at the TownePlace Suites Belleville. This spanking new 3.5 star hotel is Belleville’s first extended-stay hotel. You won’t even have to leave you dog behind, as this hotel is pet-friendly, includes free high-speed internet and complimentary breakfasts.

The exterior of the TownePlace Suites hotel by Marriott in Belleville.
Beautiful, fully equipped kitchens are one of the things this hotel is known for

Of course, if you’re looking for first class amenities, it’s only obvious that you should also find 5-star hotels in this category. One example is the beautiful Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel.

The Yogyakarta 5-Stars Marriott Hotel

This 5-star property, located at the heart of Java’s cultural, artistic and intellectual heritage center, is a wonderful example of all you can get for as little as 8,000 points per night. Experience Indonesian and Javanese culture at its purest while going to bed every night in the best lodgings around.

With your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, you could spend:

Between 3 and 6 nights with the welcome bonus

+ 1 more night from the Fifth Night Free benefit

+ 1 annual free night award = 5 to 8 nights

That’s over a week in a popular destination in Java, at a 5-star hotel for only $120!

Pair your Marriott credit card Canada with one of Amex’s best travel cards, like the Platinum Card or the AeroplanPlus Reserve Card, and you’re set for your dream vacation or honeymoon!

Marriott Category 3 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
15,000 (12,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 17,500 (16,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 20,000 (18,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

On the third step of the Marriott redemption chart, you’ll be paying a minimum of 12,000 and a maximum of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Consequently, your welcome bonus alone can get you between 2 and 4 nights. In the latter case, you can add the fifth extra night, and in both cases, you can also count in your annual free night award, totaling 3-6 nights for only $120.

Where can you use those nights? At any of the 2,164 hotels that make up the third category.

If you’re thinking of visiting the Pacific islands, why not stop at Bali and stay at the Fairfield by Marriott Bali Kuta on Sunset road.

It’s a brand new hotel in a strategic zone at the heart of the city. It’s great for both business and leisure, plus, it’s only a couple of minutes away from Kuta Beach, so if you want to hit the surf in Bali, this is also a great choice.

Marriott Category 4 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
20,000 (17,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 25,000 (22,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 30,000 (27,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

Now that we’re at category 4 hotels, numbers start to decrease as exclusivity starts to climb. After peaking at over 2,000 hotels in the previous category, this one includes a not-so-humble 1,700 properties, 138 of which are brand new or were recently renovated.

Going to Hawaii can be expensive, but staying there doesn’t have to be, especially considering that you can stay at the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, a newly renovated property formerly known as the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai, at Coconut Beach. It’s set to reopen its doors this September, so you could be among the first to book a couple of nights in this beautiful resort, right in the middle of one of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches.

Enjoy the scenery and relax at the Marriott Kauai’s infinity ocean-view pool.

Marriott Category 5 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
30,000 (27,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 35,000 (32,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 40,000 (37,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

Now that we’ve passed the middle of the rewards chart, we’re looking at more and more exclusive hotels every time. This exclusivity arises from not only hotel quality and star rating, but also from the location of the properties.

There are 1,186 Marriott Category 5 hotels to choose from. This is the highest category you can use your Annual Free Night Award on, in standard season and at a standard rate (without the PointSavers rate). However, you won’t be able to redeem that benefit if you’re thinking of using it during the Peak season – remember that it’s worth a maximum of 35,000 points.

From this Category onwards, it becomes ever easier to find luxury 5-star hotels and resorts. If you’re a coffee enthusiast (or maybe even a coffee snob), then you probably know about the world famous Panamanian Geisha coffees. Why not book a trip to Panama, take a tour of the most famous coffee estates such as the Hacienda La Esmeralda, and stay like a VIP at The Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel and Golf Resort, in Panama City.

Poolside at The Santa Maria
One of The Santa Maria’s beautiful rooms with a view of the resort’s golf course

In this category, it’ll also be easier to find spas, golf courses around the world, beach resorts with stunning balcony views and much more.

Marriott Category 6 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
40,000 (35,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 50,000 (45,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 50,000 (55,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

You’ll find lodgings at great locations in this category, like the W New York I mention further down this post.

Stepping up on exclusivity, there are only 393 hotels around the world that made it into this category. As the third highest-ranking Marriott category, 5-star hotels start becoming mainstream. However, there are also lower class hotels that offer unique activities like the nine 4-star ski-resorts in this category. Three of them are right here in Canada, and include The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain hotel, at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Ontario. The other six are in the US.

The Westin Trillium Blue Mountain hotel with its amazing scenery during the summer.
Hotel view during the winter with its hot tub that’ll keep you warm no matter how cold it is outside.

If skiing or snowboarding is your thing, these category 6 properties will be the cherry on top of your trip. Of course, there is much more than skiing among the almost 400 category 6 hotels. You’ll also find 5-star beach resorts, business hotels at the heart of the most important financial capitals and cities in the world and much more. If you have the points, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience some of the best hotels Marriott Bonvoy has to offer.

One important note about this category is that, technically speaking, you could use your annual free night award if you manage to book a room with the PointSavers rate during the off peak season. This is the absolute highest category for which you will be able to use this benefit, but it’s really hard to accomplish, because most Category-6 hotels don’t frequently offer PointSavers rates. That’s the reason why I said before that the free night award is only redeemable for up to Category-5 hotels.

Marriott Category 7 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
50,000 (45,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 50,000 (55,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 70,000 (65,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

This category engulfs all the runner-ups that didn’t make it to the top of the Marriott redemption categories. With a points-per-night value of 45,000 to 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you can rest assured that you’ll be looking at some of the best hotels in the world, second only to the most exclusive VIP properties on earth.

I’ll only mention a couple of examples here, to give you a good oversight of what you can find in this category. One of the most highly rated hotels in Quebec, the 5-star Ritz-Carlton Montreal, is a Marriott Category 7 hotel.

Stunning suites like this one, with its hardwood flooring, king-size bed and great views of downtown Montreal, make this hotel a gem.

Divine rooms for every taste, a spacious and richly decorated lobby, spa, in-house restaurant, in-house swimming pool and many more amenities, along with world-class service, make up for its hefty price tag. This sort of comfort isn’t cheap, though, and the lowest room-rates will only be a couple of dollars short of $1,000 if paid in cash. The best rooms, like corner executive suites on a high floor with a fireplace, will go for close to $2,000 per night!

This hotel is a clear example of the level of luxury that comes with being a Category-7 hotel. This category only counts 166 hotels. If you thought being in front of the new world trade center was something, wait to hear where category 7 can take you.

The recently renovated London Marriott Hotel County Hall lies in the bank of the river Thames in London, right in front of the iconic Big Ben, the House of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster, and right next to the London Eye. You could make postcards just by taking pictures right from your room window.

The Presidential Suite at the London Marriott Hotel, with its mix of both modern and traditional English style decoration.
The exterior view of the hotel, formerly the London County Hall

This massive six-story, 192-room, and 14-suite hotel is a historic landmark in the UK. As in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, a suite in this wonderful property can go for over $2,000 a night.

Marriott Category 8 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
70,000 (65,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 85,000 (80,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 100,000 (90,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

We’re finally at the top of the chain. I won’t bore you with more of the same arguments. Category 8 hotels are as high in quality and location as they are expensive. These hotels are really only for the rich and powerful. However, if you add up the Marriott Bonvoy Card’s welcome bonus of 50,000 points with $1,500 worth of eligible purchases at Marriott properties, which can earn you an extra 22,500 points, you might just make the cut and be in line for the experience of a lifetime, even if it is for only one night during the off peak season.

If that’s the case, or if your wallet can stand it, here are some of the most spectacular hotels and resorts that made it to the top of Marriott’s hotel categories, which houses only 69 hotels:

The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort in French Polynesia

Breathtaking, beautiful and stunning don’t come close to describing this amazing complex. It really doesn’t matter which one of the 90 over-water suites you choose. They all seem to float on top of Bora Bora’s perfect turquoise lagoon, and they all offer incredible views.

Only the two two-bedroom suites with a pool seem to stand out from the rest, with a clear 180-degree view of nothing but beautiful mountains, the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. You only need to take a couple of steps and you’re in the water. The entire lagoon feels like one giant saltwater swimming pool.

If this isn’t in your bucket list, than I don’t know what is. However, it’ll take a little bit of saving up to afford it. The bare minimum will be of roughly around $1,000, but during peak season? It can reach a staggering $7,000 a night. Oh, and you also have to get there, of course, which is quite costly as well.

The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai

Ok, maybe a tropical paradise isn’t what you crave the most. There are plenty of other options like the Luxury Collection Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai. In a city where everything screams luxury, you’d expect the finest high-end hotels, and the Al Maha delivers.

View of the desert from one of the suites with its own private controlled-temperature swimming pool.

This hotel in the middle of the desert immediately feels like an oasis. It offers a full-service spa, on-site restaurant, meeting rooms and business amenities, and the possibility to enjoy one-of-a-kind desert activities like camel and horseback riding and even falconry! All that for a “modest” rate of somewhere around $1,800 a night.

The W Koh Samui in Thailand

Marriott Category 8 hotels go beyond 5-stars to reach heights of their own. Even though its price is not as high as St. Regis Bora Bora I just mentioned, the W Hotel at Koh Samui is another beach paradise that takes luxury to another level. This luxury boutique hotel features residences that are more like fully equipped luxury apartments than hotel suites.

Gorgeous 270 degree views of the Gulf of Thailand from the Woobar at the W Koh Samui

An example of what I just said is the WOW Ocean Heaven, which is a private, two-bedroom, and two-story residence with a private infinity pool, equipped kitchen and pantry, and a modern look.

The private WOW Ocean Heaven villa. It does seem like the hotel’s lobby, but it’s actually just the private living room area of the residence.

It also houses five bar/lounge/restaurants that span grill, international and Japanese cuisine. A full service spa with beauty and health treatments, an herbal sauna as well as business solutions like meeting rooms and fully equipped business centers and services, make the $600-$1,500 rates of the simpler villas seem pretty reasonable. However, villas like the one in the last picture can go for as much as $3,000 a night during peak season.

You can see that there’s a clear difference between both the quality and the price of the different Marriott hotels in each category. If you’re an average Canadian who still hasn’t reached an income big enough to afford the best hotels in the world, chances are you’ll find yourself looking around categories 1 through 5, or maybe even 6, when you travel. Within these categories is where you’ll be able to get the most out of your Canadian Marriott Credit Card’s welcome bonus, and the additional points you earn with it.

After seeing just some of the options you can choose from within these categories, there’s no doubt that you’re in for some unforgettable travel experiences if you sign up to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Now that you understand how Categories work (they’re really simple), let’s look at a few real-world examples of how you could use your points for hotel stays.

#5 Using Your Points For Hotel Stays, or How To Get 16 Nights At A 5-Star Hotel

Case Study #1: Visiting Family

Suppose you want to visit some family in Calgary, so you do a quick search on Marriott’s website and decide to stay at the Courtyard Calgary South, a Category 1 hotel in the city’s up-and-coming Seton district.

Courtyard Calgary South - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
One of the gorgeous rooms at the Courtyard Calgary South.

As the redemption chart above shows, you’ll pay somewhere between 4,000-10,000 points per night for your stay, depending on the season you visit and whether the property is currently a PointSaver.

This means that at the very least, your 50,000 points get you 5 nights (50,000 points / 10,000 points per night), plus 1 additional free night from Marriott’s 5th night free policy and another free night from your Marriott Bonvoy Amex annual free night benefit, which all shakes out to a total of 7 nights.

If you go during an off-peak period, though, you could pay as little as 4,000 points per night, which means you could get 13 nights with your points (50,000 points / 4,000 points per night). Add on 3 extra nights from the 5th night free policy (13 nights / 4 = 3 free nights) and all of a sudden you’re at 16 nights!

This is my kind of card.

Case Study #2: The Big Winner

I’ve recently been planning a trip to Guizhou, China, to take in the natural landscapes there. You’ve probably never heard of Guizhou—not many Westerners have—but it’s quickly gaining popularity in the East as one of China’s untouched gems. And in the heart of Guizhou sits the brand-new Four Points by Sheraton Bijie, a 5-star marvel of a hotel that’s, amazingly, just a Category 1 on Marriott’s redemption chart.

That’s right—a Category 1 5-star hotel. Here’s what it looks like:

Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
The lounge at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.
Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
The indoor pool at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.

Just like in the Calgary example above , if you visit Guizhou during off-peak season, you’ll pay just 4,000 points per night at the Four Points, which means your 50,000 points will get you 12 nights. Combine that with Marriott’s 5th night free policy for your extra 3 free nights and with the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card’s Free Night Award, and you’re up to an incredible 16 nights with your card.

That’s 16 nights at a 5-star hotel, all thanks to your $120 Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

Not bad, Amex. Not bad at all.

Case Study #3: Balling Out

Of course, you don’t have to stretch your points as far as we are. You can also choose to spend them in a single night, if you’d like.

Spending the weekend in New York? Why not use your points on a Category 6 hotel like the W New York, which sits next to the new World Trade Center.

W Hotel New York World Trade Center - Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians
A typical room at the W New York World Trade Center.

With more than 7,500 Marriott properties to choose from, the sky is truly the limit with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card for Canadians.

#6 Redeeming Marriott Bonvoy Points For Flights

Your 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points can also be transferred to 45 different airline partners. Most, but not all, of the airline partners accept Marriott Bonvoy points at a value of 3:1 (eg. 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 10,000 Aeroplan Miles). If you transfer 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to any airline partner, you’ll also receive an additional 15,000 points (worth 5,000 Aeroplan miles) for free, meaning that 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points turns into 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, British Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

(Note: We recommend that you use your Marriott Bonvoy points for hotel redemptions, since they’re much more valuable that way. If you’re looking for a card for maximizing flight rewards, we recommend the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Business Platinum.)

If you follow our advice on how to redeem your airline points, you’ll find that they’re worth about 2-3 cents apiece, putting the value of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at about $600-$900 when you use them on flights.

Here’s a full list of all the airline partners you can transfer your points to, with their transfer ratios:

  • Aegean Airlines (3:1)
  • Aeroflot Bonus (3:1)
  • AeroMexico ClubPremier (3:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (3:1)
  • Air China Phoenix Miles (3:1)
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (3:1)
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia (3:1)
  • ANA Mileage Club (3:1)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Miles (3:1)
  • Asiana Airlines Asiana Club (3:1)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (3:1)
  • British Airways Executive Club Avios (3:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (3:1)
  • China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles (3:1)
  • China Southern Airlines (3:1)
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles (3:1)
  • Delta SkyMiles (3:1)
  • Emirates Skywards (3:1)
  • Etihad Guest (3:1)
  • Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns (3:1)
  • Hainan Airlines (3:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles (3:1)
  • Iberia Plus (3:1)
  • Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (3:1)
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege (3:1)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (6:1)
  • Korean Air SkyPass (3:1)
  • LATAM Airlines LATAMPass/Multiplus (3:1)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (3:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (3:1)
  • Qatar Privilege Club (3:1)
  • Saudia Airlines Alfursan (3:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (3:1)
  • South African Airways Voyager (3:1)
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (3:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (3:1)
  • THAI Airways Royal Orchid Plus (3:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (3:1)
  • United MileagePlus (3:1.1—10% bonus)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (3:1)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer (3:1)

You can transfer anywhere between 3,000-240,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points to airline partners each day.

#7 Understanding The Marriott Bonvoy™ Elite Status

An Elite Status corresponds to a particular level of earnable rewards within the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. It’s a way the said program has to reward their most faithful customers. The more you stay and spend at Marriott Bonvoy properties, the more benefits you’re entitled to.

To climb up the Elite Status ladder, you have to accumulate a predefined number of eligible nights each year, which Marriott refers to as Elite Qualifying Nights. Once the year ends, your count resets to zero and you start over from scratch, unless you have the Marriott Credit Card Canada in your pocket, in which case you get an initial boost to the first level plus 15 Elite Night credits.

The loyalty program consists of six status levels:

  • Member
  • Silver Elite
  • Gold Elite
  • Platinum Elite
  • Titanium Elite
  • Ambassador Elite

Since it’s not really an Elite Status, and since you start out at the Silver Elite Status thanks to the Amex Marriott Credit Card, I won’t elaborate much on the Member Status. All I’ll say is that you get it just for signing up to the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program (which is free), and it includes benefits like

  • Earn 10 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 on 26 hotel brands including Marriott Hotels, W Hotels, Ritz-Carlton and more
  • Earn 5 points  per $1 spent in Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites and Element Hotels
  • Earn 2.5 points per $1 spent only on stays in Marriott Executive Apartments and in Execustay properties
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Exclusive member rates
  • Mobile or Keyless check-in
  • Use your points to pay for hotel amenities instantly
  • Access to PointSavers rates
  • Pay for room rates with Points or Cash + Points

 Each Elite level has its own set of extra rewards –“extra” meaning apart from the Members benefits and the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card’s own separate benefits. In addition, after achieving certain status levels several times, you can be awarded that status permanently, which is really good value for the Marriott Bonvoy program.

In the following sections, we’ll cover each Elite Status, how to achieve it, and what comes with it.

Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status

To be eligible for the silver Elite Status, you need to spend a minimum of 10 nights in Marriott hotels during the year.

Once you’ve reached that minimum, you’ll be entitled to the following exclusive Silver Elite Benefits, in addition to the ones included in the Members Status:

10% bonus points on stays

Silver Elite members earn an additional 10% of the points they would earn for just being Members. This means that Marriott rewards you with a total of 11 points per $1 spent on most Marriott properties. Add in the 5 extra points you earn with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, and you’re up to 16 points per $1.

Priority Late Checkout

This is a nice benefit if you like to get up late in the mornings, even if it’s your checkout date. Marriott doesn’t specify the checkout hour, and it depends on availability, but all you have to do is call the front desk and ask.

Ultimate Reservation Guarantee

Being a Silver Elite member means that your reservation is guaranteed. In the unlikely case that the hotel can’t honor your reservation, they will pay for one night at room in another nearby hotel and compensate you with up to US$200 and 90,000 points, depending on which hotel you had originally reserved.

Gift Shop Discount of 10%

On Marriott operated gift shops, all elite members get a 10% discount as long as they charge their purchases to the credit card linked to the Marriott Bonvoy account. In our case, that implies paying with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

Dedicated Elite Reservation Line

A 24/7 reservation line to book your hotel stays may not seem like something you’re bound to use. However, you never know when a last minute emergency or business trip may pop up in the middle of the night. In these cases, a dedicated reservation line could be just what you need.

How to get Lifetime Silver Elite Status

When you stack 250 or more nights at Marriott properties and achieve a total of 5 years as an Elite Status member, you’ll automatically get Silver Elite Status for life. As an additional benefit, your Marriott Bonvoy points will never expire.

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card gets you many steps closer to achieving this goal. Even if you never stay at a Marriott hotel, you’ll still get Silver Elite Status every year you keep you card. Additionally, you’ll also receive 15 complimentary Elite Qualifying Night credits every year, which means that, by the end of the fifth year, you’ll have 75 nights already accumulated.  After you add up the 15 nights from your welcome bonus and 5th night free policy, plus your four Free Night Awards (remember you’ll get this benefit after the first year), you’ll only have to stay and pay for a total of 156 nights to be eligible for the permanent Silver Elite Status.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite Status

Gold Elite is as easy as staying for 25 nights or more a year in Marriott properties. But remember that your Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card gives you 15 Elite Night Credits, so your count actually starts at 15. A single family vacation or a pair of business trips could be enough for you to become a Gold Elite Status member.

In addition to the 15 Elite Night Credits, this Marriott credit card will also get you to Gold Elite Status when you charge $30,000 in purchases to it. Striking gold was never easier!

Let me show you why you would want to become Gold Elite:

25% more points on stays

Instead of the Member’s 10 points per $1, Gold Elite members earn an additional 2.5 points, summing up to 12.5 points awarded by Marriott. Add those to the 5 points you can earn with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express, and you’re already up to 17.5 points per $1 spent on most Marriott properties. That’s an astounding earning rate by any measure!

Welcome Gift Of Points At Check-In

On most Marriott hotels, you’ll receive a welcoming gift of 500 points the minute you check in. On a couple of hotel brands the welcome gift is only half. For a full list of all the Marriott branded properties with their respective welcome gift, you can read the full Terms & Conditions of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty rewards program.

One of the things I love about this benefit is that I get it every time I check in at a Marriott branded hotel, even if I only stay for one night.

Enhanced Room Upgrade

Gold Elite members are eligible for an automatic room upgrade at check-in. As in most cases, this type of benefit depends on availability. You will only receive an upgrade for your own room, and not for your guest’s rooms, even if you paid for them. Suites are excluded, but you could get upgraded to higher floors, executive floors, rooms with desirable views and more.

2pm Late Checkout

In all Marriott properties except on Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, and Vistana, you can opt for a late checkout at no extra cost. All you have to do is call the front desk and if your room is available for 2pm checkout, you’re set.

Complimentary Enhanced Internet Access

Even though many of the hotel brands under the Marriott umbrella already offer complimentary internet access to all its guests, some of them don’t. In addition, in some of the cases where they do, it’s not the best connection they have to offer. In any of those cases, being a Gold Elite member will get you access to an enhanced internet connection at no extra cost.

How to get Lifetime Gold Elite Status

The condition for permanent Gold Elite Status is a total of 400 lifetime nights and 7 years of Gold Elite Status or higher.

The Canadian Marriott Credit Card by Amex can also help you get closer to being gold for life. Remember you can achieve Gold Elite Status every year you manage to charge a total of $30,000 in purchases to your card. By doing this for seven years, you’ll not only reach the minimum time as a Gold Elite Status member, but you can also add up to 105 Elite Night credits plus 6 Free Night Award plus the 15 nights from your welcome bonus, reducing the total number of lifetime nights needed to only 274.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Platinum Elite Status

The next level in Elite Status is Platinum. To go Platinum you need a minimum of 50 Elite Night Credits, but with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, you’ll only need to stay for 35 nights at a Marriott property.

As you may have guessed, Platinum Elite Status includes everything in the Gold Elite Status (except the 500 points welcome gift) only better, and more.

50% Bonus Points on Eligible Purchases

Platinum members receive not 10%, nor 20%, but 50% additional points compared to regular Members. That’s 15 points per $1. With the card’s 5 extra points, you’re up to 20 points per $1 spend on eligible purchases, which include the room rate and anything you can charge to it like dinning, spa, and other Marriott operated services and products.

Enhanced Room Upgrade (Suites Included)

With the Platinum Elite Status your room upgrade doesn’t exclude suites. As long as one is available, you could get a suite for the price of a standard room. If not, you’re still entitled to higher floors, better views and everything else.

4pm Late Checkout

Same conditions as the one mentioned above, only you can choose to leave as late as 4pm instead of 2pm, pending availability.

Welcome Gift Choice

Just as the points welcome gift of Gold Elite Status, which you can get every time you check in at a hotel, with Platinum Elite Status, you’ll also get a gift. The sweet thing about being Platinum is that you can choose what gift you prefer. Where available, you can choose between points, breakfasts and other amenities. Some properties will give you 1,000 points or a $10 credit in food and beverages for you and one extra guest, and some resorts will even offer free breakfast for you and a guest for every day of your stay.

If the clerk at the front desk doesn’t offer you the gift when checking in, then you’re entitled to a compensation that can go from $US25 to US$100. You can read the Terms and Conditions for more details.

50-Night Annual Choice Award

Apart from the gift you get every time you check-in at a hotel, you’ll get an additional gift once every year you achieve 50 nights as a Platinum Elite member. You can choose from the following five options

  • Five Suite Night Awards
  • Give the gift of Silver Elite status to a friend or family member
  • Get 40% off your favorite mattress
  • Five Elite Night Credits
  • A $100 charity donation

Guaranteed Lounge Access

As long as the room rate doesn’t include breakfast, Platinum Elite members and one extra guest get access to Concierge, Executive, Club, Signature Club and M Club lounges in some of the most important Marriott properties. Wherever there isn’t a lounge or alternative available, you could get free continental breakfast at a restaurant for yourself and your guest, or you could choose a 750 points gift per day instead. There are a couple of cases where brands don’t offer the breakfast alternative, so when their lounges are closed they offer 1,000 points instead.

This is a great way to save money on your lodgings when you travel. Instead of paying extra for a room with included breakfast, you can keep the difference, pay the standard rate, and eat a continental breakfast with your roommate, free of charge, at the lounge.

Being guaranteed means that if the property where you are staying doesn’t offer a lounge or any other alternative, then you will be compensated with US$100 or equivalent in foreign currency.

Going Platinum Elite For Life

Reaching Platinum Elite Status and staying there takes time and effort. To get permanent Platinum Elite Status, you need to reach 600 lifetime eligible nights and a total of 10 years of Platinum Elite status.

One way of to pull this off in record-time, is to sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, and stay at least 45 nights a year in Marriott properties, ten years straight. With the 15 bonus Elite Night Credits you get with the card every year, you’ll have reached 600 nights by the tenth year, therefore also reaching the minimum time requirements. If you manage this feat, by the end of the 5th year, you’ll have earned Silver Elite for life, by the end of the 7th year you’ll have earned a lifetime of Gold Elite status, and by the 10th, you’ll be Platinum forevermore.

Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite Status

Almost at the top of the loyalty ladder, the Titanium Elite Status requires you to achieve at least 75 eligible nights in a year. I know this starts to sound difficult to manage, but there are many businessmen and women who do, in fact, spend up to a third of the year in hotels around the world. Remember that there are extended-stay properties among participating hotels, which are specifically tailored for stays that can last even a couple of months.

Along with 4pm late checkout, the fastest in-room internet connection for free, and all the other Platinum benefits, the exclusive Titanium Benefits you’ll enjoy are:

75% Bonus Points On Stays

This benefit will increase your points earning rate to 17.5 points per $1, or to 22.5 points per $1 if you use your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Never Get Left Out With The 48-Hour Guarantee

This benefit ensures that you’ll always be able to get a room in the hotel you want and on the date you want, as long as you book 48 hours prior to you desired check-in. It’s a way Marriott has of saying “we love you as a client, come back whenever you want”.

Complimentary MileagePlus “Premier” Silver Status

After becoming a Titanium or Ambassador Elite member, you’ll receive complimentary Premier Silver Status on United Airlines’ loyalty program, MileagePlus. To reach this status, you would normally have to earn more than 25,000 qualifying miles flying United or its partners, and, if you live in the US, you would have to spend at least $3,000 in flights as well. Marriott grants you this status with United, free of charge.

75-Night Titanium Annual Gift Choice Award

This benefit is just like the one for the Platinum Status, only better. Once you reach 75 nights as a Titanium member, you can choose between the following gifts, once a year:

  • Five Suite Night Awards
  • Get one Free Night Award with a value of up to 40,000 points
  • Give the gift of Gold Elite status to a friend or family member
  • Get 40% off your favorite mattress
  • Five Elite Night Credits
  • A $100 charity donation

Contrary to the other Elite Statuses, you can’t get the Titanium Elite Status or higher for life.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Ambassador Elite Status

We’re finally at the top. This is the Elite Status that has it all. Reaching it is somewhat harder than the other levels. Why? Because, apart from the eligible nights you have to achieve, which are now 100 in a year, there’s also a minimum spend of $20,000 you also have to reach.

But what do you get in return?

All the benefits I showed you for the Titanium Elite plus another two:

The Ambassador Service

The ambassador service is similar to American Express’ Platinum Concierge. Ambassador members get 24-hour access to a personal ambassador that can help you do anything from booking a room at your favorite hotel to making reservations at the most sought-after restaurants in town. He’s also there to help you clear up any doubts you may have about your Elite Status benefits.

Another neat aspect of the Ambassador Service is that it doesn’t last for only one year. Once you achieve Ambassador Elite Status, this benefit will be available to you throughout the rest of the current calendar year and until December 31st the following year.

Since you need 100 eligible nights, and subtracting the 15 annual Elite Night Credits that come with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, the soonest you can reach Ambassador Elite status will be 85 days after January 1st. In other words, by the end of March.  This means that the longest this benefit will last is roughly about 21 months.

Your24

Ambassador members get a really great perk: They can check in whenever they want, and their checkout will be the at the same time on the departure date. In other words, you could check in at 5am, in which case your checkout time will be 5am as well when you leave.

Not to encouraging, is it?

But if you check in at 8pm, then your checkout will also be at 8pm. Talk about late checkout!

This benefit is optative, of course, and you can choose the regular check-in and checkout times of the hotel. You don’t even have to request it yourself because that’s one of the things your 24 hour Ambassador is for. Also, remember that, just as with the Titanium Elite Status, you can choose 4pm late checkout if available, which is late enough for most.

#8 How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points?

There are several distinct ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points:

#1: Card Spending

As we mentioned above in the Points Earning Rate section, you’ll earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, which includes the cost of your stay, food and drinks, and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. You will also earn additional points on the same expenses depending on your Elite status. Basic “Members” of the Marriott loyalty program earn 10 points per $1, Silver Elite members earn 11 points, Gold Elite earn 12.5 points, Platinum Elite members get 15 points and Titanium as well as Ambassador Elite members earn 17.5 points per every $1 in eligible purchases. You also earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on all other purchases made with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

#2: Work Purchases & Events

If you’re planning a work event, such as a conference or large meeting, you can also earn points on spending done by your guests. As a Silver Elite member, you can earn up to 66,000 points per event (earned at 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent by you or your guests). You also earn 10 Elite Qualifying Nights for your first meeting, and 1 Elite Qualifying Night for every 20 room nights booked by you or your guests. Even if you’re planning a small event, these can accumulate very quickly.

This all adds up to one thing: if you’re an event planner, admin assistant or anyone planning a gathering, you need the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

#3: Special Purchases

Some purchases grant you additional Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge them to your card. For example, you’ll receive 500 Marriott Bonvoy points per day when you rent a rental card with Hertz, up to 2,000 points per rental. You also earn additional points on travel expenditures like cruises and long-distance telephone cards. These bonuses are provided by Marriott, not by American Express, so we recommend calling Marriott after you get your card to learn more about all the unique ways you can earn points.

#9 Is The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card Right For Me?

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card is a no-brainer for anyone who plans to spend at least 1 night in a hotel per year.

This sounds oversimplified, but it’s actually not at all.

Think about it. If you ignore everything else—the 50,000 points welcome bonus, the travel insurance, and all of the other extras that come with the card—and look only at the annual free hotel night benefit, that alone is worth at least double the $120 annual fee.

You’re getting one night at a 5-star hotel for $120.

And when you add on all the other benefits, the value of the card becomes overwhelming.

Every Canadian should have this card in their wallet for the next 10+ years.

There are other American Express cards we recommend as well, but the great thing is you can hold several Amex cards at the same time.

#10 The Ultimate Canadian Traveler’s Credit Card Stack

Even the best travel credit cards have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to hold multiple cards so you can capitalize on each of their advantages and downplay their weaknesses.

And contrary to what many people believe, having multiple credit cards actually helps your credit score, not hurts it, as long as you pay off your bill every month. This signals to creditors that you’re fully capable of paying off your bills on time, which they reflect by boosting your credit score.

Here’s the triple threat full stack we highly recommend for maximizing every Canadian’s earning and travel benefits:

#1 The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card

As we’ve shown in detail here, this card offers an exceptional welcome bonus, but also provides more than enough benefit to keep it in your wallet year after year.

#2 The American Express Platinum Card

Another card that every Canadian should have in their wallet. We value the current welcome bonus of up to 50,000 points at between $1,000-$1,500, depending on how well you apply the points, plus you get the $200 annual travel credit. This means that the purely quantitative benefits of the card are worth at least $1,200-$1,700 in the first year, far exceeding the $699 annual fee.

#3 The Cobalt Card

You’ll fall in love with this everyday spending card. We show you how to get up to 10% back on your spending (seriously!) when you use this card on coffee, groceries, restaurant and bar spending anywhere in Canada. It’s the card you should be using for your daily spending.

So go ahead and get the full stack—your wanderlust will thank you.

  1. Your hotels card
  2. Your flights card
  3. Your everyday card

#11 Insurance Coverage

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

This is a very good insurance plan, especially since it’s included with your card. If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive insurance plan, though—one that covers emergency medical, emergency dental, trip interruption, personal liability and terrorism—we recommend SafetyWing, the $37/month plan that’s disrupting the travel insurance market in a big, bigway.

If you want to learn more, you can read our post on American Express Travel Insurance where you’ll find all the details about how to use your coverage, the other insurance options Amex offers, how to make claims and more.

#12 The One Downside To The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card: Foreign Transaction Fees

Despite all the amazing benefits and features of the card, there is one noticeable downside to the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card: the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions. This fee isn’t unique to this card—no American Express card in Canada offers fee-free foreign transactions—but it is still worth mentioning here. If you’re able to pick up an N26 You Card on your next trip to Europe, definitely do so: it’ll make your financial life on the road much, much better. Until then, though, we’ll have to accept that there are no good FX cards in Canada.

#13 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card

This entire review has been about the Marriott Bonvoy Amex card, though there’s also a Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express Card for Canadians, too. There are a few minor differences between the two cards:

  1. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining and travel, and 2 point per $1 on all other card purchases. The personal card does not offer a bonus for gas, dining and travel spending (it earns 2 points per $1 on all spending).
  2. The personal card receives complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status, while the business card does not.
  3. Additional cards cost $50 vs. free for the personal card.
  4. Annual fee of $150 vs. $120 for the personal card.
  5. Includes Employee Card Misuse Protection, which is also included with the American Express Business Platinum card.

If you’re a business owner and plan to use this card in a business capacity, I suggest springing for the Marriott Bonvoy Business card.

#14 Is The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card Worth It?

Without a doubt.

The welcome bonus is incredibly generous. The annual benefits far exceed the annual cost of the card. The insurance is a nice bonus, and taking advantage of it all is as easy as a quick search online. If you’re a Canadian that plans on spending at least one night in a hotel in the next 12 months, we can’t recommend this card highly enough.

#15 FAQs

How Do Marriott Bonvoy Card Referrals Work?

Once you’ve activated your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, you can refer friends to the card. You’ll receive a bonus of 10,000 points for every friend who signs up using your unique referral link.

When Do My Marriott Bonvoy Points Expire?

It depends. If you haven’t achieved any Elite status for life, Marriott Bonvoy points expire after one year of inactivity. Since you earn Marriott Bonvoy points every time you stay at a Marriott property, or even just eat at one of their restaurants, it’s very easy to keep your Marriott Bonvoy points balance active. It’s even easier if you have a Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, because it’ll earn you points for any purchase. See our section “How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy points” above to see just how easy it is to keep your account active.

If, on the other hand, you managed to become a lifetime Silver Elite member or higher, your points will never expire.

How Do Marriott Bonvoy Points Compare With American Express Membership Reward Points?

They’re completely different. We value Amex MR points at 2-3 cents apiece, and we help you to get these values in posts like this one on $75 flights to Asia and this one on $75 flights to Europe.

Still, it’s hard to say which are more valuable. One thing we can say is that you should not transfer your Amex MR points to Marriott Bonvoy points. American Express offers a rate of 1,000 MR = 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points, which is a very poor valuation. This is only a decision you’ll face with your other cards, since the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card earns Marriott Bonvoy points on its own.

All things considered, we recommend keeping your Marriott Bonvoy points as Marriott Bonvoy points so you can use them on amazing hotel redemptions (see the Case Studies above), and transferring your Amex MR points from your Platinum Card to airlines for flights.

When Are The Peak Season & Off-Peak Season For Hotel Redemptions?

The peak/off-peak system is brand new to Marriott, so they actually haven’t listed which dates will be priced in which way. For now, every date is listed at the standard price, though this will change in the coming months. Join our email list at the bottom of this post so we can update you when that happens and help you maximize your points by planning your travel during off-peak dates.

What About Marriott’s Points + Cash Program?

If you prefer to save some of your Marriott Bonvoy points, or if you don’t have enough for a particular booking, you can take advantage of the points + cash option. Generally we recommend against this, since this setup values points lower than what they’re worth if you apply them smartly (see our Case Studies above), but it’s not terrible either. If you don’t have enough points for your hotel stay, use points + cash, but if you do, just use your points. Here’s the points + cash breakdown for each hotel category:

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
150 USD + 2,500 points55 USD + 3,500 points60 USD + 4,500 points
260 USD + 5,000 points65 USD + 6,000 points70 USD + 6,500 points
370 USD + 7,500 points80 USD + 8,500 points90 USD + 9,000 points
490 USD + 10,000 points105 USD + 12,000 points120 USD + 13,500 points
5120 USD + 16,000 points140 USD + 17,000 points165 USD + 19,000 points
6165 USD + 22,000 points190 USD + 25,000 points225 USD + 27,500 points
7225 USD + 27,500 points250 USD + 30,000 points325 USD + 35,000 points
8325 USD + 35,000 points440 USD + 42,500 points635 USD + 50,000 points

You also have another option if you don’t have enough points for a booking: you can book your stay with points and then earn the points later from other hotel stays or credit card spending later. As long as the points reach your account 14 days before your stay, you’re fine. If they don’t, though, your stay will be canceled and you won’t be refunded, so use this strategy with caution.

Where Can I Search For Marriott Hotels?

You can search for hotels using the Marriott search platform here. Alternatively, you can scout around Marriott’s Hotel Directory here.

We recommend searching on two parameters: the city you’re visiting and the redemption category you’d like to redeem with, which you can find by clicking “All Filters” in the top-right and then selecting “Rewards Category.” If you’re using your annual free night benefit, go for a Category 5, which will show you the best hotels you can get for the 35,000 annual free night points limit. If you’re using your 50,000 welcome points bonus, you can use them however you’d like (see the Case Studies above for ideas of high-value redemptions).

You can redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points (with zero blackout dates) at any of these hotel brands, anywhere in the world:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • St. Regis
  • JW Marriott
  • The Luxury Collection
  • W Hotels
  • EDITION
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Sheraton
  • Marriott Vacation Club
  • Delta Hotels by Marriott
  • Le Méridien
  • Westin
  • Autograph Collection
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • Gaylord Hotels
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Protea Hotels by Marriott
  • Fairfield by Marriott
  • AC Hotels by Marriott
  • Aloft
  • Moxy Hotels
  • Element

What are Elite Qualifying Night Credits?

They’re the credits you need to round up during a calendar year to achieve the different Elite Statuses in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. For example, to reach Silver Elite Status, you need a total of ten or more Elite Night Credits; for Gold Elite you need 25; to become a Platinum Elite member you need 50; and so on. Your lifetime total Elite Night Credits also count towards achieving permanent Silver, Gold or Platinum Elite Status.

How do I earn Elite Qualifying Night Credits?

There are different ways to earn Elite Night Credits, the most straightforward of which is to stay at Marriott Properties. Each eligible night you stay will add one Elite Night Credit to both your annual and lifetime balance. You can also earn Elite Night Credits by signing up to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, which gives you 15 credits every year you decide to keep it. In addition, achieving some of the higher Elite statuses in the Marriott Bonvoy program entitles you to a gift of your choosing and among the options, you can choose 5 Elite Night Credits every year.

What are Suite Night Awards?

Suite Night Awards are awards you can use to upgrade a standard suite or a premium room to a premium suite. Premium Suites are suites with a view, in high floors or with special amenities.

Where Are American Express Cards Accepted?

American Express Cards accepted window sign

This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are my own. American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of the information on this website.

The question of how widely American Express cards are accepted has been a hot topic for years. That’s why this post takes both a qualitative and a quantitative look at where Amex is accepted in Canada and abroad, and takes a peek at the top benefits on some of their most popular cards, like the American Express Cobalt Card.

For years, many Canadians have believed a few things about American Express Cards:

  1. American Express Cards are for people who love to travel widely and live the good life.
  2. American Express Cards offer plenty of benefits, both at home and abroad, and reward their cardholders generously.

And they’re absolutely right!

But alongside these truths, a false belief has manifested as well: the belief that American Express Cards are not widely accepted.

In fact, nothing could be more incorrect.

This post will show you why American Express Cards are accepted more widely than you might think, and why the future is bright for Amex Cardholders.

My Experience With American Express Cards

My personal experience with my American Express Cards in Canada and abroad has been very positive. I’ve been traveling with my Platinum Card® for nearly 5 years now, and it’s accepted virtually everywhere that I go. Generally the only places I find that don’t take my Amex are those places that don’t accept credit cards at all. Even those spots are becoming harder and harder to find.

Where is Amex Accepted?

Everyday Expenses

I use my American Express® Gold Rewards Card at grocery stores and gas stations all across Canada. I use my American Express Cobalt Card at eligible bars and coffee shops all the time. Just about all of the big names in food and beverage, consumer electronics and apparel gladly accept American Express Cards, and once you understand how much you’re leaving on the table by not using an Amex card, you’ll want to start using yours everywhere, too.

Travel Purchases

If you’ve read any of our posts on the different Amex cards (like the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card or any of the American Express Aeroplan Cards), you’ll know that they excel when it comes to travel purchases. Thousands upon thousands of airlines and travel providers in Canada and abroad accept American Express.

What’s even better, though, is that many of those airlines and travel providers also offer special benefits and bonuses for clients who pay with an Amex card. You’re essentially getting doubly rewarded – once by Amex, and once by the merchant – for using your Amex travel credit card.

How Many Merchants In Canada Currently Accept American Express Cards?

It’s tough to find information on how many merchants accept Amex cards at any given time. However, American Express does leave some clues.

For example, on the American Express Canadian website, they mention that more than 96,000 new places in Canada started accepting American Express Cards in 2018. Looking at the main industries involved, that’s 47,000 new service providers, 27,000 new shopping locations, and 16,500 new dining locations.

Breaking these 2018 numbers down by city, you can see that Amex acceptance in the big cities is growing at an extremely fast pace:

Number of new merchants accepting American Express Cards In 2018

Toronto20,000
Montreal10,000
Vancouver9,000
Calgary5,000

American Express also gives this partial list of where Amex cards are accepted:

Dining• Alice Fazooli’s, Jack Astor’s, Canyon Creek Chophouse, Second City, Loose Change Charlies
• Browns Socialhouse
• Bymark, Fabbrica, North 44°, One Restaurant
• Earls Kitchen & Bar
• Harvey’s, Kelsey’s, Milestone’s, Montana’s, Swiss Chalet, The Second Cup
• McDonald’s
• Moxie’s Classic Grill, Chop Restaurants, Dennys, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Sandman Hotels & Inns, Shark Clubs Of Canada, The Shark Club Of Langley
• Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants
• Pickle Barrel
• The Keg, Hy’s Steakhouses
Health & Essentials• 407 ETR
• 7-Eleven
• Bell, Virigin Mobile, The Source
• Esso
• Grocery Gateway
• London Drugs
• Longos
• Marketplace IGA (BC Only)
• McEwan
• Metro
• Petro-Canada
• Pusateri’s
• Rogers, Fido
• Save-On-Foods, PriceSmart Foods, Urban Fare, Overwaitea Foods
• Shaw
• Shell Canada
• Sobeys, Foodland, IGA, Commisso’s
• SAQ
• Telus, Koodo Mobile
• Whole Foods Market
Home & Entertainment• Apple
• Best Buy, Future Shop
• Cineplex Entertainment, Famous Players, Alliance Atlantis Cinemas, Galaxy Entertainment
• Clublink
• Crate & Barrel
• Home Depot
• Home Hardware
• Leon’s
• Lowe’s
• Mirvish
• Pottery Barn
• Restoration Hardware
• Sleep Country Canada
• Staples
• The Brick
• Ticketmaster
• Urban Barn
• Visions Electronics
• West Elm
• William Ashley
• Williams Sonoma
Retail• Aldo
• American Eagle Outfitters
• Atmosphere, Coast Mountain Sports, National Sports, Nevada Bob’s Golf, Sport Mart, Sports Experts, Fitness Source, Gen-x Sports Inc, Podium, Rnr Outdoors
• Birks
• Browns
• H&M
• HomeSense
• Indigo, Chapters, Coles, Calendar Club Of Canada
• Lululemon
• Marshall’s
• Reitmans, RW & Co, Smart Set, Thyme Maternity, Addition-Elle, Penningtons
• Roots
• Sporting Life
• The Bay, Home Outfitters
• Victoria’s Secret, Bath And Body Works, Pink, La Senza
• Walmart
• Winners
Travel• Air Canada
• Air Transat, Nolitours
• Avis
• Best Western
• Budget
• Carnival Cruise Lines
• Celebrity Cruises
• Enterprise Rent-A-Car
• Flight Centre
• Hertz
• Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn Hotels, Embassy Suites Hotels, Doubletree Hotels
• Holiday Inn Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites
• Porter Airlines
• Princess Cruises
• Royal Caribbean Cruises
• Sunwing Tours
• Thrifty
• Westcorp Hotels
• WestJet

What Is American Express Doing To Increase Acceptance In Canada?

Offering Great Benefits

The most important thing American Express does to increase Amex acceptance is offer a great product. The Amex family of cards are some of the top cards in Canada today. The American Express Cobalt Card makes a strong case for being the best credit card in Canada for millennials – its $10/month fee and generous reward scheme have quickly made it a favourite among students and young professionals alike. Business owners rave about the Business Platinum Card® and Marriott Bonvoy Business Cards.

Benefits like welcome bonuses, travel benefits, American Express Invites and purchase, travel and small business insurance make Amex cards appealing to just about everybody. And as more Cardmembers sign up, there’s more demand put upon businesses to start accepting Amex cards, a key driver behind why tens of thousands of Canadian businesses are starting to accept American Express every year.

Finding Amex-Friendly Merchants With American Express Maps

One great way to find American Express merchants is by using Amex Maps. You can think of Amex Maps as Google Maps overlaid with Amex-friendly establishments nearby. Looking for a restaurant or coffee shop near you that accepts Amex? The answer is just a couple of clicks away.

Here’s what Amex Maps looks like in downtown Toronto. As you can see, there are a lot of places on there:

The Bottom Line

Based on statistics by the Canadian Government, there are about 1.2 million businesses in Canada today, and that number grows by about 10,000 businesses every year. Yet with 70,000 new businesses accepting Amex in 2017, and 96,000 more in 2018, the future is clear: it won’t be long before just about every business in Canada accepts American Express cards.

If you want help deciding which American Express card is best for your lifestyle, take our 60-second quiz and we’ll help you out!

American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card: A Review

As a premium version of the regular SimplyCash Card from American Express, the SimplyCash Preferred Card has everything you love about the former, only better. Unlimited earning potential combined with a 2% cashback rate on any purchase, no strings attached, is one of the best offers you’ll find for a cashback card in the market. Of course, these extra benefits aren’t free, and the card comes with an annual fee of $99, but they’re worth far more than that, even after the first year of card membership.

As an added bonus, you get a welcome cashback rate of 5% on the first $6,000 in purchases (equivalent to $300 cashback) during the first six months of card membership. This welcome rate alone is worth an extra $180, almost doubling the annual fee.

If you’re looking for a great cashback card you can use anywhere without having to worry about purchase categories, with the best possible earning potential and that includes great premium Amex perks like travel and purchase insurance, this is the one!

The SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express against a background with a store with strands of red chili peppers on display. In the picture, you can see the characteristic transparency of the card
The sleek-looking semi-transparent SimplyCash Preferred Card From American Express

This SimplyCash Preferred Card review is broken down into the following sections, to make it easier to read:

Pros and Cons of the SimplyCash Preferred Card From American Express

In the following table, you’ll find a list of the most important things you’ll love about this card, as well as the things you need to be aware of when signing up.

PROS CONS
• Welcome cashback rate of 5% worth up to $180
• The best flat-rate cashback on all purchases of any cash card in the market
• Limitless earning potential at the base rate
• Balance transfer offer to help you save on interests while paying your debts with other credit cards
• Great travel and purchase insurance package
• Referral bonus of $150 per approved SimplyCash Preferred Card, with a maximum of $2250 per year
• You’ll only get the cash back reward once a year
• Cashback rewards are only redeemable for a statement credit. There’s no option for a check or a deposit

Features and Benefits Of The Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card

Welcome Cashback Rate5% on the first $6,000 in purchases during the first 6 months of card membership
Base Cashback Rate2% on all purchases without a cap
Annual Fee$99
Additional Card FeeUp to 9 supplementary SimplyCash Preferred Cards for free
Travel Insurance Coverage • $5,000,000 Emergency Medical Insurance
• $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance policy
• Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
• Flight and Baggage Delay Insurance
• Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
• Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance
Purchase Insurance • Buyers Assurance Protection Plan
• Amex Purchase Protection Plan
Optional Balance Transfer Offer • Introductory Interest Rate of 1,99% for the first 6 months
• Transfer up to 50% or $7,500 of your assigned credit limit
• No Balance Transfer fee
Amex Invites
Type of CardCredit Card
Preferred Interest Rate • 19,99% on purchases
• 22,99% on funds advances
Eligibility • You are a Canadian Citizen or Resident
• You are the age of majority in your state or province
• You have a Canadian Credit File

Ok. That was just an overview, but what does it all mean? Keep on reading to learn all the details behind each of these features and benefits, and, most importantly, find out what they mean to you.

How Does The SimplyCash Preferred Card’s Cashback System Work?

If you already read our post on the no-fee SimplyCash Card, then this section won’t shed light onto anything new. In that case, you can jump to the next section regarding the SimplyCash Preferred Card’s annual fee.

If not, then keep on reading!

Cashback is the easiest to understand credit card rewards system. You simply use your card to pay for purchases, and Amex rewards you by giving you back part of the total purchase you made.

But, how does Amex give it back?

It’s very simple. When you use your card, you accumulate cashback rewards and every September, American Express will give you all you have accumulated in the form of a statement credit. You can then use this statement credit to pay off your cards balance. In other words, The SimplyCash Preferred Card’s rewards system is intended to help you pay for the purchases you make with your card.

The fact that you can only redeem your rewards for a statement credit, and the fact that you can only get that statement credit once a year, are the only real downfalls of both the SimplyCash and the SimplyCash Preferred Cards.

However, American Express more than makes up for these downfalls by offering great earning rates as well as unlimited earning potential.

The SimplyCash Preferred Card’s Annual Fee

Since it’s a premium card, then the American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card comes with an annual fee. This fee, which is $99, gets you more than twice the earning potential and a handsome set of insurance policies that’ll let you save tons when you travel.

As far as annual fees go, $99 isn’t a big sum. In fact, it’s below middle ground between the less expensive and the ultra-premium cards Amex offers. Still, for it to make sense to pay the fee, even if it is small, you want to make sure that it’s worth it. I can tell you up front that it is, but you’ll have to read on to find out why.

If you’re looking for a no-fee cashback card, I definitely recommend you go for the regular SimplyCash Card. However, keep in mind that being free also means a lot less benefits and, in that case, a lot less earning potential.

Having gotten the fee out of the way, let’s take a look at all the things you’ll get for the yearly $99.

American Express SimplyCash Preferred Benefit #1: The Welcome Cashback Rate

There are many different cashback cards out there, and to compare which one is better, the first thing you have to look at is how much they’ll give you back for your purchases. In other words, you need to compare the cash back rate. The Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card comes with two earning rates: A welcome rate when you sign up to the card for the first time, and the card’s regular base rate.

In the following paragraphs we’ll discuss the SimplyCash Preferred Card’s welcome cashback rate.

When you sign up for the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express for the first time, you’re entitled to a welcome cashback rate of 5% during your first six months of card membership. This is probably one of the best earning rates on cashback cards you’ll find, but it’s capped at the first $6,000 of purchases. Additionally, the rate only applies during the first six months after you sign up.

What do these numbers tell us?

Basically two things:

  • The most you can earn in cashback rewards with the welcome rate is $300 (5% of $6,000)
  • You need to charge a minimum of $6,000 to your SimplyCash Preferred Card during the first 6 months to get the maximum possible bonus cashback reward.

Compared to the regular SimplyCash Card, this welcome rate is much better for a couple of reasons.

The first one is obvious: the welcome rate is twice the welcome rate of the SimplyCash Card, so you’ll earn cashback twice as fast.

The second one is that you get twice the length of time to charge the $6,000 in purchases needed to reach the maximum “welcome bonus” of $300. This means that instead of having to charge an average $2,000 a month for three months, as with the Amex SimplyCash Card, you only need half of that in monthly purchases with the Preferred Card.

The bottom line is that, with the Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card, you can get twice the cashback reward with half the pressure.

How much is the Welcome Rate Worth?

A welcome rate on a cashback card is the equivalent to the welcome bonus Amex offers with most of their other cards. In those cases, figuring out how much the welcome bonus is worth is as simple as estimating how much each reward point is worth and then multiplying times the number of points in the welcome bonus.

In this case, however, the “welcome bonus” depends on how much you spend on purchases with your card while the welcome rate is in effect. Keep in mind that, if you didn’t have the welcome rate, you would still get the base rate on those same purchases.

Therefore, even if you earned the maximum $300 cashback with the welcome rate, that’s not really what the bonus is worth to you, because you would’ve earned 2% of $6,000 ($120) if you didn’t have the welcome rate in the first place.

What you’re getting on top of the base rate is

$300 – $120 = $180

Finally, the welcome rate is worth up to $180, as long as you manage to cap it out.

Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card Benefit #2: Base Cashback Rate of 2%

A 2% return on any purchase probably doesn’t seem like a lot to you, but since Amex doesn’t put a cap on this cashback rate, there’s no limit to how much you can earn with this card.

However, limitless earning potential is not what the SimplyCash Preferred Card is big for. The real kicker is the flexibility with which you can earn rewards.

Flat rate on all purchases

The most important advantage of the American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card’s base rate is the fact that it’s the same for all purchases. No need to worry about categories, types of merchants, and so on. As long as it’s classified as a purchase (which excludes funds advances, interests, fees, balance transfers, Amex cheques and travelers cheques), you’ll get 2% back every year.

There are other cards that can give you better earnings but only for a few categories. As a consequence, with both the SimplyCash Card and the Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card you trade off cash back rate for the ultimate flexibility.

Whether this is a deal maker or breaker is entirely up to you. If you’d rather get better earnings on select categories, I recommend picking up the Amex Cobalt Card. This is one of the best cards for average Canadians and has a similar fee of $120, which you pay in 12 monthly installments of just $10. It’s not a cashback card, but its points earning rate on very versatile categories such as food & drink, combined with the value of MR points, will let you recover more than 10% of your spending, even after the first year. Read our post on the long-term benefits of the Cobalt card and find out for yourself why it’s quickly becoming one of Canada’s favorite everyday spending cards.

Unlimited Earning Potential

In most of the few cases where credit cards do offer higher cashback rates, those rates are usually capped. An example is the Amex Cobalt Card, whose 5X points earning rate was recently capped by American Express to a maximum of 150,000 MR points per year. The other great aspect of the Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card’s flat cashback rate is that there’s no earning limit. You could use this card to earn as little as a dollar or as much as ten thousand. It’s totally up to you how much you want to earn, all you have to do is use it.

American Express SimplyCash Preferred Benefit #3: Optional Balance Transfer Offer

To attract new cardmembers and to help Canadians pay off their credit card debts, American Express developed the Optional Balance Transfer Offer. This offer is only available for new American Express cardholders who are signing up to either the SimplyCash or the SimplyCash Preferred Card for the first time.

Being a new Amex cardholder means that you’ve never had a credit card or cash card issued by Amex Bank of Canada before.

What Is The Optional Balance Transfer Offer?

It’s an exclusive offer in which you can opt to transfer your debts from other credit cards to the SimplyCash or the SimplyCash Preferred Card upon enrollment. So long as you don’t fall behind on your minimum payments, you’ll get a preferential low interest rate of just 1.99% on all transferred balance during the first 6 billing cycles (read months).

In short, it’s a way of helping Canadians pay off their debts by lowering the interest incurred because of the balance they carry every month. It’s like taking a low-interest loan with Amex to pay for your other credit cards.

Some of the benefits of transferring your balance to the SimplyCash Preferred Card is that Amex doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee, and the interest rate is very low.

How To Opt For The Balance Transfer

If you’re eligible for this offer, all you need to do is opt in when filling out your online application.

That being said, there’s a limit to how much balance you can transfer to your SimplyCash Preferred Card account.

The Cap On The SimplyCash Preferred Card’s Balance Transfer Offer

The maximum amount you can transfer to your new card is limited to $7,500 or 50% of your assigned credit limit, whichever is smaller.

Let’s look at the numbers of three simple examples to show you how this works:

  • Suppose you have a balance of $2,000 and a credit limit of $6,000. In this case, since 50% of your credit limit is $3,000 and this number is smaller than $7,500, than you can transfer a maximum of $3,000. In this particular case, you could transfer your whole balance of $2,000.
  • Now suppose that you have a balance of $8,000 and a credit limit of $20,000 (50% of which being $10,000). In this case, you can’t transfer your whole balance, because it’s higher than $7500. Furthermore, since $7,500 is less than $10,000 (50% of your credit limit), then the most you can transfer is the former $7,500.
  • Finally, suppose you have a balance of $8,000 but a credit limit of just $10,000 (50% of which is $5,000). You obviously can’t transfer the whole $8,000 balance for the same reason as above. However, since $5,000 y less than $7,500, then in this case you can’t transfer $7,500 either. You can only transfer a maximum of the said $5,000.

When Does It Make Sense To Opt For The Balance Transfer Offer

One very important thing to consider is that after the low-interest promotional period of 6 months expires, any unpaid transferred balance will be subject to the current funds advance interest rate. As of today, this means that from under 2%, the interest rate jumps up to 22.99%.

That’s an over 10-fold increase in interest rate.

You’ll also immediately lose the low preferential rate and get the funds advance rate if you fall behind on your payments, even during the first six months. Additionally, if you fall behind for a second time, you may lose that rate as well and get a penalty rate of 26.99%. The bottom line is that it hurts to pay late.

I’ll summarize all this information into simple actionable advice.

You should apply for the balance transfer only if:

  • You’re financially responsible and never miss a payment – you at least make the minimum payment on time, every month.
  • The current interest rate on your balance is greater than 22.99% (no matter how long you think it’ll take you to pay the entire balance).
  • The current interest rate on your balance is less than 22.99% but you think you can pay off the entire balance in 6 months or less.

You should definitely not apply for the balance transfer if:

If your current interest rate is lower than 22.99% but you can’t pay the debt by the end of six months, it may still make sense to transfer the balance to the SimplyCash Card from American Express. It all depends on the difference between the two interest rates, and on how long you think it will take you to pay off the entire debt.

Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card Benefit #4: Insurance Coverage

This is where the annual fee really starts to shine. The aforementioned benefits will only be valuable to you when you use your card to pay for purchases. Remember that those benefits are cashback rates on purchases, so no purchases means no benefits.

Insurance coverage, on the other hand, is a benefit that comes as a default with your card, even if you only use it to pay for your travel arrangements.

I’m glad to say that I’ve never had the misfortune of needing to make a claim on my travel insurance. However, I’ve always felt more at ease when I travel thanks to Amex’s different embedded insurance policies. As far as insurance goes, it’s always better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it, so having it is always a plus.

In the following section, I’ll tell you all you need to know about the insurance policies that come embedded into the American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card:

#1 Travel Insurance

Regarding travel insurance, the American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card brings in most of Amex’s best policies:

Travel Emergency Medical Insurance

This is an annual multy-trip policy. It will cover you, your spouse and any dependent children under 23 years of age, as well as any supplementary cardholder his or her spouse and children, during the first 15 days of each trip, for up to $5million each in unforeseen medical expenses. The condition is that all travelers be under 65 years old and that all travel arrangements are paid for with the SimplyCash Preferred Card.

$100,000 Travel Accidents Insurance

The Travel Accidents Insurance is an AD&D policy that will cover each insured person for up to $100,000. It’s underwritten by Chubb Life Insurance Company of Canada, and it will cover you, your spouse and any dependent children as well as any supplementary cardholder and his or her family while in transit in a common carrier. The only condition is that all tickets be paid in full with your SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express.

Flight & Baggage Delay Insurance

This policy is intended to cover you for expenses related to waiting for a delayed flight or baggage. These expenses may include out of pocket money, food and drink expenses and even lodgings at a hotel in case the delay ends up being too long. The maximum coverage is of $500.

Lost Or Stolen Baggage Insurance

If you paid for the airline tickets with your SimplyCash Preferred Card, you’re also covered for up to $500 in case your luggage and/or personal effects get lost or damaged while in transit.

Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance

This policy covers you for up to $500 in stolen personal items if the hotel/motel booking was paid for with your SimplyCash Preferred Card, and it gets burglarized.

Car Rental Theft And Damage Insurance

When you rent a car you have to purchase an insurance policy to cover the vehicle in case of an accident or theft. Car rentals will always offer their own policy and it usually costs around $16 to $23 per day. If you pay for the rental with your Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card, you can waive the rental company’s insurance and use Amex’s instead, at no extra cost to you. The limit is a rental vehicle with a suggested retail price (MSRP) of $85,000 or less.

#2 Purchase Coverage

Apart from comprehensive travel insurance, the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express also includes Amex’s standard purchase coverage, which is composed of the following two insurance policies:

The Buyers Assurance Protection Plan

This policy, underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, automatically doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to one extra year, of any item paid in full with the Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card.

Let’s take a look at three different scenarios:

The Amex Purchase Protection Plan

This policy is also underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, and it covers any items you purchase with your SimplyCash Card, for up to 90 days, against any accidental physical damage or theft.

American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card Benefit #5: Refer A Friend And Get A Bonus

Besides using your Preferred Card, American Express lets you build up your cashback balance by giving you a bonus every time someone you refer to the Amex site is approved for a new SimplyCash Preferred Card.

Refer a friend and get a $150 cashback bonus

When you sign up for the SimplyCash Preferred Card and become a cardmember, you’ll receive your own personal referral link. You can share this link with anyone you want (i.e. friends, family, co-workers, business related acquaintances, etc.). If your referrals sign up to the SimplyCash Preferred Card through your referral link, and Amex approves them, then you’ll get a bonus of $150 cashback for every approved referral at the end of the year.

Simple as that, no strings attached!

That’s $50 more than what you get by referring friends for the regular SimplyCash Card.

How To be Eligible For The Referral Bonus

There are some obvious conditions for you to get the bonus though. These include:

Other than that, you’re good to go!

The Cap On The Referral Bonus

This is a great benefit, but it’s capped at $2,250 per year. Since the current bonus is $150 per approved referral, this translates into a maximum of 15 successful referrals per calendar year. The good news is that the count resets every year, so after hitting the cap, try not to get people to sign up through your referral link untill next year!

Additional Amex Benefits

The Amex SimplyCash Preferred Card comes with American Express Invites, which opens the doors to the Front of The Line, as well as to special offers, experiences and VIP access at key venues like the Budweiser Stage, Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall.

Access highly coveted concert and events tickets thanks to your SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express and Amex Invites
Get tickets to your favorite concerts with American Express Front of The Line

Front Of The Line Advance Access

Advance Access means being able to purchase or reserve presale tickets to major events, before they are sold to the general public. That way, American Express will help ensure that you won’t miss out on that concert you’ve been dreaming to see, or those theater productions that sell out as soon as the tickets go on sale. Amex can even help you make reservations at highly coveted restaurants, all that just for being a Preferred Card cardholder.

Front Of The Line Reserved Tickets

You couldn’t buy advanced tickets or make an advanced reservation? No problem! Amex is so set on ensuring you won’t miss your dream event, that they reserve whole blocks of seats exclusively for their cardmembers. That way, you can still get seats to the hottest events, even if they already sold out to everyone else.

In case you’re wondering if that next concert you want to go to is covered in the American Express Front of The Line program, all you have to do is sign up for the Front of The Line e-updates. This is something like a newsletter where you’ll get the full list of all the current and upcoming events you can choose from.

Summarizing, as you can see, the SimplyCash Preferred Card is a great option when it comes to cashback cards. A low annual fee and benefits that are worth much more than the $99 you have to pay every year, make this card a smart investment.

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FAQs

If I have a co-branded Amex card issued by another bank, am I eligible for the Balance Transfer Offer?

Yes you are, as long as you don’t own any other card issued by Amex Bank of Canada. Most banks issue their own credit cards but they use American Express’ global payment network, so their cards are co-branded. Even if the card does say American Express on it, Amex Bank of Canada really doesn’t issue it. The one that’s actually lending you the money is the other bank. Therefore, owning a co-branded card doesn’t make you an Amex cardholder, and it therefore doesn’t make you ineligible for the Balance Transfer Offer.

If I already have a SimplyCash Card from American Express, and I sign up to this one, will I still get the welcome cashback rate?

Yes, you will, because the SimplyCash Card and the SimplyCash Preferred Card by American Express are two different cards. Signing up to one of them doesn’t make you a cardholder of the other, therefore you will still get your welcome cashback rate.

If I already have a SimplyCash Card, does it make sense to sign up to the SimplyCash Preferred Card?

Of course it does! First of all, because, when you do, you’ll get the awesome welcome cashback rate of 5% on any purchase giving you the potential to earn an extra $180. Secondly, because the SimplyCash Preferred Card offers great travel coverage for a very low fee. This coverage alone can offset the annual fee if you travel at least once a year.

Can I get my cash back as a cheque or a deposit into my bank account?

No, you can’t. You can only redeem your cashback rewards as a statement credit to pay for purchases already charged to your SimplyCash Preferred Card.

Can I get my cashback reward whenever I want?

Unfortunately, no. You will only get the accumulated cash back once a year at a predetermined date.

Can I use the optional balance transfer offer more than once?

No, you can’t, because the offer is only for new American Express cardholders, and you can only opt in for the offer when signing up for the SimplyCash or SimplyCash Preferred Card for the first time. After you sign up and use the offer the first time, you become an Amex cardholder, and are therefore ineligible for the offer.