Amex Platinum vs. Amex Cobalt: Comparison & Review (Feb 2024)

January 21, 2024
Blog

If you're comfortable spending $799 for the American Express Platinum Card, its 100,000 points welcome bonus, $200 annual travel credit, $200 annual dining credit and other perks will almost certainly save you $1,500 or more in your first year alone. I've personally had my Platinum Card for more than 5 years, and with all of the great travel bonuses it offers, I never plan on giving it up.

But if you aren't ready to pay $799 for a card, the Cobalt Card‘s best-in-Canada earn rates make it a great option, too. If most of your spending comes from food (including groceries), drinks and transportation, the Cobalt Card's rewards will earn you 5% or more back on your spending.

American Express' Platinum Card and Cobalt Card are its two most popular cards in Canada, the Platinum Card for its exceptional welcome bonus and travel benefits and the Cobalt Card for its high rewards on everyday purchases. At a high level, the Platinum Card is ideal for anyone who travels internationally 1+ times per year, while the Cobalt Card offers best-in-class rewards on purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, bars, and many other places else you visit day-to-day.

If you don't mind the $799 annual fee, you should absolutely get the Platinum Card, both because it offers such great benefits and because its welcome bonus is worth $2,000 – $3,000. If you're still not ready to commit to the Platinum Card, though, you may want to start slow and go with the Cobalt Card instead.

Let's get into the details to help you decide whether the Platinum Card or the Cobalt Card is better for your specific needs.

The Benefits: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Cobalt

Benefits American Express Platinum Card American Express Cobalt Card
Annual Fee $799 annually $12.99 monthly
($155.88 annually)
Welcome Bonus 70,000 MR points
by spending $10,000 within the first 3 months
1,250 MR points monthly (up to 15,000 MR points) 
by spending at least $750 monthly with the Amex Cobalt Card
Travel Credit $200 annually  $100 hotel credit annually
Foreign Transaction Fees 2.5% for purchases and ATM usage 2.5% for purchases and ATM usage
Eat & Drink Bonus (per $1 spent) 2x
on eligible dining and takeout purchases (unlimited)
5x 
limited to the first $30,000 spent annually
Travel Bonus (per $1 spent) 2x 2x 
incl. local commuting expenses
All Other Purchases (per $1 spent) 1x 1x
Airport Travel Lounge Access  (Priority Pass Prestige) Yes 
(for 1,200+ lounges globally)
No
Travel Insurance Yes
(incl. trip cancellation/interruption)
Yes 
(excl. trip cancellation/interruption)
Hotel Elite Statuses Yes 
for selected hotel chains
No
Shopping Protection Yes Yes
Front of the Line (advanced access/tickets to concerts) Yes Yes
Supplementary Card Up to 9 cards total; each $175 (Platinum) and $50 (Gold) annually Up to 9 cards total, free of charge

Welcome Bonus Points

Membership Rewards (MR) points are the currency of American Express' loyalty program. You can redeem your MR points for flights directly within the Amex travel portal, or transfer them out of the Amex system to other airlines or hotels (this is what we strongly recommend). If you aren't travelling, you can also redeem your points for a statement credit to be used to pay for other card purchases.

The Platinum Card offers an impressive 100,000 MR points welcome bonus. At 2-3 cents per point, 100,000 points = $2,000 – $3,000, and that's before adding on the $200 travel credit and other benefits the Platinum Card has to offer.

One of the major perks of the Cobalt Card is that you only have to pay $12.99 per month, rather than a lump sum annual fee upfront. The welcome bonus comes in the form of 1,250 MR points per month for a total of 15,000 MR points in the first year.

Amex Cobalt Points
Value
Welcome Bonus   15,000 1 cent per point for eligible travel purchases $150
Hotel Credit

$100
TOTAL

$250

The Amex Cobalt's $100 annual hotel credit means that, along with the welcome bonus, you get a minimum of $250 in value over the first 12 months of the card alone. 

Point Redemptions with Amex Platinum & Amex Cobalt 

The travel benefits for the Platinum Card are really impressive, allowing you to boost the value of your points to 2-3 cents per point and beyond. Once in a while, American Express offers a 30% transfer bonus when you transfer the 100,000 MR points to British Airways Avios or Aeroplan miles, giving you well over 100,000 points, worth at least $2,000 – $3,000.

The Amex Cobalt's MR points work slightly differently, and they're not directly transferable to other airlines. However, you can use them within American Express' Fixed Points Travel system, which offers a lower value per point, but is still decent value. 

Read these posts to learn more about redeeming your MR points with the Platinum Card and the Cobalt Card.

Insurance Coverage

The travel insurance coverage is extensive for both the Platinum and the Cobalt cards, though it is slightly better on the Platinum Card. Here's a breakdown of the insurance coverage you get with each card.

Platinum Card Cobalt Card
Out of Province/Country Emergency Medical Insurance Up to $5,000,000 
for you, your spouse, any dependent children, any additional cardmember for any number of trips with a maximum duration of 15 days.
Up to $5,000,000 
for you, your spouse, any dependent children, any additional cardmember for any number of trips with a maximum duration of 15 days.
Travel Accident Insurance Up to $500,000 
for you, your spouse and children in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while travelling
Up to $250,000
for you, your spouse and children in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while travelling
Flight Delay Insurance Baggage Delay Insurance (2 separate policies) Up to $500 coverage 
(aggregate maximum between both policies; Flight & Baggage Delay Insurance)
Up to $500 
(aggregate maximum between both policies; Flight & Baggage Delay Insurance)
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance Up to $500 
Up to $500 
Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance Up to $500 Up to $500
Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance Up to $85,000 of coverage without paying a single dime
Waive the vehicle rental company’s own insurance policy
Up to $85,000 of coverage without paying a single dime
Waive the vehicle rental company’s own insurance policy
Trip Cancellation Insurance15+ Up to $2,500 per insured person, per trip, up to a maximum of $5,000 for all insured persons combined.
No
Trip Interruption Insurance Up to $2,500 per insured person, per trip, up to a maximum of $6,000 for all insured persons combined. No
StandbyMDSM Travel Medical Concierge19 Provide 24/7 access to physician telephone consultations, arrangement of house call visits, and referral to medical facilities. No
Travel Emergency Assistance18 Access to out-of-town worldwide emergency medical assistance services and legal referrals by telephone, 24/7/365. No

Here's a summary of the shopping protection provided by American Express on each of these cards. 


Platinum Card Cobalt Card
Purchase Protection® Plan Up to $1,000 Up to $1,000
Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan†16 Up to $10,000 Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to one extra year on any purchase paid in full with your Amex Cobalt Card
Fraud Protection Guarantee24 You won't be held responsible for any fraudulent charges if you've taken reasonable care to protect your account details and PIN. You won't be held responsible for any fraudulent charges as long as you've taken reasonable care to protect your account details and PIN.
No Pre-Set Spending Limit on Purchases The Platinum Card® has no pre-set spending limit In accordance to the approved Cobalt credit limit given to you.

Amex Platinum Exclusive Benefits 

#1 Worldwide Airport Lounge Access (Priority Pass)

The American Express Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass Prestige membership, which gives you access to 1,200 airport lounges globally free of charge. This is valued at $429 USD/year, and if you travel frequently, it can be worth much more to you. 

The main bar at one of the many beautiful lounges available to Amex Platinum Cardholders at London's Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Here's what you can expect at most of the airport lounges you can access with your American Express Platinum Card:

  • Free food: Some lounges serve full meals, while others offer finger foods and an assortment of snacks
  • Free drinks: Most lounges include alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and a variety of spirits
  • Work rooms & conference rooms
  • Showers
  • Printers and copiers
  • Other amenities like massage chairs, nap rooms, games rooms and playrooms for kids are less common but not unheard of among airport lounges
An ultra-modern lounge at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia (BOG)

If you're traveling from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), you're also able to use the Pearson Priority Security Lane and get complimentary valet service thanks to your Amex Platinum Card.

The Platinum Card is a traveler's dream, so if you travel frequently, this is a card you don't want to miss.

#2 Hotel Elite Statuses & Upgrades

Amex Platinum Cardholders also get free upgrades on hotel bookings at a variety of hotel chains including Marriott BonvoyTM, Hilton Honors, and Radisson Rewards. You're also eligible for exclusive discounts, early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfast, and more.

You also receive the following hotel elite statuses for free just for being an Amex Platinum Cardholder:

  • American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
  • Hilton Honors Gold Status
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade membership
  • Marriott BonvoyTM Gold Elite status
  • Radisson RewardsTM Gold Status

Amex Cobalt Exclusive Benefits

The one major reason to choose the Cobalt Card over the Platinum Card is if you spend a significant amount of money on food & drinks each month. Take a look at this table to see the differences between what you earn on food & drinks between the Cobalt Card and the Platinum Card:


Amex Platinum Amex Cobalt
Dining
2x 5x limited to the first $30,000 spent annually
Travel 2x  2x
Other Card Purchases 1x 1x
Refer A Friend 15,000 points 5,000 points

As you can see, the Cobalt Card earns 5x the points on food and drinks, compared to 3x with the Platinum Card.

Here's my rule of thumb for this:

  • If more than 50% of your spending comes from food & drinks (including restaurants, grocery stores, bars, coffee shops, and delivery food like UberEats), go with the Cobalt Card. You'll earn 5x the points on all your food- and drink-related purchases, and you can always get a Platinum Card down the road.
  • If less than 50% of your spending comes from food & drinks, go with the Platinum Card. The 100,000 points welcome bonus is worth far more than the $799 annual fee, and you won't be disappointed by all of the travel and other benefits that come with it.

Extra Bonus: FREE Additional Cobalt Cards

To maximize how much you earn on your Cobalt Card, you can apply for up to 9 free supplementary cards for family members and anyone else you want to give a card to. This is a great way to earn more points quickly, and it further boosts the value of the Cobalt Card. 

You can also capitalize on Amex Cobalt referral bonuses to earn even more.

Are the Amex Cobalt and Amex Platinum cards worth their annual fees? 

One of the great things about the Cobalt Card is its affordability: with just a $12.99 monthly fee, you don't need to be intimidated by any hefty fees. If you spend just $240 in food and drinks (including groceries) on the card each month, you'll have already paid off the monthly fee.

The Platinum Card's $799 annual fee is quite a bit higher, but the value you get from the card is much higher, too. With a welcome bonus worth $2,000 – $3,000—plus all the other benefits that come along with it—the Platinum Card still offers excellent value for money.

In Summary

The Amex Cobalt and Amex Platinum Cards are both great cards, but they're designed for two different types of people:

  • If more than 50% of your monthly spending is on food and drinks (including groceries), the Cobalt Card‘s higher earn rates make it a better choice.
  • If you travel internationally at least once per year, you'll get more value from the Platinum Card and all of its travel benefits.

Apply while these limited-time offers last.

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