There are quite a few American Express credit cards in Canada, but some stand out above the rest for their impressive welcome bonuses, travel rewards, and complimentary perks. I constantly keep up with the latest promo rates and policy changes and make my recommendations below based on years of experience.
I recommend the American Express Cobalt Card as the #1 Amex card in Canada due to its low annual fees, very high earn rate on Eats & Drinks, and 15,000 welcome bonus points. It's one of the most flexible cards, with the option to transfer your points to other programs, and it comes with comprehensive medical and travel insurance.
What Is An American Express Credit Card?
American Express credit cards – also known as Amex credit cards – are a type of credit card that uses the American Express network. The American Express network is widely accepted in Canada and worldwide, and it offers an easy way for consumers and businesses to pay and get paid. Unlike Visa and Mastercard, American Express functions not just as a network – but also as a credit card issuer, meaning it doesn’t have to partner with other institutions to distribute its cards.
American Express credit cards have variable annual fees ranging from $120 to $150, but they also offer some introductory cards that don’t charge a fee. With an Amex card, you’ll have access to unique benefits like American Express Experiences and Front Of The Line presales, comprehensive insurance, access to exclusive airport lounges, and dozens of cards with unique perks to choose from.
Without further ado, here are the best American Express credit cards Canada has to offer:
The Best American Express Credit Cards In Canada
- American Express Cobalt Card: Best for low annual fee and high welcome bonus
- American Express Green Card: Best for no annual fee
- Scotiabank Gold American Express Card: Best for earning Scene+ points
- American Express Gold Rewards Card: Best for complimentary lounge access
- Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card: Best for free hotel stays and room upgrades
- SimplyCash Card from American Express: Best for earning cash back
How Do American Express Credit Cards Work?
American Express is one of the largest credit card networks in the world, accepted in over 100 countries worldwide. It was founded in Canada, and it functions – unlike Visa and Mastercard – as both a credit card network and a credit card issuer, and all three networks are among our best-rated credit cards in Canada.
The American Express network is accepted in hundreds of store chains and millions of merchants. American Express offers credit cards to individuals and businesses alike and has a wide range of card types, including travel, cash back, low interest, and more. Like other credit card networks, American Express makes money by collecting a transaction fee from partner merchants every time a cardholder uses the network.
After your Amex application is approved, you can request your Instant Card Number to start making online purchases immediately – Keep in mind your Instant Card Number will match the numbers on your physical card. All physical American Express credit cards include a unique 15-digit number printed on the front and a microchip to ensure all your information is stored safely.
Pros & Cons of American Express Credit Cards
Pros: Why an American Express credit card may be worth it
- Choose from dozens of credit cards with different perks
- Establish a solid credit history and build your credit score
- Access to American Express Experiences and Front Of The Line presales
- Access to exclusive airport lounges
- Comprehensive travel and medical insurance
- Excellent welcome bonus on all of their credit cards
- Pay your balance on time and you won’t pay interests
- Earn Membership Rewards points on eligible purchases
- Exchange your MR points with frequent flyers and loyalty programs
Cons: Why an American Express Credit Card may not be worth it
- Not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard
- Most American Express credit cards require a good-to-very good credit score (660+)
Types Of American Express Credit Cards In Canada
#1 American Express Travel Credit Cards
With general-purpose American Express travel credit cards, you will earn Membership Rewards (MR), which can be redeemed towards most travel expenses, including airline tickets, hotel stays, and transit. To earn points, you just have to use your card to make purchases; similar to cash back credit cards, they may only earn you points when purchasing at select stores or select categories like groceries or restaurants.
The other option is co-branded travel credit cards. These cards can be more valuable point-per-point than general-purpose travel cards, but they can be more restrictive in how you can spend your points. Some allow you to redeem points at a single airline or hotel.
Here are two of the best American Express travel credit cards:
|American Express Cobalt Card
|5 MR points on groceries, restaurants, and bars
Transferable points compatible with the Aeroplan, Avios, and Marriot Bonvoy program
|Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
|5 Marriot Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating MB properties + 10% bonus points on stays and priority checkout
15 Elite Nights, credited to your account at the start of every year
These are just two of several travel rewards credit cards Amex offers. The Platinum card is also an excellent choice, though not everyone can afford the high annual fee. Even so, the fee is more than worth it for frequent travellers. For a lower fee, you can also get the Amex Gold, which is a staple among Canadian loyalty rewards credit cards.
#2 American Express Cash Back Credit Cards
Cash back credit cards are a type of rewards credit card that allows you to earn rewards in the form of cash back when you make purchases. Cash back rewards are usually category-bound, (meaning you can earn cash back when you make purchases towards certain categories like groceries or gas), or store-bound, meaning you can only earn cash when you purchase at participating stores.
These are two of the best American Express cash back credit cards:
|SimplyCash Card from American Express
|4% cash back on all purchases for the first 6 months
|SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
|10% cash back on all purchases for the first 4 months
How To Choose An American Express Credit Card In Canada
The first thing you should consider is the type of American Express credit card you’re looking for. American Express is known for its wide range of credit cards available, so it’s important you pick one that fits your spending habits and your long-term goals. If you travel often, a card with a frequent flyer loyalty program will be more beneficial for you than, for example, a cash back card.
Annual Fee And Forex Fees
Another important fact to consider is the annual fees. In general, the more affordable American Express credit cards have annual fees of around $120-$150, but the more premium travel cards can surpass the $500 mark. This may seem high, but if you’re a frequent traveller, you will easily make up for this fee with all the benefits like free hotel stays, flights, and quality of life benefits like access to airport lounges and priority boarding.
All American Express credit cards listed here come with generous welcome bonuses to entice users, but don’t be blinded by them. Sometimes the welcome bonus is enough to justify the annual fee for the first year, but double-check the rates after the promotional period ends and decide if it’s worth applying for the card.
Credit cards with a high earning rate usually have higher annual fees; find a balance between the two and pick the card that better fits your spending habits. A credit card shouldn’t increase your spending habits – it should fit neatly into your budget.
American Express credit cards are notorious for their Membership Rewards points. These are some of the most flexible point loyalty programs in Canada, and they can be exchanged across most frequent flyer and credit card loyalty reward programs.
Credit Card Insurance & Purchase Warranties
Some credit cards offer comprehensive travel and medical insurance. This type of card usually has the highest annual fees but is a great option if you travel often and want to make sure your family is also protected. Here are some of the typical insured categories you can expect:
- Baggage loss insurance
- Baggage delay insurance
- Car rental insurance
- Extended warranty
- Mobile Insurance
- Flight delay insurance
- Purchase assurance
- Travel emergency medical
- Travel accident insurance
- Trip cancellation
- Trip interruption
American Express Credit Cards FAQs
Are American Express Credit Cards worth it?
When American Express credit cards might be worth it for you:
- If you have a good-to-excellent credit score. Here are some of the best credit cards that require a fair credit
- If you earn enough points every year to compensate for the annual fee
- If you have no trouble keeping up with your monthly credit card payments and are very unlikely to fall behind on payments
- If you are sure you will be able to redeem your points before they expire, a travel credit card will save you a lot of money on travels
- If you want to start earning points for a vacation or cash back on regular purchases
When American Express credit cards might not be worth it for you:
- If you often fall behind on credit card payments
- If you don’t make enough from the perks and benefits to justify the yearly fee
- If you are likely to build up more debt than you can handle
- If you don’t want to keep track of the variable point-to-value rate of MR points
How To Redeem American Express Membership Reward Points
American Express cardholders can redeem their rewards by logging in to their accounts on the American Express official website and navigating to the Rewards>Membership Rewards section. There are three main ways you can exchange your MR points:
Fixed Points Travel Program
You can exchange a fixed number of MR points to book flights within Canada or anywhere in the world. You can choose from Business or Economy Class flights, and there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
Flexible Points Travel Program
With the Flexible Points Travel Program, you can use your points to pay for travel-related purchases plus taxes & surcharges, and you can pay using a combination of MR points and credit. The standard rate is 1,000 MR points = $10 travel credit.
Transfer Your MR Points To Loyalty Programs
American Express also gives cardholders the option to exchange their points with other loyalty programs. This makes MR points one of the most flexible in Canada. Here are some of the eligible loyalty programs and the exchange rate:
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 1000 Aeroplan points
|Air France KLM Flying Blue
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 750 Flying Blue Miles
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 750 Asia Miles
|British Airways Executive Club
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 1000 Avios
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 750 SkyMiles
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 750 Etihad Guest miles
|1000 Membership Rewards points = 1000 Hilton Honors points
|5 Membership Rewards points = 6 Marriott Bonvoy points
You can access all these offers from the official American Express Canada page or through their mobile app. Keep in mind the redemption rates have a minimum amount of points you need – you can’t exchange 100 MR points for 100 Aeroplan points, even though the exchange rate is 1:1. In general you need at least 1,000 MR points to exchange them.
How To Apply for An American Express Credit Cards in Canada
In Canada, the minimum age to request a credit card is the age of the majority. Teens under that age can’t get approved for credit cards but can be added as authorized users to one of their parent’s credit cards. For reference, the age of the majority in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan is 18 years old. In all other provinces, the age of the majority is 19.
Canadian credit cards are available to residents and non-permanent residents. However, most premium credit cards require you to be a Canadian resident. You don't even need a credit history for other card types like prepaid and secured credit cards. At the end of the day, residency requirements will depend on the specific credit card issuer and the type of card.
Most premium credit cards in Canada require a good to excellent credit score, starting at 660. Keep in mind that the higher your credit score, the more likely your application will be accepted, and the cards with the higher requirements usually have the best intro bonuses, rewards, and benefits.
Personal Or Household Income Requirements
Some American Express credit cards may have a minimum income requirement ranging from $60,000-$80,000 for individuals or $100,000-$150,000 for households. Cards that require an income usually have the best benefits and tend to require a higher credit score.
American Express Credit Cards FAQs
What Is The Best Free American Express Credit Card In Canada?
The best free American Express credit card in Canada is the American Express Green Card. It comes with unlimited cash back, no foreign fees on online and in-person purchases, and car rental insurance.
Where Is Amex Not Accepted In Canada
American Express is accepted almost anywhere in Canada, and you will have no trouble purchasing at most chain stores. One major exception is Loblaws, which uses a network that doesn’t support American Express.
Can Canadians Get American Express Credit Cards
Yes, American Express credit cards are available for Canadians.