The American Express Choice Card: A Review

May 5, 2021
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The American Express Choice Card is an excellent credit card for many Canadians, both as a starter card for students and young people and as a backup card for anyone already holding a few cards. With a 10,000 MR Select points welcome bonus and no annual fee, we recommend it as a solid #2 card you can use alongside another card that earns you greater rewards.

The American Express Choice Card was released in December, 2020, with the aim of offering a high-quality, no-nonsense card for Canadians not looking to pay an annual fee. And after digging into the details of this card, I think it does a very good job of offering just that. 

In this review, I’ll break down why you may want to consider getting a Choice Card of your own, and how you can integrate it into your wider credit card portfolio.

First, let’s look at the benefits of the Choice Card.

American Express Choice Card: Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points (MR Select Points)10,000
When you charge $1,000 to the card in the first 3 months
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On Card Purchases1
American Express Front of the Line
Annual Fee$0

As you can see, the Choice Card doesn’t come with many special benefits. It doesn’t offer airport lounge access or flight benefits, but there are still several solid reasons why you may want to pick one up.

Advantages Of The American Express Choice Card

#1 10,000 MR Select Points Welcome Bonus

If you spend $1,000 on the Choice Card in the first three months, you'll receive a welcome bonus of 10,000 MR Select points, which are the same type of points you earn on the Cobalt Card and the Business Edge Card. Unlike regular MR points, which are earned on cards like the Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card, MR Select points cannot be transferred to airline partners like British Airways Avios or Aeroplan. They can be transferred to hotel partners like Hilton Honors (at a 1:1 rate) and Marriott Bonvoy (at a 1:1.2 rate), though, which gives them some usefulness for travelers.

Here’s a bit more about MR Select points:

  • They’re worth 0.7 cents per point when redeemed against statement credits, which means your 10,000 MR Select bonus points would be worth $70.
  • If you redeem your MR Select points against travel purchases like flights or hotel stays, they’re worth 1 cent per point (10,000 MR Select points = $100).
  • MR Select points can also be redeemed using American Express’ Fixed Points at a maximum value of 2 cents per point (10,000 MR Select points = $200).

MR Select points aren’t quite as valuable as the normal MR points, which we value at 2-3 cents per point, since MR Select points can’t be transferred to airline partners directly.

If you want to start spending time in airport lounges like this, you're going to want to get into the American Express ecosystem sooner or later to work your way up to the Platinum Card.

#2 An Easy Way To Enter The American Express Ecosystem

If you have your sights set on getting a premium American Express card like the Platinum Card, the best way to attain it is to start with a less expensive American Express card. This is because American Express reviews its internal records on applicants before ever checking their profile with the credit bureaus, and if you have a consistent history of paying off your monthly statements directly with American Express, they’re much more likely to approve you for their premium cards. This is easiest to do with a no-fee card like the Choice Card, which makes it the perfect starter card to help you work your way up to the better cards with greater benefits.

Disadvantages Of The American Express Choice Card

#1 No Travel Insurance

Most American Express cards come with a comprehensive travel and medical insurance package that covers you if anything goes wrong. The Choice Card doesn’t include that insurance, which is worth keeping in mind if you travel internationally regularly, or find yourself jetting across the country frequently. 

It's worth noting that the Choice Card does still come with American Express' purchase protection and fraud protection guarantee, so if you're worried about card skimmers or not being able to return faulty products, don't be—American Express still has you covered.

#2 No Spending Category Bonuses

Another benefit many cards offer are enhanced earn rates on specific spending categories, most frequently dining and travel. The Choice Card simply earns 1 MR Select point per dollar spent on anything, which means it offers a solid return on your spending (0.7% – 2.0%, depending on how you use the points), but won’t reward you for any particular type of spending.

Who Should Get The Amerian Express Choice Card?

I believe the Choice Card is a very good option for many Canadians, though here are two groups who will benefit particularly strongly from this card:

  • Students: It’s hard for students to justify paying $100 or more per year for a credit card, but this no-fee card offers some of the same value you get from paid cards with none of the cost. It’s a great starter card for any Canadian student. 
  • Couples & Families: One of the undervalued benefits of the Choice Card is that it offers free additional cards, which means you can request one or multiple additional cards to give to your partner, family members, or even employees. This is an easy way to keep your finances in a single place, and allows you to build your points balance faster.
  • Anyone In Need Of A Backup Card: You won’t earn that many points with the Choice Card, so if you already have a few cards in your wallet, you probably won’t want to replace any of them with this one. But it still makes for a perfect backup card, given that it holds no annual fee and still builds your credit score, both generally and more specifically with American Express.

Choice Card vs. Cobalt Card

One of the first questions I had when researching the Choice Card was: how is it different from the Cobalt Card? Because if you’re not familiar with the American Express Cobalt Card, it’s both our top-rated card of 2021 and one of Amex’s most similar cards to the Choice Card. Here’s a quick look at what the Cobalt Card offers:

  • Welcome bonus of up to 30,000 MR Select points
  • $100 hotel credit and complimentary room upgrades
  • 5x the points earned on eligible food and drinks
  • 2x the points earned on travel 
  • American Express’ travel and medical insurance

With this in mind, I believe there are two main reasons you'd want to choose the Cobalt Card over the Choice Card: if you travel internationally at least once per year, or if you spend at least $360 per month on food & drinks. Let's quickly look at each scenario.

#1 International Travelers

The Cobalt Card is a better option if you travel internationally at least once per year due to these three benefits: the $100 hotel credit and complimentary room upgrades, American Express’ travel and medical insurance, and the 2x points you earn on travel. If any of those are important to you—and they should be if you’re a frequent traveler—the Cobalt Card may be a better fit than the Choice Card for you.

If you spend more than $360/month on food and drinks, you'll get better value from the Cobalt Card than the Choice Card.

#2 Foodies

The Cobalt Card earns 5x the points on food and drink purchases, so if you spend more than about $360/month on food and drinks, you're going to come out ahead with the Cobalt Card relative to the Choice Card. Here's the quick math behind that:

If you spend $360/month on food and drinks, you’ll earn 1,800 MR Select points from that, which are worth a minimum of 0.7 cents per point just by applying them as a statement credit, which gives them a value of $12.60 per month. Subtract the value of the points that you would’ve earned on the same spending with the Choice Card ($360 x 1 point per dollar spent = 360 points = $2.52) and you’re left with $10.08, just above the monthly fee on the Cobalt Card. This is the break-even point that makes the Cobalt Card more valuable to you, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

By the way, here's what American Express accepts as food and drink spending:

  • Grocery stores
  • Restaurants 
  • Fast food
  • Coffee shops
  • Bars
  • Food delivery, including UberEats and other apps

As you can see, just about everything you would consider a food or drink purchase will earn you 5x the points on your Cobalt Card (and 1x the points on the Choice Card).

So it’s true that the Cobalt Card offers more than the Choice Card, especially if you fall into one of the two groups above. But if having a free card is important to you, the Choice Card is a great option.

In Summary

If you’re a student or young person applying for your first credit card, the Choice Card is an excellent way to build your credit score and enter the American Express ecosystem. If you’re older and more experienced, the Choice Card also makes for a sensible backup card.

The benefits of the Choice Card aren't amazing, but if you’re in the market for a no-fee card, it’s certainly a wise choice. Apply with confidence before this introductory offer disappears.

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