American Express launched the Cobalt card product in Canada in September of 2017 and since its’ launch is has quickly become one of Canada’s most favoured credit cards. While the card was initially targeted towards the millennial audience with its’ new fee structure (monthly instead of annual) it has quickly become to the go-to card of everyone from students to working professionals. In this review, we’ll take a look at what makes the Amex Cobalt card so special and why we think it’s one of the best value-for-money cards in the Canadian market.
Main Perks & Benefits of the Amex Cobalt Card
The Cobalt card is jam-packed with perks including generous point multipliers, transfer partners and a slew of other benefits for cardholders. Here are some of the coolest features of the card:
- 5X points earning on eats and drinks (includes grocery, restaurants, bars, etc)
- 2X points on travel and transit (includes airlines, hotels, public transit passes, etc)
- 1X points on everything else (all other categories earn at the normal rate)
- Big flexibility on point redemptions (discussed further below in the review)
- Travel and shopping insurance coverage
- Access to Amex Front-of-the-line for concerts and special events
- Access to the Hotel Collection from Amex for free benefits at hundreds of hotels
Fees & Welcome Bonus for Cobalt
The annual fee for the Amex Cobalt card is $120 a year, but in a first ever for American Express, they actually charge this fee monthly so cardholders pay $10 on each statement. While it ends up costing the same each year, we think Amex did this to soften the blow and create a lot more perceived value with the card (it’s easier to justify $10 tacked on then paying up front).
The welcome bonus offer for the card is 30,000 points, but this is also broken down monthly so cardholders will earn 2,500 points per month if they meet the minimum spend (which is currently $500 a month). In months where a cardholder doesn’t meet the spend, they simply forfeit the bonus points for that month and are free to earn them again the next month.
We really like this monthly point drop structure, as it’s a nice surprise each month to get 2,500 in your account that can be used for a myriad of options which we’ve discussed below.
Redeeming Amex Cobalt Points
Once you’ve earned points with your Cobalt card, there are a number of ways you can redeem them within the Amex platform. Below we’ve gone over some of the more popular options for redeeming membership rewards points earned using the Cobalt card:
Points For Purchases – this is the simplest redemption method where you use your points for a statement credit to reduce your bill. The current rate is 1,000 points for a $10 statement credit, so with the 2,500 bonus points during the first year worth $25 in credits the monthly fee easily takes care of itself. While this is a tempting way to redeem the reward points, we prefer the partner transfer options as they can actually be worth a lot more when redeemed properly.
Transfer Partners – the transfer partners option allows members to transfer their points to participating hotel programs which currently include the Hilton HHonors program as well as the Marriott Bonvoy program. For Hilton, members receive a 1:1 transfer ratio and for Marriott they receive a 5:6 transfer ratio. Our favourite option is to transfer directly to Bonvoy as that program offers a ton of flexibility including being able to use points for thousands of hotels worldwide, as well as the ability to further transfer points to dozens of airline programs.
Fixed Points Travel – fixed points travel is a program administered by Amex that allows you to use your points for a flight redemption on any airline. The catch is that there is a fixed point amount (and maximum ticket value) depending on the region you are looking to travel too. While this option sounds awesome on paper, unfortunately the maximum ticket values Amex have selected are quite low and it’s hard to find worthwhile redemptions using this option.
Travel Gift Certificates – another option for Cobalt points is travel gift certifications for airlines and hotels. Currently in Canada the only hotel option is for Fairmont hotels, with either a $100 gift card for 13,000 points or a $250 gift card for 32,500 points. For airlines, gift certificates are only available for Air Canada with a $100 gift card for 13,000 points, $250 gift card for 32,500 points, $500 gift card for 65,000 points, and finally a $1,000 gift card for 130,000 points. The redemption value for this option is really low so unless you really want them, we’d avoid it.
Amex Shop – one of the other options for redeeming your Cobalt membership rewards points is in the Amex shop. This includes consumer appliances, electronics as well as jewellery and apparel. If you are looking for a gift it can be a solid option, but as with the travel gift cards the redemption value is very low so in our opinion you’re better off using points for statement credits or redeeming with one of the hotel partners offered.
American Express Cobalt Travel Insurance
While the Cobalt doesn’t come with the same level of protection as the Gold or Platinum charge cards, considering the generosity of the point earning and bonus with Cobalt the insurance that Amex offers with this card is actually pretty impressive. Below is an overview of the insurance currently offered by default to Cobalt cardholders:
- Travel Medical Emergency – Up To $5,000,000 For 15 Days of Travel
- Travel Accident Insurance – Up To $250,000
- Flight Delay – Up To $500
- Delayed Baggage – $500 (after 6+ hour delay)
- Car Rental Damage Insurance – Up To $85,000 (maximum 48 day rental)
- Hotel Burglary Insurance – Up To $500 For Missing Items
Amex Cobalt Card FAQ
What are the Cobalt card approval requirements?
While Amex can be notoriously tough for approvals on some of their high-end cards, they’ve taken a much more relaxed approach when it comes to approvals for the Cobalt Card. There are no specific income requirements for Cobalt, but if we had to guess we’d say a salary of $50,000 of more per year would be approved. This is of course considering that you also have a decent credit score of 650 or above, in which case it’s very likely you’d be approved for Cobalt.
What is the credit limit of the Cobalt Card?
There is no specific credit limit for the Cobalt card. It will be determined on approval by Amex depending on your credit and income history. People have Cobalt cards in Canada with limits as low as $2,000 all the way above $50,000 – it’s entirely dependant on the person.
Is the Cobalt Card Metal?
No it isn’t, it’s made of plastic but still looks great. The only metal American express cards in Canada are the Platinum Charge Card as well as the Centurion card.
Can I transfer Cobalt points to airlines?
Unfortunately not. Amex introduced a new set of membership rewards that are earned on Cobalt card spends, and the only transfer partners at this time are Hilton and Marriott. It is possible to convert Cobalt points to airline points if you transfer first to Marriott and then onwards to one of their airline transfer partners.
Is the Amex Cobalt Card worth it?
In our opinion it is absolutely worth it, especially in the first year. You pay $120 in fees but receive $300 worth of points from the signup bonus plus another $300 worth of points assuming you spend $500 a month in the meals and entertainment category.