Review: American Express Cobalt Card

The American Express Cobalt credit card is one of the most popular cards amongst the miles and points and travel community… and for good reason. With strong earning rates in lifestyle purchase categories and the highly desirable points currency of Membership Rewards, it has a lot going for it. 

Let’s go through this card in detail and make the case for why you should add it to your wallet. 

Overview

Welcome Bonus

The American Express Cobalt card currently offers a welcome bonus of 15,000 Membership Rewards points. The bonus has a unique monthly spending requirement: for each monthly billing period that you spend $750 on the card, you will receive 1,250 Membership Rewards. 

American Express Cobalt

The American Express Cobalt card earns Membership Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Membership Rewards on eligible restaurant, food delivery, and grocery store purchases. In 2024, we selected this card to receive the award Best Credit Card for Grocery Purchases.

Check out our American Express Cobalt card review for more details.

BONUS
15,000 Membership Rewards
MINSPEND
$9,000
NET VALUE
$174+
ANNUAL FEE
$156
FOREX FEES
Yes
EXPIRY

This equates to a total required spend of $9,000 to earn 15,000 points in the first year. Technically you could count the spend bonus as well which will net you between 9,000 and 45,000 additional points depending on the category of spend. 

In the past we have seen the welcome bonus offer on this card fluctuate between 30,000 and 50,000 points, so keep that in mind before you apply. 

Earning Rates

The real value of this card comes in its category earning rates. The Amex Cobalt earns Membership Rewards at the following rates and categories:

  • 5 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on food and drink purchases in Canada (including restaurants, grocery stores, and food delivery purchases)
    • Effective August 15, 2023, Cobalt Cardmembers will earn 5x the points on all eligible eats & drinks charged to their Card up to $2,500 monthly, for the same total of $30,000 annually already in place today.
  • 3 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
  • 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible ride shares, transit, and gas in Canada
  • 1 Membership Rewards point for every dollar spent on all other purchases
  • 1 additional point on eligible hotel and car rental bookings via American Express Travel Online

The food and drink category more specifically covers:

  • (i) restaurants, quick service restaurants, coffee shops, and drinking establishments in Canada
  • (ii) stand-alone grocery stores in Canada
  • (iii) delivery of food and groceries in Canada as a primary business

The food and drink category is the major upside of this card, especially when you consider that Membership Rewards have a value of 1 cent per point MINIMUM, and practically, much higher. Therefore, it can be argued that this card earns even more than the 5% cashback equivalent.

Rewards Canada has a detailed and useful listing of specific locations in Canada and abroad where you can expect to earn a given multiplier.

Monthly Fee

This card really wants to be a daily driver: a card that you consistently find value in month to month. And nothing says that more than a monthly fee. 

The Amex Cobalt card has a monthly fee of $12.99, which amounts to $155.88 per year of card membership.

Monthly fees are relatively uncommon in Canada, and certainly, an annual fee is preferred by many members of the miles and points community. I would consider this a downside, but a small price to pay for the significant upside of the card in terms of earning rates on both food and grocery.

Benefits

The Amex Cobalt is not a premium card, so it does not come with top-of-the-line perks such as lounge access or best-in-class insurance. Nonetheless, it has some benefits worth mentioning.

Amex Offers

If you are a holder of a credit card issued by American Express, you are likely already with the lucrative Amex offers. These offers will appear on your card dashboard from time to time, with rebates and deals on shopping, dining, travel, and more.  

Related: Amex Offers: Earn Rewards and Cash Back

We’ve seen some phenomenal offers in the past through Amex, including the popular Shop Small promotion.

Insurance Coverage

Travel Insurance

The Amex Cobalt card offers some decent travel protections, including up to $5 million in travel emergency medical insurance, $250,000 of travel accident insurance, flight and baggage delay insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, up to $500 in hotel burglary insurance, and up to $85,000 in car rental theft and damage coverage.

We won’t go too far down the rabbit hole, but if you want to fully understand the insurance coverages that are offered on the American Express Cobalt card, you can access the insurance certificate here.

Consumer Purchase Insurance

The Amex Cobalt card comes with both a buyer’s assurance protection plan and a purchase protection plan that cover eligible purchases. 

Furthermore, it comes with Mobile Device Insurance. Eligible devices purchased in full are insured for up to $1,000 per insured person in the event of theft, loss, or accidental damage, worldwide. This coverage extends for a maximum of 2 years from the date of purchase.

Read more in the insurance certificate.

Other Amex Exclusive Benefits

The Amex Cobalt Card also grants cardholders access to American Express Front Of The Line, which can help cardholders score presale and reserved tickets for concerts or the next big game, as well as American Express Experiences, a collection of special dining, shopping, and wellness events. 

Just How Much Can You Earn with the American Express Cobalt Card?

The 5X earn rate has a spending maximum of $2,500 per month, up to $30,000 per cardmember year. This means if you spend $30,000 on food and drink you can earn 150,000 Membership Rewards 🤑, combined with whatever the current welcome offer is. 

By the way, you can also earn 5,000 Amex MR points for referring a friend to the Cobalt card, up to a maximum annual referral bonus amount of 75,000 MR points per calendar year. Credit card referrals are a great way to boost your points balance even further, and the American Express Cobalt is no exception.

Redeeming Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards is one of the most flexible points travel programs and currencies in Canada. Like most flexible points currencies, there are good and bad ways to redeem them from a value standpoint. 

Without a doubt, the best way to redeem Amex MR is via transferring to one of the many transfer partners, including:

On the other hand, you can also derive value from the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program. Up to 2 cents per point to be exact.

Learn more: Amex Membership Rewards: Earn & Redeem Effectively

Comparable Cards to the American Express Cobalt Card

There are few other cards in Canada that can contend with Cobalt when it comes to grocery and restaurant purchases. 

Related: Best Credit Cards for Grocery Purchases in Canada

The only two competitors in my mind are the Scotiabank Gold American Express and the National Bank World Elite cards.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

The Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns 5 Scene+ Rewards points per dollar spent at dining, grocery stores, and entertainment purchases. It also earns 6 Scene+ Rewards at Empire (Safeway, Sobeys, etc.).

Apply Now Learn More Earn $75 in FlyerFunds upon approval.
Scotiabank Gold American Express

The Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns Scene+ Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Scene+ points on grocery, restaurant, and entertainment purchases. This card charges no foreign exchange fees.

Check out our Scotiabank Gold American Express card review for more details.

BONUS
40,000 Scene+
MINSPEND
$7,500
NET VALUE
$280+
ANNUAL FEE
$120
FOREX FEES
No
EXPIRY
Jul 1, 2024

National Bank World Elite Mastercard

On the other hand, the National Bank World Elite earns 5 À la Carte Rewards points per dollar spent on grocery and restaurant purchases. 

National Bank World Elite Mastercard

The National Bank World Elite Mastercard earns À la Carte Rewards points and offers cardholders benefits such as $150 in annual travel credits and access to the National Bank VIP lounge in the YUL International terminal. Due to its stellar travel insurance and purchase protection benefits, we deemed this card the Best Overall Insurance Credit Card of 2024.

Check out our National Bank World Elite Mastercard review for more details.

BONUS
0 À la carte Rewards
MINSPEND
$0
NET VALUE
$-150+
ANNUAL FEE
$150
FOREX FEES
Yes
EXPIRY

Unless you are really after cash back or higher merchant acceptance with Mastercard, it can be argued the Cobalt card is better from purely an earn rate perspective. Transfer those MR to Aeroplan and you are easily getting 10 cents per point of actual travel value towards flights.

Of course, I still hold the National Bank World Elite Mastercard myself as a keeper card for its best-in-class insurance benefits.

Conclusion

The Amex Cobalt is arguably the best travel credit card in terms of earning rates for the restaurant and grocery category in Canada. If you have the spending habits to maximize the earning potential of 150,000 MR per year (whether organically or via creative methods), it’s a no-brainer to have the Cobalt as a keeper card in your wallet. 

On the other hand, this card lacks many travel benefits that frequent flyers gravitate towards, namely lounge access. For that, you will need to consider other options. It’s also worth considering that Amex isn’t widely accepted, which may affect your spending potential with the card.

Frequently Asked Questions

The maximum referral bonus for the Amex Cobalt card is 75,000 MR points or 15 referrals.

The American Express Cobalt card has no minimum income requirement. Anyone is eligible to apply.

Yes, with the American Express Cobalt card, you can spend a maximum of $30,000 on food and grocery purchases that earn 5X points per card member year.

The maximum spend of $30,000 on food and grocery purchases resets on your card anniversary date, the date upon which you were approved for the card.

Reed Sutton

Reed Sutton

Founder at Frugal Flyer
Reed is addicted to the art of earning and redeeming travel points, and frequently pairs his trips with his other hobby: photography. Through Frugal Flyer, Reed aims to distill some of the complex and esoteric points strategies into digestible information. Furthermore, he hopes to use his technical expertise to develop invaluable applications and tools for the travel community.

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