Why we’ll pass on the new Scotia AMEX gold card

Last week, Scotia unveiled a revamped AMEX gold card. We see this card as a potential challenger to the AMEX Cobalt but despite some new features, Scotia Rewards just aren’t as valuable other reward options and the welcome bonus doesn’t do enough to offset the annual fee to entice us to apply. So, for now anyway, we’ll have to pass on this card.

More points on new categories

We’ll start with a positive. The most innovate feature of Scotia’s new card are the new bonus categories, which provide additional points for spending on certain goods and services.

Here is how the categories break down.

Category Earn Rate Description
“Eat in & Eat Out” 5 points per $1 spent Eligible grocery, restaurants, fast food and drinking establishments. Includes popular food delivery and food subscriptions.
“Watch & Cheer” 5 points per $1 spent Eligible entertainment purchases. Includes movies, theatre and ticketing agencies.
“Ride & Drive” 3 points per $1 spent Eligible gas and daily transit. Includes rideshare, buses, taxis, subways and more.
“Listen & Stream” 3 points per $1 spent Eligible select streaming services.
All other purchases 1 point per $1 spent All other purchases, including foreign currencies (after the foreign currency is converted into Canadian dollars)

These bonus categories are subject to yearly spending caps of $50,000 in purchases charged to the card between January 1st and December 31st. Spending caps are becoming more common as card issuers try to curb creative manufactured spending in bonus categories.  AMEX similarly announced a spending cap for the Cobalt card. Effective August 20 2019, the Cobalt’s 5x “Eats and Drinks” category will have a cap of $30,000 in purchases per card membership year.

Scotia Rewards aren’t great and the service is poor

The biggest downfall of this card, and all Scotia cards, is that Scotia Rewards just isn’t a great program.

Other than applying points against your credit card statement (which is very poor value) or for travel at CAD $0.01 per point, Scotia Rewards doesn’t provide much flexibility. Reward points are not transferable to any other airline or hotel program, which severely limits their flexibility. Sure, there are couple tricks to get your money out of Scotia Rewards but who really wants to spend a ton of time on workarounds when there are better options available, like Cobalt’s Membership Rewards-Select (MR-S).

In contrast to Scotia Rewards, Cobalt MR-S can be transferred to both Marriot Bonvoy and Hilton Honours. AMEX is currently offering a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 MR-S for the Cobalt card. Once your MR-S select are transferred to Bonvoy points they can then be transferred to one of dozens of other airline currencies. This flexibility can very helpful when you need more points for your bookings.

MR-S can also be used for AMEX’s Fixed Points Travel Program which can provide great value, especially on eligible “Popular Routes”, such as between Toronto and New York, where redemption can net you up to 2 cents per points. That’s double what you would receive by applying your Scotia Rewards as a statement credit against the same purchase.

Lastly, our experience applying for cards with Scotia has been very poor. All of us at DCTA have stories to tell of applying for cards and being denied for no apparent reasons, being approved but never receiving our cards, or being approved but being required to submit an inordinate amount of back up documentation. We respect proper due diligence but Scotia needs to streamline its system.

No FYF

Most new card offers include the first-year-free, meaning that new applicants will not have to fork over any money for the privilege of having the card. Sadly not so with the Scotia AMEX gold card, which will set you back $120 for the first year. This is also an increase from the previous Scotia AMEX gold’s annual fee of $99. You can soften the blow by applying for the card through Great Canadian Rebates which is currently offering $50 back on successful applications. The same cash back rate of $50 currently applies for the AMEX Cobalt, we might add.

No Forex fees but…

We are always happy to see more Canadian credit cards ditch the foreign transaction fees on purchases made in foreign currencies, but unfortunately you will only earn 1 Scotia Reward for each equivalent Canadian dollar spent. Scotia will convert the currency into Canadian dollars and then award 1 point per Canadian dollar spent. This earning rate does not stack up well with other options such as the Rogers Mastercard, HSBC Mastercard, or even the Cobalt. Despite the AMEX Cobalt charging a foreign transaction fee you would still come out ahead if the purchase was made in the 5x points category. In that case, with the Scotia card you would earn 1 point while with the Cobalt card you would earn 2.5 points (5% – 2.5% forex fee, assuming you apply the points against travel expenses). For now at least, Canadian Cobalt cards are earning enhanced returns on foreign spend at restaurants, grocery stores, and for travel.

Insurance coverage

The Scotia AMEX Gold offers more generous insurance coverage than the Cobalt but less generous than the AMEX Platinum. The insurance coverage has also been reduced from the previous iteration of the Scotia AMEX gold, which we never like to see. Bottom line is that if insurance coverage is your main priority for travel we would recommend making your travel purchases on the AMEX Platinum or other more premium travel card. With a referral, AMEX is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 MR points.

About the Author: Jacob is a long time supporter of DCTA and new contributor. He got into miles and points while planning for an exchange in Southeast Asia and looking for ways to stretch his student dollars. When he isn’t travelling or helping people find creative ways to save money with miles and points he works as an international trade lawyer in Toronto.

 

Comments

  1. It might be hard for people to get the bonus on this card regardless – Scotia has tightened up a lot on eligibility for their cards – as per their policy (which I’m surprised that a lot of people haven’t been talking up more , unless it’s not being enforced?):

    The following individuals are not eligible for the Bonus Offers:
    1. Current primary or secondary cardholders of a Scotiabank retail credit card, including those that switch from an existing Scotiabank retail credit card
    2. Previous primary or secondary cardholders of a Scotiabank retail credit card in the past 2 years
    3. Employees of Scotiabank

    • Hi Harley, thanks for your thoughts. A number of issuers and banks have been tightening up language on eligibility for welcome bonuses lately. In many cases, its still YMMV.

  2. Dude! The Cobalt 30K welcome bonus is offered with or WITHOUT a referral. Why do you make sound that it is only available with a referral ?!

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