Debunking the myth of American Express Cards not being widely accepted

This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

comment I hear time and time again from our readers is that they don’t
want an American Express card because the cards aren’t widely accepted.
They come to us for advice on getting a new credit card and this is one
of the statements that I usually find in their initial email to us. I
then proceed to help educate them on the truth surrounding the cards and
that they should really consider an American Express. Two of the main
reasons why are that American Express cards are some of the most
rewarding cards in Canada – if you are looking to rack up lots of points
that have value and are flexible to use, you want to go with American
Express and the second reason is increased acceptance.

the past few years American Express has been aggressive in adding new
merchants to their portfolio. In 2017 alone, American Express are added
over 70,000 retailers and this was topped in 2018 with over 96,000 new
retailers in Canada starting to accept the cards. This is not even
limited to brick and mortar stores – most online retailers or small
business using third party payment processing to accept cards, accept
American Express. I can speak from personal experience that when I am at
my daughters’ sporting events, the companies taking and selling the
photos and videos, have all accepted American Express via their card
reader attached to their iPad or iPhone thanks to those third party
payment processors! Here are some stats provided by American Express breaking down some of the 96,000+ new retailers added in 2018:

  • Over 47,000 Service provider locations in Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.
  • Over 27,000 Shopping locations in the Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.
  • Over 16,500 Dining locations in Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.

and by major city

  • Over 20,000 places in the Toronto area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018
  • Over 10,000 places in the Montreal area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.
  • Over 9,000 places in the Vancouver area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018
  • Over 5,000 places in the Calgary area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.

To further educate
cardmembers about card acceptance and encourage them to use their cards
at non major retailers, American Express also has their Shop Small program, which is
a map based feature on the American Express website that allows you to
find small merchants who accept the cards. I find myself regularly looking at
the map to see who accepts the cards. You’d be surprised at the type of
merchants who do accept the cards – my daughters were out shopping (they
are additional cardholders under my wife’s accounts) and were able to
even use an American Express card at a second hand vintage clothing

Continuing on personal experience of using
the cards I would say close to 95% of all of the purchases that the
Rewards Canada household has, are placed on our American Express cards.
From dining to cell phone bills to travel, almost all of our spending is
put on American Express cards. We have four different Amex cards in our
family and here is a breakdown of how we utilize them for our

  • Groceries / Convenience Stores / Coffee Shops –  American Express Cobalt™ Card
    The card earns the 5x points on all eligible grocery store purchases (Capped at $30,000 in spending annually)
  • DiningAmerican Express Cobalt™ Card and The Platinum Card from American Express
    Once again 5x points when using the American Express Cobalt Card and 3x points for The Platinum Card. 
  • Gas Stations and Drug StoresAmerican Express Gold Rewards Card
    card earns 2 points per dollar on eligible gas station and drug store purchases
    (and eligible grocery stores so use it there if you don’t have the Cobalt card)
  • Travel – The Platinum Card from American Express
    card earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and has really good
    insurance coverage so we put most of our travel purchases on this card. The American Express Gold Rewards Card also earns 2 points per dollar and I also use it for some travel purchases.
  • Marriott Hotel Stays Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
    This card earns 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy properties so it is no brainer to use for stays within the hotel chain!
  • All other non-category bonus spendMarriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
    card earns 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar on everyday spend. I
    value these points at no less than 1 cent per dollar which makes each dollar spent on this card provides at least a 2% return but in many cases it is even
    higher than that. 

If you want to learn more about the
various American Express cards that are available to Canadians I would
suggest you start with our American Express summary page as
this lists all the cards with all their features. If you don’t
currently have an American Express card but are thinking of getting one,
I would recommend starting with any one of these three cards first and
then adding more once you are up to speed with them:

  • American Express Cobalt™ Card In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 2,500
    Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you
    spend $500 in net purchases on your Card. This could add up to 30,000
    points in a year.
  • American Express Gold Rewards Card
    New American Express® Gold Rewards Cardmembers can earn a Welcome Bonus
    of 25,000 Membership Rewards® points just by making $1,500 in purchases
    in the first three months of Cardmembership.
  • SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
    New SimplyCashTM Preferred Card from American Express
    Cardmembers can earn 5% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $300
    cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership.

 Further resources that can help you in your points and miles journey:

Title Image source: Reddit