comment I hear repeatedly 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 why they should really consider adding an American Express card to their credit card portfolio. Two of the main
reasons why I do is 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 a continuing push for increased acceptance.
Is American Express as widely accepted Visa or Mastercard? No, that part is true and any good credit card portfolio should have a Visa and/or a Mastercard in it as well to cover those places that don’t accept Amex
but in reality they aren’t as far off as many of the people I talk to think they are. American Express covers a major portion of retailers
that Visa and Mastercard do (80-90%) and over
the last six years they have been aggressive in adding new
merchants to their portfolio. In 2017 they added
over 70,000 new retailers, 2018 saw over 96,000 new
retailers in Canada, 2020 saw over 79,000 and 2021 had over 86,500 retailers starting to accept the cards. Those numbers are not even
limited to brick and mortar stores – many online retailers or small
businesses using third party payment processing to accept cards, accept
American Express. Here are some stats provided by American Express breaking down some of the 86,500+ new retailers added in 2021:
- Over 41,600 Service provider locations in Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
- Over 22,100 Shopping locations in the Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
- Over 16,300 Dining locations in Canada started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
and by major city
- Over 15,800 places in the Toronto area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
- Over 10,300 places in the Montreal area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
- Over 7,800 places in the Vancouver area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
- Over 4,500 places in the Calgary area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2021.
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)
- Dining – American 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 Stores – American 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). The American Express Cobalt™ Card also earns 2 points per dollar at gas stations and since you can now convert directly to Aeroplan and other airline partners from Amex I have been using this card as well at gas stations.
- 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 and American Express Cobalt™ Card also earn 2 points per dollar for travel
- 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 spend – Marriott 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® Green Card (No annual fee)
As a new American Express® Green Cardmember, you can earn a Welcome
Bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards® points when you charge $1,000 in
purchases to your Card in the first 3 months of Cardmembership
- SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express
New SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express Cardmembers can earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 cash back) for the first 4 months of Cardmembership
Further resources that can help you in your points and miles journey:
- A step by step guide to the American Express Shop Small Program
- American Express Cobalt Card Resources on Rewards Canada
This post was NOT sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada.