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Scotiabank American Express Gold Review

You are reading the title right, not only can you get an American Express card issued from the parent company, you can now get an AMEX with Scotiabank.  As with most AMEX products, the value to the card holder is relatively high, but because the merchant fees are typically higher than Visa/MasterCard, acceptance can be relatively limited.

In this case,  the Scotiabank Gold American Express is a travel rewards card that is relatively flexible with generous rewards and insurance package, but it comes with a $99 annual fee (+$29 for secondary holder).  In a lot of ways, this card has a similar reward structure as another Scotia Card, the popular Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card.  However, lets take a closer look at the Scotia AMEX card.

The Rewards

For the Scotia AMEX, card holders get “points” for their spending.  The biggest attraction of this card is the 4 points per $1 spent in gas/groceries/restaurants/entertainment which equates to a 4% return.

  • 4% return (towards travel) when using the card on gas/groceries/restaurants/entertainment (up to $50k/yr in spending, then reverts down to 1%); and,
  • 1% return on all other spending.

Redemption

Another key criteria for a good rewards card is the redemption system.  Some cards offer great rewards, but redemptions are restricted which can make the card less useful (think aeroplan cards).  This card allows you to book your travel first, then go online (or phone) and redeem your points with a minimum of 5000 points at a time ($50 worth).  Points can be redeemed against travel which includes flights, cruises, bus lines, railways, hotels, and rental cars.

The Insurance

In addition to the rewards and redemption system, the insurance package is as good as it gets.  The insurance coverage includes:

  • Travel Emergency Medical (up to $1 million, under age 65 for up to 25 days, over age 65 for up to 10 days);
  • Trip Interruption and Cancellation (up to $2,500 per person or $10,000 maximum);
  • Flight Delay (after 4 hours, max $500/trip);
  • Delayed and Lost Baggage (up to $1,000 per trip);
  • Common Carrier Travel Accident (up to $500,000);
  • Rental Car Collission/Loss Damage;
  • Hotel/Motel Burglury (up to $1,000);
  • Purchase Security and Extended Warranty (doubles warranty up to 1 year); and,
  • Price Protection (max $100 per claim, up to $500/yr).

The Drawbacks

To me, the downsides of this card are that of lack of AMEX acceptance and the annual fee ($128 for two cards).  The rewards system and insurance are top notch, but if the cardholders shopping is limited by merchants not accepting AMEX, then it will significantly reduce the return.

While most big brand names will accept AMEX, the constraint is that you need to find the 4% merchants that also take AMEX.  For example, we spend a lot of our budget at Loblaws (Dominion here in NL) and Costco.  Loblaws (and affiliated companies) do not accept AMEX, and while Costco accepts AMEX, they are not considered a 4% merchant (1% return).

The Competition

Who are the direct rivals of this card?  One of them is the American Express SPG card which can return from 2%-6% if the rewards are redeemed wisely (eg. cash and points). At least with the SPG card, you will get the high rewards at any merchant that will accept AMEX.  However, the redemption is relatively limited to SPG hotels and partner airlines.

Other competition is Scotia’s own Momentum Visa Infinite card.  While this is a cash back card, it has a similar annual fee and it will give you 4% return on gas/grocery spending, 2% on drug stores and recurring payments, then 1% on everything else.   The big advantage here is the it is a widely accepted Visa, however, the insurance benefits are lacking for a fee based card.

Finally, I would say that the Capital One Aspire Travel World is also in the same league.  Similar annual fee for two cards, up to 2% towards travel if redeemed properly, and a comparable insurance package.  Again, the advantage here is that MasterCard is widely accepted, however, the redemption system to truly maximize the 2% return can be a bit tricky to achieve.

Final Thoughts

Who can take advantage of the Scotia Gold American Express?  Heavy grocery/gas/groceries/entertainment spenders who shop at retailers that accept AMEX.  Unfortunately, this isn’t as widespread as it could be.  According to our latest budget, our groceries/gas/restaurants/entertainment worked out to be about $17,000 per year, which at 4%, is $680 worth of travel.  However, in order to get that reward, we would need to change our grocery store because Loblaws/No Frills does not accept AMEX and while Costco does accept AMEX, they are not considered a 4% retailer.  While most gas stations and movie theaters will accept AMEX, a lot of smaller restaurants will not.  So in theory, this is a great card, but AMEX acceptance can make or break the deal.

If you are heavy grocery/gas spender, and willing to pay an annual fee, then the Scotia Momentum Infinite cash back Visa card may be a better choice.  If you are set on travel rewards, then the Capital One Aspire Travel World is very competitive.  If you are like me and have a hard time paying an annual fee, then check out my list of the top free cash back credit cards in Canada.

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Tom August 5, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Don’t forget that The Aspire card gives you 10,000 points annually as a bonus so the effective annual fee is only $20 ($120 minus $100 anniversary bonus). Yes you need to be patient to redeem points in a way to maximize to 2%, but it’s completely doable, and I still consider this the best rewards card around. Worst case, you get impatient and redeem for cash at anytime for 1.5%.

    At $20 per year, this card is hard to beat…

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 5, 2013, 12:25 pm

    @Tom, that’s a good point, I do like the aspire card. However, be cautious that the annual bonus may be a temporary incentive to attract clients.

  • Tom August 5, 2013, 3:20 pm

    True – I’m watching out for that. If they ever cancel it it may be less lucrative..

  • saveddijon August 5, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Hmm… if you don’t have multi-trip emergency medical insurance already, and you travel outside Canada frequently enough, then $128/year seems to be a good deal just for that alone.

    Even if you cannot hit any 4% merchants, the 1% is icing on the cake.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 5, 2013, 9:33 pm

    @saveddijon, if you are interested in the emergency medical, check out the cap one aspire cash world card because it has no annual fee:

    http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/new-capital-one-cash-back-credit-cards.htm

  • Oli August 6, 2013, 9:35 pm

    My wife and I love our TD Visa Infinite. And with the TD Select Account service (maintain a minimum balance of $5,000) it’s free for up to two cards.
    And every year we easily get $600 to $800 worth of travel dollars.

  • network December 5, 2013, 2:04 pm

    I would like you to give me comparitive true advantage over TD Visa infinite on every aspect of card. As i will not switch just like that

  • Cam A January 16, 2014, 5:31 pm

    I love my Scotia Gold Amex, the points have been adding up relatively quick. Scotia is giving 15,000 bonus points and waiving the first year fee to make sure the card is worth keeping. Bascially started with $150 in travel for free. I have the Scotia Gold Passport Visa too so where there are merchants that do not accept Amex I just use my Visa. I also have it set up on my online banking to automatically transfer my Visa points to my Amex so when I can’t use my Amex I’m still getting points towards it. I have used the price protection twice this year and it has been easy too. This is a great card and the point just keep adding up!

  • Leslie September 20, 2014, 3:22 pm

    For anyone considering applying for this card, I would strongly encourage you to look elsewhere.
    I have had this card since January of 2014 and just attempted for the first time to use my reward points to book a car rental. When I went to book the car online for what I thought was a good price, the Scotia Amex travel rewards website went down and I couldn’t book. I wanted to lock in this price so I phoned the so-called help desk. All the staff there actually do, is go on the same website as customers and book the same way you would. Obviously she could not book the car either (I should also mention that this was the second customer service person I spoke with – the first one seemed to barely know how to use a computer). After she said she could not book the vehicle, I asked for the manager to call me back the next day, which she did. She said they were working on the website and she would again have someone call me when it was working. Apparently it took their IT department almost 3 days to correct the website problem. During this time, the price of the vehicle I had tried to book went considerably higher. The manager then sends me an email saying they cannot honour the price I had tried to book some days prior “as the prices change frequently”. I’m not sure how relevant that information is when I tried to book a vehicle but could not due the companies website being out of order. How is that my fault? She pretty much said I was just out of luck, but I was welcome to try to book something else. Hands down it was the worst customer service I have ever experienced. The entire reason I applied for this card was for the travel rewards as I frequently travel to the US. American Express: you should seriously reconsider your relationship with Scotiabank, they are a joke. After my next trip in November, this card will be promptly cancelled and I will never look at American Express or Scotiabank again.

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