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American Express : What is the best Membership Rewards Credit Card for you?

To the point Are you looking for the best credit cards to earn Membership Rewards, the most flexible form of points in Canada? Here are suggestions based on different profiles.

The best Membership Rewards credit card for you will depend on your specific consumer habits and goals.

Membership Rewards are the most valuable point currency in Canada because they are so versatile since they can be used whether you are looking for cashback or for savings on any kind of travel type.

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Best Membership Rewards Cards - Why focus on Membership Rewards?

Before digging into the best Membership Rewards credit card, it’s important to point out why they are considered so valuable. There are several reasons:

  • Flexibility: Membership Rewards can be redeemed for a variety of options, such as travel bookings (any airline, tour, cruise, all-inclusive vacations, independent hotels, AirBnB, car rentals, etc.), statement credits on anything (cashback), merchandise, gift cards, and even transferred to airline and hotel loyalty programs. This versatility gives you the freedom to choose rewards that align with your preferences.
  • Transfer Partners: One of the most precious aspects of Membership Rewards is the ability to transfer them to various airline and hotel loyalty programs. This enables you to leverage your points for potentially high-value redemptions, like premium class flights or luxury hotel stays in the Maldives, if that is what you want, often offering better worth than traditional reward options such as cashback.
  • Transfer Bonuses: American Express occasionally gives transfer bonuses to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, where they increase the conversion rate. This can significantly enhance the strength of Membership Rewards, making them even more attractive for people looking to maximize their rewards.
  • No Expiry: Membership Rewards do not expire as long as your account remains in good standing. This allows you to save them up for larger redemptions over time.

It’s important to note that the value of Membership Rewards can vary based on individual preferences, travel goals, and how effectively you use the points.

Indeed, they can even be worth over 5.0¢ / point if you transfer them to an airline loyalty program and redeem them for business-class flights.

Fixed reward chart for flights 2.0¢ / point
Transfer to Aeroplan 2.0¢ / point
Transfer to British Airways Executive Club 1.7¢ / point
Transfer to Asia Miles 1.5 ¢ / point
Statement credit for any purchase 1.0 ¢ / point
Transfer to Marriott Bonvoy 0.9¢ / point
Gift cards 0.7¢ / point
Merchandise 0.7¢ / point
Average value 1.7¢ / point

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For CashBack

If you are looking for a simple Cash-Back strategy, the best Membership Rewards Card for you is the American Express Cobalt® Card as you can:

  • Earn 5x the points on eligible eats and drinks in Canada, including groceries and food delivery
  • Earn 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
  • Earn 2x the points for every $1 spent on eligible transit & gas purchases in Canada and eligible travel purchases
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else.

The points are worth 1 ¢ per point when used as cashback. Therefore, the American Express Cobalt® Card is the best Membership Rewards credit card for cashback on basic expenses such as groceries with a 5% return.

Cobalt Épicerie 2

When you combine it with the gift card strategy, you can get the same 5% return on many “other’’ purchases that don’t fall into the grocery category, such as Disney, Amazon, SAQ, etc.

The monthly fee you are paying for the American Express Cobalt® Card can be easily justified with the high-earning potential and the numerous Amex promotional offers.

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For Other Purchases

If you have a lot of purchases in the “other’’ category like your dental bill or furniture, the best Membership Reward card for you is the Business Platinum Card® from American Express since you can:

  • Earn 1.25x the points for virtually every $1 in purchases

That is the higher multiplier you can have to earn Membership Rewards and you can apply for a small business credit card by following the steps described here.

As you can see, the combination of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express Cobalt® Card is perfect to earn the most Membership Rewards as you are covering and optimizing all categories across the board for maximum earnings.

Same as the American Express Cobalt® Card, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express fees can be offset by numerous advantages.

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For a Small Business Owner

If you are a small business owner that has a lot of gas (for example as a taxi or Uber driver) or supplies or electronics to buy, the best Membership Rewards card is the American Express Business Edge™ Card because you can:

  • Earn 3x the points for Card purchases on eligible business essentials including office supplies & electronics, rides & gas, eats & drinks
  • Earn 1x the points on all other purchases charged to the Card

Indeed, having your own business can incur a lot of these kinds of expenses and you can maximize your Membership Rewards earnings this way with the American Express Business Edge™ Card as your business card and the American Express Cobalt® Card as your personal card.

Also, you can request up to 99 supplementary cards without extra fees for your employees in order to reap on their expenses as well.

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For Pharmacy

Some of you may have a lot of drugstore purchases. Even if the RAMQ or another provincial plan covers you, you may still have to pay a certain amount for your medication.

For those who don’t or if you have great insurance, you may want to pay for your prescription drugs upwards and claim them afterwards for some free and easy points.

The best Membership Rewards card for pharmacy purchases is the American Express® Gold Rewards Card as you can:

  • Earn 2x the points for every $1 in Card purchases at eligible gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores in Canada

I also use my American Express® Gold Rewards Card for home staples such as toilet paper or detergent since they are often cheaper than at grocery stores when on sale. It’s a good way to save money daily when the base cost is low, and you can optimize points earning!

Combine that with the American Express Cobalt® Card, you have the best Membership Rewards cards and a solid strategy that cover basic household needs.

In addition, I find that school supplies are also at great prices in pharmacies during the summer which is perfect for families.

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For Luxury and Budget Travellers

The best Membership Rewards cards for you will depend on your consumer habits as detailed above.

However, if you wish to go up a notch and stack elusive travel benefits to reduce the cost of your holidays, whether you aim for luxury or budget travel, I recommend adding the Business Platinum Card® from American Express to the base Membership Rewards wallet you established in the previous section.

Indeed, Membership Rewards can be used whether you want to fly in Emirates’ First-Class Suite or in economy on Air Transat. The only difference between the two is in the amount you need to accumulate, but the strategy to maximize earning is the same.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express gives the following benefits:

  • Take full advantage of the American Express Global Lounge Collection which unlocks access to over 1300 airport lounges worldwide. This includes The Centurion® Lounge network, Plaza Premium Lounges, and hundreds of other domestic and international lounges designed to enhance your travel experience.
  • Enjoy premium benefits at the Toronto Pearson Airport, including access to the Pearson Priority Security Lane and discount on parking.
  • Get access to discounted base fares for you and your travel companions when you book through the International Airline Program.
  • Enjoy access to specialty services and events, preferential treatment, and a dedicated concierge team.
  • Access Out of Province/Country Emergency Medical Insurance (for under age 65), even if you don’t charge your tickets and travel arrangements to your Business Platinum Card.
  • Access Trip Cancellation Insurance, Trip Interruption Insurance, Travel Emergency Assistance, and up to $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance when you fully charge your tickets and travel arrangements to your Business Platinum Card.
  • Plus, access Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance, and Baggage Delay Insurance when you fully charge your airline tickets to your Business Platinum Card.
  • Save money when travelling with complimentary Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance
  • Protect your eligible purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for up to 90 days with Purchase Protection® Plan
  • Double the manufacturer’s original warranty up to one additional year with Buyer’s Assurance®Protection Plan.

All of the above help reduce the cost of basic travel needs and can even elevate your journey; having unlimited free lounge access is not just a matter of luxury since you still may have to eat during a long layover. Personally, paying $17 US for a cream cheese bagel and coffee breakfast or a $5 US orange juice for my son kinda hurts.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express allows you to enter many lounges with a guest and two children up to 21 years old; a family of four, especially with two teenage boys, can easily spend over a hundred dollars on one airport meal.

Amex Featured Salon Air France YUL -1
akl – salon strata-36

In addition, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express travel insurance is quite solid. Therefore, if you charge your trip to the card, you can benefit for a whole array of coverage without having to pay for it.

The annual fee may sound hefty, but there are various credits given and promotional offers; with the travel perks listed above and the earning potential on “other purchases’’, it can be justified.

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For Air Canada

If you fly Air Canada and their partners often, it makes sense to accumulate Aeroplan points. Since Membership Rewards can be transferred to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, the American Express Cobalt® Card is the best one for your day-to-day spending with the 5X multiplier. You will not be able to earn 5 Aeroplan points per dollar with any other credit card.

When you combine it with the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card, you can maximize Aeroplan earnings since you can:

  • Earn 3X the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada®*and Air Canada Vacations®*
  • Earn 1.25X the points on everything else

In addition, the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card offers a handful of amazing benefits for Air Canada travellers, such as:

  • Get through the airport quicker with Air Canada Priority Check-In, Air Canada Priority Boarding and Air Canada Priority Baggage Handling
  • Receive one Annual Worldwide Companion Pass when you spend $25,000 in net purchases prior to your Card anniversary date; your Pass entitles you to buy an accompanying Air Canada economy class ticket for a companion at a fixed base fare from $99 to a maximum of $CAD 599 (plus taxes, fees, charges, and surcharges)
  • Enjoy access to select Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges™*and Air Canada Caféin North America for you and a guest, with a same-day ticket on a departing Air Canada®* or Star Alliance®*
  • Enjoy your eligible first checked bag free for up to 9 people travelling on the same reservation on Air Canada flights.
  • Roll over any unallocated Aeroplan Elite™* Status Qualifying Miles and unused eUpgrade Credits to the following year to enjoy during your travels.
  • American Express® Experiences: From music and movies, to specially curated dining and online shopping opportunities, stay connected with all that we have to offer from the comfort of your own home
  • Get more from your travel experience at Toronto Pearson International Airport with:
    • Access to Pearson Priority Security Lane
    • Complimentary valet service at the Express Park and Daily Park
    • 15% discount on parking rates at the Express Park and Daily Park
    • 15% discount on Car Care Services
  • Get access with your American Express®Aeroplan®*Reserve Card to more than 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges and enjoy an oasis of comfort before your flight, regardless of your airline or cabin class
  • Insurance Coverage: whether you’re shopping nearby or travelling abroad, you can feel confident knowing you can be taken care of

Best Membership Rewards Cards - For Marriott Bonvoy

As for Marriott Bonvoy enthusiasts, the best Membership Rewards card would also be the American Express Cobalt® Card since you can transfer them at a 1:1.2 ratio. There are also occasional transfer bonuses that can turn that up to a 1:1.56 ratio.

Marriott hotels are a fit choice for both budget and luxury travellers. Indeed, with thousands of establishments worldwide, you can spend as little as 5,000 points per night in places like Bali or South Africa or over 100,000 to indulge yourself with a lavish night in the famous Emirates Suite at the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, in Dubai.

One of the best Marriott Bonvoy perks is to be able to get the fifth night free when you book with points.

Similar to the Aeroplan maximizing strategy, you can compose your wallet with the American Express Cobalt® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card in order to:

  • Earn 5x points for every $1 in Card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • Earn 3x points for every $1 spent on eligible gas, dining and travel
  • Earn 2x points for every $1 spent on everything else

Therefore, you can cover all categories to get the most Marriott Bonvoy points.

Let’s not forget the annual free night award you are given at every renewal with the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card! When used wisely, it largely offsets the credit card fees you are paying on its own.

Bottom Line

Membership Rewards are very versatile and serve all kinds of objectives whether you are cashback oriented or a traveller (of any type).

As you can see, the American Express Cobalt® Card is the best Membership Rewards credit card in every strategy and should be considered as a base product you should have in your wallet.

Then, according to your consumer profile and specific needs, you can combine it with another credit card or two to maximize earnings and advantages to make up for the few areas the American Express Cobalt® Card is missing.

If you are not yet convinced that having the American Express Cobalt® Card to earn Membership Rewards is a good idea, why not try out the program with the American Express® Green Card?

It will allow you to taste the versatility of Membership Rewards without any annual fee and will give you a nice 10,000 points as a sign-up bonus.

With the American Express® Green Card, you can also test out your regular merchants and make sure they accept American Express as a method of payment before taking the leap with the American Express Cobalt® Card.

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Aline Nguyen
I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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