Scotiabank Gold American Express review: How competitive are this travel card's rewards? - MoneySense

Scotiabank Gold American Express review: How competitive are this travel card’s rewards?

Dive into the perks and insurance offerings that come with this attractive credit card to determine if it fits your spending habits and lifestyle.

Scotiabank Gold Amex

With an outstanding earn rate, no foreign transaction fees and a better-than-average travel insurance package, the Scotiabank Gold American Express card has garnered a lot of attention from Canadian travellers and cross-border shoppers. But is Amex a strong enough brand in Canada? And is this card worth the $120 annual fee? We dig into the details.

Scotiabank Gold American Express quick facts

Scotiabank Gold American Express*

Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Rewards: 5 Scotia Rewards Points on every $1 you spend on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, drinking establishments and entertainment; 3 Points on eligible gas, rideshares and public transit, as well as streaming services; 1 Point on everything else.
  • Scotia Rewards Points Value: 1 Point = $0.01 when redeemed for travel
  • Welcome offer: Up to 20,000 bonus Scotia Rewards Points in your first year
  • Income requirement: $12,000
  • Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
  • Best features: No foreign transaction fee on purchases in another currency, including online shopping; great return on food purchases; flexible, easy-to-understand rewards system
  • Who it’s good for: Travellers, foodies and cross-border shoppers

Apply for the Scotiabank Gold American Express* >

Scotiabank Gold American Express

5 things you need to know about the Scotiabank Gold American Express

  1. You earn Scotia Rewards Points
    With the Scotiabank Gold American Express, the earn rate is 5 Points per dollar spent on restaurants and groceries, and on entertainment including movies, theatre and event tickets. Cardholders earn 3 Points per dollar on gas and transportation including ride sharing, public transit and taxis, and on streaming services like Netflix. Everything else accumulates at 1 Point per dollar spent. When you’re ready to redeem, you simply go online. Rewards in the Scotia program come in the form of travel as well as merchandise, gift cards or cash against your credit card balance. When you redeem for travel, the value of 1 Scotia Point is $0.01, or 1%, which makes it simple to calculate your rewards.
  2. There’s a valuable sign-up bonus
    New applicants can receive up to 20,000 Scotia Rewards Points, which are awarded after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months. At a 1% redemption value for travel, a 20,000 Point bonus comes out to around $200 in rewards.
  3. The card offers great travel insurance coverage
    The included travel insurance package is very good, and counts as one of the main perks of the card. When cardholders use the Scotiabank Gold American Express for their travel expenses, they receive up to $1 million in travel medical coverage for 25 days and $1 million in travel accident insurance; up to $1,500 per person in trip cancellation or interruption coverage (to a $10,000 maximum); flight and baggage delay protection; and car rental loss and damage coverage. If you purchased this coverage separately it would cost at least $100 per trip.
  4. You won’t be charged foreign transaction fees
    Usually, when you make a purchase in a foreign currency, in person or online, you’re charged a fee of 2.5% to 3% above and beyond the currency exchange. This is the foreign transaction fee, and it can add up fast. Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees are few and far between for Canadian consumers, and Scotia is the only major bank offering this perk. When consumers shop with the Scotiabank Gold Amex, that fee is waived. This is an exceptional value for online shoppers or those who travel frequently, especially in the United States where American Express is widely accepted. In addition to waiving the fee, the Scotiabank Gold Amex will earn you 1 Point per dollar on all purchases made in a foreign currency.
  5. Being an Amex cardholder comes with perks
    As American Express members, cardholders are entitled to the company’s Amex Offers and Amex Front of the Line programs. After free registration, Amex Offers gives members access to coupons, discounts or Points-earning opportunities with spends at participating retailers. Just like the name suggests, Front of the Line offers Amex members priority access to pre-sale tickets and reserved blocks of seats at concerts, musicals and other live events.

How to redeem your Scotia Rewards

One of the best features of this card is how easy it is to redeem your rewards. Travel rewards can be used on the Scotia Travel site or through an external site and then applied retroactively. Either way, Points are worth the same 1% in value, meaning that 5,000 Points are worth $50. Travel rewards are very flexible and can include hotels, packages, car rentals and flights—which can be booked on any airline, without blackout dates. For non-travel rewards such as merchandise, gift cards or a credit against an amount owing, the Scotia Rewards site acts as a portal or catalogue for online shopping. Members should be aware that the value per Point is typically lower for non-travel rewards. For example, it takes 13,400 Points to get a $100 Amazon gift card.

Are there any drawbacks to the Scotiabank Gold American Express?

While the Scotiabank Gold Amex card is robust, particularly for travellers, there are a few things to consider before applying. First, in Canada, American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard. If you routinely shop at stores like Costco and Loblaws, you won’t be able to use your card, which could seriously cut into the earning potential for food and groceries that makes this card so strong. (You can find a list of some retailers that do accept Amex here.) Also, while this is a card that offers travel perks, travel spends receive just 1 Point per dollar—and the same goes for purchases in foreign currencies, no matter the category.

What are the best ways to benefit from this card?

The Scotiabank Gold American Express works best as a Points card for travel. The redemption value of 1% in this category and the flexible rewards mean that it can really get you on your way quickly. Add to that the above-average travel insurance package and foreign transaction fee waiver, and this card is an asset to any traveller’s wallet.

Consider picking up a second back-up credit card with no fee, such as Tangerine Money-Back credit card,* for merchants that don’t accept Amex. This way you’ll still be able to collect rewards, or get cash back on your purchases. As far as travel rewards cards go, the Scotiabank Gold American Express is worth your serious consideration.