Features and Benefits
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with the usual slate of insurance and benefits that are seen on Gold, Platinum and Infinite cards. On the insurance side the card comes with wide range of coverage as including travel accident insurance, flight delay, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, travel medical insurance, lost/damaged baggage insurance, car rental CDW coverage, hotel burglary insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty. The travel medical insurance does stand out as it covers you for up to 25 days per trip which is somewhat higher than the majority of cards that offer the benefit.
Related: Travel Reward Credit Card Medical Insurance Coverage
The primary Non-insurance benefits include a discount on annual Priority Pass Business Class lounge membership and price protection. The latter is where if you buy something on the card and the price drops within a certain period of time you can claim it to get the difference refunded to your account.
What is good about this card
The 4 Points per dollar earned for gas, grocery and dining and entertainment categories is what's good about this card! That earn rate is huge as it translates to a 4% return. At the time of writing I know a lot people's investment portfolios weren't making this much!
The insurance package that comes with the card is also very strong and carries some better options than its competitors like 25 day out of province medical insurance and price protection.
The 35% discount on the Priority Pass business class lounge access is decent but isn't as good as when the card first launched when the full $99 fee was covered. If you travel lots and enjoy business class lounge access other cards offer better options in this case.
Related: Rewards Canada's Guide to Business Class Lounge Access
What is not so good about this
There are two things that are not so good about this card. First we all know that American Express is
not widely accepted like its competitors and make it hard to use this card everywhere you shop. Yes it earns 4 points per dollar on Dining and Entertainment but outside of major chains and high end restaurants, the American Express brand is tough to use. The good things is that more and more merchants are accepting American
Express everyday but their coverage is still lower than Visa or MasterCard. Also with the upcoming changes to the Visa/MasterCard interchange rate we may see some retailers drop American Express Acceptance.
Related: 2015: The Year Credit Card Rewards Come Crashing Down to Earth?
The second issue we have with the card won't be a huge issue for most Canadians and that is the ability to convert points to other programs. When you compare this card to cards like the American Express Gold Rewards Card or the RBC Avion Visa Infinite card which are both Hybrid Cards that allow you to redeem points via their proprietary rewards programs and/or convert them to numerous other loyalty programs. Scotiabank unfortunately doesn't have relationships with loyalty companies like Amex or RBC in Canada. They do have SCENE which isn't travel rewards related and in the Caribbean they are the primary issuer of American Airlines AAdvantage cards but AA is tied in with RBC and their Avion card right now.
If you are someone who goes out a lot to eat and drink, goes to a lot of movies and/or theatre this card rewards you handsomely. If you have little to no ties to major loyalty programs like Aeroplan and Air Miles and know you can use this card a lot for the category bonuses it should be in your wallet . What is also advantageous is that Scotiabank also offers the Scotiabank Rewards VISA card, which has no annual fee and will cover those merchants that don’t accept American Express. This allows you to earn Scotia Rewards points on both cards, rather than having to collect points in two different programs. Also, if you want to have no restrictions on how, when and where you can use your points towards travel, then this card is also for you.
However if you want flights in business or first class at the best possible return on your credit card spending (business and first class redemptions made via a frequent flyer program represent the best possible value out of any loyalty program) and you collect a lot of miles or points from sources other than credit card spend getting this card may not be the best first choice but could make sense as a secondary or tertiary card if you are willing to cover the annual fee each year after your first year free. Granted if you only used the card on category bonus spending so that your return was strictly 4% this is actual a pretty decent value towards redeeming those points for a business class ticket. If you spend the full $50,000 a year on the card in category bonuses so that you have $2,000 in points you could use this towards a hefty discount on a business class ticket. For example Air France and KLM are well known for running great Business Class sales to Europe from Canada. My parents flew Calgary to Prague for $3,500 each in the new KLM Business Class so if you had these $2,000 worth of points that ticket would only cost you $1,500. If you did an Aeroplan redemption for the same route it would be 90,000 Miles or a minimum of $45,000 with the American Express Gold Rewards Cards but for most people it would be much higher than that (probably around $60,000 with the TD or CIBC Aeroplan cards) and you would be looking close to $1,000 in taxes and fees. So what would you rather spend $50,000 on your card + $1,500 for the remainder of a ticket with little to no restrictions like Aeroplan or spend $60,000 plus $1,000 in taxes and fees and be at the whim of Aeroplan availability and routing problems. Remember however this example is based on spending in category bonuses. Once you use your Scotiabank Gold American Express card at other non-category bonus locations you start eating away at that 4% return and lose value for Business Class redemptions. Ultimately if you are tied into Aeroplan, Air Miles or another loyalty program as you primary travel rewards source then this card should not be the primary card in your credit card portfolio.
Overall when Scotiabank launched this suite of Amex branded cards they needed it. The Scotiabank Gold Passport Visa had fallen way behind the competition and to this date has stayed behind its competitors. The Scotiabank Amex branded cards had a difficult first 8-10 months with less people jumping on the card than Scotiabank had hoped but it does seem to have turned the corner thanks to some very heavy advertising at airports, city transit and more. For some Canadians this should be the primary card in your wallet while for a good majority of you it can make a really good back up card to your primary card and only use it at places where you earn the category bonuses.
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Other cards to consider if you are looking at this
American Express Gold Rewards
BMO World Elite Master Card
CIBC Aventura World MasterCard
CUETS Platinum Class MasterCard
Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard
mbna Rewards World Elite MasterCard
National Bank of Canada World MasterCard
Visa Infinite Avion
Scotia Gold Passport Visa
TD First Class Infinite Visa