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By Credit Card Company
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card Review Posted on Jan 19, 2015

Launched in September of 2012 the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is now veteran of our loyalty credit card market. It was the first American Express card issued by a bank other than Amex Bank of Canada since CIBC tried the partnership in 2002. Now that the card has been around for over two years we figured it was time to give it a review since this partnership between Scotiabank and American Express has lasted longer than the CIBC effort and it appears that it isn't going away soon.

Overview

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is the middle of a suite of three American Express cards issued by Scotiabank and is by far the most popular version of the trio. When launched they took hints of their Momentum Visa Infinite Cash Back card which has some very high category spend bonuses and applied them these suite of cards. Depending on how you use the card it can be give you a return of 1% to as high as 4% on travel rewards. The card(s) fall into our Travel Points With Annual Fee category, which means points are earned into the credit card issuers proprietary reward program. It gets further categorized as Travel Anywhere card which means you don't have to book via the credit card issuers proprietary reward, you can book any travel how you want when you want and when the charge shows up on your statement you can redeem points against the charge. The two other versions of the Scotiabank American Express cards are a lower cost Standard version and a higher cost Platinum version.

Sign up Features
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with a 20,000 Scotia Rewards Points sign up bonus that is awarded when you reach $750 in spending in the first three months. They are also offering the first year free (the $99 annual fee is waived) for applications made by January 31, 2017.

Costs
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with a $99 Annual fee which is lower than many of its comparable competitors which charge around $120. Supplementary cards run $29 which is also lower than most comparable cards that charge $50. The interest rate on the card is19.99% which is in line with most of the cards at this level. The Platinum Card carries an annual fee of $399 ($99 supplementary) and the standard card runs at $39 ($15 supplementary)

Earning
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card has one of the highest earn rates on specific category spending with 4 points per dollar awarded on gas stations, grocery stores, on dining and entertainment. That equates to a amazing 4% return on that spending! The 4 points per dollar is limited to $50,000 per year in those categories which should be more than enough for the majority of Canadians who use this card. On all other spending the card earns 1 Scotia Reward Point per dollar spent which equates to a 1% return.
If you choose to get the Platinum version that $50,000 cap on the category bonuses is increased to $100,000 while the regular card has the earn rate dropped to 2 points per dollar in those bonus categories.

Related: Credit Card Showdown: American Express Gold Rewards Card vs Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Redeeming
Being the Rewards Canada "Travel Points" category in our annual credit card rankings means the points earned are part of the credit card's proprietary reward program, in this case Scotia Rewards and not a co-brand program like Aeroplan or Air Miles. For the vast majority of Canadians this is a good thing since you are not bound by the restrictions and limitations that frequent flyer programs and programs like Air Miles put on flights and in fact you are not limited to only flights but any travel. This card falls into the book any travel anywhere category of Travel Points cards which means you don't have to redeem via Scotia Rewards. All you have to do is book your travel whether it be aircanada.com, westjet.com, expedia.com or anywhere else including your trusted travel agent and when that charge shows up on your statement you simply call up Scotia Rewards or go online and redeem points against the charge.

Points are redeemed at a rate of 100 points for $1 with a minimum redemption of 5,000 points for $50 off your travel. That is the beauty of this card and many like it, you don't have to have the full amount of points to begin to enjoy the rewards! If you buy an airline ticket for $600 and have 30,000 points you can choose to redeem those points for a $300 credit which means your flight only cost $300. You also get 12 months after the travel charge posts to your account to redeem points so you can continue to pay off that vacation with points up to a year after! Another benefit of this' book travel on your own' is you can be on vacation and buy travel on the card (say a rail ticket) and then redeem points when you get home. It can't be done with cards that don't have this feature such as the BMO Rewards World Elite Mastercard or CIBC Aventura Visa since you need to redeem the points ahead of time. Essentially the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card falls into the category of most flexible travel rewards cards.



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 card
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.

Conclusion
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.

Care to comment? Do you agree or disagree with us? Tell us what think about the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card on our blog


Related Links:
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card on scotiabank.com
Rewards Canada's All Travel Rewards Credit Card Comparison including the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Rewards Canada's Travel Points Only Credit Card Comparison including the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Other cards to consider if you are looking at this card:
American Express Gold Rewards Card
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
RBC Visa Infinite Avion
Scotia Gold Passport Visa
TD First Class Infinite Visa

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