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Clash of the Credit Cards!
American Express Cobalt™ Card vs.
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card
Posted on February 25, 2021

 

Welcome to another Rewards Canada Clash! This time in our Clash of the Credit Cards we pit two 5x points cards against each other! Those cards are the American Express Cobalt™ Card New Window and the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* CardNew Window

Past clashes:

In this match up we look at over half a dozen criteria to compare the cards against one another along with a head to head detailed table comparison.

Annual Fees / Sign Up Bonus

The annual fees for both these cards are equal - the American Express Cobalt Card charges $10 per month for an annual amount of $120. The BMO card has your standard $120 annual fee. Supplementary or additional cards have no charge with the Cobalt card while on the eclipse each additional card is $50. At the time of first posting this clash (February 2021) the Eclipse card comes with a first year annual waiver something we have not seen on the Cobalt card. One should also be aware that the Cobalt Card does not have a minimum income requirement when compared to the BMO card's $60,000 personal or $100,000 income stipulation.

For the standard sign up bonus there are some slight differences between the cards. The standard bonus on the Cobalt Card is 30,000 points but that is divvied up as 2,500 points per month in each month you spend at least $500 on the card in the first 12 months of having it. Miss a month of hitting $500 and you don't get the bonus that month. The standard bonus on the eclipse card is 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months of having it. So you can achieve the BMO welcome bonus sooner however it's value is less than what can be achieved on the Cobalt card. Also miss that $3,000 spend mark and you get no bonus at all on the BMO card. Those are your standard sign up bonuses.

Currently both cards have increased welcome bonuses (as of February 2021) with the Cobalt Card offering up to 45,000 points when you apply for the card by May 5, 2021. It has your standard 30,000 point offer as described above and added 15,000 points if you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. While the BMO card is the opposite - it has the standard 25,000 points with the annual fee waiver in the first year as noted above and an additional 15,000 points on the card anniversary date twelve months later.

While close in numbers, this category goes to the Cobalt Card for the actual value of the welcome bonus (see the chart below) and the no fee additional cards.

Rates

The American Express Cobalt Card has slightly lower interest rates when compared to the BMO eclipse card. Which for any one who does carry credit can make a difference thus this category also goes to the Cobalt Card.

Bonus Features & Benefits

Both cards don't offer a lot of bonus features or benefits like some other cards but those that they do offer are notable. The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card includes an annual $50 lifestyle credit. Simply put, they give you $50 each year as a statement credit for having the card. That's really the only additional benefit this card has.

The American Express Cobalt Card does not have any annual credits like the BMO card but it does have Amex Offers. These are typically statement credits or bonus points that are offered throughout the year for using your card at select merchants. We've seen bonuses and credits for Amazon.ca, Chapters Indigo and many more. Rewards Canada has an entire guide to Amex Offers which you can check out here.New Window American Express also has Amex Invites which the Cobalt Card is part of and that's Amex's exclusive access to concerts (Amex Front of the Line), shopping events and more. Due to the pandemic there hasn't been much happening with Amex Invites but you can bet that once life returns to something that looks normal we'll start seeing a lot of exclusive offers and events from the programs.

This is a tough category to call as it's quite close but we'll give it to BMO for the $50 annual credit as it is guaranteed compared to Amex Offers which may be valuable for one person but not the next.

Points Earning & Redemption

Points earning on the two cards are very similar but also very different. That's due to the redemption value of the points which we'll discuss here as well! Both cards have multiple earn rates and heavily promoted for their 5x points earning on select categories. The American Express Cobalt Card earns 5x points on eats and drinks (dining, groceries, food delivery, coffee shops, convenience stores etc.) and the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card earns 5x points on groceries, dining, gas and transit. The Cobalt Card places an annual cap of $30,000 on the 5x points earning while the BMO eclipse sees a higher $50,000 cap. Then the Cobalt Card earns 2 points per dollar on travel, gas and transit purchases with no annual cap. All other spending on both cards sees an earn rate of one point per dollar spent. BMO cardholders will earn an extra 10% points if they add an additional card however we don't know for how long as BMO's terms do state it as an introductory offer.

Recommended reading: American Express Cobalt Card Confirmed Multiplier Locations New Window

We know from personal experience that the Cobalt card's multipliers work outside of Canada but cannot say if the BMO card will earn its 5x points outside of Canada as their terms and conditions state in Canada only. Hopefully some our of readers can chime in who have the BMO card and let us know if the multipliers work outside of Canada.

One should also note on the earning side that since the BMO is a Visa card which gives it a slight edge in terms of acceptance but that gap has been closing every year as American Express has made great strides in adding merchants, especially mom and pop shops.

Recommended reading: A step by step guide to the American Express Shop Small Program New Window

So while it may look like BMO has the edge on the points earning with a higher cap and more categories to earn 5x points you have to look at what those points are worth and that is where the cards differ and that's why I recommend reading the following article of ours:

Recommended reading: When earning 5x points isn't the same as earning 5x points - a loyalty lesson New Window

Both of these cards strong points are supposed to be their redemption for travel rewards. The BMO eclipse card is pretty simple in that you book any travel via BMO Rewards and redeem your points at a rate of 140 points for a $1 credit. That's a redemption rate of 0.714 cents per point, which means those 5x points you earned are worth 3.57 cents. Compare this to the Cobalt Card - you can redeem points towards any travel booked via any travel provider and then redeem points against the charge. The rate is 1,000 for a $10 credit. That makes the 5x points you earned worth 5 cents each. Now you can see how these two 5x points cards actually differ. The news gets worse for BMO however - as of May 2021 the redemption rate for travel will be 150 points for a $1 credit. Thus the redemption rate will be 0.667 cents per point or 3.33 cents for that 5x points spending and only 0.667 cents per point for the 1 point earned on non-category bonus spending versus the Cobalt Card's 1 cent per point. That's a pretty big difference! In terms of the any airline anytime redemption the Cobalt Card is also the better option since you do your own bookings with any provider whereas the BMO card you have to book via BMO Rewards who do not have the most stellar reputation with our readers. Even if you factor in BMO's 10% extra points for having an additional card the numbers still don't match the Cobalt's rates.

Recommended reading: More BMO credit card changes - travel redemption rate devaluation affects new eclipse Visa cards and BMO Rewards Mastercards New Window

The travel redemption options don't end there however for the Cobalt Card. American Express also has a travel option called Fixed points for Travel. This is their reward chart option that you can use to book travel via American Express Travel. Think of it as your traditional frequent flyer program style chart where you redeem a fixed amount of points for travel to a certain area. For example you can redeem 60,000 points for a flight to Europe from Canada with a maximum value of $900 before fees and taxes. That means you could spend as little as $12,000 on the Cobalt Card for a $900 flight. The BMO card? That $12,000 in spending nets you $400 towards travel (at 0.667 cents). Ultimately the Fixed Points for Travel chart provides potential returns of 1.5% or more on the 1 point per dollar spent category to a high of 10% for the 5x points category if you redeem for the five popular route options on the chart (15,000 points for routes like Calgary-Vancouver, Toronto-Montreal etc.)

And we still have one more travel redemption option for the Cobalt Card. That's it option to convert points to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. The latter doesn't provide a huge amount of value so we'll stick to the Marriott Bonvoy conversion option. You can convert the Membership Rewards Select points earned on the Cobalt Card to Marriott Bonvoy at a rate of 1,000 MR-S points to 1,200 Bonvoy Points. Thus you can consider the earn on the Cobalt Card as 1.2 to 6 Bonvoy points per dollar spent. We value Marriott Bonvoy points at a minimum of 1 cent a piece so your return at a minimum is 1.2 to 6%. We say minimum as typically you can get higher value out of each Bonvoy point where that return on spending easily eclipses 10%. One final note as well - Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to over 40 airline programs from around the world including Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines, United MileagePlus and many more so that's just one more tick in the win box for the Cobalt Card.

Both cards also offer cash back redemption options. The American Express Cobalt Card allows cardmembers to redeem 1,000 points for a $7 credit towards any non-travel purchase made on the card. That works out to a 0.7 to 3.5% return on your card spending. The BMO eclipse card has a similar option where you can redeem 200 points for $1 credit which works out to a 0.5% to 2.5% return on your spending. There is one other avenue for BMO however for cash back and that is redeeming points to have cash deposited into a BMO savings account. That rate matches the new travel rate of 150 points to $1. This last option works out to a 0.667 to 3.33% return.

While on paper the BMO card may earn more points thanks to it $50,000 cap and more categories, across the board when you look at both sides of the equation and all earn rates the Cobalt Card does better. Add in Cobalt's Fixed Points for Travel and conversion to Marriott and the Cobalt just widens that gap. This category goes to the American Express Cobalt Card.

Insurance

Insurance on these cards may not match several other cards in the market as more of the issuers budgets go to the higher points earning but they do still include some coverage. Both cards are equally matched on travel medical insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty. The BMO eclipse card does have better common carrier insurance and also mobile device insurance which the Cobalt does not but that's it. The Cobalt Card has flight delay, baggage insurance and hotel burglary insurance which the BMO cards has none of. Finally the Cobalt Card has slightly better car rental coverage with a higher MSRP car value. Overall the insurance category goes to the American Express Cobalt Card.

Conclusion

Here we have two cards that are well known as 5x points earners - one brand new and the other the king of travel rewards cards in Canada for the better part of four years. BMO came out to challenge the Cobalt Card and other premium cards in Canada with the new eclipse family of Visa cards but with the eclipse Visa Infinite card is has definitely fallen short. I mean no card that charges $120 a year should have a base earn rate below 1% yet the BMO card does. Thus thanks to better per point valuations, better insurance and more flexible reward options the American Express Cobalt Card is the clear winner here by beating the BMO card in most categories and comparisons. If you are someone who spends a lot on gas or transit the BMO card may be the better way to go so long as you are open to less flexible redemption options but that's really it for the BMO card and that's not much when you look at the big picture of this clash.

The winner of this clash is: American Express Cobalt Card New Window

Feature continues below with the head to head comparison

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The Cards Head to Head:

Yellow background indicates the clear winner for that category. For rows that do not have yellow in either column it is a tie between the cards.

Basics

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

Card Type Hybrid Travel Points
Annual Fee
$10 per month ($120/year)
$120
Limited Time Annual Fee Offer
No $0 in the first year
Supp. Card Fee
$0
$50
Interest Rate
19.99%
Purchase †

21.99%
Cash Advance †
20.99%
Purchase

23.99%
Cash Advance
Foreign Exchange Transaction Fee
2.5%
2.5%
Minimum Income
Not applicable
Minimum Income $60,000 (individual) or $100,000 (household)

Points Earning

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

Standard Welcome Bonus
30,000 points

25,000 points

Welcome Bonus Value* $300 $178.57 (until the end of April)
$166.67 (from May onwards)
Limited Time Welcome Bonus
45,000 Points until May 5, 2021

40,000

Limited Time Welcome Bonus Value* $450 $285.17 (until the end of April)
$266.67 (from May onwards)
Renewal or additional Bonus
5,000 bonus points for approved referrals to the card (up to 75,000 points annually)
10% extra points when you add an authorized user to your account
Travel
2 points per dollar spent
1 point per dollar spent
Grocery
5 points per dollar spent^
5 points per dollar spent^
Dining
5 points per dollar spent^
5 points per dollar spent^
Gas & Transit
2 points per dollar spent
5 points per dollar spent^
All other purchase
1 point per dollar spent
1 point per dollar spent
^ Annual cap on bonus category spending
$30,000
$50,000
Value of points per $1 spent*
1 to 5 cents
0.714 to 3.57 cents (until the end of April)
0.667 to 3.33 cents (from May onwards)
*Valuations are based upon redeeming the points for travel purchases as those provide the best value - see the next section for cash back redemption options

Redemption/Exchange Options

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

Miles/Points deposited to
Membership Rewards Select
BMO Rewards
Travel Redemption Value
1,000 points = $10
for any travel booked with any travel provider
or
up to a 1.5% to 10% return for travel booked via Amex's Fixed Points for Travel program
140 points = $1 (until the end of April)
150 points = $1 (from May onwards)
Exchange Options
Convert points to:
Marriott Bonvoy
Hilton Honors
None
Cash Back Redemption option

1,000 points = $7 statement credit

200 points = $1 statement credit

Value of points for cash back redemptions
0.7% to 3.5%
0.5% to 2.5%

Benefits

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

Annual credit
No
$50

Insurance

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance
$250,000
$500,000
Flight Delay Insurance
4 hours
$500 in total
No
Delayed Baggage Insurance
6 hours
$500 in total
No
Lost / Stolen Baggage Insurance Yes

$500 in total
No
Damaged Baggage Insurance Yes

$500 in total
No
Trip Cancellation Insurance
No No
Trip Interruption Insurance
No No
Travel Medical Insurance up to 64 years old 15 days 15 days
Travel Medical Insurance 65+
No No
Auto Rental/Loss Damage Insurance
48 Days

Up to $85,000 MSRP
48 Days

Up to $65,000 MSRP
Hotel / Motel Burglary Insurance Yes

Up to $500
No
Purchase Protection
90 Days

up to $1,000 per occurrence
90 Days

Up to $60,000 lifetime
Price Protection
No No
Extended Warranty Plan
Yes

Up to 1 extra year
Yes

Up to 1 extra year
Mobile Device Insurance
No
Yes

Up to $1,000
Link to Apply
Apply Now
Apply Now
 

American Express Cobalt™ Card

American Express Cobalt™ Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

 


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