Ranked as the number one travel points credit card with an annual fee in Canada, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card was last reviewed by Rewards Canada in 2015, some three years after it was introduced in 2012. It was the first American Express card issued by a bank other than Amex Bank of Canada since CIBC tried the partnership in 2002. The card underwent some massive changes in 2019 so it is really due for a new updated review here on Rewards Canada! The latest change to the card happened late in 2021 when the Scotia Rewards program was combined with Cineplex's SCENE to become Scene+.
If you want to see what the old card was like read our Scotiabank Gold American Express Card Review (Old 2015 version)
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 own 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 5% on travel rewards. The card(s) fall into our Travel Points With Annual Fee category, which means points are earned into the credit card issuer's proprietary reward program, which has now become Scene+. It gets further categorized as a Travel Anywhere card which means you don't have to book via Scene+ Travel if you don't want to, 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 no fee Standard version and a higher cost Platinum version.
Recommended reading: The new Scene+ program is now live, find all the details here!
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with a $120 primary card annual fee which is nice to see Scotia hold onto as we are starting to see more of these premium cards bump up their annual fees from this exact amount that we have all become accustomed to. Supplementary cards are only $29 each which is also nice as most competing cards do charge $50 for each additional card. If you have a Scotiabank Ultimate Package bank account the annual fee is waived on the primary card!
Typically, the standard welcome bonus offer on this card is 20,000 Scotia Rewards points however right now the welcome bonus on the card offers up to 45,000 Scene+ points and a first year annual fee waiver! You'll receive 25,000 points when you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months - that's right only $333.34 a month, this is one of the lowest spend requirements for a card of this level. Then you can earn an additional 20,000 points if you spend at $7,500 on the card within the first year of having it. That's a pretty low threshold as well! Those 45,000 points are worth $450 towards any travel redemption.
The interest rate on the card is 20.99% on purchases. 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers. These rates are equivalent to or below many cards at this level. The card has a very low minimum annual income requirements of only $12,000 personal but you should note that you'll need a good credit rating to be considered
The last big note in this section is Foreign Transaction fees and after this card's makeover in 2019 Scotia did away with charging that 2.5% fee on any non Canadian dollar purchases. That's a huge benefit for online shopping out of the country and of course when you travel outside the country. This card actually makes up the American Express portion of Rewards Canada's Ultimate No Foreign Transaction fee Credit Card portfolio
A big part of this card's makeover in 2019 came in the earn category and we can thank this card's biggest competitor, the American Express Cobalt Card for that. The team at Scotia took note of the Cobalt card and modified the card earn rates to the following:
The accelerated earn rates of 5 and 3 points per dollar are capped at $50,000 spending annually. This is one of the higher caps in our market and is higher than the comparable Cobalt Card. Although the Cobalt Card's cap of $30,000 annually is only on eats & drinks - it's accelerated earn rate on travel, gas, transit, ride sharing etc. is not capped.
One major note is the 5 and 3 point accelerated earn rates are only eligible for purchases in Canada. Should you be travelling outside of Canada you will strictly earn 1 point per dollar on any eligible purchases. But you do have to take into account that you aren't paying any foreign transactions fees on those purchases.
|Spending Category||Points earned per dollar spent||Effective Rate of return (Travel) *|
|Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Voilà by Sobeys, Voilà by IGA, Voilà by Safeway, Chalo! FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA West, Les Marchés Tradition, Rachelle Béry and Co-Op||6||6%|
|Grocery stores, dining and entertainment||5||5%|
|Gas stations, daily transit, and select streaming services||3||3%|
|All other spending||1||1%|
Falling into the Rewards Canada "Travel Points" category in our annual credit card rankings means the points earned are part of the credit card's semi-proprietary reward program, in this case Scene+ and not a totally separate 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 Scene+ Travel. All you have to do is book your travel whether it be aircanada.com, westjet.com, expedia.ca or anywhere else including your trusted travel agent and when that charge shows up on your statement you simply call up Scotia or go online and redeem points against the charge.
Points are redeemed at a rate of 100 points for $1. 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! There aren't too many card programs in Canada that give you that amount of time to redeem after the fact. 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 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.
There are also non-travel redemption options in the Scene+ program. Probably the second most popular after travel would be their Points for Credit option which is essentially a cash back option. This works in the same vain as the travel rewards option although with a different redemption rate. Basically you can apply points to receive a cash back credit on a non-travel charge. The redemption rates are as follows:
|Cash Back Credit||Points Required||Rate of Return|
Right away it doesn't look like those rates a great but you have to remember that you earning up to 5 points per dollar spent. Hypothetically speaking if all your points are earned only in the 5x category those cash back rate of returns come in just below 3.5%. That's a pretty good cash back return!
You can also redeem Scene+ points for merchandise directly from Apple and Best Buy or via their own merchandise catalog. The last redemption option is using points to redeem for gift cards for dozens of stores, restaurants and more. All these redemption options also come in at a lower value than redeeming for travel but it is nice to have them as an option!
On top of the big benefit of having No Foreign Transaction Fees the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with a good suite of insurance and benefits that are typically seen on cards of this level. On the insurance side the card comes with wide range of coverage including travel accident insurance, flight delay, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, travel medical insurance up to 25 days under 65 (3 days if 65 or older), lost/delayed baggage insurance, car rental CDW coverage, hotel burglary insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty.
The main non-insurance related benefits the card offers are access to Amex Offers, Amex Front of the Line and Amex Invites. These are all exclusive programs limited to American Express. Amex Offers is an amazing benefit that provides statement credits or bonus points for shopping at various merchants. I would recommend checking out our Guide to American Express Canada 'Amex Offers' for more details. Although it is written from the perspective of cards from American Express directly it should translate very similarly to Scotia's Amex Cards. Amex Front of the Line is a service that provides presale and/or reserved ticket options for events across Canada including concerts, theatre productions and more. Amex Invites provides exclusive offers like advance screening for movies, exclusive shopping events and more.
The one last benefit on the card is a 35% discount for purchasing an annual Priority Pass Business Class lounge membership. When the card first launched in 2012 they used to cover the entire $99 fee for Priority Pass but alas that is no longer the case.
Recommended Reading: Rewards Canada's Guide to Business Class Lounge Access
The current limited time welcome bonus of up to 45,000 points! If you meet all the spend requirements you'll have $450 towards any travel and that doesn't include the value from the points earned on your spending!
The best thing about this card is its amazing 5x points earn rate on so many good everyday categories. It is actually one of the few cards that has an accelerated earn rate for entertainment purchases. For a lot of people that means 5x points when buying a season ticket membership for NHL, NBA or CFL teams! The 3x earn rates are also a great thing about this card especially for a category like streaming services - again not many card have this. Continuing on the good with the earn side is the annual $50,000 cap. This is one of the higher caps out there and makes for earning 5x points all year long quite easy for most cardholders.
No Foreign Transaction fees! This is the only American Express card in Canada to have this benefit.
The annual fees are another good thing as we have seen many issuers bump up equivalent cards to $139 and even $150 per year. This card remains $120 and the comparatively low additional card fee of $29 is also a good thing.
The insurance package that comes with the card is also very strong and carries some better options than its competitors like the 25 day out of province medical insurance.
The Amex related benefits, mainly Amex Offers also add to the list of good things about this card as that can provide some much appreciated savings for cardholders.
There isn't too much that is bad about this card. Probably the biggest sticking points will be that it is an American Express card which means lower acceptance over Visa or Mastercard. While American Express keeps closing the gap on the two big issuers there are still some notable merchants you can't use your American Express card like Loblaw's family of grocery stores, Wendy's and Costco.
The next not so good thing is the lower earn rate on out of country purchases. Even though it is negated somewhat by having No Foreign Transaction fees there are other cards in the market that also have No Foreign Transaction Fees and earn more points. Those included this card's sibling the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card and the HSBC World Elite Mastercard. So if you make a lot of purchases outside of Canada you may want to consider another card or have the Scotia Gold American Express Card for your purchases in Canada and another for outside of Canada. And yes you can combine points if you choose to have the Gold American Express and the Passport Visa Infinite Card in your wallet.
It's no wonder the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card has been crowned as the Top Travel Points Credit Card with an annual fee for several years now. When you take the high earn rates on very popular spend categories and couple them with high annual caps, totally flexible travel rewards redemptions and no foreign transaction fees this card is a winner. If you know you'll never need to earn or convert points to other airline or hotel programs (i.e. cards in our Hybrid Credit Card category) then this card is for you. It will rack up points super fast and provide you with some amazing value for your future travels!
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