As we enter the home stretch of the pandemic, American Express keeps coming out with thunderous credit card offers. There’s a new “incognito offer” on the American Express Cobalt Card for a tantalizing record-high of 50,000 MR Select points, available to select visitors to the Amex website.
As always, you’ll earn 2,500 MR Select points for each of the first 12 months that you spend $500, summing up to 30,000 MR Select points.
On top of that, you’ll also earn an additional 20,000 MR Select points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, allowing you to earn a total of 50,000 MR Select points.
In This Post
- What Is an Incognito Offer?
- Up to 50,000 MR Select Points
- How to Redeem MR Select Points
- Amex Cobalt Card: A Long-Term Winner for Its 5x Earning Rate
- Other Incognito Offers Now Available
What Is an Incognito Offer?
In the US, Amex has long been known for offering different welcome bonuses to different people. Some of these bonuses are targeted for existing clients who meet certain mysterious criteria, but the bulk of them are available publicly and have been affectionately dubbed “incognito offers“.
They’ll present a “limited time” elevated bonus, with a caution that the offer might not be available if you return to the website later. As a marketing tactic, the idea is to encourage people who are casually browsing to apply for the card right then and there.
While these offers are available to everyone, including existing members with other Amex products, their purpose is to attract new cardholders. If an incognito offer is available, you’re likely to see it if it’s your first time visiting the Amex website in a while. However, if you browse their cards regularly, they won’t be as eager to offer you a bigger bonus.
Luckily, it’s reasonably easy to “appear” to be a new visitor and boost the odds that you’ll see an elevated offer. If you have trouble pulling up the best available offer, try clearing your cache and using a different web browser, device, VPN, Wi-Fi network, or (drumroll please) incognito/private window, or any combination thereof.
Up to 50,000 MR Select Points
The American Express Cobalt Card typically offers a standard welcome bonus of 30,000 MR Select points, distributed over 12 monthly periods upon spending $500 each month.
The incognito offer adds a further bonus on top of that baseline offer: 20,000 MR Select points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months, bringing the total to 50,000 MR Select points. That’s the highest welcome bonus we’ve ever seen on the Cobalt Card!
To optimize this offer from a spending perspective, you’d be looking at spending $3,000 in the first three months while ensuring you reach a minimum of $500 each month (such as $1,000 per month, or $2,000 in the first month followed by $500 in subsequent months). Then, for the remaining nine months of the year, the offer would be equivalent to before at a monthly minimum spend of $500.
The incognito offer is available through public channels, by applying directly via the Amex website. Unfortunately I haven’t yet seen it available via refer-a-friend links.
Therefore, even if you’re playing the game in two-player mode, it’d still be better to apply without a referral. The base offer of 30,000 points plus the bonus for the referrer, even if they’re targeted for a higher referral bonus, still falls short of this new offer for 50,000 points.
This offer doesn’t specify an end date. If you’re interested, I’d recommend applying as soon as you can, provided you’re able to see the extra incognito bonus.
How to Redeem MR Select Points
While the Cobalt Card is publicly advertised as earning “50,000 Membership Rewards points” under this offer, it’s important to note that the points earned on this card actually fall into a lower tier known as MR Select points. Unlike regular MR points, MR Select points cannot be transferred to airline frequent flyer partners.
My preferred use for the 50,000 MR Select points would be to transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio, resulting in a total of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. This would already be enough for a one-night stay at a Category 7 Marriott property on an off-peak or standard date.
On the other hand, if you usually prefer to stay at lower-end hotels and stretch the value of your points across multiple nights, then you could redeem 60,000 Bonvoy points for up to 12 nights at a Category 1 property at the off-peak rate, plus more with the Fifth Night Free benefit.
If you’d rather collect points for flights than for hotels, you could also convert 60,000 Bonvoy points into 25,000 airline miles in one of 40+ frequent flyer programs of your choosing (including Aeroplan, Alaska, British Airways Avios, etc.)
Another option for redeeming MR Select points is through the Amex Fixed Points Travel, which allows you to book round-trip flights departing from Canada based on a fixed chart and allowing you to achieve a redemption value of up to 2 cents per point (cpp).
(A more advanced technique here would be to book Air Canada flights and then convert them into Aeroplan points at 1.8cpp, which is now enabled for American Express Travel bookings. However, this would require a fairly long time horizon to complete, and opportunities to do so may be limited now that Air Canada is also providing full cash refunds.)
Lastly, you can redeem MR Select points at a baseline value of 1cpp towards any travel purchase on your card using the Pay with Points feature. I’d only recommend this as a last resort, since you can extract far higher value from your points through Marriott Bonvoy with the right hotel redemption in mind.
Amex Cobalt Card: A Long-Term Winner for Its 5x Earning Rate
If you haven’t picked up the Cobalt Card yet, it’s a great choice for ongoing day-to-day spending and one of our top picks for the best beginner credit cards in Canada.
The standout feature is the ability to earn 5 MR Select points per dollar spent on eats and drinks, which includes the popular takeout, delivery, and grocery purchases of the present day, as well as traditional restaurant and dining purchases when we’re able to enjoy them again in the future.
You can maximize your earnings even further by purchasing gift cards at the grocery store for other retailers that you’d normally shop at, thus extending the 5x earning categories to a wider range of your spending. In this fashion, an average household can easily rack up a sizeable chunk of MR Select points – and in turn Marriott Bonvoy points – every year.
However, take note that a maximum cap of $30,000 applies to the 5x earning rate, so if you have a very large family to feed and regularly make voluminous purchases at the grocery store, then it might be worth getting your partner to also sign up for the Cobalt Card under this record-high offer as well.
Overall, in exchange for this powerful earning rate (one of the strongest ongoing earning rates in all of Canada), as well as access to select Cobalt Perks that come around from time to time, the Cobalt Card’s monthly fee of $10 is pretty easy to justify.
Other Incognito Offers Now Available
Long ago, I used a targeted Amex Cobalt offer for 40,000 MR Select points, up from the standard offer of 30,000 points at the time. It seemed to be an informal first foray into incognito offers in Canada, and it didn’t make many waves. The Cobalt webpage looked the same as always, just with more points.
Now, however, it looks like Amex is ramping up their efforts as they mirror the established practices south of the border. They’ve officially tagged these bigger bonuses as a “Select Offer” and included language emphasizing the urgency of applying:
If it quacks like an incognito offer, then it’s probably an incognito offer!
For the first time ever, I’m also seeing Select Offers on other cards. Amex features all of them at the top of the All Cards page on their website.
The offer on the American Express Platinum Card isn’t all that exciting – it’s the same as the refer-a-friend offer of 60,000 MR points upon spending $5,000. By applying via a referral link, it makes no difference to the applicant, but the person providing a referral would also get up to 20,000 points if using the new option to refer from a Business Platinum Card.
Instead, the incognito offer on the SimplyCash Preferred Card is more interesting, offering an extra $100 on top of the regular welcome bonus. That’s a very solid proposition for one of the best cash back credit cards on the market.
The American Express Cobalt Card‘s welcome offer has been raised to 50,000 MR Select points on a targeted basis, making it a great time to apply for this card if you haven’t gotten onboard the 5x points hype train yet. Be sure to fiddle with incognito windows and other browsing modes if you don’t see the extra bonus initially.
I must say I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Cobalt Card set a new all-time high twice in quick succession, with this new offer following the 45,000-point bonus that recently ended.
I’m excited to see these fantastic offers continue throughout 2021, from both American Express and other Canadian issuers, as they leave behind the conservatism of 2020 and begin focusing on acquisitions again.
I’ll also be on the lookout for further incognito offers on other Canadian Amex cards. As we’ve already begun to officially see them on a few others, like the Platinum Card and the SimplyCash Preferred Card, I think that’s a good indication that we can expect to see more offers like these in the near future, perhaps heralding the dawn of a new “incognito era” here in Canada.
- Earn a total of 30,000 MR Select points upon spending $500 in each of the first 12 months
- Plus, earn an additional 20,000 MR Select points upon spending $3,000 within the first three months
- Earn 5x MR Select points on groceries, restaurants, bars, and food delivery
- Earn 2x MR Select points on gas, transit, and travel purchases
- Transfer MR Select points to Marriott Bonvoy for premium hotel stays
- Enjoy the exclusive benefits of being an American Express cardholder
- Bonus MR Select points for referring family and friends
- Monthly fee: $10