After a challenging 2020, American Express is finally coming back to the table with its juicy signup offers, which is great to see. Until May 5, 2021, the American Express Cobalt Card will be offering up to 45,000 MR Select points, a record-high offer for this product.
As in the previous offer, 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 a further 15,000 MR Select points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, allowing you to earn a total of 45,000 MR Select points under this limited-time offer.
Up to 45,000 MR Select Points
Back when it first launched in late 2017, the American Express Cobalt Card had originally offered up to 40,000 MR Select points as a welcome bonus. Then, the bonus was lowered to 30,000 MR Select points, distributed over 12 monthly periods upon spending $500 each month, and has remained flat ever since.
The offer until May 5, 2021 adds a further bonus on top of that baseline offer: 15,000 MR Select points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months, bringing the total to 45,000 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 offer is available through both the public and refer-a-friend channels, and the terms are the same across both.
Therefore, if you’re playing the game in two-player mode, then it’d be optimal to apply through a referral link from your partner’s Cobalt Card or Gold Rewards Card (which is part of the same referral “family”), netting your partner an extra 5,000 MR Select points or MR points as a referral bonus, respectively.
How to Redeem MR Select Points
While the Cobalt Card is publicly advertised as earning “45,000 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 45,000 MR Select points would be to transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio, resulting in a total of 54,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. This would already be enough for a one-night stay at a Category 6 Marriott property or even a Category 7 property on an off-peak date.
On the other hand, you usually prefer to stay at lower-end hotels and stretch the value of your points across multiple nights, then you could redeem 54,000 Bonvoy points for up to 10 nights at a Category 1 property at the standard rate.
Furthermore, if we take into account the MR Select points you’re earning upon meeting the minimum spending, we can see that you’d easily reach 50,000 MR Select points after the first year. That’d convert into 60,000 Bonvoy points, which is in turn enough to convert 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 – I initiated my conversion back in late November and still haven’t seen the points in my Aeroplan account yet.)
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 my 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.
The American Express Cobalt Card‘s welcome offer has been raised to 45,000 MR Select points until May 5, 2021, making it a great time to apply for this card if you haven’t gotten onboard the 5x points hype train yet.
I’d expect this to be only the first of many elevated offers we see throughout 2021, from both American Express and other Canadian issuers, as they leave behind the conservatism of 2020 and begin focusing on acquisitions again.