If you hold the Cobalt Card, check your Refer-a-Friend page to see if you’ve been targeted for a special referral bonus of 10,000 MR Select points for referring your friends and family by November 25, 2020, which is double the usual referral bonus of 5,000 MR Select points.
This is the first time I can recall seeing targeted referral bonuses on credit cards issued by American Express Canada. It’s a move that follows in the footsteps of the dynamic refer-a-friend bonuses offered by Amex US south of the border, and hints at the possibility of similar dynamic referral bonuses for each individual on other Canadian-issued American Express cards going forward.
Targeted Referral Bonus: 10,000 MR Select Points on the Cobalt Card
The Cobalt Card has offered a referral bonus of 5,000 MR Select points ever since it was launched in September 2017. If a friend, family member, or other personal or business contact signed up for either a Cobalt Card or a Gold Rewards Card of their own via your referral link, then you’d earn 5,000 MR Select points as a reward for referring them.
As of this week, however, some Cobalt cardholders report seeing a “Special Offer” of 10,000 MR Select points for referring a friend, as long as they apply by November 25, 2020.
The wording reflects that this offer is available specific to the cardholder themselves, and furthermore, not all Cobalt cardholders report seeing this for on their accounts. This implies that it’s a dynamic referral bonus, for which only a subset of all Cobalt cardholders have been targeted.
(Note that while the single referral bonus has been bumped up to 10,000 MR Select points under this targeted bonus, the maximum number of referral points per cardholder remains at 75,000 MR Select points per calendar year. Therefore, under the targeted bonus, you’d reach the maximum by referring eight individuals, rather than 15 under the usual bonus.)
If you’ve been targeted for this offer, then it’s a great opportunity to talk up the perks of the Cobalt Card and the Gold Rewards Card to your friends and family for the promise of 10,000 MR Select points for every successful referral.
That’s worth $100 as a baseline if redeemed against travel purchases, or up to $200 if redeemed via Amex Fixed Points Travel as part of a larger flight redemption.
Moreover, if you refer others to the Cobalt Card or Gold Rewards Card prior to September 30 while the 25% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy is in place, then you can convert these points at an outstanding 1:1.5 ratio to Marriott Bonvoy and effectively earn 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per referral for your troubles.
Refer two friends, and you’ll have 30,000 Bonvoy points, enough for a free night’s stay at a decent hotel. Refer four friends, and you’ll have 60,000 Bonvoy points, enough to convert into 25,000 airline miles in one of 40+ frequent flyer programs of your choosing.
Similar: Amex US Dynamic Referral Bonuses
As I mentioned, this is the first time I can ever recall seeing targeted referral bonuses offered by American Express Canada, which makes me think that we’re likely to see even more initiatives of this kind in the future.
It’s something that American Express US has implemented across the board for a few years now, rewarding certain users with a higher bonus for referring new cardholders.
For example, with respect to the current record-high bonus of 60,000 US MR points on the Amex US Gold Card, a select few cardholders are being offered a very powerful targeted referral bonus of 25,000 US MR points, compared to the base-level bonus of 10,000 US MR points that most users see.
We’ve seen similar elevated offers on the US-issued Business Gold, Platinum, and Business Platinum cards in the past, as well as the hotel co-branded cards: the US Bonvoy cards and the US Hilton cards sometimes offer special referral bonuses of 20,000 Bonvoy points or 20,000 Hilton points, above the standard level of 15,000 points.
And since most Amex US cards can refer all other products within the same card family (MR cards, Bonvoy cards, Hilton cards, etc.), it always pays off to double-check the referral bonuses on all your Amex US cards before sending a friend your link.
However, on both sides of the border, there’s very little transparency as to which users are targeted for the bonus and which aren’t; rather, it’s all a function of American Express’s back-end algorithm as it seeks to optimize the referral channel to acquire new cardholders.
As cardholders, we’ll definitely be looking to maximize the elevated dynamic referral offers if we’re targeted for them, while still benefiting from the normal referral bonus otherwise.
American Express Canada has followed in the footsteps of its US counterpart in introducing a targeted refer-a-friend bonus on the Cobalt Card. Until November 25, select cardholders will be able to earn a higher referral bonus of 10,000 MR Select points for every successful referral, which is an exciting opportunity when paired with the 25% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy of September 2020.
I’d also note that this is the first move we’re seeing from American Express in terms of incentivizing new cardholder signups ever since COVID-19 struck, which I’d take to be a good sign of the recovery in the challenging economic climate that Amex faces. Hopefully, this is the first step in the gradual return of the usual bonus offers from their currently depressed levels.
Going forward, I’d expect to see US-style dynamic referral bonuses – and perhaps even dynamic welcome bonuses such as those via incognito mode – to play a bigger role in Canada, as our issuers look to leverage better technology to target each individual with the exact offer that fits them best.