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Choose Your Own Amex Adventure: Which All-Time-High Signup Bonus Is Right for You?

American Express really did it. They heard our months of moaning and complaints. Some of us even lost faith and looked to the US, thinking that our freedom-obsessed cousins would be the only ones to be spoiled by Amex.

Boy were we wrong. These are some of the best American Express signup bonuses in history – maybe ever.

There’s an Amex for us all. Today, I want to help you make heads or tails of these historic welcome bonuses and pick the right one for your needs.

I hope it goes without saying but the early bird gets the worm: these bonuses are only available until August 3, 2021. I am rarely a betting man, but I’d wager the finest bottle of sparkling pear juice Ikea has to offer that we will not see trailblazing incentives like these for a long time to come.

So don’t dawdle. If one of these offers fits your spending habits, travel goals, and current needs, then hit it hard and don’t look back.

Take a Look in the Mirror

Before we continue, I need you to do me a favour and prevent your eyes from getting larger than your stomach. Take a few seconds to answer the following questions so that you have a better idea for what type of Miles & Points collector you are and how these new bonuses can help you on your journey.

  1. Is my “Player 2” sick of my shenanigans, or totally on board?
  2. Am I budget-minded on annual fees, or looking for high roller perks?
  3. Are my spending needs for the next six months looking huge, or a little more modest?
  4. Am I a gourmand sampler of every type of mile and point, or really loyal to one particular program?
  5. Am I new to Amex products, or such a veteran that I am on a first-name basis with the American Express legionary?

Very important: select those products for which you (and maybe your Player 2) have the capacity to meet the minimum spend. Don’t sign up for too many!

I do really like my expensive bananas from Sobey’s, Save on Foods, and Metro, though

I’ll give you one last piece of advice: when in doubt, try to remain cash-positive. If you’re facing indecision between a higher and lower fee, take the lower fee. It will probably have conditions that are easier to meet, and you won’t kick yourself as hard if life comes up and you miss its bonus.

Before You Start: Buddy Up!

My first question to you was: “Is my Player 2 sick of my shenanigans, or totally on board?”

If you’re in the position of having a Player 2 who’s just as into travelling the world on points as you are, then great!

The best thing for you to do is continue answering the questions below and enter two-player mode: specialize in acquiring one card that fits your needs best. Spend until you hit the bonus, have one player refer the other one to the same product, and spend some more on the new card.

Remember, these offers are only available until August 3, but you’ll have six months to meet the spending requirement.

If your budget can’t handle spending on two cards at once, make sure you’ve applied for all the cards you want before the deadline, but channel your spending efforts into one card at a time so you don’t miss anything. You’ll be swimming in points in no time.

On the other hand, is your Player 2 sick of your mooning over JAL First Class? Well then you can choose one of two courses of action:

  1. Continue through the rest of these stratagems as a lone wolf, hunting Amex all-time highs as a pack of one, or…
  2. Get any of the cards below you want, and convince a friend that they want that card, too. Initiate them into Miles & Points via a referral link and use the same method listed above.

Budget-Conscious or High Roller?

Question the second: “Am I budget-minded on annual fees, or looking for high roller perks?”

American Express Aeroplan Card
Welcome Bonus
40,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass
Annual Fee
$120
First-Year Value
$1,476

If you are feeling antsy about those pesky annual fees, I get it. Nobody likes them. That’s why I recommend you get the core-tier American Express Aeroplan Card.

This card’s 75,000 Aeroplan points is an all-time-high for an exceptionally reasonable annual fee of $120. You can easily fly business class just off this signup bonus alone.

Plus, this is a charge card. No need to worry about Amex’s limit of four credit cards per person.

American Express Platinum Card
Welcome Bonus
105,000 MR points
Annual Fee
$699
First-Year Value
$1,393

On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend more on annual fees, then there has never in my life been a better time to get the American Express Platinum Card. Once again, this all-time-high offer brings up to 150,000 MR points for a net annual fee of $499 (after you liquidate your travel credit).

Why would I recommend this card at this time? Well, many Canadians have saved up over the course of this pandemic. 

Travel, when it reopens very soon, is going to be roaring back into life. It’s time to put those savings towards a premium credit card and re-up on the perks that come with them.

Also, Priority Pass is a lot less useful for World Elite and Visa Infinite cardholders now that Plaza Premium has quit the program. That makes the Amex Platinum all that much more exclusive.

Saved money plus restless people equals huge lineups at airports and crowded common areas. Priority Pass minus Plaza Premium equals emptier lounges. With the Platinum Card in hand, that means no more fighting over Starbucks seats with turgid Wifi speeds for you!

The Marriott and Hilton Gold status and the Platinum Concierge are just icing on the cake. But make no mistake: 2021–2022 are absolutely the years for having lounge access.

Big or Little Spender?

Question 3: “Are my spending needs for the next six months looking huge, or a little more modest?”

C’mon Gamestop!

I’ll cut to the chase: if you are a big spender – I’m talking $10,000 in three months or $2,000 per month for six months kinda big – then you want to look into the newest American Express business card heavyweights.

Business Platinum Card from American Express
Welcome Bonus
105,000 MR points
Annual Fee
$499
First-Year Value
$1,426

For my money, the American Express Business Platinum Card is the most straightforward option, even though it caps out at a “modest” 100,000 MR points.

Your strategy here is get in and do as much spending as quickly as possible. $10,000 in three months is going to be a tall order for most, although the lack of a grocery bonus should give you some flexibility as to how you’ll meet that threshold.

Meanwhile, if you’re going to have large recurring expenses for six months, look no further than the American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card.

American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card
Welcome Bonus
90,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass
Annual Fee
$599
First-Year Value
$2,551

Both of these options are for big spend. If you have major organic expenses, such as home renovations with out-of-control lumber prices and new appliances, then you’ll want to try these business cards on for size.

However, I’d caution that you only try the Aeroplan Business Reserve Card if you can make the monthly spend. Even missing out one month’s offer will significantly reduce the value of the card, given the other offers on the market.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Welcome Bonus
Up to 85,000 Bonvoy points
Annual Fee
$120
First-Year Value
$645

On the other hand, if you’re looking to spend a lot less over the next few months, but still get incredible value for your annual fee, try the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

90,000 Bonvoy points in the first year is worth almost $900 in value – and when one considers that Marriott Bonvoy is the only hotel loyalty program to which Canadians have any meaningful access, it makes the deal even sweeter.

The annual free night certificate also makes the $120 annual fee a little bit easier to swallow, which is further boosted by the 15,000 Bonvoy points in Year 2.

Or, if you can only handle $500–1,000 per month but can spread it out pretty evenly, a personal Aeroplan card (either premium or core) with monthly bonuses would be a fine pick as well.

Sampling Products, or Dedicated to One Dish?

Next question: “Am I a gourmand sampler of every type of mile and point, or really loyal to one particular program?”

If you’ve been in this game for a while, it can be annoying to keep track of everything. You have Avios coming out of your ears. There’s Alaska miles from two years ago you forgot about. You don’t even know what kind of card or product-switch your Asia Miles came from.

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Welcome Bonus
Up to 90,000 Bonvoy points
Annual Fee
$150
First-Year Value
$660

But that’s okay, because you’re still trying everything out there. Well, today I think you should get the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card. Your reason isn’t exclusively because it’s a great deal (although it is), but so that you don’t forget about it.

When you’re a serial points-chaser like myself, you can often overlook amazing deals on products you haven’t held before. I know I didn’t get my Bonvoy Business Card until much later because the $30 fee over the personal incarnation felt like a bit too much.

This is an all-time high. Stop quibbling, get the darn card, and then move onto chasing the next thing.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Welcome Bonus
90,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass
Annual Fee
$599
First-Year Value
$2,236

As for those of you dedicated to one single program: let’s be real. If you like maple syrup on your pancakes, you’re probably beholden to Aeroplan.

For better or worse, it’s the most accessibly versatile program for Canucks. Therefore, I think you should double down on this with the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card.

The signup bonus is, of course, the main attraction here. But remember how I asked about your dedication?

Well, the Aeroplan Reserve Card will reward you for that with preferred pricing when you book Air Canada flights, in addition to a lower spending requirement than its business cousin.

On top of that, you’ll get Maple Leaf Lounge access, which isn’t as juicy as the Platinum Collection of lounges, but beats sweating in the terminal by a long shot.

Level 1 or Level 99?

My final question: “Am I new to Amex products, or such a veteran that I am on a first-name basis with the American Express legionary?”

If you are new to the American Express family of products, then welcome! It’s good to have you, and have fun because the addiction is about to kick in and before you know it you’ll be buying shares of AXP.

That being said, I think your first strategy here should be to start with the Platinum Card. This is for two very specific reasons.

First, the current all-time-high bonus is likely to never come back. The $699 fee, in the future, will scare off anyone who’s ever seen a high bonus – heck, I don’t think I met anyone who signed up for the card during the dark days of COVID-19 when the welcome bonus was a paltry 25,000 MR points. So if you’re new, lock this in now.

The second is the question of that annual fee. Paying $699 for a credit card is an enormous mental barrier that any new Miles & Points enthusiast has to overcome. 

Forking over that much can feel physically painful. But when the juice is worth the squeeze, it needs to be done, and it will help you on this journey by making you realize that that money is not wasted on fees – it’s well-spent on your travel goals.

As for you veteran American Express cardholders who’ve been on campaign with the Amex Legionaries so long you’re about to petition Caesar for retirement lands in Illyria, you know as well as I do that repeat signup bonuses can be risky – you might get denied a second welcome bonus, or worse.

American Express Air Miles Reserve Credit Card
Welcome Bonus
2,400 Air Miles
Annual Fee
$299
First-Year Value
$91

For you, I want to recommend an Amex product I never thought I’d be looking at seriously myself: the American Express Air Miles Reserve Credit Card. How many of you can say you’ve held this card before, or even considered it?

The 4,000 Air Miles in the first year equals $420 in Cash Miles, with the additional 2,500 Air Miles you can get from eats and drinks, netting another $263. Alternatively, you could put these all in Dream Miles and take the entire family to Disneyland.

Personally, I’d cash out merchandise at $10 per 95 Air Miles via the Air Miles Onyx Personal Shopper (which you’ll qualify for once you’ve earned 6,000 Air Miles in one calendar year).

Should I Keep the Card for a Second Year?

Before you choose to hold onto a card for the 14–17 month bonus, once again look yourself in the mirror and ask: “Am I going to get value worth the annual fee to offset these costs?”

If you bought a shiny new computer on your card, and need the insurance to last, then that’s fair. If you expect to put a huge amount of spend on Air Canada via a co-branded card, then hang on. But if you’re not going to get a huge amount of utility from the card besides the 14–17 month bonus, then consider kissing it goodbye.

For my money, and I say this as a budget curmudgeon, I see the best value for the second year as coming from the Platinum Card and the Bonvoy Card.

This is because the extra 30,000 Membership Rewards points on the Platinum Card reduces the second year’s effective annual fee to $199. At that price, the infinite lounge access, plus the possibility of sweet offers, makes it worth keeping.

The personal Bonvoy Card’s 15,000 bonus points, in addition to the 35,000-point Free Nigh Award, beat out the $120 fee handily. Just don’t try using the free night in Canada, where we have infamous Category 6 Residence Inns!

This doesn’t mean that the other American Express products on offer here are bad by any means, but I just don’t feel they offer the same superlative levels of value as these two options.

Conclusion

I hope that I’ve been able to help you make sense of these incredible new offers. It’s always exciting to see huge welcome bonuses, especially when they are as uniquely high as we’re seeing this summer.

At the same time, it’s important we always select those products which will bring us the best bang for our buck. We should all thank American Express for their profound generosity, but not go looking to donate money to them by taking offers when we can’t actually meet the requirements.

Until next time, may these offers fly you far and away!