Update (January 2018): The 35,000 points offer has expired as of December 31, although the standard offer of 25,000 points remains a great deal.
Time for a crash course. You can earn two different kinds of travel rewards points. Variable points currencies, like Aeroplan or Avios, allow you to redeem for travel based on a certain set of rules, and typically make it possible to extract significant value out of your points (I’m talking 5-10 cents per point or more). Meanwhile, fixed value points currencies allow you to offset the cost of your travel at a fixed rate – typically $1 for every 100 points.
On this blog, I’ve pretty much ignored fixed value points for far too long, given the fact that, as the name implies, the value you get out of these points is often limited to a paltry 1 cent per point. However, because of a truly amazing offer on the Scotiabank Gold American Express, I can ignore them no longer.
Is This an American Express Card?
First, a point of clarification. There is often confusion as to whether or not this card is an American Express card, and that confusion stems from the fact that unlike Visa or MasterCard, American Express is both a card network and a card issuer.
But other financial institutions can also choose to issue cards on the Amex network, and that’s exactly what’s happening with this card. It’s issued by Scotiabank, but you’ll still use it as an American Express card, meaning that the dreaded words of “Visa or MasterCard only” will sadly continue to rankle.
The usual signup bonus on the Scotia Gold Amex is 25,000 Scotia Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. There’s also a first-year-free offer on the card that comes and goes, but is in place more often than not. After the first year, the annual fee is $99.
However, until December 31, 2017, there’s a special referral offer of 35,000 Scotia Rewards points after spending only $750 in the first three months! The first year’s annual fee is waived as well.
You’ll notice that the special offer can only be attained by applying via a referral. Unfortunately, unlike American Express, Scotiabank’s credit card referral program is targeted, meaning that not just anyone can refer their friends for a bonus. Only if you receive a targeted offer will you be eligible to earn 5,000 Scotia Rewards points for every referral you make, up to a maximum of 25,000 points per year.
The superb signup bonus is what finally motivated me to get this card (and to write about it), but historically the Scotia Gold Amex has been a great choice for everyday spending as well.
That’s because you’ll earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, food and drink, and entertainment venues. That’s pretty much equivalent to 4% cash back on these categories, which is a fantastic proposition.
The only card in Canada that would give these bonus categories a run for their money would be the American Express Cobalt Card, whose 5x multiplier applies to groceries and dining only, excluding gas and entertainment. The other side of the comparison is that the Cobalt currently has no limit on the amount of spending that counts for the 5x multiplier, whereas the Scotia Gold Amex limits your 4x earning potential to the first $50,000 of spending in the eligible categories per calendar year.
On all other spending, you’ll earn 1 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent. This means that if you’d like to use the Scotia Gold Amex on your daily spending, it’s best to combine it with another high-powered card like the American Express SPG Card, and to use either card when it’s more advantageous to do so (i.e., depending on whether you’re spending in the bonus categories or not).
Using Scotia Rewards Points
In my opinion, Scotia Rewards points are one of the best fixed value points programs in Canada. 100 Scotia Rewards points are worth $1 towards the cost of travel, so your signup bonus of 35,000 points equates to an instant $350 credit towards any travel expense.
Even though we like to fund our travels using points around these parts, there always comes times when we need to spend cash. For example, booking an award ticket means paying taxes and fees, and stuff like Airbnbs and train tickets simply can’t be booked with points (yet).
If you put these charges on your Scotia Gold Amex, you’ll be able to use your Scotia Rewards points to effectively “make them disappear”, drastically reducing your out-of-pocket travel expenses.
That brings me to an important point about this card. If fixed value points programs all offer limited value across the board, what makes Scotia’s program stand out?
The answer lies in how easy and flexible it is to use their points. Many other fixed value points programs, like BMO Rewards or CIBC Aventura, force you to book your travel through their in-house travel agencies if you want to use them to offset the cost of travel. This means that you’re effectively limited to using your points for flights, hotels, car rentals, and vacations.
Things like taxes and fees on award tickets, Airbnbs, and train tickets are therefore off the table. And to add insult to injury, sometimes the cost of booking travel through the banks’ in-house agencies is significantly higher than if you just booked on Expedia or something. That’s effectively robbing unsuspecting customers of the value of their points.
Not so with Scotia. You simply charge any travel expense to your card, whether in-person or online, and you can then use your points to offset that expense up to 12 months after the date of the transaction. It’s really the gold standard for how a fixed points program should work, which is unfortunately an area in which many of Canada’s other big banks drop the ball.
This also means that you can comfortably pay for travel expenses as soon as you receive the card, take your time to meet the spending requirement (if you haven’t already), wait for the points to post, and then apply the points to your original travel outlay.
Throw in the fact that you can use the age-old “refundable hotel trick” to turn your Scotia Rewards points into a pure statement credit, and this card is an absolute winner.
The insurance on this card is as strong as you'd expect for a premium travel credit card. Coverage includes:
- The essential emergency medical insurance of up to $1 million for you, your spouse, and dependent children on unexpected medical illness or injury when travelling out-of-province
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance of up to $2,500 per person
- Flight delay insurance for delays of more than four hours, up to $500 per person
- Rental car collision or damage insurance, which can help you save on the insurance fees usually charged by car rental companies
On the purchase protection side, in addition to a 90-day protection period against damage, loss, or theft for most new items, you also get a 60-day price protection service that allows you to claim back the difference if the price of your new purchase drops within 60 days. Super useful!
The promotional offer of 35,000 Scotia Rewards points is only available until December 31, so there’s not much time left to capture that additional $100 in value. You need a minimum annual income of $12,000 to be eligible for the card.
I’ve included a link to apply below. While this is a referral link, it doesn’t belong to me, but rather to a friend of mine who’s the only person I know who has been targeted with the referral offer. (And I’m pretty sure he’s already reached his limit of 5 referrals that will actually earn him referral points.)
If you apply directly via the Scotia website, though, you’ll only receive the inferior offer of 25,000 bonus points, so the referral link is the way to go.
I always knew that the Scotia Gold American Express was a strong credit card due to its 4x points earning rate in popular spending categories, but it never quite made it onto my radar – that is until I had some upcoming revenue flights to book that I didn’t feel like paying full price for. Now, I absolutely see the potential in using this card to lower your out-of-pocket travel costs, and will continue to maximize the signup bonuses in the future.