While there are some devaluations coming, some of these new modifications are real improvements, which will help the Bank of Nova Scotia in the wake of their less-than-ideal launch of the Scene+ program.
Let’s assess the changes and if they can benefit any would-be jetsetter.
Scotiabank Platinum Amex: No More Forex or 4x
First up is some positive news for the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card.
Even though this card presently offers 4x Scene+ points per dollar spent on groceries, dining, gas, and entertainment, its $399 annual fee is pretty hard to swallow so long as its more competitive cousins at American Express proper offer such incredible signup bonuses.
Insult is added to injury when one considers this card has the mandatory 2.5% foreign exchange fees so notoriously omnipresent on Canadian credit cards. Therefore, I’m happy to let you know that Canada Day this year will see the abolition of FX fees on the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card!
The Scotia Platinum Amex is set to join the ranks of Canada’s few No FX Fee credit cards, and it’s my hope that axing these fees will become the trend for all premium, high-fee credit cards in Canada.
Keeping with its utility as a travel card, the Scotiabank Platinum American Express will retain its 10 complimentary Priority Pass lounge passes per annum.
Furthermore, the cash-like transaction and cash advance interest rates will depreciate from 19.99% and 23.99%, respectively, to a mere 9.99%.
This is interesting because the Bank of Canada has recently been hiking interest rates, and cash advances typically carry some of the most punitive interest rates on the market. Still, it’s nice to see an APR declining somewhere in our present economic circumstances.
One last useful feature has been added, as well: Mobile Device Insurance up to $1,000 versus theft, loss, or damage, assuming you’ve purchased the entire cost of the phone in a single transaction on your Scotiabank Platinum Amex. While a useful feature, I don’t know if this fully justifies the annual fee.
Not all the news from this bulletin can be good, though. The category bonuses of groceries, dining, gas, and entertainment are taking a hit.
Instead of earning 4x the Scene+ points per dollar spent at those merchants, cardholders will instead earn 2x Scene+ points per dollar spent on all purchases as of July 1 – effectively making the Scotia Amex Platinum equivalent to a 2% cash back card going forward.
- Earn 50,000 Scene+ points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months
- Earn an additional 20,000 Scene+ points upon spending $10,000 in the first 14 months
- Plus, earn 2x Scene+ points on all purchases
- Priority Pass membership with 10 free lounge visits per year
- Enjoy the exclusive benefits of being an American Express cardholder
- Annual fee: $399
Scotiabank Amex Card: Red’s Not Dead Redemption
The oft-unsung Scotiabank American Express Card has received a facelift to what I feel is a rather appealing red-on-black façade.
Of course, the changes this product is receiving are not purely cosmetic. On a positive note, this card will be receiving new multiplier categories, earning 2x Scene+ points per dollar spent on dining, groceries, entertainment, gas, daily transit, and select streaming services.
All bonus points are subject to a cap of 50,000 bonus points per annum, past which the card will earn only 1x Scene+ point per dollar spent.
Note that what is defined as a “streaming service” or “daily transit” are determined by American Express’ payment network, not Scotiabank themselves. There’s a non-exhaustive list that can be found at the Amex website, but my guess at present is that the Toronto Transit Commission and Netflix are safe bets for coding at the appropriate 2x rate. It’s nice to see an upgraded earn rate on a free credit card, for once.
The next major change is something of a cocktail between the good and the bad. At present, the Scotiabank American Express Card offers a suite of insurance that is pretty rare for no-fee credit cards.
Sadly, the Travel Emergency Medical Insurance, Trip Interruption Insurance, Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance and Rental Car Collision/Loss Damage Insurance (what a mouthful) are all being phased out on June 30, 2022.
It’s a shame, as that rental car loss/damage insurance was one of the best elements of this product, and pretty good for a free credit card.
On the upside, Mobile Device Insurance up to $500 is being introduced the moment these changes take effect.
The same rules as for the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card apply: you have to make the full purchase of a new phone in one transaction on your credit card, but you’re covered in the event of loss, damage, and theft.
$500 doesn’t buy a lot of phone these days, but it’s not a bad free benefit if you buy a cheaper device just for travel.
- Earn 7,000 Scene+ points upon spending $750 in the first three months
- Earn an additional 5,000 Scene+ points upon spending $5,000 in the first year
- Also, earn 3x Scene+ points on Empire grocery stores such as Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, and FreshCo
- Plus, earn 2x Scene+ points on dining, groceries, gas, transit, and streaming purchases
- Enjoy the exclusive benefits of being an American Express cardholder
- Annual fee: $0
Is There Any Value in These Changes?
As we’ve talked about before, one of the best uses of Scotiabank’s Scene+ points is on travel at a redemption rate of 1 cent per point.
The drop on the earn rate of the Scotiabank American Express Platinum Card is disappointing, and the increased earning rate on the Scotiabank American Express Card isn’t big enough to compete with its more competitive Scotiabank American Express Gold cousin, which is often First Year Free.
Therefore, the major value I see in the revamped no-fee product is in downgrading from the Scotia Gold Amex when its annual fee is up. That way, the credit line can stay open and become a farm for various Amex Offers that can be loaded to it via this splash page.
Better yet, the minimum credit limit for the red Scotiabank American Express is $1,000, so you can easily lower your total available credit from the Gold’s minimum of $5,000 while still earning Marriott gift cards and Shop Small credits.
The Scotiabank American Express Platinum Card is a bit trickier when it comes to the value proposition. Its lounge benefits are worse than its full-American Express cousins, its new $1,000 mobile device insurance isn’t anything to write home about, and anyone can avoid FX fees by getting the HSBC World Elite Mastercard at a net fee of only $50 per annum.
In theory, if you need access overseas to emergency cash because you’ve run out or can’t get more transferred quickly, then pairing the low 9.99% APR with the No FX Fees could make for a palatable ATM withdrawal.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to get the card for this purpose, because withdrawing cash from a credit card is never a recommended course of action. But if you’ve already paid an annual fee for this product, it might make a decent travel companion for the remainder of its service life past July 1.
To my eye, it looks like Scotiabank is attempting to improve its credit card portfolio. The Scene+ merger hasn’t gone nearly as smoothly as the company has wished, but it looks like they’re starting to get their IT issues sorted now, so here’s hoping that they continue to try and make their products more competitive.
While I wouldn’t apply for any of these revamped products, I do think the Scotiabank American Express Card offers great value to Gold cardholders looking to downgrade. Likewise, I hope that more issuers follow in the steps of the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card and get rid of those awful 2.5% foreign transaction fees.