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Scotiabank American Express Card Review
7 Nov 2018

Scotiabank American Express Card | Credit Card Review

Even though credit card reward systems can be extremely fun to use, not everyone has the income or credit needed to get a top-tier reward card. Thankfully, many lower-end options are still made available to Canadians. This Scotiabank American Express card review is here to bring you more details on one such option that you might enjoy.

Apply now for an entry-level credit card with a highly accommodating rewards system.


General Information

You Are Interested If You want a decent rewards card but are adamant about not paying an annual fee to get it.
Brief Description The Scotiabank American Express credit card is a basic rewards credit card that offers plenty of versatility at the expense of premium-level point collection rates.
Main Requirements As we’ll point out later in our Scotiabank American Express card review, this is an entry-level card crafted with accessibility in mind. This means that requirements have intentionally been kept very low; all you’ll need for the most part is at least $12,000 a year in income.

Card Details

Network American Express.
Provider Scotiabank.
Card Type This card offers reward points that are primarily intended for travel, but which can be used for other things as well.

Fees and Interest

Purchase Interest Rate Normal purchases with this card will be charged 19.99% interest if you carry a balance past the grace period.
Cash Advance Taking out some extra cash with your credit card will cost you 22.99% in interest.
Balance Transfer 22.99% interest rates also apply to balance transfer charges.


Income Requirements This is a basic card with few requirements beyond some kind of income stability, so $12,000 a year in income is enough to qualify.
Household Income Requirements Income is only considered on an individual basis for this card, so combined households cannot pool income to qualify if no one individual can do so on their own.
Annual Fee This card is the free counterpart to the Scotiabank Gold American Express card, so it comes with no annual fee attached.


Welcome Bonus You’ll get 5,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points for spending at least $500 over the first 3 months of having your card.
How To Earn Points Point accumulation with this card is very simple: you get 1 reward point per dollar charged to your card, no matter what you bought. There are no bonus categories.
Benefits This card grants you access to the Scotia Rewards travel service, various discounts on car rentals, flights and hotels, exclusive event invitations through the American Express Invites program, and 4 types of travel insurance coverage to make your voyages more pleasant and affordable for you.

About Scotiabank American Express Card

Main Features

Before we dive into the particulars of this card in our Scotiabank American Express card review, we’ll need to cover the basics. It’s unlikely that anyone has sought out this Scotiabank American Express card review to find great interest rates, but nevertheless, this card’s rates are not bad in the context of the wider Canadian credit market. Interest rates of 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers are perfectly in line with both competitors’ offerings and other standard cards available through Scotiabank. It’s not a bargain, but it’s not a rip-off either, and you should not be in the market for a rewards card unless you plan on only very rarely carrying a balance on that card anyway.

No Scotiabank American Express card review would be complete without an analysis of your point-earning potential. The welcome bonus alone will start you off at 5,000 points, and with a tiny spending requirement of just $500 over the first 3 months, qualifying for it is virtually guaranteed. Since those who go for the free option instead of the upgraded version are more likely to have tight budgets, we’ll use a very conservative estimate of $700 in total spending on this card per month. Because there are no bonus categories to take advantage of here, everything will be rewarded at the standard 1:1 rate, leaving you with an extra 700 points each month (or 8400 points in total after one year has passed). Combined with the bonus, this hypothetical person ends up with 13,400 points to spend in just one year.

Once you have your points in hand, you can use them to do all sorts of fun things that we’ll cover in this Scotiabank American Express card review. The points system this card uses is the universal Scotia Rewards system that this provider uses for all their rewards cards. This is a travel card, so just as you’d expect, you can put your points toward the cost of a trip for business, family bonding, or just for fun. This can be done for bookings done through any travel agency or independent service whether or not it is affiliated with Scotiabank, although the bank does offer its own travel service to assist cardholders who prefer that option. For those who aren’t ready to travel just yet, though, there are also plenty of gift cards, event tickets and other goodies to be traded for points in the Scotia Rewards catalogue. The Scotia Rewards program also offers the ability to convert points into ones you can use in Scotiabank’s Scene program, available on other debit and credit card options. These points can be redeemed for movie tickets or for snacks like popcorn and candy at the theatre. Because this is a relatively low-cost activity and virtually everyone goes to the movies at least once in a while, Scene rewards are one of the most democratic reward options out there; having access to them through this card if you want them is a nice addition for the company to have made available.

Because this card is so easy to get and simple to use, the points you earn with it are perfect for bringing a few extra luxuries into your life even when money is tight. The fact that they can be channeled into all sorts of rewards is particularly nice, since many holders of this card would struggle to accumulate enough points to cover a trip in any reasonable amount of time (or even make a dent in the cost, for that matter). Instead of being forced to save for a goal that seems all but entirely out of reach, they can use their reward points to buy themselves a fun new electronic toy or to pay for a few trips to the movies.

In terms of accessibility, though, this card is a little odd. Usually, the generic version of a gold card would be much easier to get, giving it a niche among low-income people wanting to approximate the experience of a higher-end card. In this case, the gold card’s requirements were already so relaxed that there has been no change when moving down a rung in the hierarchy. This card is still easy to get, which is great, but it isn’t drastically more so compared to the upgraded version. According to the Scotiabank website, this card is even sometimes granted to newcomers in Canada with no established credit history at all. This is therefore the only instance in which someone might be able to get this card but not the other, but this will not be the case for the vast majority of applicants.

We feel compelled to mention as part of our Scotiabank American Express card review that for a free card that places so few demands on the potential applicant, this one comes with a surprisingly good package of extra benefits. Like all American Express cards, it comes with membership in the fun American Express Invites program. It also comes with the chance to score some enticing discounts on popular hotels or vacation packages through the Scotia Rewards Travel Advantage system and a separate discount of 25% or less at Avis car rental services. Most notably, though, it gives cardholders access to 4 different types of travel insurance (emergency medical insurance, trip interruption insurance, rental car collision/damage insurance, and travel accident insurance), all free of charge. These perks are quite nice for a free card, though again, you can get much more for only slightly more cost with the gold card.


As we’ve said before in our Scotiabank American Express card review, this is not a bad card, but neither is it a great one. The total lack of bonus categories for reward point earning available here is the strongest strike against this card – while the blanket rate of a single point per dollar of expenses is conveniently simple, it will also leave you with a very slow rate of earning and no way to increase it. It also naturally offers less in terms of perks and bonuses than the upgraded version.

The trouble is that it does not balance these drawbacks out with sufficiently appealing incentives. It’s free, which is excellent, but that’s about all it has going for it in the grand scheme of things. It is rarely any easier to get than the gold version and the price difference concerning the annual fee is not that large. Overall, it’s hard to envision a real niche for this product over the others Scotiabank has available.

About Scotiabank

Scotiabank first began operating in 1832 in Nova Scotia, though it is now headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. They now own well over a dozen other banks and financial institutions both in Canada and overseas and possess an incredible $915 billion in total assets. They are proud sponsors of many sports events and cultural institutions in many countries all over the globe, and have several buildings at different universities named after them within Canada. They also employ nearly 89,000 people across the world, many of them as front-line customer support staff that will always be ready to help you if you have a problem as one of their customers.

What We Think

At Bonsai Finance, we usually prefer to assess a card based on its own merits alone, no matter how similar it might be to another card in its parent company’s lineup. However, this card just can’t be properly contemplated without referring back to the gold version. It’s a step down from the Scotiabank Gold American Express card in every way, and the upgraded card offers so much for such a reasonable cost that it’s hard to recommend this basic version over it.

With no bonus categories, you will always struggle to accumulate enough points for all but the most basic rewards. In fairness, some of these are indeed available in theory, primarily through the Scene conversion option, but the idea that this can serve as a proper travel card in most respects is a bit disingenuous. Most travel costs thousands of dollars and the cost is going up every year. You would need to spend thousands of dollars a month in order to accrue any kind of substantial rewards that would be useful for flights or hotels, and if you have the ability to do that, there is no reason not to opt for the gold version that will stretch your money even further in terms of points. The extra insurance coverage might be nice if you still plan on traveling with your own funds, but for the most part, this version of this card makes more sense to be used as a basic rewards card.

The final verdict in our Scotiabank American Express card review is that this card is fine, but it just can’t compare to its own sister card – check that one out first and give it some serious thought before you spend too much time considering this one, because you’ll probably find yourself preferring it. If you are truly set on having a free travel or rewards card, though, this one might do the trick for you. It isn’t a terrible card as long as you keep your expectations fairly low.