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This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely our own.

When it comes to American Express cards, the number one complaint is their overall acceptance. If they have limited acceptance in stores, it makes it harder to use them…so why have them in your wallet at all?

Well, for one thing, Amex earn rates are consistently on top of the Canadian market.

In fact, based on all personal cards that offer rewards, Amex has the highest average return on spending when compared to the other card networks:

  • American Express: 2.26%
  • Mastercard: 1.21%
  • Visa: 1.71%

We determined this by averaging the return on spending rate creditcardGenius calculates for each individual Amex, Mastercard, and Visa in our database. The return on spending is calculated by combining the reward earn rates for each card with our estimated point values for that rewards program.

As for acceptance, it’s much better than you may think. Not to mention it’s improving all the time.

It isn’t just big box stores and major restaurant chains either. There are many small businesses around you that see the real value of accepting American Express.

There are plenty of real-world opportunities when paying with Amex – maybe even at your favourite stores, big and small.

Should you want to take the plunge to get an Amex card for yourself, we’ll go over a few of their best cards. Many of them rank at the top of our best credit rankings even with their scores being dragged down by lower acceptance. Not having one could mean you’re missing out on huge rewards.

American Express card acceptance

To start, let’s debunk the myth that American Express cards have very limited acceptance.

While yes, they’re not taken by every single merchant, almost all chain stores, restaurants, and gas stations accept American Express.

Amex acceptance at large retailers

You’ll be surprised at how many of your favourite retailers accept Amex.

Big box stores

When you’re shopping at any large retailer or big box chain, Amex is almost universally accepted among these retailers. Here’s a sampling of big box retailers where you could use your Amex card:

  • Walmart,
  • Canadian Tire,
  • Sobeys,
  • Best Buy,
  • Shoppers Drug Mart,
  • Home Depot, and
  • Staples.

There are only 2 major retailers where Amex is not currently accepted – Loblaws group (except for Shoppers) and Costco Warehouses (and the latter doesn’t accept Visa either).

So generally speaking, you shouldn’t have problems when using your Amex card at big box retailers.

Gas stations

Gas stations are no different, all the major chains accept American Express cards.

These include:

  • Esso,
  • Petro Canada,
  • Shell,
  • Husky,
  • Irving, and
  • Ultramar.

Restaurant and entertainment chains

Most chain restaurants and entertainment providers also take Amex cards.

Here are some of the entertainment providers that take Amex:

  • Cineplex,
  • Ticketmaster, and
  • StubHub.

There are also many big-name restaurants that accept Amex cards as well:

  • Tim Hortons,
  • McDonalds,
  • Starbucks,
  • Boston Pizza, and
  • Recipe Unlimited restaurants (includes Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey’s, and Montana’s).

The bottom line for acceptance…

There’s no shortage of retailers, gas stations, restaurants, and entertainment providers you’ll be able to use your Amex card with.

Sure, there will be the odd one here and there, but by and large, you shouldn’t have much of a problem using your card.

Amex acceptance at small business

When it comes to small businesses, Amex is making great strides in this department. Acceptance here is growing all the time.

According to American Express, over 96,000 places started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.

Want to see where your Amex card could be accepted?

This map, created by American Express, shows you what merchants in your area, large and small, accept Amex cards. That way, you can stop at Sobeys or Canadian Tire, and grab a Tim Horton’s coffee on the way home.

But, Amex also gives you the opportunity to support your local businesses. The downtown boutiques, the small grocery stores with the employees that make you feel like family, and the hardware store that’s been there for longer than you or your parents have.

My experience as an Amex member

I have personally been an Amex member since 2013, and I generally don’t find Amex acceptance to be an issue for me.

Aside from Atlantic Superstore (part of the Loblaws group) where I do some shopping, there are only 3 other small merchants I frequent where I can’t use my Amex card, and one of them doesn’t accept credit cards at all.

For me, Amex acceptance isn’t an issue, and I can use my card almost everywhere I shop.

American Express credit cards

American Express cards are some of our top ranking cards in our annual rankings, including the best credit card in Canada for 2 years running. Almost every one of our rankings lists has an Amex card in the top 5.

To see every American Express card available, you can head over here and view the full list.

If an Amex card interests you, here are our favourite cards they currently issue.

Credit Card Welcome Bonus Earn Rate Annual Fee Learn More
American Express Cobalt Up to 30,000 points (terms) * 5x the points per $1 on groceries and eligible dining purchases
* 2x the points per $1 on eligible travel, transit, and gas in Canada
* 1x the points per $1 on everything else
$120, charged out as $10 per month Learn More
American Express SimplyCash Preferred 5% cash back for the first 6 months (terms) * 2% cash back on all purchases $99 Learn More
Marriott Bonvoy American Express 50,000 points (terms) * 5 points per $1 at Marriott Bonvoy properties
* 2 points per $1 on all other purchases
* Earn a free night every year worth up to 35,000 points
$120 Learn More
American Express® Gold Rewards Card 25,000 points (terms) * 2 points per $1 on groceries, gas, drugstores, and eligible travel purchases
* 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
$150 Learn More

American Express Cobalt

The is currently the best overall credit card in Canada.

And it’s for good reason. You’ll earn plenty of points that are also super valuable.

Earn a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 points – 2,500 points for every month you spend $500 in the first year.

Then earn plenty more points on all your day to day purchases:

  • 5 points per $1 spent on eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, and even food delivery in Canada,
  • 2 points per $1 spent on gas, transit and eligible travel purchases, and
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

With a point worth up to 1.75 cents when redeemed for flights using the Fixed Points Travel Program, you can get a return of up to 8.75% on your spending.

Or, you can transfer your points at a 5:6 ratio to Marriott, or book any travel you want from any provider, and still get up to a 5% return on your spending.

It’s no wonder it’s the best card in Canada.

American Express SimplyCash Preferred

Would you prefer to earn cash back? The gives you 2% cash back on every purchase you make, making it one of our top cash back cards. To make it even better, there are no caps or tiers to worry about.

Add in that you can earn 5% cash back for the first 6 months up to a total of $6,000 in spending on the card, and you’ll really be raking in the cash back.

To top it all off, it also has a slightly lower annual fee of $99 when compared to other premium credit cards.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express®

For free hotel nights, you can’t go wrong with the .

To start off, you can earn 50,000 welcome bonus points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months.

Plus you’ll earn Marriott Bonvoy points at these rates on your daily spending:

  • 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott Bonvoy properties, and
  • 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Where this card really shines is with Marriott Bonvoy perks.

The biggest one is the free night you get every year with the card. Annually, on your card’s anniversary, you’ll get an annual free night award worth up to 35,000 points.

Toss in automatic Silver Elite status and 15 Elite Night Credits every year just for having the card, with ability to upgrade to Gold Elite status after spending $30,000 annually on the card…and you’ve got a real winner.

American Express® Gold Rewards

For the frequent traveller, the is a great choice.

You can transfer your points to 6 different airlines, including Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. These airline transfers are what gives this card its incredible value.

To start, get 25,000 points after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months. That’s enough points for an Aeroplan rewards flight within Canada and the Continental U.S.

It also has the highest earn rates of any Aeroplan card:

  • 2 points per $1 on gas, groceries, drugstores, and eligible travel purchases, and
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

No other Aeroplan card offers 2 points per $1 on 4 different categories.

And if it turns out Aeroplan (or any other transfer partner) has great redemption options, you can use your points for the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program, transfer to Marriott Bonvoy, or redeem for any travel you like. The choice is yours.