American Express is a credit card company that is largely known for their terrific rewards cards like the Gold Rewards and recently introduced Cobalt Card.

You may be glad to hear Amex also has a lineup of cash back credit cards, with both an annual fee and no fee version – the SimplyCash Preferred Card and SimplyCash Card.

Lets dive into both cards and see what they have to offer…

How does Amex cashback lineup compare to the competition?

American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card

Amex has made the rewards for their cards simple – a flat rate on all of your spend.

The SimplyCash Preferred card will get you 2% cash back on all of your spending with no limits on how much you can earn. No categories, no caps or tiers to worry about.

The annual fee is $99 per year – with supplementary cards at no charge.

The following insurance & shopping coverages come with the card:

  • Rental Car Theft and Damage
  • Travel Accident ($100,000)
  • Emergency Medical (up to $5,000,000)
  • Lost or Stolen Baggage (up to $500)
  • Flight and Baggage Delay (up to $500)
  • Hotel/Motel Burglary (up to $500)
  • Extended Warranty (1 year)
  • Purchase Protection (90 days) – Insures your purchases against accidental damage and theft (here’s a list of all 16 types credit card insurance with explanations).

Now, keeping in mind that cash back credit cards typically don’t have the greatest insurance packages when compared to travel cards

This is a fairly extensive list of coverages, and one of the best for a cash back card.

You’ll also get a welcome bonus of 10% cash back on gas, groceries, and restaurant purchases in the first 6 months (up to a max of $300 in annual spend).

You will also be joined in the American Express invites, which includes special offers and advance access to events.

Comparison

This card is similar to the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard, which also has an earn rate of 2% on all of your purchases after you convert your points to cash (and is also the number 1 rated cash back card here at creditcardGenius).

So what are the differences between these two? And is there a time when the Amex card can be a better option than the MBNA?

Let’s review six factors to see how they stack up.

1. Annual Fee

The MBNA card has an annual fee of $89, $10 lower than the Amex Card.

2. Redeeming Cash Back

The Amex card will give your cash back every September as a statement credit.

The MBNA will let you redeem your points as cash once you have accumulated $50, in a variety of different ways.

3. Insurance Coverage

Here are the two cards coverage side by side:

Amex SimplyCash Preferred MBNA Rewards World Elite
  • Rental Car Theft and Damage
  • Travel Accident ($100,000)
  • Emergency Medical ($5,000,000)
  • Lost or Stolen Baggage ($500)
  • Flight and Baggage Delay ($500)
  • Hotel/Motel Burglary ($500)
  • Extended Warranty (1 year)
  • Purchase Protection (90 days)
  • Rental Car Theft and Damage
  • Rental Car Accident ($200,000)
  • Rental Car Personal Effects ($1,000)
  • Travel Accident ($1,000,000)
  • Trip Interruption ($2,000)
  • Extended Warranty (1 year)
  • Price Protection
  • Purchase Protection (90 days)

While both cards have good insurance coverage, I would give the Amex a slight edge based on having a few more different types of insurance. Although, the rare Price Protection coverage on the MBNA card is a nice bonus.

4. Acceptance

While much is made about acceptance of Amex cards, as an Amex cardholder myself I don’t find it is much of an issue.

Yes, there are the odd small businesses that don’t accept it, but almost all of the large chains take it with two exceptions:

  • Costco (which only accepts Mastercard), and
  • Loblaws group of stores (including, but not limited to Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore, Independents and No Frills to name a few, but not including Shoppers Drug Mart).

Shop regularly at these two stores and the Amex card won’t be of much use to you without a backup.

Related: 3 PC Financial Mastercards Reviewed and Compared

5. Welcome Bonus

While I would never base a card I apply for based on a welcome bonus, it can be an edge when deciding between two evenly matched cards.

In this case the Amex has a welcome bonus worth up to $300, while the MBNA will give you $100 after your first purchase. The Amex bonus isn’t worth the full $300 though because you’d be getting your normal 2% cash on those purchases anyway, so you have to subtract that from the total bonus value. With the 10% promo now going on, the true bonus maxes out at $240.

6. Eligibility

This is Amex’s biggest advantage.

While the MBNA card will require you to have either an annual personal income of $80,000 or household of $150,000 (your typical World Elite requirements), the Amex card has no income restrictions for any of its cards.

Verdict

While a close call, I would give the overall edge to the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard, due to the lower annual fee and better acceptance.

However, if you can’t qualify for it due to the large income requirements (myself included), or need a slightly better insurance package, then Amex SimplyCash Preferred card is obviously your better choice.

American Express SimplyCash Card

Don’t like paying an annual fee?

Don’t have a high monthly spend?

Looking for a 2nd card to compliment a category based card?

American Express has you covered as well. The SimplyCash card will get you a return of 1.25% on all your spend, with no limits on the amount of cash back you can earn – and no annual fee.

And because this card has no annual fee, the insurance coverage is not as robust. It does come with the following:

  • Car Rental Theft and Damage
  • Travel Accident ($100,000)
  • Extended Warranty (1 year)
  • Purchase Protection (90 days)

For a no fee cash back card, that’s still pretty decent coverage.

The welcome bonus is also pared back when compared to the preferred card. You will get 5% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant purchases for the first 6 months, up to a maximum of $250. That’s $187.50 more than you’d get on that amount of spending normally.

And like the Preferred card, you will also be have access to American Express invites.

Comparison

We’ll compare this card to two other no-fee cash back cards that have a flat rate of return – the BMO CashBack Mastercard and the Fido Mastercard.

Let’s review three factors to see how they stack up.

1. Return on spend

The BMO card gives a 1% return, the Amex, 1.25% and the Fido is 1.5%.

At an average monthly spend on $1,000 per month, the Fido Mastercard would get you an extra $30 per year (not accounting for any foreign spend).

2. Welcome Bonus

All three cards have different ways of earning a welcome bonus. However, they all have a maximum that can be earned:

  • Amex has a total bonus of $250
  • BMO CashBack offers 4% back on all purchases for the first 4 months, up to a total of of $125
  • Fido has a total bonus of $50 – $25 on your first purchase, and another $25 when you authorize a Rogers bill to the card.

Doing a little math, with Amex you’re getting a $187.50 increase in overall cash because of the bonus. With BMO, it’s $93.75. Fido is straightforward, you get $25 if you aren’t a Rogers customer and $50 if you are, no math required.

3. Insurance

The Amex SimplyCash card is the only one that has the car rental and travel accident insurance, in addition to purchase protection and extended warranty.

The BMO CashBack card offers purchase protection (90 days) and extended warranty (1 year), while the Fido Mastercard has no insurance coverage at all.

Verdict

At a monthly spend on $1,000 per month, we have…

On a strict spending return, the Fido Mastercard is the winner. But if you combine all 3 factors together, the SimplyCash Card is the winner…

Unless you plan to use it regularly at Costco or Loblaws stores, in which case the Fido Mastercard would likely be the better option of the three.

While the Amex card does have a lower return on spend, the $30 that is lost (at $1,000 monthly spend) is made up by the extra welcome bonus and the extra insurance coverages.

Finally, if you want a big bank behind your card along with great acceptance, then the BMO CashBack is still a contender.

Final Word

For me, American Express clearly has a great line of cash back credit cards.

The SimplyCash Preferred card is a terrific all around high-end cash back card. And the SimplyCash card is great on its own – but also pairs well with a category card (as they typically give 1% on non-category purchases) giving you a little increase in your annual rewards.

Whether you’re looking for a premium card or something more basic, Amex has you covered.