If you’re looking for a rewards card to cash in on your purchases in major spending categories (like groceries and dining), consider the American Express Cobalt™ Card or the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card. For $120 annually, they each feature above-average earn rates and offer some included insurance and perks. Both cards go a little further with exclusive access to their own special benefits programs—Cobalt Perks and Visa Infinite. So, how do you decide which card is the best for you? In this article, we dig a bit deeper.
American Express Cobalt™ Card vs. BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card: Comparing the Key Features
The American Express Cobalt™ Card and the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card have a lot in common. They’re both travel-centric rewards credit cards offering healthy earn rates on purchases in top spending categories like groceries and dining with flexible and easy-to-redeem programs. Each card comes with included insurance and some extras. And, cardholders of each have automatic access to exclusive membership programs for events and experiences. The similarities are obvious but there are also some key differences. Let’s look a little closer.
American Express Cobalt™ Card BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card
Card type American Express Visa
Annual fee $120 ($10 monthly) $120 (first-year annual fee waiver)
Welcome offer Up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points in the first year at 2,500 for each month you spend $500 (worth at least $300 in travel) Up to 40,000 BMO Rewards points plus a first-year waiver for the annual fee (worth a total of up to $280 when redeemed for travel)
Earn rates 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent at eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery; 2 points per dollar on travel and transit; 1 point per dollar on everything else 5 BMO Rewards points per dollar on groceries, dining, gas and transit; 1 point per dollar on all other spends
Rewards boosts Referral bonuses when you refer new cardholders up to 75,000 Membership rewards points per year Earn 10% more points when you add an additional cardholder
Redemptions Points can be used for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and statement credits Points can be used for travel, merchandise, gift cards, statement credits, and towards your BMO investment account
Included insurance Up to $5M in out-of-province or country emergency medical insurance, $250,000 travel accident coverage, plus flight and baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, and car rental theft or damage protection; purchase security and extended warranty Up to $5M in out-of-province or country emergency medical insurance, common carrier, and car rental collision/loss damage coverage; mobile device insurance of up to $1000; purchase security and extended warranty
Extras Up to $100 USD in hotel credit on qualifying hotel amenities, room upgrades $50 annual “lifestyle credit”
Perks program Cobalt Perks Visa Infinite
Minimum annual income None $60,000 ($100,000 household)
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The American Express Cobalt™ Card is an American Express card and the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card is a Visa card. The credit processor shouldn’t make a lot of difference in most cases; however, Visa tends to be accepted at more retailers in Canada than American Express. This can really come into play when trying to spend in the high-return grocery category. Loblaws doesn’t accept American Express, and Costco only takes Mastercard in-store and Visa for online purchases.
Winner: The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card —Loblaws is Canada’s largest grocery retailer
Both cards command a $120 annual fee, but the American Express Cobalt™ Card charges it in $10 monthly increments. However, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card offers a first-year annual fee waiver as part of the welcome bonus.
Winner: The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, by a hair—the first year annual fee waiver is worth $120 and gives you a chance to test-drive the card for 12 months.
When you sign up for the American Express Cobalt™ Card, you’re eligible to get up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points. For your first year, you’ll earn 2,500 points for every month you spend $500 on the card, for a maximum of 30,000 points. The value of American Express Membership Rewards points depends on how you redeem, but this bonus is worth at least $300 in travel rewards.
With the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, the welcome bonus is up to 40,000 Rewards points plus a first-year fee waiver worth $120. The value of BMO Rewards points fluctuates as well, but when redeemed for travel, the points alone are worth around $280.
Winner: The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card —the welcome offer and first year waiver are worth approximately up to $400.
These two cards have very similar earning structures. The American Express Cobalt™ Card gets you 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent at eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, and on food delivery, 2 points per dollar on travel and transit, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card has a slightly expanded accelerated category with 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 on groceries, dining, gas and transit and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
So if you spend an average of $12,000 per year on food purchases, you’d net roughly up to $600 in rewards with the American Express Cobalt™ Card. Combined with the welcome offer, the first-year value of this card is worth approximately up to $900.
With the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, you’d earn approximately $426 in BMO Rewards. However, if you add in the 40,000 points as a welcome bonus (worth up to approx. $280) and $50 annual lifestyle credit, you’re looking at a grand total of approx. $760 for the first year. Also, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card is accepted at more grocery stores and restaurants.
Winner: The American Express Cobalt™ Card
Each of these cards has strong earn rates, but how do they make them even stronger? With the American Express Cobalt™ Card, cardholders can get extra points when referring new customers, up to a maximum annual referral bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards points for approved referrals. Add a supplementary cardholder to your BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card (at $50 per additional card) and receive 10% more Rewards points on your purchases.
Winner: It’s a tie—The American Express Refer-a-Friend cost you nothing but requires more effort; whereas the extra BMO Rewards points may not be worth the cost of a supplementary card.
With both American Express Membership Rewards and BMO Rewards points, redemptions are easy and flexible. Each offers the ability to redeem for travel, merchandise, or gift cards through their own proprietary sites, Membershiprewards.ca and BMOrewards.ca. And, both allow you to apply points to purchases made on your card.
Winner: The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card— it lets you apply your points to your BMO investment account.
The amount and type of insurance included is a selling feature for cards in this class and the differences between the American Express Cobalt™ Card and the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card may well help inform your decision. If travel insurance is important to you, you’ll be more inclined towards the American Express Cobalt™ Card. Not only does it offer more types of insurance – from travel accident to flight or baggage delay and lost/stolen baggage – but its coverage amounts are higher. However, both cards offer up to $5M in out-of-province or country emergency medical insurance.
On the other hand, if you’re not travelling much these days, you might prefer the new mobile device coverage (up to $1,000) offered by the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, which insures you for up to $1,000.
Winner: Neither—it depends on your insurance needs.
Sometimes it’s just a nice little extra that decides a credit card for you. In keeping with its travel theme, the American Express Cobalt™ Card gets you a credit on hotel amenities charged to your room of up to $100 USD. This could include things like the spa, golf, or dining. Additionally, you might get a free room upgrade.
The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card takes a different tack, gifting you $50 annually as a “lifestyle credit” which can be used for whatever you want.
Winner: Neither—the hotel credit is more money but the lifestyle credit is more flexible.
Carrying a card in a certain “family” can sometimes gain you access to exclusive perks or programs.
The American Express Cobalt™ Card offers you Cobalt Perks – a program with events and offers that can be taken as Membership points or statement credits.
The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, on the other hand, gains you access to the Visa Infinite program, which extends luxury experiences and access to exclusive events. For example, Visa Infinite cardholders have access to the Luxury Hotel Collection, a Dining Series that delivers multi-course meals and fine wines to your home, and a Complimentary Concierge.
Winner: It’s a tie—your choice will depend on your own lifestyle.
Minimum annual income
No matter the perks and benefits, a credit card only works for those who can qualify for it. The American Express Cobalt™ Card has no minimum income requirement, making it accessible to almost every Canadian. The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card requires a $60,000 personal annual income (or $150,000 for the household).
Winner: The American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card vs. BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card: The Verdict
Although they both target the same market, these cards are actually quite complimentary. Both offer excellent earn rates on major spending categories (with a slight edge to the American Express Cobalt™ Card) and each card has flexible and easy-to-redeem rewards.
However, as an overall lifestyle card, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card edges out the American Express Cobalt™ Card. The $50 annual “lifestyle credit” and mobile device insurance up to $1,000 are going to appeal to pretty much anyone. Visa is also accepted at more retailers. There is a caveat: Visa Infinite privileges are aimed at a much more luxury audience than Cobalt Perks, so you’ll want to consider which program is more likely to appeal.
The bottom line: Urbanite travellers will likely choose the American Express Cobalt™ Card while the fine dining and golf crowd will look to the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card. That said, there’s a first-year fee waiver on the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, which means you could try them both and decide for yourself. Read our in-depth BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card review.