Canadian alternative to American Express?
January 2, 2016 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I am a longtime AmEx customer (nothing fancy, just a charge card) who just moved to the US from Canada and who needs a new credit card. I love the customer service of AmEx--I trust them, especially, for travel and for dispute resolution. So far AmEx Canada has been iffy (reasons below). I'm happy to pay an annual fee. What's my best bet?

Long story short: I'm a very loyal AmEx customer (just a basic, lowest-tier card) who just permanently relocated to Canada for work. AmEx has historically seemed much more above-board than other credit cards I've worked had: they are great at dispute resolution and really good for travel, or at least that's been my experience, and I'm usually able to get them on the phone if I have a question without spending the whole day on hold. I'm happy to pay the annual fee to work with a company I trust. But AmEx Canada seems to be a different story from AmEx US. AmEx does have cards for internationals (like me now :) ), but when I call those numbers, it seems I've been rerouted and/or on hold for 20 or 30 minutes, and then I end up speaking to people who can't really help me with my questions, which was not my experience in the states.

I am currently torn between three options. 1) I could get an AmEx Canada and hope that my experience of customer service so far is a weird anomaly. 2) I could get some kind of card through TD Bank, which is where all my bank accounts are. 3) I could keep researching and find a different option.

Does anybody have experience with a similar problem, or advice? Thanks, all!
posted by lotf629 to Work & Money (14 answers total)
1. I don't understand this option since as far as I understand you move to the US.
2. In the US your CC are independent from your Bank. You don't need to have a bank account at the same bank.
3. There are tons of options in the US. Without a US Credit History it may take some time.

Does it have to be Amex?

I have the Citi Platinum Master Select Card. (Not sure this card is still available).

They give me 1% Cash Back on everything.
Had a dispute a few times in 10 years, they always solved the problem for me.


- Paperless statements if you want.
- You can create virtual CC numbers for secure online shopping.
- Easy to make travel notifications.

You don't need to be a citibank customers to apply for their cards.

I also have CapitalOne CC but have not used it in a long time. BONUS: No foreign transaction fees.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:49 PM on January 2, 2016

who just moved to the US from Canada

who just permanently relocated to Canada

Please clarify which of these is true.

I'm Canadian and while my Amex gets the least use of all my CCs, their customer service has always been fast, polite and effective. Twice they've resolved an issue while I waited at a till, once while I was still pumping the gas into my car. They've been great.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:55 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm also an Amex credit card customer. I am in the US. Your question confused me! Are you in the US or Canada? For how long?

If you are in the US, and this is set to change soon, you can (or could - may already have changed) get a Costco membership for free (with easy stipulations to meet) by applying for an Amex through Costco. Hence my 3rd Amex account, that acts as my Costco membership card.

Google if Costco is in Canada, or some sort of equivalent, if that's where you are. Then go in person and apply. We have an Amex Hilton card, so something similar might work in Canada if you are not in the US.

I'm sorry if I misunderstood. In general, I think you should close your old Amex accounts and reapply wherever you are living. Bypass weird international things if you can help it.

If you are abroad and not in the US, there are way more interesting financial credit-type options available. The US is kinda the outdated and slow to adapt. OTOH, regional laws play huge part in this. Consumer laws were so great where I used to live, I did not need Amex. In the US - nope. I hate crap customer service! I'm happy with Amex for the reasons you describe.

I know this is a non-answer because your question says you live two different places. In general, I am telling you (a) you're correct to desire this level of service, and (b) any finacial tool that links directly to your bank account(s) is verboten.

I use Amex to protect my financial privacy and security. Reapply for a new card if you need to. Don't settle or take risks you are not comfortable with.
posted by jbenben at 11:02 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whether you're moving from the US to Canada, or from Canada to the US, you will need to build up a credit record / credit history in the new country. When I moved from the UK to the US, Amex were the only financial organization that transferred my credit history - they immediately gave me a US Amex card, and kept my UK Amex card open (both for the continuity of credit and so that I could use the old card for UK online purchases and trips back to the UK). That meant that my 8 year credit history with Amex transferred to my otherwise-blank US credit record, which was awesome. Sure, open other cards, but I would strongly suggest that you open a new Amex card in your new country and keep the old one active, even if you don't use them.

(To be honest, it did take some time on the phone to make this happen, during which I was transferred several times until I got through to someone who knew what to do, but it was worth it.)
posted by finding.perdita at 11:14 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

[Note: looks like OP got their "to" and "from" mixed up in the first sentence, but question title and "more inside" info specifies a Canadian alternative and residency in Canada, so let's proceed with Canadian options. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:20 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Finding.perdita has a very good point RE credit history and having to rebuild it in Canada.

When my hubby moved here from the US he ended up having to go with a card that would work with him not having credit in Canada before. It was over a decade ago but I think he ended up starting with a card that partnered with a gas station.

Since you already have accounts with TD, I would probably recommend starting there with a branch appointment to explain the situation and see if they can work with you. I know they do have a couple travel card options. I think in person would be more helpful than on the phone given the need to build credit history.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 12:10 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you apply for Canadian credit cards (and you should), then DO NOT close your US credit card accounts. Just keep them. They are useful at various times for all sorts of things that require a US credit card or US billing address. I have an Amex Canada card and find the service and benefits to be excellent. I have an Air Miles Reserve. Costco Canada no longer has a relationship with Amex. I believe they switched to Mastercard, so don't go to Costco looking for an Amex card.

As I'm sure you're aware, lots of places won't take Amex, so you probably want a visa or mastercard as a secondary option.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:19 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oops--I'm sorry; my post contained an error. As Taz surmised, I just left the US and moved to Canada. I hope the move will be permanent, but I am not sure. I'm a professor, so it will depend in part on whether I get tenure, and also on whether my family is eventually able to join me here. I am currently on a three-year visa and will probably be in CA for at least five years.

Thanks, everybody, for your helpful replies.
posted by lotf629 at 4:14 AM on January 3, 2016

I've had very good customer service and rates with the President's Choice mastercard. I agree with above commenters about not getting rid of your US card when you get a Canadian one.
posted by transient at 7:47 AM on January 3, 2016

I've been enjoying the new Tangerine credit card - they offered me a very high limit (I asked to lower it) no fee, 2% cash back on 3 purchase catagories of your choice (eg., groceries, entertainment, pharmacy, etc), 1% on the rest.

I find using Tangering very intuitive, but this will depend on your comfort with primarily online-only banking, as they have very few branches (I've never actually been to one).
posted by stray at 8:15 AM on January 3, 2016

Worth noting that Amex in Canada has a sign up bonus of 25,000 aeroplan points, enough for a round trip anywhere in the country.
posted by mikek at 9:18 AM on January 3, 2016

If you're keeping a minimum balance, some of the TD Visa specialty cards waive the fee. Talk to your bank. The service is ok. Sometimes I've had to wait a bit and sometimes i didn't. Lots of places in canada don't take amex because their merchant fee can be too high (like 5% of purchase price) Oddly enough merchant fees are negotiated with the retailers so it depends on how good they are at negotiating and how much sales and throughput they have. I don't think there's much difference between mastercard and visa here, I've never had a problem with visa anyway.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:19 AM on January 3, 2016

For Amex, have you followed through their Global Card Transfer program? I found the Amex transfer program quite straightforward when I did it in the other direction. I did it almost entirely online as I recall. If you're having difficulty by phone, I'd suggest the online process. Whenever I have to call Amex Canada I have had no problems with them.

I agree it's worth trying to get a non-Amex card, for anywhere Amex is not accepted, and your TD branch should be able to help with that. It may be a pretty low limit to start with though.
posted by dttocs at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2016

Besides being a stand alone credit card, you can get an Amex through Scotiabank in Canada. That way, you can get some level of branch support if you don't love the phone service.
posted by GilvearSt at 5:43 AM on January 4, 2016

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