Amex Making Moves to Expand Its Acceptance Rate in Canada

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Last updated on June 9, 2022

* This post was sponsored by American Express. The views and opinions expressed in it, however, are purely my own.

Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with your credit card?

Sometimes my American Express Cobalt® Card is my best friend. Thanks to its generous rewards structure of 5x points per dollar spent on eligible eating out and groceries, I kind of think of my card as a fellow foodie—and we’ve shared some great meals out together. Plus with the 2 points I earn on every $1 spent on eligible travel and hotels, it’s also one of my fav travel companions.

Sadly, where I find my American Express Cobalt® Card can sometimes fall short is in the usability department. Like it or not, even though American Express cards like the American Express Cobalt® Card are often ranked as among the most lucrative rewards cards in Canada, Amex just isn’t as consistently accepted as Visa or Mastercard. I know from personal experience that there have been a few times when I couldn’t use my card at a merchant (especially in smaller cities; I’ve rarely had a problem in Toronto or Vancouver).

The good news is that American Express® has put in an impressive effort over the last few years to connect with Canadian cardholders and merchants to amplify Amex’s rate of acceptance. And it appears to be working.

Amex’s Steady Expansion

Contrary to the misconception that Amex is only accepted at a very limited number of stores, the company has been steadily expanding its reach in Canada and is now accepted at a growing variety of Canadian merchants. In 2017, 70,000 new Canadian small businesses started accepting Amex, and in 2018 that number grew to 96,000 businesses. The expansion appears to be relatively proportional throughout the country per this breakdown of growth in Canada’s four largest population centers:

  • Over 20,000 new merchants in the Toronto area
  • Over 10,000 new merchants in the Montreal area
  • Over 9,000 new merchants in the Vancouver area
  • Over 5,000 new merchants in the Calgary area

The continuation of this trend will be welcome news to Amex cardholders like me, and will give Amex a competitive 1-2 punch that’s hard to beat: an acceptance rate that’s more on par with Visa and Mastercard, combined with its much-loved premium rewards and features.

Major Canadian Retailers That Accept Amex

Major Canadian Retailers That Accept Amex

Lowe’s is one of many major Canadian retailers that will take your Amex card

Sure, not all Canadian businesses accept American Express®, and sometimes specific retailers like to push their own branded credit cards. But keep in mind that this relationship could be somewhat reciprocal with the behavior of consumers: merchants might be reluctant to accept Amex because they feel not enough of their customers are Amex cardholders; consumers are reluctant to get an Amex because they’re afraid not enough merchants will accept it.

Until these perceptions start to change, here’s a very small sampling of major Canadian retailers that do accept American Express® credit cards across the country:

  • Winners
  • Staples
  • Metro
  • Whole Foods Market
  • 7-Eleven
  • Esso and Shell gas stations
  • Rexall
  • IKEA
  • Lowe’s
  • McDonalds
  • Starbucks
  • Air Canada
  • WestJet

The American Express® website has a more comprehensive list of merchants. Or better yet, use this map to type in your specific city or address to discover what nearby merchants take Amex.

My Tip

As Amex continues to grow in Canada, I recommend rewards-hungry consumers adopt the following strategy: Get one of the many American Express® cards to rack up rewards and cash back, whipping it out at every merchant that accepts it. But always have a credit card from another network as a backup for the merchants that Amex hasn’t expanded to yet.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.

Author Bio

Sandra MacGregor
Sandra MacGregor has been writing about finance and travel for nearly a decade. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications like the New York Times, the UK Telegraph, the Washington Post, Forbes.com and the Toronto Star. She spends her free time travelling, and has lived around the globe, including in Paris, South Korea and Cape Town. You can follow her on Twitter at @MacgregorWrites.

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