For Costco shoppers, you may have heard the news that Costco has replaced American Express with MasterCard and using Capital One as the issuer. The rumour is that the two large publicly traded companies, Costco ($55B market cap) and American Express ($95B market cap), could not come to terms on transactions fees. The official news is that starting January 1, 2015, American Express will no be longer be accepted in Costco stores or gas stations. From this news, it’s probably safe to assume that Costco will start accepting MasterCard on the same day. However, visiting Costco last week, it looks like they have already started to accept MasterCard (at least in St. John’s, NL)!

The Good News

As a once a week Costco shopper, the switch from American Express to MasterCard is welcomed news. I signed up for the Costco American Express card a few years back just for the fact of earning a few cash back dollars on my Costco spending. My rationale was that it was much more efficient than using my debit card and not getting any points for my spending. I’m a big believer in funneling spending through points or cash back credit cards to first obtain some rewards on spending, and second, as a budget and tracking tool.

The Costco American Express offered 1% cash back on spending greater than $3,000 (0.25% up to $1k, 0.50% up to $3k), 2% cash back on gasoline (up to $3k in spending), 3% cash back at restaurants. A decent card, except for the tiers on regular spending. The biggest pitfall however, is the lack of acceptance of American Express due to their higher merchant fees. Around here, when I ask if they accept AMEX, I get more “no” than “yes”. It’s a whole new ball game now that Costco accepts MasterCard.

The Costco MasterCard

Not only does Costco now accept any M/C, they have teamed up with Capital One to offer the “Capital One Platinum Mastercard – Exclusively for Costco Members”. Besides the benefit of only requiring one card in your wallet to shop at Costco (usually require membership card plus a payment card), they offer competitive rewards as well.

The Rewards

  • 3% cash back on restaurant purchases;
  • 2% cash back on gasoline purchases;
  • 0.50% on first $3,000 of other spending, 1% after that (implicit annual fee of $15); and,
  • No annual fee (besides annual Costco Membership).


  • Price Protection (find a better price within 60 days, and they will refund you the difference up to $100 per item);
  • Purchase Assurance (120 days from date of purchase);
  • Extended Warranty (doubles manufacturer warranty up to two years);
  • Travel Accident Insurance;
  • Car Rental Collision/Loss Damage Waiver; and,
  • Baggage Delay Insurance.

Although the rewards are very similar to the old AMEX, the biggest benefit of this card is the general acceptance of MasterCard.  Before, AMEX holders would carry the Costco AMEX along with another credit card for other stores.  Now, Capital One Costco card holders can reduce their card count by one.  

For  a free (ish) card, I think that this credit card is very competitive in the Canadian credit card landscape, especially the insurance benefits.  The downside with this card is the 0.50% tier for the first $3,000 in spending which equates to a $15 annual fee (relative to cards that offer 1% from the first dollar spent).

However, while the rewards are good, there may be better cards out there, especially if you funnel all spending through one credit card.

Best MasterCards for Costco Shoppers

With Costco accepting M/C, regular Costco shoppers can now funnel even more of their spending on a single MasterCard.  There are a large number credit cards available to Canadians, but there are only a few that stand out from the pack.

If your monthly credit card spending is not too high and prefer to stick with no annual fee cards, then your best bet is probably either:

  • The MBNA Smart Cash Card (full review here) which will give you 1% general spending and 2% on gas/groceries up to $400/month (Costco spending does not count as groceries); or,
  • The new Costco MasterCard; or,
  • Possibly a combination of both. You can read my full comparison of free cash back cards here.

If you are a big spender ($3k+/month on a single credit card), then you may want to consider a MasterCard that has an annual fee, but with higher rewards which compensates for the fee.  Here are some examples:

  • The Capital One Travel Aspire World card (full review here).  This card will give you up to 2% cash back towards any travel (airline/hotel/cruise) and a best-in-class insurance package.  While there is an annual fee of $120 (free secondary cards), their $100 annual bonus credit for card holders reduces the net annual fee to $20.
  • The WestJet World Elite MasterCard is quite interesting as well for travelers devoted to flying with WestJet.  The annual fee is $99 for the first card, and $49 for a second card which is steep, but can pay for itself.  One of the perks that caught my attention is that card holders and their travel companions get the check baggage fee waived for their first checked bag with WestJet.  For a round trip, that’s $50 per person, so a family of 4 would save $200 per trip.  In addition, the card holder gets a $99 companion ticket annually.  In terms of rewards, this card will give you 1.5% return on regular spending and 2% return on WestJet spending.
  •  The BMO World Elite MasterCard offers 2% cash back towards any travel (airline/hotel/cruise), 4 Priority Pass lounge passes per year, and a comprehensive insurance package.  The downside is the $150 annual fee (free additional cards) and all travel needs to be booked through the BMO website (deal breaker for me).

Final Thoughts

Up until recently, I used three credit cards (see what’s in my wallet).  The MBNA smart cash for groceries, the Costco AMEX for Costco and Costco gasoline, and a grandfathered no annual fee 1.5% return Capital One card for everything else.  Now, I will get rid of the AMEX and divert the spending to my remaining two credit cards.

If I was starting over right now, I would get the free MBNA Smart Cash (for high grocery/gas bills consider the Scotia Momentum Infinite for 4% cash back on groceries/gas) for groceries in combination with the Costco MasterCard for Costco shopping, gas and restaurants.  If our monthly spending rises, I would consider the 2% return Capital One Travel card, but I’m not there yet as my existing Capital One card gives me a 1.5% return.

What are your thoughts on Costco accepting MasterCard?  What will you use as your primary MasterCard for spending at Costco?


  1. Stephen Weyman on September 29, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Good analysis. I still like Amex cards because they tend to offer better rewards and perks than MasterCard even if only marginally so. The acceptance is of course the problem which was where them having exclusive rights to Costco helped them be a lot more mainstream.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue attracting the average person to their cards now that this partnership is defunct.

  2. Robb Engen on September 29, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I use a combo of the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite for groceries and gas (4% back) and the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard (2% on everything). I’ll stick with the Cap One Travel card for Costco spending, rather than applying for the Platinum card to simply act as a Costco membership card.

    It’s worth noting that the Capital One Platinum MasterCard is offering double cash back for the first three months of card use (they’re accepting applications now but the card isn’t expected to be available until late October). That means 6% back on restaurant purchases and 4% back on gas for the first three months.

    • FrugalTrader on September 29, 2014 at 10:14 am

      @Stephen, thanks! I also like AMEX perks and their value offered is second to none. But as you said, what good is value if acceptance is low.

      @Robb, thanks for bringing up the bonus. Do you have trouble getting the full 2% reward on the capital one card? I’ve read that you need to claim either at $150 or $350, or $600+ (but need full points coverage).

  3. Goldberg on September 29, 2014 at 10:51 am

    After a year at Costco, I don’t think its the great deal people make it up to be. I might pay less per quantity, but I leave having purchased way more than I would and then consuming it anyway (i.e. at Food Basics, I pay $10 for a cheese that I consume within a week; at Costco I pay $15 for twice the quantity… but it last me a week anyway… net result is I pay more at Costco).

    And they don’t have everything so I need to go to two location instead of just Food Basics… I was planning to let it expire… now I might renew. I don’t know.

  4. Robb Engen on September 29, 2014 at 11:03 am

    @FT – I’ve recently redeemed points for a hotel stay in Fairmont, B.C., and another stay in Canmore, AB. Each time, I simply asked the front desk agent to split my bill so that one charge was for exactly $150. No problem either time.

    Then I used the Purchase Eraser to redeem 15,000 points against the $150 charge. Not exactly “no hassle” rewards, but it did the trick.

  5. Stephen Weyman on September 29, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    @Robb It’s pretty funny that Capital One adds those tiers just to make it harder for their customers to reap the maximum benefit when redeeming their rewards. If they got rid of the tiers, it truly would be no hassle, but they can’t help but do something to keep a few extra dollars out of the customer’s hands to pad their bottom line.

    I had the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard (that’s a mouthful isn’t it) for a few years and really liked it but I eventually gave it up. I like collecting Aeroplan miles myself and taking advantage of large sign up bonuses once or twice a year.

    • FrugalTrader on September 29, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      @Stephen, what kind of return are you getting with Aeroplan when booking economy flights? I’m getting around 1.8% return with AP (counting taxes and fees per flight, but not counting annual fee), but it also has the requirement of booking in advance (8 months+).

  6. Geoff on September 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    1) I love my aspire travel card. Since I use my rewards for big purchases (like European trips) the tiers are never an issue but I get they could be annoying.

    2) While I found the whole ‘amex only’ thing at costco annoying, what drove us from the costco was the parking situation and checkout experience. At our local one (Ellesmere and Warden), it was a horrible situation of waiting in checkout lines for an hour and then playing games of chicken and parking in mordor to get in and out. Not worth it.

  7. MrT on September 29, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    So is this only effective in Canada, or is the US affected by this change as well. Just wondering if we still need to hang on to the American Express for the times we shop at Costco down south.

  8. FrugalTrader on September 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    @MrT, the AMEX/Costco relationship is still intact for the US. Good point about keeping the an AMEX for shopping in the US.

  9. gord on September 29, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    @MrT – Just a general question.. why would you close down a credit card, just because you don’t happen to use it? In many cases it helps to keep the account open for credit history, and if your available credit dollar amount is higher, it can help your score by lowering your credit utilization.

  10. fromoutwest on September 29, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Not wanting to go down the multi-card path either, my wife and I are using the Aventura VISA for everything (1st year bonus plus staff discount made for an easy decision) including Costco. What we do is go online and order Costco gift cards and charge to the VISA which we then can use in store.

    It’s a slight extra hassle but considering we only make an average of 6 trips per year, it has worked out well

  11. Namael on September 29, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I still think the 3% at restaurants is the best on the market. I would get the card just for restaurants and gas. I have a MBNA smart crash for gas and groceries, but $400 month max for the 2% cash back is very limiting. The way I see it, I would bd this:

    Restaurants – Costco MC (3% cash)
    Gas – Costco MC (2% cash)
    Groceries – Smart Cash MC (2% cash)
    Everything Else – Capital One Grandfathered Card (1.5%)

    This way you max out your cash back, and you pay $0 annual fees.

  12. Stephen Weyman on September 30, 2014 at 11:16 am


    I consider the return I get from Aeroplan to be about 2.8% (not counting annual fees – you can switch cards once a year to get a new sign up bonus and often a waived annual fee).

    This counts flying from New Brunswick to British Columbia or somewhere on the west coast of the USA. Small airports or popular destinations can raise the value as well. Such a ticket costs $700 plus taxes and fees. That works out to 2.8% of spending if you are earning 1 mile per dollar spent. Lots of cards give more than that especially on gas, grocery, and drug store purchases.

    If I spent a lot of time monitoring fares and hunting down good deals, then I could probably get the far lower than $700 but I’ve also seen it much higher too. You do have to book about 6 months in advance to guarantee decent seats and acceptable times, but you can even get stuff as soon as 2-3 months on less popular routes if you are flexible and don’t need more than 2 seats on the same plane.

  13. Emilio on September 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    “you can switch cards once a year …”

    If I understand credit rating practices correctly, you are doing yourself a disservice for some airplane tickets.

  14. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on September 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    The new Costco Mastercard seems decent but for now I’m happy with my Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite which pays 4% cash back on gas/groceries.

    I might get the Westjet World Elite card that gives an annual companion pass for $99 (plus taxes) and no checked baggage fee. It also has a $250 signup bonus. When booking travel on an external site like Travelocity/Expedia, if you book a Westjet flight and want the baggage fee waived you need to call in after booking so the card can be added to your reservation. Not a big deal. The $99 annual companion fare doesnt apply to Mexico or Hawaii, so basically only in North America, but again not a deal breaker.

  15. MrT on October 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm


    Actually, what I meant was more along the lines of not having to carry so many cards.

  16. Warren on October 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    On the topic of cancelling the Costco Amex, I’ve heard they are actually being cancelled by Amex themselves. Can anyone confirm?

    I’m about to apply for the Capital One Aspire travel card. Apart from their annoying tiers, can you use exact values above $600 and get the full redemption? It appears open ended above that level.

  17. Sustainable PF on October 2, 2014 at 12:20 am

    @Emilio Same question for Stephen – why affect your credit rating for such a low return?

  18. Sustainable PF on October 2, 2014 at 12:34 am

    We aren’t heavy Costco shoppers. Likely to keep the World Aspire and our Scotia Infinite.

  19. Marc on October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Amex is replacing the Costco Amex with another card (SimplyCash) that provides a 6 month promotion of 5% cashback on restaurants, groceries, and gas (up to $250 cashback). I plan to keep on using it until the promotion is done, then at that point I will consider the new Costco MC for the 3% restaurant cashback.

  20. Robb Engen on October 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    @Warren – The TrueEarnings Card will be replaced by the new Amex SimplyCash card (the no-fee version). Cardholders will be sent the new Amex card later in the year. It pays 5% cash back on grocery, gas, and dining purchases for the first six months on your first $5,000 spending. 1.25% back on all purchases. (

  21. Big Cajun Man on October 2, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    If Costco will now take ANY Mastercard, I may just get rid of my Amex, to have one less card (which for me would be a good thing, after looking at my Equifax list of accounts). I may then just use my PC Financial Mastercard and collect points with Loblaws, but I’ll have to look closely at things to figure that one out.

  22. Andrew on October 3, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Yes, the Capital One Aspire lets you use points directly on transactions above $600. The tiers below that can be annoying so I just use it for larger travel costs.

    2% on all purchases for effectively $20 a year – we’re very happy and don’t use our other card.

    • FrugalTrader on October 3, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Note that for transactions above $600, you need enough points to cover the entire expense, you can’t use a portion. For example, if your flight is $700, you need 70,000 points to cover the charge.

  23. Erick on October 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    If you don’t have enough Capital One points to cover the whole trip, most travel providers will let you split the payment.

    So for example, when booking our last all-inclusive vacation, I asked the agent to put through one transaction of $2500 and another one for $1500.

    As soon as the charges showed up in my CapOne transactions, I used the purchase eraser on the $2500. Two days later, the $2500 credit showed up on my account.

  24. Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist on October 3, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Here’s another annoyance for Canadian shoppers. If you’re planning to do some cross border shopping, you’ll need two credit cards (MasterCard for Canada and AmEx for the U.S.) starting January 1, 2015.

  25. John on October 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Anyone aware how the PC Financial No annual fee card compare to the Costco Master card?

  26. FrugalTrader on October 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    @John, the PC card is pretty good if you shop at Loblaws (or their affiliated stores ie. No Frills or RCSS) for your groceries. If you get the World Card, you get 2% return but only when shopping in their stores. The rewards can also only be used in their stores. Personally, I like cash back to use as I please, and/or flexible travel points.

  27. NRG on October 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Going with ATB Mastercard Cash Back
    3% cash back on groceries, gas, home improvement, drugs, up to $3000 per year. I like the fact that I can use it at Costco 1% cash back. . Cut up old mastercard and amex.

  28. Jil on October 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    What are your thoughts on the Capital One Aspire Travel Platinum MasterCard? No annual fee but only 1 point per dollar.

  29. Cody peterson on October 9, 2014 at 1:30 am

    So do I earn my airmiles, westjet etc when I shop at costco with those cards? Or is the only card I can earn rewards at costco the capital one mc…

  30. CaptnD on October 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

    About The BMO World Elite MasterCard an important freebe is their medical travel insurance. Before getting the BMO card i use to pay around $180/year for coverage (3 trips /year of less tha 21 days).
    The BMO World Elite MasterCard is free first year then $150 but it is tax deductible as it is a credit tool but beware they charge +2.5% on exchange for purchase in other currency.
    VISA does NOT charge exchange fees.
    Thoses are the 2 main card i use when travelling abroad.

  31. TP1943 on October 29, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I found one thing that does not appear in this article. How does a cardholder receive their rebate? With an MBNA M/C you get cheque at the $50 plateau in the mail. Just asking.

  32. Neil on October 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    The BMO World Elite is actually a great card. 2% on all purchases all the time, no hassle to book travel on the BMO rewards website. Very similar to booking on other travel websites with discounted fares. $150 Fee, but free additional cards makes this card a little cheaper as well.

  33. John on October 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    The BMO World Elite MC is my choice. Booking travel through their site is pretty easy and the insurance benefits are good. Cancellation insurance was important to us and we used it when a parent passed. On a recent trip to Europe we used an airport lounge for a first time and that was pretty neat too.

  34. Felix on November 1, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I’m not a big fan of HSBC and use it mainly because of its “global view” feature that allows me to transfer money to/from other countries, but it’s worth checking out their Premier World MasterCard.

    Despite the fact that it gives 1% cash back in general (2% on foreign expenses and 1.5% on grocery/gas/drugstore) it’s packed with lots of benefits: its travel insurance is awesome (includes car rental and travel medical emergencies) and it also comes with unlimited purchase protection and extended warranty.

    You can pick either the cash back or the rewards type which allows you to convert reward points to air miles (for a fee). I prefer the cash back though.

  35. TShin on November 2, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Do you get 2% on Costco Gas purchase with MBNA Smart Card?

  36. tp1943 on November 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

    We do not have a Costco gas bar here in London (as yet, soon?)
    Therefore I am unable to answer question regarding 2% on MBNA smartcash card.

  37. SST on November 2, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    re: “I’m not a big fan of HSBC and use it mainly because of its “global view” feature that allows me to transfer money to/from other countries…”

    This statement is hilarious (unintentionally so, I’m presuming) considering HSBC’s track record of laundering money for international drug cartels and sanctioned countries.

  38. Ron on November 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I have been an executive member at Costco for years and it has paid for my membership so far with a little extra cash back. What am looking for is a credit card that will not charge the 2 1/2% transaction fee when shopping in the US as we purchase lots living close to the border and away south during the winter months. Can someone recommend a card.

    • FrugalTrader on November 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      @Ron, the chase amazon visa with no annual fee is your best bet.

  39. Ron on November 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Is the chase mamzon visa card accepted at Costco in the US…thanks

  40. tp1943 on November 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    To the best of my knowledge only an AMEX card is accepted at US Costco stores/gas bars. I use an American address based Costco AMEX card when in the south. Sam’s Club just switched from Visa to Mastercard in the US. They will issue a Sam’s Mastercard to a Canadian address as I have one.

  41. Chris on December 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    But the Costco MC is only 1% on groceries (i.e. Costco itself). I use my RBC Avion Visa for everything and will just get the RBC cash back mastercard as it’s no annual fee and gets me 2% back on groceries (and I would only be using it at Costco anyways.)

    • FrugalTrader on December 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      @Chris, I do not believe that Costco purchases qualify as “groceries”, so you are getting 1% back anyways.

  42. Hyacinthe on December 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Looks like NBC is offering 5% cashback for 5 months on purchases made at participating wholesale and discount stores (incl. Costco):

  43. rob G on December 31, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’d like to add a few remarks to this comment:

    29. John
    Anyone aware how the PC Financial No annual fee card compare to the Costco Master card?

    OCTOBER 4TH, 2014 AT 10:40 AM
    30. FrugalTrader
    @John, the PC card is pretty good if you shop at Loblaws (or their affiliated stores ie. No Frills or RCSS) for your groceries. If you get the World Card, you get 2% return but only when shopping in their stores. The rewards can also only be used in their stores. Personally, I like cash back to use as I please, and/or flexible travel points.

    OCTOBER 5TH, 2014 AT 2:12pm

    We have the world PC World MC and do most of shopping at Loblaw stores.
    Note that you receive PC points in which my wife and I maximize to our benefit. Our superstore is always having bonus offers on PC Points and there have a few times we’ve stocked up on items because it’s been 100% return.
    Therefore your return can be much more than 2% on groceries.

    To get the cash back – use your points on the groceries and then bank the money you would have spent.

  44. Darren on April 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    I was very open to this new Capital One card that Costco told me it was much better than American Express. After one month I had over $ 5000.00 of fraudulently charged charges put on my mastercard chip all within 20 min. After four months I still have not got all my money back. After calling and going to see Costco all I get is the run around saying the credit will come but I never see it.

    American Express has always looked after their clients and customers same day. My advice to anybody applying for the card don’t apply.

  45. Ryan on April 29, 2015 at 1:47 am

    We were also forced to switch from AMEX to Mastercard for Costco, and it’s been a negative experience for sure.

    There is no option to pay immediately online, and payments can take 4-5 days to reflect on the card.
    When frequenting the US, they do not accept the Candadian Mastercard, only AMEX which we had to cancel.
    There are other minor issues we never had with AMEX.

    We are quite disappointed and will be cancelling it soon, so that means no rewards.

  46. Chuck on August 30, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Does anyone have any experience using the Costco Capital One card for entry into a US costco?

    Part of the appeal why I had the amex card was that I could thin my wallet and have the amex and costco membership cards become one card.

    With costco USA coming Citi Visa, I just get a feeling that the Canadian Capitol One card may not be accepted as membership at a US location. I’ve just been carrying my old membership card again since I didn’t get the new card

  47. Stella Chan on December 3, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    I have the Capital One Aspire World Elite Mastercard and I really like it. Yes the annual fee of $120 is steep however, you get an annual bonus of 10,000 points which is $100 so it knocks the annual fee down to $20. That is awesome! My ex and I originally was going to get the Westjet M/C but because he works for Westjet, we got to fly around for dirt cheap so the Westjet M/C didn’t make sense for us. It’s not like we needed to collect points to fly for cheap. But after my ex and I broke up and I no longer have the WJ employee perks, I switched to the Capital One Aspire M/C only because as much as I love flying with Westjet, this card worked better for me as I don’t always fly with Westjet. I love flying with them however, if I find a better deal with other airlines, I’m going to go with them. With the Westjet M/C, you can only redeem points with them but what if I want to fly KLM or Quantas? I can’t redeem the points. At least with the Capital One Aspire M/C, I can redeem my points for anything (hotel, transportation, airlines) and even cash back! I did the math on it and unless you are a very loyal Westjet flyer and don’t fly with any other airline, it’s not that great of a card. Sure you get the $99 companion fee and first checked bag free but I travel super light so I always just bring a carry on. Also the annual fee is $99 vs $20 with Capital One (after the 10,000 annual bonus points). The Capital One card also has a concierge service and they take care of everything for you when you travel. I haven’t personally used it yet as I keep forgetting I have it.

    The lost/stolen policy is really nice. This is something Westjet doesn’t offer. I bought a brand new cell phone for $600 and it got stolen right from my back pocket in Mexico within 3.5 months of getting it. Capital Ones policy for lost or stolen property is full replacement within 4 months as long as it was purchased with the card. I called them up to submit a claim. I forwarded them a google map of where my phone was and they reimbursed the FULL value of the phone +GST. It was nice that I wasn’t out $600.

    I shop at Costco quite a bit so I was VERY happy when they switched it from AMEX to M/C.

    So all in all, the Westjet card and Capital One are really good cards but at the end of the day, you have to pick one that suits YOUR lifestyle. Everyone is different.

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