What is a credit card referral program?

You’ve likely referred a friend before for a job position or to sign up for a loyalty program in order to earn a bonus. A credit card refer a friend program functions in a similar way. You’ll get extra bonus rewards points every time a friend or family member successfully applies for a credit card you recommended. In order for you to receive the referral bonus, the applicant must use a special email or link code to apply for the card and the application must be approved by the card’s issuer.

While it sounds like an easy way to earn a ton of points, don’t get overly excited yet. Unlike in the USA where referral programs are a lot more common, in Canada there are currently very few card issuers that offer referral bonuses.

Cards with a refer a friend bonus

Credit Card Refer a Friend Bonus Welcome Bonus Annual Fee Apply
SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express $100 cash back per referral, up to $1,500 annually In your first 10 months as a new SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express Cardmember, you can earn a $40 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases on your Card. This could add up to $400 in statement credits in the first 10 months. Conditions apply. $9.99/month (Equals a total fee of $119.88 annually) Apply
American Express® Gold Rewards Card 7,500 Membership Rewards points per referral, up to 112,500 annually Up to 60,000 Membership Rewards® (conditions apply) $250 Apply
Business Platinum Card® from American Express 20,000 Membership Rewards® points per referral, up to 225K annually Earn up to 120,000 welcome bonus Membership Rewards® points (conditions apply) $799 Apply
KOHO Card $20 each for you and referred friend Sign up/ and get a $20 instant cash bonus (once you load your account and make your no minimum first purchase within 30 days) right to your KOHO account with Money.ca referral code. $0 Apply

The SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express

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Eligibility criteria:

– Credit score required: Good-Excellent

– Minimum personal income required: N/A

– Annual fee: $9.99/month (equals a total fee of $119.88 annually)

The referral deal with the SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express nets an impressive $100 each time you successfully refer a friend or family member—enough to cover the card’s annual fee. You can rack up the referrals until you reach a maximum bonus of $1,500 per year.

In your first 10 months as a new SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express Cardmember, you can earn a $40 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases on your Card. This could add up to $400 in statement credits in the first 10 months. Conditions apply. Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas station purchases in Canada, 4% cash back on eligible grocery store purchases in Canada (up to $1,200 cash back annually) and 2% cash back on all other purchases.

Those who prefer a card with no annual fee can check out the entry-level SimplyCash® Card, which also has a referral deal (albeit less remunerative, at $50 per referral).

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Express review.

American Express® Gold Rewards Card

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Who’s eligible?

– Minimum credit score: Good-Excellent

– Minimum income: N/A

– Age: 18+/age of majority

– Residency: Canadian resident

The American Express® Gold Rewards Card nabs Amex Membership Rewards for its referrals: 7,500 points each, up to 112,500 annually. The points are worth $0.01 each when applied as a credit to your card statement, which gives each referral bonus a decent value of $75, but you can potentially get more value for your points if you redeem them for travel via the Fixed Points Travel Program. You can also pump up your points’ value by transferring them to other rewards programs, like Aeroplan and Avios.

The card has a hefty annual fee of $250, but the welcome offer allows you to earn enough bonus points to almost cover that for the first three years.

Earn up to 60,000 Membership Rewards® points – That’s up to $600 towards your next vacation:

  • New American Express® Gold Rewards Cardmembers, earn 5,000 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $1,000 in net purchases on your Card. Conditions apply.

Earn 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases for eligible travel purchases, including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more; earn 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases at eligible gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores in Canada, and 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else.

Oh, and did we mention? The Card is available in your choice of Gold or Rose Gold metal options. We’re fans of the latter.

Subject to approval. The preferred rate for purchases is 21.99% and funds advances is 21.99%. If you have Missed Payments, the applicable rates for your account will be 25.99% and/or 28.99%. See the information box included with the application for the definition of Missed Payment and which rates apply to charges on your account and other details

Click here to apply for the American Express® Gold Rewards Card.

Business Platinum Card® from American Express

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Who’s eligible?

– Minimum credit score: Good-Excellent

– Minimum income: N/A

The Business Platinum Card offers the most valuable referral bonus of them all, at a massive 20,000 Membership Rewards® points a pop, and up to 225,000 points per year. Cardholders might also occasionally be offered special deals where they can get more than 20K points for a single referral—capitalizing on one of those can go a long way toward offsetting the card’s rather high $799 annual fee.

Even if you don’t manage to get a referral bonus, the card might still be worthwhile for businesses with frequent travel costs, as it allows you free access to a wide range of airport lounges in The American Express Global Lounge CollectionTM; coverage that can protect your business purchases when you charge the full price of eligible items to your card; special benefits at a number of global hotels; and a comprehensive travel insurance package, among other travel perks. New cardholders can also earn a welcome bonus bonus. 

Earn up to 120,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points. Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you charge $15,000 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. That’s $800 in statement credits that can be reinvested in your business. Conditions apply. Plus, earn 40,000 points when you make a purchase between 14 and 17 months of Cardmembership. That’s up to $1,200 in statement credit that can be reinvested in your business.

Click here to apply for the Business Platinum Card® from American Express.


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Who’s eligible?

– Minimum credit score: Fair-Good

– Minimum income: $0

– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province

– Residency: Canadian

KOHO’s referral bonus may be a relatively modest $20, but it’s noteworthy because $20 is awarded to both the person who initiates the referral and the recipient of the referral if the referee make their first purchase within 30 days of registration. This mutual benefit might go a long way in convincing your friends to sign up. Each cardholder is limited to a maximum of 50 referrals ($1,000 worth of referral bonuses) for the lifetime of their KOHO account.

If you get the basic version of the card, KOHO Easy, with no annual fee you can earn up to extra 5% cash back at partnered merchants. You also have the option of paying the annual fee of $84 (or $9/month) for the KOHO Extra version, which earns 2% cash back on groceries, eating & drinking, and transportation—with a base 0.5% cash back for all other categories. There’s also a KOHO Essential version that sits between the two of these. Cardholders for all versions can also benefit from earning saving interests on their entire KOHO account balance, up to 2.00%.

It’s important to note that KOHO’s versions are prepaid cards, not credit cards, so your use of the card won’t affect your credit score and you have to load the card with funds before you spend.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete KOHO review.

How to refer a friend to a card

American Express Cards

American Express makes it simple to access the referral benefit:

  1. Cardholders log in to a special American Express refer a friend Canada website.
  2. Once you’re logged in, you select which specific card you want to refer.
  3. The website then provides you with a special personal link that can be sent out via email (or cut and pasted to send out via text) to give to select friends and family to whom you want to refer the card. You will then receive the referral bonus points as long as your friend uses the specified link and their application is approved.

An important note of caution: Be careful about whom you refer. In the fine print, Amex clearly states that you can’t send out the link willy-nilly in hopes of getting as many bonus referral points as possible. Amex notes, “If this is a personal or family referral, you agree to only make recommendations to known friends and family members with whom you have a relationship and who have confirmed to you that they want to receive this communication. If this is a referral in the context of your business, you agree to only make recommendations to business contacts whom you know and have consented to receive this recommendation from you. You must not send recommendations to people you do not know.”

If you breach these rules, Amex reserves the right to cancel your own card. But as long as you follow the guidelines, it’s a classic win-win situation: your friend gets a great, rewards-rich card and you get a nice pot of extra points. For privacy reasons, Amex will not contact you to let you know who has applied and if they’ve been successful. It can take between 8 to 10 weeks for the referral bonus to be applied to your account.

KOHO Cards

Existing KOHO cardholders can get a referral code by going to the ‘Perks’ tab in their KOHO app. The cardholder can then share the code with their friend; if the friend signs up and makes a purchase within 30 days of registering, both the cardholder who sent the referral and the newly referred cardholder get the $20 bonus.

Tips for using your refer a friend perk

It can be tempting to tell everyone you know about this perk so that you can reap as many bonuses as possible, but you risk making people feel uncomfortable if you’re too pushy about getting them to sign up for a credit card they might not need. So, how can you make the most of referral bonuses while not provoking the ire of your friends and family? Here are some etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Let the topic arise naturally. Don’t corner your friends with a credit card offer, but rather, if a related topic comes up in a conversation, mention it to them. For example, if they mention they’re looking to switch credit cards or looking for a way to rack up more hotel and travel points, you can bring up a relevant Amex card.
  • Think of what’s important to your friends or family. Do you have friends who are new parents and could use the cash back perks? Perhaps you have a cousin who travels often. When recommending a credit card, try and tailor it to each specific person’s spending needs.
  • Bring it up on social media. You don’t want to refer a credit card to strangers, but maybe some long-distance friends or online followers are looking for an opportunity to sign up for a new card. Ask on your social channels if anyone is looking to sign up for a new credit card or if someone wants more information. You never know who you might draw in.
  • Don’t pressure your friends. If someone rejected your offer or said they signed up and you don’t know if they have yet, avoid badgering them. At the end of the day, you don’t know the status of everyone’s finances and it’s possible they don’t want to apply for a new card at the moment for a variety of reasons, such as a low credit score.

A win-win perk

The refer a friend perk is one of the easiest credit card bonuses to take advantage of. Think of it this way: if you enjoy having a credit card with a generous rewards program and helpful extra perks that save you cash, your friends and family will probably like it too.

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.

More: Why you shouldn't limit yourself to just one loyalty program

About the Author

Sandra MacGregor

Sandra MacGregor

Freelance Contributor

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.

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