BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada 2018



If you've been using the same travel rewards credit card for years
, odds are you can get better value from another one. A creditcards.com survey found 21 million people never change credit cards, and 32 million more have been using the same credit card for 10 or more years. In most cases, without a thought as to whether other cards may have benefits that better suit their needs.

Credit card companies offer big time incentives to get their cards into your hands offering everything from free flights and hotel nights, to elite status, airport lounge access, companion flight passes, free checked-bags, insurance coverage, waived fees and more. 

In the ever-changing world of credit card travel rewards, one of the newer benefits is an annual credit you can apply to any of a number of travel incidental charges to your credit card. If you've been blindly loyal to your current card, it's unlikely that you've assessed whether this flexible benefit could better meet your needs. 

Although credit card sign-up bonuses in Canada are not as lucrative as those in the U.S., you can still stockpile more than a dozen round trip flights and a few free hotel nights from the sign-up bonuses offered by the credit cards listed below. As a Canadian, I earn a handful of free trips each year using this strategy alone, and I explain how ridiculously easy it is to do in this video:




Choosing a Card

With so many travel credit cards to choose from, here's an easy way to narrow which cards offer the best bang for your card:

  1. Pick three travel benefits that are of most value to you.
  2. Shortlist cards that offer all three benefits (Just a few cards will offer all three)

To quickly do this, the following list of my favourite travel credit cards for Canadians shows each card's key benefits (Insurance benefits are excluded from the chart for simplicity as the many details cannot easily fit). To review a card's insurance benefits, click 'Apply' beneath that card's picture to view them on their website:

FLIGHT REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
Alaska Airlines
No $75 25K No Yes 1 annually for $121 No No
AMEX Business Gold Rewards
Yes 30K Must spend 5K in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Cobalt
No Up to 40K No No No No
AMEX Gold Rewards
No 25K Must spend $1,500 in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Platinum
No $699 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths $200 yearly travel credit No No Yes
AMEX Scotia Bank Gold
Yes 25K Must spend $1K in 3mths No No No No
BMO Air Miles World Elite
Yes 3000 Air Miles No Yes No Yes Priority Pass
BMO World Elite
Yes 20K No No No Yes Priority Pass
RBC British Airways Infinite
No $165 $50K spend 5K in 2mths & keep for 1yr No Yes Must charge 30K in 1yr No No
TD 1st Class Travel Infinite
Yes 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
TD Aeroplan Infinite
No $120 15K given on 1st charge Yes AC Rewards Flight Only 1/yr AC Rewards Flight Only No Once Annually on Air Canada Rewards Flight Only
Westjet RBC World Elite
No $99 $250 flight credit Yes Yes 1 annual guest pass for $99 No No

HOTEL REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest
No $120 20K Must spend $1,500 in 3 mths No No No No
Best Western Rewards
No annual fee 20K Must use card once No No no No

Managing your Cards

Some cards offer point multipliers on purchases made from specific vendors in addition to charges for fuel, restaurants and travel purchases. If you have multiple cards (and I recommend you do, and that you keep them in different places in case you lose one), you should know before you make any purchase which card will yield the most points for that specific purchase.

To fast track your points earnings, charge everything you can to your credit cards to earn points per dollar spend as long as you can afford to pay your credit card balance in full each month. If not, any interest you pay will more than offset the value of any points you earn.  You can even double dip by charging purchases to vendors that offer points (like Air Miles) for purchases.

Sign-up Bonuses

To collect a sign-up bonus, you generally have to charge a pre-set amount to your credit card within a certain timeframe. This is called 'minimum spend'. Terms vary by card which require on average $3,000 in charges in the first three billing cycles. Business and platinum cards offer bigger sign-up bonuses and have higher minimum spend thresholds. Here are some tips to help you meet your minimum spend requirements:

  1. Don't apply for another card until you have met your current card's minimum spend requirement.
  2. Charge everything to your credit card as long as you can pay the balance in full each month. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition or income tax payments to your credit card is to use the PayTM app which links to your credit card. It has a $1,500/day payment cap.
  3. If you travel for work, charge all work-related travel expenses to your credit card, and have your employer reimburse you for those expenses to collect points for dollars spent on business travel.

Annual Fees

Most travel credit cards worth having charge an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for the first year to lure you to sign-up, but a little known way to avoid paying annual fee on subsequent years is to call customer service shortly before your card's anniversary date, and say you want to cancel your card. Agents almost always try to keep you by offering to waive the annual fee or offer free points as an incentive to stay. 



Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX,, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at 
stopdreamingstarttaveling.com.


FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com    

1 COMMENTS

Mohamed Melendres commented on 06-Dec-2018 04:54 PM

This is a nifty site with lots of relevant information. Thanks for sharing!

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