The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada

Best travel rewards credit cards in Canada

Here’s a shocker: Canadians love to travel! So it’s no surprise that there are numerous credit cards in Canada offering sweet travel rewards—so many, in fact, that it can be hard to decide on the best one for your needs. Some offer the opportunity to rack up some major points, while others include travel insurance and passes to posh airport lounges as part of the package. In this article, we look for the best travel credit card in Canada across four major categories: best points-to-dollar ratio, best sign-up bonus, best for hotel rewards, and best for airport lounges.  Use this handy guide to get your travel rewards credit card working towards the perks and points most valuable to you.

Credit CardBest For
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*Best Aeroplan Credit Card
BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*Best Air Miles Credit Card
Scotiabank Gold American Express® CardBest Points-to-Dollar Ratio
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card Best Sign-Up Bonus
MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®Best for Budget Hotel Stays
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card Best for Luxury Hotel Rewards
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressAirport Lounges
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*Best Overall

Best Aeroplan Credit Card

As Canada’s most popular travel rewards program, many Canadians are looking to rack up Aeroplan points any way they can. Here’s a tip: simply by using an Aeroplan credit card, you can earn miles redeemable towards flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, event tickets, and merchandise. Best of all, earn double the points by making purchases at Aeroplan-affiliated partners with your Aeroplan credit card. If you’re one of the 5 million Aeroplan members, it’s worth your while to get an Aeroplan credit card.

Winner: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*

TD-Aeroplan-Infinite-Visa-Card_243x153Eligibility: Minimum $60,000, or $100,000 annual household income
Annual fee: $120 (first year annual rebate)*
Other perks: Welcome bonus of 30,000 miles; earn points on purchases charged to the card; travel insurance; 24-hour concierge service
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

For an excellent Aeroplan credit card, our top pick is the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*. This card offers a very generous welcome bonus of 30,000 miles* —15,000 on sign-up and an additional 15,000 with $1,000 spent in the first three months — and cardholders earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on groceries, gas, drugstore and AirCanada.com. For everything else, you earn 1 point for every dollar spent, and purchases made at Aeroplan partners earn double the rewards. Ultimately, cardholders can rack up their miles quickly and easily. Other travel-related perks include travel and auto insurance and exclusive benefits like 24-hour concierge services. The annual fee of $120 is quite affordable, and you get an annual fee rebate for your first year.


Best Air Miles Credit Card

The Air Miles program is one of the best ways to earn rewards in Canada. With an Air Miles Collector Card, you can turn everyday purchases – like gas and groceries – into free flights, car rentals, event tickets, hotel stays, electronics, and so much more. If you’re an avid collector, you can maximize your miles by using an Air Miles credit card to pay for your purchases.

The Winner: BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*

BMO-Air-Miles-Mastercard-243Eligibility: Minimum $15,000 annual income
Annual fee: $0
Other perks: Welcome bonus of up to 800 AIR MILES; Earn AIR MILES Reward Miles for every credit card purchase

What’s truly great about the BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®* is that you can earn reward miles without paying a dime towards annual fees. Yes, it’s true: this card has no annual fee and you earn a rate of 1 AIR MILE per $20 charged onto the card. Plus, you get a welcome bonus of 800 bonus miles upon sign-up and twice the miles when shopping at participating AIR MILES partners. Cardholders can also take advantage of a low 1.99% introductory interest rate for a full 9 months on balance transfers with a 1% transfer fee. Pro tip: earn more miles by adding additional cardholders for free.


Best Points-to-Dollar Ratio

With all the points programs out there, it can be difficult to decide on the very best points credit card. Some programs have restrictions for what you might spend your points on but bear in mind that many cards allow points transfers between programs. After those considerations, a card’s points-to-dollar ratio—that is, the amount in dollars your points are worth—is one of the most important features for your card.

Winner: Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card

Scotiabank-Gold-American-Express-Card_243x153Eligibility: Minimum $12,000 annual income
Annual fee: $99
Other perks: 15,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months; discounted membership to Priority Pass airport lounges; travel insurance

The Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card offers two tiers for their Scotia Rewards points program. For every dollar you spend on eligible gas, groceries, dining, and entertainment, you’ll earn a whopping 4 Scotia Rewards points. Any other purchases come in at 1 point per dollar spent. While other cards in the Scotiabank American Express® family also offer this ratio, the $99 annual fee makes this card a winner.

But what’s also exceptional about this credit card is the flexibility in rewards redemption. All you have to do is login to the system and select the “Apply Points to Travel” option. Then just use your accumulated points to offset any travel cost (flights, rental cars, hotels, etc.) charged on your credit card. It’s that easy – no black-out periods or annoying restrictions.

It’s no wonder the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card is often ranked as the best travel credit card in Canada.

Runner up: American Express Cobalt™ Card
The-American-Express-Cobalt™-Credit-Card_243x153

The American Express Cobalt™ Card offers a generous 5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on purchases at eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, and even food delivery, 2 points per dollar spent on eligible transit and gas purchases in Canada and eligible travel purchases. Everything else earns 1 point per dollar spent. Membership Rewards® points can be easily redeemed for travel or merchandise through the online catalogue of membership rewards. The narrower earnings options dropped the Cobalt into the runner-up place but it’s still a great option for those spending most of their money in that category.

With a minimum $500 monthly spend, users can earn an additional 2,500 Membership Rewards® points per month (potentially 30,000 points per year), and this card carries a $120 annual fee.


Best Sign-Up Bonus

One way credit card companies entice you into their travel rewards program is with a fat sign-up bonus. Take advantage of this strategy and give your travel reward goals a big boost.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card 

marriott-bonvoy-card

Eligibility: Good to excellent credit
Annual fee: $120
Other perks: Welcome bonus of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points; Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite status; travel insurance including car rental theft and damage; Front of The Line access

When Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards merged, it was unclear how the programs would be affected. One really exciting result is the launch of the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card, which replaced the popular Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. This new card has an amazing sign-up bonus of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you spend $1,500 in the first three months. That's enough for 4 free nights at a Category 2 hotel! Additionally, cardholders earn 5 points for every $1 in eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties and 2 points per $1 for everywhere else. As a cardholder, you can redeem points for free nights with no blackout dates at over 6,500 of the world’s most desired hotels. You also receive an annual free night award after your anniversary each year. If you’re a frequent traveller who likes to stay in quality hotels, you must consider this travel reward card.

Runner-up: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The-Platinum-Card-243

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a whopping 50,000 Membership Rewards® points upon sign-up (with $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months) but its hefty $699 annual fee kept it out of the first spot. Still, the card includes a $200 annual travel credit and comprehensive travel insurance coverage — perks that could justify the hefty annual fee. Cardholders also receive complimentary access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide (plus security bypass and valet service at Toronto Pearson Airport) as well as discounts and other valuable perks at hotels. Plus, you earn points for every purchase on your credit card: 3:$1 ratio on dining, 2:$1 on travel, and 1:$1 on everything else.


Best for Hotel Rewards

Travellers are not one size fits all, and there is nowhere in the travel sector where this is more evident than in accommodations. Where you choose to spend the night is going to depend on your taste and budget, and with that in mind, in this category, we’ve got a tie.

Winner for budget travellers: MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®

Best-Western-MasterCard®-credit-card_243x153Eligibility: No minimum annual income requirement
Annual fee: $0
Other perks: 20,000 Best Western Rewards® points welcome bonus.

If you’re on a budget, the MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® makes a lot of sense. The sign-up bonus of 20,000 Best Western Rewards® points (after a single eligible purchase) is enough for a free one-night stay, and further points are easy to collect. The flexibility of BWR® points allows you to redeem for hotel stays, dining, gift cards, and more, and best of all, there is no annual fee.

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.

Winner for luxury travellers: Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card

marriott-bonvoy-card

Eligibility: Good to excellent credit
Annual fee: $120
Other perks: Welcome bonus of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points; Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite status; travel insurance; Front of The Line access

As outlined above, if you expect to be staying in Marriott Bonvoy™ families of hotels, the points-to-dollar ratio, 60,000 points sign-up bonus, and suite of other travel rewards make the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card a no-brainer.


Best for Airport Lounges

Finally, credit card companies seem to have figured out that nobody likes hanging around at the airport. An increasingly popular travel perk is access to worldwide airport lounges. Bought individually, these passes can run upwards of $60 a pop, so there’s definite value here. But, as with all rewards, not all programs are created equally. Here are our favourites.

Winner:  The Platinum Card® from American Express

The-Platinum-Card-243

Eligibility: $12,000 annual income
Annual fee: $699
Other perks: An enormous 50,000 Membership Rewards® points welcome bonus (with $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months); annual $200 travel credit; 

The hefty annual fee kept The Platinum Card® from American Express out of top spot in the sign-up bonus category, but it’s simply unbeatable when it comes to airport lounge access. Indeed, this is the only credit card in Canada that offers card members unlimited free airport lounge access. Given the high cost of buying one-off passes, along with the truly terrific suite of other travel perks, this might just be worth it for the frequent flyer.

Runner-up:  Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card 

Amex_Platinum_ENG

It might not offer an unlimited lounge pass, but the Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card includes complimentary membership and a whopping 10 free lounge visits per year. At just shy of one per month, this is going to be sufficient for most travellers. Additionally, other valuable perks like 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points upon first purchase and travel insurance make this a card to consider. Plus, you earn 4 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 you spend at eligible gas stations, grocery stores, on dining and entertainment. The Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card carries a $399 annual fee.


Overall The Best Travel Credit Card in Canada: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*

TD-Aeroplan-Infinite-Visa-Card_243x153*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
As you can see, there are many fantastic deals out there in the travel rewards credit card category. But if we have to pick one, the best overall travel rewards credit card in the Canadian market for 2019 is the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*. It stands out above the others because of its winning welcome offer* (hello, 30,000 miles!), premium perks (like priority boarding/check-in and travel insurance) and great potential to rack up points – all for a modest annual fee of $120. Plus, because it’s an Aeroplan card, purchases at partner sites double your miles. The primary cardholder also gets an annual fee rebate on the first year, making this a sky-high deal. Read our full TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* review.

If you liked this article, you may also enjoy The Best Credit Cards in Canada.

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Keph Senett

Keph Senett is a Canadian freelance writer with an interest in helping people make solid choices towards debt-free living. Her work has appeared in publications including Al Jazeera America, Greedy Rates, BBC News, and The Globe & Mail.

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2 Comments

  1. Danielle Ogilvie on November 16, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Winner for me would probably be the best points to dollars ratio. Although, another contention would be what I could spend those points on



  2. Amer on November 18, 2018 at 10:26 am

    The best I found is the HSBC world elite credit card.
    Sign up bonus 75000 points, waived first year fees. (The bonus is 105000 points if you live in Quebec).
    100$ travel enhancement credit.
    10% off your Expedia hotel booking.
    No foreign transaction fee.
    Unlike the amex, it’s accepted everywhere. I have the cobalt and I have a hard time finding restaurants/groceries/pharmacies that accept it! Even Costco don’t accept it!
    My ultimate goal is to get the chase sapphire reserve Visa card… not sure how though!



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