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Here’s a shocker: Canadians love to travel! So it’s no surprise that there are numerous travel credit cards in Canada offering sweet 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.
Summary of Canada's Best Travel Credit Cards 2019
|Credit Card||Best For|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*||Best Overall + Best Aeroplan Credit Card|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card||Best Points-to-Dollar Ratio|
|BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*||Best Air Miles Credit Card|
|Rogers™ World Elite Mastercard®||Best For Cash Back for Foreign Currency Purchases|
|Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card||Best Sign-Up Bonus|
|Best Western Mastercard®||Best for Hotel Rewards|
|Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card||Airport Lounges|
In developing this list of the best travel credit cards in Canada, we evaluated all the travel credit cards currently on the market against the following criteria:
- Annual fees
- Welcome bonus
- Cardholder perks & special features (travel insurance, lounge passes, no foreign transaction fees, etc.)
- Rewards earn rates
- Reward redemption flexibility and ease
- Eligibility criteria
Truly, these seven cards won out above the rest.
Overall Best Travel Credit Card in Canada
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*
Annual Fee: $120 (first-year annual fee rebate)
Income Eligibility: $60,000 personal or $100,000 household annual income
Other perks: Welcome bonus of up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
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 is the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*. For all the nitty-gritty details about what makes this card wonderful, you can read our full TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* review here. But here's the short version: it stands out above the others because of its winning welcome offer* (hello, up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles!), premium perks (like priority boarding/check-in on Air Canada flights 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 for the 1st year, making this a sky-high deal. Apply by December 1, 2019 to get an annual fee rebate and the welcome bonus of up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles (the equivalent of 2 premium economy short-haul roundtrip flight rewards!).
Other card details: Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
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.
Income Eligibility: Minimum $12,000 annual income
Annual fee: $120
Other perks: Up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year
The Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card offers three tiers for their Scotia Rewards®* points program. For every dollar you spend on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, and drinking establishments, you’ll earn a whopping 5 Scotia Rewards®* points; 3 points per $1 on eligible gas, daily transit, and select streaming services; and any other purchases come in at 1 Scotia Rewards®* point per dollar spent.
This travel rewards card makes it easy and fast to earn up to $300 in bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year. Here's how it works: spend $1000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, and you'll earn 25,000 points. If you spend another $10,000 in your first year and get an additional 5,000 bonus points.
As of August 1, the annual fee is increasing from $99 to $120, which may dampen this credit card's dazzle just a little. Despite the hike, this is still very reasonable compared to the fees charged by other travel credit cards and you get some amazing benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees, comprehensive travel insurance, and Amex Front Of the Line® access.
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.
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.
Winner: BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®
What’s truly great about the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard® is that it comes with a generous welcome bonus and a high earn rate. You’ll get 1,000 AIR MILES after your first purchase and another 2,000 AIR MILES when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. The earn rate of 1 AIR MILE for every $10 in purchases is the highest AIR MILES rate of return out there for an AIR MILES credit card. Additional benefits include Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey with two free annual passes, 15% off AIR MILES flights within North America booked with AIR MILES, and a comprehensive travel insurance package which includes travel medical for up to 15 days per trip. Although there is an annual fee of $120, it’s waived for the first year.
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*
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
As already outlined, there are plenty of perks that make the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* our pick for the best travel rewards credit card. But it also wins our top spot as the best Aeroplan credit card because of its lucrative welcome bonus*of up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles and potential to earn Aeroplan miles with every dollar spent (1.5 Aeroplan miles:$1 on groceries, gas, drugstore, and AirCanada.com; 1 Aeroplan Mile:$1 on everything else). Purchases made at Aeroplan partners earn double the rewards, so cardholders can rack up their Aeroplan miles quickly and easily. Cardholders are also treated to other travel-related perks including travel and auto insurance, and exclusive benefits like 24-hour concierge services. The annual fee of $120 is affordable, and even more so when applicants take advantage of the limited-time waiver. Offer ends December 1, 2019, so sign up soon!
Other card details: Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Best For Cash Back on Purchases Made in Foreign Currency
Cash is king, and when it comes to rewards, the best cash back credit cards let you earn a small percentage of your spending back in cash. But what about putting your travel expenditures in foreign currency to work for you?
Winner: Rogers™ World Elite Mastercard®
The Rogers™ World Elite Mastercard® wins our top spot because their rewards structure lets you earn a massive 4% cash back on all eligible purchases made in foreign currency. Yes, it's true that there is a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, but it’s offset by the 4% cash back, for a net positive of 1.5% cash back. You can also earn 2% cash back on Rogers products and services and 1.75% cash back on everything else. Cardholders are also entitled to a free supplementary card, allowing you to earn more cash back per year. Using the Mastercard® Pay with Rewards™ app on your smartphone, you can instantly apply your cash back rewards towards any eligible purchase you've made in the past 90 days on your credit card, with a minimum purchase of $20. It's that easy.
Best Travel Credit Card for 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: Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
Income Eligibility: $60,000 personal income or $100,000 household annual income or at least $250,000 in assets under management
Annual fee: $139
Other perks: Earn up to 35,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year
The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card wins big points in our books because, on top of charging no foreign transaction fees, it’s got a crazy-good welcome bonus. Upon sign-up, you can earn up to 35,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year – that’s up to $350 towards travel! How it works: earn 25,000 bonus points with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months. After that, you can earn another 10,000 bonus points when you spend at least $40,000 annually in everyday purchases. With this credit card, you’ll also earn:
- 2 Scotia Rewards®* points per $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases (including taxis, buses, and subway tokens).
- 1 Scotia Rewards®* point per $1 spent on everything else.
Another perk of this credit card is free Priority Pass membership that includes six free visits per year to airport lounges worldwide. Of course, the no foreign exchange fee markup on purchases made in foreign currency at home or abroad is also alluring.
Best Travel Credit Card 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. However, when it comes down to hotel rewards, there's one card that shines above the rest.
Winner: Best Western Mastercard®
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
Whether you're travelling in Canada or abroad, the Best Western Mastercard® makes a lot of sense. The sign-up bonus of 20,000 Best Western Rewards® points (after your first eligible purchase) is enough for a free one-night stay, and further points are easy to collect. The flexibility of Best Western Rewards® points allows you to redeem for hotel stays, dining, gift cards, and more, and best of all, there is no annual fee. Plus, there are more than 100 Best Western hotels located around the world, making it easy to cash in your points for free hotel stays when you're travelling.
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: Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card
Eligibility: Minimum annual personal income of $12,000
Annual fee: $399
Other perks: 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points upon first purchase
Here's something we love: the Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card includes complimentary Priority Pass 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.
Comparison of The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada
|Travel Rewards Credit Card||Welcome Bonus||Annual Fee||More Info|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*||Up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles||$120 (with 1 year free)||Learn More|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card||Up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year||$120||Learn More|
|BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®||3000 AIR MILES||$120 (with 1 year free)||Learn More|
|Rogers™ World Elite Mastercard®||None||$0||Learn More|
|Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card||Up to 35,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points in your first year||$139||Learn More|
|Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®||20,000 bonus points||$0||Learn More|
|Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card||30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards®* points upon first purchase||$399||Learn More|
Disclaimer: MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® – This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
How to Redeem Travel Rewards
It really depends on the rewards program attached to your credit card. Some exchange dollars spent into points or miles (e.g. $1 spent = 1.5 miles earned), while others allow you to directly cash in points to make a purchase.
The process of redeeming points varies too. For instance, with the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card and the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card, you login to their website and apply any number of accumulated points to offset any travel cost charged onto your credit card. Other credit cards have a travel portal for redemptions. With Aeroplan or AIR MILES, you login to their website and redeem your points directly for a specific travel reward. Either way is fine – the key is to choose a travel credit card that has a redemption process that isn’t overly complicated.
Why Get a Travel Credit Card?
Whether you’re a frequent traveller or planning a big trip for the future, a travel rewards credit card can offer big benefits to you. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to save money on travel-related expenses. Here’s how it works: when purchasing everyday expenses on your travel credit card, you earn points for every dollar spent on the card. Once you accumulate a certain amount of points, you can redeem your points for travel-related rewards. Depending on the card, these points or rewards can be cashed in for travel-related expenses, such as flights, hotels, car rentals, parking, baggage fees, cruises, vacation packages, excursions – whatever you want!
Another big bonus is that travel rewards credit cards often come with comprehensive travel insurance, which may include coverage for travel medical, trip/cancellation, baggage theft/loss, flight delay, collision/damage for car rental, and so forth. That means that if you use your travel credit card to pay for your trip, you may not need to purchase a separate travel insurance policy. However, make sure to read the fine print to understand everything that’s included (or not included) in the policy.
How to Choose a Best Travel Credit Card
There is no one travel credit card that’s designed for all travellers. You need to carefully compare the rewards structure of each program and choose something that best suits your lifestyle. Are you saving up for one-time round-the-world flight purchase? Or do you prefer to put your points towards ongoing travel expenses, like baggage costs or hotel stays? The choice is yours, but there are a few key features to look for in a travel rewards credit card:
- A generous welcome bonus
- How easily and quickly you can earn points based on your personal spending habits
- Ease of points redemption
- A reasonable annual fee
When looking at all the products on the market, consider your lifestyle and compare these key features. It will make choosing a travel credit card much easier. No matter which you choose, don’t forget to pack the plastic in your wallet before leaving for your trip. Bon voyage!
The Best Credit Cards by Category:
- The Best Credit Cards in Canada
- The Best AIR MILES Rewards Credit Cards in Canada
- The Best Aeroplan Credit Cards in Canada
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