A good travel rewards credit card can take you where you want to go, but with dozens of cards spanning several different rewards programs, finding the best one for you can feel like a challenge.
If you travel frequently for work or pleasure, or aspire to be a travel points hacker, a travel rewards credit card can not only earn you free flights and hotel stays faster, but create value through perks such as concierge service, travel insurance, VIP airport lounge access, and special travel discounts and upgrades. Attractive sign-up or welcome bonuses are the most valuable way for new cardholders to kick-start your earning.
Luckily, you can easily compare multiple credit cards side-by-side with Ratehub.ca’s rewards calculator. To help start your journey, we’ve rounded up what we consider to be the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada for 2017:
BMO World Elite MasterCard
We picked the BMO World Elite MasterCard as one of the best credit cards in Canada for 2017 for its flexibility, perks, and ease of redemption: You’ll earn two BMO Rewards points for every dollar spent on the card, or 2% back in travel rewards. There are no booking blackout periods, and unlike some rewards programs, points can be used to cover all extra taxes and fees. If you don’t have enough points to cover the cost, you can pay the difference. As a welcome bonus, you’ll earn 20,000 points when you make your first purchase using the card—that’s $200 toward your next trip.
Benefits include unlimited travel and medical insurance, plus the free annual Priority Pass membership, which gives you VIP airport lounge access in more than 400 cities around the world. You’ll also receive four complimentary passes per year, for a total value of US$200.
As with most premium travel credit cards, perks aren’t free: the card has an annual fee of $150, and a higher minimum income requirement of $80,000/year.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card offers one of Canada’s highest earn rates at four Scotia Rewards points per every dollar spent (that’s 4% back in travel rewards) on groceries, gas, restaurants, and entertainment, up to $50,000 a year, after which you’ll earn one point per dollar. Purchases in all other categories give you one point per dollar, or 1% back.
One attractive feature of this card is the flexibility it gives you in booking your trip. You can use Scotia Rewards’ full-service travel agency, or book your own travel using your card and redeem points to cover the cost later. This lets you to book on any airline, hotel, or vacation package without restrictions. Like the BMO World Elite MasterCard, there are no booking blackout dates, points can be used to cover taxes and fees, and you can use cash to cover any points shortfalls.
The annual fee is $99 and includes a host of perks, including discounts and special offers on airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages, concierge service, and comprehensive travel insurance. If you spend a lot of time in airports, you can also buy a Priority Pass lounge membership at a discounted rate.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Most travel rewards cards are geared toward earning free flights, but the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express fills in the other piece of your journey: where you’ll rest your head. You’ll earn two points per dollar on purchases at participating Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott hotels, and one point point per dollar on everything else, redeemable towards free nights at more than 1,300 hotels in nearly 100 countries. The card’s annual fee is $120.
This card is flexible: Your Starwood points can be transferred to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. Cardholders also have the option to transfer Starpoints to more than 30 airline loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. You’ll even get an additional 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to airlines for a ratio of 1:1.25. Even though it’s a hotel card, it does come with travel insurance benefits.
Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard
The points structure for the Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard is very straightforward: Earn two points per dollar on all purchases, period. Like the BMO World Elite and the Scotia Gold Amex, you can book your trip with any carrier without blackout dates, and use points to cover taxes and fees. Although it’s a travel rewards card, you can also redeem your points for gift cards or cash. Note that alongside the $150 annual fee, this card has a relatively high minimum annual income requirement of $80,000 for an individual, or $150,000 for a household.
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