Travel credit cards are extolled for making vacations more affordable – or even free. But how long does it actually take to earn enough points for a free flight?
There are several variables to consider: the card you choose, your income and how much you spend, plus where you’re travelling and when. To illustrate, let’s see how long it would take to accrue enough points for a round-trip flight between Toronto and Miami using the Scotiabank Gold American Express, widely recognized as being one of the best travel credit cards in Canada. Rewards points can also be redeemed for cruises, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages, but redeeming for flights generally provides the best value.
We’ll use an example monthly spending profile of $1,500 here, but individual results will depend on how your spending jives with your chosen card and rewards program. To find the best card for your individual spending profile, compare multiple cards side-by-side using Ratehub.ca’s credit card calculator.
The Scotiabank Gold American Express has an annual fee of $99 and offers 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. The Scotia Rewards program, the branded rewards program of Scotiabank credit cards, is flexible and allows you to book through their full-service travel agency, or pay book travel on your own and pay off the balance with points later. There are no blackout dates on travel, and the card includes comprehensive purchase and travel insurance coverage. The Scotiabank Gold American Express is also among a handful of premium credit cards that offer airport lounge access.
Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card
Earn 5x the points on groceries & restaurants + earn up to 45,000 bonus points within your first year.
- Annual fee: $99
- Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel). Plus, no annual fee in the first year, including on supplementary cards and a 0.00% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 month. Offer ends Jan 1, 2022.
- Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar on everything else
Using the above $1,500 monthly spending profile (a total of $18,000/year), here’s the dollar value of what you’ll earn in rewards after one year:
|Annual fee||Monthly spending||Sign-up/ spending bonus||Spending rewards||First-year return||Subsequent years|
*Note: As of February 28 2019, the spending bonus for the Scotiabank Gold American Express is 15,000 bonus points (value: $150) when you make $1,000 in everyday purchases on the card within the first three months. This is for illustrative purposes only and subject to change.
So, will a first-year return of $537 get you to Miami? What if you saved up your first and second years’ return for a total of $924? Note that cardholders can search flights through the Scotia Rewards portal and view prices either in points or Canadian dollars. You can also book your flight through another provider and apply points to the balance later.
Using the website Skyscanner, here’s the average dollar value of five available round-trip flights between Toronto and Miami during two popular travel months, assuming a seven-day trip:
In this example, it would take just over 11 months to earn enough points to cover one round-trip flight between Toronto and Miami in December. If you want to join the hordes of travellers flocking to Florida for spring break, it will take about one year and nine months. Of course, affordability will depend on where you’re departing from and flying to, whether you’re travelling during high season or low season, how far ahead the trip is booked, and what deals you can find.
The bottom line
Even if you’re completely new to collecting and redeeming travel rewards, it’s fairly easy to figure out how long it will take to collect enough points for a free flight. To calculate how long it will take to fund your dream vacation, plug in your monthly spending profile into the credit card rewards calculator to get an idea of which credit card gives you the best return, and compare it to flight prices on websites like Skyscanner or Kayak.