Best Flexible Rewards Credit Cards in Canada

Hyder Owainati
by Hyder Owainati December 7, 2018 / No Comments

There’s more to a great credit card than just the amount of points or miles it offers.

Don’t get me wrong – the value and volume of a card’s rewards are absolutely important, but the added flexibility to redeem points without having to compromise on your choice of airline, flight dates, seats, or overall spending habits is what helps earn a card the moniker of “best credit card in Canada.”

In rounding up our list of the best flexible rewards credit cards in Canada, we took into consideration a handful of factors that are important to cardholders and loyalty program members, including if:

  • Points can be used towards taxes and fees
  • Points have a consistent value
  • Points are transferable to other programs
  • Points can be redeemed across multiple airlines
  • Points can be used retroactively
  • Points don’t expire

The best flexible rewards credit cards:

American Express Cobalt and American Express Gold Rewards Card

American Express Cobalt Card

  • Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly)
  • Welcome Offer: 2,500 points every month you spend $500 in your 1st year (total value of $300)
  • Earn 5 points per dollar on restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and food delivery
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on gas, taxis, public transportation and travel (air, water, rail, or road transport, plus hotels)
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Taxes and fees Yes
Consistent value Yes
Transferable Yes
Multiple airlines Yes
Retroactivity Yes
No expiry Yes

There are a number of reasons why the American Express Cobalt and American Express Gold Rewards Card rank among the most flexible rewards credit cards on the market.

Consistent value

First, when it comes to redeeming points for travel, you’ll find that each point you earn on these cards have a fixed value of $0.01 – so, you can easily work out your return on purchases without having to worry about the value of your rewards fluctuating based on when or where you’re travelling to.

Redeem points on any airline (including retroactively)

You can use points on both these American Express credit cards to book flights on any airline with no seat restrictions or black-out dates. So, while some rewards programs may not allow you to redeem points during peak periods or require you to book flights weeks in advance, that’s not the case with either of these cards as you can use American Express Membership Rewards points up to a day before departure.

In an additional benefit, the redemption minimum is only 1,000 points (equivalent to $10), which means it won’t take you long to rack up enough points to use. Also, you don’t have to worry about paying with your points in advance, as you have up to 12 months via phone and three months via web from the purchase date to redeem your points retroactively.

Redeem for merchandise

Aside from travel, points on the American Express Gold Rewards Card and American Express Cobalt can be redeemed for almost anything including gift cards, hotels, gadgets, toys, and ticketmaster purchases as well as credits toward to your statement, and more (point values may be lower for merchandise redemptions).

Earn bonus points for travel on any airline

In terms of earning points, both the American Express Gold Rewards and American Express Cobalt offer double the points (2% return) for every dollar you spend on flight tickets from any airline – not just a small roster of partner carriers. Finally, your points don’t expire as long as you stay actively enrolled in the program.

Transfer options (specifically, the American Express Gold Rewards Card)

American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • Annual fee: $150
  • Earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your card in your first three months
  • Convert your Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan Miles or Avios on a 1:1 basis

While both the American Express Gold Rewards Card and the Cobalt offer the ability to transfer points to Marriott Rewards, only the former offers lucrative and instant transfer options with airlines.

For example, you can transfer the points you earn on your American Express Gold Rewards Card to British Airways Avios points and Aeroplan miles on a 1:1 basis in as little as 30 minutes. In some cases, you’ll even find that this provides a greater return than an Aeroplan credit card. Other noteworthy airline programs you can transfer points to include Etihad Guest, Delta Skymiles, Alitalia MilleMiglia and Asia Miles.

Scotiabank Gold American Express

Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points (value: up to $150) when you make $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months (For new accounts opened by June 30, 2019)

Taxes and fees Yes
Consistent value Yes
Transferable Yes (limited)
Multiple airlines Yes
Retroactivity Yes
No expiry Yes

Consistent value

The Scotiabank Gold American Express will earn you points towards the Scotia Rewards program. This will give you a consistent value of $0.01 for each point you earn.

Redeem for travel (on any airline) and merchandise

Your points can be redeemed for almost anything. You can choose from travel, gift cards, merchandise, hotels, as well as the latest tech products from Apple and Best Buy, and much more.

In terms of how the Scotia Rewards program works for travel, you have the flexibility to redeem points on any airline you choose through the Scotia Rewards Travel Service or on your own from an airline or third-party travel agency service through the Scotia Rewards program’s “Apply Point to Travel” feature. That means you will not be limited by black-out dates or seat restrictions.

Points can be redeemed retroactively and used to cover taxes

You can use points to cover either some or all of your travel expenses, including taxes and flight surcharges (although there’s a minimum redemption rate of $50 or 5,000 points). You can also apply points retroactively up to a year from the purchase date.

Lacklustre transfer options

The one drawback of the Scotiabank Gold American Express is that the card’s transfer options are limited to just the SCENE Program at a rate of 1,000 Scotia Rewards points to 770 SCENE points.

Tangerine Money-Back Card

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases in up to three categories of your choice, and 0.5% cash back on everything else
  • No limit on how much cash back you can earn

While at first it may seem out of place to include a cash-back credit card on this list, the Tangerine Money-Back Card does offer unique perks that provides added flexibility to cardholders.

Flexible bonus categories

This card offers 2% cash back in up to a total of three bonus categories and 0.5% on all other purchases. Whereas most cash-back cards simply assign you with bonus categories, the Tangerine Money-Back Card lets you have a say by letting you choose your own. There’s a total of 10 possible categories which you can pick from to earn 2% back on, including everything from gas and groceries to restaurants, public transit (including taxis and parking) home improvement, hotels and more.

You also have the flexibility to switch out your bonus categories at any time (although changes may only be reflected after one statement period). Plus, you’ll be reimbursed your cash back on a monthly basis instead of annually, which is typical for many other cash back cards.

TD First Class Visa Infinite

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card

  • Annual fee: $120 (waived for the first year)
  • Get up to 80,000 TD Points ($400 value). Doesn’t apply to Quebec residents
  • Earn 9 TD Points per $1 on travel through ExpediaforTD
  • Earn 3 TD Points per $1 on everything else

Taxes and fees Yes
Consistent value Yes
Transferable No
Multiple airlines Yes
Retroactivity Yes
No expiry Yes

Consistent value and bonus points on almost all airlines

TD Rewards points, the rewards program of the TD First Class Visa Infinite Card, has a consistent value of $0.005 per 1 point, so you can easily work out what your rewards are worth.

You’ll earn a bonus of 9X the TD Points per dollar (4.5% return) on any travel purchase made through ExpediaforTD. This includes the hundreds of vendors available on Expedia as opposed to a small roster of partner airlines or hotel chains.

Points don’t expire and can be redeemed on any airline (including retroactively)

The TD points you earn are redeemable for flights on almost any airline available on the travel website Expedia through and can be applied to cover the cost of taxes and fees. You also have the option to use a combination of points and credit to cover the cost of a purchase.

Additionally, TD Points can be redeemed in increments of 250 points (equivalent to just $1.25), which means you won’t have to wait to accrue a ton of points for them to become useful.

Lastly, points won’t expire as long as you’re an active cardholder and can be used retroactively – although this option is only viable within a 3-month window after the date of your flight purchase.

Redeem for merchandise (but no transfer options)

As a TD Rewards cardholder, you also have the flexibility to use points for an array of merchandise and gift cards. With that being said, TD Rewards points fall short in terms of their transfer options, as points cannot be converted to those of another loyalty program.

BMO World Elite MasterCard

BMO World Elite MasterCard

  • $150 annual fee (waived for the first year)
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, dining and entertainment purchases; 2 points per dollar on everything else
  • Earn 35,000 bonus points (value: $250) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • VIP lounge access with the included Mastercard Airport Experiences membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year ($140 value)

Taxes and fees Yes
Consistent value Yes
Transferable No
Multiple airlines Yes
Retroactivity No
No expiry Yes

The BMO World Elite MasterCard is one of the best travel credit cards in Canada and is catered to frequent flyers. It’s with little surprise then that the card offers a high degree of flexibility in terms of travel redemptions.

Consistent value and bonus points on all airline purchases

The BMO Rewards points you earn on this card hold a consistent value, with 1 point equating to $0.007. For every dollar you spend on restaurants and all travel-related purchases (including flight tickets from any airline), you’ll get 3X the points to net a 2.1% return.

Redeem for travel (on any airline) and merchandise

You can use points on this card to cover travel costs (including taxes and surcharges) with no limitations in terms of black-out periods, seats or airlines. As a BMO Rewards points collector, you can also use your points to book hotel stays, vacation packages, car rentals, gift cards and merchandise (point values may vary for non-travel redemptions).

Almost (but not fully) flexible

The drawbacks of this card is that it doesn’t offer point transfer options or the ability to apply points retroactively.

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