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:
- AMEX Membership Rewards:American Express Cobalt
- Scotia Rewards:Scotiabank Gold American Express
- Cash Back:Tangerine Money-Back Card
- TD Rewards:TD First Class Visa Infinite
- BMO Rewards:BMO World Elite MasterCard
American Express Cobalt
- Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly), but will be increasing to $155.88 (charged at $12.99 monthly)
- Welcome Offer: 2,500 points every month you spend $500 in your 1st year (total value of $300 in statement credits redeemed towards purchases charged to your Card or $225 in American Express® Prepaid Cards
- Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership
- 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 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
There are a number of reasons why the American Express Cobalt ranks among the most flexible rewards credit cards on the market.
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 Cobalt can be redeemed for almost anything including gift cards, hotels, gadgets, toys, Amazon.ca 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, the 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. You can also now transfer your points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs. Finally, your points don’t expire as long as you stay actively enrolled in the program.
- Annual fee: $99
- Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar on everything else
- 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 get a 0.00% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months. Offer ends Jan 1, 2022.
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
- 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
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
- 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
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 ExpediaforTD.com 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
- $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)
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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