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Determining the best airline credit card in Canada is a bit subjective since it really depends on which airline you fly the most. Canada only has three major airlines and the credit cards that can help you build points with them are quite limited which is why many prefer to use one of the best travel credit cards instead since it gives them more flexibility.

That being said, the best airline credit cards are an easy way to earn points with your favourite airline and many of them come with additional benefits that can help you save money on your travels. You also need to factor in that some airline loyalty programs allow you to use your points with their partner airlines. Here are the best credit cards for airline miles in Canada.

The best airline credit cards in Canada

Credit cardAnnual feeAirline partners
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard$119WestJet
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Credit Card$120 - FYFAir Canada + Star Alliance
American Express Gold Rewards card$150Aeroplan, Avios, Delta SkyMiles, Asia Miles
Marriott Bonvoy American Express$12040+ airlines
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®$149Asia Miles, Singapore Krisflyer Miles, Avios
MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard$99Alaska Airlines + 15 partners

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $119 annual fee
  • $250 WestJet Dollars sign up bonus after your first purchase 
  • $200 additional WestJet Dollars when you spend $5,000 within 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages
  • Earn 1.5% back in WestJet dollars on everyday purchases
  • Receive an annual round-trip companion voucher starting at $119
  • Save 3¢/L on fuel and always earn 20% more Petro-Points when you link your WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard
  • Free first checked bags for the primary cardholder (up to 8 bags on the same reservation)
  • Some travel insurance included
  • Purchase security and extended warranty insurance
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey

There is no doubt in my mind that the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is the best airline credit card in Canada. WestJet Rewards is one of the best airline loyalty programs out there and the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard comes packed with benefits. You get a generous welcome bonus in WestJet dollars after you make your first purchase which obviously makes up for the $119 annual fee. You also get an annual round-trip companion voucher starting at $119 CAD which is an incredible value since you can easily save a few hundred dollars when you redeem it.

As for your earn rate, you’ll get 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages and 1.5% back on all other purchases. The first checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and so are up to 8 bags on the same reservation. There’s also the great travel insurance package that you get included. If you fly WestJet on a regular basis or even once a year, this credit card is a must! Read my review of the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard now.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

  • $120 annual fee – first year free
  • 15,000 Aeroplan Miles upon first purchase
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on grocery, gas, drugstores, and aircanada.com
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is the best airline credit card when it comes to Air Canada since you earn Aeroplan points. The standard welcome bonus is 15,000 Aeroplan Miles after your first purchase but they often run promos where you can earn an additional 15,000 – 20,000 Aeroplan Miles so your sign up offer could be worth up to 35,000 Miles. To earn those extra miles, there are specific conditions, so it’s worth monitoring to see if there’s an offer that appeals to you.

The earn rate of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on grocery, gas, drugstores, and aircanada.com, plus 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases is respectable and is a quick way to earn Aeroplan Miles. Air Canada promotes the fact that you can use your Aeroplan points for any flight which is technically true, but that’s only if you use the market fare option which usually requires many more points to make a redemption. Most people prefer to use the fixed mileage option but there are often limited seats available.

American Express Gold Rewards card

  • $150 Annual fee
  • 25,000 Signup points after charging $1,500 in purchases
  • 5,000 bonus points if you add a supplementary user when using a referral link
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included

Although the American Express Gold Rewards Card isn’t co-branded with any airline, you earn American Express Membership Rewards points which can be transferred to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. You get a slightly higher earn rate of 2 points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, pharmacy, and travel compared to the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Credit Card although the annual fee is a bit higher at $150. To offset that fee, you get 25,000 signup points after charging $1,500 in purchases in the first three months of card membership.

25,000 points are enough for a round-trip ticket to anywhere within Canada and the continental U.S. so there’s some really good value here. But, here’s another trick. When you use my referral link and add a supplementary user, you get an additional 5,000 points as your sign up bonus. Since adding a secondary user has no annual fee, you’re getting those extra points for free. In addition, with your Amex Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio which gives you even more options. It’s no wonder the American Express Gold Rewards card is one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

  • $120 annual fee
  • 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points welcome bonus or 51,000 with a referral link
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 on eligible card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 on all other purchases
  • Free annual night award that can be redeemed at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties worldwide, with a redemption value up to 35,000 points

You’re probably wondering why a hotel credit card is on my list of the best airline credit cards in Canada? In case you didn’t know, you can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to more than 40 airline loyalty programs. Yeah, now you get it. To be honest, the transfer ratio isn’t the best at 3:1 for most airlines, but it’s ideal if you’re looking to top up your airline miles or if you’re trying to get points for an airline that doesn’t have a credit card in Canada.

On a positive note, for every 60,000 Marriott Bonyoy points you transfer to an airline, you get an additional 5,000 miles for free so it’s not that bad of a deal. The sign up bonus that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express is worth up 51,000 points when using a referral, so this card could be an easy way to earn additional airline miles.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

  • $149 annual fee – First year rebate, conditions apply – Must apply by December 28, 2020.
  • 20,000 welcome bonus points ($100 travel value) after your first purchase 
  • 80,000 additional points ($400 travel value) after spending $5,000 in the first 180 days of account membership
  • 3% (6 points per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases
  • 1.5% (3 points per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees. Only the exchange rate will apply.
  • $100 annual travel enhancement credit
  • 31-day travel insurance coverage
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey (fee per visit still applies)
  • 10% discount on select hotel bookings on your card with Expedia and Agoda
  • Unlimited Wi-Fi through Boingo at over 1 million hotspots worldwide
  • Purchase assurance
  • Extended warranty

The HSBC World Elite Mastercard is not only one of the best airline credit cards, but it’s also one of the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards in Canada. Although the card isn’t co-branded with an airline, you can transfer your HSBC Rewards points to Asia Miles, Singapore Krisflyer Miles and British Airways Avios. Not many people know about these transfer partners as it’s not listed on the HSBC Rewards website, but if you call customer service, they’ll be able to transfer your points for you.

Although Asia Miles and Singapore Krisflyer Miles have limited use in Canada (if any), they’re highly valuable to people who frequently travel to Asia. The $100 annual travel enhancement credit can be used on things such as seat selection, baggage fees and even lounge access which technically makes this card one of credit cards with lounge access.

MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard

  • $99 annual fee
  • 30,000 Signup miles after charging $1,000 in purchases
  • Earn 3 Alaska miles per $1 spent on airfare and vacation packages from Alaska Airlines and Virgin America
  • Earn 1 Alaska mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Receive an annual round-trip companion voucher for $121 USD

Alaska Airlines doesn’t get much attention in Canada, but if you live in British Columbia they can be an appealing airline since they serve the western part of the U.S. The MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard gives you 30,000 signup miles after charging $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. Your earn rate is 3 Alaska miles per $1 spent on airfare and vacation packages from Alaska Airlines and Virgin America which is great if you fly those airlines often, but you only get 1 Alaska mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. The annual round-trip companion voucher for $121 USD is also a decent benefit.

What makes Alaska Airlines appealing is the fact that they have quite a few airline partners. One partner in particular of interest is Cathay Pacific. You can’t book directly with Cathay, but you can call Alaska to book your flights on Cathay at a 1:1 points ratio. For example, a one-way flight on premium economy to Hong Kong will cost you 35,000 miles or 70,000 return so you can see why the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard is one of the best airline credit cards. I was able to use my Alaska Miles to fly from Dubai to Toronto in Emirates first class!

Note that Alaska Airlines will be joining the OneWorld network in the summer of 2021 so you’ll only be able to use your points with their airline partners then.

What is the best airline in Canada?

Choosing the best airline in Canada is relative as it depends on what’s important to you. Air Canada is the biggest airline in Canada, but many people believe WestJet has a far superior rewards program in WestJet Rewards. There’s also Porter which is known for its service, but they only fly to a few airports and have no credit card. You’ll see on this list of airline credit cards, I also mention carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Delta, British Airways and more. Although they’re not Canadian, they fly to Canada.

How to choose an airline credit card in Canada?

You would think that picking an airline credit card would be easy since it would be based on who you fly the most. While that’s some great logic, there are a few other factors to consider also.

  • Sign up bonus – There is no other way to earn airline miles quicker than the sign up bonus that comes with the airline credit cards. Quite often, that initial bonus may be worth 1-3 flights. If you signed up for multiple cards, you could quickly have enough points for a big or premium trip.
  • Annual fee – Many people don’t like paying an annual fee, but quite often the sign up and benefits included such as an increased earn rate are worth it. That said, if you’re a casual flyer, a no fee credit card could be a good choice. 
  • Who you fly the most with – If there’s one airline that you frequently fly with, then getting a credit card that earns you miles with them is what you want
  • What your future travel plans are – Even if you fly with one airline on a regular basis, it may be worth collecting miles for a different airline if you have future travels with them. For example, you may fly Air Canada most of the time, but if you have a trip coming up where you can take advantage of the WestJet companion voucher, you’d want to get a WestJet credit card.
  • Airline partners – Flexibility with your miles are key. Some of the best airline credit cards in Canada allow you to transfer your points to various airline loyalty programs which is obviously beneficial to you. In addition, those airlines may be part of a larger network such as Star Alliance or One World where you can use your points on more carriers.
  • Travel insurance – If you’re flying, you’ll want to ensure you have travel insurance and fortunately, there are many credit cards with travel insurance including some of the cards on this list. Remember, travel insurance isn’t just about travel medical, you’ll also want insurance such as trip cancellation, lost luggage and maybe even car rental insurance

Do airline miles expire?

Generally speaking, yes. Most airline miles have an expiry date of about two years when there’s no account activity. As long as you have some form of activity in your account in a 24 month period, you won’t lose your miles. Now, if you have a card that earns you points which can then be transferred to airline miles such as the American Express Gold Rewards Card, your points only expire if your account is closed.

Final thoughts

There’s no reason why you need to only pick one of the best airline credit cards in Canada. If you’re a frequent traveller, having more than one card can be good for you since you can take advantage of the benefits of the cards. If you don’t travel that much, you may want to consider choosing just one that fits most of your needs.

The Best Airline Credit Cards in Canada

7 Comments

  1. HK on May 6, 2019 at 4:02 AM

    Sites such as skyscanner and kayak often offer flights from multiple airlines for the same trip. It could be Westjet from Calgary to Vancouver (connecting flight), and then Hong Kong airlines from Vancouver to Hong Kong. In such instances, if there is a delay from Calgary to Vancouver, causing you to miss your flight to Hong Kong, does that mean you’re out of luck since you bought the ticket from two different airlines? And you’d have to pay for another ticket to Hong Kong? Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that had you bought both tickets from the same airline, they would just put you on the next flight to Hong Kong without any charges.

  2. HK on May 6, 2019 at 4:22 AM

    I just thought of another problem for the above scenario: since Calgary to Vancouver is a domestic flight, and if they consider it to be a separate ticket from the Vancouver to HK flight, then I’d have to pay for checked baggage. It would only be free for the Vancouver to HK (international) flight. So all savings would be lost there.

    • Barry Choi on May 6, 2019 at 7:41 AM

      HK,

      Unless you’re searching for one way flights, flight comparison sites will usually put you on partner airlines so all of your flights are connected. If you miss one leg of say a Star Alliance flight, the next carrier would try their best to get you on the next flight. Since it’s all one long flight, your bags get checked through for one fee or no fee depending on where you’re flying to.

  3. Hk on May 8, 2019 at 1:20 PM

    Barry, thanks for the reply. Btw, I booked my flights on Monday through air Canada and today, the same itinerary is $75 cheaper. Do you know if Air Canada would refund me the difference? Or give me credit?

    • Barry Choi on May 8, 2019 at 3:08 PM

      HK,

      I don’t think Air Canada does any price matching.

  4. Gerry Gibeault on June 4, 2019 at 7:38 AM

    Your credit card review would have been better if you disclosed the applicable minimum income required for these cards.

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