The Best Airline Credit Cards in Canada for 2024

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Determining the best airline credit card in Canada is subjective since it depends on which airline you fly the most. Canada only has two major airlines, so most people favour a travel credit card that earns Aeroplan points or WestJet Rewards. That said, some cards are partnered with other airlines and allow you to transfer your points to airline partners.

The key thing to understand is that when choosing an airline credit card, you should pick one that aligns with your travel goals, not for the welcome bonus or other benefits. Too often, people will apply for a card with a generous offer and then realize the points they earned have limited use. By focusing on your goals and signing up for a few cards, you can often travel in luxury for “free.”

The best airline credit cards in Canada

Credit cardAirline partners
American Express Cobalt CardAeroplan, Avios, Delta SkyMiles, Asia Miles
American Express Aeroplan Reserve CardAir Canada + Star Alliance
WestJet RBC World Elite MastercardWestJet
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Credit CardAir Canada + Star Alliance
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card Air Canada + Star Alliance
Marriott Bonvoy American Express40+ airlines

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
  • 1,250 monthly Membership Rewards points after charging $750 in purchases each month for a year (15,000 points total)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At first glance, the American Express Cobalt Card may seem like an odd choice regarding the best airline credit cards in Canada, but it comes down to the transfer partners. With American Express Membership Rewards, you can transfer your points to Aeroplan, Avios, Delta SkyMiles, and Asia Miles. Most Canadians will find Aeroplan the most useful partner since it’s the airline loyalty program of Air Canada and has a transfer ratio of 1:1.

When you look at the earn rate of the Cobalt Card, you’ll quickly realize how quickly you can earn points. You’ll earn 5 American Express Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on eats and drinks, 3 points on streaming services, 2 points on travel and transit, and 1 point on all other purchases. This earning rate is higher than all other cards on this list.

I personally value 1 Aeroplan point at 1.5 – 2 cents each. That means you could be getting a return of 7.5% – 10% on eats and drinks purchases. Simply put, this card is the best for day-to-day spending since it’ll usually allow you to earn the most points. Alternatively, you can redeem 1,000 points for a $10 statement credit.

Eligibility: There’s no minimum income required. A credit score of 700 is recommended before applying.
Welcome bonus: Typically, you’ll earn 2,500 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $500 monthly for the first 12 months. That’s 30,000 bonus American Express Membership Rewards points you can earn in the first year. The offer has also been as low as 1,250 monthly points for 12 months, with a minimum spend of $750 each month.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

  • $599 annual fee
  • Earn 7,500 points per month when spending $2,000 each month for 6 months
  • Earn 5,000 points each when adding additional users at the time of sign up (up to 10,000 points)
  • Earn 35,000 points per month when spending $6,000 between months 13 and 16
  • Earn 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada, 2 points on dining and food delivery, and 1.25 points on all other purchases
  • Unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for you and a guest
  • Free first checked bag, priority check-in and boarding on Air Canada

Frequent Air Canada travellers should look at the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card. Although it has an annual fee of $599, you get unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America, your first checked bag free, and priority boarding. In addition, you get preferred pricing when redeeming flights with your Aeroplan points.

The earn rate is a respectable 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada travel expenses, 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on dining, and 1.25 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on everything else. It’s worth noting that the American Express Platinum Card has a similar earning rate and gives you better lounge access, so it may be the better choice since you can transfer your points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. That said, the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card has better Air Canada benefits. Both cards give you a NEXUS credit that can be used to get access to global entry and TSA precheck.

It’s worth noting that this card is similar to the CIBC and TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Cards. However, the CIBC and TD cards also give you six free lounge passes to non-Maple Leaf airport lounges, so that extra benefit could be worth it for many people.

Eligibility: No minimum income is required. A credit score of at least 700 is recommended before applying.
Welcome bonus: The welcome offer is usually worth 80,000 – 120,000 Aeroplan points. To get the full bonus, you usually need to meet multiple minimum spending requirements.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $119 annual fee
  • 300 WestJet dollars on your first purchase
  • 300 WestJet dollars when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 100 WestJet dollar one-time anniversary bonus
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages
  • Earn 1.5% back on all other purchases
  • Receive a round-trip companion voucher – every year – for any WestJet destination starting from $119 (plus taxes, fees, charges and other ATC)
  • Get free first checked bags for the primary cardholder and up to 8 guests on the same reservation

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is the best airline credit card in Canada if you prefer to fly WestJet. You get a generous welcome bonus in WestJet dollars after you make your first purchase, which makes up for the $119 annual fee. You also get an annual round-trip companion pass, which is an incredible value since you can easily save a few hundred dollars when you redeem it. The way it works is that the primary cardholder pays the full price, but their travelling companion pays a lower base fare and any taxes. Companion fares are rare, so this is a great benefit.

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 any other travellers on the same itinerary (up to 8 bags total). There’s also the great travel insurance package that you get included. If you fly WestJet regularly or even once a year, this credit card is a must!

The WestJet Rewards program is admittedly not the best loyalty program, but it’s easy to understand since it’s essentially a cash back program. The biggest knock against it is that you can only use your WestJet dollars on the base fare. Other programs have similar rules, but some people believe WestJet discounts the base fare and increases airport transportation charges. That means you can only use a limited number of WestJet dollars.

Eligibility: Minimum personal income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000.
Welcome bonus: Usually up to 4450 WestJet dollars. You’re given 250 WestJet dollars after your first purchase and another 200 WestJet dollars when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. There have been occasional offers of up to 700 WestJet dollars.

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee – First year free
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • 20,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $4,000 in the first 4 months
  • 15,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $10,000 in the first 12 months
  • 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and Air Canada purchases
  • 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • First bag checked free on Air Canada flights

The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is the best airline credit card if you want to earn Aeroplan points. You’ll get 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on grocery, gas, and aircanada.com purchases and 1 point on all other purchases.

The only Air Canada benefit you get with this card is your first checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 travelling companions on the same itinerary. That said, you do get some additional benefits, such as comprehensive travel insurance. 

A card like the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite is appealing because the annual fee is reasonable, and it typically has a decent welcome bonus. Some people will apply for this card and the TD or American Express Aeroplan Card, as it would allow them to earn 100,000 Aeroplan points quickly.

Eligibility: Minimum personal income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000.
Welcome bonus: The welcome bonus is usually worth between 40,000 – 60,000 points. In addition, the annual fee of $139 is usually waived for the first year.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee – Frist year free
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • 20,000 additional Aeroplan points when you spend $5,000 in the first 180 days
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points on your anniversary when you spend $7,000 in the first 12 months
  • Earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and Air Canada purchases
  • Earn 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • First bag checked free on Air Canada flights

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is almost identical the the CIBC version. Both have the same annual fee, benefits and bonus categories. That said, the welcome bonus is usually different. At any given time, one of these cards will have a slightly higher offer. In addition, one of the offers typically has a lower minimum spend requirement.

One advantage of the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is that the annual fee can be waived if you have an All-inclusive Banking Plan with TD. In addition, if you keep a minimum of $5,000 in your account, the monthly fee is waived.

Eligibility: A minimum personal income of $60,000 or a household income of $100,000 is required. It’s also recommended that you have a credit score of at least 700.
Welcome bonus: New cardholders typically get between 40,000 to 70,000 Aeroplan bonus points. This intro offer is usually divided into multiple parts with different minimum spending requirements.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at gas and travel purchases for the first 6 months (up to 15,000 points) – Offer ends May 6, 2024
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points

You’re probably wondering why the Marriott Bonvoy American Express 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. 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 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. That said, you should only transfer your points to an airline if you need a top up for a sweet redemption. 

Some people prefer points that give you hotel stays, that’s why this card is appealing. In addition, you get a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each year on your account anniversary. You also get gold elite status just by having this card.

Eligibility: No listed income requirement. A credit score of at least 700 is recommended.
Welcome bonus: Typically worth 50,000 – 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

What is an airline credit card?

An airline credit card is a type of travel rewards credit card. Generally speaking, there are two types of airline credit cards. There are co-branded airline credit cards, which are the official credit cards of the airline. There are also general travel rewards credit cards where your points can be transferred to Airline loyalty programs. Each card is slightly different, so understanding the differences between the best airline credit cards in Canada is essential.

Co-branded airline credit card

Co-branded airline credit cards are the official cards of the airline or loyalty program of the airline. These cards typically include benefits that are specific to the airline, such as free checked bags, priority check-in, priority boarding, and more. Besides the airline perks, co-branded airline credit cards typically offer a higher earn rate on purchases made with the partner airline. A co-branded airline credit card is typically ideal for people who fly with one specific airline

General travel points credit card

A few bank travel rewards programs in Canada allow you to transfer your points to various airline loyalty programs. This can be highly beneficial since the banks typically have multiple airline loyalty transfer partners. That means you can transfer your points to the airline loyalty program as needed. While having the option to transfer your points to various airlines is great, you won’t get specific airline perks with a general travel points credit card. Essentially, travel cards are popular with people who aren’t loyal to a single airline and prefer flexibility.

How do airline credit cards work?

Let’s say you opt for a co-branded airline credit card. It’s essential you know how they work. First off, when you apply for a co-branded airline credit card, it’ll ask you for your airline loyalty number. If you’re a new member of the loyalty program, you’ll be assigned a membership number. Your credit card and the included benefits will then be tied to your loyalty number. Essentially, when the staff at the airline pull up your loyalty number, they’ll see the co-branded credit card you have and what benefits you get.

Transfer of points

Any reward points you earn are transferred to your account when your statement posts, not immediately after you make your purchase. The same applies to any welcome bonus. For example, let’s say your welcome bonus is 30,000 points after you spend $3,000. The points would be posted on the statement where you hit $3,000 in spending.

Free checked bags

Some co-branded airline credit cards give you your first checked bag free. You do not need to charge your flight to your credit card to get this benefit. You get it simply by being a cardholder. In addition, up to eight people travelling on the same itinerary will usually get their first checked bag free too. The same itinerary means that you must have purchased their tickets at the same time as your tickets, so they’re all under the same reservation.

Priority boarding

Many of the best airline credit cards in Canada will give you priority board. This usually means you’ll be called to board in zones two or three. This is convenient for many people as there’s less likely a chance that they’ll be fighting for overhead space for their carry-on luggage. People who board in zones four or five often have to check their bags in the storage area as there’s no more room once they get to their seats.

Lounge access

Some of the best airline credit cards in Canada give you airport lounge access. What lounges you can visit depends on what the card offers. For example, top-tier Aeroplan credit cards give you access to Maple Leaf Lounges, while some top travel rewards credit cards give you access to a network of lounges such as Dragon Pass or Priority Pass.

Companion voucher

You can receive or earn a companion voucher with some co-branded airline credit cards. These companion vouchers can be valuable since a primary cardholder can use their voucher on a travelling companion. The secondary passenger would just pay a fixed base fare, plus any applicable fees and taxes. When using this voucher, you can typically save a few hundred dollars. Some vouchers are provided instantly with some airline credit cards, while others have to be earned after spending a minimum amount on the co-branded airline credit card.

What are the airlines in Canada?

Unlike the United States, Canada only has a handful of airlines. This lack of competition means prices are typically higher when you’re flying within or to/from Canada. The good news is that Canadian airlines can get you just about anywhere in the world since they have codeshare agreements with other airlines. Which airlines in Canada you should use depends on what your goals are.

What are the airline loyalty programs in Canada?

Just about every airline has its own loyalty program. While there aren’t any airline loyalty programs that are exclusive to Canada, some programs are more popular than others.

  • Aeroplan – This is Air Canada’s loyalty program and easily the most popular airline loyalty program in Canada.
  • WestJet Rewards – Instead of earning points, WestJet’s rewards program earns you dollars, which can be used on flights or vacation packages.
  • Delta SkyMiles – Although Delta is an American airline, Canadians may find Delta SkyMiles useful since they have connections to Canada.
  • Avios – British Airway’s loyalty program is called Avios and they’re part of the Oneworld network
  • Alaska Miles – Alaska Airlines flies out of Vancouver and its loyalty program is part of OneWorld.
  • Asia Miles – Cathay Pacific is the best airline if you want to fly to Hong Kong, and its loyalty program is called Asia Miles.
  • VIPorter – If you fly Porter often, then you might as well join VIPorter since you can earn points for free flights.

Do airline points or 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. If you have a co-branded credit card with an airline loyalty program, e.g. Aeroplan, then it’s unlikely your points will ever expire if you use your card regularly. As long as you’re using your card, you’re earning points.

How to choose an airline credit card

You will get the best value from your airline credit card by choosing the card linked to the airline you use the most. For example, if you regularly fly with Air Canada, then you will want to choose an Aeroplan branded credit card. Similarly, for if you are someone who prefers WestJet, then the WestJet card is likely a smart Choice. Frequent flyers who have no loyalty or preference for a specific airline might be better off with a general travel credit card that allows them to book with any airline or convert their points to a specific airline when needed. 

How to apply for an airline credit card

Applying for an airline credit card follows the same method as other credit card applications. Typically, they are easiest completed online but if there is a physical branch for the card issuer, you can do it in person as well. 

  1. Gather all necessary documents needed for the application. You will need to know all of your personal information including contact information. You will also be required to know your income and have contact information for your workplace. You may need your social insurance number (SIN) so have that handy as well.
  2. Decide which card you would like to apply for based on the list above. Consider the application requirements and make sure you qualify. Most credit cards have credit score and minimum income requirements. Once you have determined your card choice, go to the web page for the credit card and click the button to apply. You can also visit a bank branch in person if applicable. 
  3. Fill out the form as directed. You will presented with some more small print details of the credit card. Read it over and understand the terms and conditions. If you are happy, continue the application form and submit it online or to a representative at the bank.
  4. Wait for approval. Many online applications offer instant approval but it still might take a couple of weeks for the card to get to you. Once received, activate it and use it as you wish.

Are airline credit cards in Canada worth it?

Airline credit cards can be lucrative if you are a frequent flier and fly regularly with the same airline. However, if you enjoy travel but aren’t necessarily flying regularly or loyal to a particular airline then you might be better off with a general travel credit card that offers more flexibility as well as other travel benefits.

FAQ

What is the best airline credit card?

As mentioned above, the best airline credit card is the one you will get the most value from. Canadians who fly Air Canada should choose an Aeroplan branded card. If you fly with WestJet, then the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is likely your best pick. Not loyal to a specific airline? Consider the American Express Cobalt since you get multiple transfer partners which gives you more flexibility when redeeming your rewards. 

What are the biggest airlines in Canada?

There are few major airlines in Canada. Two of them have quite the market share, while a few others service specific markets.

  • Air Canada – With more than 200 destinations served, Air Canada is the largest airline in the country by size and passengers carried. The airline’s major hubs include Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. They also operate Air Canada Express for regional service and Air Canada Rouge for vacation package destinations. In addition, Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance.
  • WestJet – Established in 1994, WestJet has grown to become Canada’s second-largest airline. They’re based in Calgary and operate more than 750 flights per day. In recent years, WestJet has started to fly to more international destinations, but their core audience is within Canada and sunny destinations.
  • Air Transat – With a fleet of just over 30 planes, Air Transat is the third-largest airline in the country, but they service 60 destinations in 25 countries. They mainly service European destinations during the summer and sunny destinations during the winter.
  • Sunwing – Often referred to as a discount carrier, Sunwing Airlines has a relatively small fleet of just over 20 aircraft. They service sunny destinations such as the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America. They also offer domestic routes.
  • Porter – Operating out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport, Porter services eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. They currently only use Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes, which have a shorter range than jets.

Are there low-cost carriers in Canada?

Although not nearly as cheap compared to airlines in Asia and Europe, Canada does have a few cheap airlines.

  • Flair – Based in Edmonton, Flair has already seen its fleet grow to more than 20 planes with service to more than 35 destinations across North America (including Mexico).
  • Lynx – Rebranded from Enerjet, Lynx has a small fleet that services Canada and a handful of destinations in the United States.
  • Canada Jetlines – With just two aircraft and two routes, Canada Jetlines is the newest ultra low-cost airline in Canada. At this time there are only 5 destinations (Cancun, Toronto, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Montego Bay, Jamaica) but it’s expected that this budget airline will grow.

Air Canada Rouge, a lower cost option run by Air Canada and Porter Airlines and Porter airlines are also considered ‘budget’ options. They have more destinations but are not as low cost as those listed above.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

8 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.

  5. N on April 25, 2023 at 3:38 PM

    I have a trip booked where I’m flying Flair and then Westjet coming back. But Westjet pilots might strike, so I’m worried about having to purchase an expensive one way ticket to get back home. I booked through Expedia, using my Rogers world elite Mastercard. Would trip interruption insurance apply in this case? Would they reimburse me if I had to buy another plane ticket home? My other option would be to cancel my westjet ticket now and buy another one while prices are still reasonable. But I probably wouldn’t be compensated for fees incurred for changing flights since technically they haven’t gone on strike yet.

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