The Best Airline Credit Cards in Canada for 2023

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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 two major airlines so most people favour a travel credit card that earns you Aeroplan points or WestJet Rewards. That said, there are a few additional credit cards in Canada that earn you airline loyalty points with other carriers.

While it obviously makes sense to pick a travel card based on the airline you fly with most, it’s worth looking at what else is available. Every credit card comes with a good welcome bonus that can often help you get free or discounted flights. If you sign up for a few different cards, you can often combine things to fly in luxury for “free.” Here are the best airline credit cards in Canada.

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
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®Asia Miles, Singapore Krisflyer Miles, Avios
Marriott Bonvoy American Express40+ airlines

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
  • 2,500 monthly Membership Rewards points after charging $500 in purchases each month for a year (30,000 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 when it comes to 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 to be the most useful partner since it’s the airline loyalty program of Air Canada.

When you look at the earn rate of the Cobalt Card, you’ll quickly realize how quickly you can earn points in various categories. You’ll get 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (including grocery stores); 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services; 2 points per $1 spent on travel (including transit); and 1 point per $1 spent on everyday purchases. I personally value 1 Aeroplan point at 2 cents each, so you’re getting a lot of value out of this card. Plus, the welcome bonus is typically worth at least 30,000 bonus points for new cardholders.

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 take a 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 earn 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.

Additional perks that come with this card include American Express offers that give you discounts with select retailers and on entertainment tickets. You also get insurance coverage such as trip interruption, travel medical, travel accident insurance, and more.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $119 annual fee
  • $250 WestJet Dollars sign up bonus after your first purchase
  • $200 Additional WestJet Dollars when you charge $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages
  • Earn 1.5% back on all other purchases
  • Annual companion voucher and free checked bags

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is the best airline credit card in Canada if you prefer to fly WestJet. 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. 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 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.

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 on a regular basis or even once a year, this credit card is a must!

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 when it comes to Air Canada since you earn Aeroplan points. The standard welcome bonus is often 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase. You would then get an additional 10,000 – 15,000 points, plus a Buddy Pass depending on what the current promotion is. Recent offers have been points only.

The earn rate of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on grocery, gas, and, plus 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases is respectable and is a quick way to earn Aeroplan Miles. This card also gives you your first checked bag free, so you can save quite a bit if you’re a frequent flyer. Remember, with Aeroplan, you can now book any available seat with your points.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee – Frist year free
  • Earn 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • Earn 25,000 additional Aeroplan points when you spend $5,000 in the first 180 days
  • 15,000 Aeroplan points on your card anniversary when spending $7,500 in the first year
  • 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 essentially TD’s version of a mid-level Aeroplan Card. It’s very similar to the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, since it has the same earn rate, but it typically has a slightly different welcome bonus. What you’ll notice is that the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card usually only gives you points as the sign up offer. This can be valuable to solo travellers who prefer extra points instead of a Buddy Pass, which the CIBC card usually offers.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

  • $149 annual fee – First year rebate
  • Earn up to 50,000 HSBC points. Must apply by Sept. 29, 2023
  • 3% (6 points* per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases
  • 2% (4 points* per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all eligible gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases
  • 1% (3 points* per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

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 the best credit cards with lounge access.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 55,000 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 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 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. That said, you should only transfer your points to an airline if you need a top up for a sweet redemption. The sign up bonus that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express is worth more than the regular offer when using a referral, so this card could be an easy way to earn additional airline miles.

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, these types of travel rewards credit 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 always 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 post 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 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.

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.

Ultra low-cost airlines in Canada

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

  • Swoop – Owned by WestJet, Swoop has just over a dozen planes and services more than 30 destinations.
  • Flair – Based in Edmonton, Flair has already seen its fleet grow to more than 20 planes with service to more than 35 destinations.
  • Lynx – Rebranded from Enerjet, Lynx has a small fleet that services Canada and a few 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

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 travel rewards credit card can be good for you since you can take advantage of the benefits each card offers. If you don’t travel that much, you may want to consider choosing just one that fits most of your needs.

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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


  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


      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


      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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