One of the questions I get asked the most is what is the best travel program in Canada? That’s not an easy answer since it depends on the type of points you like to earn, how you like to use your points, what type of credit card you use, and more. That said, some travel rewards programs are better than others when you just look at how easy it is to earn and redeem your points. In this article, I’m ranking all of Canada’s bank travel rewards programs and explaining why I’ve ranked them in the order that they’re in.

Canada's Bank Travel Rewards Programs Ranked

ProgramAverage value of 1 pointMaximum value of 1 pointBook your own travelTransfer partnersComments
BMO Rewards.71 cents0.71 centsNoNoneBMO World Elite has the best travel insurance
TD Rewards.5 cents.5 centsYes, but at lesser valueNoneEasiest program to understand and use
HSBC Rewards.5 cents1.2 cents+YesAvios, Asia Miles, KrysFlyer MilesFlexible and has transfer partners
CIBC Rewards1.1 cents2 centsNoNoneCan use points for anything available on Expedia
Scotia Rewards1 cent1 centYesSceneGreat lineup of credit cards
RBC Rewards1.3 cents3 cents+NoAvios, Asia Miles, American Airlines, WestjetFlexible program with many redemption options
American Express Membership Rewards1.5 cents5 cents+YesAeroplan, Avios, Delta, Etihad, Alitalia, Marriott, HiltonOnly program that can transfer to Aeroplan and Marriott

How I ranked the bank travel rewards programs

I considered several factors in my rankings which include the following:

  • Credit cards available – How many different cards are there, annual fees, perks, etc.
  • Earning points – How easy it is to earn points, base earning, bonus categories, sign up bonuses
  • Value of points – How much value you can actually get out of your points
  • How easy it is to redeem your points – searching, booking, blackout dates
  • Flexibility – can you use points on any travel purchase or do you have to go through a portal?
  • Transfer partners – Are there any transfer partners and what’s the conversion rate?

There’s obviously not a perfect science to this ranking system so I had to base things on a few different categories. Although some banks have some of the best travel credit cards in Canada, redeeming those points might be difficult which would lower their ranking. In my write up of each individual bank program below, I explain why they rank where they are.

#7. BMO Rewards

BMO Rewards is a simple program to use. 14,000 points get you $100 in travel on the BMO Rewards booking portal which covers flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages. Their flagship credit card is the BMO World Elite Mastercard which is the best card to have if you need travel insurance when travelling on points and miles redemptions since you can charge any amount to your card to be covered.

Overall, BMO Rewards is a good travel rewards program, but I have to rank it lower than the other travel programs due to a lack of flexibility and the value of your points. You can only book travel on the BMO Rewards booking portal, so you’re limited to BMOs inventory and you can take advantage of any additional benefits when booking direct such as hotel status. Another reason why BMO Rewards ranks so low is that it doesn’t have any transfer partners and doesn’t have a fixed point flight program meaning the value of points is topped at 0.71 cents per point.

#6. TD Rewards

TD Rewards is in my opinion the easiest program to understand and manage. You redeem your TD Rewards points via ExpediaForTD which means you have access to everything Expedia offers. You can also use points to offset costs of travel related expenses charged on your credit card with the Book Any Way feature. This is great since you can redeem points on AirBnB stays, out of province gas and restaurant purchases.

TD Rewards is a good program and I recommend it to anyone who wants an easy program to understand. However, TD Rewards still ranks low compared to others for a few reasons. Although you can redeem 200 points for $1 off ExpediaForTD, you need 250 points for $1 when using the Book Any Way feature which decreases the value of your points.

Similar to BMO Rewards, TD Rewards doesn’t have any transfer partners or a fixed points flight programs so the value of your points is capped at 0.5 cents per point.

You can earn TD Rewards points by using the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card which gives you 9 points for every $1 spent on bookings made through ExpediaForTD and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. There’s no denying that Expedia for TD purchases give you a good return, but I would argue the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is the better overall choice since it’s one of the best airline credit cards in Canada.

#5. HSBC Rewards

HSBC Rewards is arguably the most obscure and least known travel program on this list, but it’s actually great since you can redeem your points for any type of travel you book or you can transfer your points to a few airline loyalty programs.

HSBC Rewards points are mainly earned through the HSBC World Elite Mastercard which is a great credit card since it comes with no foreign transaction fees, a travel credit and a good earning rate of 6 points per dollar spent on travel and 3 points per dollar spent on everything else.

You can redeem 25,000 points for a $125 travel credit on your statement so each point is worth .5 cents when you book on your own. However, you can increase the value of your points when you transfer them to one of the 3 partner airlines. The transfer ratios are 25,000 HSBC Rewards points for 10,000 British Airways Avios miles, 9,000 Asia Miles or 8,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles. Since the HSBC World Elite Mastercard earn 6 points per dollar spent on travel, this means you can earn the equivalent of 2.4 Avios miles or 2.16 Asia Miles per dollar spent on travel, which is the best earn rate in Canada on travel expenses for these two programs. With those airline miles, you should be able to increase the value of one point to at least 1.2 cents.

An important but annoying note: you need a minimum of 25,000 points to redeem a travel credit or to convert to airline miles.

#4. CIBC Rewards

CIBC Rewards is a well-known program in Canada that offers a better overall value than many other travel programs since it gives you access to a good travel inventory and the value of your points can be excellent.

CIBC Rewards points can be redeemed for travel on CIBC Rewards travel booking website at a value of 1 cent per point which is pretty standard. Book flights via the portal is never an issue, but there doesn’t seem to be every hotel or car rental agency available. Fortunately, CIBC also has a full-service travel agency that you can call and use your points at no extra cost where they can book you anything you find on Expedia. Since Expedia has hotels, car rentals, all-inclusive packages and attraction tickets, it’s probably better to simply call in to redeem your points when you need to make a booking.

CIBC Rewards points can be earned from CIBC Aventura credit cards. The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite credit card is a great card since it’s one of the best credit cards with lounge access and it gives you a Nexus credit. The CIBC Aventura Vids Infinite earns you 1.5 points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores, but you get 2 points per dollar spent travel purchases made through CIBC Rewards. This is a respectable rate, but it’s lower than other premium travel cards so it’ll take you more time to rack up points

The redemption value of CIBC Rewards points more than makes up for the slower earn rate. If you use their fixed points flight program, you can double the value of your points. For example, a short-haul, round-trip flight would cost up to 20,000 points, but it covers the base fare up to $400 (you still need to pay taxes). CIBC also has special promotions on points where it costs you fewer points to fly. Just recently there was a deal where you could fly to New York from Toronto or Montreal, round-trip for just 9,000 points. For more information, check out my full CIBC Rewards review.

#3. Scotia Rewards

Scotia Rewards has a maximum value of 1 cent per point so you might be asking why the program ranks in the top 3? Well, it really comes down to the flexibility of earning and redeeming your points. With Scotia Rewards points, you can use the Scotiabank travel portal or you can just pay for any travel purchase with your Scotiabank credit card (that earns Scotia Rewards) and then claim your points after. Having the option of redeeming points at full value when booking on your own is the reason I rank Scotia Rewards above TD Rewards.

Despite the value of your points being topped at 1 cent each, I rank Scotia Rewards above CIBC Rewards they have a better line-up of Scotiabank credit cards.  There are two Scotiabank credit cards that earn Scotia Rewards points that I consider some of the best travel credit cards in Canada. The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is a great no foreign transaction fee credit card and has a good earn rate of 2 points per dollar spent on grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card is also a top tier travel credit card since it has no foreign transaction fees and a great earning rate of 5 points per dollar spent on grocery, dining, and entertainment purchases.

#2. RBC Rewards

Of all the big banks in Canada, RBC Rewards easily outranks all other programs. What puts them near the top is that RBC Rewards is a very flexible program with many transfer partners and redemption options.

Similar to all other bank travel program, you can redeem points for travel by booking on the RBC Rewards travel portal at 1 cent per point. Interestingly enough, RBC Rewards is the only travel program I would consider redeeming points for gift cards it gives close to full value on travel gift cards. Not only can you get a value of 1 cent per point for Air Canada, WestJet, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Fairmount and hotels.com gift cards, RBC also runs promotions from time to time where you can get even more value for your points when making the redemption.

It might be often overlooked, but RBC Rewards has a very solid fixed points flight program that allows you to book flights at a greater value. For example, you can book a round-trip flight within or to an adjacent Province/ U.S. State for 15,000 points, round-trip and it’ll cover a base fare for up to $350. That means you get an awesome value of 2.33 cents per point for your RBC Rewards points! There are no blackout dates with this program, so it’s a good alternative if you’re not finding anything on Aeroplan.

RBC Rewards also shines with its list of transfer partners. You can convert RBC Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways Avios and to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. RBC Rewards is the only Canadian transfer partner to WestJet Rewards (100 points = 1 WestJet dollar) and to American Airlines (10,000 points = 7,000 AAdvantage miles). They even have conversion bonuses occasionally that would give you an even greater value e.g. recently there was a 50% when converting your points to British Airways Avios.

You can earn RBC Rewards points from the RBC Avion credit cards. While the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is not a stellar card by itself with a maximum of 1.25 points earned per dollar spent on travel and 1 point on everything else, the value of RBC Rewards points easily compensate for that lower earn rate. You can also pair an Avion credit card with another RBC credit card to rack up points quickly. RBC also carries credit cards for many of RBC Rewards transfer partners including a British Airways Avios miles card, a Cathay Pacific Asia miles card and of course, the Westjet World Elite Mastercard which has incredible benefits.

#1. American Express Membership Rewards

Finally, there’s American Express Membership Rewards who is in a league of its own. When looking at the categories for my rankings, they come out on top of everything. American Express really is the best at everything from credit cards, earning points, flexibility and transfer partners!

American Express has the best credit cards in Canada by a landslide. All five of their cards that earn Membership Rewards points are on my list of best travel credit cards in Canada. This includes the very best travel credit card and my absolute favourite: the American Express Platinum Card that comes with the most benefits of all credit cards in Canada. It also includes the card with the greatest sign-up bonus in the country: the American Express Business Platinum card.  You can also earn Membership Rewards points with the American Express Gold Rewards Card, Business Gold Card as well as the Cobalt card that has arguably the best bonus earning rates in Canada. 

Membership Rewards points are highly flexible since you can use them to offset travel costs charged to your card at 1 cent per point. There is no minimum required and since you book your own travel, there are no blackout dates. Similar to RBC Rewards and CIBC Rewards, there’s an American Express Fixed Points Travel Program where you can book round-trip flights for a value of up to 2 cents per point. For example, you can redeem 15,000 points for a Toronto – New York round-trip flight which will cover a base fare up to $300. Note that American Express is the only program that gives you the option to book via a fixed points travel program or on your own.

What’s crazy is that you can get even more value out of your Membership Rewards points by converting them to their impressive list of transfer partners. The most popular partner and one that is exclusive to American Express Membership Rewards is obviously Aeroplan for which you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. With Aeroplan’s award chart and the best American Express credit cards, you can even earn enough points to do a round-the-world trip in business class which would yield an insane value for your points!

You can also transfer your points at a ratio of 1:1 to British Airways Avios miles and 1:0.75 to Delta SkyMiles or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. One of my favourite options is converting to Marriott Bonvoy at a ratio of 1:1.2 which has given me some really good value. Note that points earned from the Cobalt card can’t be converted into airline miles.

If all of the above wasn’t enough to convince you that American Express is the best travel program in Canada, I will add that Amex has the best refer-a-friend program and has by far the best customer service of all major Canadian banks. With this program, the person making the referral and the person accepting the referral get extra points.

Final thoughts

As you can see, each program has its own features, strengths and weaknesses. I have a clear preference for RBC Rewards and of course American Express Membership Rewards, but you need to consider your own situation and which program will fit your needs the best. For example, if most of your spending is at places that don’t accept American Express and if you mostly book with Airbnb, you should consider a program that allows you to book on your own travel.

Canada’s Bank Travel Rewards Programs Ranked

14 Comments

  1. John Noble on November 11, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Thanks Barry,

    Appreciate the info. Just got to figure how many cards I want to carry.

  2. Mike on November 11, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Great article. Contains the in-depth evaluation/comparison of rewards programs for which I’ve been waiting for a while so thanks for being the first to do it (at least that I’ve seen).

    One thing missing for me is the inclusion of the annual fees for the credit card(s) you’d use to earn points in each of these programs to enable a quick cost vs. benefit. For example, AMEX may be #1 on the benefits side but the Platinum card has an annual fee of $699 whereas the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is only $120/year.

    The other big thing is the ease of actually getting the flights you want when redeeming points. This is the principal reason why I quit CIBC to go to Scotia (that plus the no forex fees on Scotia’s Passport VISA) – I could never find anything usable when I tried to use my CIBC points. No one at CIBC ever told me I could find what I wanted on Expedia and then book that over the phone. However, I realize that quantifying this element in a semi-meaningful way would be impossible without spending countless hours trying to book a sample package of flights/hotels/vacations on each program.

    • Barry Choi on November 11, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Mike,

      Good point about the annual fees, I should make an edit. I try to avoid including the fees since some people look at the fee and just get turned off. I wanted to explain what the value of the different programs are without putting a price on it.

      • Mike on November 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm

        Hey Barry,
        To expand on my reasoning for leaving the CIBC Aventura program (and why I think it’s a terrible program), here’s an example that is very representative of my past experiences. I wanted to book a hotel room I found on Expedia.ca for $217.14 (incl. taxes/fees) for 2 nights. When I called CIBC Rewards, the same room was going to cost me 25,730 or the equivalent of $257.30. That would have given me 0.84% value on the nominal 1 point/$1 in purchases I had made on the card over the past several years. And that is just one example. At least with Scotia rewards, I know I’m going to get a full 1% in value every time by redeeming my points for travel-related purchases I’ve made in the past few months – it’s the closest thing to a cash-back card I’ve been able to find in the travel rewards space, and I get no forex fees, 2 more airport lounge visits per year and all of the same VISA Infinite benefits I got with the CIBC Aventura card. For me, the two programs are miles apart – it’s not even close.

        • Barry Choi on November 16, 2019 at 8:20 pm

          Mike,

          Yes, the ability to redeem on any travel you find on your own with Scotiabank is a huge thing for many people.

  3. Bartel Bucheck on November 11, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Hello. You should correct the td rewards points to x9 for purchase bought through Expedia for Td

    • Barry Choi on November 11, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      Bartel,

      When I wrote it, I meant 3X the points than your regular earn rate e.g. Expedia for TD gives you 9 points, but regular purchases gives you 3 points. I can see where the confusion is and will update the article. Thanks for flagging it.

  4. C. Durant on December 6, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Hi,
    Enjoyed your article as far as it went.
    Currently have travel and medical insurance through BMO world elite MasterCard and wondered if you have any comparable data with other bank cards.
    Thanks,
    C. Durant

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  7. Owen on May 6, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    This is a great article and I agree with your rankings 100%. For Canadians today I don’t think there’s a better combination of using American Express as your primary card and using Avion where your Amex isn’t accepted. This is the best perks and most flexible rewards redemption plan out there. I myself use the American Express Platinum as my primart, the RBC Avion VISA Infinite Privelege for anywhere that doesn’t accept Amex. I also carry an mbna Alaska World Elite MC for retailers (Costco, etc) that only take MasterCard.

  8. Owen on May 6, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    This is a great article and I agree with your rankings 100%. For Canadians today I don’t think there’s a better combination of using American Express as your primary card and using Avion where your Amex isn’t accepted. This is the best perks and most flexible rewards redemption plan out there. I myself use the American Express Platinum as my primart, the RBC Avion VISA Infinite Privelege for anywhere that doesn’t accept Amex. I also carry an mbna Alaska World Elite MC for retailers (Costco, etc) that only take MasterCard.

  9. aaron on May 11, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    I hope HSBC decide to add aeroplan to their transfer partner one day

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