Credit Card Hacks: How to legally maximize your points and cards

Credit card hacks are some of the easiest things you can do. Heck, you’re likely already doing some of these hacks and you don’t even know it. I’m not talking about real hacks that will get you in trouble with the law, but rather, these credit card hacks focus on perks and benefits that come with being a cardholder.

Seriously, there’s nothing illegal about these tricks. I’m just pointing out some benefits that you may not be aware of and how you can use them to your advantage. Here are 6 credit card hacks in Canada that you can start doing now.

Hand cutting credit card with scissors on table


Take advantage of sign up bonuses

Without a doubt, one of the best credit card hacks available are the huge signup bonuses that many credit cards offer. Seriously, if you look at my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada, I’ve listed more than 10 that would easily give you $200+ in value.

Yes, many of the cards have an annual fee, but when you factor in the sign up bonus and the additional benefits, you’ll almost always come out ahead. When your first year is about to end, you can decide then if you want to keep the card.

You also need to consider the fact that you must spend a set amount in the first three months to qualify for the bonus. If you can’t meet that minimum spend, then there’s no point in applying for the card.

The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus, that’s enough for 5 free nights at a category 2 hotel when you factor in Marriott’s book 4 nights get the 5th-night free promotion. Those nights could easily be worth $1,000+

There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card where you get 25,000 welcome points and 6 Airport lounge access passes. The value of those benefits is worth about $500!

Transfer your points

Every credit card issuer has their own loyalty program, but many of them also have transfer partners which you can use to your advantage. For example, the American Express rewards program is known as Membership Rewards. With Amex MR points, you can transfer them to a few different hotel and airline partners.

Transfer partners are vital for credit card hackers since your points may be worth more with one of the partners as opposed to if you had used them through your credit card provider. I know it seems odd, but it really comes down to knowing the ins and outs of each rewards program.

If you signed up for American Express Personal Platinum card with my referral link, you would get 60,000 points after meeting your minimum spend. Those points are worth $600 if you use them with American Express, but if you transfer them to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, they could be worth much more.

With Aeroplan, 25,000 points buy you a return ticket to anywhere within the continental U.S. and Canada which has a value of about $600 dollars. Since you’re transferring 60,000 points, you’re getting roughly $1,200 in value from Aeroplan. That’s double what you would get with American Express which is why this is one of the best credit card hacks.

Travel the world for “free”

By taking advantage of signup bonuses, transferring your points, and referral bonuses, you can actually end up travelling the world for next to nothing. Generally speaking, you just need to keep signing up for credit cards with generous bonuses, when you have accumulated enough points, you can book a mini round-the-world flight for next to nothing.

One common way of doing this is by riding the “Amex Train.” I’ve written a guide to the train here, but note that it takes time and you do need to be able to meet all the minimum spends to get your points.

I want to stress that you should not apply for credit cards if you’re not paying the full balance every month. The interest payments will cost you more than what your reward points are worth.

That being said, if you’re responsible with your credit, why wouldn’t you want to travel the world for “free?”

credit card hacks travel

Double up on points

There are many loyalty programs where you can earn points in store by being a member and then you can earn additional points by using a co-branded credit card. You’re essentially double-dipping so you end up racking up points super fast!

With PC Optimum, you earn points on targeted offers as well as in-store promotions. If you then pay with your PC Financial World Elite Mastercard, you earn an additional 3 – 4.5X the points. Shoppers Drug Mart often has 20X the points events so you end up earning an insane amount of points.

AIR MILES is another program where you can easily double dip on the points. Shop at AIR MILES partners to earn points and then use your American Express AIR MILES Platinum card to pay for more points. Remember, you need to show your AIR MILES loyalty card or app first before paying with your American Express AIR MILES Platinum card to get those extra points.

At SPG and Marriott Rewards properties, you earn 10 points per US$1 spent on eligible hotel charges, except at Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels, where you’ll earn five points per eligible US$1. If you pay with your Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express credit card, you earn 5 points for every CAD $1 in eligible card purchases at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards properties. That’s a great return on your points when you combine the loyalty program with your credit card.

Don’t pay foreign exchange fees

Credit card hacks are a bit subjective, but I think having a credit card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees is a pretty big deal. The majority of credit cards in Canada charge you 2.5% on top of the spread whenever you make a purchase in a foreign currency. That can add up to quite a bit over the years. Why pay that when you don’t have to?

The Home Trust Preferred Visa has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. There’s also the Rogers World Elite Mastercard that technically charges the 2.5% fee, but you earn 4% in cash-back on all purchases made in a foreign currency so you end up ahead by 1.5%

Refer your friends

Another little-known benefit of holding certain American Express credit cards is that you can earn bonus points whenever you refer a friend who’s application is approved. This is obviously great for the person making the referral since they can rack up a ton of bonus points.

The Amex Personal Platinum card is arguably the best card to make referrals since the person who uses the referral link gets an additional 10,000 sign up points for a total of 60,000 when they meet the minimum spend and the person making the referral gets 15,000 points.

There’s also the American Express Cobalt card which has a monthly fee of just $10. People who make a referral get 5,000 points per approved referral. Even the American Express SimplyCash Preferred card has a referral bonus of $100 which is pretty impressive since the card is one of the best cash-back cards on the market.

Final thoughts

Credit card hacks in Canada is a subjective term. It’s more about understanding credit card benefits and how you can use them to your advantage. With the right strategy, and using some of the best travel credit cards in Canada, you could be flying around the world on points in no time.

 

Best Credit Cards Canada


By |2018-12-03T07:47:48+00:00December 3rd, 2018|Budget Travel, Credit cards, featured, Personal Finance, Travel|

4 Comments

  1. Owen @ PlanEasy.ca September 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Had absolutely no idea American Express had a referral program!

    Some really good tips here. We do the basic stuff, like sign up for new credit cards for the bonus, but we don’t go too far with the points transfers etc. We’ve gotten a few free flights and hotel stays and I’d estimate it’s saved us $4,000-$5,000 over the last 10+ years. Not bad for just signing up for a credit card.

    • Barry Choi September 10, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Owen,

      Yeah there are a lot of tricks with credit cards. This post was more educational to let people know what’s out there. I personally like to apply for multiple cards so sign up points are highly lucrative.

  2. Rushda Rubaia September 14, 2018 at 2:57 am - Reply

    You spoke my mind. I have been following these strategies for years now in Calgary. Currently I’m doing some research on the stock markets. I will start writing blogs like you soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. […] Barry Choi provided some common credit card hacks: […]

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