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

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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.

There’s 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 its 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.

American Express has some great transfer partners in Aeroplan, Marriott and Hilton. RBC Rewards allows you to transfer your points to WestJet Rewards and Avios.

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 Marriott 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 Marriott Bonvoy from American Express credit card, you earn 5 points for every CAD $1 in eligible card purchases at participating Marriott 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, so it’s a popular choice. The STACK Mastercard is my personal favourite credit card when travelling since it also has no fees when using foreign ATMs.

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 and the American Express Gold Rewards Card both give the person making the referral 5,000 Membership Rewards points. The person accepting the referral to the Gold Rewards Card can earn an additional 5,000 points when they add a supplementary user.

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.

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. Owen @ on September 10, 2018 at 1:27 PM

    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 on September 10, 2018 at 3:58 PM


      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 on September 14, 2018 at 2:57 AM

    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. Marpy on December 27, 2018 at 9:20 AM

    I for one do not use points for flying as with a lot of the programs, you have to pay taxes and fees on top and I can usually find flights for far cheaper than I can get through say Aeroplan partners airlines. Buying air miles is an extremely bad deal. By my calculations, air miles are worth between 3 cents and 5 cents each. Air miles charges between 20 cents and 30 cents to buy one. My preference is cashback cards because you can,not “gimmick” cash back and I can always take the cash and find a far better price/ beal than what they offer for points. Find me a points card with a price match guarantee and I may change my mind.
    One example – I was looking at an item in the air miles catalogue which cost 3200 air miles. The same Item was on sale at Best Buy for $99. That puts a 3 cent per air mile value oh air miles.

  4. betty on January 12, 2022 at 8:47 PM

    i use Canadian Tire Master Card to collect CT money and get .05 cents discount on every litre of gas. I only use this card for gas or in store purchases. CT money is redeamable at Mark’s Work Warehouse too.

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