NBC Rewards Guide | à la carte Rewards

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NBC Rewards, formally known as à la carte Rewards, is the points program offered by the National Bank of Canada, which is often underrated.

While National Bank is often overlooked in Canada since it doesn’t have the same popularity as the big five banks, they appear to want to capture more of the market share. They recently revamped the National Bank World Elite Mastercard, which puts it in the conversation of one of the best travel credit cards in Canada.

If you’re thinking about getting a National Bank travel rewards credit card or already have one, you’ll want to read my NBC Rewards guide as I’ll go over everything you need to know about the program

NBC à la carte points value

The value of NBC Rewards will depend on what you’re redeeming your points for. Like every other rewards program, à la carte Rewards give you multiple ways to cash in your points. Of course, not all of them have the same value. That’s why you need to know what your points are worth. The below chart shows you your cost per point (CPP) for each redemption.

RedemptionCost Per Point (CPP)
NBC à la carte travel portal1
Any travel purchase0.83
Financial products0.83
Gift cards0.77 - .8
Merhcandise.6 - .75
Statement credit0.4

The best value is clearly to use for travel. Note that booking thru a third party like NBC à la carte Travel usually means you won’t get your elite status perks or earn points from loyalty programs, including Marriott Bonvoy. As a general rule, only use your NBC à la carte points when status doesn’t matter,

How to redeem National Bank rewards points for travel

NBC à la carte Travel is a full-service travel agency and is powered by Transat. You can search and book everything yourself online, or you call in for assistance. NBC à la carte offers the following :

  • Vacation packages
  • Flights
  • Cruises
  • Rental cars
  • Hotels
  • Flight + hotel
  • Things to do
  • Disney

You can use your NBC à la carte points for any seat on any flight available, and there are no blackout dates. Some redemptions, including cruises or Disney packages, will require calling an agent.

How to redeem NBC rewards points for donations

You can donate your NBC Rewards points at a value of .87 CPP. While this isn’t as good of a value compared to booking travel, it’s actually pretty good if you’re looking to make a social impact. Many other rewards programs have a significantly lower value when using your points for donations. If you donate your à la carte points, you’ll know that you’re making an impact. Some charities you can donate your points to include:

  • Canadian Red Cross
  • Food Banks of Quebec
  • Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation

How to redeem your à la carte points for travel booked on your own

You can use your National Bank Rewards points to offset the cost of any travel purchase charged to any NBC card that earns NBC Rewards points. Once the purchase has been posted, you can go into your NBC account and select the purchase. You’d then be able to apply your points to that purchase. However, going this route gives you a value of .83 CPP. That’s 17% lower than had you used the à la carte travel portal. You should only go this route if you’re trying to redeem something that’s not on the travel portal or you find a significantly lower price elsewhere.

How to redeem your NBC Rewards points for financial products

Your NBC à la carte points can be used for financial products such as:

Although the base value of these redemptions is .83, it can be worth much more. For example, mortgage rates are around 5% right now, while a line of credit could easily be 8%. That’s a significant return. In addition, any money you contribute to your RRSP or TFSA can be invested, which means your points could be worth much more in the long run.

How to redeem your NBC à la carte points for gift cards

Gift cards have a low value, but they’re very popular with users since they’re easy to use. If you claim an electronic gift card, you get a value of .8 CPP. However, if you request a physical card, the value drops to .77 CPP. Some retailers that you can gift card to include:

  • Amazon
  • WestJet
  • Esso/Mobil

Note that in most cases, it costs 12,500 National Bank rewards points for a $100 electronic gift card. However, some lower denominations, e.g. $25, $50, may give you a lower value. Some merchants also give you a lower value.

How to redeem your à la carte points for merchandise

Within your NBC à la carte points account, you’ll see an option for merchandise. This is where you’ll be able to redeem your points for things such as electronics, small appliances, housewares, sporting goods, and even Apple products. While there’s no denying the quality of some of these products, these redemptions only give you a value of .6 to .75 CPP. Generally speaking, it’s never worth using your points for merchandise

How to redeem your NBC Rewards points for a statement credit

The final redemption for your NBC Rewards points is a statement credit. That’s where you can convert your points to a dollar amount that gets directly applied to your statement. Although this option can help you out if you’re in a cash crunch, it’s only worth .4 CPP. That’s significantly lower than all the other redemption options you have.

How to earn NBC à la carte points

You can earn NBC Rewards points by using an NBC credit card that earns à la carte points. The easiest way to earn NBC à la carte points is from sign up bonuses and your everyday spending. There are three credit cards that earn NBC à la carte points. Here is a quick review of the two most popular ones.

National Bank World Elite Mastercard

  • $150 annual fee
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on grocery and restaurant purchases up to $2,500 per month. Then earn 2 points per $1 spent
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on gas, electric vehicle charging, recurring bills and à la carte Travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Unlimited access to National Bank Lounge at Montreal-Trudeau airport
  • Annual $150 travel credit

The NBC World Elite Mastercard is the flagship credit card of National Bank, and it deserves to be in your wallet. The annual fee is offset by the annual travel credit, so the card pays for itself. In addition, it has great travel and mobile device insurance. It’s worth noting that the earn rate is highly competitive for a Mastercard. This is especially relevant when shopping at Costco and No Frills, where only Mastercard is accepted.

National Bank Platinum Mastercard

  • $70 annual fee – first year free
  • 15,000 NBC à la carte points when spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 10,000 additional points when spending $6,000 in the first 12 months
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on grocery and restaurant purchases up to $1,000 per month. Then earn 1.5 points per $1 spent
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on gas, electric vehicle charging, recurring bills and à la carte Travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Mobile device insurance

The NBC Platinum Mastercard is obviously a tier below the World Elite card, but it still comes packed with benefits. The welcome bonus and earn rate are generous. Plus, you still get comprehensive travel and mobile device insurance. The major thing that’s missing is the annual travel credit, but there is a lower annual fee of $70.

How NBC à la carte Rewards compares to others

Let’s be honest, NBC à la carte isn’t as sophisticated as American Express Membership Rewards or RBC Avion Rewards. It doesn’t offer any transfer options that can increase potential point value. In my opinion, the NBC à la carte program is basic and easy to understand. This can appeal to many people who don’t want to spend hours optimizing travel loyalty programs.

Compared to other bank travel loyalty programs, I’d put it in the middle of the pack. The fact that the credit cards that earn you NBC Rewards points are strong improves the ranking of National Bank’s rewards program in my nooks. For those that travel a lot and are based in Montreal, getting the National Bank World Elite Mastercard for unlimited airport lounge access could be worth it.

Final thoughts

NBC Rewards is an overlooked program since National Bank isn’t one of the big five banks in Canada. The program itself is basic, but it delivers what it promises. It’s nice to see that NBC made improvements to their credit cards to appeal to more travellers. Even if you’re not based out of Montreal, the welcome bonus and travel credits that come with the National Bank World Elite Mastercard could make it worth your while. Remember, the first year is free, so there’s no reason not to sign up.

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

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