I recently decided to overhaul my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. In the past, I focused on the welcome bonus, but I believe that going the category route makes more sense since every person has different travel goals. The cards I’ve chosen are a bit subjective, but I do think they’re the top picks for the average person.
I do NOT recommend applying for all of the below cards. You should only apply for the travel credit cards that make sense for you or meet your specific needs. That said, signing up for a couple of these cards over a few months can be valuable as you’ll be able to gain a lot of points/miles quickly. Using this strategy is how I was able to fly From Dubai to Toronto on Emirates first class and on EVA Air from Toronto to Taipei in business class for less than $140 CAD each.
It’s also worth noting the ranking of these cards can sometimes change based on the current welcome bonus available. I’ll update this list regularly so you’ll know what the latest offers are. Here are the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2021.
- Best travel card for welcome bonus
- Best travel card for frequent travellers
- Best travel card for all-in-one-travel
- Best travel card for Aeroplan rewards
- Best travel card for everyday spending
- Best travel card for no foreign transaction fees
- Best travel card for hotels
- Best travel card for families
- Best travel card with no annual fee
- Best travel card for multi-currencies
- What are the best travel credit card programs in Canada?
- How to choose a travel credit card
- How do travel credit cards affect your credit score?
- Final thoughts
|Credit card||Best travel card for|
|American Express Business Platinum Card||Welcome bonus|
|American Express Platinum Card||Frequent travellers|
|Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card||All in one travel|
|American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card||Aeroplan rewards|
|American Express Cobalt Card||Everyday spending|
|Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card||Hotels|
|Wealthsimple Cash Card||No foreign transaction fees|
|WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard||Family travel|
|CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card||No annual fee|
|CIBC AC Conversion Card||Multi-currency|
Best travel card for welcome bonus
For some people, earning points fast is their goal. If that’s you, then you should focus strictly on the welcome bonus as that will be the quickest way to reach your goal. The key thing to understand is that the sign up offer will always have specific conditions, so only apply for the following card if you know you can meet the minimum spend requirement.
American Express Business Platinum Card
- $499 annual fee
- 80,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus when using a referral link
- Additional 25,000 points when you make any purchase after your 14-month card anniversary date
- Earn 1.25 points per $1 spent on all purchases
- Unlimited airport lounge access
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
The American Express Business Platinum Card has consistently had one of the highest welcome bonuses when you sign up with a referral link. How many points are we talking about? Getting 100,000+ American Express Membership Rewards points as a welcome offer is not uncommon.
For many people, the minimum spend requirement will be the biggest turn-off. Quite often you need to spend $7,000+ in the first three months to get your full bonus. For people who operate a business, this spending requirement may not be an issue, but what about regular consumers, can they apply? Reports indicate that people without a business have been approved for this card, but there’s always a chance that American Express will ask you to verify your income that you put on your application.
Besides the welcome bonus, you still get some good benefits with this card. There’s unlimited airport lounge access for you and a guest. Plus, you get Gold Elite Status with Marriott Bonvoy. You also get 55 interest-free days, which is great if you’re a small business trying to manage your finances.
Best travel card for frequent travellers
Anyone who travels frequently should get a credit card that comes packed with travel benefits. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on airplanes and in hotels, you’ll want extra perks. While some of these benefits may not seem that important, you’ll quickly fall in love with them. Best of all, there’s one card that will give you almost everything you want.
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card is one of the best travel credit cards in Canada when looking strictly at the benefits. You’ll get sweet perks such as unlimited airport lounge access, hotel status upgrades, great travel insurance, and more.
The sign up bonus is currently worth up to 85,000 points if you use a referral link. You’ll get 65,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $6,000 in the first three months. You’re awarded an additional 20,000 Membership Rewards points when making any purchase between months 14 and 17 of cardmembership when using a referral link. For reference, the regular bonus is 65,000 points + 15,000 points. In other words, you get 5,000 extra points when you use a referral link.
Many people will balk at the annual fee, but it’s just $499 a year when you factor in the annual $200 travel credit. Plus, your points can be transferred to Aeroplan, Marriott Bonvoy or used on the Amex Fixed Travel program, so there’s a lot of value to be had for frequent travellers
Best travel card for all-in-one-travel
Even though it makes more sense to sign up for multiple credit cards to take advantage of all the different benefits, not everyone wants to do that. Having various cards means you need to manage more things which doesn’t appeal to a lot of people. If you prefer a single travel credit card that gives you good benefits and rewards, then this one is for you.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
- $139 annual fee – first year free
- 20,000 Scene+ points welcome bonus
- 5X Scene+ points on travel for the first 3 months
- Earn 2 Scene+ points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit
- Earn 1 Scene+ point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Priority Pass Membership + 6 passes per year
- No foreign transaction fees
As you can see, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card comes packed with benefits. It has a good welcome bonus, no foreign transaction fees, excellent travel insurance and lounge access. You can redeem your Scotia Scene+ points on any type of travel, so you’re getting maximum flexibility.
For everyday spending, the earn rate is respectable. You’ll earn 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases. All other purchases get you 1 point per $1 spent. Additionally, you get purchase security and extended warranty.
Best travel card for Aeroplan rewards
Air Canada is Canada’s number one airline and its loyalty program is Aeroplan. The program went through some massive changes in late 2020 and is now easier to use for more travellers. If you’re a frequent flyer, or you just want to earn a lot of Aeroplan points, then there’s a great card you need to get.
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
- $599 annual fee
- Up to 90,000 Aeroplan points welcome offer
- 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
The American Express Aeroplan Reserve is one of the best travel credit cards in Canada when it comes to earning Aeroplan Rewards. It typically has one of the highest welcome offers for any Aeroplan Card, so it’s a natural pick if you’re looking to earn a lot of Aeroplan points quickly. Additionally, the sign up bonus often comes with a Buddy Pass. While that pass is great if you’re travelling with a friend.
Even though the terms and conditions say you can’t bring in a guest to Maple Leaf Lounges, live reports suggest otherwise. Cardholders have not had a problem bringing in someone for free. As one of Air Canada’s premium co-branded credit cards, you also get priority check-in, boarding, and free checked bags. Putting most of your spending on this card can also be lucrative since you’ll earn an annual worldwide companion pass when you spend $25,000 each year.
Best travel card for everyday spending
Instead of focusing on a specific bonus or benefit, it sometimes makes more sense to look at your everyday spending. If you typically charge a lot to your credit card, it can be quite lucrative. You just need to have the right card in your wallet.
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)
- 20,000 additional points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
- 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
The Amex Cobalt card is easily the best choice for people looking to earn rewards on their everyday spending. You’ll earn 5 points for every $1 spent on eats and drinks; 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services; 2 points per $1 spent on travel and transit; and 1 point per $1 spent on every other purchase. There is a spending cap of $30,000 for each category, but if you maxed out just the eats and drinks category, you’d earn more than 150,000 points.
The Amex Cobalt Card recently changed so the points you earn are now regular American Express Membership Rewards points. That means your points can be transferred to all of their Airline partners including Aeroplan. You also now get mobile device insurance which is handy considering the fact that cellphones seem to have a short shelf life (well, at least mine do).
Best travel card for hotels
In an ideal world, whenever you travel, you’ll stay with one hotel chain. The reason this is beneficial is that every hotel chain has a loyalty program. The more nights you stay, the higher status you get. Of course, with higher status, you get more benefits. There’s one hotel card that stands out over the others.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
- $120 annual fee
- 70,000 Bonvoy points when spending $1,500 in the first three 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
Marriott International has more than 7,000 properties in over 120 countries. That means regardless of where you are in the world, there’s a good chance there’s a Marriott property nearby. If you’re loyal to the chain, you should get the Marriot Bonvoy American Express Card. It gives you instant Silver Elite status, an increased earn rate at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties, and a free annual night certificate that’s good for a room worth up to 35,000 points.
The welcome bonus is usually worth between 50,000 – 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That said, there have been occasional promotions where the offer is increased to 70,000 points. Marriott also gives you the 5th night free when you book 4-nights on points, so there could be some good value depending on where you’re staying.
Best travel card for no foreign transaction fees
In case you didn’t know, most credit cards charge a fee of 2.5% whenever you make a purchase in any currency that’s not in Canadian dollars. When using a foreign ATM, most banks charge a 3.5% fee. As you can imagine, that fee can add up quickly. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution that will save you big.
Wealthsimple Cash Card
- No annual fee
- $10 free when you sign up
- 1% cash back on all purchases
- No foreign transaction fees on purchases
- No foreign transaction fees on ATM Withdrawals
- CDIC insurance protection
Although the Wealthsimple Cash Card is pretty basic, it fulfills one specific need that travellers need. It gives you no foreign transaction fees on purchases and ATM withdrawals. This is obviously great since it’s the cheapest way to get physical cash when you’re abroad. That said, the ATM operators will typically charge a one-time fee of $3 whenever you make a withdrawal. To avoid multiple fees, just withdraw the maximum of $500 CAD when you need cash.
Since this card has no monthly or annual fees, it’s the perfect card to get just for travel. When you use my referral link or code EYITMP, you’ll get $10 for free.
Best travel card for families
Earning a lot of points for luxury travel is great, but when you have kids, it’s a lot harder to get seats. Instead of focusing on business class seats for the entire family, it can be more advantageous to look at what benefits your family immediately. You’d be surprised how easy it is to save on family travel with his card.
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 (must apply by Mar. 7, 2022)
- 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
Some people find it odd that the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is on my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada, but when you look at the benefits, you’ll realize this is an excellent card. The primary cardholder and companions on the same reservation get their first checked bag free (up to 8 bags total). You also get an annual companion voucher that can save you a fair amount depending on where you’re headed.
There’s a trick to really save families big with this card. Let’s say you’re a family of four. Two parents and two children. If both parents applied for the card, they would each get a companion voucher every year. When you’re ready to travel, you would each book a flight and use the companion voucher on one of the kids. By doing this, you’re using two companion vouchers during a single trip. Plus, you get a generous amount of WestJet dollars when you apply, so the savings on your first trip could be massive.
Best travel card with no annual fee
Unfortunately, most of the best travel credit cards in Canada come with an annual fee. Not everyone likes the idea of paying a yearly fee to have a credit card. The good news is that there’s a great no fee travel credit card and it comes with a surprising amount of benefits.
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card
- No annual fee
- 10,000 Aeroplan points when you make your first purchase
- Earn 1 Aeorplan point per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and Air Canada
- Earn 1 Aeroplan point per $1.50 spent on all other purchases
For a no fee card, the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card is surprisingly impressive. The biggest benefit is obviously the 10,000 Aeroplan points after your purchase. I personally value 1 Aeroplan point at 2 cents, so that means your welcome bonus is worth at least $200. The earn rate is nothing special, but for a no fee card, there’s nothing to complain about. You also get purchase security and extended warranty, which are nice extra insurance policies.
Best travel card for multi-currencies
Whenever you travel to different countries, you may have to deal with various currencies. Instead of exchanging a bunch of cash in advance, you can get a multi-currency prepaid credit card. This will allow you to load up funds whenever you want to. Plus, you get to lock in the rates in advance.
CIBC AC Conversion Card
The CIBC AC Conversion Card is the perfect solution for people who want to manage multiple currencies on a single credit card. Since this is a prepaid credit card, you’ll always know exactly what you’re paying when you convert your funds. The card allows you to hold 10 different currencies that will cover you in 45 countries. There’s no annual fee and you even get $20 for free when you sign up with my exclusive referral link.
What are the best travel credit card programs in Canada?
Every bank in Canada has its own travel rewards program, but none of them are the same. They all offer different ways to redeem your points, but some just give you more options than others. I’ve ranked and detailed them all in this article, but here’s a quick ranking from best to worst. Each link goes to my detailed reviews so you can learn more about the programs.
- American Express Membership Rewards
- RBC Rewards
- Scotia Rewards
- CIBC Rewards
- HSBC Rewards
- TD Rewards
- BMO Rewards
Some of the best travel credit cards in Canada are co-branded with airline and hotel programs. If you’re a frequent WestJet flyer or you stay at Marriott hotels on a regular basis, their cards would be worth getting. Here’s a link to my guides of their programs.
How to choose a travel credit card
With so many travel credit cards to choose from, there are a lot of factors to consider before you click apply. It’s not as simple as just picking the card that gives you the most points or miles. You need to think about what your goals are, how you’re going to use the card and what benefits you want. Here are some things to consider.
- If you want to redeem a business class flight via Aeroplan or you want to stay for free at a luxury Marriott property, then you should be applying for cards that earn you Aeroplan Miles or Marriott Bonvoy points. Remember, American Express credit cards allow you to transfer your points to both programs.
- Do your travel plans include your partner? If so, you should both be accumulating mile and points together. If you use the American Express Refer A Friend program, you can earn additional points. Use my links above to get started, then start referring your friends.
Sign up bonus
- The quickest way to earn travel rewards points is through the welcome bonus.
- Be sure to read the conditions of the sign up bonus. Some cards require only one purchase while others may require you to spend $3,000 – $5,000 in the first three months. Try to time your credit card applications around when you have a major purchase coming up.
- Annual fees can add up, so cards that offer the first year free are definitely worthwhile.
- If the card does have an annual fee, look at the sign up bonus and included benefits. Quite often what you get every year is worth more than the annual fee.
- Take a look at how many points you’ll earn for specific categories. Some of the best travel credit cards in Canada will give you more points when you spend on travel, groceries, gas, etc.
- The flat earn rate is also important if you typically do a lot of spending on all other categories. It may be more beneficial to get a card with higher flat earn rate as opposed to a travel credit card that has bonus earn rates for specific categories.
Flexibility of points
- The ability to use your points for different travel redemptions is incredibly valuable. The ability to transfer your points or to use them on a fixed travel program can sometimes double the value of your points.
- If you’re going to use a co-branded credit card with a specific program, make sure it still gives you some flexibility. For example, don’t collect miles if finding a flight that benefits you is difficult. Research blackout dates, seat availability and taxes.
- Any additional benefits that come with the best travel credit cards in Canada should be seriously considered. Unlimited lounge access will appeal to frequent travellers while a card without foreign transaction fees will benefit everyone.
- Travel medical insurance is also an important benefit, but be sure to read the certificate of insurance so you know exactly what you’re covered for.
- Estimate the value of all the benefits that you’ll actually use. If it’s more than the annual fee that the card charges, then you’ll come out ahead.
How do travel credit cards affect your credit score?
Every time you apply for a travel credit card, your credit score will take a hit of 10 points. This is normal as the credit card provider will do a hard check on your credit score to see if you’re credit worthy. After a few months, it’ll return to normal.
Getting additional credit can actually benefit you at times since it increases your credit utilization ratio. Your ratio is the amount of credit you’re using relative to how much you have access to. That means someone who normally carries a balance of $1,000 but has access to $10,000 in credit has a credit utilization ratio of 10%.
Finally, paying your bills on time will also help with your credit score. Always pay your bills on time and in full. You can check your credit score for free with Borrowell.
It doesn’t matter if you travel once a year or if you can’t stay at home for too long, having one of the best travel credit cards can save you a lot of money on your trips. Look for the sign up bonuses that give you the most value and apply for different cards that allow you to accumulate the same points/miles so you can travel for less.
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