I have been writing and talking about travel loyalty programs and credit card hacking for a long time now. Over the years, many people have reached out to me to ask questions on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and I’m always happy to answer. Since lots of people have been asking the same questions, I’ve created a list of the most frequent questions I received about travel hacking and travel credit cards. As you’ll quickly learn, it’s incredibly easy to take advantage of promotions so you can travel for cheap.
How long does it take to accumulate enough points for a free flight or a free hotel stay?
This varies depending on the value of the trip. A short flight like Toronto-Chicago in economy costs fewer points than a round the world trip in business class. That being said, there are several credit cards that will get you enough points for a free flight or a free hotel stay just from the sign-up bonus alone. For Example the American Express Platinum Card gives you a sign up bonus of 60,000 points while the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card gives you 25,000 points. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy Amex that gives you 51,000 points as a welcome bonus when you use a referral link. That’s enough points for 5 nights at a category 2 hotel when you factor in Marriott’s book 4-nights, get the 5th night free promotion.
How do I get started?
I keep updated a list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. This list contains all current best credit card offers and I can recommend any card on that list. Basically, you want to time things around when you know you have major expenses or purchases coming up. You want to do this since most of the credit cards on my list have a minimum spend requirement for you to get your welcome bonus. The one exception is the WestJet World Elite Mastercard which gives you 250 WestJet Dollars after your first purchase.
If a card is first year free, can I cancel it before the second year?
Yes, you can cancel a card at any time. You have a full year to test the card and if you find that the card doesn’t bring good value for you, you can cancel it. You’ll want to either transfer your points out of your account or use them before you cancel your card.
Can I cancel a card as soon as I get the sign up bonus?
While you can cancel anytime, I would advise keeping a card for a minimum of 6 months. I’ve always felt that cancelling a credit card after a few weeks could negatively affect your credit score. Some credit card providers may also blacklist you if you’re constantly applying and cancelling your cards in quick succession.
When do I have to pay the annual fees?
The annual fees will show on your first statement and on the first statement after each year. If you plan on cancelling your card, do it before your next annual fee posts. Some cards may refund you the annual fee if you cancel within a month of your annual fee posting, but not all of them.
What is the best credit card points program?
In my opinion, it’s American Express Membership Rewards since it gives you the most flexibility and has multiple transfer partners. RBC Rewards is also a great program since it has multiple transfer partners. Check out my post on Canada’s bank travel rewards programs ranked for the full details.
Which is the best travel credit card?
This is purely subjective, but my personal favourite travel credit card is the American Express Platinum card since it gives me a ton of travel benefits. I also like the BMO World Elite Mastercard since it has excellent travel insurance and you only need to charge $1 of your travel expenses to the card for your insurance to apply.
Can I have a credit card from a bank even if I don’t have a bank account with that bank?
Yes, you can.
How can I pay a credit card from a bank if I don’t have an account with that bank?
You can add your credit card in the list of bills like any other bill.
Will applying for more than one credit card hurt my credit score?
Credit scores depend on many factors and opening a new card can have a small impact on your credit score. In most cases, applying for a new credit card will result in your credit score dropping 10 points. That said, if you pay your bills on time, your credit score will go back up in a few months (assuming no other changes to your credit profile).
If I held a card in the past, can I apply again to that same card and get sign up bonus again?
This is called churning and it’s possible but each credit card issuer has different policies. Some give the bonus once in a lifetime, some require you to not have any card with them for more than 2 years, some have a 6-month policy and some don’t have any policies against receiving bonus more than once.
If I cancel a card, will I lose all my points?
If the card earns you points from the bank program (e.g. Scotia Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards), you will lose the points if you don’t have another card from the same program to transfer your points to. If your card earns you points that are transferred into a third party program (e.g. Aeroplan miles, Marriott Bonvoy, AirMiles, Alaska miles) then your points are safe but are subject to the points expiry policy of that third party.
Can I pool points with my spouse?
Each program has its own rules. For example, you can’t pool points from most bank programs such as BMO Rewards. Airline loyalty programs like Aeroplan and Alaska also don’t allow you to pool your points.
There are some exceptions. British Airways Avios has a household account feature and Best Western allows to transfer points between people living at the same address. While you can’t pool Marriott points, you can transfer up to 100,000 points between accounts each year. Westjet Dollars can’t be pooled but I heard of many WestJet members being able to combine WestJet dollars for a family booking over the phone.
Can I use my points to book for someone else?
Again, all programs have their own rules but almost all of them allow you to book for someone else including Aeroplan and Marriott (you need to call to book for someone else with Marriott or add them to the reservation).
Do I need to pay fees and taxes when using points to book a flight?
Yes, you need to pay taxes, fees and surcharges when you are redeeming for a flight on a fixed point program. This includes Aeroplan, Avios, Delta, Alaska, AirMiles, Amex fixed points travel program, CIBC Aventura fixed points, RBC Reward fixed points program, WestJet dollars, etc.
If you use points that have a dollar value per point, then you can use points to pay for the total cost including taxes and fees. This includes Amex Membership Rewards used as travel credit, Scotia Rewards, BMO Rewards, TD Rewards, HSBC Rewards and any program that lets you book on your own and then apply your points to offset travel cost.
I see there are seats left on a flight, why can’t I book it on Aeroplan?
All fixed points programs like Aeroplan or Avios have a limited number of seats available for award bookings. On popular routes like to Florida or Hawaii, these limited seats can be fully booked almost a year in advance. The best strategy with these programs is to plan well in advance or be flexible with your dates or airports (for example you could fly to Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami).
Will my credit card insurance cover my trip if I book with points?
This varies from one card to another but usually, a premium credit card insurance will cover if you book on points when redeeming points from the credit card’s program e.g. the TD Aeroplan Visa infinite will cover flights booked with Aeroplan miles. The BMO World Elite is an exception and will cover the trip even if you only partially charge the cost of the trip to your card. Here is a full article on this topic.
If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask them in the comments.