Best Credit Cards

🛫 Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada For January 2021

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Last updated on December 28, 2020
travel credit cards canada

The best travel credit card is the one that gives you the most rewards for where you spend the most money. There are many travel cards to choose from in Canada. We’ve compiled the best ones and selected winners in each category depending on welcome bonus, what kind of points and benefits you’re looking for, and where you make most of your purchases.

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The American Express Cobalt™ Card

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Best overall travel credit card

American Express® Gold Rewards Card

American Express Gold Rewards Card

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: 25,000 Points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Card membership

Earn Rate: 2x points for travel, groceries, gas stations, and drugstores. 1x point on everything else.

Annual Fees: $150

Min. Income Required: $0

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The best overall travel card is the American Express® Gold Rewards Card, as they offer the best combination of welcome offer, earn rate, travel insurance package, and flexible points redemption for travel purchases. You’ll get 25,000 Rewards points (when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership), and you can earn 2x points for travel, groceries, gas stations, and drugstores. 1x point on everything else. You’ll also earn +1 Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend on eligible hotel or car rental bookings made with American Express Travel.

The best part about this card is how flexible you can redeem and transfer your points for travel purchases. You can transfer your points to frequent flyer and other loyalty programs, or use their Fixed Points Travel Program and use your points to book flights within Canada or to anywhere in the world.

Best for food & entertainment spending

American Express Cobalt™ Card

american-express-cobalt-cardcard

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: Earn up to 30,000 Points in your first year. (2,500 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in purchases on your Card.)

Earn Rate: 5x rewards on dining, coffee shops, grocery stores. 2x rewards on travel, lodging, transit. 1x point for everything else.

Annual Fees: $10/month

Min. Income Required: $0

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If food and groceries is your highest spending category, then no other card gives you more points than the American Express Cobalt™ Card. It’s built specifically tailored to food and entertainment spenders. Not only do you receive the most points for this category of purchases, you can also redeem your points for it as well. While most travellers will prefer to redeem their points for travel, you can also use them for things like streaming services, movie tickets, restaurants & bars, and even retail stores. American Express cards have no minimum income requirements, making it more attainable for people with average credit.

Welcome bonus: Up to 30,000 points. You’ll earn 2,500 Rewards Points per month, for 12 months. You must spend a minimum of $500 per month to receive your points payout.

Points/Rewards: You’ll earn 5 points per every $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, bars, and even when ordering food delivery. You’ll get 2 points for gas, travel, and transit. Normally, with other cards “travel” is limited to hotels, flights, and travel packages. But with the Cobalt Card, it also includes things like taxis, Uber, and public transportation. For all other puchases you’ll get 1 point for every $1 spent. You can redeem your points for travel within the Fixed Points Travel Program, or through American Express Travel Online.

Other benefits: American Express Invites (get invited to special offers by AMEX), travel insurance with up to $5 million coverage for the first 15 days, car rental insurance, The Hotel Collection from American Express.

Best lifestyle travel credit card

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

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on BMO's website

Welcome Offer: Get up to 40,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.

Earn Rate: Earn 5x the BMO Rewards points on groceries, dining, gas and transit. Get 1 BMO Reward for every $1 spent on everything else.

Perks: Get a $50 annual lifestyle credit to spend however you want. Mobile Device Insurance that covers you for up to $1,000. Pay with Points by browsing your recent transactions & redeem your points for as little as $1.

Annual Fee: $120

Min. Income Required $60,000 personal or $100,000 household

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The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card offers up to 40,000 points, no annual fee for the first year, and a $50 annual lifestyle credit to spend however you want (renews each year you’re a cardholder). It also comes with one of the highest earn rates at 5x BMO Rewards points on groceries, dining, gas and transit. Get 1 BMO Reward for every $1 spent on everything else.

Best card with no annual fee

American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: 500 AIR MILES Reward Miles (when you charge a total of $500 in purchases to your Card within your first three months of Cardmembership).

Earn Rate: 1 Mile for every $15 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors. Earn 1 Mile for every $20 in purchases everywhere else.

Annual Fee: $0

Min. Income Required: $0

If you’re looking for a Canadian travel credit card but don’t want to pay any annual fees, the American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card is the best no-fee travel card on the market today. You’ll get 500 Air Miles Bonus Miles (when you charge a total of $500 in purchases to your Card within your first three months of Cardmembership). You’ll also earn a generous 1 Mile for every $15 in Card purchases at Air Miles Partners, and 1 Mile for every $20 spent everywhere else.

The card also comes with decent travel insurance (like $100,000 of Travel Accident Insurance) and American Express’ suite of member services like 24/7 customer service, emergency card replacement, fraud protection guarantee, and entertainment offers like Front Of The Line® Advance Access.

Best for free hotel stays

Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Card membership) + Free night stay each year you are a cardholder.

Earn Rate: 5 points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. Earn 2 points for every $1 on all other purchases.

Annual Fees: $120

Min. Income Required $0

If you’re looking for a credit card that gives rewards in the form of free hotel stays, the Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card is the perfect card for you. You’ll get a free night’s stay each year you’re a card holder. You’ll also get a welcome bonus of 50,000 Marriott BonvoyTM points (after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership), which is enough for 3 free nights at a Category 2 hotel. You’ll also get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status, as well as an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when you reach $30,000 in purchases charged to the Card each year.

Best for Aeroplan

American Express® Gold Rewards Card

American Express Gold Rewards Card

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: 25,000 Points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Card membership

Earn Rate: 2x points for travel, groceries, gas stations, and drugstores. 1x point on everything else.

Annual Fees: $150

Min. Income Required: $0

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If you use the Aeroplan Loyalty Program, the American Express® Gold Rewards Card gives you the most Aeroplan Miles than any of the designated Aeroplan cards out there. The card doesn’t give you Aeroplan Miles directly, but you’re able to convert your Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio for Aeroplan. With the giant welcome bonus and your ability to earn 2 points for every $1 spent on most of your everyday purchases, you’ll rack up Aeroplan Miles at a rapid pace with the American Express Gold Rewards Card. Like the Cobalt card, this card comes with no minimum income requirements.

Welcome bonus: 25,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend your first $1,500 within the first 3 months of membership.

Points/Rewards: You earn 2 points for every $1 spent on groceries, gas, drugstores, and travel. You earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else. You can redeem your points through American Express’ Fixed Points Travel Program or convert them to Aeroplan Miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Other benefits: American Express Invites (get invited to special offers by AMEX), travel insurance coverage up to $5 million for the first 15 days, car rental insurance, The Hotel Collection from American Express.

Best for Air Miles

BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®*

BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite® Mastercard®

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on BMO's website

Earn Rate: 1 Mile for every $10 in credit card purchases. Earn twice on purchases at AIR MILES partners.

Annual Fee: $120

Min. Income Required $80,000 personal or $150,000 household

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While it does have one of the highest minimum income requirements of the cards recommended on this page, the BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®* offers one of the largest welcome bonuses of any travel rewards cards in Canada. You’ll get 2,000 Air Miles Bonus Miles (equivalent to two short-haul flights) and your first year’s fee waived. It also comes with the highest earn rate of any Air Miles credit card on the market right now. It’s one of the most versatile, well-rounded cards out there and is one of the top picks for people who want to just use one card for all purchases year-round.

Welcome bonus: Get up to 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and your $120 annual fee waived for the first year.

Points/Rewards: The points system is straightforward. Earn 1 reward mile for ever $10 in credit card purchases. You’ll also get 15 % flight discounts on all Air Miles flights in North America with no blackout periods.

Other benefits: Get benefits and special offers to popular apps and digital subscription services. Get access to over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world – all at no added cost, and no added fees or roaming charges. Travel insurance, car rental insurance, complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey (with exclusive VIP access) + two annual complimentary passes.

Best premium travel card (for Air Canada Flyers)

American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card

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on American Express' website

Welcome Offer: 3,000 AIR MILES Reward Miles (when you charge a total of $1,500 in purchases to your Card within your first three months of Card membership).

Earn Rate: 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors. Earn 1 Mile for every $10 in purchases at other eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores. Earn 1 Mile for every $15 in purchases everywhere else.

Annual Fee: $120

Min. Income Required: $0

Premium credit cards have a larger annual fee and aren’t for everybody. But if you’re a frequent traveller, you might want to consider the American Express® Aeroplan® Reserve Card. You’ll get an incredible 35,000 Aeroplan points and a $100 statement credit as an initial offer when you spend $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. After that, you’l also earn an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points for every month you spend at least $1000 during the first six months of membership. All together, that equates to 65,000 Aeroplan points.

Earn Rate: Earn 3x the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations. Earn 2x the points on eligible Dining and Food Delivery purchases in Canada. Earn 1x the points on everything else.

You’ll also get access to select Air Canada Maple Leaf LoungesTM, as well as Priority Airport services (for you and for up to eight companions) such as Air Canada Priority Check-In, free checked bags, Priority Boarding, and Priority Baggage Handling and more.

Best for no foreign transaction fees

Scotiabank PassportTM Visa Infinite*

scotiabank passport visa infinite

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on Scotia Bank's website

Welcome Offer: 30,000 Scotia Rewards points + Complimentary Priority Pass membership, plus 6 free visits per year.

Earn Rate: Earn 2x Scotia Rewards® points on every $1 you spend on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis and more). No FX Fees.

Annual Fee: $139

Min. Income Required: Personal $60,000 or Household $100,000.

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If you’re a frequent traveller overseas, or make a lot of foreign currency purchases online, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card is the ultimate travel points card. No foreign currency fees means you’ll save money each time you make a purchase.

With 6 complimentary airport lounge passes per year, a large welcome bonus, and generous points on each purchase made, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card is truly built for the frequent traveller.

Welcome bonus: Up to 35,000 Scotia Rewards points (equivalent to $350 in travel dollars). You get 25,000 points when you charge $1,000 to your card in the first 3 months. Get another 10,000 points when you spend a total of $40,000 within the first 12 months.

Points/Rewards: The card comes with a generous rewards system. You’ll earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment, and daily transit. You’ll earn 1 Scotia Rewards point for every $1 spent on everything else. You can redeem your points anytime, with no restrictions, through the Scotia Rewards Travel Service. You can also book travel outside of Scotia’s platform and redeem your points towards the purchase.

Other benefits: Travel insurance coverage up to $1 million for the first 25 days, car rental insurance, complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership, Visa Infinite Concierge and the Luxury Hotel Collection.


The Comprehensive Guide to Travel Credit Cards

The world is a mystery and travelling lets us unravel it. Many Canadians give into their itch to travel once a year, while others do it more often. There is also a group of Canadians who travel for business. Whichever category you belong to, chances are you’d do it more if you only had more time, and if it wasn’t so lethal to your wallet. Allow us to widen your horizons to the wonderful world of travel credit cards. If you’ve been paying for expenses through a generic credit card, or worse yet, your debit card, please keep reading.

There are tons of benefits that comes with travel credit cards, the biggest one of which is rewards. In its core, travel credit cards are rewards card tailored to travelers. They give points or miles for every dollar you spend through your credit card. These rewards can be redeemed for travel purchases, such as to pay for your next flight, hotel, dining, vacation package, etc.

If you stick to one airline for all your flying needs or exclusively stay at hotels belonging to one chain, then you should consider getting a credit card from that company. There are plenty of travel credit cards available in the market today, but not all of them are created equal. Some might offer rewards that are more restricted and with fewer redemption options than others.

How do travel rewards credit card work?

Travel credit cards reward you with points or miles for each dollar you spend. That said, you earn a higher amount of points per dollar on certain category or when shopping at a specific location. For example, one travel card might offer you more points for any travel purchases while another card may offer you a higher reward if you decide to stay at Canadas Best Value Inn.

There are 2 types of travel rewards credit card:

General travel rewards card – This type of travel card offer miles and points per dollar with multiple redemption options. Since they aren’t tied to any specific brand, this offers much more flexibility than co-branded cards. Your accumulated points can be redeemed on booking travel through the credit card issuer’s travel website (such as Expedia’s ExpediaforTD), retrieved as a statement credit, or transferred into loyalty program like Aeromiles. You can also redeem the points for cash, merchandise and gift cards, but these offer lower value per dollar.

Brand specific travel rewards card – If you are very loyal to a specific brand, then co-branded travel cards will be perfect for you. The rewards points or miles that collected will only be redeemable with the brand the credit card is partnered with. If you pick an airline card such as Air Canada Aeroplan credit card, you will be able to take advantage of perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, free airport lounge access and more. If you pick a hotel credit card, like MBNA Best Western Rewards Mastercard, you will be able to redeem your reward points for free nights, room upgrades, and also be able to accelerate your way up the ranks of their exclusive loyalty program.

Should you get a travel credit card?

Yes, but only if you are a traveler. Even better if you are a frequent traveller. You see, many travel credit cards come with great perks like no foreign transaction fees, priority boarding, free-checked bag, free airport lounge access and more. These rewards and perks won’t be of much value to you if travelling isn’t an activity you often engage in.

That said, consider the following before saying “Yes” to a travel credit card:

1. Are you a frequent traveller?
If not, then you will be better of with a cash-back credit card, or a rewards card that incentivizes the category you spend the most on.

2. Do you frequently travel internationally?
If yes, then you will be paying 3% foreign transaction fees on every purchase you make abroad. This is also true if you are someone who doesn’t travel much but still shops a lot through international websites (check out our best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards).Travel credit cards often don’t come with a foreign transaction fee and will give you a better value over time.

3. Can you meet the welcome bonus requirements?
Travel credit cards offer some of the biggest sign-up bonuses than any other type of credit card. But this bonus will stay behind the vault till you fulfil a few requirements, the main one being the spending requirement. You will have to use your card to make a certain amount in purchases within the first 3-6 months of account opening. Make sure that you have enough funds to make purchases and pay the bill in full, otherwise your sign-up bonus will stay locked and go defunct.

4. Are the rewards relevant to you?
Really understanding the reward structure and redemption options of any travel credit card takes plenty of effort. And the perks and benefits you get for carrying your card are also travel related. So if you aren’t a traveler, then these incentives won’t be worth any effort to you.

5. Do you carry a balance?
If you carry a month-to-month balance then the high interest rate will cancel any rewards you stand to earn through your travel cards.

How to choose a travel credit card

The reason there is never just one clear winner is that everyone has different needs/wants. Everyone travels differently and has different spending habits. Some people may want as large a welcome offer as possible, others may look for benefits such as travel and car rental insurance. The most important factor when selecting a card is how closely it aligns with the category you spend the most money in.

You need to carefully consider what is most important to you (in terms of rewards, benefits, and redemption options), where you make the majority of your monthly purchases, and how often you travel. Once you know you want a travel rewards card, the next step is picking the right one. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Co-branded vs General – Co-branded cards offer less flexibility in reward redemption than general travel cards, but they do come with plenty of exclusive perks like priority boarding for specific airlines or free hotel room upgrades at a specific hotel chain that won’t be available on a general travel card. If you regularly travel with one airline or stay at the same hotel chain then go for a co-branded credit card, otherwise general travel card is the way to go.

Annual fee – Majority of the travel credit cards come with an annual fee. Generally, the more extensive the perks, the higher this fee. There are travel cards available with no annual fee, but know that they offer lower rewards and don’t come with as many perks like comprehensive insurance. But if you only do a short-trip once a year then a no-annual fee travel credit card, or a cashback credit card will suit you the best.

Sign-up bonus – We all want that generous sign-bonus that can easily cut our travel expenses in half, but don’t forget to read through the terms and conditions you will need to meet to claim the bonus. For example, you might have to spend $3000 – $5000 or more within your first 3 months to unlock your bonus. Make sure that you pick a travel credit card that doesn’t have extremely high redemption conditions to get access to your welcome bonus. Otherwise, you will end up overspending and won’t afford to be able to pay your balance in full. Also, keep in mind that a high sign-up bonus typically comes with a high annual fee as well.

Reward rate – Assess how much reward you will get per dollar spent, and how much value you will get per point(or mile) during redemption. Many travel credit cards offer a higher amount of points or miles for travel related purchases and give a flat rate reward, usually .5 to 1% on all other purchases. If you plan to keep your travel credit card for the long-term, focus on getting a card with a good ongoing rewards rate instead of a generous sign-up bonus.

Perks and protections – These cards come loaded with several perks and protections that travelers can gain value from. For example, the purchase protection insurance will cover your items that you purchase with your credit card in case it gets stolen or damaged while on your trip. Many travel cards also give you rental car coverage, lost luggage and travel delay insurance, emergency medical insurance etc. Co-branded travel cards will offer more perks such as free checked bags, free upgrades, discounts, than general travel cards. Ask yourself what protection you need, and check if the travel card you want to apply for offers those coverages.

Foreign transaction fees – Paying a foreign transaction fee on every international purchase you make can become a real headache. This is usually a 3% extra on top of your bill. So if your total comes out to $100, with foreign transaction fee, your new bill would be $103. This can add up quickly with multiple transactions. If you are a domestic traveler though, this shouldn’t be a problem. For those who frequently travel abroad, opt for a travel card with no foreign transaction fees.

How to get the maximum value from your travel credit card

To get the most value from your travel credit card, apply around the time you plan to make a big purchase. This way, you can charge that amount on your new credit card and get that much closer to redeeming your sign-up bonus. But at the same time, be wary of overspending just to unlock your welcome bonus, because otherwise you can land up in massive debt…and no sign-up bonus is worth that much trouble.

Always redeem your reward points/miles on travel purchases because that’s where you will find the most redemption value. If you redeem via cashback, gift-cards or on non-travel related merchandise, then you will lose out on a lot of value.

Also, join loyalty programs of the brands your credit card is associated with to double dip and receive more points on the same bill. And, make travel purchases through your credit card’s travel portal to obtain exclusive rewards.

Pros and Cons of travel credit cards

The Pros

Easy to rack up rewards – Travel rewards credit cards give you points on everyday spending as well as travel purchases, although the latter category does bring in more points. Regardless, it’s easy to stack up points with them.

Can be redeemed as statement credit – Use the rewards to pay off your monthly credit card balance.

No foreign transaction fees – Repeatedly paying 3% on foreign transaction fees can add up. Most travel credit cards don’t charge this, which can bring you significant savings in the long-run.

Exciting perks – Many co-branded rewards cards will give you free nights and travel credits that you can redeem on certain flights. You may also receive complimentary VIP lounge access and room upgrades, and valuable travel insurance.

Transfer points or miles to a loyalty program – Some travel credit cards will convert your rewards into your preferred airplane or hotel’s loyalty program points on a decent ratio. For example, American Express enables you to convert your Membership Rewards Points to Aeromiles on a 1:1 ratio.

Lucrative welcome bonuses – Most top-tiered travel cards offer attractive sign-up bonuses.

The Cons

High annual fee – A mid to top-tiered travel card containing generous perks, comprehensive insurance and a competitive reward structure will come with a hefty annual fee, and as such are only best suited for frequent travellers.

Restrictions – Some travel cards may have black out dates and restrictions on when and where you can redeem your rewards.

High Sign-up bonus requirements – Because these cards offer some of the biggest welcome bonuses in the credit card market, they also come with a high spending requirement that are often over $3000.

Low value on anything not travel – Want to redeem your rewards on groceries, gift cards, gas, statement credit? You can. But the value of your rewards per point or miles will be significantly lower than what you’d get if you were to redeem it on travel purchases.

What is the best travel rewards credit card in Canada right now?

Like we mentioned, it’s tough to state a general clear winner for all types of travellers. But if you don’t have any specific needs and are just looking to earn the maximum points, and have the most options to redeem them for travel, the American Express® Gold Rewards Card is the best overall card on the market right now. However, if you have any specific preferences on earn rates, welcome offers, or airlines/hotels, then make sure you browse all travel credit card options first before making your decision.

Methodology: How we choose the cards in this list

Simple Rate chooses the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada based on evaluating annual fees, welcome bonuses, points earnings rates, redemption options, and other perks and benefits such as travel insurance and airport lounge access.

View the best overall credit cards in Canada.

🏆   Winner of Simple Rate's Best Credit Card Award

The American Express Cobalt™ Card

Get 30,000 rewards points, 5x points on food, groceries, drinks.

SIGN UP âžž

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