On this page, you’ll find a list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. As well, we’ve included information about:

  • Top factors to consider when choosing a travel credit card
  • Best ways to use your rewards
  • Redemption models
  • Credit card travel insurance

This will help you determine which travel credit card is best for you.

What Determines the Best Travel Credit Cards 

The most important factors to consider when choosing the best travel points credit card in Canada (and the factors that our team evaluates) include:

  • Sign up bonuses
  • Annual fees
  • Perks and benefits
  • Point rates 
  • Flexibility 
  • Minimum yearly income requirements 
  • Credit card travel insurance
  • Point redemption

Sign Up Bonuses

Most often, credit cards will offer bonus points as a sign-up incentive. When deciding which travel credit card to choose, consider which one offers the best sign up bonus.

Always remember to read the terms and conditions of a sign-up bonus. Often, bonus points are only given once a minimum amount has been spent on the credit card. In some cases, the minimum amount must also be spent in a given number of days or months (e.g. spend $2,000 within 3 months). 

Annual Fees

Some of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada have an annual fee. Fees can range anywhere from $120 to $600 per year. It is possible, however, to find a travel credit card with no annual fee.

When choosing a card, consider which annual fee is feasible for you. Also, take the time to consider whether the benefits that are associated with a higher annual fee are worth it. In some cases, a travel credit card might offer additional benefits that outweigh the fee.

Perks and Benefits

Many Canadian travel credit cards offer travel perks. Some of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada provide prestigious benefits that make travelling more comfortable and convenient. 

These perks may include:

  • Airport lounge access
  • Hotel room upgrades
  • VIP services (e.g. concierge)
  • Discounted companion flight rates
  • No foreign transaction fees

Point Rates 

There are two ways you can earn travel points, depending on which travel credit card you choose.

  1. Flat earn rate
  2. Category based earn rate 

A flat earn rate means you earn the same amount of points regardless of what you purchase with your credit card. For example, for every $1 you spend you earn 1 travel point. 

On the other hand, with a category based earn rate, certain purchase categories will earn you more points than others. For example, gas and groceries may earn you 2 points per $1 spent while all other purchases earn only 1 travel point per $1. 

Flexibility 

Different travel credit cards will convert reward points at different rates. Understanding how points convert for a given card will help you decide which option is best for you.

You’ll also want to ensure that the travel credit card you choose has flexibility when it comes to point redemption. For example, some travel rewards credit cards will offer easier redemption processes than others.

Minimum Yearly Income Requirements 

Some Canadian travel credit cards require a minimum annual income. 

The two most common minimum annual income requirements you’ll come across are:

  • $50,000 annual income or $120,000 annual household income
  • $80,000 annual income or $150,000 annual household income

When choosing a travel credit card, be sure to consider whether you meet any minimum annual income requirements to ensure your application will be approved. 

If you are a student or have a low yearly income, that’s no problem. It’s also possible to find a travel credit card that doesn’t have an income requirement. 

Credit Card Travel Insurance

One of the greatest advantages of a travel credit card is travel insurance. 

The best travel points credit cards in Canada will offer some or all of the following:

  • Travel emergency medical insurance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel interruption insurance 
  • Cancellation insurance
  • Lost baggage insurance
  • Rental car insurance

Travel emergency medical insurance ensures that you can seek medical attention if you become ill or injured during an out-of-province trip. In this case, a portion or all of your medical expenses will be covered. 

With this type of insurance, it’s important to read the fine print to determine how much coverage you have available.

Travel accident insurance provides financial protection and aid in the case of accidental death or dismemberment abroad. For example, this type of insurance can help with the costs associated with returning a deceased body home. 

Travel interruption insurance can be used once a trip begins and until the trip is over. This insurance covers non-refundable expenses, up to a certain amount. This may cover expenses such as prepaid hotel rooms or excursions. 

Reasons you may activate travel interruption insurance can include:

  • Illness
  • Injury 
  • Death of a traveller 
  • Death of a non-travelling family member

Cancellation insurance allows you to cancel a flight or trip up until the point of departure. In this case, your credit card provider will cover the portion of your trip that is non-refundable, up to a certain amount. 

Keep in mind, you cannot cancel your trip without an appropriate reason. 

Some reasons you may cancel and activate your cancellation insurance include:

  • Family emergency
  • Death in the family
  • Travel advisory
  • Illness 

Lost baggage insurance provides you with reimbursement for lost baggage and its contents, up to a fixed amount. This type of travel insurance also covers the cost of essential items that are purchased to replace lost items while travelling. This may include clothing, toiletries, etc. 

Rental car insurance insures you for the costs associated with collisions and damage to rental cars. 

Point Redemption

Once you have earned a sufficient amount of travel points or miles, you can trade them in for the following (depending on your travel credit card):

  • Flights
  • Baggage fees
  • Hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Cruises
  • Vacations
  • Excursions

When it comes to redeeming points or miles, credit card companies generally use one of three redemption models.

  1. Consistent redemption model
  2. Fluctuating redemption model
  3. Point transfer redemption model

With a consistent redemption model, point value is always the same. That is, points are always translated to travel currency at the same rate, regardless of where or when you are flying or travelling.

Fluctuating, or chart-based, models of point redemption cause the value of your points to change depending on:

  • Destination
  • Travel dates
  • Ticket prices, etc. 

A point transfer redemption model allows users to transfer points to alternative loyalty programs. For example, travel points accrued on your credit card can be transferred to a specific airline’s loyalty rewards program.  

It’s also important to consider how easy a travel credit card’s redemption process is.

Is it simple and straightforward or do you have to jump through hoops to use the points you worked hard to earn? 

The best Canadian travel credit cards will provide simple and fair reward redemption options.

How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

There are two strategies you can use to maximize the rewards from your travel credit card. 

  1. Pay off your balance each month
  2. Use your points for travel

To avoid paying interest on your travel credit card, pay off your balance in full each month. This will allow you to experience all the advantages of the card without paying extra fees. 

Travel credit card points are best used for flights and hotel stays, not merchandise, gift cards or statement credits. If you prefer these rewards, consider a cash back credit card rather than a travel credit card.

Double Dipping

Double dipping, or overlapping rewards, allows you to receive extra points in addition to your travel credit card points. 

There are many opportunities to double-dip when it comes to earning travel rewards or miles. 

Consider these methods to make the most of your travel credit card: 

  1. Use hotel or airline rewards cards along with your travel credit card when booking
  2. Pay for trips with your travel credit card to earn while you travel
  3. Use online airline shopping portals

Many hotel chains and airlines have their own rewards or loyalty cards. Double up on your savings by redeeming both travel credit card points and loyalty card points when booking flights, hotels, and vacation packages. 

Even when using miles or points to book a trip, make sure to use your travel credit card to cover any extra expenses. You can continue earning travel points by paying for hotels, flights, excursions and meals with your travel credit card.

Online airline shopping portals allow you to earn a variety of travel rewards when you make purchases online. These shopping portals redirect you to shopping websites where you can make online purchases as usual and earn travel points simultaneously. 

Here are some examples of airlines that are accompanied with online shopping portals:

  • Air Miles - airmilesshops.ca
  • Brim Financial eShop
  • Aeroplan eStore

FAQs

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Emma Tremblay
emma@creditcards360.ca

Emma is responsible for all content on Creditcards360.ca. She has a college degree in economics and a keen interest in personal finance. Get in touch with her by email.

Last updated Feb 8, 2021