5 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Canadians

travel rewards credit cards

Overview of Travel Points cards

There are several travel points cards in the Canadian credit card market. They seem to grab a lot of attention from marketing channels in Canada but I don’t think this type of card is the ideal card for most Canadians. In this article, I’ll talk about travel points cards that can have a specific travel redemption cost, that is completely independent from the market price of that travel.

Something like an Aeroplan rewards card would be a travel points card.

What is a Travel Points card?

The market seems to have two different definitions of what a travel point is.

1. Fixed Value Rewards

The best cards in the Canadian credit card market currently appear to be Fixed Value Rewards cards, but are often touted as Travel Points cards. However, they are very different from what I consider a “Travel Points” card because they simply give you rewards that have a fixed dollar value.

The BMO World Elite card, for example, gives you 2 pts / dollar spent. Those 2 pts are worth 2 cents against a travel purchase, with no ability to get any extra value beyond that. This would be considered a Fixed Value Rewards card and is more similar to a cash back card. The difference being that you require a travel purchase to release your cash back.

Please see my rankings of this type of card here.

2. Travel Points Cards

Travel Points cards are those that define a specific redemption for a specific number of points, and that price is defined in advance. Something like an Aeroplan card would constitute a Travel Points card because there is a set schedule for how much any given flight will be. This price does not change daily or weekly but is set.

This article will focus on the Travel Points cards of this nature.

Who is this type of card good for?

Travel points cards are great for a certain group of people, but really not very good for most others. I believe there are 3 types of people who will benefit from having a travel points card. You would benefit from a travel points card if:

  • You believe you are much better than average at understanding the points programs
  • Routes you often fly are not well served and represent “soft spots” in an award chart
  • You actually would be willing to pay twice the economy fare to sit in business
  • The tax consequences of carrying a better card would be burdensome

If you are not in one of those categories, then I believe that  a travel points card would not be for you. In general travel points programs transfer value from “average Joe’s” to people in the above categories.

1. You believe you are better than average at “burning” points efficiently

Travel points programs exist to make money. Since their value is inherently variable relative to dollars, travel points programs will have some “winners” and some “losers”  in their customer base. The points program administrators are hoping there are more losers than winners. If you are unsure if you are going to be a “winner”, then you are likely going to be a “loser” in this transaction. Remember, the program administrators need to make money too, so there will always be more people who get poor value from these systems than people who extract great value from them.

To be a “winner” in this transaction, you need to spend a lot of energy and accrue lots of information about the programs and how to exploit them. If this is not appealing to you, then I suggest you stay away from these types of cards and programs.

2. You actually would be willing to pay a significant premium for better classes of service

One of the advantages of frequent flier and travel points programs is their ability to discount higher classes of service heavily. Often the premium for a business class flight is 4-5x the economy fare. When using miles and travel points programs. The premium is generally about 2x. If you would be willing to pay that premium for a higher class of service, then the travel points programs are a good choice for you.

3. Tax Consequences

There are some tax consequences to travel points programs when points are earned through credit card spend. If you buy and sell items, and you are getting cash back from a credit card, the value of that cash back is exact, and calculable, and therefore it is easy to enforce taxes on that amount. If you earn travel points instead, it is very difficult to calculate the specific value of those points, so the tax man has stated that those are ignored for tax purposes.

Pieces of the Puzzle

There are 2 pieces to the puzzle when it comes to travel points credit cards: earning and burning.


Earning is all about how many travel points you earn and how efficiently you can get them. Often you are given extra points for using partners or spending in certain categories.  The rate at which you earn points is a concern for all credit card.

For example, the The American Express® Gold Rewards Card (Canada) earns 1 Membership Rewards point / dollar spent on all purchases. It earns an extra Membership Rewards point for every dollar spent at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and on travel purchases.


Burning is all about spending your earned points wisely and ensuring that you are getting good value from your travel points. Cash back cards and fixed value rewards card programs don’t have this issue because the value is fixed and there is nothing you can do to increase the value you get from each point.

When it comes to travel points programs, burning is the key element of whether or not a card is a worth it or not. Some programs are notoriously bad for getting good value upon redemptions.

If you are going to be getting a travel points card, then you need to make sure that you are going to be getting good value for your points upon redemption.

Since travel points credit cards are slightly different than most other types of credit cards, these are the key elements that go into my rankings.

  • Earn: how many points do you earn?
  • Amateur burn: how easy is it for an amateur to get decent value from their points
  • Veteran burn: how easy is it for people in the know to get great value from points
  • Friendliness: Program flexibility vs program gotchas
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Annual Fee
  • Additional perks

The Top 5 Travel Points Rewards Cards in Canada are:

Top 5 Travel Points Rewards Cards in Canada

1. Scotiabank®* Gold American Express®
2. MBNA Alaska Airlines
3. American Express Cobalt Card
4. RBC Avion Visa Infinite
5. Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express

The specific cards:

1. Scotiabank®* Gold American Express®

My Card Review

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express®

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express®

Type: American Express
Rewards: 4 Scotia Reward Points / dollar Spent on gas, grocery, dining & entertainment
1 Scotia Reward Point / dollar Spent on everything else
Annual fee: $99
Sign-Up Bonus: 15K Scotia Rewards Points on first $1000 purchase in the first 3 months
Devaluation Risk: Low
Amateur Burn: Easy to get value
Veteran Burn: Easy to get value

This is far and away the best credit card in Canada for a very large percent of people. You have the freedom to redeem your rewards for a credit any travel that you book independent of their program. You get a great return of 4% on gas, grocery and restaurant purchases. The insurance and benefits are great and the annual fee is lower than most cards in this category. The signup bonus of $150 (15,000 points) with your first $1000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months makes this an easy choice as a card to apply for.

2. MBNA Alaska Airlines

MBNA Alaska Airlines

MBNA Alaska Airlines

Type: Mastercard
Rewards: 1 Alaska Airlines mile / dollar spent
2 Alaska Airlines mile / dollar spent on Alaska Airlines flights
Annual fee: $75
Sign-Up Bonus: 25K Alaska Airlines miles
Value of a Mile: $0.015
Devaluation Risk: Mid
Amateur Burn: Easy to get value
Veteran Burn: Easy to get value

Coming in at #2, the MBNA Alaska Airlines card is a good one to consider. I think for people in Western Canada, Alaska Airlines is a great airline, and the rewards program is also very generous. You earn a straight 1 Alaska mile / dollar spent, but I think that Alaska miles are quite valuable. They can be redeemed for flights on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Skymiles and Emirates. There are even some very generous stopover rules that can be very valuable for people in Vancouver.

Hack My Trip does  a great job discussing extracting great value from Alaska miles.

Also, the annual fee on this card is only $75 which is less than most cards in this category.

3. American Express Cobalt Card


American Express Cobalt Card Application Link

American Express Cobalt Card

Type: American Express
Rewards: 1 American Express Membership Reward Point / dollar Spent
2 American Express Membership Reward Points / dollar Spent on travel and transit
5 American Express Membership Reward Points / dollar Spent on eats and drinks
Annual fee: $120
Sign-Up Bonus: 30K points in the first 12 months
Devaluation Risk: Low
Amateur Burn: Easy to get value
Veteran Burn: Easy to get value

membership rewards are flexible with several transfer options, pts earning power is good

4. RBC Avion Visa Infinite


RBC Avion Visa Infinite Application Link

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

Type: Visa
Rewards: 1 RBC Avion Point / dollar Spent
1.25 RBC Avion Points / dollar Spent on travel
Annual fee: $120
Sign-Up Bonus: 15K RBC Avion Points
Value of a Mile: $0.017
Devaluation Risk: Low
Amateur Burn: Easy to get value
Veteran Burn: Easy to get value

The RBC Avion card gets the #4 spot here because of the value of their partners. In 2013 and 2014, the gold standard for miles programs is probably American Airlines, whose miles can be worth about 1.75 cents for most people as long as they are used relatively well. British Airways points are also very valuable, depending on how you use them. Both American Airlines and British Airways are partners with RBC so you can transfer your RBC Avion points over to those programs. Quite regularly, there are transfer bonuses from this card:

  • 1000 RBC Avion -> 1350 American Airlines Advantage
  • 1000 RBC Avion -> 1500 British Airways Avios

Given these transfers, the RBC is very generous in the earn rate of some very valuable miles.

I also like that most amateurs can extract good value from miles like British Airways Avios, as long as they know how to.

The other advantage of the RBC Avion card is the travel redemption schedule in case you want to offset a cash fare. The caps on the amount you can actually redeem your points for make this less lucrative than initially advertised, but it nicely puts a floor on the value of the points in case there is massive reduction in the value of British Airways or American Airlines miles before you can use your stash.

5. Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express


Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express Application Link

Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express

Type: American Express
Rewards: 5 points / dollar spent at SPG and Marriott Rewards Properties
2 points / dollar on everything else
Annual fee: $120
Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points
Devaluation Risk: Low
Amateur Burn: Easy to get value
Veteran Burn: Easy to get value

This is another great card in the Canadian market. The earn rate is simply 5 points / dollar spent at SPG or Marriott Rewards properties and 2 points / dollar on everything else, but it is in the redemption of miles / points where the value of this card lies. SPG points will transfer to pretty much any airline program at a rate of 1:3.

This card is an American Express card and comes with the normal host of benefits associated with a card of this caliber.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link.
Conditions apply

 Cards that didn’t make the cut

Something to note that neither the CIBC Aerogold or TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite cards made this list. This is because these cards have relatively low earn rates and Aeroplan miles are significantly more difficult to get good value out of as a Canadian than most other programs. Aeroplan adds very high taxes and fuel surcharges to redemptions on Air Canada flights making Aeroplan miles worth less than 1 cent for most popular routes. If you live in an underserved market or redeem your Aeroplan miles for flights operated by United, then you can increase the value of miles to you. Most Canadians will struggle to get any decent value either of these cards to make up for what could be earned from a fixed value rewards or cash back card.

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80 comments on “5 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Canadians”

  1. Ca says:

    How about Capital one aspire?

    • thepointster says:


      I definitely like the Capital One Aspire card. As I mention here I like the Capital One Aspire Card.

      The Capital One Aspire card is a fixed value travel points card, since its value is fixed / capped (at 1 Cap One Mile <= $0.01). You choose any flight you want and you pay miles directly dependent on the price in dollars. The cards compared on this page are those that have highly variable value and are independent of the cash price of the ticket. A Delta card earns Delta miles. 25K Delta miles should buy a ticket within South America regardless of the cost in dollars of that ticket.

  2. Mike says:

    How does the RBC WestJet card compare? Is it ever the best choice for anyone? Thanks!

    • thepointster says:


      I think the Westjet card (World Elite version) has its value, but really only for the companion pass that it gives you annually. This is because the return is limited to 1.5% on all purchases and 2% on Westjet purchases. All of this with an annual fee of $99. If you are going to be getting this card for the Companion Pass then I think getting 1.5% return on all purchases with 2% on Westjet is not bad (as there is effectively no additional fee assuming you are getting it ayways). If you are getting this card for the spending portion and not for the companion pass, then you should get a BMO World Elite or MBNA World Elite card that get you 2% return on all purchases all the time. The MBNA is my preferred card as it gets you 2% cash with a lower fee ($89) but lower signup bonus ($100). The BMO World Elite gives you $300 upfront but charges you $150 / year in annual fee and has better insurances and gives 4 free lounge passes. I think that both of these cards beat out the Westjet card.

      Also, just note that the Westjet card is a fixed value points card and not a “Travel points” card as I have defined it in this article. The value of Westjet dollars is fixed.

      I allude to the limited value of Westjet dollars in this write up

      Check out the BMO World Elite card here:

      The MBNA World Elite card is at (no review):

  3. Lori says:

    I have the capital one aspire right now. Would you stay with that card or switch to the capital one delta sky miles? Do you think it be worth the switch?

    • thepointster says:

      Hey Lori,

      The Capital One Aspire is a great card for ongoing spending at very close to 2% return. The Delta Skymiles card is probably even more rewarding if you are able to get good value from your Delta Skymiles.

      What would convince me to go Delta would be the bonus 25K Delta miles you are goign to get. WHat would make me hesitant is that Delta skymiles have devalued many times and I am not sure I would always be able to get good value out of Skymiles.

      If you are sure that you are able to get good value (over 1 cent / skymiles) then the Delta card is better always. The 25K signup bonus for that card is just a big bonus. If you are not consistently getting over 1 cent / skymile then you have to think about it.

      I would switch and then if you dont find you can get godo value, then next year apply for the aspire again and get the 35K bonus again, if you they let you.

      Good luck.

  4. Amanda Lampreau says:

    My husband and I are thinking of switching from the RBC Avion Visa to the Alaska Airlines Visa (not MasterCard) for the annual companion pass and lower annual fee. We live in Western Canada. Do you think its worth the switch?

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Amanda,

      I really like the Alaska Airlines card, as long as you know how to use it well.


      Recently I did a Reader Q for someone living in Portland who wanted to visit Vancouver and Boston. In your situation, if you are living in Western Canada, then you can also take advantage of this free stopover feature.

      The stopover featuer is best for people living in Vancouver, who are willing to use SEA as their airport of choice. People willing to use SEA as their airport of choice can basically double the value of all their Alaska Airlines award travel by booking awards as one-ways with a stopover in SEA every time.

      I go over this is detail in the attached article.

      Good luck.

      • will watson says:

        What some people don’t realize is that you could be out of
        a lot of miles & cash using Alaska Air MC. We booked a trip
        to London UK with British Airway ( Alaska Air partner) out of
        Vancouver, Canada. The regular fare would have been approx
        $1850 CDN. Alaska Air charged us $951 USD (approx $1280
        CDN) & 130,000 mileage plan miles. So, we ‘saved’, maybe
        $570CDN or $400 USD. So our points ended up being worth
        .0044 cents CDN or .0031 cents US. Ridiculous or what ??

        • thepointster says:

          Thanks for the comment. I would definitely agree that those rates are atrocious.

          The issue here is the taxes and fees that British Airways passes on for redeeming on their flights. British Airways redemptions are notorious for being outrageous. In your situation, you could have reduced your out of pocket ‘taxes’ by redeeming your Alaska Air miles for flights on American Airlines operated flights or Delta operated flights among others.

          Unfortunately, the problem is that British Airways tends to have better routings and more availability than the other options. This is a reality of the loyalty program industry. It is the same problem that Aeroplan flights have when flying on Air Canada operated flights.

          It is another reason why I suggest for MOST Canadians that you can do better using Cashback or cashback -esque cards.


    • John says:

      Not impressed with Alaska card. You have to book through their website where Alaska airline flights are 15%- 20% than if you book an Alaska flight on Expedia.ca plus you can usually find a flight for $100-$150 cheaper with another airline like United or WestJet.
      We like to go to Hawaii and for a family of three it cost about $400 more booking with Alaska and once you use 40,000 points you don’t save much. Plus all their Hawaii flights have a long lay over [3 to 8 hours.] 11 hours to fly to Hawaii from Vancouver with Alaska or 6 hours with WestJet and the cost after using air miles is about the same.

      • thepointster says:


        I think my preference towards the Alaska Air card has to do with 2 things:

        1. Redemptions using Alaska miles give you a stopover on each one-way. Meaning 12.5K buys you a Calgary-Portland, stopover for as long as you like, then Portland to Boston. (for example).
        Vancouverites can really milk this by treating Seattle as their “home” airport and creating long stopovers there.
        San Francisco – Seattle, stopover for months, the Seattle-New York for 12.5K miles. And you make the quick drive from Seattle to Vancouver.

        2. The Companion Pass is good to reduce travel you already would have had. IF you are naturally flying on Alaska Air as a couple (or more) , then you can reduce your cost by using one of the annual companion passes.

        For Hawaii flights, my personal thoughts would be to disagree with you. While there are no direct flights from YVR to Hawaii, there are direct flights from BLI and SEA. Both of those airports are quick drives from Vancouver. If you live in Surrey (for example), BLI is likely a closer airport to you than YVR. My personal thought is that instead of taking a connecting flight and sitting 3+ hours in connection, spend the up to 1 hour driving to BLI (instead of YVR) and take your direct flight from there.

        While Westjet flies direct YVR-Hawaii, it also comes with a hefty price tag. Alaska flies BLI to Hawaii and I bet it is going to be much cheaper than YVR-Hawaii.

        I can’t comment on the difference in price between Alaskaair.com vs Expedia. I dont know why you would have to book there, except for wehn using the companion pass or using miles. Neither of which have an “equivalent” comparable at Expedia. If you are referring to the bonus points on booking at AlaskaAir, that is only 1 extra mile / $ so if you are finding that to be too expensive, then treat it like it doesnt give you teh bonus and just book at Expedia. I also imagine that Alaska Air has a price match guarantee but I cant seem to find it.

        Thanks for hte discussion.

        • John says:

          If you drive to Seattle from Vancouver to fly to Hawaii then you have to pay parking for the two weeks. Air Canada and Westjet flights are cheaper to Hawaii than Alaska. If you have points on your Alaska card you have to redeem them at the Alaska air website where you pay more. A few years back they had cheap flights from Bellingham which I used but no more. My wife priced it out last night with 60,000 points and a companion fare, for three people the price is about $1600 Canadian to fly in January with Alaska with two stop overs (11 hour flight.) But when she checked Expedia, Air Canada and West Jet prices were also about $1600 for 3 with no stop overs. Plus she is paying a $100 annual fee for her Alaska card. Decided to get rid of the card and get a Westjet or aero plan card instead.

          • thepointster says:

            That is great. Glad you were able to find a flight that works for you. I would definitely agree that there are going to be many sistuations where flying from Canada can be cheaper. I find this is the case more and more when teh USD is strong vs the weak CAD. When there is parity, say 2013, then flying from the US is generally much cheaper. Each situation will be different though.

            Unfortunately, these cards noted here are not good for booking revenue tickets. Clearly, the way you are booking is not catered to in the travel rewards cards. What you want is a fixed value points card, which is not the focus of this article. You may be disappointed with the cards here, but it is because you are not the people mentioned in this article.

            Thanks for the comment though.

            At the beginning of this article I noted:

            Travel Points cards are those that define a specific redemption for a specific number of points, and that price is defined in advance. Something like an Aeroplan card would constitute a Travel Points card because there is a set schedule for how much any given flight will be. This price does not change daily or weekly but is set.

            This article will focus on the Travel Points cards of this nature.

  5. Jacqueline says:

    How do you find out about the transfer bonuses for the RBC care to AA and BA?

    • thepointster says:


      I have only ever noticed it by checking the homepage of RBC.com.

      I imagine that if you follow them on twitter @RBC_Canada, that should be a good place to see it.


  6. Daniel says:

    Hi, currently I have the CIBC Aventura Infinite card which I signed up for last year (25k at signing which was awesome) but I was thinking of switching over to an American Express Gold. Now on paper the Amex Express looks like the better value for a few reasons but when I compared flights with a friend of mine as an example witht the same dates and airline, a flight using the CIBC rewards program from Toronto to Calgary and back was 48,000pts (taxes inc) from CIBC rewards and and 71,000pts from Amex rewards. I know I get double the points on groceries and gas from amex and 1.5 from CIBC Aventura but does this make sense? I just want the best travel rewards card with not only earning the most points but getting the best value for them as well

    • thepointster says:


      There are always going to be situations where one card will win over the other. For Torotno-Calgary, intra Canadian flights are going to be best priced by Aeroplan miles (Aeroplan classic rewards), in general, if they are available. The Amex Gold is no good if you are intending on using it to redeem for “cash” flights at 1 MR = 1 cent reward against travel.

      The American Express Membership Rewards wuold transfer to Aeroplan miles so you can get those Aeroplan awards. I would say that if you are looking to do that then Membership Rewards are goign to be the best.


      If you are looking to just buy a ticket at a “cash” fare and get that reimbursed by your credit card points (ie your credit card points are essentially cash) then I suggest getting a 2% cashback card for all purchases (the BMO World Elite is the best right now due to a $300 sign up bonus) but the Scotiabank Amex is best at 4% gas, grocery and restaurants if you spend a lot at restaurants. Those are the 2 I recommend for most Canadians.

      The CIBC Aventura card is one that I am really not a fan of. I have tried getting more information on the program and valuing the Aventura points, but have only been given a runaround by CIBC, so I really cant make an informed response to CIBC Aventura, except to say that Aventura point value is not really clear (and that is deliberate on the part of CIBC). One day it might cost you 40K Aventura points and another day it might cost you 80K, and there is no way to know and they wouldnt tell me. As a result I can only say taht I wouldnt sacrifice 2% guranteed return from a BMO world Elite card (or MBNA World Elite etc.) on a maybe)


      • Larry says:

        I’m a fan of the CIBC Aventura program. 35,000 points gets $800 off of your ticket. Points are earned at 1/$1 or 1.5/$1 at pharmacy’s, grocery stores, or gas stations. My reward rate is typically around 2.4%. Caution though – the reward rate falls off significantly when you redeem for cheaper tickets or use points for taxes. Their website is mediocre, but I like booking with them by phone. Their travel agents are excellent.

        • thepointster says:

          This is good to know. This year, when they are paying people to apply (via a nice sign up bonus) I may apply and give it a try. See what it works out to when I am a cardmember.

          As I mentioned, the public information is very ambiguous on point value and unless I know for certain I am going to get better than 2% on unbonused spending, I am not going to be putting too much spending on it.

          I am glad this works out for some people and this is a good data point that you should book by phone.


  7. rony says:

    First of all thank you for all the very useful information. Opened my eyes.
    I recently jumped into aeroplan with TD infinite visa. Now I know it’s nothing special.
    So I did a little research and wondering what is your opinion on Scotia momentum visa.
    It seems to me as best option for return. Thanks.

  8. Matt says:


    I run a small business and am looking to get a business travel card, currently trying to decide between TD aeroplan business visa (30k signup bonus) and RBC avion business (15k bonus). I usually fly about once a month around Canada (Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver) and am wondering if the TD aeroplan would be my best bet, based on intra-Canadian flights. I hear aeroplan is a bad program but am finding it hard to get an honest opinion from someone who regularly uses the card and is somewhat intelligent about the process. Given id usually have a few week notice to book in advanced, and would be traveling within Canada, is aeroplan worth it?

    Thanks for any info.

    • thepointster says:

      Thanks for the comment. I would say that if you want intra-Canada travel, then you are sort of stuck with eithe Aeroplan or Westjet. The RBC Avion card really wont help you discount your travel within Canada, only because Westjet Dollars are no better than cashback.

      Read this article:

      My thoughts would be that Aeroplan would be a good bet for you, but maybe even a straight 2% cashback card like a World Elite card. An SPG Amex might not be bad either but in reality, if you are looking to earn points that you are able to use to buy intra-Canada travel, I think your best bang will come from Aeroplan or cash. Aeroplan obviously can generate you more savings, but if you are not flexible, those points might end up being useless. Cash is always safe and steady, but be sure to talk to your tax advisor on that issue as you may end up having to pay tax on cash rebates but not on travel point rebates.

  9. Barry McIntosh says:

    Alaska airlines card is one of the best when the annual two for one anywhere is considered. Get one for yourself ,one for a companion and you are set for two trips per year for the price of one plus a couple of hundred bucks.. And that is not counting your air miles that can be used on many other airlines

    • thepointster says:

      I agree. I would say it is moving up in my mind. Still one of the best travel cards in Canada, easily.

  10. tracy says:

    Thanks for the information on cards.
    I’m currently looking for a card that I can redeem for vacation travel overseas with my family. Which card would be the best value? We usually fly sunwing and want a card that will redeem for full vacation packages but not force us to fly only one airline. Hotel and flights included.

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Tracy,

      The best cards in the Canadian market are the ones that are “Fixed Value Travel Points” or “Cash Back” cards. The reason is because those ones allow you to redeem for travel purchases (or cash) without being restricted to a single airline.

      Depending on your uses, I think Scotiabank American Express Gold has the ability to be the best for many people. Generally people who spend a lot at restaurants are going to benefit the most from that card. The BMO World Elite, Capital One World Elite or MBNA World Elite are great if you spend a lot in varied categories that the Scotiabank Amex does not privilege. Currently (until May 31) the BMO World Elite is giving $300 in credit after the first purchase so I would lean that way. The Capital One has a good ability to reduce the annuual fee so that is a preferred one for ongoing usage. MBNA World Elite is the simplest and the rewards are direct cash back instead of jumping through (minor) hoops to do a booking. If you go with the BMO World Elite do make sure that the flights that you would like to redeem your points for are available through the BMO travel site.

      If you spend enough to warrant an annual fee (ie more than $500 / month would warrant an investigation to higher level cards) then I think those are the best cards for most Canadians and your situation fits.

      I hope that helps.

  11. Diana says:

    Would the same cards you suggested to Tracy be the best in my situation as well? I’m looking to get the best value in accumulating points/cash for travel with my family. I have a td rewards visa card as my all around major cc. I was offered the TD aeroplan card which includes 15000 aeroplan miles, bonus 10000 miles after making $1000 in purchases, a 2 for 1 short haul reward and $250 hotel CAD credit. There’s a $120 annual fee. I thought it was a good deal before reading about all the difficulties redeeming aeromiles and the taxes included.

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Diana,

      I think that the advice I gave to Tracy applies to you as well.

      While I would suggest applying for that Aeroplan card and taking the benefits they are offering (you pay $120 annual fee but you are getting at least $250 hotel credit and 25k aeroplan miles… seems like a good deal), I would suggest that if you are looking for an every day spender, then the cards I suggest (Scotia Amex or Scotia Momentum, BMO World Elite or MBNA World Elite or Capital One Aspire) are probably best for you. THose are the cards that will get most people the best return for their spend. Especially if you are on a TD First Class right now, the BMO World Elite (for example) will just give you so much more of a return.

      The people who I suggest a frequent flier “points” card for (for example aeroplan) would be people who have specific target redemptions in mind and know that they will have enough opportunities to use their Aeroplan miles for a good return. If you have a BMO World Elite card, you would earn 2% back to use as you wish on travel whenever you use that. If you have an Aeroplan you get either 1 or 1.5 Aeroplan miles. SO if you buy something from a store, and you decide to swipe the Aeroplan card instead of the BMO World Elite, then you are essentially “buying” that 1 Aeroplan mile for 2 cents. That means when you redeem it, you have to consistently get better than 2 cents of value from your Aeroplan mile. I do an analysis on short haul trips using Aeroplan and the return on flights from Toronto (my home town) is between 0.52 cents and 0.83 cents each, on average for those flights. If you travel regularly from Winnipeg to Timmins then you would get good value, or if you travel on airlines that dont charge the fuel surcharge, then you would get good value from your Aeroplan miles.


      If you are “regular” folk, probably live near a big city and probably travel on 1 or 2 family trips each year, I would suggest a fixed value points or cashback card for your needs as you get a set value in return and you have flexibility to use those points as you wish.

      I hope that helps.

  12. Brenda says:

    I am looking to change from my RBC Avion Visa to the Capital One MC due to the 2x airmiles. I just haven’t seen a lot of value for my dollars spent on my current visa and find it taking forever to fly places. There are benefits to both, but I feel that the Capital One Card may be the better value. Thoughts???

    • thepointster says:

      I believe that the RBC Avion card has good value, but really only if you have a good way to use the miles in an effective way. If you are using the RBC Avion card and intending on redeeming your RBC points using the flight schedule, then you are not going to be doing as well as the Capital One card. The problem with RBC Avion is that you are essentially paying (by getting a lower earn rate) for the option of using your points to transfer to airline miles programs (British Airways Avios, American Airlines). If you have no intention of using your RBC Avion points in that fashion, then you shouldnt pay the large premium. It is kind of a long game.

      I think, for most Canadians, the fixed value travel points cards (ie Scotia Amex, Captial One Aspire World, MBNA WOrld Elite adn BMO World Elite) are the best cards as they give you all the flexibility you want and a good rate of return.

  13. Michaela Wooldridge says:

    I live in Vancouver. My travels are within Canada, the USA, and International. I am ready to give up on TD Aeroplan, which I did not choose, but which took over a previous Mastercard. Aeroplan is very difficult to redeem, especially when not able to plan a year in advance, and it is impossible to contact them when there are re-bookings or account issues to resolve. I am, however, curious about 2 of the top 5 cards being Amex products. I have an AMEX platinum card (with Airmiles) which largely stays in my wallet, as almost no-one accepts this card in Canada or Europe, and fewer and fewer in the U.S. As someone who wants a card for daily purchases, across categories, should I consider a different travel rewards card or a cash back card? I don’t relish the idea of paying taxes on cash backs when I’ve already paid taxes on the purchases that supposedly get me that reward. Thanks,

    • thepointster says:


      My suggestion would be to stick to cashback or fixed-value travel points (that are pretty close to cash back) cards. I think that the best value in Canadian marketplace is those kinds of cards. Travel Points such as Aeroplan are not good for the average person who doesnt spend tonnes of time figuring out how to maximize it. I say stick to rewards that are as close to fixed value / cash as possible.

      I like the Scotia Amex, but since in Vancouver, Amex is not as widely accepted I would go with one of the World Elite cards (Capital One Aspire, MBNA World ELite, BMO World Elite) or the Scotia Momentum Visa, depending on where you spend most of your money.

      If you are looking to reduce annual fees, then the MBNA Smart is a great one, but you also have lower earning levels commensurate wiht lower annual fees.

      In Toronto, I am finding that less places have been accepting Amex (generally small stores) but overall I still dont struggle to get use out of my Amex cards.

      I hope that helps.

  14. Kelly says:

    We collect on the Choice Rewards MasterCard program through the Credit Union system of financial institutions. We have not used the points yet and I am wondering if you have had any experience with these points for travel and how are they to deal with for redemption (they have a $25+tax non refundable fee to book through them. not sure if that compares to other cards.) Bottom line, how does this card compare to the others that you have talked about?

    • thepointster says:

      Hi the CUETS card is a very good one. It is a ~2% card that I would say is very close to the BMO World Elite card. I would classify that as a Fixed Value Points credit card as it is not a travel points card (as I have defined it). The return on that card is fixed value.

      That being said, the return is very good and among the best in Canada so you have a great card.

      The return can be used against a ticket and the amount of points you use is directly related to the price of the ticket.

  15. Peter says:

    Capital One is no longer partnering with Delta Airlines. I often fly Delta from Buffalo NY and would like a credit card that gives me Delta skymiles rewards. Is Alaska Air the best card for this or is there a better one ?

    • thepointster says:

      Alaska Air miles can be used to redeem on Delta flights. That might be a good option for you. Other than that the Amex Membership Rewards transfer at a rate of 1000MR = 750 Skymiles. That is not a great redemption.

      I would check out the redemptions on Alaska Air for some flights before you start earning them. I know that Alaska and Delta were in battles in Seattle but I think that might be settled now.

      Personally, i havent looked at earning skymiles in about a year since they stopped publishing their chart.

  16. Neil Palmer says:

    Capital One Delta Skymiles cards have not been offered for a while, and as of October 20, 2015 if you have one of these you can no longer use your card and your account will be closed as soon as the balance is paid off. No definitive word yet on what happens to purchases you made based on the Extended Warranty (double original warranty to a maximum of two years) after October 20.

  17. SH says:

    So Capital One Delta Skymiles MC will be coming to a close at the end of Oct. I’ve had their card for a few years earning miles with Delta. I’ve been happy until now =(. Are there other CC earning Skymiles offered in Canada? Do you know if they’ll partner with another company here?

    • thepointster says:


      I dont know if they are going to be partnering with anyone in Canada. I also have found that the Delta Skymiles card from Capital One was probably paying too rich rewards as it was doing 2 Skymiles / dollar spent in Canada. The US card pays only 1 Skymile / Dollar so that is like the Canadian one is paying 2.6X the US one.

      I dont know if they are going to partner with anyone here in Canada. They only way to get Skymiles is through Amex Membership rewards transfers at 1000 MR = 750 Skymiles. That is a pretty bad ratio if you ask me.

      Ill post if I hear something about it.

      • SH says:

        Thanks for the info. I’ll use the Alaska Airlines/MC credit card. I hope Delta can fine another company to co-brand with.

  18. Chuck says:

    We also had a Capital One Delta card and sad to see it go. We’re thinking of an Alaskan Airways card because Alaskan Airlines is a partner with Delta. If we go to the Alaskan Airlines site and fly from Detroit, it’s through Delta.
    The unfortunate part is that only 1 air mile is given per $1.00, not 2 miles like Delta.
    Your thoughts or is a SPG card a better deal?

    • thepointster says:


      IF you are looking for a miles type of card, then I think the Alaska Airlines credit card is a good one, as mentioned. The SPG will be better for you if you are planning on using it for Delta flights. Unforatunately, though, it seems that no other “travel points” card is going to get you clsoe to the return that you were getting with the Delta card.

      SPG will earn 1 point / dollar and transfer to Delta at 1:1 or 20K:25K.
      Alaska will be straight usage on Delta flights

      You MAY do better with a American Express Gold card as there are more opportunities for double points adn there is a healthy sign up bonus with the first year free. American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Delta at the rate of 1000 MR = 750 Delta so your return on general purchases will be lower, and you would need to make up for it with the category bonuses.

      Personally, I think that the best return comes from cashback / fixed points cards in Canada now. You can get 2% from a BMO World Elite or MBNA World Elite or 4% / 1% with the Scotiabank cards, and I believe that most people would do better with those types of cards.

  19. Fly Alberta/BC says:

    Help – which card/reward program is best for flying and renting vehicle in Alberta and BC


    • thepointster says:

      The best value would be one that gives a fixed return towards any travel or towards cash. There are no cards in Canada that specifically earn points in a car rental company frequent renter program, so to earn rental car discounts would have to be through redeeming fixed value rewards for those.

      Check out the Best Fixed Value cards in Canada/ link for my thoughts on those cards. Personally, I like the Scotiabank Amex if you spend a lot on restaurants, gas and grocery. Alternatively, I like the MBNA World Elite if your spending in those categories is less.

  20. Fly Alberta/BC says:

    Thank you for your reply….ideally, I would like the combination of a credit card and air miles that maximizes rewards for direct flights to Kelowna or Victoria from Calgary or Edmonton.

    It seems that the air miles reward program gives me the best chance for redeeming miles for direct flights.

    Just trying to decide which credit card.

  21. Joanne says:

    Need your advice. We’re considering the BMO world elite card for the travel redemption points. I live in Saint John, NB and can only fly out of here with Air Canada. Next option is to travel to Moncton and fly out with a few different airlines such as westjet and Porter. Just for fun I went to the BMO rewards travel site and searched cost of flights out of both Saint John and Moncton to Toronto from December 28 – January 4/16. Each option, even from Moncton, was over $500 one way which is crazy. If I looked up those same travel dates to Toronto on the AC, Westjet, and Porter sites I could fly one way for roughly $200 which is what I’m used to. I just don’t see the incentive in earning and redeeming points on this card if the flights are going to be too costly. Am I missing something?

    • thepointster says:

      That is a huge difference in price. I totally agree that if there is a difference in price between what you can buy with cash and what you can buy with BMO rewards, then those BMO rewards are not really worth a cent each.

      Given this, I would suggest you take a look at either the MBNA World Elite card, which gives returns as straight cash if you redeem for over $50. Alternatively, the Capital One Aspire World card, which reimburses you for any travel expense according to the schedule. If you spend a lot on groeries, gas and restaurants that accept Amex, then get the Scotia Amex gold or the momentum if you are heavy on gas, grocery and not so much on restaurants. All of these allow you to bok the travel from whichever provider you want and after the fact get your charge reimbursed using your points at their value (or according to their schedule).

      I hope that helps.

      • Joanne says:

        Before receiving your response I did more research and ended up going with the Capital One card. Interest rate is reasonable and the fact that you can book your travel needs anywhere and then have expenses reimbursed is what sold me. We applied for the card through RewardsCanada.ca and were eligible to receive a free $250 gift card to one of four retail options! This promotion is on until September 30.

        • thepointster says:

          That is great! I know that currently GreatCanadianRebates is also giving $250 for applying for this card as well.

          Also, the interest rate on the Capital One card should not be something that you are paying. If you are paying any interest to Capital One, you would be wise to get a 0% interest rate card or something with a much lower rate. I hope that helps.

  22. Nancy says:

    I live in Moncton, NB and currently collect Airmiles through my BMO World Elite. Available flights are very limited and must be booked several months in advance which has put me in a position of having to purchase flights outright. I am thinking of changing to RBC Avion or Capitol One Aspire. We travel a fair amount throughout North America. Which would be the better option?

    • thepointster says:

      RBC Avion is great if you are interested in playing the miles game. It seems that you are getting frustrated with the miles game that Air Miles program is pushing you to, so I would suggest one of Capital One Aspire, BMO World Elite or MBNA World Elite. The RBC Avion will get you access to airline miles cheaper than any other option, but then you are stuck iwth miles. If you want to use your points in a cash -like way (ie buy the ticket you want without being restricted to what is available), then I say use one of the 3 cards I suggest.

      The 3 I suggest are good options. They all have their advantages. MBNA World Elite is great as you get your return as cash. Capital One Aspire is good as the annual fee is reduced by the annual benefit. The BMO World Elite is good for the better coverages and higher than average sign up bonus, but going forward the high annual fee may not be worth it. They are all equally good. I personally keep the MBNA World Elite card, but they all have strengths and weaknesses.

  23. Tod Wright says:

    Do you know of any ‘credit card consultant’ that I can hire to advise me what is the best card for me? I currently charge about $150,000 a year to my BMO World Elite card but find that I have trouble booking direct air travel to San Francisco or booking business class travel.

  24. Frank says:

    i generally spend 30000 a month on my cibc visa and often fly business class! Is there a better option for a credit card! Hard to find seats at times

    • thepointster says:


      I think if you fly business class then traditional airline programs are good, such as Aeroplan and Alaska Air and American Airlines. THe problem is that you have the availability issue so you can really only use these miles ideally when it is not the high season. The points in htese programs can be traded for business class seats for good return on those points, provided it is not at the “busy” times and you can take the seats that are available.

      If you are not able to take what they give you (ie you have to fly at specific times), then you should take the best return you can for your spending. Ideally, this is an MBNA World ELite or BMO World Elite card or a Scotiabank Amex card are my personal favorites as I think they give you the best balance of flexibility in your points and high return. The points from any of htose cards can be used to purchase any travel that is available, so your points will have fixed value and you wont be able to buy your business class tickets at a “discount”. But as I mentioned above, you cant really buy those business class seats at a ‘discount’ during busy times.

      Ig uess it comes to this:

      you are flexibile in what specific flights you redeem for-> Aeroplan/Alaska Air / American
      you have to fly at certain times and need to redeem when you want to-> fixed value poitns programs such as Scotiabank amex, MBNA World Elite, BMO World ELite.


      I hope that helps.

  25. Greg Buchan says:

    Hey Pointster
    We live in Western Canada. We currently use our BMO World Elite Airmiles MasterCard for everything. We also have an Alaska Airlines MasterCard. At the moment we are not using this card for purchases, but pay the $75 yearly fee just to take advantage of the companion fare. Seems to me to be a cheap fee to pay to get a $99 fare every year. What do you think of the Airmiles program, as I have not heard any discussion on it?


    • thepointster says:

      I like both of those cards. The Alaska Airlines card is great especially if you are able to structure your trips to take advantage of a stopover. They allow a free stopover on any one way, so if you make your stopover in your home city, then you are basically doubling the value of your miles.

      In terms of Air Miles, I dont comment much on it because I dont find I have much to say about it. Personally I collect them as “cash” program and not dream program. The reason is because I live in Toronto (and most Canadians live in big cities). Every time I look for people to use their Air Miles, I find that they cant get better return than the cash program value. If you are living in a small/underserved market or you travel often off peak, you may find great value, but I havent really been able to find great value that would have me sacrificing tangible value (in terms of cash) for the potential value that I seem to never find, for my situations.

      Hope that Helps.

      • Greg Buchan says:

        Could you explain the stopover that Alaska allows? We live in Victoria, so not sure how we could benefit from that perk to double our miles.

        Thanks again

  26. Adilia says:

    What do you think about the new PC financial World Elite MasterCard no annual fee. I travel as at least once a year on a family vacation. I used to have a TD infinite visa and was thinking of getting either the scotiabank golf Amex or the Amex gold charge card. Which is the best card.


    • thepointster says:

      I like the new PC Financial World Elite. It is a great card.

      IF you would like to redeem points for travel, then I personally like the Scotia Amex (if you sepnd a lot at grocery, gas and restaurants…that accept amex). Otherwise, I like the MBNA World Elite since the return is a safe and steady 2% on everything. You decide how you want to use it.

      The Amex GOld is not bad, but only if you are going to transfer your points over to Aeroplan or British Airways. Personally I think Cashback is the way to go, but if you have a good use of Aeroplan miles or BA Avios, then Amex Gold is a great card. If you are going to use your Amex Gold points to offset a cash ticket, then you will be doing yourself a disservice as you will get much less value than if you did the MBNA or Scotia cards I suggest.

  27. John Cavanagh says:

    Live in Halifax N.S. Have TD visa aeroplan card.Been with aeroplan since 2001. Travel to Carribean 2 times yearly. Aeroplan getting bad.Flights with 2 & 3 stops -overnite to & from.Not Happy. What would be best card for travel to Carribean . Thanks John

    • thepointster says:

      Hi John,

      Up until the devaluation of American Airlines miles as of Feb, I would have said the RBC Avion card when transfering points to American Airlines. Since that is no longer in any way valuable to Canadians, I would say the best card is a cashback type card. My personal sugestion would be between the Scotiabank Amex (if you spend a lot on gas, grocery and restaurants…that accept american express) or one of the World Elite Cards (MBNA being the simplest).

      I have found that flights (at least in winter 2015 / 2016) have been cheaper in terms of cash fares than would otherwise have warranted based on the points prices. Ie, it would take less spending on a cashback credit card to earn the cash for the trip than spending on a points card to earn the points for a trip. Add the flexibility of choosing your own flights and you have a decent edge towards cashback type of cards.


  28. Dave says:

    I have a BMO World Elite Card and enjoy the lounge passes and insurance but was thinking of switching to the RBC Westjet Mastercard due to the $99 travel companion feature. I am not sure what card has better value for a Western Canadian consumer. The only thing i do not like is Hawaii is blacked out for the Westjet card. We travel twice per year but when all shakes out even spending $25,000-$35,000 annually does not get you great air value rewards. Maybe one US ticket.
    Any advice is appreciated

    • thepointster says:

      I think the Alaska Airlines card might be the best for you then, if you donot travel at peak times. THe problem is that alaska airlines miles earn frequent flyer miles so you are subject to availability. The Alaska Airlines program is great if you are Vancouver and can use Seattle as your airport as you cna really double the value of your miles (ie you get a free stopover in Seattle on every one -way you book).

      See just think Seattle instead of Portland in this situation.

      I think Alaska Aircard is much better for you. They also have an annual companion pass if I am not mistaken.

  29. Adam says:

    When come to travel rewards cc, I always look at how fast I could earn points. I found Aeroplan points is the best among all. Let me explain how I earned 105K points in just 3 months.
    1) 25K points from TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card – 15K welcome bonus points + 10K after spending $1,000 in first 3 months. Monthly fee is waived since I have the All-Inclusive account with TD. http://www.tdcanadatrust.com/products-services/banking/credit-cards/view-all-cards/aeroplan-infinite-affiliate-custom.jsp
    2) 25K points from American Express Gold Rewards Card – 25K welcome bonus points after spending $500 in first 3 months. No annual fee for the first year. Transfer points 1:1 to Aeroplan points. https://www.americanexpress.com/canada/en/mgm/mgmeeApplynow.cgi?mgmerCard=goldCard&MGM_URN=AAAADw0bGhoXFQ==&CPID=999999370&om_rid=NwFUyL&om_mid=_BWruZQB8c1RmeL&om_lid=amex14
    3) 15K points from referral. Once I had the Amex Gold, I refer myself to the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card.
    4) 30K points from American Express Business Gold Rewards Card – 30K welcome bonus points after spending $5,000 in first 3 months. No annual fee for the first year. https://www.americanexpress.com/ca/en/content/small-business-gold-card/?filter=Rewards-customer
    5) 10K points by spending $6,500 with these 3 credit cards in first 3 months, which is about $2,200 per month.

    So the total is 25K + 25K + 15K + 30K + 10K = 105K. With 105K points, it is enough to make a round-trip for 2 people in First Class across North America, each cost 50K points. That’s $4,000+ value in total.

  30. michelle says:

    I have had my American Express SPG card for around a year now and I am looking to get another card solely for work related expenses. I will be traveling for work every other week for a full week and my work card will have heavy usage.

    I got the American Express SPG card because I have family in Hong Kong and was interested in both the welcome offer and being able to transfer the points into Asia Miles 20k points to 25k miles. I would ideally like another card that can either contribute to Asia Miles/ allow me to redeem a flight to HK (but it seems that there isn’t another one), allow me to redeem flights to the US (mostly New York but other cities all around the country as well) or give me a substantial amount of cash back.

    I understand that this is a tricky situation and would really appreciate any insight you may have.

    Thank you!

  31. Elaine Windus says:

    Hi, have been reading your posts from the last couple of years and have found your information very helpful. I switched from CIBC Aeroplan to BMO World Elite around 2 years ago as my experience booking flights through Aeroplan was getting worse every time I tried it. After 9 months with BMO I was able to book a free return flight from Sault Ste Marie Ontario (my home town) to London Heathrow with no added fees or surcharges, plus the free lounge visits. With Aeroplan it would have cost me over $600. Since then I have had another bad experience with Aeroplan and have also heard horror stories from others about being stranded halfway around the world due to their incompetence and losing 800, 000 points which were simply wiped from their account due to inactivity over the past year. My husband also lost all the points on his account as he did not fly anywhere and forgot to swipe his Aeroplan card when getting gas at Esso.
    I had been saving my Aeroplan points for a long haul trip but now I have decided it is not worth the risk and I’m trying to transfer my points out. I have an RBC Avion card which I got earlier this year due to the promotion for no annual fee (for the first year} and 15,000 points bonus so this seemed the way to go. I transferred a small amount (15,000 Aeroplan points) first as suggested via points.com and Esso Extra, however the exchange rate was way lower than expected and I only got 1,500 RBC Avion reward points. Is this the going rate or did they make a mistake?

  32. NICOLE says:

    I compared several travel rewards card and decided to go with Scotiabank Gold American Express because on top of earning rewards points, it offers extra benefits such as out-of-country travel insurance, loss of baggage, rental car insurance and more. I selected the $99 annual fee card, however if you travel extensively, they have other cards with higher annual fees that offer even more benefits, such as airport lounge discounts etc. For those that travel extensively, that would be worth their while.

  33. I fly to Dallas and Toronto and not very savvy about how to maneuver to get the best travel miles from so many options out there. It took about 48,000 for a return flight to Toronto using RBC Visa plus $180.00 cash. Seemed high to me, but it was what it was. I heard that Delta has the best direct flights and times, but do not know where to get the best travel miles in January. Which card would you suggest for one annual trip to both destinations or maybe add Mexico or Eastern Canada on next year. Is there a good time or month to book flights which are more economical? Thank you.

    • thepointster says:


      If you are traveling YYZ-DFW regularly, then your best bet for that route would be to use BA Avios. It is 7500 / way + taxes, assuming you can find space. That would work out to 15K Avios + CAD$60/ roundtrip. Flights would be on American Airlines, but you are using BA Avios to pay for the trip. BA Avios have no last minute booking fees either.

      BA Avios can be earned by transfering 1:1 from RBC Avion points or 1:1 from American Express Membership Rewards Canada.

      Your best card would potentially be the RBC Avion (assuming you are limiting your fee) or an American Express Gold Rewards card as those would allow you to earn something that can transfer to BA Avios.

      The BA Avios Program

      Best Way to Travel to USA Destinations from Toronto

      RBC Avion Card

      American Express Membership Rewards Canada

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