With a good travel credit card, travel suddenly becomes affordable. And it helps if you sign up for the right travel credit card—one that doesn’t just focus on points, but also has perks like companion flights, amazing insurance coverage and flexibility with transferring points between cards.
Which card you choose should be based on the type of travel you enjoy, where you spend the most money, and what additional travel benefits fit your lifestyle. To help you pick the perfect card, we’ve come up with a list of Canada’s best travel credit cards based on different categories.
The best travel credit cards in Canada 2019
- American Express Cobalt — Best travel card for dining and transit
- Scotiabank Gold American Express — Best travel card for everyday spending
- BMO World Elite MasterCard — Best sign-up bonus
- Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card – Honorable mention
- More on the best credits cards – View a full list of top cards by category
- Our methodology – For greater insight into our rankings
Best travel credit card for dining and transit
With an incredible earn rate of 5 points per dollar spent on eats and drinks, the American Express Cobalt card will earn you the most travel points when it comes to food. The dining category is quite generous as it includes grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and even food delivery services.
Getting 2 points per dollar spent on travel is no joke either. Travel typically refers to just flights, hotels, and vacation packages, but with this card, it also covers gas, public transportation, taxis and Uber.
Other benefits you get include access to the Fixed Travel Program, hotel transfer partners, American Express Invites and a good travel insurance package but note that it doesn’t include trip cancellation insurance.
- Annual fee: $120 ($10 monthly)
- Welcome bonus: 30,000 points (2,500 per month, for 12 months when you charge a minimum of $500 to your card each month)
- Earn rate: 5 points per dollar spent on eats and drinks, 2 points per dollar spent on travel, 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Additional benefits: American Express Invites, Travel insurance
Best travel card for everyday spending
The Scotiabank Gold American Express has been a long time favourite for Canadians since you earn 4 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, dining and entertainment. Although it’s not the highest earn rate out there for some categories, you’re essentially earning 4 times the points on the most popular spending categories. All other purchases earn you 1 point per dollar spent.
What people love about this card is that you earn Scotia Rewards points which are very flexible. You can book your travel through the Scotia Rewards Travel Portal or you can book any type of travel on a different site and then simply apply your points to get a statement credit. In both cases, it takes 100 points to claim $1 in travel so the vale of your points is the same regardless of how you make your reservations.
The included travel insurance covers you for 25 days per trip and includes every major type of travel insurance so you can go on vacation knowing that you’re protected.
One additional benefit that comes with the card that’s often overlooked is price protection. If there’s a price drop on one of your purchases within 60-days of your purchase, Scotiabank will credit you the difference.
- Annual fee: $99
- Welcome bonus: 15,000 points when you charge $1,000 to you card in the first 3 months
- Earn rate: 4 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, dining and entertainment, 1 point for per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Additional benefits: Priority Pass Lounge Access (no free passes), travel insurance
Best travel credit card for a sign-up bonus
Right now, the BMO World Elite MasterCard comes with a sign-up bonus of 35,000 points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. Those points have a value of $250 which is quite generous.
Another appealing aspect of the card is that the annual fee is waived for the first year. Normally, you would pay $150 for that fee so in essence, your sign-up bonus in the first year is worth up to $400.
The four free annual airport lounge passes are good at any Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey which is basically the same as Priority Pass lounges.
One thing to note, it takes 140 points to claim $1 in travel. This isn’t a big deal since the earn rate is still decent, but it may not be optimal for those who spend a lot on travel, dining and entertainment.
- Annual fee: $150 (first year free)
- Welcome bonus: 35,000 points when you charge $3,000 to you card in the first 3 months
- Earn rate: 3 points per dollar spent on travel, dining and entertainment, 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Additional benefits: Airport lounge access with 4 free annual passes, travel insurance.
Although the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card doesn’t give you the highest earn rate, it does come with a welcome bonus that’s worth $250 when you charge $1,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. There is an annual fee of $139 but you do get some additional benefits that are appealing to frequent travellers.
The card comes with no foreign transaction fees which means you save on the 2.5% fee that most credit cards charge when you make a purchase in a foreign currency. In addition, you get a free Priority Pass membership and 6 free annual airport lounge passes which is the most for a card that has an annual fee of $150 or less.
This card is a great all-in-one travel card for people who love to travel and are more interested in having a card with different benefits than getting the highest earn rate possible.
- Annual fee: $139
- Welcome bonus: 25,000 points when you charge $1,000 to you card in the first 3 months
- Earn rate: 2 points per dollar spent on grocery stores, dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases, 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Additional benefits: No foreign exchange fees, airport lounge access with 6 free annual passes, travel insurance
Canada’s Best Travel Credit Cards – Net Annual Rewards
|Card||Net reward (excluding 1st year sign-up bonus)|
|American Express Cobalt||$501|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express||$546|
|BMO World Elite||$244|
In-Depth: THE BEST CREDIT CARDS BY CATEGORY
- Overall Best Credit Cards in Canada
- Best Rewards Credit Cards
- Best Cash Back Credit Cards
- Best No Fee Rewards Credit Cards
- Best Low Interest Credit Cards
- Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- Best Student Credit Cards
For the Best Travel Credit Cards 2019 ranking, MoneySense tapped into Ratehub.ca’s‡ credit card tool and ran the numbers for travel point cards based on $2,000 in monthly spending. We used the following scenario: $500 on groceries, $200 on gas, $200 on restaurants, $125 on bill payments, $175 on travel, $225 on entertainment, $75 on pharmacy purchases and $500 on everything else.
The annual net reward in dollar terms was then used to identify the top travel cards for each type of spender, as well as an honorary mention. Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including welcome offers, the range of spending bonus categories, annual fee waivers, loyalty program flexibility and travel insurance perks.
—With Julie Cazzin
‡MoneySense.ca and Ratehub.ca are both owned by parent company Ratehub Inc. We may be partnered with some financial institutions, but this does not influence the “Canada’s Best Credit Card” rankings. You can read more about this in our Editorial Code of Conduct.