Canada’s best travel credit cards 2022
These impressive travel cards can help turn your everyday spending into flights, hotels and more.
These impressive travel cards can help turn your everyday spending into flights, hotels and more.
With a good travel credit card in your name, going on a trip can suddenly become more affordable (when you are ready to travel again, of course). And, you can get even more value if you sign up for the right travel credit card—one that doesn’t just focus on points, but also has perks such as lounge access, amazing insurance coverage and the flexibility to transfer points between cards.
The card you choose should be based on the type of travel you enjoy, how you use your credit card (and on what purchases) and which 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.
These are credit cards offered by Ratehub partners. You can find information about additional card options below.
This card makes it easy to earn a ton of points on everyday purchases. In the top tier, groceries, entertainment and dining earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per $1. Gas, public transit and streaming services earn 3 points per $1. And everything else earns 1 point on the $1. This card works in the Scotia Rewards environment, a flexible program that allows cardholders to collect points toward travel, merchandise or even a cash credit on their account. While all these choices are terrific, this card is best known for how it helps Canadians travel. Cardholders can book their travel on any airline either through the Scotia Rewards Travel portal or on a different site where applied points will result in a statement credit. In both cases, 5,000 points are worth $50 in travel. And there’s no foreign currency conversion fee—this will automatically save you the 2.5% to 3% that most cards automatically charge on purchases abroad.
The Scotiabank Gold American Express offers travel insurance that covers you for up to 25 days per trip (3 days for seniors), and the card entitles you to access presale concert tickets with American Express Front Of The Line service.
Get more details about the Scotiabank Gold American Express*
With an incredible earn rate of 5 points per $1 spent on food and drinks, the American Express Cobalt card is a winner for those who eat out—and the dining category is quite generous as it includes grocery stores, restaurants, bars and even food delivery services.
Getting 2 points per $1 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 trips. For frequent flyers who are always on the move, this reward is twice as much as what you’d earn from the Scotiabank Gold American Express (below) on flights and hotel stays.
Other benefits include access to the Fixed Points Travel Program (which lets you maximize your points on round-trip flights), hotel transfer partners, American Express Invites and a good travel insurance package—but note that it doesn’t include trip cancellation insurance. However, you can add additional authorized cardholders for free.
Get more details about the American Express Cobalt*
If you want the opportunity to earn travel rewards but don’t want to pay an annual fee, we recommend the MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard. As a new cardholder, you earn MBNA Points Earn 4 points for every $1 spent on groceries and restaurants and 2 points per $1 spent on other categories, up to $10,000 spent, after which the earn rate becomes 1 point per $1. This is a great opportunity to beef up your points cache, particularly with these frequently used earnings categories. Be aware that these rewards are capped annually at a maximum of $5,000 in each category. Spends over this amount will be rewarded at the regular 1 point per $1 rate.
There’s a 10,000-point bonus with this no fee card, which works out to about $100 in travel. Another major benefit to this card is that when you book travel with your MBNA points, you can book with any airline you wish. In addition to the usual purchase protection and extended warranty, car rentals with Avis or Budget may be discounted. Unfortunately, the MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard doesn’t have travel emergency coverage.
Get more details about the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard*
If you’re looking for a travel credit card with the Visa badge on it and want a rewards program that’s extremely easy to understand and flexible, consider the TD First Class Visa Infinite.
With this card, you’ll get 3 TD Rewards points for every $1 you spend on everyday purchases. Even better, you get 9 points per $1 when booking travel on ExpediaforTD.com and charging it to your account.
You can redeem TD points for a huge range of travel rewards from Expedia For TD from its hundreds of airline, hotel, resort and car rental agencies, all available on Canada’s largest travel platform. TD point values are easy to calculate and don’t fluctuate depending on the destination and/or when you’re travelling. And 1 point always equals $0.005 when redeemed for travel at the Expedia For TD site.
Get more details about the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite*
The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card is the first Visa card offered by BMO, and it doesn’t disappoint, especially if you spend big on food and transit
The earn rate is 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on groceries, dining, gas, public transit, taxis and ride shares when using your card. You’ll earn 1 BMO Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases. It’s worth noting that 1 BMO point is worth $0.0071 when redeemed for travel. That means you’re getting an effective earn rate of 3.5% back in points on dining, groceries, gas and transit spending, while all other purchases only earn you 0.7% back. BMO Rewards points are quite flexible, since you can book just about any type of travel through the BMO Rewards travel portal. Plus, every January, you receive a $50 lifestyle credit, which is a nice touch.
Get more details about the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite*
Right now, this card comes with a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 points.
Another appealing aspect of the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is that the annual fee is waived for the first year. The four free annual airport lounge passes are good at any over 1,000 lounges that part of the Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey network, which is basically the same as having a Priority Pass. Furthermore, Mastercard is more widely accepted than some of the other card providers. You can use it to shop at stores like No Frills and Costco.
Get more details about the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard*
Aeroplan relaunched in November 2020, and with it came new benefits for the Aeroplan branded credit cards.
The earn rate is 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on gas and groceries. All other purchases earn you 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent. In addition, the primary cardholder and travelling companions on the same itinerary (up to nine people total) get their first bag checked free on Air Canada flights. You’ll also receive preferred pricing and can often book Air Canada flights using fewer points.
Aeroplan changed its rewards program so that now every seat can be available for redemption with no seat restrictions or carrier surcharges. You’ll also have the ability to add stopovers on each one-way flight (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for a nominal 5,000 points—further boosting your points values. While this makes it easier to redeem your Aeroplan points, figuring out the points values, well, isn’t as simple. You’ll need to consult Aeroplan’s dynamic redemption chart, as the number of points required for a free flight depends on dates and destination.
In addition, the insurance suite has been enhanced and now includes mobile device insurance and better travel insurance. For travel medical insurance, TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite gives you $1 million in coverage for 21 days, if you’re 64 and under. (Those 65 and older only get four days.)
Income requirement: $60,000 or $100,000 as a household
Get more details about the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite*
If you fly with WestJet regularly, consider this card. You’ll earn WestJet dollars on all your purchases, and earn even more rewards when you book with them. You’ll get 2% on WestJet flights and WestJet Vacations packages, and 1.5% back on all other purchases. But, since you’re earning WestJet dollars as opposed to getting actual cash back, you’re limited to WestJet purchases when redeeming your rewards. However, the welcome bonus is decent, especially if you have travel on the horizon: you’ll get 450 WestJet dollars (cash value up to $450) when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Then you’ll save $240 with free first checked bags for a family of four travelling on the same reservation.
That standout feature of the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is the annual companion voucher that starts at $119. When the primary cardholder purchases a full-fare, round-trip ticket from WestJet, they can use a companion voucher to purchase another ticket at a discount. That second ticket would cost you $119 plus tax and third-party fees to fly anywhere within Canada and the continental U.S., or $399 plus tax and third-party fees for travel to the rest of the WestJet network.
Instead of focusing on the best sign-up bonus or the highest earn rate, some travellers prefer a credit card they can think of as a kind of partner on their journeys. That’s where the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card comes into play: It was clearly designed for world travellers.
The card comes with no foreign transaction fees, so you’re saving money whenever you make a purchase in a foreign currency. You also get six free airport lounge passes each year, travel insurance and a sign-up bonus (see below). This card is a great option for people who want just one credit card they can use at home and abroad without many worries, while taking advantage of the variety of travel benefits included. Another bonus: Visa card users can be assured of wide acceptance, wherever they are in the world.
Get more details about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card*
For those who want reliable, flexible rewards from their travel card, but crave simplicity, too, the MBNA Rewards World Elite is worth a look. You’ll earn 2 points per $1 on everything—no need to be strategic with your spending or think about bonus categories. And because it’s a Mastercard that earns twice the reward points of most other travel cards and earns them across the board, it’s arguably one of the best options for Costco shoppers. New cardholders get a kickstart to the tune of 20,000 bonus points if you spend at least $2,000 within the first 90 days; that’s a value of up to $200, depending on how you choose to redeem, and if you’re saving up for something big, you can relax knowing that points don’t expire. (You can boost your points-earning potential by adding up to nine authorized card users in your household or family at no additional cost.)
Redemption is flexible, too: 100 points equals $1 in travel rewards (or 1% return). You can also choose to trade your reward points for a wide variety of gift card options (including some e-gift cards that allow you to avoid the shipping costs associated with receiving a physical card). Here, too, the rate of return is impressive at 0.9 cents per point; most other travel cards don’t offer such great value on gift-card redemptions.
So, what’s not to like? Compared to competitors’ offerings, this card under-delivers on its provided travel insurance. You’ll get lost document and ticket replacement, lost luggage and legal assistance, but there’s no travel medical insurance included.
Get more details about the MBNA Rewards World Elite*
When Marriott merged their loyalty program with Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, consumers had a lot of questions and concerns. The good news is the deal is done and the resulting program—and the attached credit card—easily earns a spot in this best-of travel list. It’s tough to know just where to start with the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express. For many, it’s the one free hotel stay each year every member receives.
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express also offers a multiplier of up to 5x the points per $1 on spends at Marriott Bonvoy properties, and 2 points per $1 on everything else. Frequent travellers will find it’s easy to earn, and the points themselves are spectacularly flexible. Coming from the rewards program of world’s largest hotel conglomerate, Marriott Bonvoy points can be redeemed for free hotel stays at more than 7,000 hotels worldwide including at Marriott, Delta, Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard properties and more. Additionally, you can transfer your points to more than 40 airline programs, including Aeroplan.
The card’s insurance package is quite strong, including $500,000 in travel accident coverage, car rental theft and damage protection and hotel/motel burglary insurance—but do be aware that it lacks travel emergency medical coverage. Overall, this is a very strong card for frequent travellers looking to maximize loyalty perks on their hotel stays.
Get more details about Marriott Bonvoy American Express*
As one of the most valuable—and potentially life-saving—perks in a travel credit card, insurance is a highly competitive part of any package. The National Bank World Elite Mastercard gets our nod for two main reasons: It offers a higher than average coverage amount and it has an excellent package for people over 65 years.
Cardholders of the National Bank World Elite Mastercard have included trip cancellation (up to $2,500 per person), trip interruption (up to $5,000 per person), flight delay (up to $500 per person over 4 hours), and insurance against baggage theft, loss or delay. Additionally, there’s up to $5,000,000 in out-of-province-of-residence medical or hospital insurance—for 60 days for folks under 54 years old, 31 days for those between 55 and 64, and 15 days for travellers aged 65 to 75.
This insurance package is outstanding on its own, but coupled with extra perks like VIP lounge access at the Montreal airport, travel rebates and overall travel assistance, the National Bank World Elite Mastercard is setting itself up to be an excellent all-around travel card.
Get more details about the National Bank World Elite*
What’s a travel card without travel insurance? If you want to avoid this added expense when you’re on the move, the Rogers World Elite Mastercard gives you coverage without an annual fee. Not only does this no-fee card include valuable travel insurance, including emergency medical coverage and trip cancellation coverage, it also has rental car insurance. It boasts a few other perks, like free Boingo Wi-Fi and access to airport lounges, but its other main selling feature is its ability to earn you cash back. For every $1 spent on the card you’ll get back 1.5% (or 3% if it’s in U.S. currency). And, new members get a $25 welcome bonus applied to their account as soon as they make their first purchase.
Air Miles is one of the most popular rewards programs in the nation. In this program, you can earmark Miles for Cash Rewards, which allow you to redeem for money back, or Dream Rewards, where you can get travel, gift cards and merchandise. When you shop with the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, you’ll earn 1 Mile for every $12 you spend on the card, but that triples when you shop at partner stores. Those who use their Miles towards travel will like the included travel and medical insurance, the complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, and the 15% discount on flights in North America booked using Air Miles with no blackout dates. New members get a solid head start on their rewards cache. When you spend $3,000 in the first three months, you’ll get 2,000 Miles, a bonus worth $210 in Air Miles Cash. Plus, the $120 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Get more details about BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard*
|Credit card||Best||Annual fee|
|1||American Express Cobalt||Travel card for everyday spending||$120|
|2||Scotiabank Gold American Express||Travel card for everyday spending||$120|
|3||MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus||No fee travel card||$0|
|4||TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite||Visa travel card (flat rate)||$120|
|5||BMO eclipse Visa Infinite||Visa travel card (dining and transit)||$120|
|6||BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard||Mastercard travel card||$150|
|7||TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite||Airline credit card (Air Canada)||$139|
|8||WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard||Airline credit card (WestJet)||$120|
|9||Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite||No FX fee travel card||$139|
|10||MBNA Rewards World Elite||Flat rate travel card||$120|
|11||Marriott Bonvoy American Express||Hotel card||$120|
|12||National Bank World Elite||Travel insurance||$120|
|13||Rogers World Elite Mastercard||Best no fee card for travel insurance||$0|
|14||BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard||Best credit card for earning Air Miles||$120|
Not all travel reward programs are created equal. So how do you choose the right one for you?
First, it’s important to understand that travel rewards programs can be broken down into two basic types: Consistent and chart-based.
With consistent points programs, the value of the points is always the same. With BMO Rewards, for example, 140 points equals $1 in travel rewards, and that’s always the case.
But with chart-based programs, the value of your points depends on different variables for redeeming, such as your destination, price of the ticket, when you plan to travel and more. This type of travel reward program operates according to a reward chart to help you calculate how many points you need when redeeming. It’s worthwhile to note that in some rare cases, like the American Express Membership Rewards Program, you might get to choose to redeem points for travel either as a consistent system or as a chart-based system.
Many of the big banks offer consistent points travel reward programs. They’re aimed at people who want to operate within a simple program that has an easy-to-understand redemption process; people who dislike complicated programs will appreciate these. Chart-based programs can be considerably more complicated—but also potentially more valuable. Since the number of points needed to redeem for a flight isn’t consistent, using the rewards chart strategically can help you stretch the value of your points and net a higher return when flying on certain routes, or even when booking premium seats or business class. These programs are more popular with personal finance enthusiasts and left-brain thinkers.
Every travel rewards program makes its own rules about the earn rate, value and redemption process for your points. No wonder it’s confusing to even try to compare them. There are a few things to keep in mind.
In almost all programs, travel rewards offer a better value when you redeem points for flights or hotel stays rather than, say, for merchandise or a statement credit (the latter tend to give you an average of 20% to 40% less for each point). You can also use points toward gift cards, but do your homework and go for the options with the highest returns. For example, if you can redeem 5,000 points for a $10 gift card from a retailer or $8 in statement credits, you may want to opt for gift cards since they offer more value.
While travel might not be the top imperative in your life right now, in most programs, points don’t expire, so you can save them for future travel.
If you’re not much of a traveller, consider a cash back credit card instead.
For the best travel credit cards of 2022 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.
‡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.
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