Just how far can your Canadian travel credit card take you? Whether you’re a bargain hunter, snowbirder, frequent flyer or bonus surfer, we’ve evaluated the best travel credit card deals in Canada to help you soar in 2017.
To help us derive our rankings for the best travel credit card, we first measured the value per point of each rewards program. We checked how many points were required to fly on 15 different flights for each credit card and compared it to the lowest price of each flight, giving us the true cost per point of each rewards program. We did a similar exercise for hotels.
We then evaluated earn rates, credit card bonuses, annual fees, perks, insurance coverage, foreign transaction fees, ease of redemption, and travel opportunities to determine the best travel credit card in Canada for each travel card category.
Here’s the summary of the top ranked travel credit cards in Canada (full credit card reviews are below). Visit our Best Credit Cards in Canada page for more categories besides travel.
Best Travel Credit Card Rankings for Canada 2017
- Best Flexible Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: The American Express® Gold Rewards Card
- Runner-Up: RBC Visa Infinite Avion
- Best Airline Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*
- Runner-Up: WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard®
- Best “Book Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: The BMO® World Elite™Mastercard®
- Runner-Up: MBNA Rewards World Elite®
- Best Foreign Transaction Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: Rogers™ Platinum Mastercard®
- Runner-Up: Home Trust Preferred Visa
- Best Insurance Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold
- Runner-Up: National Bank World Elite MasterCard
- Best Hotel Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: Starwood Preferred Guest Card (SPG)
- Runner-Up: Best Western Rewards Mastercard
A description of each travel card category and a full review of each of the top ranked Canadian travel credit cards are as follows:
Best Flexible Travel Credit Card In Canada:
The American Express® Gold Rewards Card
A flexible travel credit card allows you to make any travel related purchase on your card, then call or go online to pay for it with your points, allowing you to benefit from the best deals or options you can find. Some even allow you to convert your points into an alternative frequent flyer program.
- Why It’s a Winner: The American Express Gold Rewards card is special because of its phenomenal rewards value and its unparalleled flexibility. Earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points (redeem for $250 against any travel or transfer to Aeroplan 1:1 for 25,000 Aeroplan miles).
Ongoing value is strong. Earn double points on gas, grocery, drugstore & all travel related expenses (air, water, rail and road transport, lodging and tour operator sales). Each Amex point is worth 1 cent. As a result, the base rewards rate is worth 1% and the bonus rewards rate is worth 2%. If you transfer your points to Aeroplan, the base rewards rate is worth 1.28% and 2.56% on bonus categories, which is stellar. The insurance package is phenomenal.
What makes this card the gold standard of flexibility in Canada however, is that you can book any travel related purchase (flight, cruise, train, hotel, or rental car) on the card, and then use your points to pay ANY of the travel expenses that show up on your statement, including taxes & fees. You can ALSO choose to transfer your Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan or British Airways AVIOS points 1:1 with no additional charges – secretly making this the most valuable Aeroplan card on the market. Pair this card with the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card below and you’ll have 50,000 bonus points to start.
The Amex Gold Rewards card beats RBC’s Visa Infinite Avion card for three reasons. First, it has a higher sign-up bonus. Second, you can earn double points on travel expenses (in addition to gas & groceries). Third, Amex allows you to redeem for any travel expense on your statement at full value, while if you redeem with RBC’s Payback with Points feature, you’ll get closer to half a penny per point.
In the end, Amex gives the cardholder additional flexibility to take advantage of promotions and cost saving opportunities in both the Aeroplan and Avios programs, without sacrificing any value if you decide to redeem for any travel purchase.
Runner Up: RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card
Best Airline Travel Credit Card In Canada:
BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*
For frequent fliers, there’s nothing better than an airline travel card. These cards reward members with travel miles, free baggage, VIP lounge access, and more for their purchases. Partnered with the excellent AIR MILES program, one of the best for Canadians who travel often and love flight rewards, the BMO AIR MILES World Elite card is a clear winner in this category. It’s hard to beat the welcome offer of 3,000 bonus miles and a waived $120 fee in the first year, and the card offers a wealth of benefits beyond that.
- Why It’s a Winner:We love the BMO World Elite line of cards for their premium rewards and the flexibility they bestow on cardholders. Adding 3,000 AIR MILES on top (1,000 miles after your first purchase, extra 2,000 after spending $3,000) makes the offer even better—it’s the equivalent of two short-haul flights. The miles are deposited in new accounts within 45 days (60 days for the extra 2,000 miles), making them easy to turn around and redeem on upcoming vacations or business trips.Meanwhile, cardholders will earn miles at a convenient rate of 1 per $10 spent. There are no limits on how many can be accrued, or which purchases qualify. Additionally, at a wide range of popular Canadian stores, using the World Elite card earns double the normal amount of miles. The card allows members to double-dip when redeeming as well. Those who use their miles to buy airfare get a 25% discount on the number of miles required. Because many intra-Canada flights cost around 1,000 miles, cardholders can quickly save up enough for a trip.No proper travel card would be complete without features that protect its holders, and the BMO World Elite is no exception. The card features a comprehensive array of insurance benefits, including protection against trip cancellation, collision and damage to rental cars, out-of-province and country emergency medical assistance and purchase protections as well. While these practical characteristics are a must-have, the card’s “cherry on top” has a more luxurious theme. Each cardholder will receive two free passes to the VIP airport lounge every year, usable at any of the hundreds of deluxe lounges that span the globe’s most popular terminals. Additionally, those who want lounge access more frequently will appreciate their new priority status, granting them unlimited entry with a small fee.All of this exceptional value is offered for no annual fee in the first year. Though applicants will be required to show a minimum of $80K in annual income, the card’s vast benefits justify its exclusive status.
Runner Up: WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard®
Best “Book Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” Travel Credit Card In Canada:
The BMO® World Elite™Mastercard®
A “Book Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” travel credit card allows you to redeem for any travel related expense on your credit card. You purchase travel on your card from any travel provider (airline, hotel, cruise, resort, theme park, car rental, etc…) then call or go online to redeem your points for the travel purchase.
- Why It’s a Winner: The BMO World Elite Mastercard offers cardholders unparalleled scope in how they can take advantage of the rewards they have earned. Additionally, for a limited time, BMO provides new applicants with a voucher that rebates the first annual fee of $150. These instant savings will help members to reduce their expenses even more in their first year, and make this World Elite card a contender for best travel card in Canada.
For a single initial purchase, cardholders will receive a bonus of 20,000 rewards points. This sum carries a value equivalent to $200, which they can immediately use to discount an upcoming hotel, rental car, flight or other travel expense. Saving points for the future is also a good idea, as they do not expire and can be spent at members’ leisure via the BMO online travel center. One can find a seat on any airline and to any destination, with no blackout dates or other limitations, and even redeem points for taxes and fees – a unique benefit that many travel cards do not have.
Customers also have the freedom to shop around for the best price, as BMO will price-match any travel purchase that is found to be cheaper elsewhere. Finally, if one does not have enough points to purchase the reward they want most, they can use whatever they have and simply pay the difference with their World Elite card – with no penalties.
During their travels and daily life, cardholders will earn rewards at a steady 2% rate on all their purchases. Additional benefits, like a priority pass to airport lounges worldwide and four extra guest passes for one’s companions, bring added value to the card. This alone is worth hundreds and allows the cardholder and their friends or family the opportunity to travel in luxury.
They will travel safely as well, given the impressive range of insurance features that come with the BMO World Elite Mastercard. Included are insurance for out-of-province travel medical, trip cancellation and interruption, trip delay, flight delay, car rental collision and loss, baggage, purchase security and extended warranties on new items. Overall, even considering that one will continue to pay their annual fee the second year, the benefits brought by the BMO World Elite card are more than worthwhile.
Runner Up: MBNA Rewards World Elite®
Best Foreign Transaction Travel Credit Card In Canada:
Rogers™ Platinum Mastercard®
Most banks charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5% on top of the near spot market currency conversion rate charged by Visa or Mastercard. A foreign transaction card charges no fees above the conversion rate, or provides extra rewards to subsidize the rate, meaning you’re getting pretty close to the spot rate when using the card to make a purchase in a foreign currency!
- Why It’s a Winner: While not a travel card per se, the Rogers Platinum Mastercard is one of only 3 credit cards in Canada that subsidize foreign transaction fees. It won the category because it offers 4% cashback on ALL foreign purchases, comes with no annual fee, a 1.75% rewards rate on all other spend & you can redeem against any expense – not just Rogers.Although Rogers subsidizes foreign transactions a little differently, it remains the best way to make purchases in a foreign currency. Most credit cards offer 2% or less rewards per dollar spent and charge 2.5% in foreign transaction fees, for a net loss of .5%. Others offer 1% cashback and no foreign transaction fees, for a net gain of 1%. Rogers offers 4% cashback on foreign purchases, with a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, for a net cashback gain of 1.5% – the highest of all. You’re making money on each dollar you spend in a foreign currency!
You can redeem your cash rewards as a statement credit once per year, for any balance owing on your credit card, including travel expenses. Alternatively, you can redeem your cash back any time for Rogers, FIDO, or Chatr services or products.
Rogers offers a $25 welcome bonus in cash back rewards when you make your first purchase within 90 days of receiving your card, no annual fee in the first year (savings of $29), and no annual fee ever if you set up your Rogers bill as a pre-authorized payment. This card does not have a very strong travel insurance package. It’s best to use abroad or for foreign internet purchases, but not to book your flight, if you want trip cancellation coverage.
The Rogers Platinum Mastercard beats out the Marriott Rewards Visa card for three reasons. First, Rogers comes with a higher net rewards rate on foreign transaction of 1.5% versus 1% for the Marriott card. Second, it comes with a richer rewards rate of 1.75% on all spend, compared to about 1% for Marriott. Third, you can redeem your points as cashback against any expense, including travel, not just Marriott hotels – making it more flexible.
Runner Up: Marriott Rewards® Premier Visa® Card
Best Insurance Travel Credit Card In Canada:
Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold
Whether you’re a snowbird, jaunt across the border, or go away for the annual family holiday, you can save big money and protect yourself and your savings with free travel insurance included on your credit card. It’s convenient, free, and exceptionally valuable.
- Why It’s a Winner: The Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold is available to every Canadian. Its inclusive credit card travel insurance is a tour de force that stands head and shoulders above the competition.
First, its travel medical insurance covers you and your family for 60 consecutive days, while out of province or country. Most other travel cards cover you for 15-25 days. Second, it offers travel medical coverage up to the age of 75 ( 60 days for ages up to 59, 31 days for ages between 60-64, and 15 days for ages 65-75)! Third, it covers you for up to $5 million in claims, most cover you between $1M to $2M.
Lastly, while the Odyssey covers you for trip cancellation up to $2,500 per person, if you have an unexpected return home it offers unlimited trip interruption insurance!
Desjardins’ Odyssey Gold comes with every major travel insurance coverage you’ll need, including out-of-province / out-of-country travel medical insurance, trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, baggage, car rental, travel accident, purchase protection, extended warranty & mobile device insurance.
Unfortunately, it comes with a $110 annual fee (pretty reasonable given the coverage), and only gets you a 1% earn rate on your spend. A great card for the coverage itself, but we’d probably recommend using another card to accumulate your rewards.
The Desjardins Odyssey Gold Visa card beats National Bank’s World Elite travel card for a few reasons. It offers more coverage to older ages. It offers unlimited trip interruption coverage and it has mobile device insurance, which National Bank does not.
Runner Up: National Bank World Elite MasterCard
Best Hotel Travel Credit Card In Canada:
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Hotel travel cards put your points directly into your frequent guest program accounts. Cardholders will discover benefits that both cut your travel costs and add another dimension of luxury and convenience to your hotel experience.
- Why It’s a Winner: The SPG card accrues 1 point for each dollar spent anywhere on anything. This provides a solid, constant source of rewards for daily spending activities. On top of this, the card will also earn 2 points for each dollar spent at any of Starwood’s hotels. This double-sided bonus structure results in one of Canada’s highest accrual rates and most luxurious rewards. Cardholders have the right to redeem their points on any room at any Starwood (or Marriott) brand hotel without blackout dates. They can also choose to convert their points for use with the airline rewards programs partnered with Starwood, and even receive a 5,000-point bonus for converting 20,000 or more to Aeroplan miles, for example. This makes the card one of the more flexible options for travelers.
To sweeten the deal, Starwood offers 25,000 SPG points to new cardholders who spend just $1,500 in the first three months of card membership. This is the equivalent of 5 free nights in a hotel. We recommend that cardholders who have a big purchase on the horizon apply for the SPG card and earn enough points to cover their next vacation’s lodging expenses. Other incentives include a free night’s stay in any Starwood hotel for those who spend more than $40,000 on the card annually (even a 5-star hotel) and an upgrade to Gold Status once cardholders hit $30,000 in spending.Feel free to check out our full review for a more in-depth analysis of Amex’s SPG card.
Runner Up: Best Western Rewards Mastercard
Summary of Best Travel Credit Card Rankings in Canada
|Welcome Bonus||Annual Fee||Min Income|
|American Express Gold Rewards||25,000||$150||$0|
|BMO AIR MILES World Elite||3,000 AIR MILES||1st Yr Free, $120 thereafter||$80K|
|BMO World Elite Mastercard||20,000||1st Yr Free, $150 thereafter||$80K|
|Starwood Preferred Guest from Amex||25,000||$120||$0|
|Rogers Platinum MasterCard||$25||$0||$15K|
|Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold||$0||$110||$15K|
Last Leg of The Journey
The best travel credit card for you will depend on your travel needs and spending habits. You’ll get the most from your card if you start-off with a great bonus offer, like the rewards program offered by the card, pay your balance in full each month, and consider which fees can best be balanced with bonuses, perks, and rewards.
Canadians are in a great position to try new travel cards that earn them more points, provide more benefits and better flexibility than the card in their wallet today. Take advantage and get more bang for your buck starting now.