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: WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
- Runner-Up: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card
- 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:
- Best Insurance Travel Credit Card Winner:
- Winner: Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold
- Runner-Up: National Bank World Elite MasterCard
- Best Hotel Travel Credit Card Winner:
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) and get the first year annual fee waived – a value of $150 – making the card virtually free to try for a year and the welcome bonus free as well.
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 – without even paying an annual fee!
The Amex Gold Rewards card beats RBC’s Visa Infinite Avion card for four reasons. First, it has a higher sign-up bonus. Second, Amex waives the first year annual fee. Third, you can earn double points on travel expenses (in addition to gas & groceries). Fourth, 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:
The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
An airline travel card puts miles directly into your airline frequent flyer account. Airline credit cards have their perks – waived bag fees, lounge access, priority boarding & check-in, and so on – while a more general travel credit card might offer higher earning potential and greater flexibility.
- Why It’s a Winner: RBC and WestJet teamed up to provide frequent travelers with a powerful system for earning WestJet dollars thanks to the World Elite Mastercard. Apart from the accompanying WestJet dollars, some valuable benefits and protective features help to solidify this option as Canada’s top airline rewards card. New cardholders will appreciate RBC’s generous gift of 250 WestJet dollars – an introductory bonus that represents a sizeable discount on an upcoming flight, or head start when planning their next vacation.
While the bonus is appealing, the consistent advantages that members will enjoy are just as valuable. Each year, customers receive one free companion voucher that allows them to purchase a seat for their friend or relative on the same itinerary, but at a significantly lower price. Within Canada or the United States, this round-trip companion flight costs just $99 when using the voucher. Those traveling to Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America will pay $299, and for trips to Europe the price increases to $399. To sweeten the deal, the cardholder and up to 8 companions can check their bags for free. Applicable to all WestJet’s international and domestic locations, the voucher plus baggage benefits alone save hundreds every year for cardholders who frequently travel.
Additionally, cardholders will earn WestJet dollars quickly and reliably when purchasing with the RBC World Elite Mastercard. On all expenses, points accrue at a rate of 1.5%, ensuring that members do not have to discriminate when it comes to shopping. For travel-related purchases through WestJet, the card accrues WestJet dollars at a 2% rate, and cardholders get 5% of their rewards back when redeeming them for airfare. To cap it all off, RBC protects members with an impressively broad set of insurance features, including trip interruption, travel medical, auto rental collision, purchase security and extended warranties as well. While it may cost $99 per year and requires an applicant to have good credit and personal income above $70,000, these hoops are worth jumping through. There are few credit cards available today that apply such a variety of benefits directly to travelers, and even fewer that save money so efficiently.
Runner Up: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Card
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:
Marriott Rewards® Premier Visa® Card
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: Earn 30,000 bonus points with your first purchase! That’s up to 4 free nights, with no minimum spend requirements – and it comes with no annual fee in the first year. Plus, get an additional free nights stay on your account anniversary date EVERY year at a category 1-5 hotel! To top it off, it doesn’t charge any foreign transactions fees on purchases outside of Canada. That’s a savings of 2.5% on non-Canadian purchases alone.
Not to be overlooked, Marriott Rewards ranks highest among hotel loyalty/rewards programs as ranked by J.D. Powers. Also Marriott Hotel’s has recently acquired Delta Hotels & Starwood. Their hotels can now be found worldwide with a brand for every price point – Delta, Sheraton, W, AC Hotels by Marriott, Autograph Collection Hotels, Courtyard, Edition, Fairfield Inn, Gaylord Hotels, JW Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club, Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, The Ritz-Carlton and TownePlace Suites.
Marriott has indicated it has no plans to merge the Marriott and SPG credit card programs until at least 2018. However, members can now link their loyalty accounts and transfer points between each program freely. We think that’s a great opportunity for Canadians to get both credit cards and merge the bonus points from each. You could end up with 90,000 Marriott Rewards or 30,000 SPG Starpoints by doing so!
Summary of Best Travel Credit Card Rankings in Canada
|Welcome Bonus||Annual Fee||Min Income|
|American Express Gold Rewards||25,000||1st Yr Free, $150 thereafter||$20K|
|WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard||$250 WestJet dollars||$99||$70K|
|BMO World Elite Mastercard||20,000||1st Yr Free, $150 thereafter||$80K|
|Marriott Rewards Visa||30,000||1st Yr Free, $120 thereafter||$30K|
|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.