The Best Travel Rewards Programs in Canada
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Best Travel Rewards Programs in Canada

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Last updated on May 12, 2021

Evaluating the various rewards programs in Canada can be very subjective. Do you judge a program based on its flexibility, how easy it is to earn points, or how complicated it is to make a redemption? Or perhaps it’s important to identify a program’s niche features that will appeal to specific groups of consumers?

No matter what you value most in a rewards program, one thing’s for sure: It’s very rare for Canadians to stick to a single loyalty program throughout their lives. And if you’ve been using the same rewards provider for a while, it might be worth your time to review the options out there. To that purpose we’ve analyzed the best travel rewards in Canada and how their programs work.

Travel Rewards ProgramRecommended Credit Card
Average Point Value
Flexibility*
Transfer Partners
Expiry Date
Aeroplan
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card$0.0109 average (value varies depending on flight)Good
No
18 months after account inactivity
BMO Rewards
BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®*
$0.0067
Good
No
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
TD Travel Rewards
TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card*
$0.005
Excellent
No
None with active account
Scotia Rewards
Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
RBC Travel Rewards / Avion
RBC Visa Infinite Avion
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
36 months
American Express Rewards
The Platinum Card®$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
Marriott Rewards
Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
24 months after account inactivity
AIR MILES
BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*
$0.105
Weak
No
24 months after account inactivity
MBNA Rewards
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®$0.01
Good
No
None with active account
CIBC Travel Rewards / Aventura
CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card
$0.0116
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
WestJet Rewards
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
$1
Excellent
No
None with active account

*Flexibility refers to the number of different redemption paths available, minimum number of points required to redeem, ability to redeem points for existing purchases, etc.

Aeroplan Travel Rewards

Air Canada recently purchased Aeroplan and there are still some lingering questions about what that means for the value of Aeroplan miles. But as of now Aeroplan is still one of the best travel rewards programs out there, as its miles can be used to redeem flights on Canada’s largest carrier and its partners.

Aeroplan has two options when it comes to redeeming flights: Fixed Mileage and Market Fare. As the name implies, fixed fares will cost you a set amount of points to fly to different zones as long as there is a reward seat available. With market fare redemptions, you get access to any seat that hasn’t sold, but you’ll pay the market price in points which is often significantly higher than prices in the fixed fare program.

Market fare prices can be lower than the fixed mileage seats, but that’s usually for routes or times that are less desirable. Some airlines charge high fees, taxes, and surcharges, so you need to keep that under consideration when booking a redemption flight.

A great thing about Aeroplan is that there are multiple Aeroplan credit cards where you can earn points, but an Aeroplan card that we particularly love is the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card:

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Current Promotion Expires: May 30, 2021
– Credit score required: Good-Excellent
– Min personal income required: $60000

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Currently, the card comes with a welcome bonus of 10,000 Aeroplan points plus new primary and all additional cardholders get an annual fee rebate in their first year. Even more, spend $1,000 in your first 90 days with the card and get a bonus Buddy Pass and another 10,000 Aeroplan points. There is an annual fee of $139 and a 19.99% interest rate on purchases as well as a 22.99% interest rate on both cash advances and balance transfers.

The earn rate is 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, gas, Starbucks (until Nov. 7, 2021), and aircanada.com purchases—for all other purchases you get 1 point per $1 spent. With this credit card, you can double dip your Aeroplan earnings at participating merchants. All you need to do is show your Aeroplan loyalty card first when paying and then charge your purchase to your TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card review.

BMO Rewards Travel

Admittedly, BMO Rewards is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s still among the best travel rewards in Canada since BMO will price match if you call into its customer service line. But keep in mind that you can only redeem your points when booking through their travel portal at a redemption rate of 150 BMO Rewards points for $1 in travel, which is a slightly lower value than the standard 100 points for $1.

The BMO World Elite™ Mastercard®*

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good/Excellent
– Minimum Income: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory.
– Other Requirements: No bankruptcies in the last seven years

The marquee card of the BMO Rewards program, the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®*, does come with some impressive features that counterbalance the relatively low value of a BMO Rewards point. It includes some of the best travel insurance offered by Canadian credit cards, a free Priority Pass membership, and 4 free annual airport lounge passes. New cardholders can get 30,000 BMO Rewards points if they make at least $3,000 worth of purchases with the card in their first three months of cardmembership, plus another 10,000 points on the 12-month anniversary of opening their account (for 40K points total—offer available exclusively via our link).

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* review.

TD Travel Rewards

TD Travel Rewards is a relatively flexible rewards program since it allows for a variety of different redemption options. If you’re booking travel through Expedia for TD (not to be confused with Expedia.ca), it’ll cost you 200 TD Points to redeem $1 in travel. This is the best value for consumers since you can book anything that is offered on Expedia for TD, which includes flights, hotels, all-inclusive packages, cruises, car rentals and attraction tickets.

You also have the option to redeem your points for any travel expenses that you have charged to your TD credit card, but it’ll cost you 250 points per dollar redeemed for the first $1200 of a travel charge and 200 points per dollar redeemed after that. This is obviously a lower redemption value than Expedia for TD, but TD’s definition of eligible travel expenses is quite generous as it not only includes flights but also air travel taxes, baggage fees, lodging, car rentals while travelling, and more.

The top-earning card for TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card:

TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Credit Score Required: Good-Excellent
– Min. Personal Income Required: $60000
– Standard Purchase APR: 19.99%
– Balance Transfer/Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
– Current Promotion Ends: May 30, 2021 
– Annual Fee: $120 (Annual Fee Rebate the first year)

The TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card offers particularly high earn rates when you book with Expedia for TD: 9 TD points per $1 spent on that platform, which is up to a 4.5% return rate on spending. Aside from that it also nabs 3 points per $1 spent on any other eligible purchase, which is up to a 1.5% return rate depending on how the points are redeemed.

And until May 30, 2021, new cardholders can take advantage of a nice welcome bonus, with a cumulative value of up to $470:

  • Annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder in the first year ($120 value)
  • Annual fee rebate for one additional cardholder in the first year ($50 value)
  • 20,000 bonus TD Points when you make your first eligible purchase with the card ($100 Travel value)
  • 40,000 bonus TD Points when you spend at least $1,500 in the first 90 days of account opening ($200 Travel value)

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card review.

Scotia Rewards Travel

There is no fixed travel program with Scotia Rewards, but you can redeem your points at a ratio of 100 Scotia Rewards for $1 through the Scotia travel portal or on travel expenses you’ve already charged to your Scotiabank credit card. There is a minimum redemption of 5,000 points for travel, but you can also apply that redemption to any fees, taxes and surcharges.

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good-Excellent
– Minimum Income: $12000

Although Scotiabank doesn’t have any travel related transfer partners, they do have some great cards that generate rewards very quickly. The Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card generates 5 Scotia Reward points for every $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants and entertainment, 3 points at gas stations, and 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other eligible everyday purchases.

The card is also currently offering a 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points welcome offer. For a limited time, open a new Scotiabank Gold American Express credit card account (“Account”) and earn a 30,000 Scotia Rewards point bonus with your first $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases if made within the first 3 months. Plus, earn a bonus 10,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $7,500 in everyday eligible purchases on your Account in your first year (Conditions apply). So if you frequently spend, you’ll constantly get rewarded.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® card review.


Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good-Excellent
– Minimum Income: $60000

There’s also the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card, which gives 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment and transit purchases, but comes with incredible benefits such as no foreign transaction fees, a free Priority Pass membership and six annual airport lounge passes.

Similar to the Scotia Gold Amex card, you’ll earn 30,000 points for spending $1,000 in everyday purchases within your first three months, but this card goes a bit further with its rewards and gives cardmembers a chance to earn 10,000 bonus points if you spend $40,000 annually.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card review.

RBC Travel Rewards

Some of the best travel rewards in Canada come from RBC. To book travel, users go through RBC’s travel portal, where they can redeem for flights, accommodations, car rentals, all-inclusive packages and cruises at a ratio of 100 points for $1.

What really makes RBC Rewards appealing is its Air Travel Redemption Schedule. The amount of points you pay depends on where you’re going, but quite often you’ll get a higher value than the 100 points for $1 offered through the travel portal. For example, it’ll cost 15,000 points for a short-haul flight with a base fare up to $350. If you want to go to Hawaii, it’ll cost 45,000 points with a maximum ticket price of $900, while flights to Europe with a ticket price under $1,300 require 65,000 points. You still need to pay for fees, taxes, and surcharges, but points can be used to cover those at a rate of 1 cent per point.

One other lesser-known benefit of RBC Rewards is its access to transfer partners. You can transfer 1,000 RBC points for 10 WestJet dollars or 1,000 Avios miles. Quite often RBC runs promotions that generate 30% more miles when transferring to Avios, so you can get an incredible amount of value of your points.

American Express Membership Rewards

If you’re primarily looking for flexibility, you should consider American Express Membership Rewards. Travel can be booked through the American Express travel portal, where you can redeem 1,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points for $10 in travel. Alternatively, you can charge any travel expense to your American Express credit card and then redeem your points toward that purchase at the same ratio.

American Express has multiple travel partners where you can transfer your points, but the two that give the most value are Aeroplan and Marriott Rewards. With Aeroplan, it’ll cost you 1,000 MR points to get 1,000 Aeroplan points (i.e. a 1:1 transfer). If you want Marriott Rewards points, you’ll get 1,200 points for every 1,000 MR points transferred.

American Express also has the Fixed Points Travel Program, which can be beneficial. Most of the redemptions require the same amount of points compared to Aeroplan, but with Amex, you get access to all seats available on any airline, so that means you get more options for your travels.

One of the best ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards is with The Platinum Card®.

The Platinum Card®

Apply Now
Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: Good-Excellent
– Min personal income required: N/A
– Annual fees: $699

The Platinum Card® comes with a hefty fee of $699 per year, but it also comes packed with commensurate benefits: an annual $ travel credit; an impressive array of perks worth $550 on average at over 1,000 partner locations; comprehensive travel insurance; Platinum experiences; etc. Every dollar charged to the card helps earn American Express Membership Rewards points, with 3 for each $1 spent on dining, 2 per $1 on travel and 1 point per $1 everywhere else.  New cardholders get a welcome bonus of 50000 points with a when you charge $3,000 in purchases to your Card in the first three months of Cardmembership. Those points have a minimum value of $500, but they could be worth more if they’re transferred to Aeroplan.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete The Platinum Card® review.

*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 link.

Marriott Rewards

With more than 6,500 properties in 110+ countries, not only does Marriott have the most hotels in the world, it also has the best hotel loyalty program in Marriott Rewards. What makes this program appealing is that it’s free to join and you earn points with every stay. Eventually, you can use your points to redeem free nights or experiences. Alternatively, you can transfer them to various airline programs.

If you frequently stay at hotels, then being loyal to Marriott really pays off as your status level increases when you accumulate more nights. Every time you hit a new status tier, you get additional benefits such as free breakfast and a higher earn rate on eligible expenses.

AIR MILES Travel Rewards

Some Canadians dislike AIR MILES due to the fact that it can be difficult to earn points quickly without an AIR MILES credit card, and making redemptions can be tricky. That said, there is a sweet spot to be found: If you book interprovincial flights through the AIR MILES Dream Miles option, you get an incredible value for your points since those flights typically cost a fair amount in cash. The amount of AIR MILES it takes depends on where you’re going and what season you’re flying, which complicates things a bit. But Air Miles does provide a helpful chart to show you what it’ll cost.

Alternatively, you can exchange 285 AIR MILES dream miles for a $30 e-voucher that can be used at Transat Travel locations across Canada. This is a decent option considering 950 cash miles gets you a $100 e-voucher at non-travel merchants, so there’s no loss in value.

The nice thing about AIR MILES is that they have a co-branded credit card with no annual fee in the BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*.

BMO AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $15,000
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Resident of Canada

You can double dip on points at AIR MILES sponsored locations and you’ll earn 3x the Miles for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners. All other purchases get you 1 AIR MILE per $20 spent and there is a welcome bonus of 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles with a when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. The nice thing about this card is that there is no minimum income requirement so it’s a good entry level card for those who want to start collecting AIR MILES.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®* review.

MBNA Rewards

MBNA Rewards points have competitive value: Points are worth $0.01 each when redeemed for travel (flight, hotel, car rental, etc.) and between $0.005–$0.0083 each when redeemed for a statement credit, depending on the credit card that was used to earn them. Points can also be redeemed for merchandise and gift cards, for which redemption values vary.

The most glaring weakness of the program is probably the fact that you can’t use points to pay for an independently booked travel purchase; you need to use MBNA’s own portal to book travel with points, though it’s worth noting that you can at least take advantage of MBNA’s Price Match Guarantee if you find better travel deals elsewhere.

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair/Good
– Minimum Income: N/A
– Age: Age of majority in province/territory
– Residency: Canadian resident

The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® can earn a colossal amount of points for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. New cardholders get 10,000 MBNA Rewards points when they simply sign up for paperless e-statements (5K points) and make $500 or more in purchases within the first 90 days (another 5K points). That’s on top of a special earn rate of 4 points per dollar spent on gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases during the first 90 days—after that period ends the rate is reduced to 2 points per $1 in those categories, which is still strong. All purchases outside gas, groceries, and restaurants earn 1 point per $1 spent. These earn rates are what regularly land the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® on our lists of the best credit cards for people with average credit scores and the best rewards credit cards in Canada.

Interest rates for the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® are standard, at 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for balance transfers, and 24.99% for cash advances.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® review. *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.

CIBC Travel Rewards

CIBC Travel Rewards has its own travel portal, which gives access to flights, hotels, car rental, and all-inclusive properties, but if you call the CIBC travel agency, you’ll also get access to anything sold on Expedia or Orbitz. This little-known trick allows you to make travel purchases such as cruises, tours, and attraction tickets. The redemption ratio is 100 Aventura points for $1 in travel.

There’s also the Aventura Airline Rewards Chart, which allows you to book travel at fixed prices. This is an attractive option since you can get a higher value for your points compared to when you book via the travel portal or CIBC travel agent.

For example, you could book a flight within a province, territory or U.S. state to an adjoining province, territory or U.S. state with a maximum base fare of $400 for 10,000 – 20,000 Aventura points. In many cases, that’s a better value compared to Aeroplan and RBC’s fixed schedule. Taxes and fees are extra, but you can use your points to pay for them.

CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good
– Minimum Income: $15,000
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Resident of Canada
– Annual Fee: $139 (first year rebate)

The CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card is a great earning card overall, combining a big welcome offer, decent earn rates, airport lounge access, and relatively low-barrier eligibility requirements. New cardholders can get up to $800 in travel value†! Plus, they can get a first year annual fee rebate†! Clients will receive 20,000 Aventura Points on first purchase and an additional 1,250 Aventura points for each month they spend at least $1,000, which adds up to another 15,000 points at the end of the year.

The card earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel booked through the CIBC Rewards Centre and 1.5 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases (up to $80K in all card purchases annually); all other eligible purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent. Cardholders are entitled to a Priority Pass Membership and 4 complimentary visits to airport lounges in the Priority Pass network each year, which is a US$227 value. The purchase interest rate is 19.99%; the interest rate for balance transfers and cash advances is 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents).

Those who are interested in the card and make more than $60K annually should instead apply for the CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card, which has a slightly better insurance package and identical features otherwise.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card review.

Quebec Residents: Learn More about this CIBC product here

Résidents du Québec : Pour en savoir plus sur ce produit CIBC, suivez ce lien

WestJet Rewards

When it comes to the best travel rewards in Canada for airlines, WestJet truly stands out. Unlike other airlines where you earn points, with WestJet Rewards, you earn WestJet dollars on WestJet flights, WestJet Vacation packages, car rentals, hotels and travel insurance booked online at westjet.com.

As soon as you enroll, you’re instantly awarded Teal tier status, which provides 0.5% back in WestJet dollars on flights. As you spend more, your tier increases, which garners additional benefits such as advanced seat selection and a higher earn rate. Silver, Gold, and Platinum tiers earn 3%, 5%, and 8% back in WestJet dollars respectively. Best of all, your tier stacks with the WestJet World Elite MasterCard, so you could earn up to 10% in WestJet dollars on qualifying purchases.

WestJet dollars can be used on any available seat found on westjet.com, which is superior to Aeroplan (where you have limited seat availability). Two criticisms to note about WestJet Rewards is that there is a minimum redemption of $25 and you can’t use your WestJet dollars to pay for fees, taxes, or surcharges.

How to Calculate the Value of Your Travel Rewards Points

It’s essential to have a good idea of the real value of a program’s travel rewards points before you select the rewards program or credit card for you. To figure out your cost per point (CPP), you would divide 1 by the number of points to earn $1 in travel. That means if it takes 100 points for $1 in travel, then your CPP is $.01. Alternatively, if it takes 140 points to claim $1 in travel, your CPP is $.007. Of course, you also need to factor in any fees, taxes, and surcharges you might pay when making a redemption.

You’ll also want to know how many points you can earn with a specific credit card, since the ability to rapidly earn points is just as important as their value when redeemed. If the value of each point is high, but you rarely earn rewards, or earn a low amount, the card is probably not the right choice for you.

*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.

 

Author Bio

Barry Choi
Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at MoneyWeHave.com. He has been quoted by media in Canada and the United States, including The Financial Post, The Toronto Star, Business Insider, The Globe and Mail, and has appeared on HuffPost Live. You can follow him on Twitter: @barrychoi

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