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

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Last updated on July 25, 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
AIR MILES
BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*
$0.105
Weak
No
24 months after account inactivity
American Express Rewards
The Platinum Card®$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
BMO Rewards
BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®*
$0.0067
Good
No
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
CIBC Travel Rewards / Aventura
CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card
$0.0116
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
Marriott Rewards
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card$0.01
Excellent
Yes
24 months after account inactivity
MBNA Rewards
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®$0.01
Good
No
None with active account
RBC Rewards /Travel (Avion)
RBC Avion Visa Infinite$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account
Scotia Rewards
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
TD Travel Rewards
TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card*
$0.005
Excellent
No
None with active account
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: August 16, 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 up to three 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.

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: N/A
– 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 $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners. All other purchases get you 1 AIR MILE per $25 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.

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 70000 points with a minimum spend of $6,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. Those points have a minimum value of $700, 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.

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.

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

Marriott Bonvoy™

With more than 7,000 properties in 130+ countries, not only does Marriott have the most hotels in the world, it also has the best hotel loyalty program in Marriott Bonvoy™. What makes this program appealing is that it’s free to join and you earn points with every stay in a Marriott property. Eventually you can use your accumulated points to redeem for free hotel 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.

Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good/Excellent
– Minimum Income: N/A
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Resident of Canada
– Annual Fee: $120

Unlike the United States, Canada doesn’t have a lot of hotel branded credit cards; but the Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card is certainly a standout. There are lots of perks for the consummate traveller, including the much-loved Annual Free Night Award, which has a redemption value of as much as 35,000 points (worth a free night in a Category 5 hotel). You also get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status and you can upgrade to Gold Elite status once you stay 25 nights (the card comes with 15 night credits already) within a calendar year or charge $30,000 to your card. Gold Elite status has lots of perks like 25% extra points at Marriott properties, late checkout, room upgrades and more. To top things off, the card features a good line-up of insurance like travel accident insurance, car rental theft and damage insurance, flight delay insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost and stolen baggage insurance, and hotel/motel burglary insurance. Sadly, it doesn’t include travel medical insurance.

The Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card also has a very generous welcome offer at the moment. Cardmembers earn 60,000 Welcome Bonus points when they charge $3,000 to the card in the first three months—that’s worth as much as six free nights in a Category 2 hotel. You also get a $120 statement credit after charging $10,000 in purchases to your card in the first twelve months. The card earns 5 points for every $1 spent at participating Bonvoy properties and 2 points for every $1 in card purchases everywhere else.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card 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 groceries, restaurants, digital media, memberships, and household utilities 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 other purchases 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.

RBC Rewards

The most impressive aspect of RBC Rewards points is perhaps their transferability. Points can be converted to a number of other travel rewards programs, like WestJet, British Airways Avios, and Cathay Pacific; and the conversion rates are generally very favorable, e.g. 100 RBC Rewards points for 1 WestJet Dollar, 1:1 conversion ratios for Avios and Cathay Pacific, etc. And quite often RBC runs promotions that generate extra miles when transferring to partners like Avios, which can get you extra bang for your buck.

If you elect to keep your points within the RBC Rewards ecosystem, you can probably maximize your points’ value by redeeming them via the Air Travel Redemption Schedule. For example, it’ll cost 15,000 points for a short-haul flight with a pre-tax, base fare up to $350; that’s worth up to about 43 points per $1 redeemed, or about $0.023 per point. Compare that to the usual 100 points for $1 ($0.01 per point) offered through most travel rewards programs. Longer flights booked this way have similarly appealing redemption rates: 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.

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good/Excellent
– Minimum Income: $60,000 personal or $100,000 household
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Resident of Canada
– Annual Fee: $120

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite starts new cardholders off with a respectable welcome bonus of 35,000 points—enough to fly anywhere in Canada or the continental US, and worth up to a $750 value when redeemed via the Air Travel Redemption Schedule (offer expires November 15, 2021). The card’s regular earn rate, however, is perhaps a little underwhelming relative to competing travel rewards cards, as you get 1.25 RBC Rewards points per $1 spent on travel but only 1 RBC point per $1 on all other spending; a bit low for a card with an annual fee above $100.

That said, there are other card features that will make the RBC Avion Visa Infinite a worthwhile investment for some: If road trips are your thing, linking your Petro-Points card with your RBC card will help you save an extra 3¢/L on gas and earn 20% more Petro-Points and RBC rewards points when you fuel up at Petro-Canada. The card also comes with insurance a traveller will appreciate, including medical, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, and rental car collision and damage protection.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete RBC Avion Visa Infinite 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 welcome offer. 50,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $500 towards travel)1 Plus, no annual fee in the first year, including on supplementary cards.1. 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.

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: August 16, 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 August 16, 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.

WestJet Rewards

The biggest draw of WestJet is its use of tiers: As soon as you enroll in the WestJet program, you’re instantly awarded Teal tier status, which provides 0.5% back in WestJet dollars on flights. As you spend more on WestJet travel and services, your tier increases, garnering additional travel benefits such as advanced seat selection, free checked bags, airport lounge access, and higher earn rates. Those who reach Silver, Gold, and Platinum tiers earn 3%, 5%, and 8% back on WestJet flights respectively. Best of all, your tier stacks with the earn rates provided by WestJet credit cards, so you can potentially earn up to 10% in WestJet dollars on qualifying purchases.

One of the few major criticisms to note about WestJet Rewards is that your WestJet dollars can only be redeemed for base fares; they can’t be used to pay for a flight’s taxes, fees, or surcharges.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Good/Excellent
– Minimum Income: $80,000 personal or $150,000 household
– Age: Age of majority in your province or territory
– Residency: Resident of Canada
– Annual Fee: $119

If you’re looking for the holy grail of air travel—the coveted round-trip companion voucher—look no further. The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard lets you fly a companion return to anywhere in continental North America for $119, annually, with no restrictions. Or spend $399 and fly with your companion anywhere else in the world that WestJet flies. If you typically find yourself flying solo you can instead opt to exchange your annual round-trip companion voucher for 4 airport lounge vouchers. The card also offers a free first checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to eight additional guests on the same reservation. Cardholders are protected with comprehensive travel insurance, including travel medical, trip interruption, auto rental collision and loss, and more.

New cardholders who apply can take advantage of an incredible bonus offer: Get a *free* first companion voucher for any flight within the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean (up to $399 value) + earn up to 350 bonus WestJet dollars + get 2x the WestJet dollars you would normally earn on groceries, restaurants, and food delivery in your first three months. After the three-month bonus period ends the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard earns 2% back in WestJet dollars per $1 spent on WestJet purchases and 1.5% back in WestJet dollars per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our complete WestJet World Elite Mastercard review.

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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