How to Get Free Flights with Canadian Credit Cards Today!
Getting free flights, the holy grail of credit card rewards, is easier than it seems. While some people spend years diligently saving up enough miles to fly free, others have figured out a way to earn free flights in a matter of minutes. We’re here to spill the beans.
Actually, it’s really no secret at all. Travel hacking is the totally legal and cunningly simple craft of getting free flights with credit cards. What makes travel hacking so appealing is that it’s easy, fast and can be used even if you’re not a big spender, frequent flyer, or credit card aficionado.
Why spend $25,000 and wait a year to earn enough miles from your credit card for a free flight when you can do so right away just by signing up for a new card offer? In fact, you can sign up for multiple credit cards and get multiple free flights – every year. Here’s how it’s done.
In This Article:
Get a Travel Credit Card with a Strong Welcome Bonus
Credit card welcome bonuses are one of the easiest ways to get a free flight. Simply apply for a credit card with a sign-up bonus large enough to fund free airfare. You can sign up for multiple credits cards throughout the year, giving you multiple tickets, and some cards might even waive or rebate their first year’s annual fee.
There are a host of Canadian travel cards that offer enough points for free return airfare to anywhere in continental North America, and some that offer enough bonus points less or even more that can be used for flights to Hawaii or the Caribbean! Here’s a list of the best free flight welcome related bonuses in Canada today.
|Credit Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Minimum Spend|
|Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card||Earn up to $1,320* in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived.¹ Offer ends April 30, 2023.||$150||Make at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months + annual point bonus when you spend at least $40,000 in everyday net eligible purchases annually|
|BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*||60,000 points*||$150 (first year waiver)*||$3,000 in first 3 months for first 30,000; additional 2,500 bonus points in each subsequent month that you spend at least $2,000, beginning 4 months from the account open date and ending 15 months from the account open date*|
|WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard||Up to 450 WestJet dollars (a value of up to $450 CAD) when you spend a minimum of $5,000 in the first 3 months on your card1||$119||$5,000 in first 3 months|
|American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card||Earn up to 110,000 points (conditions apply)||$199||70,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of Cardmembership. Plus earn 10,000 bonus points, when you charge $20,000 in net purchases to your Card account each calendar quarter.|
¹ Conditions Apply. Visit here for the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card to learn more.
*Terms and conditions apply
Be Conscious of Annual Fees, But Don’t Obsess
Try to find a welcome bonus offer that waives or rebates the first year annual fee. If you’ve exhausted those options, a new card’s sign-up bonus should at least be worth substantially more than the annual fee. Regardless, switching from your current credit card that has an annual fee, to another credit card that has an annual fee but also provides a welcome bonus, will earn you an extra free flight you would not otherwise have if you’d stayed with your old card. In other words, switching often pays, with or without an annual fee.
Minimum Spend Requirements
Many credit card welcome bonuses will require that you spend a minimum amount on your credit card within the first three months to be eligible for the welcome bonus points. Others will simply require that you activate your card with a purchase. Some will also offer additional points if you meet a minimum annual spending target. Whatever the minimum spend requirements are, make sure they’re reasonable and feasible for you to meet given your income and lifestyle. If you need to engineer some spend to get the bonus, that’s ok, but do it intelligently. Don’t buy something you don’t need just to meet the spend threshold. Instead, consider buying a gas or grocery gift card, something you know you’ll use in the future.
Churning is the practice of opening up one credit card, getting the welcome bonus, using it, then doing the same thing all over again—rinse and repeat. Most Canadian credit card issuers now limit their cards’ welcome bonuses to new cardholders who have never had the card before. But of course there’s nothing stopping anyone from hopping between one credit card to another.
Many people get concerned that if they apply for too many credit cards in a short period of time, their credit score will suffer. We’re not suggesting you apply for two cards at the same time; however, if your credit score is in relatively good shape, applying for a new card every 3-4 months shouldn’t be a problem.
One thing to take note of is that there are some cards you may want to keep even if they come with an annual fee in the second year. For example, some cards offer free first checked bags for you and up to 8 travelling companions. Other cards come with annual free hotel nights, lounge access passes, travel insurance, etc., all of which make up for the cost of the annual fee and then some.
Speaking of long-term value, another great way to repeatedly get free flights is to use a companion fare card. These credit cards entitle you to bring along a companion for free (or very cheap) on a flight itinerary that you’ve purchased, and some of these cards extend this benefit to you annually rather than as a one-off. This feature is especially beneficial to couples or close friends that like to regularly travel together.
Some travel rewards programs offer more flexibility than others, because they allow you to transfer your miles or points to other programs. For instance, cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards permit you to transfer their points to seven airline partners (including Aeroplan) and two hotel partners. That kind of latitude can help you maximize your points’ value in the event that a transfer partner is offering a particularly good deal on flights.
Double Dip with Your Spouse
Another great opportunity is for both you and your spouse to sign up for each new card, as opposed to adding your spouse as an authorized user. For most credit cards you’ll be able to use household income, as opposed to individual income, to meet minimum income requirements. So even if one spouse isn’t working, they’ll still qualify.
Get Additional Flights with Stopovers
One of the most significant, yet vastly underutilized advantages of airline rewards programs like Aeroplan and Alaska Airlines is the ability to book multi-city trips, on one ticket. For example, if you’re flying round-trip from Vancouver to Paris in shoulder season, it will probably cost you between 70,000–80,000 Aeroplan points. However, for an additional 5,000 points you can break up that interminably long flight itinerary with a refreshing stop in a city like Toronto.
Refer to RBC page for up to date offer terms and conditions.
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 now link. Conditions apply.
BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information.
There is also the cost issue of which cards / purchases/ flights are offered in Canadian or US dollar rates. With the exchange rate what it is now, having to pay at a US dollar rate can cost Canadians a lot. We have the dollar exchange rate AS WELL as the FTFee. Even if we have a US dollar bank account, the banks charge that 3% foreign transaction fee to move $ to our US dollar bank account. Any way to avoid this 3%?
That’s a great point. We actually reviewed the best Canadian credit cards to avoid foreign transaction fees here. Several Canadian credit cards charge no foreign transactions fees at all, like the Chase Marriott Visa Rewards card above (1% rewards rate – 0% foreign transaction fee = 1% net rewards rate). Others, such as the Rogers MasterCard offer 4% cash back on foreign purchases (4% cash back – 2.5% foreign transaction = 1.5% net cash back).
Both options are considerably better than a premium travel card which offers 2% rewards, but then charges a 2.5% foreign transaction fee for a net loss of .5% per foreign dollar spent on your credit card.
Moreover, you will be getting an exchange rate from Visa and MasterCard which will be close to the spot market rate – making it far better than going to a retail bank to exchange your money.
Hope that helps,
Great summary, thank you.
Re: the Chase Marriott Visa, how many Aeroplan points do 30K Marriott rewards turn into? I looked at their chart, which seems to indicate 10K points. Am I reading that right?
That’s correct, you’re reading the conversion rate properly. You can convert 30K Chase Marriott points to 10K Aeroplan miles.
Hope that helps!
That helps, thank you. Wouldn’t seem to be as good as many of the other cards if the goal is to convert to Aeroplan.
It’s not as good an Aeroplan opportunity as some of the other cards – that’s for sure. However, if you’ve exhausted some of the other opportunities, it still adds an extra 10K Aeroplan miles free – no annual fee first year, and no minimum spend.
Great info as always. Are you aware that if you once had the Amex Gold Card & cancelled it (even years ago) that you would not be eligible for the 25,000 bonus points even if you meet the spend requirement? I signed up in August after a friend convinced me to do so ( I think he was getting a lot of referral points) & spent the $1500 right away & was waiting for the 25,000 bonus points. I called 2 months ago & they said , that they would apply the bonus & I would see it in the next statement. When I still did not receive them, i called again last week & the representative told me that I was not eligible, because I once had the Gold Amex card.
I think Amex might be the only one that does this, because TD gave me the bonus points even though I had once had the TD Aeroplan card & cancelled it.
If you know differently, please advise me, so I can get those points from Amex
Amex has put in more restrictions around churning the same card. However, you can apply for multiple different cards from Amex and be eligible for each of the welcome bonuses. You are correct that TD does not have a hard limit on the number of accounts you open and close, so long as you wait 6 months between each one – however, TD does reserve the right not to give an applicant the bonus if it sees that churning is become excessive.
Hope that helps,
It Helps. I just wish I would have known that before applying for that particular AMEX. I wasted credit/an application without receiving the bonus points. I use it primarily for gas which gives me 2% back, but I have the MBNA World Elite Rewards that gives me that already. Is would cancel the AMEX, but I purchased a few things on it, that it is probably worth having for the extra year warrant
Where again can I find other posts you might have answered to me regarding other questions i had ? I can’t ever seem to remember under which, category I was asking the question. As well, where would be the best place to list the current CC I have to see if I should be applying for any new ones coming up.
Thanks for the timely summary. I should add that CIBC Adventura is FYF and 15,000 Adventura points. How would you rate the value of CIBC Adventura? Similarly how do we value RBC Avion Points and BMO Rewards Points?
RBC Avion (a VISA Infinite) and BMO (a MasterCard Wolrd Elite) seem to be non-FYF in general. BMO has expired 30,000 point ad littered all over the internet, except when you click on it, the linked page shows only 20,000 points
We didn’t include the Aventura or Avion offers because they are currently only offering 15,000 point bonuses each. If and/or when they bump up their welcome bonus we’ll be happy to include them on the list. Until then, there are plenty of alternatives we’d prefer Canadians focus on.
With respect to the RBC Avion card, it has some redeeming qualities, giving you the ability to transfer points to WestJet and/or Avios, with bonuses throughout the year to do so. However, the Avion shouldn’t be used to redeem as a statement credit against travel expenses – you lose way too much value and there are much better alternatives in the marketplace offering more value for statement credits.
The BMO Rewards MasterCard also offers pretty good value at 2% per dollar spent on your credit card. But again, why get the BMO card, where you have to redeem your points through BMO’s travel centre, when you can just get the MBNA Rewards World Elite card and get the same 2% per dollar spent and get cash back or redeem it against any expense on your credit card statement?
Hope that helps,