Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Review
By Sandra MacGregor
I’ll be honest. March 15, 2018 was a dark day for me. That’s when Chase officially ended its Marriott hotel and Amazon affiliate credit cards program, thus removing two of Canadian consumers’ best options for cards with no foreign transaction fees.
It came as a big blow because, as an inveterate globetrotter, a credit card with no FX surcharges is as essential to my travels as a reliable carry-on and a comfy neck pillow.
Luckily, just as I was contemplating curtailing my travel plans, one of the country’s big banks decided to shake up the Canadian travel credit card landscape with a new premium offering. Scotiabank’s recently launched Passport Visa Infinite Card not only features no FX charges, but it also comes with a nice sign-up bonus, a solid rewards rate and some attractive perks like free airport lounge visits.
Scotiabank Passport Infinite Visa Foreign Transaction Fees
Thanks to an aversion to reading the fine print, many Canadians travelling abroad don’t realize that most credit card companies hit them with an additional fee every time they pay for a purchase in a foreign currency. Known as a foreign transaction fee (aka FX or forex fee), credit card issuers tack on an extra 2.5 to 3% to all foreign purchases in order to convert your spending into Canadian dollars.
While it may not seem like much, for business travellers or passionate wayfarers like myself, forex fees can be a significant expense. Just imagine adding an additional 2.5% to every single hotel stay, meal, attraction and souvenir you charge on your credit card outside of Canada. Even if you take just one international vacation a year, FX fees can amount to hundreds of dollars, especially if you have a large family.
That’s why the arrival of Scotiabank’s Passport Visa Infinite card is such big news. Though using a credit card with no foreign transactions fees is one of the easiest ways to cut down on travel expenses, not many Canadian cards offer this perk. In fact, you can count the number of Canadian cards with no foreign transaction fees on one hand. Scotiabank’s Passport finally gives consumers’ another appealing travel reward card option (and—dare we hope–may even signify the start of more credit card competition in the no FX charge field).
Basic Rewards Structure
Cardholders earn 2 Scotia Rewards points for every $1 they spend in four distinct categories: grocery stores, dining, entertainment and daily transit, which includes things like public transit, taxis and more. All other eligible purchases earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per $1 spent.
The card has an impressive introductory bonus of 25,000 points when you charge $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months (offer ends October 31, 2018). You can also get an additional 10,000 points annually if you charge at least $40,000 on the card.
The straightforward redemption program is also appealing; 100 Scotia Points are equal to $1 in travel purchases. That makes the 25,000 sign-up bonus equivalent to $250 when redeemed toward travel. Travel-related rewards can be redeemed via the Scotia Rewards portal, with a minimum of 5,000 points required for travel redemption. A nice feature of Scotia’s travel rewards program is that points can even be redeemed toward the cost of a trip booked through another vendor as long as the trip is charged to your Passport credit card.
You can learn more about Scotia Rewards via our Loyalty Program Bible.
Other Card Perks
Aside from not paying foreign transaction fees and accruing rewards, cardholders also nab quite a few added benefits, including one free supplementary card.
One of the most notable perks is the free Priority Pass membership, which includes six airport lounge visits a year (most premium travel rewards cards offer four or less yearly visits). Normally, membership to Priority Pass costs US$99, with an additional charge of US$27 per visit. That’s a yearly savings of US$261 if you max out the lounge visits. On international flights with long layovers, a lounge can be a much-needed oasis, making this feature alone reason enough for some people to sign up for the card.
The card’s insurance offerings—including trip interruption, rental insurance and hotel burglary insurance—are on par with other premium travel credit cards. The travel emergency medical insurance stands out somewhat for offering 25 days of protection for those 65 and under and 10 for people 65 and older, which puts it on the higher end of days covered. Also noteworthy is the baggage delay insurance. Insurance kicks in after only four hours; many comparable cards only offer insurance once your luggage is missing for at least 6 or 12 hours.
It’s also worth highlighting that the Scotiabank Passport card is a Visa rather than an American Express card (unlike two of Canada’s most popular travel rewards cards, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card and the American Express Gold Rewards). American Express is simply not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, especially outside of big cities, so having a Visa gives you more certainty that you’ll have access to credit when you need it.
Scotiabank’s Passport Visa Infinite card is definitely an enticing and long-overdue addition to the country’s paltry selection of no foreign transaction fee credit cards. The $139 annual fee is slightly higher than the average $120 for most travel cards of this calibre, and there are also other credit cards on the market that have higher earning rates in similar reward categories (like Scotia’s own Momentum Visa Infinite or the new American Express Cobalt card). The Passport Visa Infinite card, however, is the only travel card from a major bank with no foreign transaction fee, and its Priority Pass membership and insurance features are nothing to scoff at.
If you travel only in Canada, then you can likely earn more rewards with a different credit card. If you travel abroad at least several times a year, however, the money you’ll save with no foreign exchange surcharges could well make up for Passport’s annual fee over the course of just a couple of trips. The six airport lounge visits and solid insurance perks further enhance the aptly named card’s value and will indeed make it less costly for Canadians to grab their passport and go.
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About the Author:
Sandra MacGregor has been writing about finance and travel for nearly a decade. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications like the New York Times, the UK Telegraph, the Washington Post, Forbes.com and the Toronto Star. She spends her free time travelling, and has lived around the globe, including in Paris, South Korea and Cape Town. You can follow her on Twitter at @MacgregorWrites