Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada & Current Highest Offers
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Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada & Current Highest Offers

If you're just starting to look into travel hacking, you're probably aware that this hobby can provide access to heavily discounted flights and hotel stays. Getting into the hobby may be overwhelming at first, so we aim to summarize the process. Skip to the bottom to check out the current best credit card offers in Canada.

Introduction to Travel Credit Cards

The primary logic behind travel hacking or via premium travel credit cards is that it's better to pay for a $100 bank fee (which comes with perks such as free baggage, travel insurance or lounge access), than it would be for a $1,000 flight.

Often these travel credit card offers in Canada waive the annual fee for the first year. When putting your day to day spending towards earning these big welcome bonuses, it's easy to end up with thousands of dollars worth of travel points. Free flights, insurance and lounges truly elevate your travel experience and frees up a lot of your budget for enjoying your vacation.

Staying in an all-inclusive hotel for free, Hilton hotel credit from travel hacking credit cards.

Travel Hacking Strategies

The goal is to have as much of your regular daily spending as possible used to achieve large sign-up bonuses for points towards free travel. This can effectively be considered a steep discount on your daily spending. For example, we recently saved $563 after meeting the $1000 spending requirement on a new card. This can be thought of as a >50% discount on our daily food, gas and other daily spending.

After receiving the welcome bonus, earnings rates on credit cards will drop significantly - typically 1 or 2 points per dollar spent. Since each point may be worth 1 or 2 cents when redeemed for travel, you can think of your regular credit card spending saving you 1-4% off your every day purchases. Not bad of course - it's better than using a debit card. But we can do better.

Somewhat of a tangent, but there is one credit card in Canada that has impressive earning rates on your everyday spending. The AMEX Cobalt Card earns 5 points per dollar on food and grocery, and AMEX points are highly valued. This card effectively earns you 15-20% back on all your food spending. Check out our write-up for details.

Other than groceries and restaurants on your Cobalt card, to truly maximize your earning potential, you'll want all of your spending to be working towards achieving a welcome bonus on a new credit card. Every few months you can easily rack up enough points for a free round-trip flight.

Beginner Tips

Stepping into travel hacking may be overwhelming at first. Even if you start slow, you'll see some great benefits.

I'd recommend first checking your credit score and reviewing your credit report. Canadians are entitled to do this for free. There is no magic number to start in this hobby, however starting slow to build up your credit score to Good or Excellent is recommended.

Give some thought to which points currency you want to focus on. Aeroplan is the obvious choice for Canadians due to the availability of flights across the country. British Airways Avios can be earned easily in Canada as well, through RBC's Avion cards, and is great for European travel. AMEX points are the holy-grail of point currency in Canada since they can be converted to Aeroplan, Avios, and 4 other airlines.

Even a single credit card can save you a ton of money on your upcoming travels. There's two types of cards we'd recommend as your first premium travel card:

  1. An Aeroplan Visa Infinite card, such as the one offered by TD or CIBC. Choose this if your goal is to get a free flight. The welcome bonus on these cards varies throughout the year, but ranges between 30,000 and 50,000 Aeroplan points. This is more than enough for a round-trip flight to Saint Lucia or Hawaii. On top of this, you'll get free baggage on your Air Canada flights and free travel insurance, saving you even more money.
  2. A card that earns flexible bank points, such as the TD FCT VI or the CIBC Aventura. Bank points aren't worth as much as airline points, but are more flexible, and have a set value. TD points can be used on any travel spending booked through Expedia at a half a cent per point. Aventura has frequent promotions that allows you to make a travel purchase with your credit card anywhere you like, and then apply your points for a statement credit at 1.25 cents per point. We'd recommend a bank point card if you want to book a non-Air Canada flight, or get a big discount on a hotel or resort stay.

Final thought - remember that an important factor in your credit score is your average age of accounts. In practical purposes, this means that you'll want to keep a credit card account open and in good standing forever. Therefore you will want your first and oldest card to not have an annual fee. Once its paid off, you can find a safe spot for it in your sock drawer and forget about it.

We have a Beginner's Guide to your First Free Trip with more details.

Free flight booked using AMEX Cobalt Card's benefits.

Travel Hacking FAQs

  • Won't this ruin my credit score?
    • Travel hacking can actually be beneficial for your credit score. It's a crazy world we live in. Credit bureaus like to see Canadians using their available credit, and displaying history of being able to manage and pay back their debt. We now have years of history and dozens of accounts on our credit report in good standing. Of course we need to be organized and not miss our payments. Do note that opening a new account often results in a temporary dip in score of ~10 points, which will be recovered after a few months of paying your full statement balance each month. Unless you plan to apply for a mortgage in the next year, this is a non-issue.
  • Don't I need high income to be approved?
    • Each 'tier' of credit card has a rule-of-thumb for the income requirement. Visa Infinite or World Elite Mastercards typically have a $60,000 income limit, with VIP cards at $150,000. Credit issuers notoriously have very lax definitions of income, however. Most banks will consider your total investments in their definition of income, which as an accountant, breaks my brain a little bit. You'll typically never be asked to prove your self-reported income either. Finally, you can also aim to meet the Household Income requirement if you fail to meet their Personal Income. I don't know about you, but my cat has a fairly lucrative side-hustle.
  • Won't my bank be suspicious?
    • Banks want you to sign up for their cards, with their aggressive advertising and generous welcome bonuses. I have held three of the exact same credit card at the same time. I've probably held the RBC Avion and the TD Aeroplan cards approaching 10 times in my lifetime. There are two issuers to be cautious about, however. AMEX has historically taken a harsh stance on travel hackers. They also only allow a welcome bonus on each card once in a lifetime. Finding an AMEX to hold long-term will keep the bank happy with you. You can cancel the occasional card at the 12-month mark, but don't overdo it. The second program to be aware of is Aeroplan, who recently issued statements against this kind of activity. We do not yet know the details, but if you get less than 5 Aeroplan credit cards per year there's likely nothing to worry about yet.
  • How many credit cards can I hold at one time?
    • There is no limit. Many people in this hobby hold dozens at a time. Note that you're only allowed 4 AMEX credit cards open at a time.
  • How many credit cards can I sign up for in a year?
    • There is one again no limit. Some banks may have their own rules, however, such as no more than 3 credit cards in a 3- or 6-month window. Just spread out your applications to different banks and you'll have no issues.
  • What if I cannot meet the spending requirement for the bonus points?
    • Short answer: don't get the card, or choose a card with a lower spending requirement. Long answer: do some planning to ensure you meet the target. It's not worth getting a card if you're not positive you'll hit the bonus. Our car insurance companies offer a discount for paying for the full-year up front, and accept credit card. Keep in mind any large bills throughout the year and try to plan your credit card sign-ups accordingly. You can also prepay for some of your future spending, by purchasing gift cards for Amazon, Airbnb, gas stations or grocery at your local grocery store. A clear sign of a fellow travel hacker in the wild if you notice a store with all the $500 Visa gift cards sold out.
  • What is cent per point? And what is a good number?
    • Cents per point (cpp) refers to the value of a single unit of any given points currency. It's used as a metric to determine if the points redemption you're considering is a valuable use of your points. Cents per point is easy to calculate for bank points that typically have a fixed value. Since every 1000 TD points will save you $5 on Expedia purchases, every TD point has a value of 0.5 cents per point. For airline miles, the calculation is a little more complicated. As an example, lets say you're looking to redeem 30,000 points for a flight that would have cost you $1,000. You have to pay $100 in airport taxes, so your true savings is $900. $900 / 30,000 = $0.03, meaning each point in this scenario is saving you 3 cents.
    • As a rule of thumb, we like to target at least 1 cent per point savings on our hotel redemptions, and 3 cents per point on any flights. Any less than this and we'd look for other ways to spend the points, or pay cash for the room/flight. Hotel points aren't nearly as valuable as airline points and sometimes it's difficult to even hit 1 cent of value. On the other hand, when booking business class flights, it's not uncommon to hit 10 or 20 cents per point on your AMEX points or airline miles.
  • How can I spend less on annual fees?
    • Great Canadian Rebates is the go-to site to check for additional cash bonuses for signing up for credit cards. If you sign up through their link you can get a cash bonus sent to you via cheque, PayPal or an Amazon gift card. This site also works as a cash-back site for online purchases.
    • Signing up for credit cards with a first year free offer is great to reduce costs.
    • Determining if he card provides value to you for subsequent years after you hit your welcome bonus, and be aware when your 2nd year's annual fee will be charged.
  • How do I spend my points?
    • Spending points effectively is actually more difficult than earning points. Since there are dozens of points currencies out there, the answer will be different for each. Simply searching Google for things like "how to spend TD points" or "how much is an AMEX membership reward point worth" will help guide you through the process.
  • When do I cancel my card?
    • First, consider if this card provides long-term value. Some cards may offer strong earning rates, free hotel stays, insurance, or airport lounge access. If you do not plan to keep the card and want to avoid a second annual fee, we'd recommend cancelling the card in your 13th month. After the annual fee hits your account, you typically have 30 days to ask for it to be refunded when you call to close the account. Also be aware that it may be beneficial for your credit score to not close the account, but switch to a no-annual fee card. For example, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite can be converted into an RBC ION Visa, or the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite into the TD Rewards Visa.
  • How much can I save?
    • Last year alone, we saved over $25,000 on our travel. If you get into the hobby, essentially all your flights can be bought with points, only having to spend a small amount on airline taxes.

Current Best Offers

Last updated March 2024.

AMEX Platinum Card

  • Annual fee: $799
  • Welcome bonus: 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $15,000 in 3 months
  • Perks: worldwide airport lounges, $200 travel credit, $200 dining credit, Marriott & Hilton Gold status, platinum concierge, strong insurance

This is known to be the best travel card in Canada. It's understandable to gawk at the annual fee, however considering AMEX MR points are worth 2-3 cents each, the welcome bonus is worth up to $3,000. You could fly your whole family to Hawaii while relaxing in an airport lounge for effectively $798 (two years card membership, minus the statement credits). You'll receive 70,000 points after meeting the spending requirement, then the final 30,000 points for making any purchase in your 2nd year of card membership.

If you frequently travel with a partner or as a family, just one person holding the platinum card will certainly elevate your experience. The lounges, airport security lanes, hotel status and insurance easily pays for the net $399 annual fee. The 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards are best spent by transferring to your favourite airline - MR points are the most valuable and flexible points currency in Canada.

AMEX Cobalt Card

  • Annual fee: $155.88 ($12.99/month)
  • Welcome bonus: 15,000 AMEX Membership Rewards
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $750 per month for 12 months
  • Perks: high earning rate on grocery/restaurants, Amex offers, insurance

Although the welcome bonus is currently low, the Cobalt card is still a great keeper card that'll keep you in AMEX's good books. AMEX are known to ban travel hackers who continually sign up for cards and cancel on the 13th month. Long-term holding this card, in addition to AMEX's Marriott card, is a great way to keep you from being Amexilled.

Having a card with a strong earning rate to use for your daily spending is important. Even the most organized travel hacker won't be able to have every dollar earning welcome bonuses! This way the points keep rolling in, and you'll be earning the most valuable and flexible rewards currency in Canada. Our blog post outlines how this card earns up to 5 points per dollar. This can be worth 10% or more of a return on your spending to be used on travel. With returns like these, you'll also begin to cringe any time you see someone pull out their debit card.

AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Card

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $3,000 in 3 months
  • Perks: annual free night award, Marriott Silver status, 15 Elite Night Credits

AMEX announced higher welcome bonuses on this and the business version of the card, valid until May 6th. In addition to the above Cobalt card, it's an excellent keeper card. That is because every year (starting year 2), you'll be given a free night award that you can use at any Marriott property with a point cost of 35,000 or less. We found stays in this range with an average nightly rate of $500-$1000, so you can see why the card can pay for itself.

70,000 points is enough for several nights at a low category hotel, or enough for a night at this JW Marriott Resort in the Maldives. The average value of this welcome bonus is $500-$600.

Note that the public offer is for 65k points. Sign up through GCR for an additional 5k points, as well as a $75 cash bonus.

AMEX Gold Card

  • Annual fee: $250
  • Welcome bonus: 70,000 AMEX Membership Rewards
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $1,000 per month for 12 months
  • Perks: $100 annual travel credit, Amex offers, 4 annual lounge visits

For those not ready for the high annual fee of the platinum card, the gold card is an excellent alternative. The net annual fee of just $150 can be reduced further with the great Amex offers that you'll receive throughout the year. Considering the welcome bonus is worth over $2,000, it's a great offer.

Sign up through the referral link above to receive 10,000 more points compared to the public offer.

CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139, first year free
  • Welcome bonus: 60,000 Aventura points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $6,000 in 4 months
  • Perks: 4 annual Dragonpass lounge visits, $50 NEXUS credit

One of our favourite cards just got a big boost to its welcome bonus, albeit with a higher spending requirement. Aventura points often can be redeemed for 1.25 cents per point as a statement credit on travel purchases; this offer is worth $750 with no annual fee in the first year. This bonus can essentially be considered cash if you use the 'refundable hotel trick'. Simply make a travel purchase such as a refundable hotel stay, and while the transaction is pending, choose to redeem the points for a statement credit. After booking your stay, applying your points, and then cancelling your stay, you'd find yourself with a negative credit card balance of $750 which you can freely spend.

Note that the CIBC Aventura Gold card has an identical offer to the Infinite. It has a lower income requirement but weaker insurance. When the offer is strong we typically apply for both, if we can meet the minimum spend. If you apply for an authorized user during sign-up, the supplementary card will be free for the first year, and will provide 4 additional lounge visits which you can add to your own account.

Aventura points can also be redeemed for flights using CIBC's own travel portal. You may be able to receive even better value for your points on flights, versus converting them to cash.

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139, first year free
  • Welcome bonus: 25,000 Aeroplan points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $4,000 in 4 months
  • Perks: free checked bag, preferred pricing on flights

This offer is currently lower than usual. You can earn a more enticing 50,000 Aeroplan if you spend $15,000 during the year on this card, but this amount of spending would be better spend on other welcome bonuses. Still, the current offer is worth ~$500, as you can book a round-trip domestic flights or a one-way international flight with this bonus.

MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: 30,000 MBNA Reward Points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $2,000 in 3 months
  • Perks: 10% birthday bonus on all earnings in past 12 months, 5 points per dollar in several categories

MBNA Rewards are convertible to Alaska Airlines Miles; this card is the only reliable way to collect Alaska Miles in Canada. As Alaska Miles are worth roughly 1.5 cents each, the welcome bonus is worth a respectable $450. As Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are the only Canadian airports with coverage by Alaska Air, we'd only recommend this card if you're on the west coast.

Sign up via Great Canadian Rebates rather than the link above to get an $80 cash bonus.

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: 35,000 RBC Avion
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $0
  • Perks: 3 cents off at Petro Canada, free 12 month DoorDash DashPass, Visa Infinite benefits

RBC Avion points are great because they can be easily converted into British Airways Avios Miles. Several times a year you'll also find a transfer bonus of around 30%, meaning you'd end up with 45,500 Avios from a single sign-up and no spending requirement. With a valuation of 1 to 1.5 cents, the welcome bonus is worth up to $650. For example you'd be able to book a trans-Atlantic flight to Europe for nearly free, only costing you one annual fee.

Before applying check to see if Great Canadian Rebates is currently offering a cash bonus for this card.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $150, first year free
  • Welcome bonus: 30,000 Scene+ points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $1,000 in 3 months
  • Perks: no foreign transaction fees, 6 annual airport lounge visits, Visa Infinite benefits

For a low spending requirement and no fee for the first year, this is a great offer. Scene+ points are a flexible rewards currency which can be redeemed for 1 cent per point at Sobeys or on any travel purchase. Simply make any travel-related purchase, then log into your account 7 days later. You'll be able to apply your points for a statement credit on that purchase.

As an added bonus, sign up through Great Canadian Rebates to get a $125 cash bonus on top of this already solid offer.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139, first year free
  • Welcome bonus: 30,000 - 40,000 Aeroplan points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $5,000 in 6 months, extra 10,000 after $7,500
  • Perks: free checked bag, preferred pricing on Air Canada, NEXUS rebate

This card is identical to the CIBC card but the offers can vary. Currently with TD, the spending requirement is higher but the bonus is also higher.

A new offer on this card will be announced March 4th, so we'd recommend waiting for this date. This high of a spending requirement would be better spent elsewhere.

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139, first year free
  • Welcome bonus: 135,000 TD points
  • Minimum Spend Requirement: $5,000 in 6 months
  • Perks: 10% anniversary bonus, annual $100 ExpediaForTD credit

TD points are best spent through ExpediaForTD, which value each point at 0.5 cents. This offers great flexibility as you can redeem your points for $675 on hotels, rental cars, or anything bookable through Expedia.

Sign up via Great Canadian Rebates to get a $85 cash bonus on top of this already great offer.

Disclaimer: Profiting from travel hacking is only possible for those who are organized and responsible enough to pay off their full statement balance each month. Credit cards can be an excellent tool to save you money, but can be equally dangerous when used irresponsibly.

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