Credit Cards Canada

The Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada 2020

When you have your name printed on a great travel credit card, going on trips can immediately become more affordable. More still, if you spend your time doing research and selecting the proper travel credit card, you can get even more value. The best travel credit cards in Canada don’t just specialise in points, but also have perks like lounge access, amazing coverage and therefore the flexibility to transfer points between cards.

The card you select should be able to assist you with the kind of travel you enjoy, where you spend the majority of your money and which additional travel benefits suit your lifestyle. To help you choose the right card, here’s our list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. We have divided the cards in different categories so it becomes easier for you to choose. After the list, we have also included answers to the frequently asked questions that you might have about travel cards and terms associated with them.

The Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada 2020

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards For Everyday Spending:

American Express Cobalt

With a fantastic earn rate of 5 points per dollar spent on food and drinks, the American Express Cobalt card may be a winner for those that eat out—and the dining category is sort of generous because it includes grocery stores, restaurants, bars and even food delivery services.

Getting two points per dollar spent on travel is not any joke, either. Travel typically refers to just flights, hotels and vacation packages, but with this card, it also covers gas, public transportation, taxis and Ubers. For frequent flyers always on the move, this reward is twice as much as what you’d earn from the Scotiabank Gold American Express (below) on flights and hotel stays.

Other benefits include access to the Fixed Points Travel Program (which lets you maximize your Points on round-trip flights), hotel transfer partners, American Express Invites and a good travel insurance package—but note that it doesn’t include trip cancellation insurance. Plus, you’ll add additional authorized cardholders, free of charge.

Annual fee: $120 ($10 monthly)

Welcome bonus: 30,000 Points (2,500 per month, for 12 months when you charge a minimum of $500 to your card each month)

Earn rate:

  • Food and drinks expenditure – 5 points per dollar
  • Travel expenditure – 2 Points per dollar
  • All other purchases – 1 point per dollar

Top Features:

  • Amex Fixed Points program access
  • Big Points bonuses on dining and groceries
  • Complimentary secondary cardholders

Additional benefits: American Express Invites and special offers

Scotiabank Gold American Express

This card makes it easy to earn a ton of points on your everyday purchases. If you are a top tier member, you can earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on groceries, entertainment and dining. You also earn 3 Scotia Rewards points for every dollar you spend on streaming services, fuel and transportation. You also earn 1 Scotia Rewards point for every dollar spent on everything else. This card works within the Scotia Rewards environment, a versatile program that permits cardholders to gather points towards travel, merchandise or maybe a cash credit on their account. While all these choices are terrific, this card is best known for how it helps Canadians travel. Cardholders can book their travel on any airline either through the Scotia Rewards Travel portal or on a special site where applied Points will end in a press release credit. In both scenarios,100 points translate to $1 in travel. And there’s no foreign currency conversion fee—this will automatically save you the 2.5% to 3% that most cards automatically charge on purchases abroad. 

The Scotiabank Gold American Express offers travel insurance that covers you for up to 25 days per trip (3 days for seniors), and therefore the card entitles you to access presale concert tickets with American Express Front Of the road.

Annual fee: $120

Welcome bonus: 20,000 Scotia Rewards Points once you charge $1,000 to your card within the first 3 months

Earn rate: 5 Points per dollar on dining, groceries and entertainment; 3 Points on transportation system , gas and selected streaming services; and 1 Point on all other purchases

Income requirement: $12,000

Top features: Big points bonuses on dining and groceries; no foreign transaction fees; a versatile points program

Additional benefits: 

  • Free American Express Invites
  • Zero fees on foreign transactions
  • Priority Pass Lounge Access discount

Travel insurance: Coverage includes travel emergency medical trip cancellation/trip interruption; flight delay; delayed and lost baggage; travel accident and more

Best Visa Travel Card

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card

If you’re a regular traveller who’s looking for a card that will help you save on your next vacation, the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card makes it easy to earn and redeem Points. You’ll get 3 TD Rewards Points for every $1 you spend. Even better, you get 9 Points when booking your travel on the Expedia For TD platform online, which works at a 4.5% return in points, and 6 points when booking on Expedia for TD by phone for a third return.

The current welcome bonus of up to 80,000 Points is worth up to $400, and it’s easy to obtain: You’ll get 20,000 points after your first purchase, and up to 60,000 points on purchases during the primary three months, after you earn 5 times the points on your purchases. The annual fee of $120 is rebated for the first year as part of the current promotion. Note that TD clients with an All-Inclusive account can also get their annual fee waived for this card on an ongoing basis.

Annual fee: $120—rebated for the first year

Welcome bonus: Get 20,000 Points when you make your first purchase; additionally, you’ll earn 5X Points on purchases for the first 3 months, to a maximum of 20,000 bonus Points each month

Earn rate: 9 TD Points per dollar for flights booked online through Expedia; 6 TD Points per dollar for flights booked on the phone through Expedia; and 3 Points per dollar spent on all other purchases

Top features:

  • Expedia powered flexible travel rewards
  • Travel spending carries a huge points bonus

Income requirement: $60,000 (personal) or $100,000 (household)

Best Mastercard

BMO World Elite Mastercard

Right now, this card comes with a sign-up bonus of 35,000 points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. Those points have a value of $250, which is quite generous.

Another appealing aspect of the BMO World Elite Mastercard* is that the annual fee is waived for the first year. Normally, you would pay $150 for that fee so in essence, your sign-up bonus in the first year is worth up to $400.

The four free annual airport lounge passes are good at any over 1,000 lounges that are a part of the Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey network which is basically the same as Priority Pass. Furthermore, Mastercard is more widely accepted than a number of the opposite card providers; you’ll use it to buy at stores like No Frills and Costco.  

Annual fee: $150 (first year free)

Welcome bonus: 35,000 Points when you charge $3,000 to you card in the first 3 months

Earn rate: 

  • Travel, dining and entertainment – 3 Points per dollar
  • All other purchases – 2 Points per dollar

Income requirement: $80,000 (personal) or $150,000 (household)

Our favourite features: Airport lounge access with 4 free annual passes; earn a minimum of 1.4% in travel rewards on every purchase

Travel insurance: BMO World Elite total travel and medical protection, which includes car rental collision damage and out-of-country medical expenses up to $2 million for trips up to 21 days in length.

Additional benefits: 

  • Exciting discounts over the price of admission to Cirque du Soleil shows
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Instead of specialising in the simplest sign-up bonus or the very best earn rate, some travellers prefer a credit card they consider as a sort of partner on their journeys. That’s where the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card comes into play: it had been clearly designed for world travellers.

The card comes with no foreign transaction fees, so you’re saving money whenever you make a purchase in a foreign currency. You also get six free airport lounge passes annually, travel insurance and a sign-up bonus currently worth $300. This card may be a great option for people that want only one credit card they will use abroad without many worries, while taking advantage of the variety of travel benefits included. Another bonus: Visa card users are often assured of wide acceptance, wherever they’re within the world.

Annual fee: $139

Welcome bonus: 30,000 Points when you charge $1,000 to you card in the first 3 months

Earn rate: 

  • Grocery stores, dining, entertainment and travel expenditure – 2 Points per dollar 
  • All other purchases – 1 Point per dollar 

Income requirement: $60,000 (personal) or $100,000 (household)

Our favourite features: No foreign transaction fees; airport lounge access with 6 free annual passes

Travel insurance: Travel emergency medical insurance (under age 65 for up to 25 consecutive days, and for eligible persons age 65 and older for up to 10 days); interruption or outright cancellation of the trip, delays in flight timings, loss of baggage, accidents during travel, rental vehicle accident and insurance against hotel/motel/airbnb/guesthouse/hostel burglary.

Best No Fee Card For Travel

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

If you would like the chance to earn travel rewards but don’t want to pay an annual fee, we recommend the MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard. As a cardholder, you earn MBNA Points at a regular rate of 2 points per dollar spent on groceries, gas and restaurant purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else—but with the limited time welcome promotion, you get fourfold the points on your bonus categories for the primary 90 days of your account. This is a great opportunity to beef up your points cache, particularly with these frequently used earnings categories, but you should be aware that these rewards are capped at a maximum of $5,000 in each category annually. Expenditures over this amount are going to be rewarded at the regular 1 point per dollar rate.

Another major benefit to the present card is that once you book travel together with your MBNA Points, you’ll book on any airline you would like. In addition to the usual purchase protection and extended warranty, car rentals with Avis or Budget Rent A Car may be discounted. Sadly, the MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard lacks the important travel emergency coverage.

Welcome bonus: Earn 4 Points per $1 on eligible grocery, gas, and restaurant purchases, plus up to 10,000 bonus Points—5,000 on $500 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months, plus another 5,000 when you sign up for paperless statements

Earn rate: 

  • Groceries, gas and restaurant expenditure – 2 Points per dollar
  • Everything else – 1 Point per dollar

Top features: 

  • Stellar earn rate
  • Astonishingly good welcome offer for a no-annual-fee card.

Additional benefits: 

  • Avail discounts on car rentals at providers like Avis and Budget Rent a Car
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection is also included.

Best Hotel Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

When Marriott merged their loyalty program with Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, consumers had a lot of questions and concerns. The good news is that the deal is completed and therefore the resulting program—and the attached credit card—easily earns a spot on this best-of travel list. It’s tough to know just where to start with the benefits of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express. For many, it’s the massive 50,000-Point welcome bonus—a gift large enough to get you three nights at eligible hotels, and that’s in addition to the one free hotel stay each year every member receives. 

While the welcome bonuses and free nights are strong incentives in and of themselves, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express offers up to 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy properties, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Frequent travellers will find it’s easy to earn, and the points themselves are spectacularly flexible. As the world’s largest hotel conglomerate, Marriott Points can be redeemed for free hotel stays at more than 7,000 hotels worldwide including at Marriott, Delta, Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard properties and more. Additionally, you’ll transfer your points to quite 40 airline programs, including Aeroplan. 

The card’s insurance package is quite strong, including $500,000 in travel accident coverage, car rental theft and damage protection and hotel/motel burglary insurance—but do be aware that it lacks travel emergency medical coverage. Overall, this is often a really strong card for frequent travellers looking to maximise loyalty perks on their hotel stays. Marriott Bonvoy is the world’s largest hotel program and covers 7,000 hotel properties worldwide; cardholders have the ability to transfer points to over 40 airlines.

Annual fee: $120

Welcome bonus: A staggering 50,000 Points, which is enough for an awesome 3 night stay at eligible hotels.

Earn rate: Earn up to 5x the Points per $1 once you spend at Marriott Properties; 1 Point per dollar on everything else

Income requirement: None specified

Travel insurance: $500,000 in travel accident coverage; flight and baggage delay protection; car rental theft and damage protection; hotel/motel burglary insurance

Best Card For Travel Insurance

National Bank World Elite Mastercard

With a travel Mastercard, insurance may be a highly competitive part of any package. The commercial bank World Elite Mastercard gets our nod for 2 main reasons: they provide a better than average coverage amount and that they offer a superb package for people over 65 years. 

Cardholders of the commercial bank World Elite Mastercard also have insurance for trip cancellation (up to $2,500 per person), flight delay (up to $500 per person over 4 hours), trip interruption (up to $5,000 per person), baggage theft and delay. Additionally, there’s up to $5,000,000 in out-of-province-of-residence medical or hospital insurance—for 60 days for folks under 54 years old, 31 days for those between 55 and 64, and 15 days for travellers aged 65 to 75. 

This insurance package is outstanding on its own, but including extra perks like VIP lounge access at the Montreal airport, travel rebates and overall travel assistance, the National Bank World Elite Mastercard is setting itself up to be a superb all-around travel card.

Annual fee: $150

Welcome bonus: Get $40 cash back for every month (up to 12) that you charge at least $500 on your card (up to $480).

Earn rate: $0 to $40,000 in purchases earn 1.5 Points per dollars; $40,001 to $80,000 earn 2 Points per dollar; and $80,001 and above earns 1.5 Points per dollar

Income requirement: $80,000 (personal) or $150,000 (household)

Additional benefits: In addition to the insurance coverage outlined above, VIP access at the National Bank Lounge at Montréal-Trudeau Airport; refund of up to $250 per year on seat selection, airport parking and baggage fees; vehicle rental insurance; medical, general and legal assistance is offered

Travel Insurance: Travel, trip cancellation/interruption coverage; baggage loss and car rental insurance; out-of-province medical coverage up to $5 million.

FAQs on Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada

How To Choose A Travel Credit Card

With an ever-growing array of travel credit cards, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to pick the one that works best for you. Luckily, Canadians enjoy more choice by educating themselves about a few key features, making it easier to select the card that matches your needs and spending habits the most. Here are some important things to consider:

Sign-up bonus

  • Although going big is generally better when it comes to sign-up bonuses, consider whether the card is the right fit for you in the long run. Simply put, don’t let just the offer factor sway you into picking a particular card since you’ll likely keep it even after the offer ends.
  • You’ll also want to get familiar with the terms of the sign-up offer, as you may need to hit a minimum spend within a specific time-frame in order to qualify for the bonus (i.e. making at least $1,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of opening your account).

Earn rate

There are two kinds of earn rates:

  • 1. A flat earn rate is one that offers the same number of points across the board for all types of spending. This is perfect for those who prefer simplicity and whose spending isn’t biased towards particular categories.
  • 2. Bonus earn rate that offers a higher return on specific categories like gas, groceries, or dining. To increase the rewards, you should ensure that any revved-up bonus categories match your spending patterns.

Flexibility

  • General travel cards provide brilliant flexibility by letting you redeem miles or points for a range of items, including flights on any airline — an ideal option if you don’t favour a particular carrier.
  • Co-branded cards however only let you redeem points with select partners. They commonly feature airline or hotel-specific benefits and perks typically not available on cards that aren’t affiliated with a specific loyalty program (i.e. free checked bags and discounts on companion flights).

Perks and benefits

  • While not as eye-catching as a big welcome bonus, perks can save you lots of money and transform flying or hotel stays.
  • Certain benefits to look out for include insurance (like medical, lost baggage, and hotel theft), rental car discounts, and airport lounge access.
  • Evaluate the relevance and value of a card’s perks by anticipating how often you’ll actually use them.

Annual fee

  • A large chunk of premium travel cards come with an annual fee averaging $120.
  • You’ll want to assess whether the card’s rewards and money-saving perks (like travel insurance) will help you come out ahead and offer more value than the annual fee. 

Eligibility requirements

  • The top travel cards have specific income and credit score requirements (typically around $60,000 and 650 respectively).
  • Ensure you fit the requirements rather than applying blind because a hard check on your credit rating could decrease your score by up to 10 points. The best course of action is to research if a credit card needs an income requirement and check your credit score before you apply for one. 

How To Maximize Your Travel Credit Card’s Rewards

Making the most of your travel credit card goes beyond just charging all of your purchases on the card. Using little know-how and effort, cardholders can boost the benefits of any reward card.

1. One of the main ways to extract the benefits of your travel credit card is to use it responsibly by paying off the balance in full each and every month. All the bonuses and benefits in the world won’t make up for the hundreds of dollars in potential interest charges you could add to your balance if you don’t pay it off in full every month. Not to mention the hit your credit score could take if you have a negligent repayment history. If you consistently carry a balance, a low interest credit card or one with a generous balance transfer option would likely be a better fit.

2. Travel credit cards are designed mostly towards travel redemptions. Though you can often use points or miles for statement credits, merchandise or gift cards, these points typically offer less value for your points than they would if redeemed for flight or hotel redemptions. For example, Scotia Rewards Points are worth $0.01 if you redeem them for travel, but lose about a third of their value if you redeem them for a statement credit. Generally speaking, if you don’t travel much yet want to reap significant rewards, it’s likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck with a cash back credit card instead.

3. Be a double-dipper. Sure, no one likes a double dipper when it comes to chips and dip, but the practice can up your rewards game. Gain additional rewards from an airline or hotel loyalty program when you use your travel credit card. For example, if you carry an Aeroplan credit card, you’ll earn bonus miles when shopping on the Aeroplan Estore, supercharging your point accumulation.

How To Pick Credit Card Travel Insurance

While the monetary amounts and eligibility qualifications (like age) tend to vary, in most cases, a travel credit card’s insurance offerings can be one of its most attractive benefits. 

While others research endlessly on which hotel and which site to target, others target another crucial element of a successful trip: travel insurance. With many travel credit cards (especially premium cards that carry an annual fee) gaining travel insurance is a key perk simply because buying travel insurance on your own could otherwise cost you around 4% to 10% of your total trip which is a comprehensive insurance package. Major best travel credit cards in Canada provide more than a dozen types of insurance, ranging from hotel burglary to trip interruption and delayed baggage coverage. Here’s a look at some of the main types of insurance: 

Out-of-Province travel emergency medical

While your province’s healthcare plan will generally cover doctor and hospital visits within its borders, most provincial plans cover very little for medical issues when you venture outside – within Canada or internationally. That’s where out-of-province travel emergency insurance comes in.

This insurance will cover claims for any injuries or illness (like a hospital stay, the care of a private nurse and major dental expenses) up to a certain amount – usually around $1 million.

Take note that pre-existing conditions usually won’t be covered. If you’re younger than 65, some cards may cover as much as 20 days and up. Unfortunately for those 65 years and over, only get four days of coverage or no coverage at all – though there are exceptions.

As this is the most crucial and expense-offsetting kind of insurance most travellers will need, it’s essential to contact your credit card company to ensure you’re fully informed about what conditions are covered or excluded.

Travel accident

Similar to emergency medical insurance, travel accident insurance specifically covers you for dismemberment or loss of life sustained while on a common carrier (i.e. plane, train etc). For death, the spouse/estate receives payment. Claims include medical emergencies like loss of limbs, sight and hearing.

Travel Interruption / cancellation coverage

Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance are slightly different. For trip cancellation, you’re only covered from when you book the trip until you depart. For this policy, your credit card insurance will reimburse the non-refundable portion of your trip (like your flight) up to a max amount. Be aware you can’t cancel your travel for any reason. You’ll only be reimbursed for specific cases like illness, a death in the family, and travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel.

Trip interruption insurance, however, starts once the trip starts and applies until travel is completed. It covers you up to a fixed amount for non-refundable expenses (like pre-paid accommodation) when you have to cut a trip short. Reasons for not completing a trip that can be allowed for reimbursal include severe weather conditions and serious injury or illness that makes you or your travel companion unfit for travel.

Flight delay insurance

This insurance protects you from unexpected expenses related to a delayed flight. Possible causes of delay such as bad weather or striking employees. Reimbursements can mean meals and hotel expenses. Payout amounts differ according to which card you have.

Lost/delayed baggage

Delayed baggage insurance covers the cost (upto the highest reimbursement amount) of essential items such as clothing if your checked baggage is delayed for a specific period of time, usually four hours or longer. Lost baggage insurance will reimburse you up to a set amount for lost personal property with the knowledge that your checked bag is lost by a common carrier (like airlines).

Rental car collision loss/damage

Collision and damage insurance covers the costs related to a damaged or stolen rental vehicle. It only applies to your specific rental car and does not cover harm done to other cars, people or property (for which you would need to purchase liability insurance). For collision and damage insurance kindly decline the rental company’s optional collision damage waiver. Collision/damage insurance can easily cost $20 a day, making the best travel credit cards in Canada a real money saver. 

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