“Worldwide lounge access, a $200 annual travel credit, platinum hotel memberships, extra insurance, a metal card and I get 50,000 points on top of all that? Are you serious???”

That was my reaction when a friend first told me about the American Express Platinum Card for Canadia

Needless to say, I was more than a little intrigued…

And now that it’s been over 4 years since I’ve had my own Platinum Card, I can’t tout it highly enough.

Are you ready to learn why?

This American Express Platinum review is broken down into 10 sections.

#1 The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Additional Bonus after 6 months10,000
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On Dining3
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On Travel2
Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases1
Companion Tickets
Fine Hotels & Resorts Exclusive Benefits
Hotel Elite Statuses
Amex Platinum Concierge
American Express Invites
Comprehensive Travel Insurance
Annual Fee$699

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

#2 Three More Special Amex Platinum Canada Benefits

Special Benefit #1: Worldwide Airport Lounge Access

On top of the 50,000 Membership Rewards points that come with your Platinum Card (plus the 10,000 more you can receive after 6 months of Cardmembership), you also receive a Priority Pass Prestige membership, which holds a value of $429 USD per year. Your Priority Pass membership gets you into more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world without paying a dime. All of the lounges have free food (some offer full meals, while others have an array of snacks), drinks (many, though not all, offer alcoholic drinks as well), and many include additional amenities like nap rooms, showers, libraries, printing, and games rooms.

My Priority Pass is definitely the American Express Platinum benefit that I use the most, and it’s completely changed the way that I travel. I seriously can’t imagine flying anywhere without stopping in the lounge first now.

Where can you use your Canadian Platinum lounge benefit in Canada? How about the 24-hour SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver (YVR)?

The SkyTeam Lounge at Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Or the National Bank Lounge in Montreal (YUL)?

You get free access to the National Bank World MasterCard Lounge at Montreal International Airport (YUL) thanks to your Canadian Platinum lounge benefit

Toronto (YYZ) has a whopping seven Priority Pass lounges—and you’ll be able to access all of them for free.

You’re stepping up your travel game already.

Special Benefit #2: $200 Annual Travel Credit

This is exactly what it sounds like: $200 for you to use on travel, every single year. In the past 3 years alone, I’ve used my $200 travel credit on a flight to Asia, a flight to South America, and a flight to Europe.

The Amex Platinum Card comes with a $200 annual travel credit you can use anywhere in the world!

Pro Tip: Use your $200 annual travel credit on the first hotel or flight booking you make with your Platinum Card. You don’t want to forget to use it!

Special Benefit #3: Hotel Elite Statuses

Your Amex Platinum also upgrades your statuses with a handful of hotel chains. This means you get special benefits: exclusive discounts, early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfasts and more.

These are the sort of status upgrades you can expect with your Amex Platinum Card:

APPLY NOW

#3 How To Turn 50,000 Points Into 65,000 Points

The 50,000 welcome bonus points that come with the American Express Platinum are great, but if you know what you’re doing, you can actually turn them into 65,000 pretty simply.

How? At least once per year, American Express offers a 30% transfer bonus when you transfer your points to a program like British Airways Avios or Aeroplan. Just by transferring your points smartly, 50,000 Membership Rewards points all of a sudden become 65,000 Avios points.

You just gained another 15,000 points—worth at least $300 if you use them at a value of 2 cents per point or above—just for being in the loop.

Here are 3 realistic scenarios of the value you can achieve with the Amex Platinum:

Very EasyVery EasyModerate Difficulty
Redemption TypeCash (against statement balance)FlightsFlights with creativity
Redemption Value Per Point1 cent2 cents3 cents
Total Value Of 65,000 Points$650$1,300$1,950
Less: Annual Fee($699)($699)($699)
Plus: $200 Annual Travel Credit$200$200$200
Profit From Points-$50$600$1,250
Additional BenefitsYesYesYes

Most of you will find yourselves in columns 2 or 3 in the $801-$1,451 profit range, since you can just read our other blog posts like how to get cheap flights to Asia and how to get cheap flights to Europe to find tons of flights that get you 2-3 cents per point of value.

But if you’re ambitious and want to push your points even further, it’s completely possible to surpass what’s listed above with a value of 3 cents per point or more. Just send us an emailand we’ll help you sift through your options to ensure you get a great bang for your buck.

APPLY NOW

#4 How To Use Your 65,000 Points

Case Study #1: Visiting Asia

Suppose you want to take a trip to Hong Kong to visit family or friends. The Amex Platinum is your perfect companion, since one of the easiest, best ways to use your 65,000 Avios points is on direct flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific.

Since Cathay Pacific is a premium airline, these flights normally cost at least $1,000 from Vancouver, and even more from Toronto. You won’t be paying anywhere close to that.

Roundtrip flights from Vancouver to Hong Kong cost just 60,000 Avios points + $90 in taxes and fees. Roundtrip flights from Toronto to Hong Kong cost 70,000 Avios points + $100, though you can pay a little bit more in cash (~$50) and drop the points down to 65,000 if you want.

How does a $90 roundtrip flight to Hong Kong sound? It’s yours with the Amex Platinum for Canadians.

Of course, Hong Kong isn’t your only option. Tokyo is a bit closer than Hong Kong, so flights between Vancouver and Tokyo are just 50,000 points.

Are you getting excited yet?

Case Study #2: Going Round-The-World

Let’s suppose you want to go around the world using your Platinum card.

No problem.

If you’re in Vancouver, you can fly from Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver (or the opposite direction) for 74,700 points + $742 in taxes and fees.

Yes, 74,700 is a bit more than 65,000, but don’t worry—you’ll earn the extra 10,000 points (and more!) after a few months of using the card.

Toronto works just the same.

Flying from Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto (or the opposite direction) costs just 74,500 points + $761 in taxes and fees.

Did you ever imagine you could fly around the world for $750?

That’s the power of the Platinum Card.

RoutePoints NeededTaxes & Fees
Roundtrip: Toronto to Hong Kong70,000$100
Roundtrip: Vancouver to Hong Kong60,000$90
Round-the-world: Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto74,500$761
Round-the-world: Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver74,700$742

These round-the-world trips offer a value of well over 4 cents per point, meaning the $699 fee you paid just saved you several thousand dollars on flights.

APPLY NOW

#5 Is The Amex Platinum Canada Worth The $699 Annual Fee?

Absolutely.

Here’s the magic in the $699 annual fee: it’s impossible not to make money by having this card, even after paying the fee.

Huh? Sounds confusing, right?

Here’s how it works.

If you use your 50,000 points in the worst way possible, they’re worth $700 to you. Why? Because American Express allows you to apply your points against your statement balance at a value of one cent per point, which means 50,000 points = $500. Add in your $200 travel credit for 2019 and you’re at $700.

It’s impossible not to make money with the Amex Platinum Card.

And that’s not even considering the other benefits you get from the card. The travel/emergency/baggage insurance and additional purchase insurance (for theft/damage of your items), the worldwide airport lounge access, the premium hotel memberships, and everything else you see here are all just cherries on top.

So even if you use your points in the worst way you could—by applying them to your statement balance as a cash equivalent—you still come out way, way ahead.

But if you use them in the ways we’ve suggested in sections #3 and #4 above, you can reasonably expect to save $800 or more after accounting for the annual fee.

#6 Travel Insurance

The Platinum Card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

Read our post on American Express Travel Insurance to learn the ins and outs regarding all the coverage options Amex has to offer, including card embedded insurance and stand-alone insurance plans.

#7 The Amex Business Platinum Card

This entire review has been about the Amex Platinum Card, though there’s also an American Express Business Platinum Card for Canadians, too. There are a few key differences between the two cards:

Since the Platinum Card’s higher annual fee is offset by its $200 annual travel credit, the biggest difference between the two is that you get 10,000 fewer welcome bonus points with the Business Platinum Card.

#8 Three Less Expensive Cards To Consider

Even though we’ve clearly shown how you can save thousands of dollars with the Platinum Card, the $699 annual fee still rubs some people the wrong way.

So here are a few less expensive, high-value cards you can consider instead:

#1 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card

Released in March 2019, the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card is the best travel credit card available in Canada right now. It comes with an incredible 60,000 welcome bonus points at an annual fee of just $120. You also receive a free hotel night every year after the first year with the card, which you’re able to use at some of the swankiest hotels in the world. While this current offer lasts, we can’t recommend the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card highly enough.

APPLY NOW

#2 The Amex Cobalt Card

The Amex Cobalt Card is the best everyday spending card available right now. Why? Because you can get up to 10% cashback on your spending when you use the Cobalt Card at coffee shops, restaurants, bars and grocery stores coffee anywhere in Canada.

APPLY NOW

#3 The Amex Gold Rewards Card

You can think of the Gold Rewards Card as the classic American Express card. It comes with 25,000 welcome bonus points, which is enough for a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America. With its $150 annual fee, the Gold Rewards Card has offered good value for years, though the current offer on the new Marriott Bonvoy™ Card provides better value right now.

APPLY NOW

#9 How To Apply For The American Express Platinum Card

Applying is as simple as clicking the button below, taking 3 minutes to fill in the application form, and waiting a few days for your card to arrive!

It’s important to take action now, though—the welcome points bonus used to be 75,000 on this card, but Amex has reduced it several times over the past few years. Grab yours while this sweet offer is still available.

#10 FAQs

What Is The New American Express Platinum Metal Card Like?

Honestly—it’s pretty cool!

If you didn’t already know, the American Express Platinum is now made of metal. It has a significant heft to it, weighing in at 19 grams (for reference, a typical plastic credit card weighs 5 grams). It’s sure to impress your friends when you “accidentally” drop it on the table as you pay.

All new Platinum cardholders now receive the metal card, so that’s a nice bonus on top of all the other benefits we’ve talked about above. Existing cardholders can also request to have their old plastic card exchanged for a metal card at any time.

How Can I Sign Up With An American Express Platinum Referral?

To get the best available welcome points bonus, which is currently 50,000 points, sign up here. After you’ve signed up, you can refer your own friends to the American Express Platinum for a referral bonus of 15,000 points.

APPLY NOW

The American Express Gold Rewards Card for Canadians is an excellent travel card for travelers looking to get some cheap flights to Europe with a low annual fee. It comes with a welcome bonus of 25,000 points—which we value between $500 and $750—plus an impressive travel insurance policy, $100 in hotel credit, and much more.

With an annual fee of just $150, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. This post will show you exactly how to use the American Express Gold Rewards Card to get your next flight to Europe for $75 or less.

APPLY NOW

The Request:

Feb 10-24, Toronto to Europe
Destinations are flexible
Arrival/departure cities must be different

As you learned in our post on getting cheap flights to Asia, you can save up to 90% off the cost of your flights by using Aeroplan points if you use them correctly. So today, thanks to Sarah, you’re going to learn how to use your Aeroplan points to their absolute fullest when flying to or from Europe.

The first step is in knowing the best airlines to fly with. These are the top 7 airlines you’ll want to fly with when redeeming your Aeroplan points:

  1. United Airlines
  2. Swiss Airlines
  3. Turkish Airlines
  4. Singapore Airlines
  5. Air New Zealand
  6. Eva Airways (Southeast Asia)
  7. Air China

As you can see, two of the top seven airlines are based in Europe – Turkish Airlines and Swiss Airlines – which means that their hub cities, Zurich and Istanbul, are great places to start looking. United Airlines services Europe extremely well, too, so the cities that United serves heavily will also be good targets.

A quick search shows that our logic is spot on: Sarah can get to either Zurich or Istanbul for $50.

Here Are 10+ Cheap Flights To Europe From Canada

Flying from Toronto to Zurich, Switzerland using Aeroplan miles
Flying from Toronto to Istanbul, Turkey using Aeroplan miles

But Sarah wants more than just two options, so here are two more that work just as well:

Flying from Toronto to Rome, Italy using Aeroplan miles
Flying from Toronto to Berlin, Germany using Aeroplan miles

What if Sarah was leaving from Vancouver or Montreal instead of Toronto? No problem.

Flying from Vancouver to Paris, France using Aeroplan miles
Flying from Montreal to Copenhagen, Denmark using Aeroplan miles

Or what if Sarah wanted to fly from New York to Oslo for $35, or San Francisco to Madrid for an amazing $15?! You got it.

Flying from New York to Oslo, Norway using Aeroplan miles
Flying from San Francisco to Madrid, Spain using Aeroplan miles

Okay, so we know that we can easily meet Sarah’s needs of getting her to Europe on her ideal date, and she’s got 10+ great options of cities to choose from. Finding cheap flights to Europe using Aeroplan is a breeze!

But what about her flight home? As it turns out, getting home is just as easy.

Flying from Milan, Italy to Toronto using Aeroplan miles
Flying from Barcelona, Spain to Montreal using Aeroplan miles
Flying from Dublin, Ireland to Vancouver using Aeroplan miles

Here you also have a list of cheap airlines based in Europe!

white plane flying over lake

Norwegian Air

 This is actually the third largest low-cost carrier in Europe and it flies more than 400 routes to more than 130 destinations in Europe, North Africa, Thailand, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the U.S. When you book a flight, Norwegian offers a low-fare calendar so that you can get the best fares.

Wow Air

This Iceland-based airline currently serves 30 destinations across Europe and North America, including Baltimore-Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal, and Toronto. 

EasyJet

This Hungary-based LCC currently offers flights on more than 500 routes from 27 bases, going to destinations such as Dubai, London, Milan and the Netherlands. It flies to smaller and secondary airports to offer lower fares

FlyBe

With 232 routes serving 9 countries, including Belgium, France, Netherlands and United Kingdom this UK-based airline calls itself “Europe’s largest regional airline”. What is interesting about FlyBe is that they offer different levels of service on their flights. They will offer travelers who buy “All In” fares receiving free drinks and snacks, access to a premium airport lounge, free pre-booked seating and priority check-in.

airplane view

Vueling

Based is Spain, Barcelona, this LCC offers flights to Africa, Asia, and Europe and rivals Spanish flag carrier Iberia. And as an interesting fact to consider, it is owned by International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways.

Pegasus Airlines

This Turkish LCC offers a single class of service and charges for seat selection, pre-ordered food, baggage, and tickets that allow for changes. It offers destinations to Amsterdam, Dubai, Madrid, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Rome, Sharm el-Sheikh, Tehran and Tirana. In total, Pegasus Airlines flies to 91 locations, 60 abroad and 31 domestic locations in 37 countries.

Just like flying to/from Asia, it’s easy to get to/from Europe for next-to-nothing. But we’ve skipped over the most crucial part: how Sarah got her Aeroplan points in the first place. So here it is: the dead-simple two-step process that Sarah followed to a tee to save over $700 on her trip.

STEP 1 OF 2: GET YOUR POINTS

In November, Sarah got herself an American Express Gold Rewards Card, which gave her a whopping 25,000 points, more than enough to get her to Europe. Her card arrived in 2 days.

APPLY NOW

STEP 2 OF 2: USE YOUR POINTS

That same day, Sarah got an Aeroplan Card. You’re going to transfer your American Express points into Aeroplan points in order to take the flights above, so you’ll need one of these. Fill out their 60-second online form and you’re all set – everyone gets approved automatically.

And that’s it.

Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so too, until I helped dozens of people like Sarah follow these exact steps and get on flights like the ones above. Not all great things have to come at high prices.

The Germany Limitation

There are just two hiccups you’ll come across when booking your flights to/from Europe, and they’re both easily avoidable. The Germany Limitation comes as a result of the majority of Aeroplan flights in and out of Germany being operated by Lufthansa, which matches Air Canada as the worst airline for redeeming your Aeroplan miles, so you need to change the airlines you fly with. But doing that within Germany is a bit tricky, just like Thailand proved to be in our deep look at flying from Asia to North America for $75, so our recommendation is the exact same – get out of Germany. Even when I did find a Frankfurt to Toronto flight with United Airlines, the German government-imposed fees added nearly $100 extra on to what the flight should’ve costed. Here’s a breakdown of those taxes and fees.

The German government adds a lot of taxes and fees on to what should be a very cheap flight to Europe.

Given how small European countries are and the ease of flying between them – starting from the major cities in Germany, you can fly internationally in multiple directions for under $20 – there’s no real need to fly to Canada directly from Germany. Do yourself a favour and add on a day or two in a nearby city like Amsterdam, Zurich, or Paris; not only will it add colour to your trip, the cost of your flights will drop significantly. That’s what you call a win-win. Here’s a breakdown of the taxes and fees when departing from Zurich instead, a full $75 cheaper.

The taxes and fees on Swiss Airlines are much less.

The UK Limitation

The second hiccup is the Air Passenger Duty applied to flights departing the UK for North America – and it’s a big one – but you have two options for avoiding it. You could take the same approach as with Germany above and just leave the UK before you start your return journey, or you could book a flight that has European connections built-in. Switzerland is nearby so you could jump on a Swiss Airlines flight with a connection in Geneva or Zurich, or find a United Airlines flight that stops in Paris or Madrid. However you do it, just don’t fly directly back from the UK, or you’ll be hit with a fee like the $145.50 one below.

The UK Air Passenger Duty fee is no fun

Bonus: Hacking Istanbul

There are a few sweet spots that only those of us really deep in our Aeroplan knowledge know about, and one of them is Istanbul.

When I run a search for Istanbul, things look good at first: since you’re flying with Turkish Airlines – one of the top 7 airlines listed above – you don’t pay any fuel surcharge, which is why the price is so low. But upon a closer look, there’s a problem: the Aeroplan points required for that flight, which are 30,000 for the rest of Europe, now sits at 37,500. That 25% jump is substantial, but luckily for you, you won’t be paying it.

Instead, you’re going to skip a leg.

Let’s open up another search tab and look back at one of our previous destinations: Rome. The search results look like any others, but there’s something highly interesting hidden within them: the Turkish Airlines flights from Toronto to Rome have a stop in Istanbul!

Toronto to Rome

You’ve probably put things together by now: The best way to get to Istanbul is not by buying a ticket to Istanbul; instead, it’s by buying this ticket to Rome and getting out in Istanbul.

Anyone else feel like this after reading that?

But we need to be very clear about something: this method of purchasing a multi-segment flight and skipping the end of it is not viewed positively in the airlines’ eyes. Last year, United Airlines and Orbitz.com, one of the world’s largest online travel agencies, collectively sued a website that was making it easier for travelers to find these types of tickets. So if you’re going to do it, do yourself a favour and don’t flaunt it.

Something else to consider: you should not check luggage when skipping a flight segment. While it is sometimes possible to check your luggage to an intermediate destination, it’s not a sure thing, and assuming you don’t want your luggage to end up in Rome while you’re exploring Istanbul, it’s better to just avoid checking bags altogether. Luckily, at the time of this writing, Turkish Airlines allows one piece of carry-on cabin baggage up to 8kg plus an additional personal item, which is enough for most people.

So what’s the point of all this?

Two things.

First, to give you the knowledge you need to make smart, informed decisions about finding cheap flights to Europe, and back to Canada as well. If you’ve been trying to buy cheap flights to Europe, or anywhere else, without this type of knowledge, you’ve probably been over-paying by a substantial amount. That stops now.

And second, to show you that flying doesn’t need to be expensive. With the right tools in place, you can cut your flight costs by 50% or more. Invest 5 minutes to save $500-$1,000 on your travels today.

APPLY NOW

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably like its sister post on finding cheap flights to Asia, or our new post on the best American Express Aeroplan cards.

The conversations always start the same way: an aspiring Canadian traveler wants to know how I’ve been flying around the world for the past four years for next-to-nothing. And the answer is always the same: while I had a strong handle on how to travel in style extremely cheaply before that—think roundtrips to Asia or Europe for under $100 total—it wasn’t until I got my own personal Amex Platinum Card in 2015 that things truly kicked into overdrive.

And since then, thousands of Canadians have joined me in capitalizing on an incredible travel opportunity available to Canadians right now. My only question is…

Will you be one of them?

APPLY NOW
One of the private suites your Business Platinum unlocks for you at the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Istanbul International Airport (IST)

A 40,000 Points Welcome Bonus

I’ve already written about the relevant benefits of the American Express Platinum Card here, so I won’t repeat those in this post. The summary, though, is that even if you use the points in the worst possible way, you’ll receive some impressive rewards by getting the Platinum card.

And yes, that’s after accounting for the $700 annual fee.

If you use the points smartly, of course, you can do much, much better than that. For example, when you accumulate 75,000 points, here are some of the trips you can take: 

RoutePoints NeededTaxes & Fees
Roundtrip: Toronto to Hong Kong70,000$100
Roundtrip: Vancouver to Hong Kong60,000$90
Round-the-world: Toronto to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Toronto74,500$761
Round-the-world: Vancouver to Hong Kong to Dubai to London to Vancouver74,700$742

The Platinum Card is a truly exceptional offer that I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s been my ticket to flying in style all over the globe, not to mention staying in some of the world’s nicest hotels for a fraction of the regular price.

But that said, American Express’ Business Platinum card is the new offer in town, and it’s one that every Canadian traveler needs to know about, too.

Though the Platinum and Business Platinum cards are extremely similar in their benefits and features, there are a few crucial differences. Here’s how the two cards compare:

Comparing The Amex Platinum And Amex Business Platinum Canadian Cards

American Express Business Platinum CardAmerican Express Platinum Card
Welcome Bonus40,000 points50,000 points
+ 10,000 points after 6 months
Annual Fee$499$699
Annual Travel CreditNo$200
Worldwide Airport Lounge Access With Priority Pass Select ($399 USD Value)
Worldwide Centurion Lounge Access
Complimentary flight upgrades and companion tickets
Hotel Upgrades & Extras
Comprehensive travel, medical and purchase insurance
24/7 Platinum Travel Concierge
Earn 1.25 Points Per Dollar Spent
Employee Card Misuse Protection 
Application LinkAPPLY HEREAPPLY HERE

As you can see, the two cards are pretty similar. For 99% of people, the top three rows are what matter most.

The Business Platinum card costs $499 and comes with a welcome bonus of 40,000 points, while the Platinum Card costs $699 and comes with a welcome bonus of 50,000 points and the $200 annual travel credit. Plus, you can receive an additional 10,000 MR points after six months of Cardmembership. Add it all up and you can earn up to 60,000 points in the first six months.

How To Transform 40,000 Points Into 52,000 Points

This one is dead simple: at least once per year, American Express offers a transfer bonus when you transfer your points to a program like British Airways Avios or Aeroplan. The most recent transfer bonus period, where every point transferred to British Airways Avios earned a 30% bonus, ran from September until November 25, 2018. Just by transferring your points at the right time, 40,000 points all of a sudden become 52,000 points. As we’ll see next, that little trick is worth hundreds of dollars to you.

How Much Are The 52,000 Points Really Worth?

As I outlined in my post on the Platinum card, I value these American Express Membership Rewards points at between two to three cents per point. That means that your 52,000 points are worth between $1,040 and $1,560!

Why isn’t there an exact value for the points?

Because every flight you use them on holds a different value. Here’s an example.

Holders of both the Platinum and the Business Platinum cards get access to American Express Centurion Lounges all around the world, like this one in Hong Kong

This week I booked a direct Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to London, and a direct British Airways flight from London to Istanbul a few days later. I have plenty of points laying around thanks to my Business Platinum card, so I booked both of them using British Airways’ Avios program.

I also took screenshots on the same days I booked the flights to compare the prices between what I paid and the cash price. Here’s how it all shakes out.

Flight 1: Hong Kong To London — Economy Class

On March 27th, I fly from Hong Kong to London on Cathay Pacific in economy class. I paid 30,000 Avios points plus $52.50 CAD for my ticket. If I had bought my exact same seat with cash, it would’ve cost me $3,911 CAD, but since the cheapest direct flight on that day is $1,194 CAD, we’ll compare with that instead.

Flying from Hong Kong HKG to London LHR in Cathay Pacific’s economy class

$1,194 – $52.20 = $1,141.80 saved by using points

÷ 30,000 points paid

= 3.8 cents per point

This is a really good redemption. At this rate, your 52,000 points would be worth just under $2,000!

Flight 2: London To Istanbul — Business Class

Four days later, on March 31, I’m flying from London to Istanbul in business class. I paid 20,000 Avios points plus $40 CAD for my ticket, though as you can see below, the exact same ticket was priced at $1,001 CAD when I bought it. Let’s do the value per point calculation again.

Flying from London LHR to Istanbul IST in British Airways’ business class

$1,001 – $40 = $971 saved by using points

÷ 20,000 points paid

= 4.9 cents per point

This is an even better value than the Hong Kong to London flight. If you could redeem all 52,000 of the points you get with the Business Platinum card at this rate, they’d be worth over $2,500 to you. That’s a 5x return on your initial $499 investment!

APPLY NOW

How To Book Some Amazing Flights With Your 52,000 Points

We’ve already put together some mega-posts on how to book some seriouslyamazing flights all over the world, so I won’t repeat those here. You can’t go wrong with these three:

How To Fly From Asia to North America For Under $75

How To Fly From New York to Rio de Janeiro For $8 Flat

How To Fly From Canada to Europe For Under $50

“I always thought people who cared about credit card points were silly. Now I’m kicking myself for not caring sooner.

It’s not tough to spend the travel credit, since you can use it on flights/hotels/rental cars and more, and you don’t need to do the traveling itself in order to spend it. If you’re going on vacation in May, you can buy your flight or hotel in January and you’re all set from there.

Side note: If you are planning on doing some international travel, you should definitely read our N26 review and our review on the new N26 You Card to learn the best way to save money on foreign ATM withdrawals and currency conversion while you’re abroad.

My Recommendation

There’s a reason I mentioned above that the current offer on the American Express Business Platinum card is so good:

I don’t expect it to be here for long!

If the Platinum card—which used to also offer a 75,000 points welcome bonus—is any indicator, we’ll see the same things happen to the Business Platinum card.

The welcome bonus will decrease.

The annual fee will increase (in fact, it already increased from $399 to $499 as of mid-February, 2018).

The benefits to new applicants will decrease.

So while this offer still stands, I highly recommend you pick up the Business Platinum card.

While you’re at it, you should seriously consider the Platinum card as well.

I realize that paying $499 AND $699 in fees seems like a lot, and it is. (The Cobalt Card is a much more manageable $10/month, though it doesn’t offer the massive welcome bonuses that you get with these Platinum cards. For a card that offers both an impressive welcome bonus and a low annual fee, go for the Marriott Bonvoy Card.)

But when you compare the value you get out of the offer—more than double that amount in travel, free access to airport lounges around the world, complimentary flight upgrades, extremely comprehensive insurance, and on and on—it truly is a steal.

At the end of the day, it’s a small expense given the value you’ll extract, both today and for years to come.

APPLY NOW

Three Alternative Cards

If you’re not quite sure whether the Business Platinum Card is right for you, there are plenty of other great credit cards out there.

Here are the three best offers available in Canada right now:

#1 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card

This is undoubtedly the best credit card offer in Canada in 2019. Its 60,000 points welcome bonus, annual free night award and a wide array of other benefits makes the personal Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card an absolute steal for its $120 annual fee. We recommend that every Canadian sign up for this card while this incredible introductory offer still lasts.

APPLY NOW

#2 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card

If you’re set on getting a business credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card is another great option. If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll love the annual Free Night Award, which you can cash in at some of the nicest hotels in the world.

The Business Gold Rewards Card offers good value as well, though we feel that 60,000 points welcome bonus and the lower annual fee of the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card make it the better choice.

APPLY NOW

#3 The Cobalt Card

The Amex Cobalt Card is the best everyday spending card available right now, and one of our favorite cards overall. Why? Because you can get up to 10% cashback on your spending when you use the Cobalt Card on at coffee shops, restaurants, bars and grocery stores anywhere in Canada.

APPLY NOW

The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card is one of the best travel cards available in Canada today. With its extremely generous 50,000 welcome bonus (required spend: $1,500, conditions apply), annual Free Night Award, and comprehensive travel insurance policy, it’s got everything you need.

The card’s $150 annual fee pays for itself many times over in the first year of having the card, and still makes sense in subsequent years. If you plan to spend at least one night in a hotel in the next 12 months, you’d be wise to pick up the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card.

APPLY NOW

There’s a lot of hype around the new Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Business Card right now.

50,000 points is a pretty amazing signup bonus, after all.

But choosing the right credit card is about finding lasting value, not just value in the first year.

So we dug deep into the intricacies of the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card to see whether it would stand the test of time.

It did. And you’re about to learn why.

This Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex review is broken down into the following 9 sections:

#1 The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent At Marriott Properties5
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Gas, Dining & Travel Purchases3
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
Free Night Award
Travel Insurance
Employee Card Misuse Protection
15 Elite Night Credits Per Calendar Year
Supplementary Cards$50/year
Annual Fee$150

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

#2 Two More Special Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card Free Night Award

On top of the 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points that come with your Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card, you also receive one free hotel night every year after the first year. There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you’ll get it every year after your first card anniversary regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on? How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or how about the Moxy Amsterdam, a new design hotel in one of Amsterdam’s hippest districts?

The beautifully-designed Moxy Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Or the Sheraton in Bali, with its infinity pool overlooking the ocean? Where will you choose?

The infinity pool at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort in Bali, Indonesia

As you can see, the opportunities are truly endless for this annual Free Night Award.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card so much?

Special Benefit #3: 5th Night Free

This technically isn’t a benefit exclusive to the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card, but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out here, anyway. It goes like this:

Every time you book a Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free!

There’s nothing more to explain than that, though I don’t need to tell you how amazing of a benefit this is. As you’ll see below, we’ll use this to our full advantage to get as many as 16 nights in a 5-star hotel with your card.

APPLY NOW

#3 Three Ways To Use Your Marriott Bonvoy™ Points

#1 Using Marriott Bonvoy™ Points For Hotel Stays

The best way to use your Marriott Bonvoy™ points—hands-down—is on hotel stays. We cover this at length in our Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card review, so we won’t cover it again here.

The summary is that if you use your points wisely, you can get anywhere between 2 and 16 nights in 5-star hotels completely free with the 50,000 points that come with your card. Getting 2 free nights is extremely easy, and getting 16 nights is more difficult, but both are possible, and we show you how.

#2 Using Your Marriott Bonvoy™ Points For Flights

Your 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points can also be transferred to 45 different airline partners. Most, but not all, of the airline partners accept Marriott Bonvoy™ points at a value of 3:1 (eg. 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points = 10,000 Aeroplan Miles). If you transfer 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points to any airline partner, you’ll also receive an additional 15,000 points (worth 5,000 Aeroplan miles) for free, meaning that 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points turns into 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan milesBritish Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

(Note: We recommend that you use your Marriott Bonvoy™ points for hotel redemptions, since they’re much more valuable that way. If you’re looking for a card for maximizing flight rewards, we recommend the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Business Platinum.)

If you follow our advice on how to redeem your airline points, you’ll find that they’re worth about 2-3 cents apiece, putting the value of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points at about $600-$900 when you use them on flights.

Our Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card review has a full list of airline partners (with transfer ratios) that you can transfer your points to.

#3 Using Your Marriott Bonvoy™ Points For Marriott Bonvoy™ Moments

We won’t talk about Marriott Bonvoy™ Moments in-depth here, since most people like to use their points on hotels and flights, but you can expect things like VIP Super Bowl parties, private dining with celebrity chefs and more. Here’s the full list of Marriott Bonvoy™ Moments that you can choose from.

#4 Is The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card Right For Me?

The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card is a no-brainer for anyone who plans to spend at least 1 night in a hotel per year.

This sounds oversimplified, but it’s actually not at all.

Think about it.

The annual Free Hotel Night benefit—which gives you a free night in a 5-star hotel—is worth more than the $150 annual fee on its own.

And when you add on everything else—the 50,000 points welcome bonus, the travel insurance, and all of the other extras that come with the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card—the value of this card becomes overwhelmingly good.

Every Canadian should have this card in their wallet for the next 10+ years.

APPLY NOW

#5 Three Alternative Cards

If you’re not quite sure whether the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card is right for you, there are plenty of other great credit cards out there.

Here are the three best offers available in Canada right now:

#1 The Amex Platinum Card

Alongside the Marriott Bonvoy™ Card, the Platinum Card is an one of the best travel credit cards in Canada in 2019. Its 50,000 points welcome bonus, $200 annual travel credit, worldwide airport lounge access, travel insurance and a wide array of other benefits makes the Canadian Amex Platinum an excellent value. We recommend that every Canadian sign up for this card while this incredible offer still lasts.

APPLY NOW

#2 The American Express Business Platinum Card

If you’re set on getting a business credit card, the American Express Business Platinum Card has been our card of choice for years. If you’re a frequent traveler, the airport lounge access that comes with the Business Platinum Card will upgrade your travels in a pretty serious way.

The Business Gold Rewards Card offers good value as well, though we feel that the 10,000 extra welcome bonus points (which we value at $200-$300), the airport lounge access that comes with the Business Platinum card, and the better referral structure (25,000 points per Business Platinum referral vs. only 5,000 points per Business Gold Rewards referral) more than make up for the additional $250 annual fee.

APPLY NOW

#3 The Cobalt Card

The Amex Cobalt Card is the best everyday spending card available right now, and one of our favorite cards overall. Why? Because you can get up to 10% cashback on your spending when you use the Cobalt Card on at coffee shops, restaurants, bars and grocery stores coffee anywhere in Canada.

APPLY NOW

#6 Travel Insurance

The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

If you want more information on these policies, you can read our post on American Express Travel Insurance where you’ll learn all the details regarding insurance coverage, options, claims and more.

#7 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Personal Amex Card

This entire review has been about the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex card, though there’s also a personal Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card for Canadians, too. There are a few minor differences between the two cards:

  1. The business card earns 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining and travel, and 2 points per $1 on all other card purchases. The personal card does not offer a bonus for gas, dining and travel spending (it earns 2 points per $1 on all spending).
  2. The personal card receives complimentary Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status, while the business card does not.
  3. Supplementary business cards cost $50 vs. free for the personal card.
  4. Annual fee of $150 vs. $120 for the personal card.
  5. Includes Employee Card Misuse Protection, which is also included with the American Express Business Platinum Card.

Which card you should choose is entirely dependent on how you plan to use it. If the Employee Card Misuse Protection is valuable for your business, go for the business card. If not, we recommend taking advantage of the lower annual fee and the complimentary Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status by getting the personal card.

Comparing The Marriott Bonvoy™ & Business Marriott Bonvoy™ Cards

Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express CardMarriott Bonvoy™ American Express Business Card
Welcome Bonus50,000 points50,000 points
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent At Marriott Properties55
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Gas, Dining & Travel Purchases23
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases22
Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status
Annual Free Night Award
Travel Insurance
15 Elite Night Credits Per Calendar Year
Additional CardsFree$50/year
Employee Card Misuse Protection✔<
Annual Fee$120$150
Application LinkAPPLY HEREAPPLY HERE

#8 Is The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Worth It?

Definitely.

As we showed above, the annual Free Night Award benefit alone makes this card worth its annual fee. And when you add on everything else you get with it, including the extremely generous 50,000 points welcome bonus, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card is a steal.

APPLY NOW

#9 FAQs

How Do Marriott Bonvoy™ Card Referrals Work?

Once you’ve activated your Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card, you can refer friends to the card. You’ll receive a bonus of 10,000 points for every friend who signs up using your unique referral link.

When Do My Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Expire?

Marriott Bonvoy™ points expire after one year of inactivity. Since you earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points every time you stay at a Marriott property, or even just eat at one of their restaurants, it’s very easy to keep your Marriott Bonvoy™ points balance active. See our section “How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points” above to see just how easy it is to keep your account active.

How Do Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Compare With American Express Membership Reward Points?

They’re completely different. We value Amex MR points at 2-3 cents apiece, and we help you to get these values in posts like this one on $75 flights to Asia and this one on $75 flights to Europe.

Still, it’s hard to say which are more valuable. One thing we can say is that you should not transfer your Amex MR points to Marriott Bonvoy™ points. American Express offers a rate of 1,000 MR = 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy™ points, which is a very poor valuation. This is only a decision you’ll face with your other cards, since the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card earns Marriott Bonvoy™ points on its own.

All things considered, we recommend keeping your Marriott Bonvoy™ points as Marriott Bonvoy™ points so you can use them on amazing hotel redemptions (see the Case Studies above), and transferring your Amex MR points from your Platinum Card to airlines for flights.

How Do Marriott’s Redemption Categories Work?

Marriott has its properties separated into different “Categories,” with each property falling into a category from 1-8. Put simply, lower Categories correspond to cheaper hotels, but as we’ll see, some creativity enables you to find some truly exceptional properties at the low end of the redemption chart, making your points go much, much further. For a full understanding of Marriott’ redemption categories, read our post on the Marriott Bonvoy™ personal Amex Card.

#5 How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy™ Points?

There are several distinct ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points:

#1: Card Spending

You’ll earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, which includes the cost of your stay, food and drinks, and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. Normally you’d only earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per $1 spent, but since Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite membership also comes complimentary with your Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card, you earn an extra 10% on Marriott properties, bringing you to 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per $1 spent. You also earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per $1 spent on all other purchases.

#2: Work Purchases & Events

If you’re planning a work event, such as a conference or large meeting, you can also earn points on spending done by your guests. As a Silver Elite member, you can earn up to 66,000 points per event (earned at 2 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per $1 spent by you or your guests). You also earn 10 Elite Qualifying Nights for your first meeting, and 1 Elite Qualifying Night for every 20 room nights booked by you or your guests. Even if you’re planning a small event, these can accumulate very quickly.

This all adds up to one thing: if you’re an event planner, admin assistant or anyone planning a gathering, you need the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card.

#3: Special Purchases

Some purchases grant you additional Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge them to your card. For example, you’ll receive 500 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per day when you rent a rental card with Hertz, up to 2,000 points per rental. You also earn additional points on travel expenditures like cruises and long-distance telephone cards. These bonuses are provided by Marriott, not by American Express, so we recommend calling Marriott after you get your card to learn more about all the unique ways you can earn points.

Booking a hotel in a given category is as simple as consulting Marriott’s redemption chart below. In brackets we’ve included the PointSavers rates, which are promotional prices 10-20% lower than the regular price that you can sometimes take advantage of. Marriott hasn’t released their peak and off-peak season dates yet, since this is a new setup for them. Sign up for our email list at the bottom of this post if you want our tips for how to book off-peak dates.

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
15,000 (4,000)7,500 (6,000)10,000 (8,500)
210,000 (8,000)12,500 (11,000)15,000 (13,000)
315,000 (12,000)17,500 (16,000)20,000 (18,000)
420,000 (17,500)25,000 (22,500)30,000 (27,500)
530,000 (27,500)35,000 (32,500)40,000 (37,500)
640,000 (35,000)50,000 (45,000)50,000 (55,000)
750,000 (45,000)50,000 (55,000)70,000 (65,000)
870,000 (65,000)85,000 (80,000)100,000 (90,000)

When Are The Peak Season & Off-Peak Season For Hotel Redemptions?

The peak/off-peak system is brand new to Marriott, so they actually haven’t listed which dates will be priced in which way. For now, every date is listed at the standard price, though this will change in the coming months. Join our email list at the bottom of this post so we can update you when that happens and help you maximize your points by planning your travel during off-peak dates.

What About Marriott’s Points + Cash Program?

If you prefer to save some of your Marriott Bonvoy™ points, or if you don’t have enough for a particular booking, you can take advantage of the points + cash option. Generally we recommend against this, since this setup values points lower than what they’re worth if you apply them smartly (see our Case Studies above), but it’s not terrible either. If you don’t have enough points for your hotel stay, use points + cash, but if you do, just use your points. Here’s the points + cash breakdown for each hotel category:

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
150 USD + 2,500 points55 USD + 3,500 points60 USD + 4,500 points
260 USD + 5,000 points65 USD + 6,000 points70 USD + 6,500 points
370 USD + 7,500 points80 USD + 8,500 points90 USD + 9,000 points
490 USD + 10,000 points105 USD + 12,000 points120 USD + 13,500 points
5120 USD + 16,000 points140 USD + 17,000 points165 USD + 19,000 points
6165 USD + 22,000 points190 USD + 25,000 points225 USD + 27,500 points
7225 USD + 27,500 points250 USD + 30,000 points325 USD + 35,000 points
8325 USD + 35,000 points440 USD + 42,500 points635 USD + 50,000 points

You also have another option if you don’t have enough points for a booking: you can book your stay with points and then earn the points later from other hotel stays or credit card spending later. As long as the points reach your account 14 days before your stay, you’re fine. If they don’t, though, your stay will be canceled and you won’t be refunded, so use this strategy with caution.

Where Can I Search For Marriott Hotels?

You can search for hotels using the Marriott search platform here.

We recommend searching on two parameters: the city you’re visiting and the redemption category you’d like to redeem with, which you can find by clicking “All Filters” in the top-right and then selecting “Rewards Category.” If you’re using your annual free night benefit, go for a Category 5, which will show you the best hotels you can get for the 35,000 annual free night points limit. If you’re using your 50,000 welcome points bonus, you can use them however you’d like (see the Case Studies above for ideas of high-value redemptions).

You can redeem your Marriott Bonvoy™ points (with zero blackout dates) at any of these hotel brands, anywhere in the world:

APPLY NOW

This post is written by Kelvin Ewald, the Founder of Colborne Bag Co., the first lunch bag to bring together fashion and function. We caught up with him to learn how he maintains his impeccable style while on the road.

While travelling between Toronto to Austin for 7 months I had the chance to test and refine Packing Lean while looking sharp – and I’ve been pushing it further ever since. For me, function and style are an exciting and essential intersection. I strive to merge the two in many parts of my life, including my upcoming Kickstarter launch for the first fashionable and functional lunch bag, The Colborne Bag:

One backpack isn’t much, so you wouldn’t think you’d receive compliments for being the best dressed backpacker other travelers had ever encountered – but the themes I’m about to explain mean you don’t have to compromise your style when packing lean.

Have the Right Bags

“Carry-on” is a magical word. It means saving on fees, limiting hand-offs during which your bag can be lost or damaged, and eliminating physical and mental baggage.A hard-shell PVC bag carry-on (20″ x 14″ x 9″ is a typical restriction) is essential. A hard shell means your stuff is safe from impact, moisture, rain, etc.For work, I bring a briefcase and slide the handles over my luggage bag while walking through the airport. A briefcase carries your essentials like a laptop, tablet or mini umbrella. In the air, mine is under the seat in front of me so all my music, books, and work are within reach for the whole flight. On the ground, it is my day bag.One more thing – department stores often discount luggage by up to 80%. Don’t buy luggage if it isn’t on sale.

A few of Kelvin’s essentials: Kindle e-reader, American Express Gold Rewards Card, and NEXUS Card

Eliminate What You Don’t Need

Wherever you’re going, they have what you need! Why pack toothpaste? I never bring liquids over 1 oz. because they will require me to open my bag at security. Any hotel will give you toothpaste, or you can buy some at a corner store.If you’re light on clothes (you will be now) and staying somewhere for a while, you’ll need laundry. Find a dry cleaners near your hotel or wash your clothes at the hostel. You don’t need 10 t-shirts for your trip, you need 2 or 3. I have friends living abroad that frequent a laundry service for a dollar or two per week.If you settle somewhere for a while, or return to the same place, make yourself at home. In Austin I had a locker in the office with toiletries, American cash, and my gym shoes – eliminating all those items from my subsequent trips. I hired a cook to make me healthy organic meals from scratch for lunch and dinner, for less than I would spend eating out each day. Didn’t pack for the cold? See something you really want? Buy it and donate it to charity at the end of your trip or bring it home. This is how I discovered the most essential item to a versatile travel wardrobe: the vest.

Forget packing the entire wardrobe. Pack for versatility instead.

Pack For Versatility

How do you dress a la mode for a night out in Paris’ Le Marais while only having a backpack waiting back at your hostel? Versatility. Focus on items that have low space requirements but high versatility.Here are some of my packing essentials:

Down Filled Vest (1)
Excellent layer with impressive thermal properties. Wear it under a suit jacket or coat, or over a shirt to transition easily from Toronto in February to a night out in L.A.

Oxford Shirt, Blue (1)
When a good dinner or event in London calls for it, pairs well with a tie and jacket, but looks just as at home with the sleeves rolled up on a beach in Barcelona.

Tie, esp. Knit Black (1+)
Even if you’re travelling for fun, a tie is turns up a casual outfit, has a low space requirement, and I swear commands better customer service.

Mini Umbrella (1)
Low space requirement, but high value – just don’t get a cheapie, spend $30+

Swims Galoshes (1 Pair)
Protects your dress shoes (if you need them) from rain to light snow and an excellent way to transition between warm and cold climates. Also a surprisingly good conversation starter.

Kindle E-Reader (1)
Takes up less space than paperbacks, and if you finish your book, download a new one on the fly.

Tide to-go Pen (1)
When you pack light caring for your few items is essential. This pen also has a minimal space requirement.

The Question of “Where?”

A typical mental barrier to packing light is wondering where your bulkier items will go while in-transit.

Wear your suit on the plane for short haul trips. For long haul trips wear jeans and the suit jacket and roll your suit pants in your luggage. Either way, always put your suit jacket neatly folded above your perfectly sized carry-on bag in the over-head. Likewise with an overcoat.

If you can, get on the plane earlier than other passengers, this gives you the space you need to ensure your suit isn’t getting wrinkled by other bags, and that you don’t lose your leg room to your carry-on bag.

This post was written by Kelvin Ewald, the Founder of Colborne Bag Co., the first lunch bag to bring together fashion and function. Check out his current product line here.

If you’ve been following us here at Yore Oyster for a while, you’ll know that understanding how to use Google Flights is a big part of how we find such impressive deals on flights. It’s the first place we search for every flight, and by far our favorite place on the web to find deals.

So just how do you use Google Flights?

First, let’s look at what Google Flights is good at:

Good at:

Quick Searches

Google Flights is by far the fastest flights search engine out there. Try entering a one-way flight search like New York JFK to London Heathrow a month or two from today and see what you get.

Every search with Google Flights is completed instantly.

Instantly, you get months’ worth of up-to-date prices. Google Flights allows you to book these flights through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com or Priceline, directly from the airline, or occasionally through Google itself.

On every search, Google Flights highlights the lowest prices in green to let you know you’re getting a great deal. If you don’t see any prices in green, scroll left and right through the months to find the green price. That’s the lowest price available right now on the route you’re searching for, and gives you an idea of whether the dates you’ve selected are cheap or expensive.

Google Flights highlights the best prices in green so you can find them easily and quickly.

Google Flights will often offer you tips, suggesting that you change your airport or your dates to find a cheaper price. Here’s an example where Google Flights is suggesting I fly to London Gatwick (LGW) instead of London Heathrow (LHR) to save $139:

Google Flights recommends you to change your dates or airports when it’s going to save you money.

Another trick: you can enter up to five airports in the departing and arriving boxes, which makes finding the cheapest price much easier.

For example, if you didn’t find a good price for New York JFK to London Heathrow, try changing your departing airports to include all of the New York City airports (typing in NYC automatically includes JFK, LGA and EWR), plus Philadelphia (PHL) and Boston (BOS). Then add all five London airports (typing LON includes LHR, LGW, STN, LCY and LTN) to your list of arriving airports. Now the prices Google Flights shows are quite different:

You can search to/from five different airports with Google Flights.

As you can see, Google Flights makes finding cheap flights super easy.

Multi-city flight searches

Not only can you search flexibly to/from multiple cities, but you can also create multi-city itineraries as well. To do that, just click the Multi-City button at the top and enter your route. For example, here’s a multi-city trip that includes stops in London, Paris and Barcelona before returning to New York.

Build multi-city itineraries in real-time with Google Flights.

$490 is an impressive price for all that travel! One thing to keep in mind with multi-city itineraries is that Google Flights no longer provides the prices in green, so you’ll have to experiment with the dates to find the best price. For example, if you keep the first three flights the exact same but depart Barcelona for New York two days later, the price drops another $45 to $445.

However, you may need to spend a bit of time experimenting with the dates on your multi-city flights, since there are no green prices on multi-city itineraries.

Other cool features of Google Flights include:

Telling if your flight is a good deal

Just below the “best departing flights” section, Google will provide you with a handle that shows you whether you’re paying above or below average for your flight ticket.

Baggage costs

Google Flights also offers a feature that allows you to calculate the costs of your baggage depending on each airline. This is really helpful because it will allow you to get the true, full cost of your flight, especially if you’re traveling with a lot of baggage.

For example, for some airlines you can hover over the tiny baggage icon next to the price and Google will let you know if you need to pay for access to overhead bins on the flight. If that is the case and you don’t want to pay that extra, you may only take a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you for free.

Price Tracking

 With this amazing feature, you can look for flight prices and then have Google send you an email when the prices change. This works especially if you’re waiting for a price drop on some destinations.

To activate it, you must sign in to your Google Account and then, just above the “best departing flights” text is the track prices button.

Set it to track the general prices of any flight on your dates. And you’re set! Google will send you emails with price updates on those flights.

Considering all those features and the overall easy-to-use layout, are you ready to give Google Flights a go?

This post is written by Jordan Bishop, perpetual traveler and founder of Yore Oyster. Since this promotion has now expired, we’ve updated the signup links to one that offers you ~$40 for using Airbnb as a guest and ~$100 for becoming a host, but you will not receive an additional $150 on top of those bonuses.

Airbnb is giving Toronto/GTA residents a big incentive to start hosting travelers. Here’s why hosting on Airbnb will make your travels, and your wallet, much, much richer.

Airbnb is the peer-to-peer marketplace that allows “regular folks” like you and I to rent out a spare room, couch, or our entire house/apartment to travelers looking for a place to stay in the GTA. And over the past few years, Airbnb has taken the travel world by storm, offering millions of spare bedrooms and entire homes up for rent on their worldwide accommodations network.

Put simply, Airbnb is one of the coolest places on the web.

Yet as Airbnb has grown, a problem has developed in major cities like Toronto: there are plenty of travelers looking for places to stay, but not nearly enough homes for them to stay in.

Travelers are practically begging hosts for a place to sleep, but there simply aren’t enough places for them to stay in the GTA.

Are you starting to see the opportunity here?

Knowing that we offer the lowest prices in the world on flights like our direct Toronto to London flight or the widely sought-after direct Toronto to Hong Kong flight, Airbnb shared this little tidbit with us: they need more hosts in and around Toronto.

So together, we’ve assembled a special Yore Oyster exclusive offer to make it happen:

As a Yore Oyster reader, you will receive a $150 bonus upon creating your new Airbnb listing by August 30 and hosting your first guest by October 30.

But first – why aren’t you currently renting out your space on Airbnb?

You don’t have enough space, or you never leave home?No – you can rent out anything from the couch in your living room up to your entire home, so nearly all of us have somewhere we could offer. Plus, most of us are away from home at least 2 nights per month, so if you rent out your place at a very conservative $75/night, that’s $1,800/year you’re leaving on the table!
You’re afraid that your things may be damaged or stolen by a dishonest guest?Nope – Airbnb’s $1,000,000 host guarantee has you covered there. In the extremelyrare case that your place is damaged, Airbnb will take care of the damages up to $1,000,000. Ya, $1 million.

So what’s the real reason that so many people who could easily be making an extra $1200+ per year to put toward the cheapest flights on the market don’t rent out their space on Airbnb?

Because hosting seems difficult – even though it’s really, really easy.

That’s why we want you to focus on just one thing here: How quickly can you get your first booking?

Why?

Because once you’ve got one booking under your belt, you’ll internalize everything I’m about to tell you about hosting:

You’ll know what it’s like to make a new friend from somewhere else across the world.

You’ll know what it’s like to host a fellow traveler and make their stay in Toronto extra special.

And you’ll know what it’s like to leverage your home as an asset that can make you money, whether you’re currently living in it yourself or whether you’re off somewhere else in the world.

How much will I earn as an Airbnb host?

Airbnb has an earnings tool that helps you learn how much you can earn as a host, and the numbers may surprise you. (Note: Feel free to use the earnings tool on that page, but don’t signup there or you won’t receive the $150 bonus!)

Okay – let’s assume you live alone in a studio apartment in Toronto. You’re planning a two-week trip to Hong Kong, and you’d like to rent out your apartment the entire time you’re gone.

You go to the Airbnb earnings tool and see that you can earn over $800/week by renting your apartment out to a couple visiting Toronto. If your apartment is well-located – near the CN Tower or along Queen Street West, for example – you can expect to earn quite a bit more. Still, even just an average amount of earnings will cover the cost of your direct flights both to Hong Kong and back.

Just like that, the bulk of your trip cost has been paid for, and you hardly had to lift a finger.

Average Host Earnings in Toronto (Source: Airbnb)
Entire Home/Apartment, 4 Guests$1,036 per week
Entire Home/Apartment, 2 Guests$803 per week
Private Bedroom, 2 Guests$514 per week
Couch/Futon, 1 Guest$317 per week

Also, did you know that you don’t need to change anything about your home to make it suitable for Airbnb? Of course your place should be clean when your guests arrive, but if you don’t have air conditioning, a laundry machine, or something else that’s holding you back from hosting, that’s okay. You select the amenities you do have when signing up, so your guests will never be surprised when they arrive.

What are some hidden benefits of being an Airbnb host?

Make friends all around the worldExpect your guests to come from absolutely everywhere, which means you now have a network of friends who would love to show you the best spots their city has to offer.
Global VIP statusWhen every Airbnb fills up during city-wide events like the Pan-Am Games, who do you think other hosts prioritize as their guests? That’s right, the guests they know they have the most in common with: other hosts.
Travel for next-to-nothingAs we showed in the Hong Kong example above, renting out your home while traveling can pay for most, if not all, of the cost of your trip. See how Jeff from Toronto has funded his trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro 100% through Airbnb below.

Despite what you may have believed in the past, your home is now an asset, not a liability.

What risks are there to being an Airbnb host?

As it turns out, Airbnb has made hosting totally risk-free:

No long-term commitmentIf you host once and decide it’s not for you, simply take down your listing and be done with it. Of course, you’ll still get paid for the guests you did host, as well as the $150 bonus that comes with this special offer.
24/7 customer serviceWhenever you have any questions about how to be a great host, an upcoming guest experience, or anything else, their customer service team is available 24/7 and more than happy to help.
Totally freePlus this special offer gets you an $150 extra upon hosting your first guest before October 30th.
$1 million in coverageIn the rare case that something in your apartment is damaged after hosting a guest, Airbnb’s Host Guarantee covers your apartment for damages up to $1 million. Rest easy knowing your home and your possessions are completely safe.
All guests have been verified and reviewedEvery Airbnb user, both hosts and guests, have their previous Airbnb stays rated and reviewed, so you know exactly who’s coming to stay and what to expect from them.

How to set up a profitable Airbnb listing in under 30 minutes

Creating a listing on Airbnb is much, much simpler than you think it is; in fact, you can do the whole thing in 3 steps and under 30 minutes. Our special link starts the process, and will get you the $150 bonus upon hosting your first guest by October 30, 2016 – though keep in mind you need to publish your listing by August 30!

Step 1:
Basic home info
(5 minutes)
Start Here
Airbnb asks a few simple questions, and you just need to check the right boxes:
How many bedrooms/bathrooms do you have?
Do you have Wi-Fi?
Air conditioning?
Is your place better for solo travelers or big groups?
Step 2:
Photos
(15 minutes)
1 photo is technically enough to set up your listing, but having 8+ improves your odds of receiving a booking. Don’t worry, the photos don’t need to be of amazing quality yet – just whip out your smartphone and take a few of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom right now.

Pro Tip: Did you know Airbnb offers a free professional photography service? Once your listing is live on the site, you can request to have a pro come and take beautiful photos of your home completely free! That means you’ll need to upload a few photos on your own right now to get your listing up on the site by August 30, but as soon as your listing is up you should capitalize on this amazing service.
Step 3:
Availability calendar and price
(10 minutes)
Are you available to host every night of the week, just on weekends, or only one day a month? Whenever it is, Airbnb’s intuitive software helps you through the selection process. Pricing works the exact same: you can either choose Airbnb’s suggested price based on your home’s amenities and location, or you can set your own price, including weekly and monthly discounts for when you’re away on longer trips.

My recommendation: Start with Airbnb’s recommended price. This will help you book your first guest as quickly as possible while still getting a fair price for your space.

That’s it! Your listing is ready to go live, and you probably spent well under 30 minutes getting to this point.

So what are you waiting for?

Confirming your first booking quickly is important, not only so that you ensure you get your $150 new Toronto host bonus by taking 30 minutes to create a listing by August 30 and hosting your first guest by October 30, but so that you can see just how easy it is to make a lot more extra money using Airbnb.

If you’re not already capitalizing on your space, you could be leaving hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the table each and every month.

You can buy a lot of flights with that sort of money.

Important Note: The SPG Amex Canada card has been refreshed as the Marriott Bonvoy Canada card. The current card promotion is no longer available under its original SPG name.

The SPG Amex Canada card is one of the best travel cards for Canadians, hands-down. It comes with an exceptional welcome bonus of 50,000 points—which we’ll show you how to turn into 15 nights at a 5-star hotel—an additional free hotel night every year, and an impressive travel insurance policy to keep you and your belongings safe and secure.

With an annual fee of just $120, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. Even if you plan to spend just one night per year in a hotel, the SPG Amex Canada card is a no-brainer.

APPLY NOW

So why is everyone talking about the SPG American Express Canada card these days?

A few reasons. For starters, its 50,000 welcome points bonus is a seriously impressive one. On top of that, the SPG platform is one of the most flexible travel rewards programs out there, right up there with Amex Membership Rewards Points.

But the card isn’t only good for hotels—it offers plenty of benefits for those who want to fly, too. Whether it’s buying a flight with your points or staying covered with the card’s travel insurance, there’s a lot you’ll learn to love about the SPG Amex Canada card.

This post is broken down into the following 12 sections:

#1 The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points50,000
Starpoints Earned Per $1 Spent At SPG & Marriott Properties5.5
Starpoints Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
Free Night Award
SPG Silver Elite Status
Travel Insurance
Supplementary CardsFree
Annual Fee$120

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

#2 Three More Special Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The SPG Amex Canada Free Night Award

On top of the 50,000 Starpoints that come with your SPG Amex Canada card, you also receive one free hotel night every year with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points (Category 1-5 hotel). (Note: if you don’t know what we mean by Category 1-5, we’ll explain below.) There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you’ll get it every year regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on? How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or how about The Lexington in New York?

A spacious guestroom at the Lexington Hotel, New York City

Or the Moxy Amsterdam, a new design hotel in one of Amsterdam’s hippest districts? The Sheraton in Bali, with its infinity pool overlooking the ocean? Where will you choose?

The beautifully-designed Moxy Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The infinity pool at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort in Bali, Indonesia

As you can see, the opportunities are truly endless for this benefit. And if you haven’t already clued in, a Category 5 hotel can easily go for $300-500 per night, meaning your $120 annual card fee is worth several times its value through this free night benefit alone.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the SPG Amex Canada card so much?

Special Benefit #2: SPG Elite Status

As soon as you get your SPG Amex Canada card, you’ll be upgraded to SPG Silver Elite status, which gives you lower hotel rates, late checkout, free internet, a dedicated customer service line, plus 10% more points at SPG & Marriott properties, boosting your earning rate to 5.5 points per $1 spent.

If you manage to spend $30,000 on your card in a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold Elite Status, where you’ll earn 25% more on $1 spent at SPG & Marriott properties, complimentary room upgrades, and 2 p.m. checkout on your hotel stays.

Special Benefit #3: 5th Night Free

This technically isn’t a benefit exclusive to the SPG Amex Canada card, but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out here, anyway. It goes like this:

Every time you book a SPG/Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free!

There’s nothing more to explain than that, though I don’t need to tell you how amazing of a benefit this is. As you’ll see below, we’ll use this to our full advantage to get as many as 16 nights in a 5-star hotel with your card.

APPLY NOW

#3 How To Use Your Starpoints

You have a few options of how to use your Starpoints:

  1. Hotel Stays: The best way to use your Starpoints—hands-down—is on hotel stays. As you’ll see in the case studies below, your card is worth up to 16 nights in a 5-star hotel if you use it wisely. We’ll show you how.
  2. Flights: Flights are the second-best way to use the 50,000 Starpoints that come with your SPG American Express Canada card. We show you below how to get a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America with your points.
  3. Marriott Moments: We won’t talk about Marriott Moments in-depth here, since our focus is on hotels and flights, but you can expect things like VIP Super Bowl parties, private dining with celebrity chefs and more. Here’s the full list of Marriott Moments that you can choose from.

But First…You Need To Understand Redemption Categories

Marriott & SPG have their properties separated into different “Categories,” with each property falling into a category from 1-8. Put simply, lower Categories correspond to cheaper hotels, but as we’ll see, some creativity enables you to find some truly exceptional properties at the low end of the redemption chart, making your points go much, much further.

Booking a hotel in a given category is as simple as consulting Marriott’s redemption chart below. In brackets we’ve included the PointSavers rates, which are promotional prices 10-20% lower than the regular price that you can sometimes take advantage of. SPG hasn’t released their peak and off-peak season dates yet, since this is a new setup for them. Sign up for our email list at the bottom of this post if you want our tips for how to book off-peak dates.

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
15,000 (4,000)7,500 (6,000)10,000 (8,500)
210,000 (8,000)12,500 (11,000)15,000 (13,000)
315,000 (12,000)17,500 (16,000)20,000 (18,000)
420,000 (17,500)25,000 (22,500)30,000 (27,500)
530,000 (27,500)35,000 (32,500)40,000 (37,500)
640,000 (35,000)50,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)
750,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)70,000 (65,000)
870,000 (65,000)85,000 (80,000)100,000 (90,000)

Now that you understand how Categories work (they’re really simple), let’s look at a few real-world examples of how you could use your points.

Case Study #1: Visiting Family

Suppose you want to visit some family in Calgary, so you do a quick search on Marriott’s website and decide to stay at the Courtyard Calgary South, a Category 1 hotel in the city’s up-and-coming Seton district.

One of the gorgeous rooms at the Courtyard Calgary South.

As the redemption chart above shows, you’ll pay somewhere between 4,000-10,000 points per night for your stay, depending on the season you visit and whether the property is currently a PointSaver.

This means that at the very least, your 50,000 points get you 5 nights (50,000 points / 10,000 points per night), plus 1 additional free night from Marriott’s 5th night free policy and another free night from your SPG Amex annual free night benefit, which all shakes out to a total of 7 nights.

If you go during an off-peak period, though, you could pay as little as 4,000 points per night, which means you could get 12 nights with your points (50,000 points / 4,000 points per night). Add on 3 extra nights from the 5th night free policy (12 nights / 4 = 3 free nights) plus your SPG Amex’s annual free night and all of a sudden you’re at 16 nights—with 2,000 points left over!

This is my kind of card.

Case Study #2: The Big Winner

I’ve recently been planning a trip to Guizhou, China, to take in the natural landscapes there.

You’ve probably never heard of Guizhou—not many Westerners have—but it’s quickly gaining popularity in the East as one of China’s untouched gems. And in the heart of Guizhou sits the brand-new Four Points by Sheraton Bijie, a 5-star marvel of a hotel that’s, amazingly, just a Category 1 on Marriott’s redemption chart.

That’s right—a Category 1 5-star hotel. Here’s what it looks like:

The lounge at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.
The indoor pool at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.

If you visit Guizhou during off-peak season, you’ll pay just 4,000 points per night at the Four Points, which means your 50,000 points will get you 12 nights, just like in the Calgary example above. Combine that with Marriott’s 5th night free policy for your extra 3 free nights and SPG Amex Canada’s annual free night and you’re up to an incredible 16 nights with your card.

16 nights at a 5-star hotel, all thanks to your $120 SPG Amex Canada card.

Not bad, Amex. Not bad at all.

Case Study #3: Balling Out

Of course, you don’t have to stretch your points as far as we are. You can also choose to spend them in a single night, if you’d like.

Spending the weekend in New York? Why not use your points on a Category 6 hotel like the W New York, which sits next to the new World Trade Center.

A typical room at the W New York World Trade Center.

With more than 7,000 SPG and Marriott properties to choose from, the sky is truly the limit with your SPG American Express Canada card.

APPLY NOW

#4 Redeeming StarPoints For Flights

Your 50,000 Starpoints can also be transferred to 45 different airline partners. Most, but not all, of the airline partners accept Starpoints at a value of 3:1 (eg. 30,000 Starpoints = 10,000 Aeroplan Miles). If you transfer 60,000 Starpoints to any airline partner, you’ll also receive an additional 5,000 miles for free, meaning that 60,000 Starpoints turns into 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, British Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

(Note: We recommend that you use your Starpoints for hotel redemptions, since they’re much more valuable that way. If you’re looking for a card for maximizing flight rewards, we recommend the American Express Platinum and the American Express Business Platinum.)

If you follow our advice on how to redeem your airline points, you’ll find that they’re worth about 2-3 cents apiece, putting the value of 60,000 Starpoints at about $500-$750 when you use them on flights.

Here’s a full list of all the airline partners you can transfer your points to, with their transfer ratios:

You can transfer anywhere between 3,000-240,000 Starpoints to airline partners each day.

#5 How Do I Earn Starpoints?

There are several distinct ways to earn Starpoints:

#1: Card Spending

You’ll earn 5.5 Starpoints per $1 spent at SPG and Marriott properties, which includes the cost of your stay, food and drinks, and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. Normally you’d only earn 5 Starpoints per $1 spent, but since Silver Elite SPG membership also comes complimentary with your SPG Amex Canada card, you earn an extra 10% on SPG and Marriott properties, bringing you to 5.5 Starpoints per $1 spent. You also earn 2 Starpoints per $1 spent on all other purchases.

#2: Work Purchases & Events

If you’re planning a work event, such as a conference or large meeting, you can also earn points on spending done by your guests. As a Silver Elite member, you can earn up to 66,000 points per event (earned at 2 Starpoints per $1 spent by you or your guests). You also earn 10 Elite Qualifying Nights for your first meeting, and 1 Elite Qualifying Night for every 20 room nights booked by you or your guests. Even if you’re planning a small event, these can accumulate very quickly.

This all adds up to one thing: if you’re an event planner, admin assistant or anyone planning a gathering, you need the SPG Amex Canada card.

#3: Special Purchases

Some purchases grant you additional Starpoints when you charge them to your card. For example, you’ll receive 500 Starpoints per day when you rent a rental card with Hertz, up to 2,000 points per rental. You also earn additional points on travel expenditures like cruises and long-distance telephone cards. We recommend calling SPG after you get your card to learn more about all the unique ways you can earn points.

#6 Is The SPG Amex Canada Card Right For Me?

The SPG Amex Canada card is a no-brainer for anyone who plans to spend at least 1 night in a hotel per year.

This sounds oversimplified, but it’s actually not at all.

Think about it. If you ignore everything else—the 50,000 points welcome bonus, the travel insurance, and all of the other extras that come with the card—and look only at the annual free hotel night benefit, that alone is worth at least double the $120 annual fee.

You’re getting one night at a 5-star hotel for $120.

And when you add on all the other benefits, the value of the card becomes overwhelming.

Every Canadian should have this card in their wallet for the next 10+ years.

There are other American Express cards we recommend as well, but the great thing is you can hold several Amex cards at the same time.

#7 The Ultimate Canadian Traveler’s Credit Card Stack

Even the best travel credit cards have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to hold multiple cards so you can capitalize on each of their advantages and downplay their weaknesses. Here’s the triple threat full stack we highly recommend for maximizing your earning and travel benefits:

#1 The SPG Amex Canada Card

As we’ve shown in detail here, this card offers an exceptional welcome bonus, but also provides more than enough benefit to keep it in your wallet year after year.

#2 The Platinum Card

Another card that every Canadian should have in their wallet. We value the current 60,000 points welcome bonus at between $1,200-$1,800, depending on how well you apply the points, plus you get a $200 annual travel credit, which you can actually use twice in your first year. This means that the purely quantitative benefits of the card are worth at least $1,600-$2,200 in the first year, compared to the $699 annual fee.

#3 The Cobalt Card

You’ll fall in love with this everyday spending card. We show you how to get 10% back on your spending (seriously!) when you use this card on coffee, groceries, restaurant and bar spending anywhere in Canada. It’s the card you should be using for your daily spending.

Contrary to what many people believe, having multiple credit cards actually helps your credit score, not hurts it, as long as you pay off your bill every month. This signals to creditors that you’re fully capable of paying off your bills on time, which they reflect by boosting your credit score.

So go ahead and get the full stack—your wanderlust will thank you.

  1. Your hotels card
  2. Your flights card
  3. Your everyday card

#8 Travel Insurance

The SPG Amex Canada card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

This is a very good insurance plan, especially since it’s included with your card. If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive insurance plan, though—one that covers emergency medical, emergency dental, trip interruption, personal liability and terrorism—we recommend SafetyWing, the $37/month plan that’s disrupting the travel insurance market in a big, big way.

#9 The One Downside To The SPG Amex Canada: Foreign Transaction Fees

Despite all the amazing benefits and features of the card, there is one noticeable downside to the SPG Amex Canada card: the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions. This fee isn’t unique to this card—no card in Canada offers fee-free foreign transactions—but it is still worth mentioning here. If you’re able to pick up an N26 You card on your next trip to Europe, definitely do so: it’ll make your financial life on the road much, much better. Until then, though, we’ll have to accept that there are no good FX cards in Canada.

#10 The Amex SPG Business Card

This entire review has been about the Amex SPG Canada personal card, though there’s also an American Express SPG Business card for Canadians, too. There are a few minor differences between the two cards:

  1. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining and travel vs. 2 points per $1 with the personal card.
  2. Supplementary cards cost $50 vs. free for the personal card.
  3. Annual fee of $150 vs. $120 for the personal card.
  4. Includes Employee Card Misuse Protection, which is also included with the American Express Business Platinum card.

If you’re a business owner and plan to use this card in a business capacity, go ahead and get the SPG Business card. But if not, since we recommend using the Cobalt card for your everyday spending, you won’t really see any additional benefits for the extra $30 in annual fees you pay for the business card.

#11 Is The SPG Amex Canada Card Worth It?

Without a doubt.

The welcome bonus is incredibly generous. The annual benefits far exceed the annual cost of the card. The insurance is a nice bonus, and taking advantage of it all is as easy as a quick search online. If you’re a Canadian that plans on spending at least one night in a hotel in the next 12 months, we can’t recommend this card highly enough.

#12 FAQs

Why Do I Earn Starpoints At Both SPG And Marriott Properties?

In 2018, Marriott and Starwood—formerly two distinct companies—merged into one. Their points programs joined forces as well, which is why your SPG Amex Canada card gets you so many bonuses and benefits with Marriott as well.

When Do My Starpoints Expire?

Starpoints expire after one year of inactivity. Since you earn Starpoints every time you stay at an SPG or Marriott property, or even just eat at one of their restaurants, it’s very easy to keep your Starpoints balance active. See our section “How Do I Earn Starpoints” above to see just how easy it is to keep your account active.

How Do Starpoints Compare With American Express Membership Reward Points?

They’re completely different. We value Amex MR points at 2-3 cents apiece, and we help you to get these values in posts like this one on $75 flights to Asia and this one on $75 flights to Europe.

Still, it’s hard to say which are more valuable. One thing we can say is that you should not transfer your Amex MR points to Starpoints. American Express offers a rate of 1,000 MR = 1,200 Starpoints, which is a very poor valuation. This is only a decision you’ll face with your other cards, since the SPG Amex Canada card earns Starpoints on its own.

All things considered, we recommend keeping your Starpoints as Starpoints so you can use them on amazing hotel redemptions (see the Case Studies above), and transferring your Amex MR points from your Platinum card to airlines for flights.

When Are The Peak Season & Off-Peak Season For Hotel Redemptions?

The peak/off-peak system is brand new to SPG and Marriott, so they actually haven’t listed which dates will be priced in which way. For now, every date is listed at the standard price, though this will change in the coming months. Join our email list at the bottom of this post so we can update you when that happens and help you maximize your points by planning your travel during off-peak dates.

What About Marriott’s Points + Cash Program?

If you prefer to save some of your Starpoints, or if you don’t have enough for a particular booking, you can take advantage of the points + cash option. Generally we recommend against this, since this setup values points lower than what they’re worth if you apply them smartly (see our Case Studies above), but it’s not terrible either. If you don’t have enough points for your hotel stay, use points + cash, but if you do, just use your points. Here’s the points + cash breakdown for each hotel category:

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
150 USD + 2,500 points55 USD + 3,500 points60 USD + 4,500 points
260 USD + 5,000 points65 USD + 6,000 points70 USD + 6,500 points
370 USD + 7,500 points80 USD + 8,500 points90 USD + 9,000 points
490 USD + 10,000 points105 USD + 12,000 points120 USD + 13,500 points
5120 USD + 16,000 points140 USD + 17,000 points165 USD + 19,000 points
6165 USD + 22,000 points190 USD + 25,000 points225 USD + 27,500 points
7225 USD + 27,500 points250 USD + 30,000 points325 USD + 35,000 points
8325 USD + 35,000 points440 USD + 42,500 points635 USD + 50,000 points

You also have another option if you don’t have enough points for a booking: you can book your stay with points and then earn the points later from other hotel stays or credit card spending later. As long as the points reach your account 14 days before your stay, you’re fine. If they don’t, though, your stay will be canceled and you won’t be refunded, so use this strategy with caution.

Where Can I Search For SPG & Marriott Hotels?

You can search for hotels using the Marriott search platform here.

We recommend searching on two parameters: the city you’re visiting and the redemption category you’d like to redeem with, which you can find by clicking “All Filters” in the top-right and then selecting “Rewards Category.” If you’re using your annual free night benefit, go for a Category 5, which will show you the best hotels you can get for the 35,000 annual free night points limit. If you’re using your 50,000 welcome points bonus, you can use them however you’d like (see the Case Studies above for ideas of high-value redemptions).

You can redeem your Starpoints (with zero blackout dates) at any of these hotel brands, anywhere in the world:

How Many Starpoints Will I Earn?

Every SPG member earns 5 points per $1 spent on purchases at SPG and Marriott properties. This includes the cost of your stay plus food and drinks and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. The SPG Amex Canada card comes with complimentary Silver Elite SPG membership, which means you’re automatically boosted to 5.5 points per $1 spent.

This table shows how much each level earns, plus the maximum number of points they can earn from any one event.

Points BonusPoints Earned Per $1 SpentMax Points Earning per Events
Member0%560,000
Silver Elite10%5.566,000
Gold Elite25%6.2575,000
Platinum Elite50%7.590,000
Platinum Premier Elite75%8.75105,000
Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador75%8.75105,000
APPLY NOW

Important Update: As of February 26, 2019, the American Express SPG Canada card has been re-branded as the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Canada card. Read more about the Marriott Bonvoy card and apply here.

If you’re looking for a referral link with the best available welcome bonus offer for the SPG Amex Canada card (currently 60,000 points as of May 29, 2019), you’ll find that here. The updated card is called the Marriott Bonvoy card, but it’s very similar to what the SPG card used to offer.

The SPG Amex Canada card (now the Marriott credit card in Canada) offers exceptional value for frequent travelers and home bodies alike. There’s a 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points welcome bonus—which we show you how to turn into a remarkable 16 nights in 5-star hotels—an additional free night award, Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status, travel insurance, and much more, all included with your card. Here’s a quick breakdown of the card benefits.

The Basics & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points60,000
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent At SPG & Marriott Properties5
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
Free Night Award
Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status
Travel Insurance
Supplementary CardsFree
Annual Fee$120

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

Three More Special Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Canada Free Night Award

On top of the 50,000 Starpoints (now 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ Points) that come with your SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy Canada card), you also receive one free hotel night every year with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points (Category 1-5 hotel). (Note: if you don’t know what we mean by Category 1-5, see here.) There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you’ll get it every year regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on? How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or how about The Lexington in New York?

A spacious guestroom at the Lexington Hotel, New York City

As you can see, the opportunities are endless for this benefit. And if you haven’t already clued in, a Category 5 hotel can easily go for $300-500 per night, meaning your $120 annual card fee is worth several times its value through this free night benefit alone.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy™ Canada card) so much?

Special Benefit #2: Marriott Bonvoy™ Elite Status

As soon as you get your SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy™ Canada card), you’ll be upgraded to Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite status, which gives you lower hotel rates, late checkout, free internet, a dedicated customer service line, plus 10% more points at SPG & Marriott properties, boosting your earning rate to 5.5 points per $1 spent.

If you manage to spend $30,000 on your card in a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold Elite Status, where you’ll earn 25% more on $1 spent at SPG & Marriott properties, complimentary room upgrades, and 2 p.m. checkout on your hotel stays.

Special Benefit #3: 5th Night Free

This technically isn’t a benefit exclusive to the SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy™ Canada card), but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out here, anyway. It goes like this:

Every time you book a SPG/Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free!

There’s nothing more to explain than that, though I don’t need to tell you how amazing of a benefit this is. As you’ll see below, we’ll use this to our full advantage to get as many as 16 nights in a 5-star hotel with your card.

In Summary

The SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy™ Canada card) offers truly exceptional value for its $120 annual fee. This makes it an excellent vehicle for referring friends, making them happy with the great value and bringing in up to 150,000 additional points for you.

We haven’t included all of the card details on this page, so if you want to learn more about the SPG Amex Canada card (Marriott Bonvoy™ Canada card), see our full card review here.

FAQs

How many friends can I refer to the SPG Amex Canada card?

Once you’ve successfully activated your Marriott Bonvoy card, you can refer up to 15 friends for 10,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each, bringing your annual referral limit to 150,000 points.

How many friends can I refer to my other American Express cards?

Here’s a list:

How do I complete an SPG Amex referral?

  1. Once you’ve activated your Marriott Bonvoy card, log in to American Express and click “Refer A Friend.”
  2. Enter your friend’s email address, or copy the link and share it with them directly.
  3. When your friend’s application has been approved, you’ll receive 10,000 points!

Will I receive a referral bonus for inviting friends to the American Express Platinum Card?

Yes. The Platinum Card has an exceptional referral program that gives you a 15,000 points for each friend you invite up to an annual maximum of 225,000 MR points.

Here’s our full post on Amex Platinum referral bonuses in Canada.