Best Travel Credit Card Canada Has To Offer? Here Are Our Top Picks

February 7, 2020
Canadian Credit Card Reviews
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Choosing the best travel credit card Canada offers can be a real feat, especially considering the number of possible options. Additionally, there are so many different features and benefits with each card, that it can even be difficult deciding how to compare them. The key is deciding what you, as a traveler value most in a trave credit card, and we’ll help you make sense of it all in this post

From Scotiabank, BMO and MBNA to American Express cards, find out which is the best for you.

If you’re asking yourself  ‘Why would I need a travel credit card?’ then this article is for you. It gives you a quick-read on the best travel credit card Canada has to offer in different categories, with all the relevant details you need to help you make the best choice. 

See the world with Canada's best travel credit cards

Travel, spend and earn points? Why yes, that’s what credit cards are for. Many people use credit cards when they travel simply because of the points and rewards they earn each time they swipe their card. 

Not only does this make a trip affordable, but there is also a chance that you can get free stuff, discounts, free access to lounges, insurance coverage and even travel for free. Plus, credit cards also provide a sense of security when traveling especially when you need emergency funds.

For these reasons, signing up for the right travel card is crucial. But what is the right travel credit card for you? What’s more important when traveling- points or rewards? What other perks do travel credit cards offer?

The card that you will ultimately choose depends on where you spend money the most when traveling and it also needs to have travel benefits that add value to your holiday. 

To help you decide, we have done the homework for you to find out the best travel credit cards in Canada. 

In the following post you’ll find:

I Want To Shop A Lot And Earn Points! 

Retail therapy on holiday makes the experience of shopping even more enjoyable. It is even better when you get to earn points each time you swipe your card. For this reason, our best picks for everyday shopping and points are:

  1. Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
  2. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Scoatiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card, the Best Travel Credit Card in Canada for shopping

Let’s start with the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. You’re probably going to be shopping in foreign countries so you’ll be glad to know that this card does not charge any foreign transaction fees when purchases are made in non-Canadian currency.

Every $1 spent on these purchases will earn you 2 Scotia Rewards Points:

  • Dining
  • Entertainment (movies, musicals, plays)
  • Public Transit (taxis, trains, rideshares)
  • Specific grocery purchases
  • Movies

For other purchases, you get 1 point for every $1 you spend. As a welcome offer, you get 25,000 bonus points which are equivalent to $250 value. 

You’ll also be happy to know that with this card, you get complimentary access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide (which also makes this card ideal for people looking for better access for airport lounges). 

You will like this card because:

You get to save 2.5% on all your international purchases thanks to 0% foreign transaction fees. This gives you flexibility and bonuses when spending and loads of perks. The first $1,000 spent on the card within your first three months, you also earn 25,000 bonus points- which means more reason for you to shop. 

You will also be eligible for a Priority Pass membership which gives you access to 6 free visits annually to VIP airport lounges all around the world. In case you are wondering, yes, this card is a VISA and it is accepted internationally. 

This card may not be ideal for you if:

You travel frequently but do not necessarily spend money on entertainment and shopping, because then you are not fully maximizing the card’s rewards points. This card is useful to use it for spending to gain better rewards. 

To be eligible for this card: You need an annual income of $60,000. 

Annual Fee: $139/year

Find out more about Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank Gold Amex

The second card that works great with rewards is the Scotiabank Gold American Express card. This card is ideal for daily purchases. For every $1 Canadian dollar you spend on the following categories, earns you 5 Scotia Rewards:

  • Restaurants
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment
  • Dining at cafes

You will get 1 point for every dollar on everything else. You also earn 3 points for every $1 dollar spent on gas, public transit, and streaming services. 

When you redeem points for travel, every 5,000 Scotia Rewards equates to $50. This card also does not have any foreign transaction fees. The welcome offer on this card is 20,000 bonus points, which is a $200 value. 

The Scotiabank Gold American Express, compared to the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card, has a superior reward system on gas and public transit. 

You will like this card because:

You earn more on public commuting and food-related expenditure if you travel within Canada. The points earned through the Scotiabank Gold American Express card are also flexible. There are no travel date restrictions, no time limit, no restrictions on which airlines you must use and the points can be converted to cover fees and taxes. Scotia also provides a full-service agency that you can use to book your travel. Of course, you can also do the booking on your own and just use the points earned to cover certain costs. You can spend worry-free as there are no surprise fees on your card.  What’s more, by signing up for the American Express Invites and Offers, you can receive pre-sale ticket invitations and special offers from partner retailers. 

This card may not be ideal for you if:

You normally travel in between cities and to destinations via driving rental cars, private taxis or hired drivers. In this case, this card may not be useful for you. 

To be eligible for this card: You need an annual income of $12,000

Annual Fee: $120/year

Find out more about Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

I Want Access To Airport Lounges 

Most travelers who go through plenty of airport transit en route to their destination benefit from access to airport lounges. From getting free-Wi-Fi, access to free drinks, complimentary snacks, and appetizers, these little things can truly make a difference for the weary traveler. So what are the best cards to sign up for if you want better access to airport lounges? Our picks are:

  1. Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card
  2. BMO World Elite Mastercard

Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card

Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card, the Best Travel Credit Card Canada for airport lounges

This card gives you a total of 10 free lounge visits per year! By signing up for the Scotiabank Platinum American Express, you get a complimentary Priority Pass membership and you can use one free access each month, which is sufficient for most travelers. There are other perks that come with the card such as 30,000 bonus points when you make your first purchase. For every $1 you spend on groceries, dining, entertainment and eligible gas stations, you will receive 4 Scotia Rewards points. 

You’ll be happy to know that there are no foreign transaction fees so you will not get charged with the additional 2.5% fees when purchasing in foreign currency. You also earn 2 Scotia points for every $1 spent on groceries, public transit, dining and 1 point on everything else. 

You will like this card because:

The main perk for this card is its complimentary lounge visits of up to 10 a year through the Priority Pass membership. You will benefit from this card if you are frequent flyers. 

This card may not be ideal for you if:

Well, if you are not a frequent flyer traveling through different airports in different countries, this card may not be the best fit fot you. It only makes sense to pay the fee if you fly often and would like to access airport lounges as often as possible.

To be eligible for this card: You need an annual income of $12,000

Annual Fee: $399/year

Find out more about Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card

BMO World Elite Mastercard

BMO World Elite Mastercard

The other card that you can sign up for is the BMO World Elite Mastercard. This card offers VIP Lounge access that comes with the complimentary Mastercard Airport Experiences membership. You also get 4 complimentary passes per year. This card also offers a welcome bonus of 35,000 points if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. For every $1 you spend on dining, entertainment and travel, you earn 3 BMO points and for everything else, you get 2 points! With Mastercard, your card will be accepted everywhere. You do not have to deal with any blackout dates, and your points can be converted to cover fees and taxes. 

You will like this card because:

This card will suit travelers who are not extremely frequent flyers. This card also has 14 types of insurance, which is considered the most comprehensive. This is an added value if you are looking for a card with good insurance coverage. Use this card when you need Alamo or National car rentals as you can get discounts.  

This card may not be ideal for you if:

This card targets users who are frequent flyers. Like the aforementioned Scotiabank card, if you are not a frequent flyer or you do not feel like you need airport lounge access at every airport, then this card is not for you. 

To be eligible for this card: You need an annual income of $12,000

Annual Fee: $150/year

Find out more about BMO World Elite Mastercard

I Want Rewards On The Hotels I Stay In

Different travelers have different needs. Some of us prefer quick access to the plane, some of us like unique stays in different countries (thank you Airbnb!) while some of us prefer the tried and tested hotels with a long-standing reputation. Without further ado, here are our top choices for cards that come with excellent hotel rewards:

  1. Marriott Bonvoy American Express
  2. Best Western Rewards Mastercard

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Marriott Bonvoy American Express, Best Travel Credit Card Canada for hotel stays

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express card, for starters, brings 50,000 welcome bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. This is equivalent to a three-night stay at eligible hotels and that is on top of the free hotel stay that you get every year. Members also have access to a multiplier system that offers five times the points for every dollar spent on any Marriott Bonvoy property and you also get 1 point for every $1 on every other purchase. Marriott is the brand name for 7,000 hotels all around the world, making it the world’s largest hotel conglomerate. This means you would have more than enough hotels where you can redeem your Marriott points for free hotel stays. You can also transfer your points to more than 40 airlines in its program, although we don’t recommend doing so because you lose a lot of value. 

You will like this card because:

You will really like this card simply because of its welcome bonus and the annual free night you get as a member. If this is not a strong enough incentive, then their multiplier system will definitely make you want to book a room at one of Marriott’s thousands of hotels. For frequent flyers, their points system is flexible plus you can transfer points to one of its 40 airline partners.

This card may not be ideal for you if:

You are not a fan of Marriott hotels, then this card is definitely not for you. 

To be eligible for this card: There are no minimum income requirements, just that you are a Canadian resident with a Canadian credit file.

Annual Fee: $120/year

Find out more about the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card

Best Western Rewards Mastercard

Best Western Rewards Mastercard

With the Best Western Rewards Mastercard, you get 20,000 points as a welcome bonus once you swipe for your first eligible purchase. These points give you a free one-night stay, and points after this are easy to collect because you will not be exhausted to find a Best Western hotel whether in or out of Canada as there are over 100 Best Western hotels located all around the world. This makes earning points easier and you can also cash in your points for hotel stays whenever you travel. 

The Best Western Rewards Mastercard offers you a points system that is flexible where you can redeem hotel stays, dining gift cards and much more. 

You will like this card because:

The welcome bonus points are enough for a one-night stay which is a good reason for a quick weekend getaway! Plus, you do not need a minimum annual income requirement to apply. Best Western hotels have a more affordable price range which suits travelers looking for comfort but with a 5-star quality of service.  Plus, unlike the Marriott Bonvoy Amex card, this one doesn’t have an annual fee. 

This card may not be ideal for you if:

If you are not a fan of Best Western hotels, then this card is not for you. It helps to be a fan of the specific brand of the hotel the card targets so each time you travel, you book your room to earn points. 

To be eligible for this card: You do not need to meet any minimum annual income 

Annual Fee: $0

Find out more about Best Western Rewards Mastercard

I Prefer Paying As Little Fees As Possible, Or No Fees At All

Who doesn’t love paying no fees at all when it comes to their credit cards. Nobody likes getting their statements after a blissful holiday and seeing unnecessary fees each time we swiped our card. If you are looking for a card with as minimal fees as possible when traveling, there is only one best travel credit card Canada choice that outperforms them all:

  • MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard 

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard, the Best no fee Travel Credit Card Canada

For some travelers, it’s not about the best welcoming bonus or highest points. For some, it is more about the fees that come with the card, or the lack of them. This is where the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard comes in. It is, in our opinion, the best no-fee travel card a traveler could ask for. 

If you do not want to pay an annual fee, then this card is for you. You earn 2 MBNA points per $1 spent on gas, groceries and restaurants and the standard 1 point per every dollar on everything else. The card also gives you four times the points on bonus categories for the first 90 days of your card. If you want to beef up your points cache, then use these cards on the frequently used earning category. 

Each reward is capped at $5,000 in purchases for each spending category annually. If you spend anything over this amount, then you only get 1 point for every $1. For a no-fee card, you get a 10,000 points bonus which translates to $100. 

You will like this card because: 

It does not have any annual fees. Plus, there are no restrictions on the choice of the airline you book, especially if you want to use this card for traveling. You also get the standard purchase protection and car rental discounts if you use Budget Rent A Car or Avis. Take note that this card does not come with any emergency travel coverage so it works best if you have your own private travel insurance. 

This card may not be ideal for you if: 

You are looking for points and rewards and a huge welcome bonus. You may also want to skip this card if you want travel insurance coverage. 

To be eligible for this card: There is no income eligibility requirement 

Annual Fee: $0

Find out more about MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

I Want The Best AIR Miles Credit Card

If you are a frequent flyer, zipping through airports, taking different flights in and out of different time zones, you are in need of the best travel credit card Canada that you can swipe to earn major points. The AIR Miles rewards program will do just that, and applying for a credit card that will earn extra miles is a no brainer. Do not lose out with our best pick:

BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard

BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, the Best Travel Credit Card Canada with AIR Miles

Another beneficial card for frequent flyers. If you see yourself booking travels, trips and holidays at least 3 times a year, you need to get yourself a card that has good ‘mileage’ so to speak. With the BMO World Elite Mastercard, you get an extremely generous sign-up bonus of 1,000  Air Miles after your first purchase plus an additional 2,000 Air Miles when your card hits $3,000 in purchases. 

You can also collect more points when you purchase from partner retailers such as Rexall, Sobeys, LCBO, and Shell. You can earn 1 Air Mile for every $10 you make in purchases.  The card comes with a $120 annual fee but for first-year cardholders, this is waived. 

You will like this card because: 

In addition to its extensive Air Miles, the BMO AIR Miles World Elite Mastercard also comes with a Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey. It gives you two free annual passes plus 15% discount Air Miles on flights if you travel within North America and book your flights via the Air Miles site. This card comes with an impressive travel coverage and the annual fee is waived for the first year. 

Did we mention you get two complimentary annual access to a network of 1,000 lounges? 

This card may not be ideal for you if: 

You don’t like or use the AIR Miles Rewards program. Also if you’re not a frequent flyer. If you are someone who books flights at the frequency of 1 or 2 times a year, best to go for cards that have points for daily purchases.

To be eligible for this card: You need an annual income of $80,000. 

Annual Fee: $120/year

Find out more about BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the best travel credit card Canada that you choose will depend entirely on what you use it most for. You want to maximize your purchases each time you swipe so while most cards come with annual fees, it is worth to look into other beneficial aspects of the card such as access to airport lounges, points and reward systems, hotel rewards and so on, which is why we have created this article to answer the question of “Why would you need a travel credit card for?’’.

There are plenty of articles on credit cards and we hope this article has given you enough information minus the credit card jargon. As always, head to the credit card company website if you are looking to sign up or learn more.