9 Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada (Dec 2022)

September 2, 2022
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There are quite a few good travel credit cards in Canada, but some stand out above the rest for their impressive welcome bonuses, travel rewards, and complimentary perks. I constantly keep up with the latest promo rates and policy changes and make my recommendations below based on years of experience.

I recommend the American Express Cobalt Card as the #1 travel credit card in Canada due to its low fees for a travel card, very high earn rate on Eats & Drinks, and 30,000 welcome bonus points. It is one of the most flexible cards, with the option to transfer your points to other programs, and it comes with comprehensive medical and travel insurance.

What Is A Travel Credit Card?

Travel credit cards are a type of reward credit card that allows you to earn rewards in the form of points when you spend money at partner brands or make any travel-related purchase. Travel credit cards are usually divided into two: general travel credit cards yield points, travel miles, or cashback when you make purchases, and you can redeem your rewards at most airlines or hotel chains. The other type of travel card are co-branded credit card; these cards also offer rewards, but they can only be redeemed at very select hotels or airlines. Co-branded credit card rewards tend to be more valuable at the cost of being less flexible.

In general, travel credit cards are some of the most expensive credit cards in terms of annual fees. Some cards can go as high as $699/year, and most travel cards require high credit scores. On average, you will need a credit score of at least 660 to apply. It’s recommended that you go for a travel card only if you can take advantage of all the perks in that year – travel perks like hotel stays or free flights tend to refresh every year and usually don’t accumulate.

Without further ado, here are the best travel credit cards Canada has to offer:

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The Best Travel Credit Cards In Canada

  1. American Express Cobalt Credit Card: Best for exchanging MR points with other rewards program
  2. BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite Card: Best for high earn rate on groceries
  3. BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard: Best for travel perks and bonus points on all travel-related purchases
  4. TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card: Best for earning Aeroplan points
  5. Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card: Best for complimentary airport lounge access
  6. MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard: Best for high earn rates on restaurants
  7. BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard: Best for earning discounts on Air Miles flights
  8. American Express Platinum Card: Best for earn rate at eligible eats & drinks
  9. American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card: Best for access to lounges and priority travel perks

American Express Cobalt Card

Great for exchanging MR points with other rewards program and high MR earn rate
  • Annual Fee
    $156
  • Interest Rate
    20.99% on purchases, 21.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    30,000 MR points
  • Rec. Credit Score
    660+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points as a welcome bonus after you spend $6,000 within a year ($500/month)
    • $300 in statement credits towards purchases charged to your card
    • $225 credit in American Express Prepaid Cards
    • Access to American Express Experiences
    • Access to American Express Front Of The Line presales
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for exchanging MR points with other rewards program and high MR earn rate

    Pros

    • 30,000 MR bonus points
    • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eligible eats & drinks purchases
    • Transfer points 1:1 to other loyalty programs (Aeroplan, Marriot Bonvoy, and more)
    • Access to presale tickets and VIP seating in select events through American Express' Front Of The Line program
    • $100 Travel Credit and 4 complimentary visits to Plaza Premium Lounges
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance
    • Relatively low annual fee ($156)

    Cons

    • Needs a fairly good credit score (660+)
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees

    The American Express Cobalt Card is a premium credit card with an annual fee of $156. This card is unique because its Membership Reward points can be exchanged 1:1 with some of the best rewards programs, including the Aeroplan and the Marriot Bonvoy program.

    Rewards

    You can earn MR points at a rate of:

    • 5 MR points per $1 spent on eats & drinks
    • 3 MR points per $1 spent on streaming subscriptions
    • 2 MR points per $1 spent on travel & transit
    • 1 MR point per $1 spent on everything else

    Redeeming your points

    The American Express Cobalt Card offers plenty of options to exchange your points. You can spend them directly on categories like streaming subscriptions, various eats & drinks, movie tickets, or statements of credit.

    Additionally, you can Exchange your MR points for Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, Hilton Honors, Choice Privileges, or Marriott Bonvoy points.

    Insurance

    This card offers very complete coverage, including categories like:

    • Emergency Medical Insurance
    • Flight Delay Insurance
    • Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
    • Mobile Device Coverage
    • $250,000 Travel Accident Insurance

BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite Card

Great for high earn rate on groceries, gas, and transit
  • Annual Fee
    $120 (1st year free)
  • Interest Rate
    20.99% on purchases, 23.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    70,000 pts
  • Rec. Credit Score
    725+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 70,000 bonus points as a welcome bonus for your first year
    • Earn a $50 lifestyle credit as a welcome bonus
    • Add an authorized user and earn 10% bonus points
    • Redeem your points to pay for purchases
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for high earn rate on groceries, gas, and transit

    Pros

    • 70,000 bonus welcome points
    • Earn 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on groceries, gas, and transit
    • Earn 10% more BMO Reward points when you add an authorized user
    • Car rental & mobile device insurance (for up to $1,000)
    • Complimentary Concierge service through the Visa Infinite Concierge program
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance

    Cons

    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $60,000
    • Needs an excellent credit score (725+)
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees 

    The BMO Eclipse World Elite Mastercard has an annual fee of $120, and, like all BMO cards, it is completely waived for new cardholders for the first year. To apply for this card, you will need an income of $60,000 and a credit score of 725 or more. It offers attractive travel benefits and includes access to the Visa Infinite Troon Golf Benefit at over 95 resorts.

    Rewards

    With this card, you can earn points on every purchase. Here are the rates:

    • 5 points per $1 spent on dining, eats & drinks, gas, and transit
    • 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else

    Perks and benefits

    • 10% more points on all purchases when you add an authorized user
    • $50 annual Lifestyle Credit
    • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Concierge

    Insurance 

    The BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite offers insurance in several categories:

    • Mobile device insurance
    • Travel insurance
    • Emergency medical insurance
    • Car rental collission
    • Extended warranty

BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard

Great for travel perks and bonus points on all travel-related purchases
  • Annual Fee
    $150 (1st year free)
  • Interest Rate
    20.99% on purchases, 23.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    70,000 pts
  • Rec. Credit Score
    760+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 70,000 points as a welcome bonus on your first year
    • Annual fee waived for the first year
    • Mastercard Travel Pass membership
    • Cover all flight charges and taxes using your points
    • Access to BMO Concierge services and Mastercard Travel Rewards when travelling abroad
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for travel perks and bonus points on all travel-related purchases

    Pros

    • 70,000 bonus welcome points
    • Earn 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases
    • Complimentary Mastercard Travel Pass membership (4 free passes/year) & BMO Concierge services
    • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, entertainment, and recurring bills
    • Annual fee is completely waived for the first year
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance for up to $2 million

    Cons

    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $80,000
    • Needs an excellent credit score (760+)
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees 

    The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is a premium travel card with an annual fee of $150 (waived for the first year for new cardholders). To apply for this card, you need an excellent credit score of at least 760, plus an annual income of $80,000 or more. It comes with a free Mastercard Travel Pass membership, medical coverage, and more.

    Rewards

    With this card, you can earn points on all purchases, but some categories offer better rates:

    • 5 points per $1 spent on travel-related purchases
    • 3 points per $1 spent on entertainment, dining, and subscriptions & recurrent purchases
    • 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else

    You can redeem your BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard points for:

    • Flights, hotels, vacation packages, and transportation
    • Contributions to your BMO Savings or Investment account
    • Directly use your points to pay for eligible purchases

    Perks and benefits

    • Complimentary Concierge services
    • 25% off at partner rentals National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations
    • Complimentary access to the Boingo Wi-Fi network worldwide
    • Zero liability policy

    Insurance 

    The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard lives up to its name and offers comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including:

    • Baggage delay and loss insurance
    • Flight delay insurance
    • Car rental insurance
    • Travel accident insurance
    • Medical emergency insurance
    • Roadside Assistance program

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

Great for earning Aeroplan points, a generous welcome bonus, and exclusive travel perks
  • Annual Fee
    $139
  • Interest Rate
    19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    50,000 pts
  • Rec. Credit Score
    660+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 10,000 Aeroplan points as a welcome bonus when you make your first purchase
    • Earn 20,000 bonus Aeroplan points after you spend $1,500 within 90 days
    • Earn 20,000 Aeroplan points as a welcome bonus when you spend $7,500 within 12 months
    • No annual fee for the first year
    • Emergency Road Services plus complimentary TD Auto Club membership
    • Access to Visa Infinite Concierge service
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for earning Aeroplan points, a generous welcome bonus, and exclusive travel perks

    Pros

    • 50,000 bonus welcome points
    • Earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent
    • Earn double the points when you pay with your card at over 320 partner brands
    • Your Aeroplan points won't expire as long as your card is in good standing
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance
    • Complimentary Concierge service

    Cons

    • Needs a good credit score (660+)
    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $60,000
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees

    The annual fee is $139, somewhat high compared to other credit cards, but it makes up for it with very good perks and benefits and a completely free first year. It also comes with 50,000 Aeroplan points, and you get an additional 20,000 points when you spend $1,500 within 90 days of opening your account and when you spend $7,500 within 12 months of opening your account.

    Earning points

    With the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, you can earn points on everyday spending. For all purchases made from Air Canada, you’ll earn 1.5 Aeroplan points; the same rate applies when you purchase groceries and pay for gas. Earn 1 point on all other purchases.

    Perks and Benefits

    • Link your TD Aeroplan account with your Starbucks Rewards Account and earn 50% more Aeroplan points and 50% more Stars at Starbucks stores
    • Twice the points when you pay using the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card at over 300 partner brands
    • Another benefit is that you can set up payments over $100 and pay them over 18 months at a 0% annual interest rate.
    • Enroll for NEXUS and get a $100 rebate every 48 months
    • Free Uber Pass membership for 6 months

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Great for complimentary airport lounge access and comprehensive medical and travel insurance
  • Annual Fee
    $139
  • Interest Rate
    19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    25,000 Scene+ points
  • Rec. Credit Score
    660+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 35,000 bonus Scene+ points in your first year as a welcome bonus
    • No foreign transaction fee
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for complimentary airport lounge access and comprehensive medical and travel insurance

    Pros

    • 25,000 Scene+ points bonus
    • No foreign exchange fees when purchasing abroad or online
    • Earn 2x Scene+ points per $1 spent at grocery stores, restaurants, and daily transit
    • Waive interest rates on purchases over $100 when using Scotia SelectPayTM
    • 6 complimentary airport lounge access per year (over 1,300 lounges to choose from)
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $60,000
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees 

    The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card is a premium travel credit card with an annual fee of $139. To apply for this card, you need a good credit score of at least 660 and a minimum income of $60,000. This card doesn’t charge transaction fees (on purchases abroad or online) and offers useful travel perks for frequent travellers.

    Rewards

    When you use this card to make purchases, you will earn Scene+ points at a rate of:

    • 2 Scene+ points per $1 spent on groceries, dining, entertainment, and transit
    • 1 Scene+ point per $1 spent on all other purchases

    There’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn in a year, and your points will not expire as long as your account is in good standing.

    Perks and benefits

    Some additional benefits include:

    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Complimentary access to airport lounges (6 per year)
    • Book travels directly from the Scene+ Travel portal
    • Complimentary Avis car rental membership plus 25% discount on car rentals
    • Access to the Visa Infinite Concierge, Hotel, and Dining and Wine programs

    Insurance

    • Flight delay insurance & trip interruption insurance
    • Travel emergency medical insurance
    • Car rental collision insurance
    • Car rental collission
    • Hotel/motel burglary insurance
    • Extended warranty protection

MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard

Great for high earn rates on restaurants, groceries, and household utilities
  • Annual Fee
    $120
  • Interest Rate
  • Welcome Bonus
    30,000 pts
  • Rec. Credit Score
    660+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 20,000 bonus points as a welcome bonus after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days
    • Earn 10,000 bonus points as a welcome bonus when you enroll for paperless e-statements within the first 90 days
    • Earn 10% bonus points every year on the anniversary of your account
    • Redeem your points for cash back, travel, merchandise, or gift cards
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for high earn rates on restaurants, groceries, and household utilities

    Pros

    • 30,000 bonus welcome points
    • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on restaurants, groceries, and household utilities
    • Annual birthday bonus of 10% of all the points you earned in the last 12 months (maximum 10,000)
    • Car rental & mobile device insurance (for up to $1,000)
    • Extended warranty on purchases
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance

    Cons

    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $80,000
    • High annual fee
  • More Details

    Bonuses And Fees

    The annual fee of the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard is $120 plus $50 per additional cardholder. To qualify for this card, you need an annual income of at least $80,000 or a household income of at least $150,000.

    This card comes with a bonus of 10,000 points, and you can earn an additional $20,000 if you spend over $2,000 within 90 days of opening your account. You also get a bonus of 10,000 points if you enroll for paperless e-statements during that same period.

    On your birthday, you will get a bonus of 10% of the total number of points you earned in the past 12 months, completely for free, up to a maximum of 15,000 points per year.

    Rewards

    You can redeem your reward points for cash back, travel,  merchandise, and gift cards. You don’t have to worry about your points expiring; as long as your account is in good standing, points will never expire.

    Perks and Benefits

    Purchase at partner restaurants and grocery stores, or use your card to pay for digital media and household utilities and earn 5 points per $1 spent, for up to $50,000 per category. All other categories earn 1 point per $1 spent.

BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard

Great for earning bonus miles, insurance, and discounts on Air Miles flights
  • Annual Fee
    $120 (1st year free)
  • Interest Rate
    20.99% on purchases, 23.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    2,000 Air Miles
  • Rec. Credit Score
    760+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 3,000 AIR MILES as a welcome bonus
    • Mastercard Travel Pass complimentary membership
    • 25% discount on one worldwide AIR MILES flight per year
    • Access to BMO AIR MILES World Elite Travel and Medical Protection, and BMO Concierge Services
    • Mastercard Travel Rewards cash back offers when travelling and shopping abroad
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for earning bonus miles, insurance, and discounts on Air Miles flights

    Pros

    • 2,000 Air Miles
    • Earn 1 AIR mile for every $12 spent
    • Get 3x the Miles when purchasing at select partner stores
    • 25% discount on one AIR MILES flight every year
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance
    • Complimentary Mastercard Travel Pass membership

    Cons

    • High credit score to qualify (at least 760)
    • Requires a minimum yearly income of $80,000
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees

    The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard has a $120 annual fee with the option to waive it for the first year completely. To apply for this card, you need an excellent credit score of 760 or more, and an annual income of at least $80,000, or a household income of $150,000.

    Earning points

    With the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, the base point earning rate is 1 Mile for every $12 spent. Grocery and gas purchases at store partners earn three times the amount, 3 Miles per $12 spent

    Perks and Benefits

    • 25% discount on one AIR MILES flight every year
    • Complimentary Mastercard Travel Pass membership
    • Access to exclusive lounges
    • Mastercard Travel Pass membership, which allows travellers to go through an expedited Fast Track Security Lane at airports
    • Access to BMO’s Concierge Service to book flights and hotels and arrange transportation

    Insurance

    The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard has comprehensive medical and travel insurance, including car rental, flight delay, and baggage insurance.

    Rewards

    • AIR MILES Cash Rewards, exchange your Miles online or in-store when making everyday purchases at partner stores
    • Redeem points for gift cards, e-gift cards, or Prepaid Mastercards
    • Access to Mastercard Travel Rewards, earn points when you travel or make purchases outside of Canada

American Express Platinum Card

high earn rate at eligible eats & drinks and the option to transfer points to other programs
  • Annual Fee
    $699
  • Interest Rate
    N/A
  • Welcome Bonus
    90,000 MR points
  • Rec. Credit Score
    760+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 90,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 within your first 3 months
    • Earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 at eligible eats & drinks purchases within your first 3 months
    • Full access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, the Centurion Lounge network, the Plaza Premium Lounges, and more
    • Redeem your points through American Express Travel Online, the Flexible Points Travel Program, or the Fixed Points Travel Program
    • Transfer your points to other reward programs: Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Radisson Hotel Group Americas, Hertz and Avis
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for high earn rate at eligible eats & drinks and the option to transfer points to other programs

    Pros

    • 90,000 MR points
    • Earn 10 MR points per $1 spent on eligible eats & drinks purchases
    • Access to over 1,200 American Express lounges worldwide
    • Transfer MR points between Aeroplan and Avios (1:1)
    • Comprehensive travel and medical insurance
    • Travel accident and emergency insurance

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • Needs a good credit score (660+)
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees

    The American Express Platinum Card is a premium credit card with one of the highest annual fees, set at $699. It requires an excellent credit score of at least 760 to apply. This card offers a promotional earn rate of 10 MR points per $1 spent on eligible eats & drinks for your first three months. 

    Rewards

    You can earn MR points at a rate of:
    • 3 MR points per $1 on eats & drinks, dining, and food deliveries
    • 2 MR points per $1 spent on travel-related purchases (flights, hotels, and more)
    • 1 MR point per $1 spent on everything else
    • 1 additional point per $1 spent on eligible hotels or car rentals

    Perks and benefits

    • Access to presale tickets through Amex’s Front Of The Line program
    • Complimentary membership to Hilton Honors Gold Status and Marriot Bonvoy Gold Elite status
    • Exclusive access to American Express Experiences (entertainment, dining, retail)
    • Enroll for NEXUS and get a $100 rebate 
    • Special offers when booking travel through American Express Travel Online
    • Priority lane at the Toronto Pearson International Airport

    Insurance

    Like most American Express cards, the Platinum Card offers very complete coverage:
    • Emergency medical insurance
    • Flight delay & trip cancellation insurance
    • Lost or stolen baggage insurance
    • Mobile device coverage
    • $500,000 travel accident insurance

American Express® Aeroplan® Reserve Card

Great for high earn rate at eligible eats & drinks, access to lounges, and priority travel perks
  • Annual Fee
    $599
  • Interest Rate
    20.99% on purchases, 21.99% on cash advances
  • Welcome Bonus
    85,000 Aeroplan points
  • Rec. Credit Score
    660+
  • Features & Benefits

    • Earn 55,000 Aeroplan points as a welcome bonus after spending $6,000 within your first 6 months
    • Earn 30,000 Aeroplan bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 each month for the first 6 months (5,000 Aeroplan points per month)
    • 5% discount on partner restaurants when you spend over $15
    • Hotel Room Category Upgrade on the first and last night
    • Worldwide Companion Pass when you spend over $25,000 in a year
  • Pros & Cons

    Why we like it

    Great for high earn rate at eligible eats & drinks, access to lounges, and priority travel perks

    Pros

    • 85,000 bonus welcome points
    • 3X the points on eligible spending with Air Canada® and Air Canada Vacations
    • Priority Check-In, Boarding, and Baggage Handling when flying Air Canada
    • Access to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges and Café for you and a guest
    • 15% discount on parking rates
    • Earn 3 points per dollar spent with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • You can only earn Aeroplan points
  • More Details

    Bonuses and fees

    The American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card is a premium travel card with a $599 annual fee and a welcome bonus of up to 85,000 Aeroplan points. You'll earn 55,000 of those Aeroplan points by spending $6,000 in the first 6 months of having the card, plus another 5,000 points for each month you spend $1,000 or more on the card (in the first 6 months).

    Rewards

    You can earn Aeroplan points at a rate of:

    • 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada
    • 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on eats & drinks and food deliveries
    • 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent at Rocky Mountaineer rail-tours
    • 1.25 Aeroplan points per $1 spent everywhere else

    Perks and benefits

    • Enroll in NEXUS and get a $100 rebate
    • Access to Maple Leaf Lounges a
    • Priority Check-in and Priority Boarding when flying Air Canada
    • Annual Worldwide Companion Pass if you spend at least $25,000 in a year

    Insurance

    Like most American Express cards, the Aeroplan Reserve offers comprehensive travel and medical coverage:

    • Emergency medical insurance
    • Flight delay & trip cancellation insurance
    • Lost or stolen baggage insurance
    • Mobile device coverage
    • $500,000 travel accident insurance

Pros & Cons Of Travel Credit Cards

Pros: Why a travel credit card may be worth it

  • If you’re a frequent traveller you will find it extremely easy to maximize rewards on travel purchases like airfares, hotels, car rentals, and taxis
  • Access to exclusive lounges and hotels
  • Perks like priority boarding and free room upgrades on your hotel stays
  • Rewards are most cost-efficient than those of cash back cards
  • Most travel credit cards offer access to travel portals, where you can redeem your points for travel rewards like cruises, flights, and vacation packages
  • Some travel credit cards offer the option to exchange your points for other points from another program

Cons: Why a travel credit card may not be worth it

  • Travel credit cards usually have very high annual fees – if you don’t travel frequently, you will miss out on most benefits and end up losing money
  • Most travel credit cards require a good-to-excellent credit score (700+)
  • Even though travel points may be worth more than cash back points, the value of travel points may fluctuate based on the season or other factors

Types Of Travel Credit Cards In Canada

There are two main types of travel credit cards: general travel credit cards and co-branded travel credit cards. The main difference is where you can spend your points. Here's our breakdown:

#1 General Travel Credit Cards

With these types of travel credit cards, you earn points (usually in the form of miles or transferable points) which you can then redeem on most travel expenses, including cash back on travel purchases, airline tickets, and hotel stays. You are not limited to any particular airline or hotel chain; you can redeem your points at any participating partner.

The major benefit of this type of card is its wide range of redemption options and transferable points, which can be exchanged across any participating program. Here are two examples of general travel credit cards in Canada.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card2 points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, and transit. (1 point per $1 on all other purchases)Free airport lounge passes & no foreign transaction fees
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard4 points per $1 spent on restaurants, grocery stores, and household utilities. (points can be redeemed to book any type of travel)

#2 Co-Branded Travel Credit Cards

Co-branded travel credit cards are a type of travel credit card that offer special benefits when you redeem your points to book flights with a particular airline or book a stay at a particular hotel. Some co-branded cards are very restrictive and don’t allow you to exchange your points anywhere else; the main benefit is that rewards can be more valuable than those of general travel credit cards.

It’s very common for co-branded cards to be named after the airline or hotel chain they’re partnered with. Here are the two main types of co-branded travel credit cards:

Hotel Credit Cards

These cards usually come with lots of additional perks for loyal customers. Benefits like free cancellations, no resort fees, free nights, and room upgrades are extremely common. Hotel credit cards are accepted everywhere the network is (usually Visa or Mastercard), and you can earn points on everyday purchases like a regular credit card. The main difference is that you will get significantly more value-per-point when you redeem your points at their hotel chain.

You can also work your way up to Elite status on most of these cards for additional perks. Here are two examples of hotel credit cards:

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card5 Marriot Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating MB properties + 10% bonus points on stays and priority checkout15 Elite Nights, credited to your account at the start of every year
American Express Cobalt Card5 MR points on groceries, restaurants, and barsTransferable points compatible with the Aeroplan, Avios, and Marriot Bonvoy program

Airline Credit Cards

Airline credit cards are just like hotel credit cards, but for flights. These types of cards are usually partnered with big banks and offer rewards to frequent travellers in the form of extra miles, priority boarding, travel insurance, and many other benefits. You can earn points, just like with a regular credit card, by purchasing at partner stores like restaurants or grocery stores. You can exchange points for rewards directly through the credit cards' travel portal.

BMO AIR MILES Credit Card1 AIR MILES points per $12 spent at eligible stores. (3x the points when purchasing at AIR MILES partners

How To Choose A Travel Credit Card In Canada

Card type

The most important thing you should consider when shopping for a travel credit card is the type of card it is. Travel credit cards come in two broad groups: general travel credit cards and co-branded credit cards. General travel cards can be used more broadly, and you can exchange your reward points at most places.

If you book your flights or hotel always stays with the same companies regularly, it might be worth considering signing up for a co-branded credit card to take advantage of loyalty rewards and other benefits.

Annual fee

Another important fact to consider is the annual fees. In general, annual fees for travel credit cards start at $120 and can go as high as $150 or more. This may seem high, but if you’re a frequent traveller you will easily offset this fee with all the benefits like free stays at hotels, flights, and quality of life benefits like access to airport lounges and priority boarding.

Also, keep in mind that the higher the fee, the better the rewards tend to be. So, even if a card like the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard sounds good on paper with its no annual fee, you would miss many benefits as a frequent traveller. Cards like the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard come with a fee ($150/year) but include travel insurance, concierge services, and discounts on rentals, not to mention additional perks like access to WiFi hotspots around the world and special cash back offers when you shop, which will definitely make you a profit every year. Some cards even waive the fee for the first year.

Welcome Bonus And Promotional Rates

Most travel credit cards come with a hefty bonus – usually locked behind a minimum spending limit. The minimum is usually around $2,000-$4,000, and you usually have a couple of months from the time of account creation to earn the bonus by spending that much using your card.

Reaching that bonus can oftentimes be enough to cover your first-year subscription or even more.

Credit Card Insurance & Purchase Warranties

Some travel credit cards offer comprehensive travel and medical insurance. This type of card usually has the highest annual fees but is a great option if you travel often and want to make sure your family is also protected. Here are some of the typical insured categories you can expect:

  • Baggage loss insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Car rental insurance
  • Extended warranty
  • Mobile Insurance
  • Flight delay insurance
  • Purchase assurance
  • Travel emergency medical
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Trip cancellation
  • Trip interruption

How To Redeem Your Travel Credit Card Rewards

Depending on the type of travel card, you will have different options to redeem your rewards. Some of the most common options include:

  • If your card offers transferable points, you can transfer them to different airlines (or hotels) and redeem your points for flights (or hotel stays)
  • Using your points to erase travel charges, keep in mind you may have a time window to exchange your points this way
  • Exchange your points for cash back or merchandise (we don’t recommend doing this, as this usually yields the lowest point-to-value ratio)
  • Purchase flights or hotel stays directly from the travel portal of your credit card company, this has the added benefit that it also earns you points, so you are effectively double dipping the value

How To Apply For A Travel Credit Card In Canada

Age

In Canada, the minimum age to request a credit card is the age of the majority. Teens under that age can’t get approved for credit cards but can be added as authorized users to one of their parent’s credit cards. For reference, the age of the majority in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan is 18 years old. In all other provinces, the age of the majority is 19.

Residency Status

Canadian credit cards are available to residents and non-permanent residents. However, most premium credit cards require you to be a Canadian resident. You don't even need a credit history for other card types like prepaid and secured credit cards. At the end of the day, residency requirements will depend on the specific credit card issuer and the type of card.

Credit score

Most travel credit cards in Canada require a good to excellent credit score, starting at 700. Keep in mind that the higher your credit score, the more likely your application will be accepted, and the cards with the higher requirements usually have the best intro bonuses, rewards, and benefits.

Personal Or Household Income Requirements

Not all travel credit cards have an income limit, but some premium ones have an annual income requirement ranging from $60,000-$80,000 for individuals or $100,000-$150,000 for households. These cards also require a higher credit score and come with the best travel perks.

Travel Credit Card FAQs

Are Travel Credit Cards Worth It?

When travel credit cards might be worth it for you:

  • If you earn enough points every year to compensate for the annual fee – this is not hard to accomplish if you travel often
  • If you have no trouble keeping up with your monthly credit card payments and are very unlikely to fall behind on payments, travel credit cards can be a great addition to your credit cards collection
  • If you are sure you will be able to redeem your points before they expire, a travel credit card will save you a lot of money on travels

When travel credit cards might not be worth it for you

  • If you don’t travel a lot, chances are you will not make anywhere near enough to justify the high annual fee
  • If you often fall behind on payments, a rewards credit card might not be for you. The additional interest you will incur will offset any reward you may gain
  • If you don’t want to keep track of the variable point-to-value rate of travel points, you might be better off with a cash back credit card. The latter has a static point-to-cash rate that doesn’t fluctuate

What Is The Best Free Travel Credit Card In Canada?

The best free travel credit card in Canada is the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus. It doesn’t have the biggest earn rate, but considering it is completely free, the 2 points per $1 on groceries and restaurants will stack up over time. It also offers discounts on car rentals, Avis and Budget.

Does Having Multiple Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score?

Having multiple credit cards will not negatively affect your credit score. In fact, if anything, it can have a positive impact; by spreading your usage across several credit cards, your utilization rate for each card will decrease compared to what it would be if you had only one credit card. The utilization rate is the percentage of the available credit you’re using, and the lower it is, the better it is for your credit score.

What Credit Card Networks Can You Use In Canada?

The three biggest credit card networks accepted in Canada are Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. All three are accepted widely across most retailers.

How Do I Avoid International Transaction Fees?

When travelling abroad, we all want to avoid international transaction fees. There are a couple of ways to minimize these fees, but in some cases, we can’t skip them entirely:

  • Look for credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees
  • Acquire some local currency before you travel
  • Open a bank account with low/no foreign fees

Is It Cheaper To Use Credit Cards Or Cash Abroad?

It’s cheaper to use credit cards. In most scenarios, paying the credit card’s foreign transaction fee (usually no more than 2.5%) is considerably cheaper than the local cash exchange rate.

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