Credit Cards

These are the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada in 2018

By: John Shmuel on March 14, 2018

Planning to get away somewhere warm this year?

A travel rewards credit card can get you there sooner. You just have to make sure to pick the right one.

Getting the right card starts with looking at your spending habits, and what you want it to do. If you’re only spending $500 a month, a credit card like The Platinum Card — with a $699 annual fee — will cost you more than you earn in points.

We decided to rank the best travel credit cards out there right. The rankings are based on a monthly spending budget of $2,000, and the order is determined purely on the amount of travel rewards that spending will earn you every year. Most of these cards provide the biggest rewards in the first year, when you can take advantage of signup bonuses or waived fees.

Before we dive into the list, we do want to award a consolation prize to a card that didn't make our list. While the Home Trust Preferred Visa won't win any awards for its cash back rate — 1% — what it does offer travellers is 0% foreign currency charges on purchases made abroad. For anyone who travels a lot, you'll know just how much that can save you. 

Now, here’s a look at the credit cards that came out on top.

American Express Cobalt Card

A new entrant to the travel credit card space, the Cobalt card entered with a bang. With a signup bonus worth $300 in travel, and the ability to earn 5% back on eligible restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food delivery in Canada, it takes the top spot on our list.

Annual travel rewards after first year with annual fee: $420

Annual fee: $120
Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases / 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers.
Signup bonus: 30,00 points (worth $300 in travel credits) if you spend $500 a month in your first year.
Income requirements: None.
Earn rate: Five points on dining and entertainment, two points on travel and transit and one point for everything else.
Annual travel rewards: $840 in the first year ($500 in 5x categories, $500 in 2x categories, $1,000 on everything else). $540 after first year.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

This card is definitely underappreciated. You can transfer the Starpoints to other frequent flyer programs, often on a 1:1 basis — and transferring 20,000 points has the potential to net you an extra 5,000 points. Plus, if you're a big spender, you get an extra free hotel night every year. Just make sure to spend $40,000 or more on your card. (There are some restrictions to what and when you can book, though.)

Annual travel rewards after first year with annual fee: $415

Annual fee: $120, and $50 for each supplementary card (annual fee on supplementary cards waived first year).
Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases / 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers.
Signup bonus: Earn 20,000 Starpoints when you spend $1,500 on your card in the first three months. 
Income requirements: None.
Earn rate: Earn two Starpoints for every dollar spent at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels. One Starpoint for all other purchases.
Annual travel rewards: $981 in the first year (based on $100 spend in two Starpoints categories, and $1,900 spend on one Starpoint category). $535 a month after the first year.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

A perennial favourite of ours, this card can technically outearn the Cobalt if you're not spending a large amount of your monthly bill toward the Colbalt's 5x category. We were bummed to see the 25,000 point signup bonus downgraded this year to 15,000, though. Still, an extremely versatile card with a great earn rate. 

Annual travel rewards after first year with annual fee: $401

Annual fee: $99, and $29 for each supplementary card.
Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases / 22.99% on cash advances, balance transfers, and Scotia Credit Card Cheques.
Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Income requirements: None.
Earn rate: Four Scotia Rewards for every $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, dining/entertainment and gas stations.
Annual travel rewards: $750 in first year (based on $1,000 a month in eligible categories). $500 a month after first year.

Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card

This card slides into the fourth spot, with a great earn rate. Like the other cards, if you're spending more in the top earn rate than we've budgeted, then you're going to get even more out of it. The only thing that hurts this card is the income requirement.

Annual travel rewards after first year with annual fee: $381

Annual fee: $99 (fee waived for first year). $30 for supplementary cards (also waived first year).
Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases / 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers.
Signup bonus: First year fee waived.
Income requirements: $60,000, or $100,000 household income.
Earn rate: 4% cash back on gas stations, groceries and 2% cash back on drug stores, recurring bill payments. 1% on everything else.
Annual travel rewards: $480 in first year (based on $500 spend in 4% categories, $500 in 2% categories and $1,000 in 1% categories).

 

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