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By Credit Card Company Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2012 - FACTORS

Go back to the Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2012 Posted June 26, 2012

Here we look at the factors taken into account and some of the reasons why some rankings changed from last year

We look at various factors including cost of ownership, rate of return, the associated loyalty program (co-brand), ease of redemption, card acceptance, partnerships, issuing bank and benefits. Coupled with over ten years of research, answers to hundreds of email questions from readers plus the charts and articles that we have written provides us the insight into the pros and cons of each card.

Reasons for the ranking changes from 2011

Travel Points Credit Cards (with Annual Fee)
The Travel Points Credit Card with Annual Fee had one of the biggest changes this year with the TD First Class Infinite Visa moving out of the Hybrid Credit Card category. The card did not take first place away from the behemoth Capital One® Aspire Travel World Mastercard but it is strong enough to knock the CUETS Platinum Class Mastercard out of second place. Although the CUETS Platinum Class Mastercard offers a 2% return on all your spending versus TD's 1.5% and longer out of province medical coverage, the TD card ultimately provides more flexibility in redemptions by allowing members to redeem how they want and where they want. The TD card also has a larger suite of card benefits attached to it, a larger sign up bonus and a lower annual fee.

Travel Points Credit Card (with no annual fee)
The top 5 cards did not change in this category in terms of ranking although the Capital One® Aspire Travel™ Platinum Mastercard® (Annual Interest Rate of 16.8%+ Prime) did get stronger by now offering a 25% miles bonus for all your spending in the previous year. The 25% bonus is awarded on your card anniversary date. Essentially this means that the card earns the same amount of rewards that the number 1 seeded American Express Blue Sky card earns and some may ask why the Capital One® card is not ranked number one? Despite having a better insurance and benefits package than the Blue Sky Credit Card the determining factors in not awarding the Aspire Travel Platinum card first place was that you have to wait 12 months to get your bonus miles, so ultimately you have to wait to use them whereas the Blue Sky allows you to use those points right away and when you go to redeem those points the Blue Sky card allows partial redemptions starting at 10,000 points whereas the Aspire Travel Platinum card requires you to have enough points to cover the entire travel charge posted to your statement. As this category tends to be for the lower level spenders or for those who want a no fee card as their secondary or tertiary card it could theoretically take a long to earn enough miles on the Capital One® card to make a redemption.

Hybrid Travel Credit Card (with annual fee)
With the TD First Class Visa Infinite moving out of this category a spot opened up in the top 5 for another card. So while first and second spots have not changed the recent changes to the Platinum Card from American Express push it into that vacant spot replacing the TD card's third place. Despite having the highest annual fee of any readily available consumer card (the American Express Centurion card costs more but is an invite only card) the benefits associated with this card more than make up for the cost of it. Add in the 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent ensures that the cardholder is handsomely rewarded for the spending on this card. We still have not seen the Diners Club Club Rewards Mastercard reopened to the general public for applications yet. I keep getting told it will be soon but that has been the case for nearly a year. When it does, it will shake up this category.

Airline Credit Card
This category also had a big change with the Delta SkyMiles® World Mastercard® from Capital One® knocking out the two time second place holder, the RBC WestJet World Mastercard. Capital One® sent us the details on this card in time for the rankings as they will be taking place in mid-July and when we saw them we knew the card would make a challenge for the top spots in the airline card category. The main reason the card did not take over first place from the CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite card is the sheer strength of Air Canada and Aeroplan. Despite Delta and SkyTeam's large presence in Canada they still cannot match Air Canada's coverage of cities and the fact you cannot redeem for domestic flights within Canada yet (should come soon via Delta's tie up with WestJet) are the primary factors that kept this card from taking first. We did have the card knock the WestJet card out of third because of the mileage earning rate on the Delta Card, the ability to redeem for premium class seats and the ability to redeem for flights to virtually anywhere in the world.

This category also lost the TD AAdvantage Visa which held 5th spot as the relationship between TD and American Airlines ended. Replacing its spot in 5th came down to the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite and the MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard. We gave it to the RBC British Airways Visa for a number of reasons. Despite having higher annual costs than the Alaska Airlines card this card brings value to Canadian's via BA's Executive Club program, one of which is shorter distance rewards (since Avios moved to a distance based redemption format) such as Toronto to New York. All it takes is 9,000 Avios for a round-trip flight between Toronto and New York on American Airlines or $9,000 in spending on the card if you don't include British Airways purchases.

Hotel Credit Card
The only change in this category was the breakup of the tie for first place. Last year the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Priority Club® World Mastercard® tied for first place for variety of different reasons. Since that time, the credit cards have not changed but their co-brand loyalty programs have. Starwood Preferred Guest got stronger while InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club got a little weaker. Those changes were enough for us to break the tie. One of the primary reasons the tie was broken was Starwood's new lifetime elite status benefit. This benefit will award you lifetime elite status if you achieve that status five years in a row and this includes status awarded from credit cards. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card awards Gold Elite status after you spend $30,000 on the card each year, so if you maintain this for 5 years you will have Gold Elite Status for life and there is no comparison between SPG's Gold Status and IHG Priority Club's Gold Status with the latter being much much weaker. Add to this the recent changes to Priority Club's redemption rates which saw many hotels increase in the amount of points required for redemption and our decision was made.

Go back to the Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2012


“The interest rates, fees, rewards details, benefits and other details of the Capital One product(s) described in the article may have changed since the time of publication. Please consult the product information pages on the Capital One website for accurate product details. In the event of any conflict between the product details in this article and the Capital One website, the details on the Capital One website shall prevail.”

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