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Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2018

I don't need to read all this just show me the rankings!

Posted January 23, 2018

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REWARDS CANADA'S TOP FEATURES



Welcome to Rewards Canada's 10th annual Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards feature. We're proud bring you the original, most anticipated, highly regarded, often imitated but never duplicated travel rewards credit card rankings for Canadians!!

Big changes this year in the rankings thanks to a crazy 2017 that saw several new cards introduced and the loss of some great ones. Not only have the rankings changed, but we've modified some of the categories the cards are ranked in. We have done away with the hotel card category as there are only two cards in our market now and replaced it with the Top Coalition Program Credit Card category. The timing of this category is right with Aeroplan splitting from Air Canada in only two years and while Aeroplan has been considered a coalition program for years it was also considered an airline frequent flyer program. Coalition programs are big in Canada and ranking them separately only makes sense. The other category we modified is the Top Travel Points Credit Card (with no annual fee) and renamed it Top No Free Travel Rewards Credit Card as it now takes into account coalition, airline, hotel and other travel rewards cards that have no annual fee.

Once again we run an overall best card category! This is our 3rd year of naming an overall winner and as you all know it is difficult to give one card a title of the best card in Canada but this new category continues to be well received so we are continuing with it!

The biggest change we see in the 2018 is a new top overall card for Canada! The American Express Cobalt Card exploded onto the scene in late September and it is a game changer. We have it ranking first overall primarily for its huge earn rate on Food and Drinks but also take into account its great sign up bonus, conversion options and insurance. It knocks long time front runner the American Express Gold Rewards Card down to second in the Overall and Hybrid categories. Other significant changes see the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard crowned as the best airline card in Canada. There are several reasons behind this - the move of Aeroplan to the new Coalition program category and the WestJet Rewards program getting significantly stronger in 2017 by adding redemption options on Air France, Delta, KLM and Qantas.

What is the best card? This is our third year of picking overall cards and the reigning king for the past two years has been knocked down a spot by a brethren card. The new number one card in Canada is the American Express Cobalt Card. Why? There were several reasons it knocked the American Express Gold Rewards card down to second spot. First is the super strong earn of 5x Points on Eats & Drinks, a well rounded insurance package and a great sign up bonus. Not to mention the fact that it is a hybrid card which gives you the best options and most flexibility when redeeming for travel. Want to book a cruise and use points? You can do that with the Cobalt Card. Want to convert to hotel programs for hotel stays or further conversion to airline programs? You can do that with the Cobalt Card. Look at it this way, the 5x points is equal to 5% for any travel booking or they are worth 2.5 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints which we value at nearly 3 cents apiece and those can be further converted to Aeroplan, British Airways and many more airline programs. The potential reward with the last option? 3.14 miles per dollar spent on the card in eats and drinks category. No other card on the market comes even close to this! Don't need the frequent flyer or frequent guest option or shop at places that don't take Amex? You're best bets are the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, the mbna Rewards World Elite Mastercard or the RBC Visa Infinite Avion cards. In a nutshell, there are cards that definitely stand out above the rest and for some of you these may not be the best option so we advise you to look at our breakdown of top cards in the five major categories we developed to see which one is best for you. What category is right for you? Check out Rewards Canada's Guide to choosing a travel rewards credit card to steer you in the right direction.

How do we come up with our picks for the best cards? We look at various factors including cost of ownership, rate of return, the associated loyalty program (co-brand), ease of redemption, partnerships, issuing bank and benefits. Then add in over 16 years of research, answering hundreds of email questions from readers, comments from our readers plus the charts and articles we publish provides us the insight into the pros and cons of each card. As always this has allowed Rewards Canada to form an opinion as to which ones are the best. That's right, it all boils down to opinion. The top cards listed here, are in our opinion, the best cards for travel rewards in Canada. Will people agree? Some yes, some no. Do we make some credit card issuers mad? Yes. Happy? You bet.

As we have stressed in the past, choosing a card is a difficult decision based on many factors including but not limited to rewards offered, benefits offered, cost and the issuing bank. We hope that with this seventh annual ranking, we will help guide consumers to finding the right credit card for them .

What makes Rewards Canada's rankings different from the rest? At Rewards Canada, we are deeply entrenched in the loyalty industry, not just credit cards, so we take this into account for the rankings where it is applicable. Most other rankings on the Internet only look at the credit card itself and not the associated loyalty program or partners, hidden tricks of the programs and more. For example, in the Airline Cards category we take into account what cities the airlines and/or their partners serve in Canada and Worldwide, whether you can redeem for premium class travel, what the redemption availability is like with their frequent flyer program and so on. For Coalition Cards we look at how many partners are in the program, what you can use those points or miles for etc. This is why the Rewards Canada rankings are the most regarded in Canada with the media, loyalty programs and credit card issuers.

There are still well over 75 travel reward credit cards available to Canadians! Some are airline only cards that put miles directly into your airline frequent flyer accounts. Some are coalition cards the belong to larger programs like Aeroplan, AIR MILES and More Rewards. Some are hybrid cards where you collect points that can be used to book travel through the credit card or put the points into a frequent flyer/guest account. Some are travel points cards, where the points are redeemed for travel through the credit card company's proprietary rewards program while a small number are hotel only cards that put the points directly into your frequent guest program accounts.

It is from these variations of cards that we have created the six categories of cards in Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2018.
1. Top Travel Rewards Cards Overall
2. Top Travel Points Credit Cards (with annual fee)
3. Top No Fee Travel Rewards Credit Cards
4. Top Hybrid Travel Credit / Charge Cards (with annual fee)
5. Top Airline Credit / Charge Cards
6. Top Coalition Program Credit Cards

To see all of the travel rewards credit cards that were considered for this years rankings please see here.

Care to comment on what we chose as the best travel rewards credit cards? Want to voice your opinion on the good and the bad of all the Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada. Share you views and experiences in the comment section below or on Facebook and Twitter for Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2018!

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Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit & Charge Cards for 2018

Top 5 Cards Overall


American Express Cobalt Card

Storming onto the market in late September the Cobalt Card redefined the market. The card is marketed to Millennials but is an amazing card for anyone younger or older than that. If you want to earn a lot of points fast, have good travel insurance and a strong sign up bonus, this card is for you.

2nd

American Express Gold Rewards Card
American Express Gold Rewards Card

This long time front running card still provides the utmost in travel rewards flexibility with a nice sign up bonus of 25,000 points, strong insurance and more. You may ask why get the Gold Rewards Card over the Cobalt Card? The direct conversion to Aeroplan or British Airways and if you spend lots at drug stores this card earns more points are the main reasons why.

3rd

WestJet
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

Big changes to the WestJet Rewards program in 2017 means this card shoots up the rankings big time. The lack of being able to use WestJet dollars for flights to Asia, Australia and virtually anywhere else outside of North America is a thing of the past. Now you can redeem dollars for flights on Air France, Delta, KLM, and Qantas to almost all corners of the globe. Add in the benefits like the annual companion flight, first checked bag free and lots more and you can see why this card has become one of the best in Canada.

4th

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Despite Rewards Canada dropping the hotel category from the rankings because of only two cards now being available it doesn't mean the cards aren't good. In fact the Starwood Preferred Guest is pretty amazing - it can provide huge value for hotel stays within the Starwood and Marriott brands and allows you to convert to over 30+ airline frequent flyer programs.

5th

RBC Infinite Avion
RBC Visa Infinite Avion

One of the most popular cards in Canada provides a high level of flexibility however you have to know how to work this card to pull the maximum value out of it. Lots of its competitors are easier to use but still having that option to book any travel or convert to airlines like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, American and WestJet make this an extremely good card.

Top Cards by Category

  Top Travel Points Credit Card Top No Fee Travel Rewards Credit Card Top Hybrid Credit / Charge Card
(with annual fee)
Top Airline Credit / Charge Card Top Coalition Program Credit Card

1st


20,000 Scotia Rewards bonus points with first purchase
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card


Scotiabank More Rewards* VISA* card

Scotiabank More Rewards Visa Card



American Express Cobalt Card


WestJet
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard



TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

2nd



mbna rewards World Elite Mastercard


TD Aeroplan
American Express Blue Sky Credit Card


American Express Gold Rewards Card
American Express Gold Rewards Card






CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite Card

3rd


BMO

BMO World Elite Mastercard


Capital One Aspire Platinum Mastercard
Capital One® Aspire Travel™ Platinum Mastercard®


RBC Infinite Avion
RBC Visa Infinite Avion



RBC® British Airways Visa Infinite



BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard

4th


TD Infinite First Class Visa
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card



mbna rewards Mastercard



The Platinum Card from American Express



RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum



American Express® Air Miles Platinum®* Credit Card

5th


CIBC Aventura
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card



mbna Best Western Rewards Mastercard



HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard


WestJet
WestJet RBC Mastercard


Scotiabank More Rewards* VISA* card

Scotiabank More Rewards Visa Card

Details on the Top Travel Points Credit Cards (with annual fee)
Details on the Top No Fee Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Details on the Top Hybrid Credit / Charge Cards (with annual fee)
Details on the Top Airline Credit / Charge Cards

What is an Airline Credit Card?

An airline credit card earns miles directly into that airline's frequent flyer program
Card Details Previous Rankings

WestJet
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

Thanks to enhancements with the WestJet Rewards program the dollars you earn on this card can get you to almost anywhere in the World on WestJet's partner airlines. Add additional benefits like the companion flight and first bag free you can see why this card is tops in this category. Here are some of the benefits

  • A 250 WestJet Dollars sign up bonus pays for the card for 2-1/2 years and since WestJet dollars are treated like cash you can use towards any booking immediately as you don't have specific mileage redemptions levels to reach
  • A 1.5% return on your everyday spending and 2% for WestJet & WestJet Vacations purchases
  • Redeem for Member Exclusive fares on WestJet, Delta, Air France, KLM and Qantas.
  • A relatively strong insurance package makes sure this card is well rounded
  • Get a complimentary round trip companion flight every year (including Plus Fares) for as little as $99 (plus taxes, fees and charges) to anywhere WestJet flies.
  • First bag free for the primary cardholder up to 8 people traveling on the same reservation to anywhere WestJet flies!
2017: 2
2016: 2
2015: 2
2014: 2
2013: 3
2012: 3
2011: 2
2010: 2

This card keeps moving up in the airline rankings and one might not consider Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan as a program to look at but it is actually a great program for Canadians. Even though Alaska only flies to Alberta and B.C. the program is strong for all Canadians thanks to its partnerships with airlines from around the globe. (This card is not available to Quebec residents)

  • 25,000 Mileage Plan Miles upon approval with a lower annual fee than most airline cards - 25,000 miles can get you a round trip ticket in North America as flights start as little as 5,000 miles one way.
  • An annual Companion Fare from $121 (USD) ($99, plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • the Mileage Plan program has great airline partners like Japan Airlines, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and others that allow many Canadians to utilize the program and they allow for some great one way redemptions
2016: 4
2015: 5
2014: Out of top 5
2013: Out of top 5
2012: Out of top 5
2011: Out of top 5
2010: 5


RBC® British Airways Visa Infinite

The RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card moves up two spots thanks to the updated category offerings. This is a program specific card that really benefits those flying on BA however the ability to use Avios on short and medium haul flights in North America at decent redemption rates is one of its key benefits:

  • The ability to redeem on British Airways and all of BA's oneworld partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and more. Some great redemptions include15,000 Avios for round trip short haul flight between Canada and the U.S. (Read here for more details on that offer)
  • 2x Avios for British Airways tickets charged to the card
  • An excellent suite of insurance and benefits including out of province medical coverage
  • Receive a complimentary Companion Award Ticket when you spend $30,000 or more on your card in any calendar year
2017: 5
2016: 5
2015: Out of top 5
2014: Out of top 5
2013: 5
2012: Out of top 5
2011: Out of top 5
2010: 4 (Platinum Version)


RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum

Rounding out the airline category is the only other airline card in Canada. The RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum is another program specific card that will really only appeal to the Cathay Pacific frequent flyer. Here are some of the benefits of the card:

  • Earn 1.25 Asia Miles for every $1 CAD equivalent of foreign currency you spend using your card
  • Earn double Asia Miles for every $1 CAD spent on Cathay Pacific purchases online
  • Receive a welcome bonus of 15,000 Asia Miles
  • Complimentary first year Green Tier membership to Cathay Pacific's exclusive Marco Polo Club
2017: Out of the top 5

WestJet
WestJet RBC Mastercard

Rounding out the pack of airline cards is the lower version of WestJet's RBC portfolio, the WestJet RBC MasterCard. This card has the following benefits

  • A 50 WestJet Dollars sign up bonus
  • A 1.0% return on your everyday spending and 1.5% for WestJet & WestJet Vacations purchases
  • Redeem for Member Exclusive fares on WestJet, Delta, Air France, KLM and Qantas
2017: Out of the top 5
See here for the rest of the airline credit / charge cards that were considered for this years rankings
Details on the Top Coalition Program Credit Cards
“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.”
"American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website For full details and current product information click the applicable link."
"Chase is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the applicable link. Conditions apply
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