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The Ultimate Credit Card Portfolio for Family Travel
Last Updated: March 1, 2017


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In this feature of Rewards Canada's Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate wallet for families who like to travel. We have always recommended that you should carry a Visa, a Mastercard and an American Express card in your wallet. The reason why is that there are benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We won't go into detail here on those offers as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but here we outline one card from each brand that will help you and your family save money on travel, have fun free nights and more. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for a family travel portfolio depending on your travel and spending habits but we look at one card from each issuing brand that won't totally break the bank on annual fees and provide lots of rewards, benefits beyond rewards along with some great insurance coverage.

What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate Family Travel Credit Card Wallet? It is the following three cards:

Mastercard - WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

Visa - Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa

American Express - Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

In this portfolio, 2 of 3 cards are more about the perks provided rather than the rewards earned while the third is there for the strong earn and insurance coverage. Ultimately however, all three cards do earn decent rewards for various type of travel so unlike our other Ultimate Portfolios where there is usually one primary card, this wallet allows for any of the three cards to be your primary card or you can share the wealth and use all three equally on your spending.

Earning / Spending

In terms of spreading your spending out on these cards, as we mentioned above you really could use any of the three for purchases however there are some specific category bonuses for each card where you'll want to pull out that card for that purchase. If you are buying gas, groceries or going out to eat or enjoy a movie or play, you'll want to put those purchases on the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card. Why? The card offers 4 points per dollar on spending in those categories! That is equivalent to a 4% return, which can only be matched by few redemptions out there with programs like Aeroplan or Starwood Preferred Guest. If the places don't accept American Express you could go with either of your two other cards although on dining we'd lean to the Marriott Rewards Visa as it offers 2 Marriott Rewards Points per dollar at restaurants. Purchasing WestJet flights or WestJet vacation packages, well then it makes sense to use the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard since it provides 2% back in WestJet dollars on those bookings. Booking a Marriott or Starwood hotel? Put that on the Chase Marriott Visa as it awards 5 points per dollar on those bookings. All other purchases? It really is up to you where you'll want to funnel them but know that the WestJet card offers 1.5% on all other purchases, the Scotia American Express is 1% and the Marriott card is roughly around 0.8% but for Marriott that is just a minimum as more value is achievable depending on what type of hotel you may end up redeeming for. For purchase in a foreign currency including online shopping you'll want to utilize the Marriott Visa as it has no foreign transaction fee which will save you 2.5% compared to the other cards.

How to maximize the benefits and rewards from these cards for your family

This is the fun part of the portfolio! The perks that come with two of the three cards can help you save money on your travels and provide some extra fun perks. The two cards out of the three are the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. We'll look at the perks of the WestJet card first:

There are two major money saving benefits that come with the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard. The first is that it provides the first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to eight other people on the same travel reservation. With most family travel not limited to overnight trips where you may not check luggage this can be a huge cost saver. A family of four travelling to Disneyland, Disneyworld or anywhere else WestJet flies will save $100+GST/HST each direction on those flights. Take two family vacations per year? You could save yourself over $400 just on baggage fees! The second money saving benefit is the companion pass offer that comes with the card. Up until a year ago the pass was limited to flights within Canada or the lower 48 of the U.S. but that was changed to being able to use it to anywhere WestJet flies in any fare class. The pass lowers the cost of a companion ticket to anywhere from $99 to $399 depending on where you fly to and can be a huge cost saver. That family of four going to Disneyland during March Break could see fares in the $500 or more range but using the companion pass on one of those tickets means it will only cost you $99+taxes/fees saving you $400 (see our link just below on other cost savings examples with the companion pass). The companion pass voucher is awarded annually so you can save money every year and if you are that family of four you may want to explore grabbing two WestJet World Elite Mastercards, one for mom and one for dad. That way you can take advantage of two annual companion pass vouchers and if one spouse is travelling alone they'll still get the first bag free benefit.

Related: Say hello to the updated WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard - travelling with a companion just got way better!

Now on to the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa. When you apply for and get this card you'll get 30,000 to 50,000 points on your first purchases. Right there you are looking at anywhere from 1 free night to 5 free nights if you get the 30,000 point sign up bonus or up to 8 free nights if you are eligible and get the 50,000 point sign up bonus. Technically you only have to spend $1 on the card to get the bonus so that is a pretty big sign up bonus! You'll also get 15 night stay credit with the card which gives you automatic Silver Elite status in Marriott Rewards which will give you an additional 20% bonus on points earned on Marriott stays. That Silver status is also matched to Preferred Plus status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Did we mention there is no annual fee on the card in the first year so all of this comes for free! Once you've had the card for a 1 year and renew you'll get a free night certificate for a stay at any Marriott Hotel that falls into the Category 1 to 5 hotels. Seeing that many Category 5 hotels cost more than $200, getting that free night for your $120 annual fee saves you more money and can make for a fun one night staycation with the family! Check out our feature 5 great Marriott Hotels in Canada to use your anniversary free night benefit at from the Marriott Rewards Visa for some examples of great hotels in our backyard to utilize this free night! This free night benefit is awarded every year on your card anniversary so you can make a fun family staycation (or add in free nights on your travels) every year!


On the rewards side, all three cards are great! The WestJet cards comes with that 250 WestJet dollar sign up bonus on top of the other benefits we mentioned and remember folks, this card only costs $99 per year! Not only have you got the companion voucher, the first bag free now you have 250 WestJet dollars to use on any WestJet flight since WestJet dollars are treated like really cash, buying four $500 tickets for that trip to Disneyland, you've utilized the voucher as we mentioned above to save $400 on one ticket, now you can also redeem the $250 towards the tickets so your savings have been pushed to $650 and we haven't included the bag fees saved. Chances are you'll have more than 250 dollars in your WestJet account so the savings could be even higher. Are you getting the picture on how this card is ideal for the family who travels within Canada, the U.S., sun destinations or even the U.K. Of course travelling anywhere else and you don't see the benefits but from our numerous discussion with so many families it seems like North America and sun destinations are on the top of the list for most Canadian families.

The Marriott Rewards card earns points that can be used towards free night stays at Marriott Hotels or converted to Starwood Preferred Guest which means you have well over 5,000 hotels Worldwide to choose from. Or you can utilize the points for numerous other rewards like Night+Flights package which are THE best redemption value from Marriott Rewards where you redeem points for 5 to 7 nights at a Marriott Hotel and you also get a set amount of airline frequent flyer miles in the package.

Finally, with the Scotiabank Gold American Express card this is where you can put that 4% you earn to real good use but we'll return to that in a second. When you get the card it currently comes with a 25,000 point bonus when you reach $750 in spending in the first three months plus they are waiving the first year annual fee which means you are essentially getting a $250 travel credit for free. Then you have the 4 points per dollar spent on Gas, Grocery and Dining/Entertainment purchases so you can really make the points add up faster with this card. The redemption side for rewards with this card are another ray of sunlight. You can book any travel with anyone you want and then redeem the points against the charge. Booking the Disneyland Resort hotel or the Grand Californian for that Disneyland trip we keep mentioning? You can use hotel or airline points there but you can use your Scotia Rewards points. Say you book 3 nights at $350 per night and have 35,000 points on your Scotia card? Well you can redeem those points for a $350 credit towards the $1050 charged to you card. You are essentially giving you one night free, of course if you have more points you can redeem even more or less, its all up to you. You also have the beauty of continuing to spend on the card and earn more points to redeem against that hotel stays since Scotia gives you up to 12 months after the charge posts to your account to redeem the points for it.

That's it in a nutshell, the Ultimate Family Credit Card Portfolio. I could write way more than this on how to utilize these three cards but I don't want to bore you. I think what we have above gives you a pretty clear picture on how you can save your family loads of money on all those vacations that most of us want to take!

The Ultimate Family Credit Card Portfolio:

Card Card Features

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

$250 WestJet dollars Bonus + Annual $99/$299/$399 Companion Flight when you sign up for and receive the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard.
- Earn 1.5% back in WestJet dollars on every purchase you make with your card
- Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars when you purchase WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages with your card
- Companion flight vouchers are an annual benefit.
- First bag free for the primary cardholder up to 8 people traveling on the same reservation to anywhere WestJet flies!

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Chase Marriott Premier Visa
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
30,000 Bonus Rewards Points when you apply for and receive the Premier card. Points are awarded after your first purchase.
Annual Fee: $120 (waived in the first year)
Supplementary cards: free
30,000 Marriott Rewards Points sign up bonus after your first purchase
5 Marriott Rewards points per $ spent Marriott Rewards® and SPG® Hotels worldwide
2 Marriott Rewards points per $ spent on Airline Tickets, Car Rental agencies and restaurants
1 Marriott Rewards point on all other spending
15 Night credit towards elite status, which translates to automatic Silver status
Anniversary bonus of 1 free night at a Category 1 - 5 location

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We mention above that there is a 50,000 point version of this card that is supposed to be limited to Marriott Elite members only but many people who are not report getting the bonus. You can try to apply for it via this link. No matter what if the 50k does not work you will get the 30,000 points.

Chase is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply

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

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
30,000 Scotia Rewards Bonus points and First Year Annual Fee waived with $750 in net purchases in first three months - worth $300 in travel.

Earn 4x Scotia Rewards points for every $1 you spend at gas stations, grocery stores, on dining and entertainment Earn one point on all other eligible purchases
Extraordinary travel benefits
Flexible Point Redemption
Comprehensive travel insurance

Apply Now

Related: Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Review / Scotiabank Gold American Express Card Review / WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard Review

Other Card Options:

There are potentially lots of other cards options but most won't provide the cost savings outside of rewards points like the list we provide above. Of course you could always consider the best overall card in Canada, the American Express Gold Rewards Card as it works just like the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card in that you can redeem for any travel and it also gives you the option of converting to Aeroplan, British Airways and several other programs. Another option is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card as it is strong for redeeming at Starwood and Marriott hotels but also gives you the option to convert to 30+ airlines including Aeroplan. The RBC Visa Infinite Avion could be another choice for the Visa slot seeing that you can redeem for almost any flight, read our post on How to maximize value out of the RBC Avion Airline Award Chart to make the most of this card and it also gives you the opportunity to convert to WestJet dollars, American Airlines and British Airways. On the Mastercard front, there are no cards out there that compare with the WestJet card for saving you money on the travel extras like bag fees and companion fares however there are cards like the mbna Rewards World Elite Mastercard which have higher returns on the actual points for purchases at 2% for travel redemptions versus the WestJet's 1.5%. With all these other card options you need to weigh not just the earn rate but also the perks and benefits to see which combination of cards will provide the best value for your family.

Talk to us!

What do you find works best for your family? Do you use these three cards exactly as laid out above or do you use a different combination? Tell us in the comments section below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

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