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The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card & Loyalty Programs for the All Inclusive Vacationer Originally posted Oct 29, 19

 

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As Canadians we know what it’s like to live with long, drawn out winters. We dread the short daylight hours and the biting wind. So how do we as a nation battle the season we look forward to before Christmas but are sick of by the first week of January? We travel. We travel to warmer sun drenched locales and for many of us that means an all inclusive vacation. Canadian winters and all inclusive vacations go hand in hand. However, when it comes to travel loyalty programs and credit cards, all inclusive vacations are neglected. Have you ever seen a credit card ad detailing an all inclusive vacation? No, it’s almost always flights and to a lesser extend hotel stays. That’s because we've been trained to think that credit card and travel reward programs are just for flights. And we're trained that way because that's what most programs used to be. Think about it, you ask any Canadian on the street to name a travel reward program and you're almost guaranteed you'll only hear Aeroplan or AIR MILES. Not much else. And while those two are coalition programs offering a slew of rewards, they are synonymous with flights and merchandise. And while those are rewards many people do strive for, you can 't just redeem for a flight on an all-inclusive vacation, so many Canadians tend to just save up and buy the vacation while continuing to try to earn enough points or miles just for other flights. So we're here to dispel the notion that travel loyalty programs are for flights primarily and show you how to make the most of them to help you save on all inclusives or even to get them for free.

We'll take a look at the best credit card programs that you can use for all inclusive vacations and also some travel loyalty programs that let you redeem for these type of vacations!

Primary tips to take away from the list of credit cards

  • You don't need the full amount of points to redeem them towards a vacation. You can use them to make your vacation cheaper or make it more luxurious. For example, if you have $3,000 budget for your vacation and have $1,000 worth of points - you can now buy a $4,000 vacation - perhaps at a 5 star all inclusive resort instead of a 4 star.
  • You can buy all inclusive vacations from any travel provider with these cards - doesn't matter if it is Expedia, itravel2000, redtag.ca, Air Canada Vacations, your local travel agent or any other travel company selling the vacation packages (not applicable to the WestJet card)
  • You are not limited by time - you can buy your all inclusive vacation package 6+ months to 6 hours prior to travel and be able to use your points for them.
  • You can be on vacation at the all inclusive resort and pay for something with your card (say an excursion) and redeem points for it when you get home (not applicable to the WestJet card)
  • All of the below cards come with good to excellent insurance benefits such as out of province medical coverage, trip cancellation, flight delay and more.
  • The cards below have good to excellent welcome sign up bonuses typically worth $200 to $300 that can be used towards these vacations (not applicable to the Desjardin card as it does not a have standard welcome bonus)

 

The Best Credit Cards for All Inclusive Vacationers

There isn't one credit card in Canada that is all inclusive vacation specific - and you know what? That's a good thing. As Canadians we like to shop around for the best prices on all inclusive vacations so using a proprietary credit card reward program is ideal. You see, the best proprietary credit card programs aren't tied into one program, they let you book your all inclusive vacation how you want, when you want and with whomever you want. Buying a super cheap package vacation from Expedia? Not a problem. A 5 star package from itravel2000? Still not a problem. The way these proprietary programs work is that you buy the vacation you want with your credit card and then when the charge shows up on your account you redeem your points towards that charge. Don't have enough points? Not a problem either. Most of them allow you to redeem whatever amount of points you want. Say you have 100,000 points that are worth $1,000 and you buy an $1,800 all inclusive package.


An example of American Express' using points slider

You can redeem the points for a $1,000 credit and now you have only paid $800 for that vacation. Have 180,000 points to pay for it all? You can do that as well. And get this - depending on the card you have, you can continue to collect points and use them towards that charge up to 12 months after it posts! Yes, you buy it in November, travel in February and can continue to earn and then redeem points for it until the following November! All that being said, here are the cards we recommend to All Inclusive Vacations, why we recommend them and the all the details on how and when you can use the points.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Earn rate: 5 points/$ for dining, groceries, entertainment
3 points/$ for gas, daily transit and streaming services
1 point/$ on all other purchases
Where can you can redeem your points: Any Travel Provider
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 1,000 points = $10
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 1% to 5%
Duration of points redemption period: 12 months (after the travel charge posts to your account)

The Scotiabank Gold American Express underwent some changes in August 2019 that propelled the card to being one of the best in Canada for points earning and benefits. The card earns an awesome 5 points per dollar spent on grocery store, dining (including select food delivery services) & entertainment purchases. It also earns 3 points per dollar on gas, transit (including taxi and ride sharing) and streaming services like Netflix. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. The accelerated rates are earned until you hit $50,000 annually in for those categories. This means, if you are able to maximize the card and spend $50,000 in the 5x points category you would end up with 250,000 Scotia Rewards points. That 250K of points are worth $2,500 towards any all inclusive vacation package that you book with any travel provider. You have up to 12 months after the charge posts to redeem points against that charge. And there's one more benefit to this card that all-inclusive vacations should like - it has no foreign transaction fees, that means it saves you 2.5% on average on all purchases made outside of Canada! Learn more about this card here.

American Express Cobalt Card

Earn rate: 5 points/$ for eats and drinks
2 points/$ for travel, gas, daily transit
1 point/$ on all other purchases
Where can you can redeem your points: Any Travel Provider
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 1,000 points = $10
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 1% to 5%
Duration of points redemption period: 12 months (after the travel charge posts to your account)

The American Express Cobalt card is considered Canada's number one travel rewards credit card by us and many others. It set the stage with 5x points earning that the Scotiabank Gold American Express card now emulates. It also underwent a small change in August of 2019 where the 5x points for eats and drinks was capped at $30,000 annually. The card earns that awesome 5 points per dollar spent on grocery store and dining (including select food delivery services) purchases. It also earns 2 points per dollar on travel, gas and transit (including taxi and ride sharing). All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. The 5x points accelerated rate is earned until you hit $30,000 annually however the 2x points rate on travel etc. is not capped. This means, if you are able to maximize the card and spend $30,000 in the 5x points category you would end up with 150,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. That 150K of points are worth $1,500 towards any all inclusive vacation package that you book with any travel provider. You have up to 12 months after the charge posts to redeem points against that charge. Learn more about this card here.

mbna Rewards World Elite Mastercard

Earn rate: 2 points/$ for all purchases
Where can you can redeem your points: Any Travel Provider
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 1,000 points = $10
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 2%
Duration of points redemption period: 9 months (after the travel charge posts to your account)

This card also underwent changes early in 2019 which has led it to be an often forgotten or ignored card now. The reason why is that the card's cash back redemption rate was gutted (which was its most popular reward) however the redemption rate for travel remains at 2%. This card is so easy and that's what a lot of people love about it. It's easy because you know you are getting a straight 2% back on all purchases. No need to worry about category bonuses or annual caps. 2 points per dollar with no limits. As long as you redeem for travel you are getting that excellent 2% return that you can use towards any all inclusive vacation package that you book with any travel provider. You have up to 9 months after the charge posts to redeem points against that charge.Learn more about this card here.

Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard

Earn rate: 1.5% of spending up to $20,000
2% of spending over $20,000
+ 20% bonus points per year up to 200 Bonus Dollars
Where can you can redeem your points: Any Travel Provider
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 1 BONUSDOLLAR = $1
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 1.5 to 2%
Duration of points redemption period: 60 days (after the travel charge posts to your account)

A brand of card that doesn't get too much attention here on Rewards Canada but the Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard is similar to the mbna Rewards World Elite Mastercard listed above. It has a pretty simple reward system, not as simple as mbna but close! You earn Desjardins BONUSDOLLARS as 1.5% on your spending up to $20,000 then 2% on all spending above that amount. One Desjardin BONUSDOLLAR equals $1 towards travel that you can use towards any all inclusive vacation package that you book with any travel provider. You must redeem a minimum of $20 Bonus Dollars at a time and you have up to 60 days after the charge posts to redeem points against it. Learn more about this card here.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

Earn rate: 2% for WestJet & WestJet Vacations purchases
1.5% for all other spending
Where can you can redeem your points: WestJet Vacations
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 1 WestJet dollar = $1
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 1.5% to 2%
Duration of points redemption period: You must have the dollars in account at time of purchase - partial redemption is allowed

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is the only card in this list that can't be used towards booking any all inclusive vacation. It can only be used for WestJet Vacation packages but that's not necessarily a bad thing as WestJet Vacations is huge and with all the flights on WestJet they have most all inclusive destinations covered! Much like the above cards you don't have to have the full amount of WestJet dollars to be able to redeem. As long as you have 50 WestJet dollars in your account you can redeem them towards WestJet Vacation packages. Note that you cannot use WestJet dollars towards the taxes and fees on the vacation packages. The card also has its famous no checked bag fee which saves you some more cash!Learn more about this card here

TD First Class Visa Infinite Card

Earn rate: 9 points/$ on Expedia For TD online purchases (6 points if completed by phone)
3 points/$ on all other purchases
Where can you can redeem your points: Expedia For TD or any travel provider
Point redemption value for all inclusive vacations: 200 Points = $1 via Expedia for TD
250 Points = $1 for any other travel provider up to $1,200 then 200 points = $1 for any of the dollar value above $1,200
Effective rate of return for these redemptions: 1.5% to 4.5% when redeeming via Expedia For TD
1.2% to 3.6% when redeeming via any other travel provider
Duration of points redemption period: 90 days (after the travel charge posts to your account)

The final card in our list of best card for all inclusive vacationers is the TD First Class Visa Infinite Card. The card is really good if you are a fan of Expedia and use it for your all inclusive or other travel needs. The reason why is the earn rate of 9 points per dollar when make online purchases on Expedia for TD. That translates to a 4.5% return when you redeem those points for travel booked via Expedia for TD. All other purchases on the card earn 3 points per dollar spent which translates to a 1.5% return for those same Expedia for TD redemptions. The First Class Visa Infinite Card also has the option to redeem points for travel booked via any other travel provider but that option is less lucrative than the Expedia redemption one, but still great to have it on this card. You should also note that since Expedia is an American company you cannot book all inclusive vacations to Cuba with them. Learn more about this card here.

Other cards

Now you may be asking about some more popular cards like the RBC Visa Infinite Avion or the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite cards. You can redeem the points earned on these cards for package vacations but your redemption value is low, typically only 1%. In most cases with these two cards you are better off redeeming for flights via their specified reward chart options.


Practical Loyalty Programs for All Inclusive Vacationers

While not typically associated with traditional travel loyalty programs, the all inclusive vacation has become a much more integral part of many of them thanks to Canadian's thirst for them! For some of the programs, the value of redeeming points or miles for an all inclusive vacation may not be as good as redeeming for flights only but it is always good to know you have the option to do so. There are lots of us who don't collect enough miles or points in these programs to redeem for a full on flight but the fact these programs allow partial redemptions for all inclusive vacation packages make it a viable option.

Primary tips to take away from the list of loyalty programs

  • For programs like Aeroplan and AIR MILES you will typically get better value out of your miles when you redeem for flights only - however you may never be in position to earn enough miles to redeem for the flights you dream of so redeeming for vacation packages can make a lot of sense. Same for people on the other end of the spectrum - those with more miles than what the know what to do with, if that's the case, first off, lucky you, but using up some miles for vacation packages may only make a small dent in your balance so it can be worth it for you to redeem so you can save that cash.
  • For many of you, these programs can be your secondary, tertiary or even lower programs so by making these partial redemptions from them for these vacation packages it will use up those miles or points you may have not known what to do with.
  • In most cases you can combine using the programs listed below with the cards listed above to provide even more savings on the purchases of all inclusive vacation packages.

Aeroplan

Air Canada's Aeroplan is one of Canada's best known loyalty programs and is most famous for flight award options. However since it grew into a coalition program model years ago they expanded the catalog of awards to include many options, one of which is for Air Canada Vacations packages. This is ideal for this feature since it's all about the all inclusive vacation! This is one of the programs we allude to where the value may not be the best when comparing to flight awards but at least there is the option to use miles. The beauty of using Aeroplan miles towards Air Canada Vacations packages is that it works in the same manner as many of the proprietary credit card programs listed above in that you don't have to have the full amount of miles. You can redeem as little as 5,000 miles to up to 500,000 miles. The value of the redemption is basically $10 per 1,000 miles redeemed or 1 cent per mile. Compare this to flights where you can get 1.2 cents to well over 10 cents per mile. But as we said, maybe you'll never earn enough miles to get to a flight you like so being able to redeem, say 10,000 miles for a $100 credit to an Air Canada Vacations package will be ideal for you. And it gets even better, once you redeem the miles you still have to pay the rest of the vacation on a credit card, so why not use one of those listed above (sans the WestJet card) and then use those points against the charge from Air Canada Vacations once it posts? Now are seeing the big picture here? You don't have to limit yourself to just one program to help bring down the costs of an all inclusive vacation! Learn more about using Aeroplan miles for Air Canada Vacations packages here.


You can redeem anywhere from 5,000 to 500,000 Aeroplan Miles towards an Air Canada Vacations vacation

 

AIR MILES

Just like Aeroplan, AIR MILES is one of the best known travel rewards loyalty programs in Canada and is one of the largest of all loyalty programs in our great nation! Just recently, they added the option to be able to redeem AIR MILES Reward Miles for all inclusive vacation packages from redtag.ca. This again is one of the programs we allude to where the value may not be the best when comparing to flight or other awards. Just as we saw with Aeroplan, AIR MILES redemptions for redtag.ca packages work in the same manner as many of the proprietary credit card programs listed above in that you don't have to have the full amount of miles. You can redeem as little as 909 miles for a $100 credit towards your booking. The value of the redemption is roughly 11 cents per AIR MILES Reward Mile. That's higher then the cash reward rate of about 10.5 cents per miles but lower than our average of 13 to 15 cents per mile for flights. As we said before though, there's the possibility you'll never earn enough miles to get to a flight you like so being able to redeem the 909 miles for a $100 credit to a package then that's great! Again, once you redeem the miles you still have to pay the rest of the vacation on a credit card, so why not use one of those listed above (sans the WestJet card) and then use those points against the charge from redtag.ca after it posts? Learn more about using AIR MILES Rewards Miles for vacation packages here


You need to have at least 909 AIR MILES Dream Miles to use them for a redtag.ca vacation package

 

More Rewards

More Rewards is coalition program in the likes of Aeroplan and AIR MILES though smaller and better suited for those living out west. Granted they do have a nationwide partner in Petro-Canada (you earn both Petro-Points and More Rewards points with each purchase at Petro-Canada) but outside of that most points are earned their parent company's grocery stores like Save-On Foods, Urban Fare and Overwaitea. All of which are only in the west. You earn points for shopping at these groceries stores and other More Rewards partners. You can then redeem the points via More Rewards Travel which is a full fledged travel agency that sells flights, hotels and of course, all inclusive vacation packages. Redemptions work in the same manner as many of the proprietary credit card programs listed above in that you don't have to have the full amount of points. You can redeem as little as 100 points for a $0.43 credit towards your booking. The value of the redemption is just under 0.43 cents per More Rewards point. Again, once you redeem the points you still have to pay the rest of the vacation on a credit card, so why not use one of those listed above (sans the WestJet card) and then use those points against the charge from More Rewards Travel once it posts? Learn more about using More Rewards for vacation packages here


A sample booking from More Rewards Travel

When redeeming More Rewards points online they have a slider as you can see below where you can set the amount of points you would like to redeem towards your vacation package:


The More Rewards points slider in action - my 19,208 points are worth $82.40

 

Petro-Points

Petro-Points is not a program that would come to lots of people's minds when it comes to redeeming points for travel let alone all inclusive vacation packages but you can! Other than the obvious option of Petro-Canada, the program has a partnership where you can earn and burn points with itravel2000. itravel2000 is a full fledged travel agency that is most famous for selling all inclusive vacation packages. Redemptions work in the same manner as many of the proprietary credit card programs listed above in that you don't have to have the full amount of points. You can redeem as little as 10,000 points for a $10 credit towards your booking and must redeem in increments of 10,000 points after that. Again, once you redeem the points you still have to pay the rest of the vacation on a credit card, so why not use one of those listed above (sans the WestJet card) and then use those points against the charge from itravel200 after it posts? Plus you'll also earn Petro-Points on the vacation package purchase! Learn more about using Petro-Points for itravel2000 vacation packages here


You'll find this box to select the amount of points you want to redeem
on the right hand side of itravel2000 Petro-Points booking page during the booking process

 

Expedia Rewards

While better suited for hotel stays the Expedia Rewards program can also be utilized for all inclusive vacation packages. The program allows you to redeem Expedia Rewards points towards a package voucher that then can be used towards a vacation. They allow you to redeem points for up to a C$300 voucher that can be applied towards your all inclusive vacation package. And just as stated with all of the other loyalty programs above, once you redeem the voucher you still have to pay the rest of the vacation on a credit card, so you can use one of the credit cards listed above (sans the WestJet card) and then use those points against the charge from Expedia once it posts? Plus you'll also earn Expedia Rewards points on the vacation package purchase! Learn more about using Expedia Rewards points for vacation packages here.


Directions on how to use Expedia Rewards points towards a package vacation

 

WestJet Rewards

The final loyalty program we look at is WestJet Rewards. We won't delve into too much since we've already discussed it for the credit card above. Essentially WestJet dollars are earned from flying on WestJet, buying WestJet Vacation packages, spending on their credit cards and for booking cars or hotel via WestJet. You can then use the WestJet dollars you have earned to redeem for WestJet Vacation packages as long as you have a minimum balance of 50 WestJet dollars. You can redeem anywhere from 50 WestJet dollars to as much as the vacation package(s) cost before taxes and fees as WestJet dollars cannot be redeemed for the taxes and fees. The remainder of the vacation package cost can be paid for with any of the above cards listed and if you choose to use the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard you'll earn 2% back of whatever amount is charged to the card. Learn more about using WestJet dollars for WestJet Vacations here.

 

There you have it!

With the variety of loyalty programs we have in Canada you can be happy to know that you are not limited to flights or hotels with travel rewards programs. The all inclusive vacation is synonymous with Canadians and these type of vacations can and are readily available in the points and miles world. You just have to know which are best for package vacations and we hope we did a good job of explaining them all to you in this guide! As always with any information provided on Rewards Canada it may change at anytime and we do our best to update these features as much as possible but we recommend double checking with the programs to see what they offer or feel free to contact us anytime for further information or for advice and help with the programs!



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