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How to choose the best* credit card to earn travel points
You can shop with your travel credit card and earn points towards flight discounts, cruise packages, hotel stays, rental cars and more.
*How we chose the best credit cards to earn travel points
We’ve chosen the cards on this page based on the providers available through Finder. These cards are not representative of the entire market. Our top travel cards offer a high value of rewards or cash back which can be used toward travel, exclusive perks such as free annual companion flights, airport lounge access and concierge services, and a signup bonus. We’ve also considered annual fees and balance transfer fees.
No single travel card will be the best choice for everyone, so compare your options before picking your new card.
Best for earning Air Miles: BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard lets you earn accelerated AIR MILES that can be redeemed for travel perks and merchandise. Get 3x the Miles for every $12 spent at participating AIR MILES Reward Partners. Plus, get 1 AIR MILE for every $12 spent on eligible purchases. To sweeten the deal, the card comes with an enticing signup bonus. Earn a bonus of up to 2,000 AIR MILES. Terms apply. Plus, get the annual fee of $120 waived in the first year.
Cardholders also get a range of complimentary travel benefits including travel insurance coverage. Complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, with exclusive VIP access
Best for earning Aeroplan Miles: TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is great if you’re an Aeroplan member and fly frequently with Air Canada. Earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on gas, groceries and Air Canada purchases, as well as 1 point on everything else. T&C's apply.
This card also comes with an attractive signup bonus for new cardholders. Earn 20,000 Aeroplan points and get a Bonus Buddy Pass. Conditions Apply. Apply by May 30, 2021.
Best for earning rewards points: American Express Gold Rewards Card
As an added bonus, the card comes with a generous incentive for new cardmembers. Earn a Welcome Bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $1,500 on eligible purchases within the first three months Card members also get access to a suite of travel benefits including insurance coverage. However, take note that this is a charge card, not a regular credit card, which means that you must pay off your balance fully each month or a penalty interest rate of 30% will be applied.
Best for hotel rewards: Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Even though this card has an annual fee of $120, the rewards can quickly outpace the cost – but only if you frequent Marriott Bonvoy™ hotels and their partners. The signup bonus alone is worth more than the annual fee of the card. Earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties and 2 points on all other spending. Terms apply
Best for signup bonus: Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card is a powerful travel companion. With a 0% foreign transaction fee, this card allows you to save while earning rewards points for every dollar you spend. Plus, you’ll get travel benefits, car rental perks and more.Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel). Apply by July 1, 2021.
Best for using overseas: Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Compare credit cards for earning travel points
How do travel points work?
Credit cards that allow you to earn travel points work in the same way that standard rewards cards do. You accumulate points when you spend money on your card, and these points can be used to book flights and hotels or lock in discounts on other travel experiences. Every card will offer a different number of points per dollar spent, as well as a different conversion rate depending on the rewards program it belongs to.
For example, one card might offer 10 points per $1 spent, with 250,000 points converting to $500 in rewards. This means you’ll need to spend $25,000 on your card to earn $500 in redeemable travel credit. Another card might offer 2 points per $1 spent, with 50,000 points converting to $500, which also adds up to $25,000 in spending. Even though the earn rate is lower with the second card, the points are much more valuable, making the second card a much better choice for earning travel credit.
Before choosing a card, be sure to do the math on conversion rates and remember that a higher number of points doesn’t necessarily mean more money at the end of the day.
Types of travel points programs
- Frequent flyer miles. AIR MILES and Aeroplan Miles are the two most common travel rewards programs in Canada. Using a credit card linked to one of these loyalty programs will earn you points towards your balance.
- Rewards points. Rewards points allow you to exchange points with your credit card provider to book travel. Some cards offer a flat-rate of points per dollar spent, while others will give you an accelerated number of points for specific purchases (like gas, groceries or dining out).
How to find the best credit card to earn travel points
- Compare your options. Compare a number of different cards to find the one that best suits your unique set of needs. You’ll want to take more than just the travel points into consideration – look at annual fees, APRs and added perks like travel insurance coverage.
- Look for added benefits. Since you’re looking for a good travel card, consider beneficial perks like complimentary travel insurance coverage, concierge services, free flight upgrades and other perks that might come in handy when you’re overseas.
- Ask about foreign exchange fees. Most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%, however, there are a few cards on the market in Canada that come with no foreign transaction fees – saving you $2.50 for every $100 you spend overseas.
- Look for the best conversion rate. When it comes to rewards programs, they are not all created equally. Compare rewards programs to find out which offers the best points to travel credit conversion. More points doesn’t necessarily mean more money in the long run.
Tips for earning travel points
- Pay an annual fee. You’ll typically get a higher return on your travel points if you pay an annual fee. A mid-range fee will cost you around $40 – $120 per year, while pricier travel cards can run up to $450 a year or more.
- Look for a signup bonus. You can earn hundreds or even thousands of additional points by signing up with a provider that offers a welcome bonus on points in your first few months. You’ll usually need to meet a spend requirement in order to receive the full signup bonus.
- Take advantage of referral programs. You can sometimes earn additional points by referring friends to signup for the card.
- Pair with frequent flyer cards. Pay with your credit card and swipe your AIR MILES or Aeroplan customer loyalty card to double up on points.
- Choose a card that offers accelerated rewards. Earn travel points faster by signing up for a card that offers a higher return on points or miles based on specific spending categories.
What to watch out for
- Expiration dates. Your points may expire if you don’t use them within a certain time period, so make sure you know when you need to redeem them by.
- Blackout dates. There’s nothing worse than finding out you can’t travel on the dates you want. Make sure your points won’t limit when you can travel.
- Caps on rewards. Avoid providers that cap your earnings once you spend a certain amount of money.
- Excluded purchases. Some providers don’t offer travel points on certain purchases (like cash advance transactions) so it pays to check into what’s covered and what isn’t.
Frequent travellers looking for discounts on flights – along with an array of travel-related perks – are most likely to benefit from a travel points card. These cards often come with benefits like comprehensive travel insurance coverage and concierge services to help you save money when you go abroad. You’ll usually get the most benefits and a higher return on points if you opt for a card with an annual fee.
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