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The Best Travel Rewards Programs in Canada

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Last updated on August 20, 2019 Views: 547 Comments: 0
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Evaluating the various rewards programs in Canada can be very subjective. Do you judge a program based on its flexibility, how easy it is to earn points, or how complicated it is to make a redemption? Or perhaps it’s important to identify a program’s niche features that will appeal to specific groups of consumers?

No matter what you value most in a rewards program, one thing’s for sure: It’s very rare for Canadians to stick to a single loyalty program throughout their lives. And if you’ve been using the same rewards provider for a while, it might be worth your time to review the options out there. To that purpose we’ve analyzed the best travel rewards in Canada and how their programs work.

Travel Rewards ProgramRecommended Credit Card
Average Point Value
Flexibility*
Transfer Partners
Expiry Date
BMO Rewards
BMO World Elite Mastercard
$0.007
Good
No
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
TD Travel Rewards
TD First Class Visa Infinite card
$0.005
Excellent
No
None with active account
Scotia Rewards
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
American Express Rewards
American Express Platinum Card$0.01
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 90 days after account closes
RBC Travel Rewards / Avion
RBC Visa Infinite Avion
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
36 months
Aeroplan
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card$0.014
Good
No
12 months after account inactivity
Marriott Rewards
Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card
$0.01
Excellent
Yes
24 months after account inactivity
AIR MILES
BMO Air Miles Mastercard
$0.105
Weak
No
24 months after account inactivity
MBNA Rewards
MBNA Rewards World Elite$0.01
Good
No
None with active account
CIBC Travel Rewards / Aventura
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite
$0.0116
Excellent
Yes
None with active account; 60 days after account closes
WestJet Rewards
WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
$1
Excellent
No
None with active account

*Flexibility refers to the number of different redemption paths available, minimum number of points required to redeem, ability to redeem points for existing purchases, etc.

Aeroplan Travel Rewards

Air Canada recently purchased Aeroplan and there are still some lingering questions about what that means for the value of Aeroplan miles. But as of now Aeroplan is still one of the best travel rewards programs out there, as its miles can be used to redeem flights on Canada’s largest carrier and its partners.

Aeroplan has two options when it comes to redeeming flights: Fixed Mileage and Market Fare. As the name implies, fixed fares will cost you a set amount of points to fly to different zones as long as there is a reward seat available. With market fare redemptions, you get access to any seat that hasn’t sold, but you’ll pay the market price in points which is often significantly higher than prices in the fixed fare program.

Market fare prices can be lower than the fixed mileage seats, but that’s usually for routes or times that are less desirable. Some airlines charge high fees, taxes, and surcharges, so you need to keep that under consideration when booking a redemption flight.

One great thing about Aeroplan is that there are multiple Aeroplan credit cards where you can earn points, but one card we love is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card.

TD Aeroplan Infinite Visa

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite

Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $60000
– Annual fees: $120

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Currently, the card comes with a welcome bonus of 40000 Aeroplan Miles for making an initial purchase earning 2X miles on eligible purchases for the first year (up to 20,000 miles) and adding an authorized cardholder before December 1, 2019. Plus new cardholders get an annual fee rebate in their first year. The earn rate is 1.5 Aeroplan miles per $1 spent on eligible grocery, gas, drugstore, and aircanada.com purchases—for all other purchases you get 1 Mile per $1 spent. With this credit card, you can double dip your Aeroplan earnings at participating merchants. All you need to do is show your Aeroplan loyalty card first when paying and then charge your purchase to your TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card.

Click here to learn more about the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card

BMO Rewards Travel

Admittedly, BMO Rewards is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s still among the best travel rewards in Canada since BMO will price match if you call into its customer service line. But keep in mind that you can only redeem your points when booking through their travel portal at a redemption rate of 140 BMO Rewards points for $1 in travel, which is a slightly lower value than the standard 100 points for $1.

BMO Rewards World Elite MastercardThe BMO® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $80000
– Annual fees: $150 

The marquee card of the BMO Rewards program, the BMO World Elite Mastercard, does come with some impressive features that counterbalance the relatively low value of a BMO Rewards point. It includes some of the best travel insurance offered by Canadian credit cards, a sign-up bonus worth $250, a free Priority Pass membership and 4 free annual airport lounge passes.

Click here to learn more about the BMO World Elite Mastercard

TD Travel Rewards

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite* Card

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

TD Travel Rewards is a relatively flexible rewards program since it allows for a variety of different redemption options. If you’re booking travel through Expedia for TD (not to be confused with Expedia.ca), it’ll cost you 200 points to redeem $1 in travel. This is the best value for consumers since you can book anything that is offered on Expedia for TD, which includes flights, hotels, all-inclusive packages, cruises, car rentals and attraction tickets.

You also have the option to redeem your points for any travel expenses that you have charged to your TD credit card, but it’ll cost you 250 points to redeem $1 in travel. This is obviously a lower redemption value than Expedia for TD, but TD’s definition of travel expenses is quite generous as it includes restaurants, gas, and even parking expenses outside of Canada.

TD Travel Rewards doesn’t have a fixed program for flights, but it does offer very high earn rates when you book with Expedia for TD: 9 TD points per $1 spent when you charge the Expedia for TD purchase to your TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card.

Click here to apply for the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card

Scotia Rewards Travel

There is no fixed travel program with Scotia Rewards, but you can redeem your points at a ratio of 100 Scotia Rewards for $1 through the Scotia travel portal or on travel expenses you’ve already charged to your Scotiabank credit card. There is a minimum redemption of 5,000 points for travel, but you can also apply that redemption to any fees, taxes and surcharges.

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank Gold American ExpressEligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: 
good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $12000
– Annual fees: $120

Although Scotiabank doesn’t have any travel related transfer partners, they do have some great cards that generate rewards very quickly. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card generates 5 Scotia Reward points for every $1 spent at eligible ggrocery stores, restaurants and entertainment, 3 points at gas stations, and 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other eligible everyday purchases.

Click here to learn more about the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card


Scotia Passport Visa Infinite

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: 
good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $60000
– Annual fees: $139

There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card, which gives 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment and transit purchases, but comes with incredible benefits such as no foreign transaction fees, a free Priority Pass membership and six annual airport lounge passes.

Click here to learn more about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card

RBC Travel Rewards

Some of the best travel rewards in Canada come from RBC. To book travel, users go through RBC’s travel portal, where they can redeem for flights, accommodations, car rentals, all-inclusive packages and cruises at a ratio of 100 points for $1.

What really makes RBC Rewards appealing is its Air Travel Redemption Schedule. The amount of points you pay depends on where you’re going, but quite often you’ll get a higher value than the 100 points for $1 offered through the travel portal. For example, it’ll cost 15,000 points for a short-haul flight with a base fare up to $350. If you want to go to Hawaii, it’ll cost 45,000 points with a maximum ticket price of $900, while flights to Europe with a ticket price under $1,300 require 65,000 points. You still need to pay for fees, taxes, and surcharges, but points can be used to cover those at a rate of 1 cent per point.

One other lesser-known benefit of RBC Rewards is its access to transfer partners. You can transfer 1,000 RBC points for 10 WestJet dollars or 1,000 Avios miles. Quite often RBC runs promotions that generate 30% more miles when transferring to Avios, so you can get an incredible amount of value of your points.

American Express Membership Rewards

If you’re primarily looking for flexibility, you should consider American Express Membership Rewards. Travel can be booked through the American Express travel portal, where you can redeem 1,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points for $10 in travel. Alternatively, you can charge any travel expense to your American Express credit card and then redeem your points toward that purchase at the same ratio.

American Express has multiple travel partners where you can transfer your points, but the two that give the most value are Aeroplan and Marriott Rewards. With Aeroplan, it’ll cost you 1,000 MR points to get 1,000 Aeroplan points (i.e. a 1:1 transfer). If you want Marriott Rewards points, you’ll get 1,200 points for every 1,000 MR points transferred.

American Express also has the Fixed Points Travel Program, which can be beneficial. Most of the redemptions require the same amount of points compared to Aeroplan, but with Amex, you get access to all seats available on any airline, so that means you get more options for your travels.

One of the best ways to earn American Express Membership Rewards is with the Amex Platinum card.

The Platinum Card American ExpressThe Platinum Card by American Express

Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: 
good_excellent
– Min personal income required: N/A
– Annual fees: $699

The Platinum Card comes with a hefty fee of $699 per year, but it also comes packed with commensurate benefits: an annual $ travel credit; an impressive array of perks worth $550 on average at over 1,000 partner locations; comprehensive travel insurance; Platinum experiences; etc. Every dollar charged to the card helps earn American Express Membership Rewards points, with 3 for each $1 spent on dining, 2 per $1 on travel and 1 point per $1 everywhere else.  New cardholders get a welcome bonus of 50000 points with a minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. Those points have a minimum value of $500, but they could be worth $1,000+ if they’re transferred to Aeroplan.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

*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 Apply link.

Marriott Rewards

With more than 6,500 properties in 110+ countries, not only does Marriott have the most hotels in the world, it also has the best hotel loyalty program in Marriott Rewards. What makes this program appealing is that it’s free to join and you earn points with every stay. Eventually, you can use your points to redeem free nights or experiences. Alternatively, you can transfer them to various airline programs.

If you frequently stay at hotels, then being loyal to Marriott really pays off as your status level increases when you accumulate more nights. Every time you hit a new status tier, you get additional benefits such as free breakfast and a higher earn rate on eligible expenses.

AIR MILES Travel Rewards

Some Canadians dislike AIR MILES due to the fact that it can be difficult to earn points quickly without an AIR MILES credit card, and making redemptions can be tricky. That said, there is a sweet spot to be found: If you book interprovincial flights through the AIR MILES Dream Miles option, you get an incredible value for your points since those flights typically cost a fair amount in cash. The amount of AIR MILES it takes depends on where you’re going and what season you’re flying, which complicates things a bit. But Air Miles does provide a helpful chart to show you what it’ll cost.

Alternatively, you can exchange 285 AIR MILES dream miles for a $30 e-voucher that can be used at Transat Travel locations across Canada. This is a decent option considering 950 cash miles gets you a $100 e-voucher at non-travel merchants, so there’s no loss in value.

The nice thing about AIR MILES is that they have a co-branded credit card with no annual fee in the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard.

BMO Air Miles Mastercard

BMO Air Miles No-Fee MasterCard

Eligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: fair_good
– Min personal income required: $15000
– Annual fees: $0 

You can double dip on points at AIR MILES sponsored locations and you’ll earn 2x the Miles for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners. All other purchases get you 1 AIR MILE per $20 spent and there is a welcome bonus of up to 1000 AIR MILES with a minimum spend of $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. The nice thing about this card is that there is no minimum income requirement so it’s a good entry level card for those who want to start collecting AIR MILES.

Click here to learn more about the BMO Air Miles Mastercard 

MBNA Rewards

MBNA likes to keep its rewards program simple. MBNA Rewards points can be redeemed for any flight, hotel, car rental or other travel expense at a value of $0.01 per point. There is a minimum points redemption of 10,000, but that can be applied toward taxes and fees, so you don’t need to worry about paying anything out of pocket when you redeem.

Since there is no travel portal, you just book your travel any way you like. As long as you charge those travel purchases to your MBNA Rewards card, you get nine months from the time the charge is posted to redeem your points against it.

CIBC Travel Rewards

CIBC Travel Rewards has its own travel portal, which gives access to flights, hotels, car rental, and all-inclusive properties, but if you call the CIBC travel agency, you’ll also get access to anything sold on Expedia or Orbitz. This little-known trick allows you to make travel purchases such as cruises, tours, and attraction tickets. The redemption ratio is 100 Aventura points for $1 in travel.

There’s also the Aventura Airline Rewards Chart, which allows you to book travel at fixed prices. This is an attractive option since you can get a higher value for your points compared to when you book via the travel portal or CIBC travel agent.

For example, you could book a flight within a province, territory or U.S. state to an adjoining province, territory or U.S. state with a maximum base fare of $400 for 10,000 – 20,000 Aventura points. In many cases, that’s a better value compared to Aeroplan and RBC’s fixed schedule. Taxes and fees are extra, but you can use your points to pay for them.

WestJet Rewards

When it comes to the best travel rewards in Canada for airlines, WestJet truly stands out. Unlike other airlines where you earn points, with WestJet Rewards, you earn WestJet dollars on WestJet flights, WestJet Vacation packages, car rentals, hotels and travel insurance booked online at westjet.com.

As soon as you enroll, you’re instantly awarded Teal tier status, which provides 0.5% back in WestJet dollars on flights. As you spend more, your tier increases, which garners additional benefits such as advanced seat selection and a higher earn rate. Silver, Gold, and Platinum tiers earn 3%, 5%, and 8% back in WestJet dollars respectively. Best of all, your tier stacks with the WestJet World Elite MasterCard, so you could earn up to 10% in WestJet dollars on qualifying purchases.

WestJet dollars can be used on any available seat found on westjet.com, which is superior to Aeroplan (where you have limited seat availability). Two criticisms to note about WestJet Rewards is that there is a minimum redemption of $25 and you can’t use your WestJet dollars to pay for fees, taxes, or surcharges.

How to Calculate the Value of Your Travel Rewards Points

It’s essential to have a good idea of the real value of a program’s travel rewards points before you select the rewards program or credit card for you. To figure out your cost per point (CPP), you would divide 1 by the number of points to earn $1 in travel. That means if it takes 100 points for $1 in travel, then your CPP is $.01. Alternatively, if it takes 140 points to claim $1 in travel, your CPP is $.007. Of course, you also need to factor in any fees, taxes, and surcharges you might pay when making a redemption.

You’ll also want to know how many points you can earn with a specific credit card, since the ability to rapidly earn points is just as important as their value when redeemed. To help you more easily determine your points’ earning potential and worth in real dollars, use our travel rewards calculator. It’ll only take a few seconds to find the perfect travel rewards credit card and program for you.

*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.

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