The Best Credit Cards for Travel Hacking in Canada

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Here is where your Travel Hacking adventure will really start. Credit card signup bonuses are the key to traveling for free, so here is our directory of the best Canadian Travel Hacking credit card offers currently available in May.

Flytrippers’ main goal is to find great limited-time flight deals, often at over 50% off. However, we think that if you like travel deals, you’ll love free travel too. So that is why we have launched a Travel Hacking section on our blog.

It’s important to understand that every single traveler’s situation and objectives are different, which means the best card for you is not necessarily the best card for another Travel Hacker. But either way, it will most likely be one of these, whether you are a big spender or less of a big spender, whether you travel to Europe or to the US… as these are really the best offers in Canada for the month of May.

Even more importantly, no matter which type of Travel Hacking strategies and credit cards you will use, the basic rules for Travel Hacking credit cards always apply to all and you definitely need to read the 10 basic rules before starting (and it won’t hurt to read our introduction to Travel Hacking too, if you haven’t already).

And no matter what your specific travel goals are, by default if you are contemplating Travel Hacking, it means you are financially responsible (if not, do not undertake Travel Hacking). And since you are financially responsible (and have a lengthy credit history, as explained in the basic rules article), you should apply for two credit cards at a time to maximize your free travel rewards, and then two more every 6-8 months if you can reach the required minimum spend (our article about how to do that will follow soon). If you can only reach the minimum spend for one, order just one at a time every 3-4 months.

This is the best way to get about $1,000 worth of free travel every single year. And I think we can all agree that traveling for free is even better than traveling cheap with our flight deals right?




We have listed the total approximate value of the signup bonus alone, and yes, the cost of the annual fee has been deducted if any, so it is really the net value. More details to come, but in the meantime you can check out our Canadian points valuations. Just know that this does not even include the points you will accrue with your regular spend throughout the year, it is really just the signup bonus.

Many other credit card rankings exist, but ours is really targeted for people who don’t necessarily want to travel in luxury but rather want to travel more often and for free. Everyday travelers. his article will be updated monthly, as credit card offers change frequently!

So here are the best credit cards currently available in Canada for Travel Hacking as of May 16th, for a variety of different categories. Some cards have detailed articles, as indicated. And don’t miss our many more travel hacking articles to come soon.


Best Free Credit Card
RBC Avion

Unlike the Passport card, this card isn’t new per se, but it is a new entrant into this ranking thanks to a new and interesting limited-time offer. You get 25,000 Avion Points and the first year is free. However, a minimum annual income of $60,000 is required. If you want a free card but earn less than that, keep reading for other options. Or get the AMEX Cobalt or AMEX Gold that aren’t free but can be more lucrative. Since 2017 American Express no longer has minimum income requirements: they only look at your credit score.

$275 of free travel after the first purchase.
Flexible points
Great insurance
$60K minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE RBC AVION VISA INFINITE
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE


Best Credit Card For Foreign Currency Transactions
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite

Not to be confused with the regular Scotia Passport Visa, this is the Visa Infinite, the other one is not very interesting. Every credit card in Canada charges you a hefty 2.5% fee (on top of the exchange rate) for all your foreign currency transactions. It’s been a few months since a good card without this fee has been available in Canada. Finally, travelers now have access to a credit card with no foreign transaction fee! This is definitely the best of them, and in addition to saving 2.5% on all your purchases outside of Canada, you also get 6 free airport lounge access passes. This amount of perks does come with a $60K minimum income requirement (or $100K household income). The signup bonus is honestly a bit underwhelming, but if you travel a lot you’ll get lots of value with the 0% FX fee. Don’t miss a detailed article about the card very soon.

$176 of free travel after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Flexible points
Great insurance
No FX fees
6 lounge passes
$60K minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE SCOTIA PASSPORT VISA INFINITE
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon) 


 

Best Credit Card For Bigger Spenders
American Express Cobalt

If your favorite grocery store allows you to pay with AMEX and you spend $500 monthly on food (groceries AND restaurants), this is by far the best credit card for you. If you spend a lot, you can also buy gift cards to many many other retailers at your grocery store. It is a revolutionary card in Canada, with a earn rate of 5 AMEX Points per dollar spent on the food category. That is incredibly high, and has never been seen before in Canada in fact. And it is revolutionary because the signup bonus (and annual fee) is monthly instead of upfront: spend $500 on the card every month to unlock the 2,500 AMEX Points welcome bonus every month for a total of 30,000 AMEX Points, which can be transferred to Marriott (45,000 Marriott Points or 15,000 SPG Points). For more simplicity, you can use the 30,000 Points as a straight-up travel credit ($300), but that brings down the estimated value to $425 rather than the $530 estimated below.

~$530 of free travel after spending $500 every month.
Less flexible points (for full value)
Great insurance
Exceptional earn rate on food/drinks
No minimum income required


CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AMERICAN EXPRESS COBALT
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Free Credit Card with Lounge Access
BMO World Elite Mastercard

This one is free too, and you get a substantial travel credit for signing up. But more importantly, you get 4 free passes for airport lounges, which isn’t as great as the Platinum’s unlimited access, but is amazing for a card that is free the first year. However, a minimum income of $80K is required for this one, so it’s not accessible to everyone.

$287 of free travel after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Flexible points
Great insurance
4 lounge passes
$80K minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BMO WORLD ELITE MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Credit Card for Frequent Travelers and Luxury Travelers
American Express Platinum

If you travel a lot, you need this card. We both have one and we’ll never be able to live without it. You’ll get access to over 1,000 VIP lounges in airports around the world (free and unlimited access for you and one guest), including the amazing American Express Centurion Lounges. It also gives you Elite Status at Marriott, Hilton and Starwood hotels, another very valuable benefit. Best of all, if you travel a lot, it nets you over $355 in profit in year one with the signup bonus and the travel credits alone. That is at the very minimum, by using the points at the minimum value for more flexibility, that’s how you get $355 in free travel, instead of the estimated $655 below by transferring to Aeroplan or Avios.

~$655 of free travel after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Less flexible points (for full value)
Exceptional insurance
Unlimited lounge access
Elite hotel statuses
Much more benefits

No minimum income required.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AMERICAN EXPRESS PLATINUM
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE


Best Air Miles Credit Card
BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard

This one is free too, so it could be a nice option if you like the Air Miles program. But pleaseeeeee, whatever you do, don’t use your Air Miles for anything else than travel, that’s the #1 rule of Travel Hacking. I must say that I do not know the Air Miles program as well as Aeroplan, but honestly at first glance it does seem a bit better than what I thought… By the way, it is a World Elite card so it requires a higher income to be approved. It also has more perks because of that.

~$363 of free travel after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Less flexible points
Great insurance
$80K minimum income required.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AIR MILES BMO WORLD ELITE MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Aeroplan Credit Card
American Express Gold

American Express Or Canada

There is an interesting promo at the moment that gives you 30,000 AMEX Points instead of 25,000 (and they transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan) so you can get a free flight to anywhere in North America (less the taxes). You can even transfer to Avios Miles too, or to Points for Marriott and SPG hotels. You can simply use them to pay for any flight too (less value, but more flexible… that would give you $170 in free travel instead of the estimated $320). It has great everyday earn rates as well. To unlock the 5,000 extra AMEX Points, simply ask for a supplementary card (for free), and you don’t even need to use that one.

~$320 of free travel after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months.
Less flexible points (for full value)
Great insurance
No minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AMERICAN EXPRESS GOLD (scroll all the way down)
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


 

Best WestJet Credit Card
RBC WestJet Mastercard

I wouldn’t recommend this card, unless you are an avid WestJet flier. The welcome bonus is a nice 250 WestJet Dollars, but it comes with a $119 annual fee. So it’s not the best value in terms of the signup bonus, and I can’t say I’m very well-versed in the WestJet loyalty program, but at least from what I hear the new Delta Air Lines partnership offers more interesting redemption opportunities than before. This card’s value lies in part in the fact that it allows you to get a checked bag for free on WestJet flights (for up to 8 people) as well as companion ticket at a reduced price when buying one ticket (benefits that are not calculated in the free travel amount listed below).

~$130 of free travel after the first purchase.
Less flexible points
Great insurance
Free bags & companion ticket
$80K minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER RBC WESTJET MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Aeroplan Credit Card (that isn’t an AMEX)
TD Visa Aeroplan

To be clear, the AMEX Gold card gives you more Aeroplan Miles than this card (30,000 instead of the 15,000 this card gives you). But if you are a big Aeroplan / Air Canada user and want to max out, this one is still a good way to earn, especially for places where AMEX is not accepted. We both have it for that exact reason. It also has great perks, like 14 days of free travel medical insurance (which most cards on this list have too).

~$105 of free travel after the first purchase.
Less flexible points
Great insurance
$60K minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE TD VISA AEROPLAN
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Free Credit Card (income <$60K)
BMO Rewards Mastercard

First of all, let’s be clear about one thing: paying an annual fee is usually the right thing to do, since the best signup bonuses with most cards are still more rewarding, even after taking into account the annual fee payment (which we already do for you when estimating the value of the free travel you earn). But if you absolutely want a no annual fee credit card, the two best ones are the RBC Avion and BMO World Elite. However, if you do not meet the minimum $60K annual income requirement, this is the best one, along with the Best Western card.

$147 of free travel after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Flexible points
Very limited insurance
No minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BMO REWARDS MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Hotel Credit Card
MBNA Mastercard Best Western

Current Non-AMEX (Visa / Mastercard) options are rather limited for those earning less than $60,000 in annual income, so here is another option that gives you less value but is still a great way to get between one and two free hotel stays at Best Western. And the card is always free.

~$140 of free travel after the first purchase.
Less flexible points
Very limited insurance
No minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BEST WESTERN MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


Best Credit Card For Foreign Currency Transactions (income <$60K)
Rogers Platinum Mastercard

This one is interesting if you spend a lot abroad. You probably know that every credit card in Canada charges you a hefty 2.5% foreign transaction fee on every single purchase that is not in Canadian Dollars. That can add up pretty quickly if you travel a bit. This card is one of the very few who won’t charge you, and the one for you if the aforementioned Passport‘s minimum annual income requirement is too high. Well, in fact you do pay the 2.5% fee, but you get 4% back on foreign transactions so it cancels out… the cashback that can be applied to a Rogers bill or used in a Rogers store. Not a Rogers customer? This card is also free and has no foreign currency fees.

$25 of free travel after the first purchase.
Cashback at Rogers
No insurance
No FX fees

No minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE ROGERS PLATINUM MASTERCARD
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


 

Best Free Credit Card (income under $60K)
American Express Blue Sky

cartes de crédit

This card is far from being the best, but some people have a strict (irrational) rule about annual fees. There are a couple of cards that are free, but either the income requirement is over $60,000 or the welcome bonus isn’t too good. There is the BMO Rewards and Best Western cards, but here is a decent option if you really don’t want to pay an annual fee and want an AMEX (but if you earn over $60K, go for the Avion or BMO World Elite which are also free).

$105 of free travel after spending $500 in the first 3 months.
Flexible points
Very limited insurance
No minimum income required

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AMERICAN EXPRESS BLUE SKY
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


 

Best Credit Card for Small Businesses
American Express Gold Business

If you are self-employed or own a small business (and the requirements are very loose, as long as you sell a couple of items on Craigslist you can be considered a small business by AMEX), you get access to a lot of additional cards that are very useful if you already have the best ones for consumers. Often, the cards are even better than their “personal” equivalent, like this one with a 40,000 AMEX Points (or 40,000 Aeroplan Miles) signup bonus and the first year free. For more flexible use, you can also use the points as a travel credit (that would be worth $475 instead of the estimated $675). However, these Business cards often come with higher minimum spending requirements to unlock the bonus, in this case a not-insignificant $5,000 in the first 3 months, so it’s not for everyone. Don’t miss our detailed article on Small Business credit cards soon.

~$675 of free travel after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Less flexible points (for full value)
Great insurance

No minimum income required (small business card)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE AMERICAN EXPRESS GOLD BUSINESS (scroll all the way down)
or
CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILED ARTICLE (coming soon)


 

Tool to check out dozens of other credit card offers

To compare all other cards available in Canada, you can check out our useful credit card comparison tool.


Bottom Line

These are the best credit card offers for May 2018. Don’t forget that these offers change all the time, we’ll be updating the article monthly. And please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments, we’ll be glad to help!

Any questions?

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8 thoughts on “The Best Credit Cards for Travel Hacking in Canada”

  1. SK says:

    RBC Visa Infinite Avion has a $120 annual fee and the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card has a $139 annual fee. Why does it say first year free?

    1. Andrew D'Amours says:

      Using our referral link, the RBC Avion is free for the first year, it’s a special offer.

  2. Melissa says:

    Since I’m just starting this I’m excited for the May article of best card deals.

    1. Andrew D'Amours says:

      Thanks for reading, it’s coming soon 🙂

  3. Sam says:

    What about the HomeTrust Preferred Visa? No FX fees there either.

    1. Andrew D'Amours says:

      Yes, it’s another good one! I linked to it in the paragraph about the Rogers card, it’s a good alternative indeed:) Thanks for following us:)

  4. MARTIN DESSUREAULT says:

    I’M TAKING A YEAR OFF TO TRAVEL IN 2019. I CURRENTLY HAVE A CAPITAL ONE ASPIRE TRAVEL MASTER CARD.
    WHAT’S THE BEST OTION OUT THERE FOR REWARDS AND LONG TERM TRAVEL ?
    I EARN 90000$ A YEAR.

    1. Andrew D'Amours says:

      Hi, it really depends on what kind of traveler you are, there’s no magic answer. The best travel hacking cards are the ones with th highest signup bonuses, which are all detailed on the page. If you want flexibility, cards like the BMO World Elite are good but if you want more value, the SPG Card is hard to beat. What kind of free travel to you want? Credits that can be used for any travel expense? Miles for flights? Hotel points?

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