Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards

Many people like the idea of using a rewards program to collect points and save money on travel.  Some of the best credit cards are travel rewards credit cards, which can help you earn points faster and enjoy perks like free airfare, or upgrades when you travel.

I use the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard as my preferred credit card because I like getting cash back on my every day spending.  However, I’m really impressed with the lucrative rewards and flexible redemption options being offered by the top travel rewards credit cards.

Related: Top Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

I looked into the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada, and the only way to earn more rewards is to use a premium credit card with an annual fee.  I calculated the travel rewards based on spending an average of $2,500 a month – $30,000 annually on your credit card.

Here are the best credit cards for travel rewards:

Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard

  • 2 reward miles for every $1 spent
  • 35,000 bonus reward miles on your first purchase
  • 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back or merchandise
  • Trip interruption or cancellation insurance
  • $500,000 travel accident insurance
  • $120 annual fee

The Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard sets the bar high when it comes to earning travel rewards.  Double miles on every dollar spent, plus generous bonus reward miles on your first purchase and an additional 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year.

Calculating points with the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard is straightforward.  Every 10,000 points is equivalent to $100 in travel rewards.

  • 2 miles for every $1 in purchases – 60,000 points
  • 35,000 bonus miles with first purchase – 35,000 points
  • 10,000 bonus anniversary miles – 10,000 points

With this credit card from Capital One, you can earn up to $1,050 in travel rewards in the first year.  After subtracting the $120 annual fee you’re still left with $930 worth of free travel.  However, without the 35,000 bonus miles in subsequent years your total travel rewards drops to $580 a year.

Related: Capital One Aspire Cash World MasterCard Review

BMO World Elite MasterCard

  • 1 BMO ELITE Rewards point for every $1 spent
  • Welcome bonus of 15,000 ELITE Rewards points
  • No black-out periods & points cover all charges when redeeming for flights
  • Best-in-class travel insurance
  • Free access to VIP airport lounges
  • $150 annual fee

The BMO World Elite MasterCard claims to have the highest credit card travel redemption rate in the industry – every 10,000 points is equivalent to a $190 travel credit that can be used on the booking of your choice.

  • 1 mile for every $1 in purchases = 30,000 points
  • 15,000 welcome bonus miles = 15,000 points

With this credit card, you can earn up to $855 in travel rewards in the first year.  After subtracting the annual fee of $150, you’re still left with $705 worth of free travel.  In subsequent years – without the welcome bonus – your total travel rewards drops to $570 a year.

CIBC Aventura World MasterCard

  • 1.5 Aventura Points for every $1 spent at grocery stores, gas stations and drug stores
  • 1 Aventura Point for every $1 spent anywhere else
  • Welcome bonus of 15,000 Aventura Points
  • No blackout periods, fees or restrictions
  • Comprehensive insurance benefits, including Out-Of-Province Emergency Travel Medical Insurance
  • $120 annual fee

The CIBC Aventura World MasterCard has a set reward chart for flights that allows you to earn up to 4% return at the highest level.  This card also allows members to convert Aventura points to Aeroplan Miles.

The travel rewards calculation here is based on spending $600 a month on gas, groceries and drug store purchases, and $1,900 a month on everything else.

  • 1.5 points for every $1 in gas/grocery/drug store purchases = 10,800 points
  • 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else = 22,800 points
  • 15,000 welcome bonus points = 15,000 points

With this credit card, you can earn up to $1,000 in travel rewards in the first year.  After subtracting the annual fee of $120, you’re still left with up to $880 worth of free travel.  In subsequent years – without the welcome bonus – your total travel rewards can be worth up to $530 a year.

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

  • 3 TD Points for every $1 you spend
  • Welcome bonus of 20,000 TD Points
  • Automatically receive Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance when you purchase travel
  • Automatically receive Travel Medical Insurance whether or not you purchase travel using your Card.  You’ll be covered for 8-day trips if you’re under 65 and 2-day trips if you’re 65 or older
  • Access to exclusive hotel and dining privileges including hotel upgrades, concierge service and restaurant reviews
  • Triple rewards when booking your travel through Expedia for TD using your TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card
  • Annual Fee: $120

Unlike other travel rewards credit cards, you don’t have to book your travel with a particular travel agency in order to redeem TD Points.  The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card lets you book your trip through any travel agency or travel provider you choose.

Every 10,000 TD Points is worth $50 in free travel.  Here’s how your TD Travel Rewards add up with the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card:

  • 3 points for every $1 spent = 90,000 points
  • Welcome bonus = 20,000 points

With this card, you can earn up to $550 in travel rewards in the first year.  After subtracting the annual fee of $120, you’re left with $430 worth of free travel.  In subsequent years – without the welcome bonus – your total travel rewards are only worth $330 a year.

Final Thoughts

An important factor to consider when choosing a travel rewards credit card is how much money you can spend each month on your card.  The best credit cards for travel rewards all come with an annual fee.  It doesn’t make sense to use a premium credit card unless you have a good income and spend at least $2,500 per month on your card.

Related: Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Cards

Since these credit cards all come with a generous welcome bonus in the first year, here’s a look at how they stack up after three years:

Travel Rewards Credit Card Rewards in 1st year Rewards after 3 years
Capital One Aspire $930 $2,090
BMO World Elite $705 $1,845
CIBC Aventura $530 – $880* $1,090 – $1,940*
TD First Class Travel $430 $1,090

*based on redeeming at the highest level

The Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard is by far the best credit card in Canada for travel rewards.  The generous first year welcome bonus, 10,000 point anniversary bonus and flexibility to redeem your points for cash or travel rewards make this card worth carrying.

My new approach to using rewards credit cards now is to use the Smart Cash card for gas and grocery purchases and earn 2% back for the first $600 spent.  All of my other monthly purchases will go on the Capital One Aspire Travel card, earning 2% back.

14 Responses to Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards

  1. Nice post, tons of great information here for would-be CC seekers.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  2. rudi ratloss says:

    The more I read form you the more you are contradicting.It apeeres you give good advice but I belive you do not do the walk you self you just do the talk. your advice seems to come from a boomer whos live is not the same as the generation today.I think your advice is useless since anyone can google it.I’m not any longer waste my time and canceling my subscription.

  3. SE Book says:

    Thanks for the breakdown I have been looking into getting a different CC.

  4. Marty says:

    Thanks for the breakdown.
    I use the aspire myself, and was just checking up to see if anything else better had come up – good to know it is still up there.

    One thing I would like to note though with the card, is that it is not straight forward to ‘redeem’ your miles to get the best value.
    1) You need to be able to cover the purchase in full with the miles (ie I spent $800 on travel, and have 70,000 miles = I can not use my miles to pay for the travel)
    2) You cannot combine purchases to get a grand total for deduction (ie if I have a flight, and a hotel charge that in total equal $600 and I have 60,000 miles – I can NOT combine the sales – they count as 2 $300 purchases which requires 35,000 points twice…
    3) Anything below $600 is tiered no matter how many total purchases you plan on redeeming – so if you have ANY purchases below $600, you can be certain you will not get full value of your miles (like a $100 purchase needing 20,000 miles I think – which is like .50c on the dollar.

    The summary of it is, be sure to only redeem your miles when your purchase of a single sale that qualifies is over $600 and you have enough points to cover it in full, or you will not get the full benefit of the miles.

    I found this out on my first attempt to redeem – and I was super pissed off.
    In the end though, I buy and fly enough that now that I know this, I can work around it and ensure I get the best value, and for me it is still the best option, but I am sure many people will be duped by this shady rewards claiming scheme.

  5. MaryR says:

    Anyone ever tried to use the medical insurance that comes with Capital One Aspire? I am always nervous they will come up with an excuse not to pay.

  6. Sally G says:

    What are your assumptions when calculating this? You analysis seems waaaay too over simplified. I have the First Class card and get way more than what you describe. The calculations essentially tell me I get 4.5% back when I spend at Expedia for TD online. I used to have a CapOne card, but I felt I got hosed went to redeem towards a $200 purchase and was forced to redeem $350 worth of points…brutal. I’d suggest you let us know how you’re arriving at your numbers to let us figure out if they make sense or compare to real spending habits.

  7. Echo says:

    @Sally G – I calculated the travel rewards based on spending an average of $2,500 a month – $30,000 annually on your credit card.

    When it comes to redeeming your points for travel, your mileage may vary based on a number of factors. I tried to keep the variables as close as possible between each card for comparison purposes. The Capital One card comes out on top no matter what spending/redemption scenario you have.

  8. Stephen says:

    Great post! I was having this discussion today with my Dad, and decided to do a quick search. We each have an RBC credit card, but I’ve heard great things about TD Infinite. Time to switch!

  9. Heidi says:

    This is the article I’ve been looking for! I’m currently using a cash back card (MBNA), and now wondering if I’d be better off with a travel rewards card. Thanks for this analysis. Will be taking a closer look.

  10. FrugalFred says:

    This is just what I was looking for! A simple yet realistic comparison of all the reward cards in Canada. It’s a minefield out there with all the different conditions, points scenarios and features.

    I think with any of these though you should read the fine print and see the conditions for redemption for each CC to avoid getting disappointed or surprised.

    You saved me quite a bit of time so thank you!

  11. Carey says:

    Great info guys, one thing though to consider which was left out. I have the TD First Class Infinate Visa Card, and was told when I received the card that if I had a balance of over $5000 in my checking acct all fees are waived, including the Visa yearly fee. My points each year have accumulated to be worth over $1000.00 and I use my points for vacation flights on whichever company I decide to fly with. Just thought I’d point this out as well, it does change the outcome of your scenario.

    Carey

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