Do you want the most valuable rewards possible?
Look no further than a travel credit card. They're some of the most attractive cards you can get your hands on, period.
With lucrative rewards, comprehensive travel insurance, and premium perks – it's one of the easiest ways to get one step closer to your dream vacation. The catch is the programs can be tedious, confusing, and overwhelming.
But don't worry – we've narrowed down the absolute best of the best in Canada.
Now all you have to do is pick which one works best for you.
- Travel credit card rankings
- Top 3 travel cards in the spotlight
- The MOST rewards possible
- Rewards with flexibility
- Best welcome bonus
- No minimum income requirements
- Best no annual fee travel card
- Best travel insurance
- Best travel perks
- Travel insurance over age 65
2019 travel credit card rankings
We compared 50+ features of 114 cards in order to see which card was really best, using our purely math-based, unbiased algorithm. You can see the top 5 in the table below.
To be as thorough as possible, we've also included cash back cards in this category, since you can easily use cash towards your travel purchases.
Note: The "Welcome Bonus" when presented as a dollar value is calculated by combining all one-time bonuses available to new cardholders within the first year. To qualify for the full bonus you may need to make purchases, meet minimum spending requirements, or complete special actions.
The top 3 Canadian travel credit cards in detail
Let's see what makes our best 3 travel cards stand out.
1st place: American Express Cobalt™
The American Express Cobalt™ is not only the absolute best card overall, but it's also the best travel credit card – go figure.
Why you want it
- With a 8.75% return, this card has the highest earn rate on both groceries and restaurants of any card in Canada.
- Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases at grocery stores, bars, and restaurants.
- Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on eligible gas, travel, and transit purchases.
- Earn 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else.
- Affordable $10 monthly fee.
- Earn up to 30,000 points as a welcome bonus.
- Feel like a VIP with Amex extras, like Front of the Line, American Express Invites, and Cobalt Perks.
- Redeem points instantly.
- No minimum income requirements.
- Add an extra card for free and collect even more rewards.
The Cobalt's amazing earn rates only get better when you consider that your points are worth up to 1.75 cents each. That's a return of up to 8.75% on your grocery and restaurant purchases – the best in Canada.
And if that wasn't enough, take advantage of the welcome bonus to get up to 30,000 points in your first year. You'll get 2,500 points every month you charge $500 to your card – a pretty achievable spend for a great reward.
But what can you do with the rewards?
- Redeem 1,000 points for $10 of ANY type of travel charged to your card (even your transit pass),
- 1,000 points for $7 when you log into your Cobalt mobile app and use your points to pay for ANY purchase you just made, or
- transfer your points to either Marriott Bonvoy (5:6 ratio) or Hilton Honors (1:1).
But the best way to redeem your Cobalt rewards is through the Fixed Points Travel Program.
For example, if you go for a long haul flight from Canada to the US, you'll need 40,000 points. These 40,000 points will cover up to $700 towards the base airfare of any flight you can find. Maximize this, and each point is worth 1.75 cents.
The only downside you'll hear about any Amex card is they aren't accepted as widely as Visa and Mastercard are.
It's true, but it's also getting better every day.
Other than that, there's really no other downside with this card. Spend a meagre $200 per month on groceries and restaurants and you already have the monthly fee paid for.
2nd place: American Express® Gold Rewards
If you want a bit more flexibility with your travel rewards, the American Express® Gold Rewards Card can get you there.
Why you want it
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on gas, grocery, drugstore, and travel purchases.
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else.
- Have great flexibility with your points – transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Air Canada's Aeroplan or British Airways' Avios.
- Up to 2.5x the reward value when transferred to Aeroplan and redeemed for flights.
- Get started with a welcome bonus of 25,000 points (worth $625 when transferred to Aeroplan).
- Add an extra cardholder for free and earn even more points.
- Great insurance package.
- Nice Amex extras like Front of the Line.
- Low $150 annual fee.
- No minimum income requirement.
If you're a frequent Air Canada flyer, you have a great option with the Amex Gold. The ability to transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan – one of Canada's top reward programs – actually more than doubles your point value, giving you a great return on all your spending.
Aren't tied specifically to Aeroplan? No problem – you can also redeem your points for Amex's own travel rewards program or several other airline and hotel partners. Just keep in mind Aeroplan will give you the best value for your points.
But even if you don't fly that often, you'll get great flexibility with the option to instantly redeem your points as statement credits to go towards any purchase you make on the card.
On top of the great rewards, this card has a great selection of both insurance and perks. In fact, it offers 10 out of 16 insurance coverages we track.
The fact this card looks like a sparkling gold bar in your hand doesn't hurt either...
Again, as an Amex card, it won't be accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard.
And though this card's annual fee is $30 more than the Cobalt, its earn rate isn't nearly as impressive.
3rd place: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*
Want to steer clear of Amex? No problem – the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* can get you what you need.
Why you want it
- Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on groceries, gas, drugstore, and Aircanada.com purchases (up to $80,000 annually spent per year).
- Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else.
- Get exclusive Air Canada perks without needing frequent flyer status.
- Comprehensive insurance package covering 11 out of 16 types we cover.
- A welcome bonus of up to 30,000 bonus points – worth around $750.
- 24/7 personal concierge service.
- Visa Infinite perks.
- Low $120 annual fee.
Not only will this card help you earn more Aeroplan points, but you'll also get exclusive Air Canada perks when flying on a ticket you bought with rewards. How does first checked bag free, priority check-in, and priority boarding sound?
If the typical Aeroplan mile is worth 2.5 cents when redeemed for flights, you'll get a 3.75% return on all purchases made in the card's bonus categories. On our typical spending breakdown, you'll be getting $593 in rewards a year – even after subtracting the annual fee.
And that's not all. The card's comprehensive insurance coverage really helps set it apart:
Plus you'll get the travel insurance even when flying on a rewards ticket – a rare benefit indeed.
Want the annual fee waived? Just sign up for the TD All-Inclusive banking plan and that's exactly what you'll get. Keep a minimum balance of $5,000 and your bank account will be free, too.
Unlike the 2 Amex cards, the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* has minimum income requirements of $60,000 personal or $100,000 household, making it a bit less accessible to the average Canadian.
And it's an extra $50 if you want to add another cardholder.
Still not sure what the best travel card for you is?
A quick glance at the Overall Score can tell you the best travel credit card in Canada.
But if you’re looking for something particular or cards that excel in one specific area, you’ll have to dig a little deeper…
I want the most rewards possible
If you just want to make sure you're getting the absolute best return for your spending, look no further than the American Express Cobalt™.
With 5x the rewards on one of our biggest necessities – food – every dollar spent can take you a long way. But that's not all. You'll even get 2x the rewards on another huge need – gas, travel, and transit.
If you redeem your points for the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program, you'll be getting an 8.75% return for your food spending. This blows every other card out of the water – all for a $10 monthly fee.
I want flexible rewards
If you don't want to be tied down to one airline partner (or to travel in general), the American Express Cobalt™ will still work great for you and your wallet.
You can redeem your points in 10 different ways:
- Flexible Points Travel Program,
- Fixed Points Travel Program,
- transfer to airline partners,
- transfer to hotel partners,
- redeem through Ticketmaster,
- donations to charity,
- gift cards,
- statement credit,
- shopping on Amazon.ca, and
So it's pretty safe to say, whatever your preference is, you can find some way to use your rewards with the Amex Cobalt.
Not to mention this is the best travel credit card on the market, so for the times you do want to redeem for travel, you're in good hands.
I want the biggest welcome bonus on the market
If you want a huge welcome bonus, the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card will give you 50,000 points – enough for 2 long-haul round trip flight rewards, or about $1,250.
- You'll get 25,000 bonus Aeroplan Miles when you make your first purchase with your card, then
- get 25,000 MORE miles when you spend $1,000 within 90 days of opening your account.
Of course, as a Visa Infinite Privilege card, it has a high annual fee of $399 and high minimum income requirements of $200,000. But if these sound okay to you, you'll get an amazing welcome bonus with even better perks.
If the annual fee and income requirements are a bit too much to handle, our #2 travel card, the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*, still gets you 30,000 miles for a $120 annual fee and much more reasonable income requirements ($60,000 personal or $100,000 household).
I want no income requirements
If you want a card with no income requirements, any American Express is up your alley since none of them have them – even the super prestigious Platinum Card.
But if you prefer a Visa or Mastercard for their increased acceptance, the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus® Mastercard® is a great option.
Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent, and get 3 miles on Alaska Airlines purchases. We value an Alaska Airline mile at 2.3 cents, giving you a return of 2.3% on all your purchases.
Plus, get a sign up bonus of 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
This card is also known for its an annual companion voucher. Once per year, book a flight for yourself on Alaska Airlines and bring someone else with you for $99 USD plus taxes and fees.
Don't plan on travelling on Alaska Airlines? No problem. Use your points on 17 different international carriers as well. Just note that you won't be able to use your miles for flights within Canada.
And this card has a lower annual fee of $75, yet still has 7 types of purchase and travel insurance.
Bonus: If you meet the requirements of a World Elite Mastercard, the Alaska Airlines World Elite® Mastercard® is a similar card, except has a higher sign up bonus of 30,000 miles, and gets you free checked bags on Alaska Airlines. It has an annual fee of $99.
I want the best no annual fee travel credit card
If you don't spend enough to justify an annual fee, or maybe you just don't want to worry about it, there are plenty of no fee cards for you to choose from. Let's take a look at the top 2.
Taking first place is the Rogers World Elite Mastercard. Though it's technically a cash back card, cash can easily be used against any travel expenses. You'll get nice and easy 1.75% cash back on all your purchases.
But the best part is its unique way of dealing with those pesky 2.5% foreign exchange fees you get hit with whenever you pay for something that's not in CAD. Instead, earn 4% cash back on these purchases, leaving you 1.5% in the green.
But it does have income requirements of either $80,000 personal or $150,000 household to qualify.
The next best option is the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard®. You'll get:
- 2 points for every $1 spent on eligible gas, groceries, and restaurant purchases, up to $5,000 annually in each category, and
- 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else.
All rewards earned are completely flexible – you're in control of how and when you want to redeem, with 5 different options to sweeten the deal.
But that's not all. For a no fee card, MBNA gives you a lot to work with, including 7 different insurance coverages and a 5,000 point welcome bonus (worth about $50) – both very rare to see with no annual fee.
I want the best credit card travel insurance
If you love having some peace of mind while travelling, the insurance package of your travel credit card is an important aspect to consider.
The Desjardins Odyssey Visa Infinite Privilege has the best insurance coverage of any card on the market right now – but you need $250,000 in household income to qualify and carries a $395 annual fee.
Here are some highlights of its insurance package:
- 60 days of travel medical coverage – compared to the standard 15.
- Slightly reduced coverage all the way up to age 75.
- Only card issuer to offer unlimited trip interruption insurance – compared to the $5,000 of the next best card.
Despite only offering 10 out of 16 different types of insurance, it tops 8 of them, making it pretty special.
If you prefer quality over quantity (and a lower annual fee), the BMO® Air Miles®† World Elite® Mastercard®* comes with 14 out of 16 possible types of insurance:
This amount of protection is pretty amazing when you consider the low $120 annual fee.
Plus personal effects coverage is one of the rarest insurance offered by any credit card – it covers your personal belongings for the entire duration of your trip, not just when travelling on common carriers.
Not to mention this is the best Air Miles card in Canada, hands down.
I want travel perks – and lots of them
Want exclusive perks to make you feel like a VIP every time you fly?
The American Express Platinum Card® has the best perks package of any credit card in Canada.
It gives you access to over 1,2000 airport lounges worldwide, including unlimited international airport lounge visits to Priority Pass lounges for you and a guest – better than any other card.
Want more? This card also comes with:
- 11 types of insurance,
- upgraded status at 4 different hotel chains,
- perks at Canadian airports (like access to a fast track security lane),
- $200 annual travel credit,
- a welcome bonus of 50,000 points – worth about $1,250 when redeemed for travel, and
- much more.
I need a credit card with travel insurance over age 65
You'll get up to 15 days of travel insurance on top of other premium travel card benefits, like:
- up to $250 in annual travel fee reimbursements,
- 24/7 concierge access, and
- unlimited airport lounge access when visiting the Montreal Airport.
For an annual fee of $150, this card basically pays for itself.
Don't meet the high income requirements of a World Elite Mastercard? Don't worry – the National Bank World Mastercard will give you the same great coverage, with more manageable income requirements of $60,000 personal or $100,000 household.
Get where you want, faster and cheaper
Travel cards can give you the best credit card rewards in Canada...so which will you go with?
Let us know in the comments!