March Break is just around the corner – and as schools close up for the week, airports will fill with an exodus of winter-weary Canadians. If you’re among those seeking beaches and balmy temps, be prepared to pay up: a CIBC study finds the average cost of March Break to total $2,328 per person, with 56 per cent of jet setters travelling outside of Canada.
How can you keep your travelling costs down? It’s always smart to have a dedicated savings fund set up for any planned getaway, but many Canadians also earn their way to their vacation, by using a travel rewards credit card for their daily purchases.
Travel rewards credit cards are designed to earn points or miles on purchases that can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, and other travel-related expenses. Some of the top travel offerings also include big sign-up point bonuses for new cardholders (often enough to fly short-haul), which are a great incentive and can take a bite out of your travel budget right off the bat. Keep an eye out for these bonuses when choosing a new travel card, along with these three top features:
– The ability to earn rewards on all purchases
– A flexible redemption process that won’t limit your travel plans
– Built-in travel insurance coverage that will further offset your costs and provide medical peace of mind in tropical locales.
What are the top travel rewards credit cards in Canada?
Shopping for some travel points-earning plastic? We’ve rounded up the top picks based on sign-up bonuses, fees, included insurance and other perks.
This card is ranked by RateSupermarket.ca as the top travel rewards credit card in Canada, and for good reason – new signups receive 30,000 points, worth $300 in travel. You’ll earn two BMO points on the dollar with no retailer restrictions, meaning every gas, grocery and general purchase gets you that much closer to the beach. There are no caps on how many points you can earn, and complimentary cards are free, meaning several members of your household can earn points on the card at once.
This card does comes with a $150 annual fee, but is also loaded with some of the more plushier travel perks and insurance coverage. Cardholders receive a free Priority Pass™†* membership and four complimentary VIP airport lounge visits annually (a $200 value). Insurance coverage includes total travel and medical protection for car rental collision damage and out-of-country medical expenses up to $2 million for the first 21 days of your trip.
Perhaps what is most convenient about the World Elite is the flexibility for redeeming points as cardholders can use them towards any flight without blackout periods or seat restrictions. Points can be used to cover taxes as well, and can be used to partially cover the cost of a flight, with the ability to charge the rest to your card. One caveat: all travel must be booked through the BMO Rewards Centre online portal, or by contacting their customer service.
This is one of the best travel options on the market, and comes chock full of benefits. New cardholders receive 15,000 points (worth $150 in travel), access to a free concierge service, in-depth travel coverage, and one of the fastest-earning rewards structures out there. This card is designed to earn most on gas, grocery, dining and entertainment purchases, at four Scotia Rewards on the dollar, and one point earned on everything else.
When it comes to booking travel, Scotia offers the most flexible process around – simply redeem your points on any trip booked. You can also double dip, earning even more points when using your card to pay for your travel. Cardholders are also covered by comprehensive travel insurance, including flight delay, delayed and lost baggage, rental car collision/loss, trip interruption/cancellation, and more.
This card does come with a $99-per year fee, but it’s waived for the first year, making this one of the most affordable fully-loaded travel options on the market.
The reality is travel rewards credit cards are among the most expensive to carry; in order to offset the costs of built-in insurance and other perks, most offerings come saddled with an annual fee. However, there are some options for the fee-adverse, which compensate with lower sign-up bonuses and insurance features. The Blue Sky Credit Card is a great example of a no-fee card that still packs some rewards earning power with 1.25 points on the dollar and no retailer restrictions.
It even comes with a 10,000-point bonus (worth $100) upon spending $500 on the card – a fairly easy threshold to pass with regular use. Cardholders will receive $100,000 in travel accident insurance (though it’s a good idea to ensure you also take out emergency travel medical and theft coverage), and enjoy flexible redemption with no blackout dates or restrictions. On top of that, you’ll also qualify for Amex’s Front of the Line perks, scoring you great concert seats, even access and more.