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2021's Best Travel Credit Cards for Canadians

Love to travel? Make travelling more affordable by earning travel rewards with a travel credit card.

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What are travel credit cards?

If you love to explore new places, experience cultures, and take on new adventures, a good travel credit card can make travelling more affordable by allowing you to earn travel reward points and perks with every transaction. Most travel credit cards reward you one point or mile for every dollar you spend. Sometimes more in certain categories of spend. Every travel credit card also comes with its own set of special features and perks that can be helpful when travelling. These can include lounge access, no exchange fees, trip cancellation insurance, travel discounts and more. See which travel credit card is the best for all your personal travel needs by comparing travel credit cards today.

2021's Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada

Find the best travel credit card and start earning exclusive travel rewards when you make your everyday purchases.

Card

Annual fee

First year value

American Express Cobalt

$120

$1,822

Scotia Gold American Express

$120

$1,024

Scotia Passport Visa Infinite

$139

$389

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

$149

$447

American Express Cobalt Card

American Express CobaltTM Credit Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$787
AMEX Rewards points
Annual rewards
$1155
AMEX Rewards points
Annual fee
$120

Winner – Best Overall Rewards Card and Best Card for Young Professionals
Particularly great for individuals who live in the city, eat out often or order in.
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$787
Annual rewards
$1155
Winner – Best Overall Rewards Card and Best Card for Young Professionals
Particularly great for individuals who live in the city, eat out often or order in.
Details at a glance Collapse details

Cardmembers of the American Express Cobalt Card can earn up to 45,000 bonus Membership Rewards® in the first year. That is equal to roughly $787 toward travel.

Earn 2,500 points each month you spend at least $500 on the card. Plus, when you apply by May 5, 2021, you can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of opening the account.

This card is great for earning rewards on everyday purchases, and redemption is made easy. Cardholders can redeem their rewards for almost anything, and members can shop directly through Amazon.ca using their rewards.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian will see $1,822 in Membership Rewards® points in the first year.

Credit score requirement for approval

Fair: You have had a credit card or loan for one or more years. For the last two years or more, you’ve paid back debts to creditors with no defaults. You haven’t missed more than two payments on your credit in the last three months.

Monthly fee: $10 ($120 per year)

Limited time offer/bonus

  • New card members can earn 45,000 Membership Rewards® points in the first year. Collect 2,500 Membership Rewards® points each month you spend $500 on your card. Plus, when you apply by May 5, 2021, you can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of opening the account.

Offer expiry date: May 5, 2021

Rewards

  • Earn five points per dollar in eligible grocery, dining, and food delivery purchases.
  • Earn two points per dollar in travel and transit, including gas, public transportation, rideshare services and travel bookings.
  • Earn one point per dollar you spend everywhere else.

Earning potential

How does this card stack up to other rewards credit cards? We crunched the numbers using our Best of Finance methodology to see how much an average Canadian could earn over a 12-month period.

Rewards earned over a 12-month period = 111,000 Membership Rewards® points
Monetary value= $1,942
Annual fee = $120
Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee) = $1,822

*The $10 monthly fee was multiplied by 12 months to get the annual fee.

You can redeem your points for:

  • Travel
  • Fixed Points Travel Program
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Purchases through Amazon.ca
  • Statement credit

Insurance:

  • Out of province/country emergency medical
  • Flight delay
  • Baggage delay
  • Hotel/motel burglary
  • Lost or stolen baggage
  • Car rental theft and damage
  • $250,000 travel accident
  • Purchase Protection® Plan
  • Buyer’s Assurance® Plan

Other perks:

  • Enjoy exclusive offers through Cobalt Perks.
  • Access presale tickets, exclusive offers and events through American Express Invites®.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$400
Scotia Rewards points
Annual rewards
$744
Scotia Rewards points
Annual fee
$120

Winner – Best Travel Card and Best Card for Snowbirds/Cross Boarder Shopping
Strong travel perks and 0% foreign transaction fees compliment great reward value
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$400
Annual rewards
$744
Winner – Best Travel Card and Best Card for Snowbirds/Cross Boarder Shopping
Strong travel perks and 0% foreign transaction fees compliment great reward value
Details at a glance Collapse details

Apply for the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card and earn 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you make at least $1,000 in purchases in your first three months. Earn an additional 10,000 Scotia Rewards points bonus when you spend at least $7,500 in purchases in the first year. Plus, pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad or at foreign merchants online. Although the exchange rate still applies, cardholders will not pay the foreign transaction charges, which are typically around 1.5% to 3% of the purchase price.

Scotiabank Gold American Express® Cardmembers can also take advantage of the Best Price Guarantee on airfare booked through the Scotia Rewards Travel Service and the extensive travel insurance coverage included on the card..

Credit score requirement for approval

Good: You’ve had a credit card or loan for at least six years. You’ve had good credit for the last seven years (no bankruptcies or defaults on credit as a result of failing to pay debts back to creditors). You haven’t opened a new credit card account, loan, or line of credit in the last nine months. You’ve made the minimum payments on any existing credit cards for the past three months.

Annual fee: $120

Offer expiry date: August 31, 2021

Rewards

  • Earn 5X the Scotia Rewards points per dollar on eats and entertainment, including grocery, restaurant, fast food, food delivery and select food subscription purchases, as well as movies, tickets and more.
  • Earn 3X the Scotia Rewards points per dollar on rides and select streaming services, including gas, public transit, taxis, rideshare, Netflix, and more.
  • Earn 1X the Scotia Rewards point per dollar spent on everything else.

Earning potential

How does this card stack up to other rewards credit cards? We crunched the numbers using our Best of Finance methodology to see how much an average Canadian could earn over a 12-month period.

Rewards earned over a 12-month period = 74,400 Scotia Rewards points

Monetary value=$744

Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee)=$1,024

You can redeem your points for:

  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • A statement credit
  • Converted to SCENE points

Insurance:

  • Travel emergency medical insurance
  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
  • Flight delay insurance
  • Delayed and lost baggage insurance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Rental car collision loss/damage insurance
  • Hotel/motel burglary insurance
  • Purchase security
  • Extended warranty
  • Scotia Credit Card Protection (optional)

Other perks:

  • Enjoy all that American Express has to offer, including exclusive access to events, tickets, and deals.
  • Use the Scotia Rewards Travel Service for the Best Price Guarantee on airfare.
  • Take advantage of no foreign transaction fees on purchases made online and abroad.
  • Save time with the 24/7 complimentary concierge service.
  • Receive a preferred discount on the Priority Pass membership and access airport lounges around the world.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

Scotiabank PassportTM Visa Infinite* Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$300
Scotia Rewards points
Annual rewards
$228
Scotia Rewards points
Annual fee
$139

Winner – Best Frequent Flyer Card
Premium card for travellers that includes strong benefits and insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$300
Annual rewards
$228
Winner – Best Frequent Flyer Card
Premium card for travellers that includes strong benefits and insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details

Frequent flyers will enjoy the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. Pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases and access a full suite of travel insurance. Plus, get six free lounge visits per year and the Best Price Guarantee on airfare when you book through the Scotia Rewards Travel Service.

Credit score requirement for approval

Excellent: You’ve had a credit card or loan for at least 10 years. You’ve had good credit for the last seven years (no bankruptcies or no defaults on credit as a result of failing to pay debts back to creditors). You haven’t opened a new credit card account, loan, or line of credit in the last nine months. You’ve made the minimum payments on your existing credit cards for the past six months.

Annual fee: $139 - Get your first supplementary card for free. Each additional card has a $50 annual fee.

Limited time offer

  • You can earn up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points by making at least $1,000 in purchases, within the first three months.
  • Earn an additional 10,000 Scotia Rewards points bonus when you spend at minimum of $40,000 in purchases in the first year.

Offer expiry date: August 31, 2021

Rewards

  • Earn two Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on grocery, dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases, including taxis and public transit, up to the first $50,000 spent annually. After, earn one Scotia Reward per dollar you spend in these categories.
  • Earn one Scotia Reward point per dollar you spend everywhere else you shop.

Earning potential

How does this card stack up to other rewards credit cards? We crunched the numbers using our Best of Finance methodology to see how much an average Canadian could earn over a 12-month period.

Rewards earned over a 12-month period = 22,800 Scotia Rewards points

Monetary value=$228

Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee)=$389

You can redeem your points for:

  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • A statement credit
  • Convert to SCENE points

Insurance:

  • Travel emergency medical insurance
  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
  • Flight delay insurance
  • Delayed and lost baggage insurance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Rental car collision loss/damage insurance
  • Hotel/motel burglary insurance
  • Purchase security
  • Extended warranty
  • Feel reassured (optional protection)

Other perks:

  • Cardholders can access the Price Protection Service. If an eligible item has a price drop within 60 days of your purchase, you can claim the price difference up to $100 per item and $500 a year. Other conditions apply.
  • Enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad or at foreign merchants online. The exchange rate still applies.
  • Enjoy six free lounge visits per year with complimentarily Priority Pass Membership and Avis Preferred Plus membership for discounts and upgrades on rental cars.
  • Benefits include the Visa Infinite Concierge services, Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection, and the Visa Infinite Wine Country Program.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

card image
Welcome bonus
$200
HSBC Travel Rewards
Annual rewards
$396
HSBC Travel Rewards
Annual fee
$149

Excellent rewards on travel with the flexibility to also redeem on financial statements
Enjoy No Foreign Exchange Fees and a $100 Annual Travel Enhancement Credit
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$200
Annual rewards
$396
Excellent rewards on travel with the flexibility to also redeem on financial statements
Enjoy No Foreign Exchange Fees and a $100 Annual Travel Enhancement Credit
Details at a glance Collapse details

New cardmembers of the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® can earn up to 40,000 bonus HSBC Rewards points. Get 20,000 points when your application is approved. Earn another 20,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 in the first 180 days. Plus, HSBC will rebate the $149 annual fee for the primary cardholder for the first year.

This card offers no foreign transaction fees on purchases, a $100 travel enhancement credit, and 31-day insurance coverage. Not only that, but it also provides additional savings through Expedia and Agoda, as well as unlimited Wi-Fi through Boingo at over a million hotspots worldwide.

Credit score requirement for approval:

Good: You’ve had a credit card or loan for at least six years. You’ve had good credit for the last seven years (no bankruptcies or defaults on credit as a result of failing to pay debts back to creditors). You haven’t opened a new credit card account, loan, or line of credit in the last nine months. You’ve made the minimum payments on any existing credit cards for the past three months.

Annual fee:

$149

Limited time offer/bonus

  • As a new cardmember, you can earn up to 40,000 bonus HSBC Rewards points. Get 20,000 points when your application is approved. 
  • Earn another 20,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 in the first 180 days.   

*This offer is not available to residents of Quebec; however, a different offer does apply.

Offer expiry date: April 19, 2021

Rewards:

  • Earn six HSBC Rewards points per dollar you spend on eligible travel purchases.
  • Earn three HSBC Rewards points per dollar you spend everywhere else.

Earning potential:

How does this card stack up to other rewards credit cards? We crunched the numbers using our Best of Finance methodology to see how much an average Canadian could earn over a 12-month period.

Rewards earned over a 12-month period = 19,800 HSBC Rewards points

Monetary value=$396

Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee)=$447

*HSBC will rebate the $149 annual fee for the primary cardholder for the first year.

You can redeem your points for:

  • Travel
  • Gift cards
  • Financial rewards
  • Convert rewards to miles

Insurance:

  • Worldwide emergency travel medical
  • Baggage delay or loss
  • Trip cancellation
  • Trip interruption or delay
  • Car rental
  • Purchase assurance
  • Extended warranty

Other perks:

  • Get a $100 annual travel enhancement credit for select airline seat upgrades, lounge passes and upgrades charged to your account.
  • Enjoy complimentary membership to Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey.
  • Take advantage of 10% off select hotel bookings through Expedia and Agoda.
  • Stay connected with Wi-Fi through Boingo at over a million hotspots around the world.
  • Enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases.

*Rates, product information and rewards estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice.

When you use a travel credit card to pay for your day-to-day credit card purchases, you earn travel rewards such as Air Miles or rewards points on every qualifying purchase. Not to mention the great sign-up bonuses that most travel credit cards come with! With a travel credit card, you can save hundreds of dollars in airfare and other travel related expenses, helping you travel more often,for much less and more comfortably with complimentary insurance and travel benefits. Travel credit cards can also have travel deals such as redeeming points at a discounted rate for a particular destination.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect from a good travel credit card:

  • Earn Air Miles, Aeroplan miles, or other travel rewards: Many Canadian travel credit cards come with the potential to earn Air Miles or Aeroplan miles, which can be used to purchase flight tickets or secure travel upgrades such as hotel suites, more leg room etc. Each mile has a certain dollar value that can be redeemed for travel rewards. A travel credit card can also be linked to certain air carriers, allowing you to enjoy greater benefits specific to those air carriers. A great example is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, which comes with Air Canada perks, such as Priority boarding.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Many credit card lenders offer great sign-up bonuses for travel credit cards. These bonuses can boost your potential of earning Air Miles, Aeroplan miles, or travel points which could mean free travel tickets for you take advantage of. Having said that, while a large sign up bonus is enticing, make sure you choose the right travel card that benefits you the most in long run. For this pay attention to the earn rate as well as the redemption rate.
  • Travel insurance: Travelling can be quite stressful at times with trip delays or cancellations disrupting your plans. With a travel credit card, you may be eligible for great travel insurance coverage that’ll make travelling less stressful and more secure for you and your family. For example, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card offers you a variety of travel insurances, including Flight Delay Insurance, and Delayed and Lost Baggage Insurance, when you make at least 75% of your trip purchases through the credit card. Coverage varies by credit card. To be able to use the insurance coverage that comes with your travel credit card, make sure that your travel purchases are paid through your credit card. Also, pay attention to how much the insurance covers, as you may need to get additional travel insurance coverage.
  • Discounted trip tickets: Many travel credit cards allow you to book discounted tickets through their travel partners or discount codes. Scotiabank, for example, offers you access to their Scotia Rewards Travel Service, which comes with the best price match guarantee feature when you choose one of their travel cards.
  • Lounge access: One of the most sought-after credit card perks is lounge access. As an avid traveller, you must know how useful airport lounge access can be. From relaxing, to making important calls or emails before a flight, and free snacks, having lounge access is a great advantage for any traveller. Many travel credit cards come with complimentary lounge access passes such as the Priority Pass.
  • Zero exchange fee: If you’re a frequent traveler who makes a lot of foreign currency purchases when abroad, look for a travel credit card with low or no foreign transaction fees. When you make a purchase in non-Canadian currency, you can end up paying an additional 2.5% on top of the actual price. By choosing a travel credit card with a zero exchange fee, you can save hundreds of dollars when travelling.

What are the benefits of using a travel rewards credit card?

Each travel card comes with its own unique features. When looking at travel credit cards, make sure you know what kind of features you’ll most likely need for your travelling needs.

  • Co-branded and general travel cards: Several credit card providers offer both co-branded and general travel cards. A co-branded card is affiliated with a brand, such as a hotel or airline, and allows you to access offers specific to that brand’s services. A co-branded travel credit card may limit your rewards options, but these cards can also land you great exclusive perks like hotel suites and travel seat upgrades. A general travel credit card, on the other hand, rewards you with perks and points/miles that are not brand specific. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to choosing your travel rewards.
  • Sign-up bonuses vs. ongoing rewards and perks: Don’t get too caught up by sign-up bonus offers. You must also pay attention to the overall rewards and benefits of the travel credit card, as once the bonus offer expires, you’ll be stuck with the ongoing rewards. Make sure that these rewards and perks enrich your travel experience for many years to come.
  • Travel perks you’ll actually use: Everybody likes the sound of a long list of credit card perks, but it’s important to ask yourself if you’re really going to use them. For example, your travel credit card can offer you rental car coverage, lost luggage insurance, travel delay and accident insurance, concierge services etc. But if you’re looking for specific rewards like free checked bags and travel upgrades, make sure you check if they’re a part of the rewards program.
  • Payment network: Not all travel credit cards are widely accepted in every country. Your card’s payment network, rather than the card issuer, determines the acceptance. Visa or Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere including, Canada and US. For American Express and Discover cards, the places you can use them may be limited. Make sure you check if the travel credit card you’re interested in is widely accepted in your destination country. It’s advisable to have a couple cards from multiple issuers when travelling. Your primary travel credit card but also a secondary credit card from a different issuer.

Travel credit cards come with a lot of great features. Here’s what you need to know before choosing a travel credit card.

Am I be eligible for a travel credit card?

To be eligible for most travel credit cards, you need to have a credit score of 650 or higher. If you have poor or fair credit, you may want to improve your credit score before applying for a travel credit card. You can rebuild your credit before you start looking for a rewards credit card, with a balance transfer credit card, which makes it easier to pay off your bill faster if interest is piling up on you or another option is a secured credit card. Some travel credit cards also require a minimum income; either individual or household income. Be sure to check this required qualification before applying.

Do travel credit cards come with an annual fee?

Most travel credit cards come with an annual fee ranging from $100-$150. This is because travel credit cards yield high value rewards. Often the rewards value make up for the fee you pay annually given your spend or how cleverly you spend in the categories that earns you multipliers. Therefore, the annual fee is a small price to pay for the exclusive rewards and perks. Some banks and financial institutions may waive the first-year annual fee as part of a sign-up bonus.

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