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Best Credit Card for Snowbirds or Cross-Border Shoppers in Canada for 2020

Aug. 19, 20
8 mins
A fit senior man does group yoga outside in the park with a bunch of other adults

Snowbirds and cross-border shoppers can skip the foreign currency exchange with these credit cards. All of our picks offer no foreign transaction fees on purchases, sparing cardholders the extra 1.5% to 3% typical providers charge. That means making a quick trip into the States or journeying overseas won’t require the usual planning, and you won’t get stuck with foreign coins and bills. As a snowbird, you may make multiple travel plans every year, so why not get a card that not only helps you pay for those trips but also makes them more comfortable.

These credit cards also feature a variety of rewards options and travel insurance. Spend your points on flights, rental cars, hotel stays, or merchandise and get the most out of your next adventure.

We compared credit cards with top features for frequent visits to the U.S. or abroad using our Best of Finance methodology and ranked the cards that provided the highest first-year value.

These are the best credit cards for snowbirds and cross-border shoppers for 2020.

Our top pick
Credit card Great features Annual fee
1. Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card
  • Flexible Scotia Rewards redeemable for travel or statement credits
  • Travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees

$120

Runners-up
Credit card Great features Annual fee
2. Scotiabank PassportTM Visa Infinite* Card
  • Flexible Scotia Rewards redeemable for travel or statement credits
  • Travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees, six free lounge visits per year
$139
3. HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
  • HSBC Rewards
  • Travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees
$149

1. Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card

Apply for the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card and earn 20,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. Snowbirds and cross-border shoppers will love that this card features no foreign transaction fees, typically around 1.5% to 3%, on purchases made abroad and at foreign merchants online. Plus, the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card features a full line of travel insurance.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian will see $824 in Scotia Rewards points within the first year.

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

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • New cardmembers can earn 20,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when they make at least $1,000 in purchase in the first three months.

Offer expiry date: August 31, 2020

Rewards:

  • Earn 5X the Scotia Rewards points per dollar you spend on eating and entertainment, including groceries, restaurants, fast food, food delivery and food subscriptions, as well as movies and theatres.
  • Earn 3X the Scotia Rewards points per dollar you spend on transportation and streaming, including gas, buses, rideshare, taxis and services like Netflix.
  • Earn 1X the Scotia Rewards point per dollar you spend on everything else you buy.

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 = 94,400 Scotia Rewards points
Monetary value= $944
Annual fee = $120
Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee) = $824

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 Invites has to offer, including exclusive access to events, presale tickets, and deals.
  • Get the Best Price Guarantee on airfare when you use the Scotia Rewards Travel Service.
  • Enjoy no foreign transaction fees on online purchases as well as abroad.
  • Save time with the help of the 24/7 complimentary concierge service.
  • Receive a preferred discount on the Priority Pass membership and access airport lounges worldwide.
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2. Scotiabank PassportTM Visa Infinite* Card

For a limited time, the Scotiabank PassportTM Visa Infinite* Card is offering up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points to new cardholders. Get 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $1,000 in everyday purchase in the first three months. Earn an additional 10,000 points when you spend at least $40,000 in purchases annually.

Cardholders can enjoy six free lounge visits per year with a complimentary Priority Pass Membership. Enjoy no foreign transaction fees and a full suite of travel insurance. Plus, get the Best Price Guarantee on airfare when you book through the Scotia Rewards Travel Service.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian will see $515 in Scotia Rewards points within the first year.

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

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $1,000 in the first three months.
  • Get 10,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $40,000 in everyday purchases annually.

Offer expiry date: August 31, 2020

Rewards:

  • Earn two Scotia Rewards points per dollar you spend on grocery, dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases, including taxis and buses, up to the first $50,000 spent annually. After, earn a regular rate of one Scotia Reward per dollar.
  • Earn one Scotia Reward point per dollar you spend on all other everyday purchases.

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 = 65,400 Scotia Rewards points
Monetary value= $654
Annual fee = $139
Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee) = $515

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.
  • Take advantage of no foreign transaction fees. You will not see a foreign currency conversion mark-up typically charged by providers, although the exchange rate will still apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary Priority Pass Membership for airport perks and six free lounge visits per year and an 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.

3. HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

New cardmembers of the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® can earn 20,000 bonus HSBC Rewards points when they make their first purchase.

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.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian will see $347 in HSBC Rewards points within the first year.

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:

  • Earn 20,000 bonus HSBC Rewards points when you make your first purchase using the card.

Offer expiry date: N/A subject to change without notice

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 = 99,200 HSBC Rewards points
Monetary value= $496
Annual fee = $149
Total earned over the first year (rewards minus annual fee) = $347

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.

Best of Finance 2020 Methodology Infographic

Hayley Vesh

Hayley Vesh is a creative, resourceful, and knowledgeable content producer who is passionate about financial literacy, storytelling, and generating ideas. She writes about credit cards, savings, debt management, and personal finance. In her spare time, Hayley can be found wandering in the woods, hunting for second-hand treasures, or curled up with a steeped tea and a good podcast.

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