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Switching Your Credit Card? Consider These Top 5 Travel Credit Cards

Aug. 29, 2013
3 mins
A pile of three credit cards

Are you an avid collector of travel rewards credit card points? If so, you could benefit from an impending market shakeup and onslaught of new earning options. As CIBC and TD continue their negotiations over the popular Aeroplan program, other lenders are stepping up to the plate with sweetened travel reward options, hoping to entice consumers currently caught between the big banks.

While any consumer would be frustrated by the circumstances, the situation does present a silver lining - the opportunity to reevaluate their rewards and switch to their best option. And, with so many great options offered by lenders, there’s never been a better time to trade in a card that’s slow to earn and hard to redeem.

The best travel credit cards for consumers who want no limits

While Canadians are big fans of earning points on their spending habits, travel-specific rewards have garnered a bit of a bad rap in the past and no wonder! We’ve all heard horror stories about very restrictive reward redemption, flight blackout periods and unhelpful customer service. Thinking of switching out your current travel rewards card for one that won’t limit your options?

Here are my picks for cards with easy, breezy redemption and the ability to earn points fast:

Capital One Aspire Travel™ World Mastercard®

This credit card makes it ridiculously easy to earn and book travel. Capital One’s No Hassle Rewards system is free of redemption restrictions - consumers simply book their airfare, hotel and other travel expenses with their card, and then pay for them with the points earned.

New card sign ups will also earn 35,000 miles right away (earned with the first purchase made on the card), and will receive an additional 10,000 points each year - not too shabby for just being a cardholder. The card earns a very respectable two points on the dollar (worth $150 per 15,000). Points never expire, and has an interest rate competitive with other market options, at prime plus 16.8%.

In addition, the card also includes emergency medical and trip cancellation coverage. If this card’s $120 annual fee is a bit too steep, consumers can also check out Capital One’s no-fee Aspire Travel™ Platinum Mastercard®.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

This card has one of the highest earning rates on the market, scoring four points on the dollar on eligible gas and grocery purchases - things you’ll likely be paying for on an everyday basis. When you are ready to book your travel, there’s also a plethora of discounts to choose from for hotels, car rentals and other holiday packages, along with concierge service and travel insurance. The interest rate is standard, at 19.99% for APR, balance transfers and cash advance, and an annual fee of $150).

BMO® Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard®

While this card is a bit pricer in terms of fees ($150 annual fee and 20.50% interest rate), the payoff is how much BMO Rewards points are worth - new sign ups receive 15,000 points as a bonus, worth $285 in travel. Point are earned one for one, are redeemed right on your credit card balance, and don’t need to be used with any specific airline.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Visa® Card

Next is a card that with a very practical approach to points and a great option for frequent business travellers. Offered by American lender Chase, this card rewards signups with five free hotel stays (four on signup, and one stay awarded annually). While the interest rate is pretty standard at 19.99%, cardholders pay no annual fee for the first year. Another interesting feature is a lack of foreign exchange charges -- a little known fee of up to 2.5% charged by Canadian lenders on purchases made internationally.

American Express® Gold Rewards Card (Charge Card)

One of the best rewards options on the market isn’t actually your typical credit card. The American Express Gold Rewards Card is a charge card, meaning it can’t carry a revolving balance and purchases must be paid off in full each month, or they’re subjected to interest at 30%.

While this card is meant for the disciplined spender, it pays to take the responsible approach, new signups for this card can take a short haul flight right away with 25,000 bonus points (rewarded when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months).

Points can be cashed in at face value for Aeroplan or Avios trips, and you’ll earn two points on the dollar on eligible travel purchases. There is a $150 annual fee.

This card also comes stacked with great insurance features like travel medical and accident and baggage coverage.

Penelope Graham

A first-time homeowner and newbie investor, Penelope Graham is the quintessential millennial, navigating the world of personal finance and wealth management. A self-professed monetary policy nerd, she follows the often-controversial housing market closely and specializes in mortgage, credit card and personal finance news.

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