*NOTE: The information in this post was accurate when written in April, 2010*
I’ve decided it’s finally time to ditch the Green Visa I signed up for 10 years ago through TD Canada Trust and take advantage of some of the amazing perks that come with travel credit cards in Canada. After reviewing absolutely every travel reward credit card on offer in Canada, and eliminating cards that didn’t stack up, I decided on 5 cards to compare: one from each of the big 5 banks. The first criteria that I decided on was that each card had to have the essential benefits that a card of this type should carry: travel medical insurance, trip cancellation or delay, doubling of the warranty of most items purchased on the card, insurance for new purchases, travel accident insurance and rental car insurance.
After that I wanted to compare the actual value of the sign up bonus I would be receiving from each card. After doing some research (and more math than I had had hoped for), I determined the value of a ‘point’ in each system. Here are the values of the sign up bonus for each card:
Then, I wanted to know how much money per $1000 I charge to my card am I actually getting to spend on travel? Each card gives you a different amount of points per dollar spent and I wanted to know the value I am actually getting from those points. For example, if one card gave me 3 points per dollar spent but those points were worth 1 cent each and another card gave me 1 point per dollar spent and those points were worth 5 cents each, I would rather have the ladder card. After more math I came up with this (values are approximate):
Next up for me was baggage insurance. I’ve always purchased this on any trip I’ve been on and secretly hoped that the airline actually lost my bag (temporarily), allowing me to exercise my baggage insurance (meaning I would have a lump sum to spend on ‘essentials’ until my bag showed up)! Check out how these cards compare:
After reading through too many lines of fine print, I compared all the cool ‘extras’, as well as the obvious negatives, for each card. I found the best extra available to be a free Priority Pass with BMO’s World Elite Mastercard (this gets you access to over 600 airport lounges around the world)!
Finally, taking into account all of these details, I ranked the cards from 1-5. Here is my countdown of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada:
•You’re only earning $7 to spend on travel per $1000 charged to the card. This is the single biggest con of any of the 5 cards.
Why this card finished in 5th place: It does not offer enough value per $1000 spent. On top of that, there are no significant extras to beat any of the other cards.
•A free TabletPlus membership is included with this card. TabletPlus offers incredibly cool privileges at selected boutique hotels around the world such as 4 PM checkout, check-in upgrade and a welcome bottle of champagne.
•You only earn $10 per $1000 spent.
•The sign up bonus is not very big.
Why this card finished 4th: It doesn’t offer any real reason to sign up for it. Every benefit or perk is equaled or beat by one of the other cards.
•No real extra features.
Why this card finished 3rd: Although the sign up bonus and value per $1000 spent is nice, this card does not offer any additional extras. On top of that, they do not offer the doubling of warranty or insurance on anything purchased with the card.
•Cardholders get a free Priority Pass (with 3 free lounge passes/year)! A Priority Pass gets you access to over 600 airport lounges around the world.
• The best value per $1000 spent as well as the biggest sign up bonus.
•You have to pay (online: $18.95, phone: $48.95) to make a booking using your points.
•No baggage insurance!
Why this card finished in 2nd place: This card has the best extras available due to the free Priority Pass. Having lounge access when you fly is an unbelievably awesome experience. Eat, drink, watch TV, surf the net or even have a shower while waiting for your flight. However, they simply can’t match the flexibility of booking your rewards through any travel agency in the world.
And the winner is………………
•If you bank with them using their best checking account the annual fee for this card is waived, making this card free!
•You can book your travel anywhere you wish, including here at Flight Network, and use your points to pay for all or a portion of the travel. TD Reward Points have a fixed value of 10,000 points = $50 making this a very easy process.
•This is the only other card that offers any discount on a Priority Pass, giving cardholders 20% off.
•A free TabletPlus membership is included with this card.
•The value of the bonus they give is only $100, quite small compared to the other cards, 3 of which have a bonus value over $200.
•Their travel medical insurance only lasts for 8 days.
Why this card won: The fact that you can get this card for free and that you can book your travel at any travel agency blows the other competition away. Even though the sign up bonus is small and you don’t earn as much per $1000 spent, the savings you will get from being able to book your travel where you find it for the lowest price outweighs any other factor.
I hope you found my comparison useful, and happy travels. I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments section!