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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rewards Canada's 5th Annual Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Card rankings

Today on RewardsCanada.ca we posted our fifth annual picks for Canada's top travel rewards credit cards. We have combed over 75 different credit cards offering travel rewards for Canadians and of those there are a few that really stand out. While it is practically impossible to give this question a perfect one card answer, we can breakdown the market of Canadian Travel Rewards credit cards into five major categories that these cards fall into.
Visit rewardscanada.ca/topcc2013 for the complete list of winners!

For the complete article, details on each card plus runners up in each category please visit the full Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Card for 2013 page on the Rewards Canada website

Care to comment on our choices? Want to voice your opinion on the good and the bad of all the Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada. Share you views and experiences by leaving a comment below.


  1. Not so sure about the Capital One World card. If you read the reviews, you see that the points collection is good but there are lots of complaints about terrible customer service, low credit limits, and the inability to increase credit limits. Some also complained about problems making insurance claims.

  2. Hi Patrick – On behalf of everyone at Capital One Canada, we wanted to take this opportunity thank you and Rewards Canada for all the time and effort it took to prepare this year's annual travel card rankings. We're thrilled that the Aspire Travel card landed in the top spot for the fourth year in a row.

    In response to the previous post by @Anonymous, we hear their concerns and hope that he/she considers other sources for product feedback through channels such as, the Ratings & Reviews tab on our product pages, third-party reviews by bloggers, and by friends. Financial forums are a great starting point to see what people are saying about a particular product, but they shouldn't be the only source of information during the research phase. We'd be happy to address @Anonymous' concerns or answer any questions he/she may have. We can be reahed by private message on Facebook or through our Customer Service team at 1-800-481-3239.

  3. Hi - based on last year's ratings I decided to try the Capital One Aspire World card this year. I find the biggest drawback of this card is that there are no partial redemptions. So I have to ask the merchant to split the payment into two payments. This means
    a) I can't book travel online myself as the web sites don't allow you to split the payment into two. In today's self serve world it is a pain to have to phone the merchant when you want to make the travel purchase. Also some of them charge for you to book over the phone.

    b) some of the merchants (i.e. most of the ones I have encountered) refuse to split the payment. Sometimes when they have agreed it has still gone through in one transaction.

    Also, because I travel so much myself, on two occasions, when I had the right amount of points for a full redemption, I missed doing so because of the 90 day rule.

    These are major drawbacks - so far I have had several travel charges this year and was unable to redeem points.

    I plan on posting this issue everywhere I can in the hopes that Capital One will get the message. I have 2 friends that asked me about what travel card they should use and unfortunately although I am trying it out myself I have had to steer them away from Capital One.

    If Capital One allowed partial redemptions it would become the perfect card for value for money and ease of redemption. Ease of redemption is critical for frequent travellers. Points are useless if you can't easily use them. That is why, for example, I did not get and RBC card. It is also why I switched from a card that gives Aeroplan points to the Capital One card.

    1. Capital One does allow some sort of ticket split when you redeem points via their online reward engine. I do not hold this card so I cannot state exactly how it works but Cap One did add it at request of customers. Perhaps one of our readers who had the card could reply to how well (or not well) this works. For me, I have stuck with my Diners Club Club Rewards and Amex Gold Rewards Card because they do offer true partial redemptions against any travel charge (although the Amex card now is strictly for Aeroplan/BA Avios conversions but have done TripFlex redemptions in the past)

      The 90 day rule is possibly the biggest drawback when compared to other cards that allow you to redeem after the actual booking. Most other cards that offer this are 6, 9 or 12 months. That being said, the 90 days is still better than cards like the Avion, BMO World Elite etc. where you have to have the points before you even book.

  4. Thanks Patrick. I will look into that ticket split that you refer to. That is my biggest drawback - I can live with the 90 days.

  5. It appears that Rewards Canada has ignored what the points will get you. It does not matter to me whether I get 100 or 1000 points if both amounts get me the same value. Example Airfare YYC to YOW Avion 25,000 points but Capital One 50,000 points.

    Earning more points is only a benefit if it can get you more travel

    1. Thank you for your comment. We do actually look at both the earn and burn, in fact we are one of the few places that does not ignore it.

      If your numbers were right the cards would be equal since the Capital One Aspire earn 2 Miles per dollar (so $25,000 in spending) which is the same as the Avion if the redemption rate was 25,000 points. However your numbers are not correct, the Avion card is 35,000 points for YYC-YOW so you have to spend $35,000 for any ticket up to a value of $750 not including taxes and fees for that route. So even if the ticket is only $600 before taxes you have to spend $35,000 to get the ticket with the Avion card while the Cap One card would only cost you $30,000 in spending. Plus you get full value of your Cap One points towards taxes and fees, so if the aforementioned ticket also had $150 in taxes and fees you would need to spend $7,500 on the Cap One card while the RBC only credits you $1 for 100 points towards taxes so you need to spend $15,000 on the RBC Avion.

      So what does that work out to for that $750 YYC-YOW ticket? $50,000 in spending on the RBC Avion and $37,500 on the Capital One Card. I know which one I would pick.

      You also have to book 14 days out on the Avion card to get the redemption rate listed above. If you book within 14 days of travel you drop down to the 100 points for $1 so that ticket would cost even more points, the Cap One card remains the same (in fact you can redeem up to 90 days after the charge goes on your account!)

      Where the Avion card is strong is the conversion of points to British Airways and American AAdvantage, that is also why it is not in the same category as the Cap One card (Avion is Hybrid, Cap One is Travel Points)

  6. Hi Patrick,

    I spoke to Capital One about the ticket split you referred to (your reply above dated June 20). They confirmed to me that no, they have not made any changes to allow that or any type of partial redemption. The only work around is to contact the merchant directly to have your charge split into two credit charges. The merchant, being the airline or a travel agent, then charges you a fee for booking over the phone with them instead of online. So now it costs you extra for the ticket in order to be able to use your Capital One points. As a frequent traveller I prefer, in today's online world, to book online but if I do so cannot split the charges.

    I know that you consider ease of redemption when you are rating the cards and I believe that lack of ability to do a partial redemption should be considered (and noted in your rating guide) as a major drawback along with the 90 day rule.

    The agent did say I was the first person he had ever heard of that considered the lack of partial redemption to be an issue! Huh?

    Thanks for your attention to this and keep up the good work on behalf of all of us travellers!

    1. That's interesting, if you Google "Capital One Aspire Ticket Split" there are numerous accounts of people redeeming via this method. I think the confusion lies in partial redemption (which you technically cannot do with Cap One although you could split a single charge into what would be considered multiple tickets....) and ticket splits where a carrier charges only one charge for multiple tickets.

  7. Great job, Patrick!

    I have the Amex Gold Card and love it. Amex now offers 20k bonus points for signing up through referral and first year free. This is a hot deal. Here is my referral link in case someone needs it:


  8. In my opinion the Amex SPG card is the best among the Top 5 travel reward cards. Many nice SPG hotels only cost 3000 points for a free weekend night. 21k sign up bonus is still available through referral.

    If you apply directly from Amex you only get 10k.

    Thanks Patrick!

  9. American Express has good customer service...until you have a problem. Current Gold Rewards card has a chip/terminal issue at alot of merchants. This leads to many embarrassing moments. Amex acknowledges issue but cannot rectify. Leave you to be the guinea pig and call every time there is an issue. I don't work for Amex. No issues with other cards. Hey Amex....don't put out a chip with security features that all merchants are not required to be in compliance with until 2015!

    Garth Birney

  10. I am wondering how redemption was factored into these results? I have had a couple of these cards and I am quite surprised where Avion ranks every year. Unlike most of its competitors, you need 35000 points to go to anywhere in the US except Hawaii and Alaska, which for most people will mean spending close to $35000. The competitors require 25000 points for the same trip, or $25000. Let’s be clear: with many cards, in particular Aeroplan cards, spending $25000 will get you a ticket from Calgary to Orlando, or Halifax to Los Angeles, but with Avion, you need to spend $10000 more for the same trip! There is a further catch if you accumulated the 35000 points with Avion…..your ticket must be under $750.

    They go a step further by combining Hawaii and Alaska with Mexico and the Caribbean for 45000 point redemptions whereas Aeroplan is only 40000 for the Caribeean and Mexico.

    The reality is that it often costs me more to fly Calgary to Vancouver, than Calgary to Los Angeles, but with rewards cards, Calgary – Vancouver costs me only 15000 points with these programs, while Calgary to Los Angeles is a cheaper fare, but costs me 25000 – 35000 points. I am not promoting Aeroplan either, because my 15000 point Calgary – Vancouver redemption cost more in fees and taxes, thanks to a fuel surcharge, than had I paid for the ticket, so it was not a benefit at all.

    I left Avion because it did not make sense to pay more, for less, but people keep using it so why would they change it? Maybe if Rewards Canada revealed how bad some of these programs are, instead of ranking bad programs at the top, we would see change.

  11. @david

    I think you're missing some of the Avion benefits - the reason the points cost more to use with limits on ticket prices is because in theory you can use them for *any* flight unlike other programs that are useless in terms of when you can actually get a ticket (aeroplan).

    That being said my favorite thing about Avion is converting to Asia Miles which uses distance for fare calculation, so Vancouver to east asia is only 45k points which is far better than any plan I've seen and this is what I use it for most. You can also convert to BA miles every year with a 1.5x bonus in July so it has the "if you work for it" type bonuses if you choose that route.

  12. The conversion program with Avion is very good. But I still go back to the value in spending $10000 more to get the same benefit the other cards have. Sure, no blackouts, but that costs you $10000 in spending and has a cap, which is more important than you think for those in Western Canada.

  13. I have been with Capital One for 2 years now. I would agree with comments about customer service being poor, agents would typically give me different answers every time I called, and credit limits are very low and not negotiable even over time.

    The award program is outstanding, and for that reason I stayed with it even through these frustrations.

    On New Years eve, however, they closed my account with no notice. I always pay my card off every month, I have no mortgage, no loans, account was always in excellent standing. At the time of the card being closed, I had a surplus on the account that they said they would pay back.

    They said there was a letter that I will receive in the next week and a half, but absolutely no explanation from calling them.

    I have googled and found no example of this situation, I'm hoping someone might be able to shed light on it? Baffled....

  14. Wow not sure why Cap One would close your account. We'll pass this on to our contact at Capital One.

  15. The letter you receive will explain why they closed your account (per my discussion with Cap One)

  16. oh, and just so you know, I am a loyal Aeroplan customer, but there continued availability of limited seats, and booking a year in advance to get that (executive class seat) is very frustrating. I can work with having to book 9 months to a year in advance, but I want the seat available to book at that time, and they don't have it! It takes days to months of effort sometimes to finally secure a seat, and that is frustrating! And yes I have complained, but to deaf ears, they hear what I say, but continue to blame Air Canada, rather than working to fix the issue.

  17. My original question and post has disappeared. Why is that?

    In essence it was this...

    I am looking for the best travel reward card. This site, and others, lacks the information (at least I cannot easily find it) to make the comparison. Can someone help?

    This is my criteria...
    1. fly globally ONLY business class or first class
    2. must be able to link rewards with an airline (transfer to loyalty airline partner)
    3. must be able to book any seat, anytime with minimum blackouts (means seats must be available, not just a promise that they can/may be available)
    4. ideal if can book within 14 to 30 days, (willing to book a year in advance, as long as seats are available)
    5. reward points earning to expenditure for tickets must be comparable and reasonably competitive to Aeroplan classic rewards (takes1 year, or less, of credit card expenditures to earn a first class seat - so about $75K to $90K of expenditures)
    6. ideal if can fly any airline, anytime
    7. must be able to collect points on every expenditure on the card
    8. card must be accepted everywhere

    Can someone help?

  18. We continually hear the same complaints about Aeroplan and I have to agree that a lot them have fallen on deaf ears.

    The TD card is pretty much the same as the CIBC other than a couple of benefits when flying on an Aeroplan award ticket (which for you a probably not a benefit)

  19. Hi Neil, not sure what happened to your original question.

    Unfortunately a card that meets all 8 of your criteria is hard to find in Canada. The closest would be the American Express Gold Rewards card but it does not meet number 8. The next closest would be the RBC Avion Visa Infinite. The only issue with these and any comparable cards is that they are a fixed rate return. So when you redeem for business class or first class with them via their any airline, any flight etc options your return will be 1 to 2% on the Amex or 1-2% on the RBC Avion (Avion states you can get 2.3% or so but that is for economy and that rate is diminished when you redeem for business class)

    Both cards however earn their value when converting to an airline program (Amex has Aeroplan 1:1, BA Executive club 1:1 and several others; RBC has BA, American, Cathay Pacific, WestJet) The beauty of the Amex Gold Rewards Cards is that the transfer to Aeroplan is instantaneous so you don't have to transfer your points and then be stuck with them in Aeroplan if you can't find a redemption. you can be online or on the phone with them and if you find award seats you like, switch over to another browser window and transfer the points you need for that redemption!

    Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!

  20. Hi Patrick,

    Thanks for this response, very helpful.

    Can you please clarify, with a real example, your comment regarding the following:

    "So when you redeem for business class or first class with them via their any airline, any flight etc options your return will be 1 to 2% on the Amex or 1-2% on the RBC Avion (Avion states you can get 2.3% or so but that is for economy and that rate is diminished when you redeem for business class)"

    If you can make the comparison to an Aeroplan chart, that would be most helpful.

    For example:

    The classic Aeroplan points required (when you actually are lucky enough to book a seat) at anytime throughout the year, to fly, return, Vancouver, BC to Frankfurt, Germany in ...
    executive class is 90,000
    first class is 125,000

    Given the partner bonuses, etc, it takes between $75k and $90k of expenditures with a CIBC (or TD) Infinite Aerogold Visa Card to earn 125,000 points.

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge, I appreciate it.

  21. I'll see what I can put together for you!