Top Five Canadian Travel Reward Programs 2018

Wanted poster with airplane

There are about 30 different travel reward programs in Canada, that can be used for both airfare and hotels. Unless you are fixated on a particular brand, the best travel reward program is the one that offers the greatest flexibility in using the points, with a large network of transfer partners.

It is through this lens that BoomerTraveller recommends the top five travel reward programs for Canadians.

AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS

Why BoomerTraveller Recommends

  • Membership Rewards are not tied to any airline or hotel and are the most flexible points currencies available in Canada.
  • Large network of transfer partners including Aeroplan (Canada’s most popular program)
  • Frequently Amex offers high value transfer incentives to transfer points to other travel reward programs
  • The other way to use Membership Rewards for travel is through their fixed value redemption program. Basically, depending on where you want to go, you can apply a certain number of points to your flight (not a great use of points but can be useful). Amex Fixed Point Travel Chart

Recommended cards:

American Express The Platinum Card

  • Annual Fee: $699 ($299 if you use the $200 Annual Travel Credit correctly)
  • Minimum Spend: $3000 first three months
  • Welcome Bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you use this link (otherwise only 50,000 points)
  • See BoomerTraveller’s detailed card review here

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

  • Annual Fee: $150
  • Minimum Spend: $1500 first three months
  • Welcome Bonus: 25,000 Membership Rewards points
  • TIP: Great Canadian Rebates is currently offering $50 back on the $150 annual fee if you use their link

ALASKA’S MILEAGE PLAN

Why BoomerTraveller Recommends

  • Large network of airline transfer partners
  • Great redemptions because of individual partnership agreements with each airline, instead of being a part of an alliance (e.g., Star Alliance)
  • Cobranding with an American airline
  • While Alaska Airlines only service Alberta and British Columbia in Canada, thanks to their airline partners, the Mileage Plan program can work for most Canadians
  • Mileage Plan also has a Miles+Money option where you can use miles to provide a discount of up to 50% off the price of a flight (capped at $200)
  • You can use your miles to upgrade a qualifying purchased economy fare to Alaska Airlines first class. Those upgrades cost 15,000 miles one way regardless of the distance or cost of flight
  • Alaska Airlines has a relatively easy online award ticketing process
  • Offers First Class redemptions on some big time bucket list airlines like Emirates and Qantas

Considerations: you can’t redeem for flights within Canada, but it great for trans-Pacific travel. This is one of the most valuable churnable cards available in Canada (depending on where you want to travel).
Award chart

Recommended card:

MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite or MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus MasterCard
Note that when you apply, they will decide which card you get.

  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Minimum Spend: $1000 within first 90 days of opening account
  • Welcome Bonus: 25,000 Mileage Plan Miles, upon approval; Annual coach companion fare every year from only US $121

TIP: Great Canadian Rebates is currently offering a $60 instant rebate on the $75 annual fee if you use their link

STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST (SPG)

Why BoomerTraveller Recommends

  • Transfer SPG Starpoints to frequent flyer miles (including Aeroplan) with over 30 airlines, usually on a 1:1 basis or better
  • Receive a 5,000 Starpoint bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to a frequent flyer program (25% bonus for converting from hotel to Aeroplan/airline points)
  • Best hotel awards program in Canada
  • SPG has the largest network of hotels in the world with no black outdates in more than 100 countries
  • If you need to top up your point balance you can buy SPG Starpoints starting at US$17.50 for 500 (3.5 cents per point) up to 30,000 points
  • SPG cash+points award option where you pay part points and part cash for a stay

Recommended card:

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card From American Express

  • Annual Fee: $120
  • Minimum Spend: $1500 first three months
  • Welcome Bonus: 20,000 Starpoints (can be converted to 25000 Aeroplan points)

See BoomerTraveller’s detailed card review here

RBC REWARDS

Why BoomerTraveller Recommends

  • Choose from over a 130 airlines.
  • Conversion options include WestJet dollars, British Airways Avios points America Airlines AAdvantage miles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
  • RBC often puts on 30% promotions for transferring points to their partner programs.
  • The other way to use Avion points for travel is through their fixed value redemption program. Basically, depending on where you want to go, you can apply a certain number of points to your flight. This is not a great use of points, but can be useful.
  • Travel Redemption Award Chart

Recommended cards:

RBC Avion Cards

AEROPLAN

Why BoomerTraveller Recommends

  • Star Alliance is the only airline alliance available for flying inside Canada
  • One open jaw per itinerary.
  • Two stopovers permitted on Air Canada Fixed Mileage tickets (open jaw takes the place of one stopover) or one stopover on Star Alliance flight

Considerations: It is unclear what will happen in 2020 when Aeroplan and Air Canada’s current relationship will be terminated. It you plan to use your points before 2020 it will probably not be an issue. After that though, the future is uncertain.
Award Chart

Recommend cards:

See BoomerTraveller’s detailed review of the best Aeroplan and Aeroplan convertible cards here.

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