Dipping a First Toe into Travel Hacking

Which are the first cards you should get as you start your journey into Canadian credit card travel hacking?  With such a cornucopia of options choosing the right card may seem overwhelming. And it can be… or you can apply the KISS principle. Keep it stupid and simple.

Assuming that Canadian credit card hacking is for you, then churn as many credit cards with sign up bonus (with minimal fees and minimum spends) to meet your travel goals.

Boomer Traveller KISS tip: start slowly.

  • Limit the types of reward programs (e.g., hotel points, airline points, convertible points) you collect, to make it easier to collect enough in one program to be useful.
  • Start with one or two cards for your first churn.
  • When choosing your cards, consider what is the sign up bonus and what are the short term churn costs (fees, minimum spend).
  • Go through a complete churn cycle with just one or two cards to test if you are comfortable doing this – then go big.

Currently there are ~80 personal credit cards (more if you include specialty cards like the BMO cards in support of particular organizations) that offer Canadians travel rewards as a sign up bonus. Within these there are 27 different reward programs. Boomer Traveller has compared them all. They all have their pros and cons which will be considered in future posts.

For purposes of a first time credit card travel hacking adventure,  Boomer Traveller recommends getting the two following cards (one air travel and one hotel card). They have been selected based only on: the size of the sign up bonus, the fee for the first year, and the minimum spend required within the first three months of getting the card.

Out of all the rewards programs, Boomer Traveller prefers Aeroplan because it is Canada’s most robust airline reward program… and it gives Canadian Boomers something to complain about other than just the weather, government, their increasing aches and pains… think of Aeroplan as a Canadian ethnic thingy.

To meet the criteria for this recommendation, you need to have a minimum income of $20,000 and be able to spend $1500 on your credit card in the first three months after getting the cards.

  • Boomer Traveller KISS tip: to meet your minimum spend, pay for everything with your card (even a cup of java). Each time you don’t use your card, it is throwing away points/money.

Boomer Traveller Personal Credit Card Recommendations For Newbie Travel Hackers

Best Aeroplan Credit Card For First Time Credit Card Churners

American Express Gold Rewards Card (this in not a referral)

  • Sign Up Bonus: 25000
  • Fee (1st year): $0 as the fee is waived for the first year (but note it goes up to $150 in second year)
  • Minimum Spend (3/mo): $1500
  • Minimum Annual Income: $20000

 Best Hotel Credit Card For First Time Credit Card Churners

Marriott Rewards Premiere Visa (this is not a referral)

  • Sign Up Bonus: 30000
  • Fee (1st year): $0 as the fee is waived for the first year (but note it goes up to $120 in second year)
  • Minimum Spend (3/mo): First Use – e.g., $1

So in a nutshell for about 15 minutes of work online to register for the cards you can have a four day weekend in any continental  North American city with the flight and hotel + taxes.

Boomer Traveller KISS tip: book your vacation with as much lead time as possible and not during peak travel periods.

If you find you don’t want to churn cards the recommended cards are good choices as long term keepers – but make sure you read the information about the cards before you decide to keep them. Also call and ask if they will waive the annual fee for keeping you as a client.

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