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In this feature of Rewards Canada's Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate one for earning flexible travel points that have no stings attached. That means points that you can earn and then use on any travel, at anytime, that you can book through any provider and even use the points after you purchase the travel. This is the ultimate wallet that most Canadians should have who travel only once or twice per year and don't want to be held back by traditional loyalty programs. We have always recommended that you should carry a Visa, a MasterCard and an American Express card in your wallet. The reason why is that there are benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We won't go into detail here as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but here we outline one card from each brand that will help you build up those most flexible travel points faster than ever. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for such a portfolio but we look at one card from each issuing family that won't totally break the bank on annual fees but will provide strong travel point earning along with very strong insurance benefits.
MasterCard - Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World Elite MasterCard®
American Express - Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
The Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World Elite MasterCard® is an obvious choice as it is ranked as the number one Travel Points card with an annual fee in Canada by Rewards Canada and it earns a straight 2 miles per dollar on all spending (a straight 2% return when you redeem for travel). The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is ranked as our third best travel points credit card and should be part of this wallet for two reasons, to fulfill the Amex position but more so due to its 4 points per dollar earning at certain merchant categories. The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card rounds out this wallet as it also ranks in our Top 5 Travel Points cards but is really the weakest of the three in the portfolio but as one of the only Visa cards in Canada to provide the no strings attached flexibility of truly being able to book travel how you want with whom you want and redeem points for that charge is why the card rounds out this portfolio. If you don't have any of these cards just signing up for them and meeting any spend requirements will net you $800 worth of travel!!
How to maximize your Travel Points earning with these cards
Let's look at category bonuses first. The main card here is the Scotiabank Gold American Express card as it earns 4 points per dollar (a 4%return) on Grocery, Gas, Dining and Entertainment purchases up to $50,000 each year. So you'll want to funnel any of that type spending onto this card until you reach that maximum or if a place does not accept American Express then you'll put all your purchases onto the next card. The rest of your spending outside of Grocery, Gas, Dining and Entertainment as well as any places that do not accept American Express like Costco should go straight onto your Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World Elite MasterCard® and earn 2 miles per dollar for those eligible purchases.. The combination of these two cards ensures that you will earn no less than 2% back on all this spending. The third card in the wallet, the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card should only be pulled out for purchases made on Expedia (well ExpediaForTD) as those purchases earn 9 points per dollar (or up to a 4.5% return) and also for retailers that only accept Visa or for those promotions that require you to use a Visa card to take advantage of them.
Now we go on to the fun part. Redeeming! All three of these cards provide the utmost in redemption flexibility. You essentially book your travel with whomever you want and when the charge shows up on your account you redeem points against the charge. All three allow partial redemptions, so you don't need the full amount of points but rather if you paid $1,000 for your hotel and have $500 worth of points, you can redeem those points for what amounts to a $500 discount on your hotel stay. Now, chances are you'll have points spread out across at least two of the cards here, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card and the Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World Elite MasterCard®. So when it comes to booking travel, put your flights onto one card and your hotel or other travel expenses like a car rental on the other so that you can redeem points from both cards towards the eligible charges. That is the beauty of these cards, you are not stuck to one airline or one hotel, you are not at the whim of a loyalty program that may route you through multiple cities to get to your destination nor have any rooms left to redeem hotel points for. Not to mention, these points are good for any travel, all inclusives, ferry rides and even whale watch excursions (read more about that here). Even if booked while on vacation, all three cards give you anywhere from three months to twelve months after the charge posts to your account to redeem points for it. That means you can travel without even having the points and collect afterwards to eventually redeem for it.
The Ultimate No Strings Attached Travel Credit Card Portfolio:
Related: Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World Elite MasterCard® Review / Scotiabank Gold American Express Card Review