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Factors for Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2020


Summary - This past year saw a couple of big changes from some of the cards in the market but nothing that changed the overall top ranking. Those cards that did change did move up in their respective categories however. Namely the Scotiabank Gold American Express card underwent a revamp that for the most part was a true enhancement. The card saw an increase in points earning and the adding of a No Foreign Transaction fees - both of which catapulted the card back to first place in the Top Travel Points Credit Cards category ahead of its brethren, the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite card. The latter still earns more points outside of Canada and has no foreign transaction fees but the Scotia Gold Amex's earn rate for purchases in Canada can't be topped so that is why it has taken over first place. We also saw American Express revamp two of their cards last year, the best high end card in Canada, The Platinum Card from American Express saw changes to its earn rates making a strong earning card for dining and travel which led to us ranking the card higher this year in the Hybrid Category. The American Express Air Miles Platinum card was also revamped and is now the strongest earning AIR MILES card in the market which led to it jumping ahead of the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard in the coalition category. Notable mention should go to the new Vancity Enviro Visa Infinite card, a card with great earn rates and benefits however it is only available to residents of B.C. so unfortunately didn't crack into our Top 5 rankings. Over the year we lost the top best no fee card in the market, the More Rewards Visa card and we also lost two of the four American Express AeroplanPlus cards.

Of course the main ranking is the overall best card category! This is the 5th year of naming an overall winner and as you all know we feel it is difficult to give one card a title of the best card in Canada but the category is so well received it is a mainstay! In fact for 2020 the top 5 overall cards don't change at all from 2019 or 2018. We do expect it to change for 2021 however as the upcoming year should see a lot of shake ups.

This year we also continue without a hotel card category since there are only two such cards for Canadians but both of those cards do make into our top card selections.

Four of the five sub categories do see some slight changes, the only sub category that didn't change this year it the airline category. The Top Travel Points Credit Card category and the Top No Fee Travel Rewards Credit Card categories see two new cards crowned as the top cards and cards like the CIBC Aventura cards move up the ranks. While the Hybrid category saw 4th and 5th place swap spots from 2019 to 2020. The Coalition category also saw the aforementioned American Express AIR MILES Platinum Card swap spots with the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard.

What is the best card? For the third year in a row the number one card in Canada is the American Express Cobalt Card. Why? Well it has the super strong earn of 5x Points on Eats & Drinks, a well rounded insurance package and a great sign up bonus. Not to mention the fact that it is a hybrid card which gives you the best options and most flexibility when redeeming for travel. Want to book a cruise and use points? You can do that with the Cobalt Card. Want to convert to hotel programs for hotel stays or further conversion to airline programs? You can do that with the Cobalt Card. Look at it this way, the 5x points is equal to 5% for any travel booking or even up to 10% when using Amex's Fixed Points for Travel option or they are worth 6 Marriott Bonvoy points which we value at no less than 1 cent per point (so 6 cents back) and those can be further converted to Aeroplan, British Airways and many more airline programs. The potential reward with the last option is 2 to 2.5 miles per dollar spent on the card in eats and drinks category. The card retains this place even with a cap on the 5x points earning that came into effect in August of 2019. Speaking from personal experience, my wife and I each have our own Cobalt card and have racked up well over 500,000 points in about 26 months or so, with about half of those being transferred to Marriott. Don't need the frequent flyer or frequent guest option or shop at places that don't take Amex? You're best bets are the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard (read Why my wife and I each grabbed our own WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercards) the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card or the RBC Visa Infinite Avion cards. In a nutshell, there are cards that definitely stand out above the rest and for some of you these may not be the best option so we advise you to look at our breakdown of top cards in the five major categories we developed to see which one is best for you. What category is right for you? Check out Rewards Canada's Guide to choosing a travel rewards credit card to steer you in the right direction. For those who may be wondering what we use in the Rewards Canada family, we actually use the top four overall cards on a daily basis and they have proven to be real winners for us.

How do we come up with our picks for the best cards? We look at various factors including rewards earning and value (rate of return), cost of ownership, the associated loyalty program (co-brand), ease of redemption, partnerships, issuing bank, personal experience and benefits. We even look at where you can go with your cards, what you can do with your cards and more. For example, for many years we didn't rank the WestJet card as high as other competitors rankings due to the fact you were limited to flying in North America but then when WestJet Rewards added redemptions on partner airlines like Qantas and Delta that fly to many places around the globe and then added their own international flights the card shot up the rankings. Add in nearly 19 years of research, answering hundreds of email questions from readers, comments from our readers plus the charts and articles we publish provides us the best insight into the pros and cons of each card. As always this has allowed Rewards Canada to form an opinion as to which ones are the best. That's right, it all boils down to opinion. The top cards listed here, are in our opinion, the best cards for travel rewards in Canada. Do people agree? Some yes, some no. Do we make some credit card issuers mad? Yes. Happy? You bet.

As we have stressed in the past, choosing a card is a difficult decision based on many factors including but not limited to rewards offered, benefits offered, cost and the issuing bank. We hope that with this 12th annual ranking, we will help guide consumers to finding the right credit card for them.

What makes Rewards Canada's rankings different from the rest? At Rewards Canada, we are deeply entrenched in the loyalty industry, not just credit cards, so we take this into account for the rankings where it is applicable. Most other rankings on the Internet only look at the credit card itself and not the associated loyalty program or partners, hidden tricks of the programs and more or they only list cards they earn commissions on. For example, in the Airline Cards category we take into account what cities the airlines and/or their partners serve in Canada and Worldwide, whether you can redeem for premium class travel, what the redemption availability is like with their frequent flyer program, the airline partners they have and so on. For Coalition Cards we look at how many partners are in the program, what you can use those points or miles for etc. This is why the Rewards Canada rankings are the most regarded in Canada with the media, loyalty programs and credit card issuers.

There are over 70 travel reward credit cards available to Canadians! Some are airline only cards that put miles directly into your airline frequent flyer accounts. Some are coalition cards the belong to larger programs like Aeroplan, AIR MILES and More Rewards. Some are hybrid cards where you collect points that can be used to book travel through the credit card or put the points into a frequent flyer/guest account. Some are travel points cards, where the points are redeemed for travel through the credit card company's proprietary rewards program while a small number are hotel only cards that put the points directly into your frequent guest program accounts.

It is from these variations of cards that we have continue with six categories of cards in Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2020.
1. Top Travel Rewards Cards Overall
2. Top Travel Points Credit Cards (with annual fee)
3. Top No Fee Travel Rewards Credit Cards
4. Top Hybrid Travel Credit / Charge Cards (with annual fee)
5. Top Airline Credit / Charge Cards
6. Top Coalition Program Credit Cards

To see all of the travel rewards credit cards that were considered for this years rankings please see here.

Care to comment on what we chose as the best travel rewards credit cards? 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 in the comment section below or on Facebook and Twitter for Canada's Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2019!

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