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The Ultimate "I have no idea what travel rewards I want" Credit Card portfolio!

Last Updated on May 12, 2022
First posted on March 15, 2017

Centurion Lounge

Alright, you have the means. You have a great credit rating, you can pretty much get any credit cards you want and can spend tons of money on them and pay them off each month. However you have no idea where or when you want to travel but you know you want to do so eventually since you love to travel. What do you do? The answer is simple. You stick to credit cards that give you multiple redemption options for when that time eventually comes. The best route is to go is with a trio of hybrid credit cards. Hybrid cards just happen to be Rewards Canada's favourite type of rewards cards!

What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate "I have no idea what travel rewards I want" Credit Card portfolio? It is the following three cards:

American Express: American Express Cobalt® Card

Mastercard: HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

Visa: RBC Avion Infinite Visa Card

Hybrid cards give you best of all worlds when it comes to travel rewards. They give you the ability to use a frequent flyer program like Air Canada's Aeroplan or the ability to book travel yourself with any one you like and to use the points to pay for that travel. By collecting points with hybrid credit card programs you are providing yourself the most possible booking options and travel rewards for your points. Thus if you have no idea or plans on how you want to use your rewards just yet, we recommend grabbing three of Canada's favourite hybrid cards.

Key Benefits of this portfolio

  • Great earn rates that can be translated into some high value redemption options
  • Every type of reward redemption is covered by this portfolio (travel, points conversion, cash back etc.)
  • Airport Lounge Access Membership with the HSBC Card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees with the HSBC Card
  • Strong insurance coverage

Why you want to get each of these cards

The first and primary card in this portfolio is Canada's number one travel rewards credit card - the American Express Cobalt Card. Plain and simple it is the most rewarding card in Canada. The card earns 5 points per dollar spent on groceries, dining out, coffee shops, bars, food delivery and so on. So what does 5 points per dollar mean? That means you are getting at a minimum a 5% return. If you choose to redeem points with Amex's Use Points for Purchases option you can redeem 1,000 points for a $10 credit. Whether it is a travel purchasel or simply order from Starbucks, you can redeem against that charge with this option. That's how 5 points becomes 5%. But the card gets better returns than that.

Redeem for travel with Amex's other redemption options and you can see returns of 10%, 15% or even more than 20%. Now we're talking! Want to get even more? Convert the points earned to Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways, or Marriott Bonvoy. Those 5x points equates to 5 Aeroplan points, 5 BA Avios or 6 Bonvoy points. Aeroplan and Avios carry a minimum value of 1.5 cents while Bonvoy points, in our mind carry a value of at least 1 cent each, this means your 5x points gives you a 6% to 7.5% return at a minimum. Redeem for high end hotels or business class flights and that's where your 20%+ return comes in. You can also use them for Amex's Fixed Points for Travel option and those 5x points can provide up to a 10% return! Simply unbeatable.

The high earning doesn't end there - the card also earns 3 points per dollar on popular streaming services in Canada, 2 points per dollar on travel, gas and transit (including ride sharing) and then 1 point per dollar on everything else. Ultimately you'll want to put as much of your spending on this card as possible for food & drink purchases, streaming services, gas stations, transit and travel. The only time you wouldn't is if the merchant doesn't accept American Express.

Recommended reading: American Express Cobalt Card Confirmed Multiplier Locations

The second card in the portfolio is the HSBC World Elite Mastercard which is currently ranked as the Best Mastercard in Canada and the fourth best overall travel rewards card in Canada. For travel purchases the card earns 6 points per dollar spent which translates to a 3% return towards travel redemptions. All other purchases on the card earn 2 points per dollar spent which works out to a 1% return towards travel redemptions.

With this card you can redeem for any travel purchase you charge on the card at a rate of 1,000 points for a $5 credit (this is how you find the 3% and 1.5% returns listed above). All you have to do is book the travel how you want, when you want, with whomever you want and once the charge posts you redeem points towards it. The other travel option this card provides is the ability to convert HSBC Reward Points to frequent flyer programs. Three of them to be specific, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. At the time of posting this article the conversions to this programs equated to 0.96 to 1.92 Asia Miles per dollar spent, 1.08 to 2.16 KrisFlyer Miles per dollar spent and 1.2 to 2.4 Avios per dollar spent. When you take into account that most frequent flyer miles (or Avios) are worth around 1.5 cents per mile for economy class redemption and typically no less than 2 cents per mile for business class or higher you can see where there is outsized value provided by this credit card as well.

After the rewards side of things the HSBC card has some great benefits with the major one being No Foreign Transactions fees. That means the card does not charge the 2.5% on average fee that other cards do for purchases made in currencies other than the Canadian dollar. Then you have other benefits the card provides like airport lounge access via Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass  and an annual $100 travel enhancement credit that provides some nice savings when travelling if you check bags, have to pay for seat assignments etc.

If you are travelling outside of Canada I would recommend using the American Express Cobalt Card for your eats and drinks purchases as most should earn the 5x points which means you'd end up with at least a ~2.5% return (5% - 2.5% Foreign Transaction fee) whereas the HSBC card would get you 1% return on those same purchases. All other non Canadian spending whether travelling or shopping online however should go onto your HSBC card so you that you can save the 2.5% foreign transaction fee that the other two cards in this portfolio charge.

The HSBC card will also be your go to card for Costco purchases as Mastercard is the only brand of card accepted at their warehouses.

Recommended reading: HSBC World Elite Mastercard Review

Finally rounding out this portfolio is the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card which will most likely be the least used card of the portfolio as it earn rates don't match the other two cards but for the Visa card portion of this portfolio it has all your rewards needs handled. It covers you where only Visa cards are accepted plus the very easy to earn welcome bonus alone makes it worth getting this card. Just as with the other two cards you have multiple redemption avenues. You can redeem for flights via the RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule which is their fixed points for flights reward chart. Just like Amex's Fixed Points for Travel this is where you redeem a flat rate of points for travel within specific regions or from one region to another. For example you can redeem 15,000 points for short haul flight within your province or to a neighouring province or state with a maximum ticket value of $350 (before taxes and fees) With the RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule you can get up to a 2.91% return on your spending.

Like the other two cards in this portfolio the Avion card allows you to convert points to airline programs, namely American AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and WestJet Rewards. The two most popular being British Airways and WestJet, and there are occasions where RBC does include a bonus when you do convert your Avion Rewards points to British Airways or WestJet. With our valuation of 1.5 cents per British Airways Avios that means at a minimum the spend on the RBC card is worth 1.5% to 1.8% but you should be able to get more value than that out of those Avios.

The cards and their reward options:

  Any Travel Any Time
Booked with any travel provider
Fixed Points Reward Chart for flights Conversion Options
American Express Cobalt Card Yes Yes
(up to a 10% return on your spending)
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France KLM Flying Blue
British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Delta SkyMiles
Etihad Guest
Hilton Honors
Marriott Bonvoy
HSBC World Elite Mastercard Yes No British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card Not advertised, however it is technically possible but you lose a lot of value in the points Yes
(up to a 2.91% return on your spending)
American AAdvantage
British Airways Executive Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
WestJet Rewards


Here are further details on these three cards:

American Express Cobalt Card

Top Overall Travel Rewards Credit Card Top Hybrid Travel Credit

American Express Cobalt® Card

2023 Top Overall Travel Rewards Card | 2023 Top Hybrid Travel Rewards Card
In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 2,500 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your Card. This could add up to 30,000 points in a year. That’s up to $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets

Monthly Fee $12.99/month of Cardmembership ($155.88 annually) | Additional Cards: $0 | Annual interest rate 20.99% on purchases and 21.99% on funds advances

  • Earn 5x the points on eligible eats and drinks in Canada, including groceries and food delivery
  • Earn 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on eligible transit & gas purchases in Canada and eligible travel purchases. That's 2X the points on purchases that get you from point A to B 
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else. We won't tell you where to spend, we'll just reward you on your Card purchases
  • Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
  • Cobalt Cardmembers receive regular Perks such as bonus reward offers and access to great events
  • Access Front Of The Line® Presale & Reserved Tickets to some of your favourite concerts and theatre performances and special offers and events curated for Cardmembers with American Express® Experiences
  • American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details, current product information and Terms and Conditions, click the Apply now link. Conditions Apply
  • Click here to apply for the American Express Cobalt Card

Effective August 15, 2023, Cobalt Cardmembers will earn 5x the points on all eligible eats & drinks charged to their Card up to $2,500 monthly, for the same total of $30,000 annually already in place today.  Cardmembers will also continue to earn 3x on streaming subscriptions, 2x on eligible transit, gas & travel purchases and 1x on everything else. T&Cs apply.  While the annual earn does not change, the new monthly construct intends to curb gaming activity. The change should have little to no impact on the majority of Cardmembers who utilize the Card and Membership Rewards program as it was intended.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® Top No FX Fee Credit Card

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

Top No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card for 2023
Earn up to 80,000 Points* PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year*

Primary Cardholder Annual Fee: $149 (1st year annual fee rebate*) | Authorized User Annual Fee: $0 Per Card | Annual interest rate: 20.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances and balance transfers. | $80,000 personal or $150,000 household annual income

Terms & Conditions apply

Special offer: Earn up to 80,000 points* ($400 travel value) PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder for the first year* ($149 value) and receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit*. Must apply by August 31, 2023. Conditions apply.

• Welcome bonus of 20,000 points* ($100 travel value)
• Earn 10,000 points* each month when you spend at least $1,000 each month for the first 6 months of account opening (up to $300 travel value)
• First year annual fee rebate for the primary cardholder* ($149)
• Receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit*

• With the HSBC World Elite Mastercard you earn 6 points for $1 in Net Purchases which are Travel Purchases, 4 Points for $1 in Net Purchases that are Gas, Grocery and Drugstore Purchases and 2 Points for $1 in Net Purchases, other than Travel, Gas, Grocery and Drugstore Purchases.
• Save on all your foreign currency purchases (even online) with no additional foreign currency conversion charges.
• Enjoy maximum flexibility and redeem your Points on your terms for:

• Travel
• Gift cards and valuable merchandise
• Financial rewards
• Rewards for miles

*Terms and Conditions apply
®/TM Mastercard and World Elite are registered trademarks, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Used pursuant to licence

This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer)

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card

Get 35,000 welcome Avion points on approval* - Enough to fly anywhere in Canada & the U.S (Alaska and Hawaii require more points)

Annual Fee: $120 | Additional Card Fee: $50 | 20.99% on purchases 22.99%* on cash advances and balance transfers *21.99% if you reside in Quebec.

Terms & Conditions apply

  • Earn 1 RBC Rewards® point for every dollar you spend* and an extra 25% on eligible travel purchases.
  • When you are ready to travel again, Avioners can book flights with points on any airline, on any flight, at any time, early or last minute, with no blackout periods or restrictions.
  • Avioners earn points that never expire so your points will be waiting for your next adventure.
  • Redeem your points for travel and more. Use points for anything from paying bills and paying your card balance to redeeming for Gift Cards and Merchandise at top brands like Apple. The RBC Rewards program gives you the freedom of choice to use your points your way, and helps you make the most as an Avioner.
  • Eligible RBC Rewards members can also convert points to other loyalty programs including WestJet dollars, British Airways Avios points and Hudson’s Bay Rewards points.
  • Link your RBC card with a Petro-Points membership to instantly save 3₵ per litre on fuel at Petro-Canada stations and earn 20% more Petro-Points and 20% more RBC rewards points
  • Link your RBC card with a Rexall Be Well account and get 50 Be Well points for every $1 spent on eligible products at Rexall. Redeem Be Well points faster for savings in store on eligible purchases where 25,000 Be Well points = $10
  • Get access to RBC offers which provides access to earn points faster at specified brands
  • Extensive insurance including: mobile device insurance, travel insurance (trip cancellation, interruption and emergency medical) and other eligible purchases to protect you and your family
  • Avioners get access to luxury Visa Infinite benefits including first in line for exclusive events, and hotel and dining benefits.
  • Avioners no longer need 14-days to book travel using the RBC grid
  • Up to a 2.3% return on your spending depending on which reward ticket you book
  • Unwritten ability to redeem for Business Class tickets although at a lower rate of return when compared to the Avion Reward chart
  • Get $0 delivery fees for 12 months from DoorDash17 - Add your eligible RBC credit card to your DoorDash account to:
    • Get a 12-month complimentary DashPass subscription18 – a value of almost $120
    • Enjoy unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees on orders of $12 or more when you pay with your eligible RBC credit card

There you go. With these three cards you are pretty much ensuring that you have yourself covered for any type of travel rewards you like!


Other Card Options:

Although we feel the combination above is your best bet there are other card options that can fit the bill for all three of the issuers. On the Amex side you could consider the American Express® Gold Rewards Card or the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express®* Card. The Gold Card has all the same redemption options as the Cobalt Card however with lower earn rates however it does come with more travel benefits than the Cobalt Card. The Marriott card will provide points and benefits for hotel stays with Marriott and also those points can be converted to over 40 airlines which means you have a lot of travel options with that card as well. On the Mastercard side, there are no other Hybrid card options like the HSBC World Elite Card so here you'd maybe want to look at a cash back card like the Rogers World Elite Mastercard or a high points earning travel card like the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard. On the Visa side of things it the same story - other than the other RBC Avion card options there are no other Visa Hybrid Cards. Your best bet here would be a card like the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card as you can redeem points for any travel you like plus the card has great travel benefits and no foreign transaction fees.


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