Which Credit Card Offers the Best Value for Travel Rewards?

Which Credit Card Offers the Best Value for Travel Rewards?

17021628_649608438580848_6909876236257961030_nMy dad turned 50 this year and to celebrate my parents are taking the family on a Caribbean Cruise. The only catch is that we have to pay for our flights (a small price to pay for a free vacation). We were hoping to score some pretty reasonable flights to Florida but we will unfortunately be travelling during the American Thanksgiving, making those affordable flights not so affordable. So I did what the Accountant’s Wife would do. I booked our fights using the points I had collected over the years, costing me a whopping $0.00. That’s right, not only did I get my cruise paid for, but my flights were also essentially free. I will admit however, that we are currently not using the credit card that provides the best bang for our buck. So I did a little digging into the top 5 travel credit cards from the 5 biggest banks in Canada: Toronto Dominion, Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Bank of Montreal, and Scotiabank. Here is what I discovered.

When looking for a credit card that meets your financial needs there are 4 things you need to keep in mind to make an informed and educated decisions:

  1. The annual fee of the card.
  2. The number of points earned per dollar spent.
  3. The point value (or how many points it takes to earn $1.00 in rewards).
  4. How many points you need to offset the cost of the card (this does not mean that having the annual fee waived, rather you collect enough points so that you earn more travel rewards than what the card costs you per year).

I look at the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, RBC Visa Infinite Avion, CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card, BMO World Elite Master Card, and the Scotiabank Gold American Express Gold Card. The ideal travel card will offer a low annual fee, will have a point value that will allow you to collect points quickly, and will allow you to offset the cost of the annual fee without having to spend too much money on your credit card.

All the credit cards listed had comparable travel insurance so the playing field started pretty even. At a first glance the Scotiabank Gold American Express seems to be the best deal. It has the lowest annual fee ($99) and because you collect 4 points per $1.00 spent, and 5000 points equates to $50.00 in travel rewards, you only need to spend $2,500 on the credit card to offset the cost of the annual fee. BUT…when you read the fine print, this card has many more restrictions for collecting points, so you may end up collecting points at a slower pace than the other 4 cards. The BMO World Elite MasterCard is the priciest of the cards but does have some perks. Upon joining you get $200 in travel rewards and you also get some great benefits such as 4 complimentary airport lounge visits per year, but you need to collect 150,000 points (or spend $15,000 on your credit card) before you earn enough rewards to offset the annual fee of the card. The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite card and the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card are nearly identical. They both have an annual fee of $120, offer a $150 travel rewards welcome bonus and have the same point value (100 points = $1.00 in travel rewards). However, with the CIBC card you earn 1.5 points per dollar spent compared to the RBC card which earns you 1 point per dollar spent. What this means is that you collect points more quickly with the CIBC credit card. In turn, you need to spend $4,000 less on the CIBC card in order to earn enough points to offset the cost of the annual fee. This leaves us with the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card. This card has a $120 annual fee and offers a $100 travel rewards welcome bonus. With the TD visa you earn 3 points per dollar spent and 9 points per dollar spent when booking through Expedia. With the TD Visa, 200 points equates to $1.00 in travel rewards, but comparatively to the CIBC credit card, you only need to spend $8,000 on the credit card to accumulate enough points to offset the cost of the card.

So with all this said, how would I rank these cards based on value?

  1. TD First Class Travel visa Infinite Card
    • Why? Because of all the cards, it has one of the most competitive point values allowing you to offset the cost of the card more quickly. You also earn 9 POINTS per dollar spent when booking travel through Expedia.
  2. CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card
    • Why? This credit card also offers a competitive points value as you earn 1.5 points per dollar spent and you don’t need to spend a fortune on the card to offset the annual fee.
  3. RBD Visa Infinite Avion
    • Why? The point value of this credit card is not as competitive as the CIBC card and will require you to spend more on the card to offset the annual fee.
  4. BMO World Elite Master Card
    • Why? This credit card is the most expensive of the cards and requires you to spend the most amount of money on the card before you accumulate enough points to offset the annual fee.
  5. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
    • Why? This credit card has many more restrictions on collecting points compared to the other credit cards.

Top 5 Travel Credit Cards

Happy Travels!

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