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Finding the Top Airline Credit Card in Canada: A Complete Guide

on 11 Jun, 2019

Did you know that the frequent flyer miles you accrue by spending money with certain credit cards amount to about one to two cents per mile?

That might not seem like a lot, but when you think about the kind of spending you do every day, it makes sense to pay with a rewards-optimized credit card or even an airline-specific one.

What’s the top airline credit card in Canada? It depends on your needs, your lifestyle, and your spending habits. Here’s what you need to know to find the right card for you.

The Lowdown on Airline Credit Cards

So, you want to know what the best airline credit cards are. To answer that question, you need to first understand how they work.

Credit card companies tend to offer rewards in three ways:

  1. Points
  2. Cashback
  3. Rewards

Airline credit cards fall into the first or last category. When you spend, you’ll receive a set amount of points per dollar. Or, you’ll receive rewards in the form of airline mileage or perks that you can redeem for flight vouchers.

Collecting frequent flyer miles like this is easy to do if you have a rewards credit card and you’re optimizing the way you spend.

However, when it comes time to choose the right card, it really comes down to how you spend.

Another option is to open up a line of credit directly with certain airlines.

Companies like Air Canada and WestJet offer credit cards directly through the airline, or through a partnership program that allows you to accrue points you can use for travel purchases.

It’s basically like signing up for a rewards program and a new credit card all at once!

You won’t receive the same kinds of perks that you might if you signed up for a regular rewards credit card, but you’ll definitely receive lots of airline miles just for using your card to pay for everyday purchases.

These kinds of credit cards make the most sense for people who already do a lot of traveling or businesses that need to send their employees across the country for work.

How Do Credit Card Miles Work?

When it comes down to it, it’s important to understand the difference between credit card miles and frequent flyer miles.

If you have an airline-specific credit card, then you’ll likely receive frequent flyer miles that you can only use with that airline.

Airline-branded credit cards are pretty popular in Canada. While they do lock you down to one company, they can work great depending on your spending habits and the kind of flying you do.

If you know that Air Canada frequently flies your most favorite routes, for example, then an Air Canada card makes total sense. However, we’ll get into that in a bit.

When researching airline credit cards, you might come across other types of credit cards that offer airline miles as one of their perks.

Credit card miles generally give you a lot more flexibility when it comes time to cash in the points. The downside to this, though, is that they usually have a fixed value-per-mile.

This isn’t the case with frequent flyer miles. With frequent flyer miles that you rack up on an airline credit card, you’re only able to spend them with that specific airline or a partner airline.

However, you often receive more in value as you’re able to redeem the same number of miles for a more valuable reward than you might with a normal rewards credit card.

Make sense? Good! Now you’re ready to compare different airline credit cards to find the right one for your lifestyle and spending habits.

What’s the Best Top Airline Credit Card in Canada?

When it comes to analyzing the best airlines credit card, you have to take into account a few things:

  • Annual Fees
  • Signup Bonus
  • Cash Back
  • Mileage Points
  • Travel Insurance
  • Other Perks

Here’s how the top travel credit cards in Canada stack up against each other.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

WestJet gains a lot of attention for offering some of the best loyalty program perks around. The rewards and mileage they offer through their Mastercard are no different.

When you sign up for the card, you receive $250 in WestJet dollars that you can spend on airline purchases. This is a pretty nice signup bonus that isn’t comparable to what other companies in Canada offer.

The annual fee is a bit higher though, coming in a $119. However, the $250 signup bonus clearly offset this fee. The annual round-trip voucher you receive for a minimum of $99 also helps offset this annual fee.

Regarding points, you’ll receive 2% back in WestJet dollars when you purchase WestJet flights or vacation packages. You get 1.5% back on all other purchases.

The actual travel perks themselves are pretty great with this card, too! WestJet offers a pretty comprehensive travel insurance package with this credit card and you can get one checked bag for free no matter when or where you fly. 

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Credit Card

If you prefer to fly with Air Canada, then you’ll want to look for a card that can allow you to earn Aeroplan miles. This is exactly what the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite credit card offers.

The $120 annual fee is just $1 more than that of WestJet’s, but it’s waived for the first year.

The signup bonus is pretty sizeable as well, as you receive 15,000 Aeroplan Miles as soon as you make your first purchase with the card and 15,000 more if you spend at least $1,000 in the first three months.

You get 1.5 miles for ever $1 you spend on groceries, gas, at drugstores, and on AirCanada.com. You’ll also get 1 mile per $1 you spend on everything else.

Depending on your spending habits, this might make more sense for you than receiving a percentage back in points for the purchases you make.

Here, you’ll need to read a bit of the fine print. Air Canada reports that to use your Aeroplan points with them, you need to use the market fare option. This means that you won’t be able to redeem your points using the fixed mileage option.

American Express Gold Rewards

American Express isn’t an airline, but their Gold Rewards credit card offers pretty great travel perks and mileage points for Canadians.

This card comes with the highest annual fee. At $150 per year, the American Express Gold Rewards credit card is pricey, but well worth it if you can take advantage of the perks.

For example, the signup bonus is 25,000 points. You receive this after you spend $1,500 in the first three months.

Experts note that 25,000 points with Aeroplan are enough for a round-trip ticket from Canada to anywhere in the United States, so that’s a pretty high value if you can find a way to spend $1,500 in three months.

With this card, you’ll be able to earn American Express Membership Rewards points. You can redeem these points at a ratio of 1:1 with Aeroplan, making it similar to the TD Aeroplan card.

However, this card offers you more per dollar that you spend. You’ll receive 2 points per $1 that you spend on groceries, gas, pharmacy purchases, and travel. You can receive 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

As an added perk, you can also transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Marriot Rewards, which is great if you stay in a lot of hotels.

If you travel a lot within Canada but don’t necessarily need to fly a lot, then this card is still worth taking a look at simply due to the variety of perks you can receive that aren’t connected to a specific airline.

Choosing the Top Airline Credit Card

What’s the top airline credit card? Figuring out what’s the best credit card to get airline miles really depends on what you’re looking for and how you spend your money.

If you spend a lot of money on flights already, then the WestJet dollars you receive for purchasing through the airline make sense. This card also makes sense if you’d like to enjoy premium travel insurance and plan to travel a lot each year.

Travelers who frequently fly with Air Canada might enjoy the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card due to its alliance with Air Canada. This card also rewards you with more points if you spend at gas stations and grocery stores.

Weight the pros and cons as well as the costs and benefits! Then, enjoy receiving rewards and try to make the most of them in a way that fits into your financial lifestyle.

If all of this spending has got you feeling a little weary, then take a look at our other finance articles to find out how to ensure you stay on top of your credit or even repair your credit.

It’s all a part of enjoying the perks of credit card rewards!

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