Frequent travellers know how quickly the costs of travel can add up. Fortunately, travel rewards credit cards in Canada offer a variety of perks, making them useful for anyone who loves to travel.

Understanding Travel Rewards Credit Cards

There are different types of travel rewards credit cards. Some offer points or miles as rewards, others offer cash back. Rewards are earned when the cardholder uses their card for purchases, often in specific categories such as travel or travel-related products. The rewards can be accumulated over time and can be used when enough points have accrued. Be it points, miles, or cash back, using these rewards can offer users a significant discount on the cost of travel.

Travellers can use the points to upgrade their travel experience with items like:

  • Airport lounge access
  • Upgrades to business or premium class
  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi
  • Travel insurance
  • Vehicle rental insurance

Many of these travel rewards credit cards don’t carry foreign transaction fees and may offer additional benefits, such as free checked bags and priority boarding with specific airline partners.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Travel Rewards Credit Card

Many travel credit cards come with an annual fee in exchange for more extensive rewards. For a frequent traveller, this annual fee can be earned back very quickly. Potential cardholders should research different cards, weighing the costs versus benefits, in order to decide which card to apply for.

Taking some time to research the rewards structures of different cards can also aid in decision-making. Points, miles, and cash back all have their pros and cons, depending on the traveller. To some, cash back is the most beneficial reward. To others, earning points or miles might be ideal. Sign-up bonuses and introductory offers can also sweeten the deal.

Most travel rewards credit card redemption policies are straightforward, but there are a few that require mental gymnastics to figure out how to redeem their rewards. The easier the redemption, the better the card. Can the rewards be used on anything from flights and flight upgrades to hotels and vehicle rentals, or are they limited to one or two specific purchase avenues? What about blackout dates and travel restrictions? Each of these factors should be taken into account when deciding on a card.

Tips for Maximizing Travel Rewards

Travellers should spend strategically. Using the card for travel purchases and smaller everyday purchases (when applicable) can reap large rewards. If it is a category-based card, take advantage of any bonus categories that may be open for a limited time.

Redeeming rewards effectively is as simple as looking for offers. Flexibility when travelling can also be beneficial. Some of the best offers on flights and hotels are available in January, which is considered a “downtime” for travel. Travellers can use this time to plan fantastic vacations while avoiding the crowds and headaches of travelling during the peak seasons. It is also advisable to look for rewards cards that can be combined with other travel deals, loyalty programs, and discounts.

Potential Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Everyone who applies for a credit card needs to take the time to read the fine print and understand what they’re signing up for. Some rewards from certain cards expire if not used within a specified time limit. This may not be a deciding factor for someone who travels a lot and will use their rewards quickly, but someone who is looking to save their rewards to use for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation should look at cards with rewards that don’t expire.

Just as not all travellers are the same, not all travel rewards credit cards are identical. Knowing what is needed and expected from a card makes finding the perfect card that much easier.