Should You Cash In On Travel Credit Cards Bonuses?

Some travel credit cards offer thousands of points to new signups

Canadians love their credit card rewards – and they also love to travel. As the snow continues to fly well into March, you’re likely itching to trade slushy streets for sunny beaches – and those hard-saved Air Miles or Aeroplan points are sure to come in handy.

Problem in, points take time – and money – to accumulate, and that can be a problem if you’re looking to fly now. Some credit card lenders are appealing to this land locked consumer group by offering massive sign up perks on their travel rewards cards. We’re talking about thousands of bonus points for new cardholders, with some even promising a short haul flight.

It may seem mighty tempting to sign up for these instant rewards – but how far will they actually take you? Here, we review three of the most popular premium travel rewards cards on RateSupermarket.ca. Each card promises hassle-free booking with no blackouts, an easy way to earn points on everyday buys and packs a big bonus for new sign ups. Let’s look at the fine print to see if these cards really have legs:

American Express Gold Rewards Charge Card

The Fine Print: This is a charge card, so it must be paid off every month – failure to do so will result in 30 per cent interest charged on late purchases. That said, if used properly, this card comes with a zero per cent APR and zero maximum balance. It also comes with an annual fee of $150, though the first year is free.

The Points Promise: This card will gift you 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards when you spend $500 within the first three months. Doesn’t sound too shabby – but what is that worth in dollars and cents? According to AMEX, the exchange rate for airfare and travel purchases is $10 for every 1000 points, leaving you with the grand total of $250.

Cashing In: One solid perk featured by this card is the ability to instantly redeem points, even as you earn them. For example, let’s say you pay for your trip’s airfare, hotel booking and car rental on your card. The points earned from those purchases can then be redeemed right away on your purchase, instantly lowering your costs.

This card also earns points quickly, racking up double on eligible gas, grocery and drugstore purchases and on all travel purchases such as airfare bookings, hotels, car rentals, cruises and holiday packages.

ScotiaGold Passport Visa

The Fine Print: This card comes with an annual interest rate of 19.99 per cent, and an annual fee of $110.

The Points Promise: New cardholders will receive 5,000 bonus points with their first purchase on the card. With $10 per every 1000 points, that equals to a value of $50. They’ll also get five per cent cash back on travel purchases made through Scotia Rewards Travel Service.

Cashing In: Five per cent cash back will certainly go a long way on large travel buys such as airfare and hotels, as long as you book them through Scotia’s internal travel service. Otherwise, travel can be booked via any method, with points redeemed once purchases appear on your credit card balance.

One point is earned on the dollar of every purchase, with no retailer limitations.

You might also like: The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card>

RBC Visa Infinite Avion

The Fine Print: This card comes with a 19.99 per cent interest rate, and $120 annual fee.

The Points Promise: 15,000 points for new cardholders – enough for a shorthaul flight!

Cashing In: While RBC’s points exchange is 100 points for every dollar, its airfare rewards are calculated a bit differently, according to flight type and purchase price. For example, the 15,000 sign up bonus can instantly be redeemed for a short haul flight (a destination in the neighbouring province or state) with a ticket price of up to $350.  One hundred thousand points may be redeemed for a long haul flight (think Australia, Asia or Africa), up to a value of $2,000.

Points are earned on every dollar, with 25 per cent more earned on 25 per cent more on travel purchases such as airfare, hotels and car rentals on the card.

Have you ever cashed in credit card points for a trip or big ticket item? Let us know in a comment, or visit us on Facebook and Twitter!

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