Air Mile Credit Card Options for Canadians | The Uncle C Case Study

In case you don’t know, I’m a Canadian citizen. However, I’m a US Permanent resident, and I’m glad I am because Americans have much better credit card reward options than Canadians.

Today I’m going to use one of my uncles as a case study to share what I would do if I were in his situation.

What you need to know about Uncle C is that he lives in Canada. He lives close to the Chippewa Airport and several hours away from the Toronto Airport (YYZ). Because of the expense of flying out of Chippewa, he often flies out of Toronto or Hamilton. The problems is this – flying within Canada is crazy expensive!

Uncle C has a daughter in Toronto, a son in Chicago, and a son in Vancouver, British Columbia.

#1 – Get the Starwood American Express.

The Starwood American Express (as we’ve discussed before) transfers to American Airlines and several other airlines. The cost of an award ticket between YYZ and YVR is 12,500 each way or 25,000 round trip.

This card comes with a 10,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of card membership.

After spending another $10,000 on the card, the points could be transferred to American Airlines. With the 5,000 point transfer bonus, he’d end up with 25,000 American Airline miles. That’s a simple hack for Canadians to earn miles with a US based airline since there is no other Canadian credit card that earns miles with American.

If a ticket to Vancover was $600, then you can get about a 3.33% return on each dollar you spend on this card.

This card has a $120 annual fee and earns 1 Starpoint per dollar spent. Personally, I think this is one of the best award credit cards for Canadians.

#2 – Get the RBC British Airways Visa with a 50,000 miles sign up bonus.

If Uncle C and his wife each got the card and met the minimum spend of $5,000, they could have 100,000 BA miles. The $10,000 in 3 months could be an issue, but if they stocked up on a year’s worth of gift cards or something, I bet it wouldn’t be impossible. (Of course, it is possible to stagger the two applications to spread the minimum spending period over 3 months).

With Avios points, flights between Chicago and Toronto require 9,000 miles round trip.

Flights between Toronto and Vancouver would need 34,000 BA miles (9,000 RT to get to JFK and 25,000 to get from JFK to YVR).

With these two credit cards, they could get three round trip tickets to Vancouver. Not a bad deal because tickets can easily cost $600 or more.

The card does have an annual fee of $135.

If a ticket to Vancouver was $600, then you can get about 1.76% return on each dollar you spend on this card. If a ticket to Chicago is $200, then you could get about a 2.2% return. (The cost of award ticket taxes is not included in this estimate).

Avios miles are great for domestic US and Canada travel. I wouldn’t want to use them to fly to some international destinations as Avios can spit out some crazy high fuel surcharges. Just this week, flights between YYZ and LHR had $3,000 + taxes and fees for award flights.

#3 – Collect American Express Rewards points.

Why?

American Express Rewards transfer to Avois and Delta.

Delta is the only airline that services Chippewa Airport (the closest airport to his house).

Unfortunately, membershiprewards.ca indicates less profitable transfer rates than Americans enjoy.

For example:

  • 1000 AMEX Rewards -> 1,000 Aeroplan miles
  • 1000 AMEX Rewards -> 7,500 Avios miles
  • 1000 AMEX Rewards -> 7,500 Delta miles

Why I’d avoid Aeroplan:

Most Canadians think that earning Aeroplan miles is their only option. Certainly, with the Air Canada presence throughout Canada, they are hard to beat for folks who only plan to fly within Canada.

However, with the Aeroplan recent award devaluation and addition of fuel surcharges on many partners, you’ll lose a lot of the value of your points.

Personally, I’d much rather earn Starwood Starpoints and have the opportunity to transfer to American Airlines or even to use them for cheap hotel stays.

 

Comments

  1. Del says

    Air Mile Credit Card Options for Canadians;
    I also dislike Areoplan for these same reasons you have stated, but I cant figure out how you can fly between 2 cdn cites using US airline miles? (other then maybe doing mulitcity with USA stops – which means more points used then standard 25000 pts)

    • says

      Del,
      Your right. For flights within Canada (departing and arriving) there are not many options. If one could fly out of a close US city there would be better choices using US miles.

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