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Top Credit Cards to Use on Road Trips (updated April 1, 2019)

See Also: Top Reasons to go on Road Trips

I usually try to update this post once a year, as we get into spring. Historically, I have updated this post in June, but it may be more useful to update it sooner. The Canadian credit card landscape has changed quite a bit over the past year, so this post was definitely due for an update.

For Canadians, road trips generally consist of cross country or cross boarder to the United States. Perhaps some people venture further into Mexico, but probably not much further south. So this post will focus on two portfolios to put together, for travel within Canada and for travel to the United States / Mexico.

*Note that I only listed the relevant features of the cards that maximizes road trip related purchases, and I bolded benefits that I would like to emphases further. 

For Travel within Canada

If you limit your road trip to within Canada, or a huge portion of the trip is within Canada, you may want to consider the following cards.

Restaurant / Eating Out

First off, restaurant purchases is going to be one of the major expenses for a road trip. The top no annual fee pick at the moment is the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card, with the following highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 10% cash back on restaurants and bars (up to $500 in spending or within the first 4 months) (no time limit specified)
  • Earn 4% cash back on restaurants and bars (after the bonus offer expires)
  • Have at least $15,000 in personal annual income

Alternatively, if you are willing to pay an annual fee, I would suggest one of the two cards:

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $10 monthly fee
  • No annual fee for a supplementary cardholder (maximum of 9)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on restaurants, bars, cafés, food delivery and groceries

OR

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Alternatively, if you spend enough to justify a higher annual fee card, this card would make the most sense as you are getting 4 points per dollar (worth 4% cash back) on key road trip categories.

  • $99 annual fee (often has a first year fee waived promotion)
  • $29 annual fee for a supplementary cardholder
  • Earn 4 points for every $1 you spent on gas, grocery, dining and entertainment purchases (in Canada only)
  • Have at least $12,000 in personal annual income

Hotel / Accommodations

If you already have the Cobalt card for restaurant purchases, you mine as well take advantage of its multiplier bonus on travel purchases

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $10 monthly fee
  • No annual fee for a supplementary cardholder (maximum of 9)
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel, transit & gas purchases (in Canada only)

Otherwise, you can earn and redeem points with the only two co-branded hotel loyalty cards in Canada. But I would only use these two cards for purchases made at their locations for the multiplier bonus:

MBNA Best Western MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Best Western properties

American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at participating Marriot and SPG hotels

Gas Purchases

If you already have either the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card or American Express Cobalt Card (see above), then I would use one of those two cards for gas purchases. Otherwise, I would put it on the Rogers World Elite MasterCard card that I will discuss below.

For Travel to Mexico and the United States

When it comes to travelling to the United States, you will want to have a strong card that waives foreign transaction fees. The two current best no annual fee cards to choose from are:

Rogers World Elite MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 4% cash back on foreign exchange purchases
  • Earn 1.75% cash back on all other purchases
  • Have at least $80,000 in personal annual income or $150,000 household income

AND

Home Trust Preferred Visa

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Receive a Roadside Assistance membership
  • No foreign transaction fees

In addition to a higher return on foreign purchases, I like the 1.75% cash back on all other purchases with the Rogers card, not to mention that Home Trust has Roadside Assistance membership. Therefore, you may even want to have a combination of the two cards. Neither have an annual fee anyway.

ALTERNATIVELY

If you already have the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card in your wallet, then I would use this card on the multiplier bonus categories. But I would not get this card just for road trips only, only if you can take advantage of the other benefits to justify the annual fee.

  • $139 annual fee
  • $50 annual fee for each supplementary card (first supplementary card free)
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

The idea is that you want to have several cards to use to maximize your return, depending on the purchases.

Which other cards would you suggest to add to a road trip portfolio? Please let us know in the comment section below!

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

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