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Top Credit Cards to Use on Road Trip (updated June 12, 2018)

See Also: Top Reasons to go on Road Trips

As we approach the summer months, road trips become more popular. What you want to do is have a nice batch of credit cards to use to optimize spending during the trip. Depending on where you are going, you may want to consider a different grouping of cards.

As a Canadian, generally road trips will either be across Canada, into the United States and some even all the way to Mexico. So I will provide a sample of some of the combinations that can put together.

*Note that I put in bold the relevant features of each credit card that optimizes road trips.

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:

Capital One Platinum MasterCard

If you are a Costco member, this card is already a no-brainer. This card is perfect for people who do not want to pay any annual fees while earning 2% on gas and 3% on dining purchases.

On a side note, as a Costco member, you may want to look into Costco travel when renting your car.

  • No annual fee
  • Exclusive to Costco members
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant purchases
  • Earn 2% cash back on gas purchases
  • Earn up to 1% cash back on all other purchases

OR

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

If you are not a Costco member and do not like paying annual fees, you may want to look into this card that gives you 2 or 3 categories where you can earn 2% cash back. Pick the categories that you plan to spend the most on during your road trip. If you are going to sign up for this card, you mine as well have a Tangerine account to benefit from the 3rd choice.

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2% cash back on a select group of categories (choice of 2 categories, a 3rd choice if you deposit the cash back into your Tangerine Savings Account)
  • Earn 0.5% cash back on all other purchases

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

AND combine it with one or more co-branded hotel credit card(s). Though there are very slim pickings in Canada these days:

MBNA Best Western MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Best Western properties
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • $50 annual fee for a supplementary cardholder (first year fee waived)
  • Earn 2 Starpoints for every $1 spent at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels (until July 31, 2018)
  • Earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 spent on all other purchases

For Travel to Mexico and the United States

There is some momentum building in Canada in terms of cards that waive foreign transaction fees. The following credit cards mitigate that fee.

Fido MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 3% cash back on foreign exchange purchases
  • Earn 2% cash back on Rogers purchases
  • Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases

OR

Rogers Platinum MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 3% cash back on foreign exchange purchases
  • Earn 2% cash back on Rogers purchases
  • Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases

OR

Rogers World Elite MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 4% cash back on foreign exchange purchases
  • Earn 2% cash back on Rogers purchases
  • Earn 1.75% cash back on all other purchases
  • Minimum income requirement of $80,000 annual personal income or $150,000 annual household income

The World Elite card is the most idea, but it does require a higher income. Either way, none of the cards have an annual fee, which is what makes it so attractive.

ALTERNATIVELY

If you are not a Rogers or Fido client, then you can always use the Home Trust no annual fee card for most purchases.

Home Trust Preferred Visa

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

AND

If you already have the Scotiabank card below, I would combine it with the Home Trust on to be used on select 4 points per dollar categories. All other purchases can still go on the Home Trust card mentioned above.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

  • $99 annual fee (often has a first year fee waived promotion)
  • $29 annual fee for a supplementary cardholder
  • Earn 15,000 sign up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 month (if you apply before June 30, 2018)
  • Earn 4 points for every $1 you spent on gas, grocery, dining and entertainment purchases
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases

One point is worth 1 cent. So even with a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, you are still coming out with 1.5% ahead (4% – 2.5%), which is the same value as the Fido MasterCard. The main difference is that the annual fee.

OR

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee
  • $50 annual fee for each supplementary card (first supplementary card free)
  • Earn 25,000 Scotia Rewards (worth $250) sign up bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (if you apply before June 30, 2018)
  • 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

Other Options

If you happen to have the cards below anyway, they are valuable to use if you have them anyway. But I would not go out of my way to sign up for the cards below just for small amounts of foreign transactions.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $10 monthly fee
  • No annual fee for a supplementary cardholder (maximum of 9)
  • Earn 30,000 points sign up bonus (earn 2,500 monthly bonus points after spending $500 in the first 12 months, for a total of 30,000)
  • Earn 5 points on grocery and restaurant purchases
  • Earn 2 points on travel and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 on all other purchases

Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card (Ontario residents only)

  • $99 annual fee (first year fee waived for a limited time)
  • $30 annual fee for a supplementary cardholder
  • Earn 3 points for every $1 of net purchases in foreign currencies
  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 of net purchases

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard (exclusive to HSBC Premier clients)

  • $149 annual fee
  • No annual fee for supplementary cardholders
  • Receive $100 annual travel credit
  • Earn 6 HSBC points for every $1 spent on travel purchases
  • Earn 3 HSBC points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Receive a Boingo membership
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Requires $100,000 in HSBC deposits/investments or $500,000 HSBC mortgage

HSBC Jade World Elite MasterCard (by invite only)

  • $299 annual fee (fee waived for Jade HSBC Premier member)
  • No annual fee for supplementary cardholders
  • Receive $200 annual travel credit
  • Earn 6 HSBC points for every $1 spent on travel purchases
  • Earn 3 HSBC points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Receive a LoungeKey MasterCard Airport Experiences for unlimited lounge access
  • Receive a Boingo membership
  • Receive 10% discount on select hotel bookings (book directly through the HSBC Expedia and Agoda websites)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Requires $1,000,000 in deposits/investments

Do you have any other suggestions?

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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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