How To Acquire Travel Rewards: Rewards and Values

Now that we know that credit card signup bonuses are where the big earning potential is, you may be wondering what exactly a large sign up bonus is. In this edition, we’ll cover a few current credit card offers . After my initial research, I was floored to see that credit card companies will be quite generous with their offers to entice new sign ups. I’ve outlined some of the best current offers below. Let’s dive in

The Big Boys

American Express Business Platinum Card:

Yes, it’s a business card and I know what you’re thinking. I don’t own a business so this won’t be for me! Au contraire….I will also cover this in more detail in a future edition, but American Express is probably the easiest in Canada to get a business card. This card carries a $499 annual fee and requires a $7000 minimum spend in the first 3 months. The daily earn rate is 1.25 Membership Rewards(MR) for every dollar spent. AmEx is well known for allowing members to refer certain groups of cards to family and friends, allowing members to earn referral bonuses for doing so. Here are some of the benefits of this card:

  1. 75,000 Membership Rewards points upon meeting minimum spend (this offer is only available through a referral link.) Upon meeting the minimum spend, you will have earned 83,750 MR points. What is 83,750k MR points worth? If we assume a CPP of .$02 that’s a value of $1,675. AmEx Membership Rewards are the most flexible point currency out there. They can be transferred to Marriott Bonvoy at 1:1.2 ratio, Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio and British Airways Avios at 1:1 ratio to name just a few.
  2. With the American Express’ referral program you will earn 20,000 MR points for each approved referral. That’s around $400 in value for every friend you can get to sign up!
  3. Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy – Benefits of this status include: 25% Bonus points for stays in the Marriott Bonvoy program, enhanced room upgrades, welcome gift of 250 or 500 points in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 2 P.M. late checkout and 15 Elite qualifying nights towards the next tier. Obtaining gold status is no easy task and you get it immediately upon approval. The value here is self explanatory.
  4. Priority Pass membership with unlimited access for you and a guest at more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. Value- wise, a priority pass membership costs $99USD and each visit costs $34USD per person per visit. If you and your spouse were to use this 4 times per year, you have a value of $371USD the first year. Also food and drinks are complimentary in the lounges (yes, that includes alcohol!) How much money have you spent at food courts and bars while waiting to board your flight?
  5. Instant Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
  6. Instant Avis Preferred status
  7. A host of insurance coverage too long to list here but is considered amongst the best in the industry

If we value the 83,750 points you will have earned at a base value of .$02 per point, you have a net gain of $1176 (83,750 X .02 = $1675 – $499 annual fee). As shown in our flight comparisons between cash fares and Aeroplan redemptions these 83k+ points can buy a one way business class fare from YYZ to Hong Kong which carries more than a $5400 cash price tag. Another way of looking at it is you would only need an additional 3k points for four round trip economy tickets from YYZ to Nassau. All of this from acquiring one credit card.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege:

This card carries a $599 annual fee. Minimum spend is $1000 in the first 3 months to unlock all of the bonuses. Minimum Income requirements: $200k individual or household. Daily earn rates are 2 points for every dollar spent on Air Canada, 1.5 points on gas, dining, groceries and other travel and 1.25 points for every other dollar spent.

  1. 20,000 Aeroplan points upon first purchase and 30,000 upon meeting minimum spend.
  2. Air Canada buddy pass upon meeting minimum spend. This is new to the Aeroplan brand and is basically a “buy one get one free” economy fare voucher from Air Canada. It can be redeemed on round-trip or one-way flights. If used on a one way flight it is finished at that point and there is no remaining value left over. It only covers the base fare, so you will be responsible for taxes and fees. Once deposited into your account you have one year to book your travel. But you could wait until just before it expires to book a trip 11 months in the future to give yourself almost 2 years of validity.
  3. Priority check in, boarding and standby on Air Canada flights
  4. Free first checked bag on Air Canada flights
  5. Maple Leaf Lounge access in North America
  6. Priority Pass membership and 6 complimentary visits per year. After that you have to pay just the $34 USD entrance fee
  7. Complimentary Visa Infinite Concierge
  8. $100 Nexus rebate every 48 months
  9. An extremely strong package of insurance benefits
  10. Preferred pricing on Air Canada point redemptions

While admittedly the $599 annual fee is intimidating, the benefits still far exceed it. Let’s say that you are going to make your $1,000 minimum spend on nothing but groceries. That would be easy to do in 3 months, right? That would earn you an additional 1500 Aeroplan points, for a total of 51,500 points. If we assume a base value for an Aeroplan point =$.02 x 51,500 you’d get a value of $1,030.

Next up is the buddy pass. Been dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? A quick search on Air Canada shows $675 per person on the cheap end in October 2021. Add that $675 fare for your friend on to your value in this card. Or maybe you will only be adding a little over $200 because you and your friend want to go see family in Montreal. The 6 Priority Pass visits hold a value of $303 USD. This could go on and on, but I am sure you are seeing where the value in this card is despite it’s high annual fee.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve:

This card also carries a $599 annual fee. Minimum spend is $3000 in the first three months. You get a $100 statement credit upon meeting minimum spend which effectively makes the annual fee $499 for the first year. Earning rates are 3 Aeroplan points for every dollar spent with Air Canada, 2 points for dining and food delivery but not for groceries and 1 point for everything else.

  1. 35,000 Aeroplan points upon meeting the $3,000 minimum spend in the first 3 months and 5000 bonus points for each month you charge at least $1000 dollars to the card in the first 6 months for a potential total of 65,000 points. In my case, I was also a part of the waitlist for the release of this card and upon approval received 10,000 points. Additionally on my first statement I received an additional 5,000 bonus points. I’m expecting to earn 80,000 points at the 6 month mark just in bonuses and with $6000 of daily spend in that 6 months, I will bring in a minimum 6,000 points essentially giving me 86k Aeroplan points in the first 6 months
  2. Priority check in, boarding and standby on Air Canada flights
  3. Free first checked bag on Air Canada flights
  4. Maple leaf lounge access in North America
  5. Strong insurance package
  6. Preferred pricing on Air Canada point redemptions

Once again the blow of a high annual fee is lessened by the $100 statement credit. The 86,600 points will hold a value of (86,600 x $.02 = $1732). Just doing a quick search not logged into Air Canada I am seeing round trip flights to Paris in business class for 57.2k points. With close to 30k points left over, you would still have enough points to fly round trip Toronto to Vancouver in business class. If seeing Canada is your thing you could turn 86,000 points into 4 (or more) round trip economy flights within Canada. Once again, you can clearly see where the value in this card is.

The Next Tier

American Express Gold Rewards Card:

This card carries a $150 annual fee and a Minimum spend of $1500 in the first three months with earning rates of 2 MR points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, pharmacies and travel and 1 point for all other purchases.

  1. 25,000 MR points upon meeting minimum spend (this offer is only available via a referral link). If all of your spend is in the 2 x category, you will earn an additional 3000 MR points
  2. Additional 5000 points for adding a supplementary card during application. The first supplementary card is free and you can only get this during the application process to earn, so don’t forget to sign up for it. After that additional cards are $50 each
  3. With American Express’ referral program you can earn 5000 MR points for each referral
  4. Decent insurance package

Once again, (33,000 MR points x $.02 = $660). Still outweighing the annual fee significantly. As you can see with just a few Amex cards that earn MR points, the points can pile up quickly. Their flexibility is what makes them so valuable with their ability to be transferred to multiple airline and hotel currencies. It is the main reason I think they are by far the best rewards program in all of Canada.

RBC Avion Visa Infinite:

This card carries a $120 Annual fee. There is no Minimum Spending requirement. Minimum income requirements: $60k personal and $100k household. Daily earn rate of 1.25 Avion points spent on travel. 1 Avion point for all other purchases.

  1. 15,000 Avion points upon first purchase
  2. Avion points, like Amex Membership Rewards, can be transferred to multiple partners. This makes this card extremely valuable and why I am listing it despite “only” having a 15,000 point welcome bonus. Transfer partners include: Cathay pacific Asia miles at a 1:1 ratio. British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio with frequent 30-50% bonus events. WestJet Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. American Airlines AAdvantage at a 1:.07 ratio
  3. Strong Insurance package

Regarding the British Airways transfers, RBC will offer a bonus transfer to British Airways several times a year. Catching it at a 50% bonus is where you can maximize earnings. Your 15,000 Avion points quickly becomes 22,500 BA Avios. That is good for 2 short haul flights, with British Airways partners, such as Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur if travelling within Southeast Asia. Or if like me you are collecting BA Avios regularly, adding an additional 22,500 points to your stockpile is never a bad thing

American Express Marriott Bonvoy:

This card carries a $120 annual fee. Minimum Spend of $1500 in the first three months. Earning rates of 5 Bonvoy points for all Marriott purchases and 2 points on all other purchases.

  1. 50,000 Bonvoy points upon meeting minimum spend
  2. Instant Silver elite status and 15 qualifying nights with Marriott.
  3. Anniversary free night award when renewing the card.
  4. Decent Insurance package

Marriott Bonvoy is a currency that we haven’t talked about yet. It’s not nearly as valuable as Aeroplan or British Airways Avios. However, when travelling we all need somewhere to stay and to start building a stockpile of points in the worlds largest hotel chain can never be a bad thing.

50,000 Bonvoy points could get you:

  1. One free night at a category 6 Marriott hotel
  2. Two free nights at a category 4
  3. Five free nights at a category 2
  4. Six free nights at category 1

Bonvoy points can also be transferred to more than 40 airline partners.

60k Bonvoy points will earn you 25k airline miles with any of their transfer partners. Of course nobody wants to pay annual fees but in this instance it’s worth it. Individually the annual free night certificate or the welcome bonus cover the annual fee easily. Both those options combined make this a no-brainer in my opinion.

The annual free night certificate is worth up to 35k points but can only be redeemed for one night. You want to maximize this as best you can by redeeming for a night with a cash value of at least $350. You should be able to find a category 5 hotel for this redemption. Marriott also allows a fifth free night when redeeming points. You book for five nights but only redeem points for four and the fifth is free.


In closing, this list is not meant to be a concise guide on what cards to acquire. There are way too many cards to list for the purpose of this demonstration. This was simply a way to show some of the values associated with a few different cards. Discovering these values is what kicked everything into high gear for us in playing this game.


Minimum income requirements are mentioned on two of the cards above. Most banks have this requirement except for American Express. Just because it says it on the application page does not mean they are going to verify your income. More often than not they don’t. However, this is absolutely a your milage may vary situation. I have been asked to provide proof of income before being approved by CIBC. There are many data points that both HSBC and Scotia will also verify income.

Previously: What is Credit Card Churning

Next up: A Multitude of Programs

Photo by Gilles Rolland-Monnet on Unsplash

#AmericanExpress #milesandpoints #creditcards #travel #travelrewards #budgettravel



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