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Top Credit Cards to Use on Road Trips (updated May 11, 2021)

See Also: Top Reasons to go on Road Trips

It has been over 2 years since I last updated this post, so I thought it was way past due. With summer rolling around and hopefully some loosening up of travel restrictions. For Canadians, it looks like we will need to stay within our borders this summer, which can be a good opportunity for some. It gives people a chance to explore more of our country!

Below is a credit card portfolio that I suggest putting together ahead of the road trip.

Restaurant / Eating Out / Groceries

First off, restaurant purchases is going to be one of the major expenses for a road trip. For this summer, it will probably be more take-out. Some people may want to stock up on supplies at grocery stores too. There are several credit cards to consider and a combination of cards would be ideal.

If you are looking for a new credit card to sign up for in the next few weeks, the top 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)

I would combine the Simplii card with the American Express Cobalt Card. Since there is a monthly fee on this card, it may only make sense for people who already have it to begin with. But it does offer a lot of value, so this card would be hands down my top pick for restaurant and grocery store purchases.

  • $10 monthly fee
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on restaurants, bars, cafés, food delivery and groceries

However, since American Express is not widely accepted, it can still be good to have the Simplii card as an alternative. The best strategy would be to still use the Cobalt card as the primary card and use the Simplii card when AMEX is not accepted as you take advantage of the maximum $500 in spending for the 10% bonus offer. Even the 4% cash back thereafter on restaurant and bar purchases is still decent.

Otherwise, if you are already a cardholder of the Scotiabank Gold American Express, road trips are a great time to maximise the 5 point multiplier bonus.

  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn 40,000 sign up bonus points (earn 30,000 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and an additional 10,000 points after spending $7,5000 in the first year) (if you apply before August 31, 2021)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on grocery, dining and entertainment purchases (on the first $50,000 in purchases)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Since the first year fee is not waive, I would not go out of my way just to sign up for it just for the road trip; which is why an honourable mention goes to the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card. If you have been considering getting the BMO eclipse card, now is as good a time as any to get it because of the first year annual fee waived promotion:

  • $120 annual fee (waived the first year if you apply before October 31, 2021)
  • Earn 10% more points for adding a supplementary cardholders
  • Earn 40,000 sign up bonus BMO Reward points (earning 25,000 sign up bonus points and another 15,000  after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months) (if you apply before October 31, 2021)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on groceries, dinning in and out, gas and transit purchases

Gas Purchases

Another big road trip expense is gas purchases. If you already have the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card card (mentioned above), then I would continue using this card:

  • $120 annual fee (waived the first year if you apply before October 31, 2021)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on groceries, dinning in and out, gas and transit purchases

Otherwise, I suggest using a CIBC and/or RBC credit card that you can link up with Journie Rewards (CIBC) and/or Petro-Canada (RBC) respectively to receive 3 cents off per litre at partner gas stations. Note that the 3 cents off per litre is in addition to rewards that you would already be earning with that specific credit card, so it’s a great way to double dip.

Ideally you would want to have both a CIBC and RBC credit card in your wallet to cover more gas stations. Note that Journie Rewards includes Chevron, Ultramar and Pioneer.

An honourable mention goes to the President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard to cover Esso gas stations:

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 30 PC Optimum points per litre of Esso Supreme (Octane 91) and Esso SUPREME+ (Octane 93)

On a side note, if you are a fan of Air Miles and Shell, then be sure to use your AMEX or BMO co-branded Air Miles credit card at Shell stations.

Hotel / Accommodations

While on the road, hotel stays may be a common theme. There are only 2 co-branded hotel credit cards in Canada. So if you are looking to stay at Best Western or Marriott Bonvoy locations along the way, then you should definitely have both or either of these cards on hand.

MBNA Best Western MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 20,000 sign up bonus points (after the first purchase)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Best Western properties

American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn 60,000 sign up bonus points (after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months)
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at participating Marriot Bonvoy hotels

The good news about hotels is that they take AMEX cards for the most part. So honourable mention goes to the American Express Cobalt Card for all other non Best Western or Marriott Bonvoy hotel stays.

  • $10 monthly fee
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel, transit & gas purchases (in Canada only)

The nice thing about the American Express Cobalt card is that you can earn American Express Membership Reward points that are transferable to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors which you can redeem for more hotel stays.

Conclusion

The idea is to maximise your return on all the major purchases during your trip. So it’s best to combine several cards in your portfolio to maximise your rewards for each category of spending.

Did we leave out any other cards that would make sense for a Canadian road trip? 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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