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Top Loyalty Programs in Canada (updated on May 13, 2015)

Most of my information will be based on our page entitled: How Much are Points Worth? That being said, often times, we may want to concentrate our efforts with specific loyalty programs because we only have so much time in a day.

As a Canadian, below are the top 5 programs that I would channel most of my energy towards.

1) American Express Membership Rewards

This is hands down my favourite rewards program. The second place doesn’t even come close. Having the ability to transfer our points to multiple partners is what makes these points valuable. Its transfer partners include: Aeroplan, Executive Club, MilleMiglia, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest, HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest. There are also other valuable options to redeem your points if you are not a fan of these transfer partners.

2) RBC Avion (RBC Rewards)

My second favourite program also has transferable options. Avion’s trading partners include: AAdvantage, Asia Miles, Executive Club, Esso Extra, Shoppers Optimum and WestJet Rewards. Another valuable way to redeem your Avion points is to pay for a flight ticket. Below is the “Air Travel Redemption Schedule”:

Number of Points Required Description Maximum
15,000 Short-haul: Adjacent Canadian province, Canadian territory or U.S. state $350
35,000 Long-haul: Anywhere in Canada/U.S except Hawaii and Alaska $750
45,000 Long-haul: Western Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska OR Eastern Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean $900
55,000 Long-haul: Eastern Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska OR Western Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean $1,100
65,000 Long-haul: Canada/U.S. to Europe) $1,300
100,000 Long-haul: Canada/U.S to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Middle East, Africa, South America $2,000

3) Air Canada, Aeroplan

Aeroplan is third on the list, mostly because there are so many options to earn these points. With so many options available to us, this makes this program very valuable, because this is one of the easier programs to pool most of your every day spending towards. Furthermore, there are a good amount of co-branded Aeroplan credit cards to choose from.

4) Air Miles

I would say Air Miles are less valuable than Aeroplan when redeeming for rewards, but you can still get decent value when redeeming Air Miles if you study the program carefully. There are also many easy ways to earn Air Miles from every day spending and a fair amount of co-branded credit cards to choose from.

5) British Airways, Executive Club, Avios

Having American Express Membership Rewards and RBC Rewards (Avion) as a transfer partner, it makes it very easy to earn a lot of Avios points in a hurry. There is also a co-branded RBC credit card with Executive Club.

Honourable mentions go to: Starwood Preferred GuestEsso Extra, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and Shoppers Optimum.


  1. Amex has become stagnant, just because they can in Canada. Only two 1:1 airline transfer partners (and certainly not premium ones) and it’s been years since there’s been an avios 50% transfer bonus. And look at all the people on flyertalk (myself included) who are always fighting them to get bonus points posted in a timely manner.

    1. Yes they have. I think it’s most due to the fact that their first year fee is continually waived with its AMEX Gold card so it is generous enough.

  2. Etihad Guest is not a transfer partner for Membership Rewards. The information in the article is incorrect.

      1. When I follow your link I see the “catalogue” listing Etihad Guest as a transfer partner. When I Log In, the list appears again, without Etihad Guest. I’ll write to Amex and paste their reply herein, probably tomorrow or next day.

  3. What about Alaska? This is my back up card when the retailer doesn’t take AMEX…I travel a lot and usually stay at Choice hotels for value and points…but may switch to Wyndham with their new program. Air Miles has a very good redemption value YYC to IAH for those interested!

    1. I am a big fan of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan as well. The points are definitely valuable. The downside is that it isn’t as easy as the other programs to rack up the points as quickly in Canada. That being said, I will add it to the honourable mentions. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. What about BMO? I was thinking about getting their Mastercard offer that’s expiring in the end of the month. Any experience with their rewards program?

    Also, in my opinion, the hassle of not being able to pay almost anywhere with an American Express just makes it not worthy for me to keep it more than a year.

    1. That’s a great point about lack of availability with AMEX. I think it highly depends on what your purchases are. There are enough vendors who do take AMEX, so I haven’t had much trouble using my AMEX. That being said, Capital One and BMO both have programs that are valuable, but there is only one way to earn their points, and that is with their credit card. If you cancel the credit card, the points go with it.

    2. Amex is good for the 2 points per dollar on a few things. I don’t think a lot of cards in the 120$/year range offer that? I could be mistaken though.

      Amex offers that on gas and groceries for example (as well as travel). I shop a lot at IGA in Quebec where they don’t take Amex, but other grocery stores take it.

      And all gas stations (in my experience) take Amex. 60 $ of gas quickly becomes 180 Aeroplan Miles (120 Membership Rewards + 20 Aeroplan if you go at Esso!)

      For categories that are not 2 for 1, I usually take out another card than my Amex.

      1. The CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite Card offers up to 3 Aeroplan Miles for every $1 spent at participating CIBC Bonus Rewards restaurants, hotels, inns and spas. And every now and then we may see a promotion for 3 points per $1, but generally the 2 points per dollar with AMEX is the most consistent.

  5. Good overview.

    I actually got a lot from the Air Miles program. But not travel related. I got a set of pots and pans, a blender, a food processor, a coffee machine, bose headphones…!

    But I’ve switched to the other programs now. Membership Rewards that I will eventually transfer to Aeroplan, RBC Avion that will go to AAdvantage, and I also earn Aeroplan directly.

    1. Same here, I have gotten a lot of value from Air Miles before as well, but since they increase the number of points required for rewards, the program started going down a bit and the competition started heating up. Hopefully we’ll see Air Miles step up their game to compete.

  6. My hand and loyalty cards seem to be getting more popular everyday! Maybe I’m in the wrong business and should have become a hand model! Ha!

    1. I would put the SPG card ahead of Membership Rewards. Membership rewards has just TWO partners that transfer point for point, Aeroplan and BA’s Avios. SPG not only transfers 1 to 1 to about 15 different programs, they also give a 25% bonus on your transfer of 20,000 points. Earning with the SPG card is like earning at a 1.25 point to many many programs.

      Unfortunately in Canada, the only way to earn points in some of these programs is through SPG.

      Air Miles – not anymore. I remember getting some good deals back in 1998 flying Air Canada to San Francisco and LAX for I think 750 and 1000 miles each for coach tickets, when the best price I could get for those coach tickets was about $500 that’s less fees and taxes that was about 40 cents per mile. Those deals are long gone. They have changed the award bucket or the inventory method those tickets can come from. Ever since Air Miles came up with the cash, the best you can get is about 10 cents per mile.

      1. I was a little torn about the ranking of SPG and Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards eked out by a bit because they have 4 credit cards to earn points with, the individual Gold and Platinum, as well as the Business Gold and Platinum. So it is easier to earn Membership Rewards than SPG points in Canada. But SPG points are probably more valuable.

        I was debating whether to drop out Air Miles, but they have a lot of good credit card promotions to earn sign up bonus points, so you can earn points relatively easily that way, even though the reward redemptions are going downhill.

      2. The way I look at this is that I always go after the double points using the Amex Gold. Then, if I do need the SPG points (which yes, are so valuable for getting onto premium airlines) I can convert the MR points to SPG (2000 MR = 1000 SPG) so it’s the same as spending on the SPG Amex. If I don’t need the SPG points then I can keep building MR.

        It seems like this is the only advantage (I mean the only) the Canadian MR points have over the US plan. They only get 1:250 MR to SPG ratio.

  7. Pointshogger and other related sites generally talk about the value of points for airline travel.
    I agree with the Amex Gold rating as I use it when I can get 2 points for the dollar otherwise I use my Diners Club card.
    In regards to Hotel programs I totally agree, that if you wish to convert your hotel points to frequent flyer miles (especially if you achieve SPG Gold with 10 stays), go with the SPG program. 3 points to the dollar for hotel spend plus an extra 1 point per dollar if you use their SPG AMex card equals 20,000 SPG points per $5000.00 in hotel spend that converts to 25,000 frequent flyer points (with the 25% bonus on conversion). This basically means a $500.00 flight for $5000.00 in hotel stay spending. If you would rather use your points for hotel stays (instead of converting to FF miles) I recommend the Marriott Visa. Even ignoring the first year free, bonus night, and 50-70,000 point sign up bonus this card is valuable. The annual cat. 1-4 free night certificate pays for your $120.00 annual fee. Bonuses include instant Silver Elite with the automatic 15 night stay credit plus 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties. So as an example if I spend $5000.00 in hotel stays at Marriott properties I get 16.5 Marriott Reward points per dollar (11.5 per dollar for the hotel spend as a Silver Elite plus 5 per dollar using my Marriott Visa) equaling 82,500 Marriott points.If I convert these points to Aeroplan for example I only get 16,500 FF points which is less than my SPG example. If I however keep my 82,500 Marriott Reward points and us them on hotel stays (I usually stay at Category 4 properties) at 20,000 points per night I have 4 Free Nights with 2500 points left over. This to me is worth about $800.00 for my $5000.00 spend or about a 16% return. If I used my 25000 SPG points in my example for hotel stays (I usually stay at category 4 with SPG) i would get 2.5 room nights or about $500.00 which equates to a 10% return on $5000.00 spend. I can utilize a lot of hotel room nights so for this reason I value the Marriott program even higher than the SPG program. All of these examples are without taking bonus points into account. In actual fact half of my stays usually earn double points so this would take my percentage return above the 20% level with Marriott.

    1. Marriott does have a decent credit card with Chase. I agree that we all value each program differently depending on how we leverage our points. We all just need to figure out a strategy that works well for us. I would also note that as programs change, strategies can change as well, so the rankings will also fluctuate as time goes on.

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