As you probably already know, the miles and points game is constantly evolving. Almost on a daily basis. I have added cash back to the discussion because there are days when I feel like the industry wants to shift in that directly.
I see the industry in cycles. When the economy is suffering, companies need to find ways to attract clients, so they increase their marketing budget. That also means that we will probably see more generous sign up bonuses. Conversely, when the economy is doing well, sign up bonuses are usually the first ones to take a hit. Instead, we may see in increase in more generous cash back cards, because those usually have a higher chance of long term retention. Most people are not interested in churning credit cards, so long term retention is the way to go sometimes.
That being said, I will share my thoughts on where I feel the industry is at with respect to each type of credit card. There are 4 types of credit cards that earn some sort of rewards: fixed value, transferable points, co-branded and pure cash back.
Fixed Value Credit Cards
Fixed valued cards are still going strong. The points are usually redeemed for travel expenses. Generally, for every 1 point that you earn, it is worth 1 cent. If you pick these credit cards, be sure to be earning at least 2 points per dollar on all your purchases.
I don’t see the competitive in this category slowing down any time soon. There are essentially 5 major banks or total of 6 different credit cards that offer competitive products:
- BMO World Elite MasterCard
- Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard
- MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard
- National Bank World Elite MasterCard
- Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Transferable Points Credit Cards
These are my favourite types of points, which allow you to accumulate points into a central pool and gives the flexibility to transfer points to different partners.
This category is monopolised by 2 main companies. I can’t see the competitive increasing any time soon. It is a lot of work for a company to create such a program. Though, I hope it doesn’t stop companies from trying, because I strongly believe that these are the most valuable type of points out there:
- American Express Gold Rewards Card
- American Express Gold Rewards Card for Business
- American Express Platinum Card
- American Express Platinum Rewards Card for Business
- RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege
- RBC Visa Infinite Avion
Co-branded Credit Cards
I will divide this category into 3 sub-categories: airline, hotel and other.
It is no secret that Aeroplan has completely dominated this market. Three credit card companies (American Express, CIBC, TD) offer products that allow you to earn Aeroplan miles. If you are not a fan of Aeroplan, I hate to say that there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Aeroplan has really corner this part of the market.
- Here is the link for the top airline credit cards.
Unfortunately, it is very slim pickings in this category and I get the feeling that it is only going to get worse. That being said, the 3 remaining credit cards (4 of you count the AMEX SPG Business Card) to choose from: American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Card and MBNA Best Western MasterCard.
I will note that there is supposedly a 40,000 MBNA Best Western MasterCard promotional offer, but I have heard reports that people are trying to sign up through that link but only receiving 20,000 sign up bonus points. When you call into customer service, they are playing dumb that they have never heard of this offer. And when you provide them with that link, they say that the link is not working. So just beware of this glitch when you apply.
That being said, I would recommend that you apply for these credit cards while you still can, because I see a lot of negative momentum in this sub-category. I hope I am wrong though!
- Here is the link for the top hotel credit cards.
There continues to be a fair amount of choices in this category. These types of credit cards either allow you to earn points or cash back towards a specific loyalty program. These types of credit cards usually do not come with as significant a sign up bonus as hotels and airlines, which makes these credit cards more sustainable long term. These credit cards are geared more towards loyalty shoppers of a certain company.
This category remains strong for the time being and I foresee that it will continue to do so going forward.
- Here is the link for the top “other” co-branded credit cards. To avoid confusion, please note that I have combined fixed value credit cards together with “other co-branded credit cards into a category called “speciality”, which is the hyperlink provided.
Pure Cash Back
The Tangerine Money-Back credit card is finally available to the public. This category is going strong and has positive momentum working for them. I foresee that many people may be shifting more towards cash back credit cards as devaluations continue to hit the miles and points world.
Personally, I am glad to see this shift, a little re-balancing doesn’t hurt the market, as it should push the other categories to become more competitive, or else they will just fizzle out, which I hope that’s not the plan.
- Here is the link for the top cash back credit cards