Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards For Canadians

»»»Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards For Canadians

Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards For Canadians

By |2019-01-16T18:35:33+00:00June 7th, 2018|Categories: Credit Cards, PointsWise Perspective|Tags: |

Update as of 2019-01-16: Please note this article is out of date, and The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card and RBC Visa Infinite Avion are no longer first year free.

Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards Introduction

I’m often asked what the best first-year free travel reward credit card is for Canadians, particularly for people just getting started in travel hacking. Credit card offers are changing all the time, including the size of the welcome bonus and whether or not the annual fee is waived the first year.

There’s been a bit of a trend in the last 12 months where less and less cards are offering an increased welcome bonuses and a first year free offer, which creates a bit of a barrier for beginners. Thankfully there are still a couple of great first year free offers out there, with welcome bonuses large enough to start travelling after just one application!

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • Get a $200 travel credit & airport lounge access worldwide.
  • $699 annual fee.

Apply Now!

The Two Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards In Canada

Currently, there are two Canadian credit cards that stand out for offering first year free with sizeable welcome bonuses. In my opinion, both cards are worth getting for the sign-up bonus alone, regardless of other benefits, points earned on everyday spend, etc.

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

Easily the best current first-year free offer in Canada. New cardmembers will receive 30,000 Membership Reward points as a welcome bonus, and the $250 annual fee is waived the first year. American Express Membership Rewards is my favourite overall points currency in Canada for the flexible redemption options, including hotel and airline transfer partners. Not sure if you qualify for a small business card? You probably do, since Amex uses your personal creditworthiness and income for approval. Learn more on how to apply for a small business card here!

Highlights of the card include:

  • 30,000 Membership Reward Point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months of membership
  • Generous referral program – earn 10,000 Membership Reward points for each eligible referral
  • No minimum income requirement

Lowlights of the card include:

  • $5,000 minimum spend can be a barrier for some, though applying around large purchases can help
  • Points on daily spend aren’t great

So what does the welcome bonus get you? A solid start towards these redemptions:

Two roundtrip economy class tickets from the west coast to Hawaii (50,000 Membership Reward points transferred to Avios for flights on Alaska Airlines).

Use Your Welcome Bonus For Flights To Hawaii!

Use Your Welcome Bonus For Flights To Hawaii!

A one-way business class ticket from North America To Europe (55,000 Membership Reward points transferred to Aeroplan for flights on multiple airlines).

United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class Seating

United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class Seating

A two-night at the JW Marriott Parq Hotel, Vancouver’s newest luxury property (53,334 Membership Reward points transferred to SPG/Marriott)

JW Marriott Parq Hotel - One Of Our Favourite Luxury Hotels In Vancouver

JW Marriott Parq Hotel – One Of Our Favourite Luxury Hotels In Vancouver

The RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card

My second favourite card currently offering first year free is the RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card. It’s a little less rewarding than the American Express Business Gold Card, but only because the points are slightly less flexible when it comes time to redeem. However, there is no minimum spend to receive the welcome bonus, which a lot of people will prefer. Most travel hackers will be transferring these points to British Airways Avios, particularly when there is a transfer bonus (which is rumoured to be coming up later this month).

Highlights of the card include:

Lowlights of the card include:

  • Points earned on everyday spend not good
  • Avion points not as flexible as Membership Rewards
  • Relatively high income requirement – $60,000 personal or $100,000 household

What does 25,000 Avion points get you? How about a roundtrip ticket from the west coast to Hawaii when transferred to British Airways Avios! I recommend the Marriott Wailea Beach Resort if staying on Maui. It’s a bit of a resort factory, but still a great deal using hotel points for a free stay!

Maui Sunset From Wailea

Maui Sunset From Wailea

Or, use the card on everyday spending for a few months and be able to redeem for two short-haul flights within North America, such as Seattle to Phoenix for 15,000 Avios per roundtrip ticket! A weekend at The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale could be more attainable than you might think if flights are paid for with points!

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

Need to earn more points for family travel? Consider the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card also, which is currently offering up to 50,000 Avios for new cardmembers!

Best First Year Free Travel Reward Credit Cards Bottom Line

For the casual travel hacker, or for someone who only wants to save money on travel and doesn’t care so much about getting maximum return on their point redemptions, paying annual fees doesn’t make sense. A huge welcome bonus can easily be devalued by an equally large fee, and if you don’t use the other benefits associated with the card, you’re probably not going to get enough value to justify the cost.

Thankfully there are still a couple of great first year free cards for Canadians, and I would suggest most people get both. The Membership Rewards program is my favourite overall in Canada, and can be used for a variety of redemptions including flights and hotels. The Avion program, on the other hand, doesn’t provide quite as much flexibility, but points can be transferred to Avios for some pretty sweet flight redemptions – mainly short-haul within North America or flights from the west coast to Hawaii.

Would I recommend keeping these cards longterm? Probably not, as the return on everyday spend pales in comparison to some other travel reward cards in Canada, but everyone should be considering one or both of these cards for the welcome bonus alone, because who doesn’t love free travel?!

Apply for the American Express Business Gold Card today and earn 30,000 Membership Reward points as your welcome bonus!

Apply for the RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card today and earn 25,000 Avion points as your welcome bonus!

How would you use the welcome points on these two cards? Let us know in the comment section below!

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • Get a $200 travel credit & airport lounge access worldwide.
  • $699 annual fee.

Apply Now!

About the Author:

Champagne taste on a beer budget has always been reminiscent of Tyler’s travel style. Raised in British Columbia, Tyler has an unquenchable thirst for more adventure, which is fueled by leveraging airline and hotel loyalty programs to travel the world in luxury and style. Want to learn how you can travel the world on points, like Tyler? Sign up for an American Express Platinum card and get 50,000 bonus points and a $200 travel credit towards your next dream vacation. (Offer subject to approval and when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months).

3 Comments

  1. YYC June 8, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    How long is the Business Gold offering first year free?

    • Tyler Weatherup June 8, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Hey YYC,

      No timeline, though this particular card has been FYF for as long as I can remember. If/when Amex does change it, they will probably give advance warning in the form of a new footnote on the application page, such as ‘to be eligible for this welcome bonus, apply by August 18th, 2018‘. I will definitely do a follow-up post if I see anything that suggests the FYF offer ending.

      Here’s hoping it stick around – 40,000 Membership Reward points without an annual fee is BY FAR the best welcome bonus currently available in Canada, in my opinion.

      -Tyler

  2. Matt June 20, 2018 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Tyler, I applied Amex Gold business card but get declined. I do not have an active business (employed now) but used my previously owned business name to apply. I used to have Amex personal gold card but by that time, Amex decreased my credit limit to minimum after I used balance transfer promotion with MBNA and maxed out my MBNA credit limit. Overall, I have credit score close to 800 and have no carry over or unpaid balance. I am not sure what decision Amex made for my personal file but I never have any troubles with other financial institutions and never got declined from credit card companies but Amex. Since Amex has good welcome package, I wish to start a relationship with Amex again but not sure what to do. Do you have any idea?

    Thanks!

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