Top 10 Questions For Travel Hacking Beginners in Canada

By |2019-02-20T18:14:39+00:00November 15th, 2018|Categories: Beginner's Guide To Travel Hacking, How To Travel Hack|Tags: |

Travel Hacking In Canada

If you want to travel better, or simply just travel more for less, you’re going to need to learn how to travel hack and get the most out of your credit card points and miles.

This post is for Canadian travelers looking to use their reward points for travel, but aren’t quite sure how. We’ll talk about some frequently asked questions among those new to travel hacking and hopefully give you a better understanding about how this exciting hobby works.

More champagne anyone?

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1. What is Travel Hacking?

Travel hacking is the practice of collecting frequent flier miles and credit card points to travel for (almost) free.

There are lots of creative ways you can earn more points quickly and redeem them for maximum value, while still being within the terms and conditions of each loyalty program. We’ll call these “loopholes”.

2. What’s Possible With Travel Hacking?

If you said “Yes, I want to do that!” to any of the below, then you’re in the right place:

  • Fly first class with a lay flat seat and free champagne.
  • Experience a round the world trip using your Aeroplan points.
  • Get exclusive airport lounge access before your flight and access private showers, private beds, cigar rooms, and unlimited food and alcohol.
  • Get breakfast in bed, late checkout, and room upgrades.
  • Experience concerts and live sporting events in private box suites.
  • Be the coolest person at the party (obviously) when you tell everyone how you traveled the world first class and got access to invite only elite experiences.

Popsicles taste better when they’re poolside.

3. Is Travel Hacking Legal?

Despite the term “hacking” often being related to illegal activities, travel hacking is completely legal. So no, you won’t be doing anything illegal, and no, you won’t be hacking any computer software.

There’s lots to learn if you want to play the ever changing game of travel hacking, but by the end of this article you’ll learn a simple trick for how to get your first two round trip plane tickets to Hawaii (or anywhere in North America).

4. Can I Really Fly For Free?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the same applies to travel hacking. What you can expect however, is to travel for a fraction of the price of retail.

Of course the goal of travel hacking is to get your plane ticket as close to free as possible, but there can potentially be some unavoidable charges you’ll need to be aware of:

  • Fuel surcharges on airline reward tickets
  • Airport taxes/fees on airline reward tickets
  • Resort fees on hotel stays
  • Credit card annual fees
  • Telephone booking fees
  • Extra baggage fees

Take a seat and enjoy the views at The Plaza Fairmont in New York City.

5. Why Don’t More Canadians Travel Hack If It’s so Worth It?

For the most part, many people don’t know travel hacking is even an option. Many people we talk to have the same concerns:

  1. It sounds too good to be true.
  2. It’s too complicated.
  3. There’s no availability for award flights.
  4. The taxes and fees aren’t worth it.
  5. It takes too long to earn enough points for anything worthy.

All of these are valid points, but once you understand how travel hacking works, you’ll learn the loopholes you can take advantage of to avoid these scenarios.

The world of travel hacking changes quickly. There are a variety of different programs a successful travel hacker will rely on, and these programs are constantly changing. What might work today may be unavailable tomorrow, and new opportunities are constantly being created as other loopholes close. Be flexible, adaptable, and enjoy the ride!

Travel hacking, although a time consuming hobby, is extremely rewarding if you have the time and desire to learn how, just like any other skill. Our goal is to make that journey as easy as possible for you.

The reality is, many reward programs have some incredible sweet spots for redemptions, which aren’t readily advertised by the loyalty programs. It should be obvious that the banks and credit card companies don’t really want you to succeed with the points game, but the opportunity is there for the savvy traveler.

Enjoy a free birthday drink and dessert at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge.

6. How Does Travel Hacking in Canada Compare to the USA?

The travel hacking process is generally the same, in that everyone needs to:

  1. Identify their travel goals.
  2. Earn travel reward credit card points/frequent flier miles.
  3. Search for flight availability (award space).
  4. Redeem their points to complete the booking.

The main difference between American and Canadian travel hacking is access to various financial/credit card reward programs.

Generally speaking, American credit cards are only available to Americans, and Canadian credit cards are only available to Canadians. And as we’re used to in Canada, we don’t have nearly the same options as our neighbours down south when it comes to travel reward credit cards and incentives.

Hotel and airline programs, thankfully, are available to both Canada and the USA and the redemption options are much the same.

7. I Don’t Fly or Stay in Hotels Very Often. Can I Still Travel Hack?

Absolutely! Our co-founder Tyler started as a leisure traveler who was sick of using his reward points for gift cards and counter-top appliances (please don’t do this). He started by redeeming his points for a business class plane ticket to New York and has been hooked ever since.

Whether you want to travel multiple times a year or just want a weekend away for a special occasion, travel hacking can help you get there for less and you’ll learn the skills you can use over and over again for trips to come.

8. What Rewards Program/Credit Card Do I Choose In Canada?

Everyone has different travel goals. Some Canadians have grand plans for international travel, while others just want to visit their family in the neighbouring province.

Choosing the best reward programs to travel hack effectively will largely depend on what your travel goals are and where you want to go.

So your homework for now is to think about your travel goals. The two biggest questions you’ll need to answer are:

  1. Where do you want to go?
  2. How do you want to travel?

Luxury: First class flights and 5 star hotels. This way of travel uses the most points but you’ll receive world class treatment.
Mid-range: Business class flights and 4 star hotels. You’ll travel in comfort, but use a moderate amount of points.
Economy: Economy flights and 2 to 3 star hotels. You’ll get there for the least amount of points, but you’ll be traveling on a budget with little to no frills.

It’s important to note that there’s no right or wrong answer to those questions! Every traveler is different and has unique needs and interests. What might be a good value of points to me, might not be for you, and that’s ok.

The common goal among us is to have a unique travel experience using our credit card points for the best possible deal and be able to experience things we normally wouldn’t pay out of pocket for.

Is there any other way to fly?

9. Do I Have to Have a Good Credit Score to Travel Hack?

Travel hacking requires good financial discipline, and in many cases, good credit. A score of 700+ is a good goal to aim for to get approved for the best travel reward credit card offers.

A lot of travel hacking depends on leveraging credit card welcome bonuses to earn points quickly, however, there are still some techniques to travel hack with less than perfect credit, it just may take a little longer to reach your specific travel goals.

10. Do I Have to Carry a Balance on My Credit Card?

Absolutely NOT!

One of the main principles of travel hacking includes using your credit cards for everyday spend. You would be surprised how quickly your reward balances grow when you put all of your day to day purchases on your credit card (gas, groceries, restaurants, bills…everything you can).

However, it’s crucial that your balances be paid in full, each month. Credit card companies offer these rewards in part because they know a lot of people will carry a balance and pay interest, so please don’t be that person. Let’s be smart about this!

Although it’s possible to get a lot of value out of your reward points, that value will be quickly eroded or erased by paying interest on your balances.

Beating the heat in Arizona is easy with a pool like this.

What You’ll Learn In The Coming Posts

Travel hacking involves a lot of information. To scratch the surface you’re going to be learning topics like:

  • How to earn travel reward points.
  • What the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada are.
  • How to transfer points to different loyalty programs.
  • How to book award space plane tickets using points.
  • How to pay for hotels using points.
  • How to earn points faster.

Our goal in the coming posts is to help you navigate the best options for the best travel rewards cards, and loyalty programs, so we hope you’ll follow along!

Begin Your Travel Hacking Journey

If you’re looking for a recommendation of what travel rewards card to get, well that depends on what type of traveller you are, but if your credit score is strong enough, 700+, then you’ll absolutely want to consider the American Express Platinum card. An essential card in any serious travel hacker’s wallet.

The annual fee is $699 which sounds steep, but hear me out. If you spend $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months, you’ll receive 50,000 welcome points.

You can redeem your 50,000 points for two roundtrip economy plane tickets for anywhere in North America including Hawaii and the Caribbean. Or splurge on a stay at a 5-star luxury hotel.

Those points can be used with a variety of popular airline frequent flier programs and hotels.

You’ll also receive these benefits with your American Express Platinum card:

  1. Airport lounge access for you and a guest at American Express Centurion lounges and PriorityPass lounges around the world.
  2. Access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings.
  3. Status matching with major hotel loyalty programs.
  4. An annual $200 travel credit.
  5. Travel insurance coverage.
  6. Front of the Line Access for advance access to concert, sports and theatre tickets.
  7. Invite only opportunities to exclusive American Express lifestyle events.

Are you new to travel hacking? Let us know your travel goals and if you have any questions in the comments below!

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card®

Apply Now!

About the Author:

With a passion for tech startups, Britt has always loved being hands on with designing and developing websites. When she’s not at the computer, she’s probably enjoying time with her German Shepherds, Trevor and Stacy. From rustic cabins, to five star hotels, Britt is always ready for the next adventure.


  1. Justin November 24, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Great introductory article. However, I’m not sure the Amex Platinum is the best card to recommend to those just starting in on travel hacking — no matter how valuable the 60K bonus points are. For one, the promise of nearly free travel is considerably offset by the $700/year fee, and the $5000 minimum spend in 3 months is likely to be a lot for anyone who isn’t already used to clearing these kinds of bonuses. This is particularly true for anyone who may not yet have a system in place to manage their spending (i.e. YNAB) and can ensure the card gets paid off in full every month. If the card doesn’t get paid off, you’re on the hook for 30% interest until it is. IMHO starting with this card is asking for trouble if you’re new to the game.

    The Amex Gold card is probably a better place to start. It comes with a smaller 25K bonus points, but it’s a lot easier to reach with a significantly smaller $1500 minimum spend. Plus, there are frequently promotions via third-party referrals that can get the regular $150/year fee waived in the first year. This card could be a good way to minimize the risks of travel hacking for anyone who wants to test the waters before jumping right in.

    • Brittany Menard November 27, 2018 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for the feedback! I believe financial discipline is a skill that already needs to be in place before diving into the world of travel hacking. The Platinum card offers the chance to see some pretty big benefits while still using the same financial management skills as you would with any credit card.

      However, I agree that the American Express Gold card is also a great card for those new to travel hacking, and is a much smaller investment. Here’s a link to our American Express Gold review that shows how to redeem the Amex Gold welcome bonus of 25,000 points for for a roundtrip flight in North America.

  2. Mr Jonathan S Redmond December 23, 2018 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    We are new to travel hacking and our first time getting travel cards. We got the Amex Cobalt card and the Scotiabank gold Amex card. While both have provided really good sign up bonuses and we’ve accumulated almost 60k points on each card, they make it very difficult to redeem those points easily. Perhaps you can help guide us through this process.
    Our issue is that we are almost forced to redeem our points through the Amex program which lists the same flight that we’ve found for $375 for a whopping $1525. The only frequent flyer program that we can transfer our points to is one that is from Asia.
    The only way I’ve found to redeem our points (with the Cobalt card, still haven’t figured out the Scotiabank) is to purchase Air Canada gift cards which we can purchase $350 worth for what we have in points and then put those gift cards towards the purchase of our flight.

    What are we doing wrong? Is it normal that a flight worth $375 is being sold at $1525 through the Amex program?

    We figured with a total of 110,000 points that we could get a return ticket for at least one of us to Western Europe. What gives?

    Thanks for any help or suggestions!

    • Brittany Menard December 28, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Jonathan!

      Welcome to the world of travel hacking!

      Hmmm, are you just looking at prices on the American Express Travel portal? You should be able to get good value with your points if you’re looking to fly to Western Europe. Where specifically are you looking to fly? The best value points redemptions are generally for international first and business class seats through American Express frequent travel partners. I’d need more details about your trip to help further, but don’t be discouraged. I would recommend researching how airline alliances and partnerships work. For example, I just transferred my Amex points to British Airways to fly Alaska Airlines to Maui. At first glance, that wouldn’t seem to make any sense but once you understand that British Airways and Alaska Airlines are partners, and Alaska Airlines has flights from the west coast, it all starts to come together. I agree it’s a bit of a puzzle, but once you understand the alliances and partners that should help narrow down your options. Good luck!

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