Hopefully, Canadian Travel Tips was useful to you and you left having learnt something new. As I said in the beginning, I did not write this site for any personal gain – I pay all website fees out of pocket and even paid extra so there are no ads.
I’m just going to end with some thoughts.
Returns on the best Canadian credit card regular spending are usually in the 1.5% to 2% range (ie. MBNA Rewards WE that used to give 2% back on everything). However, when you are spending for the welcome bonus, the returns are always much, much higher.
Taking the Amex personal gold for instance (no Annual Fees), you get 26,500 MR points after $1,500 spend. Valuing MR points at a conservative 1.5c per points, you are getting $397.5 back, or 26.5% return per dollar.
Or, in the more extreme case, the MBNA Alaska Miles card. After 3 churns – effectively combined $98 in annual fees and $3,000 in spending, you get a value of over CAD $13,000 for a one way first class ticket (with a possible stopover in Hong Kong) from Toronto to anywhere in Asia. Crazy!
What this means is once you reach the minimum spend of 1 credit card, you should be on the lookout for the next credit card. I find this RedFlagDeals thread quite useful, which lists all cards with good offers (usually >$250 in value). Apply for new cards every month or two to really rake in the points.
It is important to have a plan for the next few weeks on how to manage your applications and spending. As you get to the intermediate card churning stage, you will always have a mental road-map on what the next big spend will be on what card and which date will you be doing a product switch or a new card application for optimal returns.
The thing about miles is that even with bonuses it takes time to earn them. The sooner you start churning, the more time you have to accumulate the points and the more points you will have when you need them – it’s as simple as that.
Also, offers in general are devalued over time; like the SPG cards and Amex charge cards for example. Or, manufactured spend opportunities like the infamous CIBC AC Conversion card. The later you start, the more opportunities you miss out on – that is the simple truth.
So even if you have vacation coming up in a year, its never to soon to start collecting the miles for it. If you wait until you know where and when you are going, it’s way too late by then.
Also, I find it very useful to have a stash of fixed value points (eg. TD travel rewards or CIBC Aventura) and variable value (eg. Aeroplan, Alaska miles) as they can often be used in conjunction with each other.
For example, lets say I have enough Alaska miles for a first class trip from Hong Kong and want to take advantage of their stopover policy. Unfortunately, Cathay can’t fly to Toronto with a Vancouver stopover – it only flies to New York.
This is where CIBC Aventura points are useful in booking a short haul “positioning” flight between Toronto and New York. A round trip between Toronto and New York is usually only around 18,000 Aventura points with tax included, give or take.
Or, you plan a complex 10 segment Aeroplan mini round the world trip – and you now have to pay $300 in airport taxes or surcharges. Here you can use the TD First Class Travel or the Scotiabank Gold Amex to offset the cost, as their points allow you to pay for any travel you book (at 250pts = $1) and save at least $200 off.
Get the idea? If see a decent credit card offer and you are done your minimum spend on other cards – regardless of what travel points they offer, go for it!
Travel hacking, or travelling on points and miles, is a really niche hobby that not many people know about (this is actually a good thing! If there were more of us, credit card corporations would have made this all impossible long ago).
However, the knowledge that can be discovered within is never ending and we are always learning from each other in the community.
This may be secret ways to manufacture spending, glitches with certain points systems, tools to find flight availability, not well known routes to avoid surcharges, data points from others who were denied welcome bonuses or tips/tricks with other points systems such as Asia miles and Avios.
The following are sites I used when I first began this hobby and I continue to follow them today to keep learning what I can:
Churning Canada Reddit: Read the daily questions thread (most contain very practical questions) and if you have anything you want answered quick, post there.
Prince of Travel: I really have learnt so much from Ricky from Toronto. His blog really helps new people starting out and he also types very detailed guides on earning and redeeming miles.
Finally, although our community is small, there are events and meet-ups held throughout the year. Ricky from Prince of Travel held one in May and there was a PointsU conference in September (both in Toronto)!
The admission fee sounds steep but I’ve been told the knowledge you gain far outweighs the initial cost. This is really the only place where you will learn secret tips and tricks on manufactured spending and mistake fares. This also give you the rare opportunity to network with like-minded individuals – and who knows, you might befriend a diamond status Aeroplan member or a Air Canada super elite who will let you use their account to save on fuel surcharges and change/cancellation fees!
So, now what? Now it’s up to you to decide how far you will go in this game. Trust me, we have only scratched the surface in this game of points and miles.
No blog article will beat first hand experience. Try stuff that are not publicly shared – like holding both the Alaska world elite and the platinum cards, or product switching away from the RBC Avion card then re-applying for it soon after.
If you are interested taking this even further, read flyertalk threads, like the mileage run deals (basically mistake fares) thread or the tricks thread (focuses on fuel dumping which I briefly talked in my advanced Aeroplan guide). Learn the lingo and have a go yourself at playing around in google flights or OTAs to find some insane fuel dumping tricks or mistake fares. Sometimes the miles earned from a mistake fare can be worth more than what you paid for the fare itself.
Once you get a good grasp of the Canadian market, move on to the US market. The States literally has 10 times the number of cards we have with, and has much better offers. You do not need to be a US citizen, or have a US address. Read this short guide to get an idea how to get started.
I hope this site has given you a first taste of the miles and points hobby. While the guide aims to get you started on your first epic trip in premium cabins, it’s really the concepts that matters.
In the end, it comes down to you forming a plan and actioning on it. As I said in the beginning of the guide, the rest is down to your determination and imagination.
- Which points will you collect (there are many other cards out there such as RBC Asia Miles Card and RBC British Airways), and how aggressively will you churn?
- Now that you know how to get any miles (recall that Amex MR points can also convert to a number of airline points), which airline will you try next?
- Now that you know how layover, stopover and complex routing works, which route will you plan next to visit however many any countries you desire in the world?
- Now that you know how to travel in premium cabins for a fraction of the cost, which first class product or exclusive lounge will you experience next?
Let me just wrap up by encouraging you to reach out to me if you have any questions or any advice on improving this site (a particular topic you want me to expand on perhaps?). I admit I’m still a starting out on this as a hobby, but I promise to try and help as best I can.
Lastly, thank you for reading my site until the very end.