All of the big banks offer their own rewards programs.
These programs are quite large and have varying point values depending on what you redeem your points for because they offer everything from travel rewards to merchandise, to cash and statement credits.
So, how do you choose which program is best?
Let’s review the “Big 5” reward programs, go through the key features of each one, and find out which one comes out on top.
For each program, let’s list:
- the ways your points can be redeemed,
- the point value for each redemption, and…
- the personal credit cards that can earn points for each rewards program (excluding business cards).
How do rewards programs work?
Credit card reward programs are all very similar to each other.
Points are earned by making purchases with the associated credit cards. Depending on the card, points can then be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards, statement credits, investments, and even donations – often through the bank’s website.
Let’s dive in and see what each program has to offer.
Only 300 gift cards available.
Offer ends October 31st, 2018.
How BMO Rewards Work
BMO Rewards uses its own site for redeeming points and you are given the following options:
When it comes to travel 14,000 points will give you $100 off a travel purchase, and there is no option pay for travel and redeem with points later option.
$100 / 14,000 points = 0.714 cents
Merchandise rewards will come in a little lower. Surveying various merchandise options available on the site, we came to a point value anywhere between 0.33 to 0.63 cents.
Gift cards can be purchased with points with a value of 0.45 to 0.57 cents each.
If you wish to redeem your points for statement credits, you will require 15,000 points for a $50 credit, or 0.33 cents per point.
You can also use your points to contribute to a BMO Investment account. 15,000 points will give you $100 dollars, for 0.67 cents each.
Finally, you are able to donate to charities. At the time of writing, this section was undergoing maintenance, and we were unable to determine a point value.
Credit cards for earning BMO Rewards
How CIBC Rewards Work
CIBC rewards, which are called Aventura Points, can be redeemed directly on the CIBC website, and can be used for the following:
Aventura Points can be redeemed for travel several different ways.
Firstly, flights have a fixed point chart for redemptions. The following chart has the summary of information.
For our point value, we used a ticket price that is ¾ of the maximum, and the most points required.
Please note: you can more value for your rewards if you’re able to book a ticket that is the full maximum price.
|Types of Flights||Points Required||Max Ticket Price||Average Point Value|
|Short-haul Canada & US (between neighboring provinces & states)||10,000 ‒ 20,000||$400||1.5 cents|
|Long-haul Canada & US (not including Alaska & Hawaii)||25,000 ‒ 35,000||$800||1.7 cents|
|Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean & central America||40,000 ‒ 60,000||$1,000||1.25 cents|
|Select European destinations (must travel from a major gateway in Canada & US)||50,000 ‒ 70,000||$1,300||1.4 cents|
|Rest of the world (must travel from a major gateway in Canada & US)||75,000 ‒ 125,000||$2,000||1.2 cents|
The maximum ticket price does not include taxes and fees, but once you have booked your ticket, you may use points to pay for taxes and fees at a rate of 1 cent per point.
For other travel purchases, one point is worth 1 cent.
Merchandise rewards come in with a significantly lower value than travel. We surveyed the various merchandise and came with a value range of 0.54 to 0.72 cents per point.
Gift cards are available for purchase, with a value ranging from 0.63 to 0.72 cents per point.
Lastly, your points can be used to pay for a variety of financial products with CIBC.
- Use points for a statement credit – 4,000 points for $25:
$25 / 4,000 points = 0.625 cents
- Use points for other financial products, including contributing to investments, RRSP savings accounts, and paying the principal on a mortgage. 12,000 points will give you $100:
$100 / 12,000 points = 0.833 cents
Credit cards for earning Aventura Points
How RBC Rewards Work
Whether you hold a premium RBC Avion card or the no fee Rewards+ Visa, you will earn rewards with RBC Rewards which can be used for a number of different things:
For RBC Rewards cardholders booking travel is simple – 100 points is worth $1.
The catch? Travel needs to be booked with RBC Rewards.
However, if you have one of the RBC Avion cards, you have access to a fixed points redemption chart.
Below is a summary, and for our point value, we will use a ticket price that is ¾ of the maximum.
|Type of Flights||Points Required||Max Ticket Price||Average Point Value|
|Short-haul Canada & US (between neighboring provinces & states)||15,000||$350||1.75 cents|
|Long-haul Canada & US (not including Alaska & Hawaii)||35,000||$750||1.6 cents|
|Western Canada to Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean & Central America||45,000||$900||1.5 cents|
|Eastern Canada to Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean & Central America||55,000||1,100||1.5 cents|
|Europe (must travel from a major gateway in Canada & US)||65,000||$1,300||1.5 cents|
|Rest of the world (must travel from a major gateway in Canada & US)||100,000||$2,000||1.5 cents|
One unique thing about RBC Rewards is that you are able to convert your points to several airline programs:
For all cards:
- WestJet – 100 points are worth 1 WestJet dollar. You must convert a minimum of 1,000 points at a time.
Only for Avion accounts:
- British Airways Avios – 1 RBC point is worth 1 Avios. A minimum of 10,000 points must converted at a time. If you like collecting Avios, you should consider adding the
to your wallet.
- American Airlines AAdvantage – 10 RBC points are worth 7 AAdvantage Miles. A minimum of 5,000 points must be converted each time.
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles – 1 RBC point is worth 1 Asia Mile, a minimum of 10,000 points must be converted at a time.
Merchandise through the RBC Rewards program comes at an evaluation lower than travel. Through comparing several different items, we saw a value ranging from 0.64 cents to 0.76 cents.
However, RBC Rewards can also be converted to Hudson Bay Rewards rewards. For every 500 points converted you will receive 1,000 Hudson Bay points.
Keep in mind: Once converted, they cannot be converted back. However, any points earned at Hudson Bay can be converted to RBC, where 40 Hudson points convert to 10 RBC points.
Gift cards through the RBC Rewards program generally give you a 0.71 cent value:
$25 gift card / 3,500 points = 0.71 cents
However, there are a few cases where you will only be getting a 0.59 cent return or where RBC will be having a special deal and you could get up to a 1 cent value.
RBC also allows you to redeem your points towards RBC Financial Rewards vouchers which can be used to add to existing RBC investments, mortgage payments, lines of credit and personal loans. 120 points is worth $1:
$1 / 120 points = 0.83 cents
A minimum of 12,000 points are required per redemption.
The reward redemption option for the RBC Points is the Payback with Points program. This allows to use your points to make a payment towards your credit card balance. For this option, 17,200 points are required for every $100:
$100 / 17,200 points = 0.58 cents
Finally, RBC allows you to donate to a few of their selected charities. With this redemption option, you will be given a 1 cent value for your rewards.
Top Credit Cards for Earning RBC Rewards
How Scotia Rewards Work
Much like the other rewards programs on this list, the Scotia Rewards can be redeemed on the Scotia website and used for a number of different things.
Travel redemptions can be handled in two different ways. You can either:
- use the Scotia Rewards Travel Service to redeem points, or
- pay for travel on your Scotia Rewards credit card, and then apply your points towards the travel purchases.
In either case, the redemption value is the same, redeem a minimum of 5,000 points for a value of $50:
$50 / 5,000 points = 1.0 cent
Something to note: If you purchase travel outside of Scotia Rewards, you’ll need to have enough points to cover the entire transaction. Partial redemptions are not allowed.
The value your points attain when redeemed for merchandise can range from 0.31 to 1.21 cents per point. Generally, the redemptions were not as good as travel, but the occasional item can offer a higher point value than a travel redemption.
Gift cards can be redeemed for 0.74 cents per point.
$25 / 6,700 = 0.74 cents
Scotia Rewards can also be transferred to Scene Points. 1,000 points can be converted to 770 scene points. At our valuation of 1.2 cents per scene point, this gives a point value of 0.92 cents each.
Something to note: If you have a Scotia Rewards credit card and a Scene card, you can also convert your scene points to Scotia Rewards points. 1,000 Scene points will give you 950 Scotia Rewards.
Statement credits are available, and range from 0.67 to 0.8 cents per point. The more points you redeem at one time for a statement credit, the more your points are worth.
Finally, Scotia Rewards can be donated to CanadaHelps at the same value as gift cards – 0.74 cents. CanadaHelps is, however, the only company you can donate to.
Top Credit Cards for Earning Scotia Rewards
How TD Rewards Work
TD Rewards, like all the programs above, are flexible rewards that can be used for a number of different things – travel, merchandise and gift cards, and even towards credit for a number of different universities.
To redeem for travel with TD, you have two different options. The first and higher value option is using the Expedia for TD portal and redeeming for travel, where 200 points is worth $1:
$1 / 200 points = 0.5 cents
Next is to book travel through any provider and use your points to pay for the purchase afterwards. Using this method, 250 points are worth $1 for the first $1,200 spent, and 200 points for $1 after that.
$1 / 250 points = 0.4 cents
A loss of point value on your first $1,200 spent, but it comes with the ability to use your points for any kind of travel purchased from anywhere you like.
As with the other rewards programs, merchandise rewards come in at a lower value than travel. We surveyed the various merchandise and came with a value range of 0.15 to 0.25 cents per point – the lowest of any of the big 5 banks.
As mentioned above, TD Rewards allow you to redeem for credits towards higher education at over 100 different educational institutions.
This redemption option needs to be done in $250 increments, and gives you a 0.4 cent value.
$250 / 62,500 points = 0.4 cents
TD Rewards points can also be used for gift cards which will consistently give you a 0.25 cent value.
$50 / 20,000 points = 0.25 cents
Lastly, TD allows you to redeem your rewards for a credit card statement credit. This option gives you the same value as the gift cards, where 400 points will give you $1 (0.25 cents per point), with a minimum of 10,000 points required for redemption.
Top Credit Cards for Earning TD Rewards
And the Winner Is…
There are many ways to use your points with all of these programs, but one thing remains consistent – the way to get the best value is to use them for travel.
And while the option is there to use them for something else, 9 times out of 10 you will lose value if you do not use them for travel.
As for the overall best program? The Scotia Rewards comes out on top, for the following reasons:
- It has the easiest way to redeem travel as it can be through Scotia Rewards, or you can book your own with no loss of value.
- Their credit cards earn the most points just as well on everyday purchases.
Shout out to the
With a wide range of credit cards from Scotiabank that offer these rewards, there is something out there for everyone.
Best For Gift Cards, Investments, and Statement Credits
Although BMO struggles on the travel rewards sign with each point only being worth 0.714 cents, they are the only Big 5 credit card that offers 2x rewards on all purchases and 3x on travel, restaurants, and entertainment purchases.
Even with the 2 to 3x multiplier, that only makes travel rewards produce a 1.4 to 2.1% return on spending. Aventura gives you a 1.7 to 2.2% return on spending just at 1x.
BUT, almost all the other Big 5 rewards programs have low point values for gift cards, investments, and statement credit. BMO’s point values are low as well, but when you apply the 2x or 3x points multiplier you’re almost always going to get a better return on spending with BMO.
So, if always redeeming for travel isn’t your thing, it makes sense to strongly consider the
It also has the most comprehensive insurance coverage of the bunch and comes with 4 airport lounge passes annually.
Now… It’s Your Turn
We would love to hear from you!
Have you used any of these programs? what has your experience been?
Do you have a favorite?
Please leave us a comment below. Hearing real world experiences can help fellow Canadians who are trying to decide which program to use.
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