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Canada’s 9 Best Hotel Credit Cards for September 2021

Whether you’re looking for free hotel nights or free room upgrades, every traveller needs a place to stay when they’re embarking on a trip.

Below we’ve outlined some of the best hotel credit cards in Canada.

Best Hotel Credit Cards

Best Hotel Credit Card for Free Nights

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is the foremost co-branded hotel credit card in Canada, and it has the biggest welcome bonus to back it up.

With a welcome bonus of 51,000 Bonvoy points when you apply via a refer-a-friend link, that’s enough for a standard night at any Category 6 hotel, or an off-peak night at any Category 7 hotel. The bonus is granted after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Category 7 hotels tend to be high-end luxury properties or in central locations at desirable destinations. Given that these rooms can go for several hundred or even thousands of dollars a night, they represent spectacular value in exchange for the credit card’s $120 annual fee.

If you prefer quantity over quality, or your travel style consists of more offbeat destinations, you could instead redeem the points towards over a dozen nights at Category 1 properties.

For the equivalent of less than $10 a night, you’d be hard pressed to find a hostel that cheap, even in the most underdeveloped tourist destinations.

Also, starting in your second year with the card, you’ll get an annual Free Night Award worth up to 35,000 Bonvoy points. That’s normally good for a Category 5 room, and you should have no trouble finding one worth more than $120.

All things considered, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is a great one to keep, as it really pays for itself year after year.

When you do make cash bookings at Marriott properties, be sure to use this card to earn 5 points per dollar spent. Otherwise, the card earns 2 points per dollar spent, a strong base rate for a card that effectively pays you to have it through the annual Free Night Award.

Best Hotel Credit Card for Business Owners

Much like its personal variant, the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card provides all of the same perks, just targeted at the business market. It has the same welcome bonus and annual Free Night Award as the personal card.

The cards have three key differences: the business card has a higher annual fee at $150, a higher minimum spend of $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the full bonus, and it earns 3 points per dollar spent on gas, dining, and travel expenses. These are very good earn rates across the board, and all on spending categories that many businesses will be able to expense.

It’s worth noting that 3 points per dollar spent on the American Express Business Edge Card (on gas and dining) would be worth 3.6 Bonvoy points after transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio. Still, the Amex Bonvoy Business card has a leg up, thanks to its higher base earn rate on uncategorized spending, plus the Free Night Award which can easily offset the annual fee.

Best Hotel Credit Card for Daily Spending

The American Express Cobalt Card earns Membership Rewards, a flexible points currency which can be transferred to the Marriott Bonvoy program.

MR points convert to Bonvoy points at a rate of 1:1.2. That means that when you spend at grocery stores or restaurants for a high-powered 5x points, you’re effectively earning 6x Bonvoy points on those purchases!

There have also been transfer bonuses in the past, offering bonuses of up to 30%, equivalent to a 1:1.56 transfer rate. If you choose to convert your points at this rate, you could be earning up to 7.8x Bonvoy points. That’s an incredible rate that you won’t find anywhere else for everyday purchases.

You can also transfer MR points to Hilton Honors at a rate of 1:1. Rooms at Hilton hotels tend to cost more points than those in the Marriott portfolio, but this transfer might still be handy if you’ve run out of other ways to earn Hilton points.

Best Hotel Credit Card for Elite Status

Oddly enough, the best credit card in Canada for hotel elite status isn’t actually a hotel co-branded card. Indeed, the two Marriott Bonvoy cards only grant entry-level Silver Elite status to cardholders.

Instead, the American Express Platinum Card is the cream of the crop. It gives automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and Radisson Rewards Gold status as an instant benefit upon signing up.

With a little bit of finesse, you can even leverage your Marriott Gold status into Caesars Rewards Diamond status. This top-tier status could score you a complimentary four-night stay at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas (although you do have to pay some fees for this one). You can also keep the ball rolling and match to other hotel programs from there.

However, it’s worth noting that these fast-tracked status matches won’t accelerate your progress towards the next level up. If you’re gunning for Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite, for example, you’d still have to earn 50 nights the old-fashioned way, even if you earned Gold Elite automatically through the Platinum Card.

Still, for occasional hotel stays or if you’re not especially loyal to one particular brand, mid-tier status from the Platinum Card can be quite useful. Depending on the hotel chain, you’ll see perks like late checkout, complimentary room upgrades, welcome gifts, and even free breakfast in the case of Hilton Gold status.

As an added perk of the Platinum Card, you’ll also get access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which provides additional benefits at many luxury hotels around the world.

These benefits include early check-in or late checkout, room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, etc., so they’re virtually on par with, if not better than, holding mid-tier elite status – even if you’re staying at an independent or non-chain hotel!

Best No Fee Hotel Credit Card

If you’d like to use points for hotel stays, but don’t want to pay annual fees for a credit card, consider the MBNA Best Western Rewards Mastercard.

Free nights can be had for around 8,000 to 36,000 Best Western Rewards points. With a welcome bonus of 20,000 points, one or two of these cards can get you enough points for a road trip or a filler night in between other longer stops.

However, at 1 point per dollar spent, daily spending would be a painstaking way to earn free hotel nights. You may prefer just to focus on the welcome bonus, rather than keeping the card long-term. Luckily, it’s possible to earn repeat bonuses with this card, and to hold more than one at the same time.

Instead, if you’re looking for ongoing value from a keeper card, it’s a good way to maintain Best Western Rewards Gold status without the hassle of a status match.

If you’re not interested in luxury hotels but still value a base level of benefits on paid stays at budget brands, it might be worth your while to build a bit of loyalty with Best Western.

Best Credit Card for Non-Chain Hotels

We often recommend not to cash out your travel rewards points, because redemptions like statement credit or gift cards are almost always lower value than booking flights.

RBC Avion is no exception, as you can often get higher than 1 cent per point on travel bookings. They also offer gift card redemptions at 1 cent per point, but this is where it gets interesting: RBC often runs promotions where you can get gift cards for 30% fewer points.

One of RBC Avion’s primary gift card partners is Hotels.com, a very flexible booking platform that you can use for a wide variety of accommodations. They also have a loyalty program where you collect “stamps” for each night you stay, and after 10 paid nights, your 11th night is  free.

You can combine nights across different bookings and properties – after all, they’re a booking aggregator, not a chain, and their loyalty program reflects that in the flexibility it gives to its users.

Any of the RBC Avion cards would fit the bill here, top-tier and entry-level alike, but the RBC Avion Visa Infinite is the sweet spot where the annual fee isn’t too high but you can still earn points quickly. If you don’t meet the income requirements, you can also get the RBC Avion Visa Platinum, which is identical for all intents and purposes.

If you take the everyday earn rate of 1 Avion point per dollar spent and factor in a 30% gift card discount plus the 11th night free (at the average rate of the 10 paid nights), you can effectively redeem your rewards for 1.57 cents per point. That’s an extremely good rate for hotels, where it’s often much harder to find outsized redemptions than it is with flights.

Best Hotel Credit Card for Foreign Transactions

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is an incredible card for daily spending, with sky-high earn rates on groceries, dining, and entertainment, as well as strong rates on gas and transit.

But the best feature of Scotia Rewards is how easy they are to redeem. You don’t have to book through the bank’s travel portal, or wait on hold with the call centre for hours. You can simply cash them out yourself against any travel expense on the card, at a fixed rate of 1 cent per point.

If you travel internationally, you’ll likely have many hotel expenses that are billed in foreign currencies. You can charge them to your Scotia Gold Amex without a foreign transaction fee, and quickly cover them with your Scotia Rewards. With such a streamlined turnaround, you’ll quickly see how the pursuit of free travel can be so addicting!

If Amex acceptance is an issue abroad, you might need to book the hotel with the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card instead. However, that card earns points much more slowly on daily purchases, so you’d be best off by combining your rewards with a big haul on your Scotia Gold Amex card.

Another alternative is the HSBC World Elite Mastercard. If the travel expense is quite large, you’d earn points at a rate equivalent to 3% back, compared to 1% with the Scotia Gold Amex. Again, however, you’re not likely to rack up as many HSBC Rewards points as quickly as you can with Scotiabank.

Best Credit Card for Paid Hotel Nights

The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card earns 4.5% back on travel purchases. This is by far the highest travel earn rate on any credit card. It’s also by far the highest-earning category on this particular card, making it extremely well-suited for travel purchases, but not necessarily for anything else.

The card fully embraces its role as a travel card, doubling down on the points redemption side as well. To obtain the full maximum value of your rewards, you have to use them on the Expedia for TD travel portal. This makes the TD First Class a “buy travel to earn more travel” card, a unique position amongst its peers.

It’s hard to cover all of your hotel stays with points and vouchers, and no matter how hard you try, most travellers will have to pay some cash out of pocket. In those cases, this is a great card for maximizing your rewards on those bookings. You can then use those points on Expedia’s wide-ranging platform to start scoring some free nights.

For bookings in a foreign currency, you could also consider the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, another card with a high travel earn rate but a low base earn rate. However, if you’re billed in Canadian dollars, the TD First Class Travel card is better for its higher rewards rate on travel purchases.

Best Credit Card for Hotel Burglary Insurance

A handful of travel credit cards offer protection in the event that your hotel room is burglarized. As long as there are signs of forced entry, the value of your damaged and stolen possessions (with some exceptions) is insured up to a specified maximum.

When comparing hotel burglary policies, it all comes down to which cards cover you for the highest losses. Also, for coverage to kick in, you have to pay for the hotel room in full with the credit card or its rewards program, so ideally you’d want to use a card whose rewards you’d use for a hotel stay.

A few top-tier credit cards offer coverage up to losses of $2,500, but the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege Card stands above the rest for two reasons.

First, the card gives you a $200 annual travel credit. This reduces your annual fee to a net cost of $299, half the price of the premium Aeroplan cards that offer the same hotel insurance. Also, you can use the travel credit by booking a hotel through CIBC Rewards, and the card’s hotel insurance would subsequently cover your stay.

Second, Aventura points are low in the pecking order when it comes to flight rewards. It’s easy enough to get your airfare covered by other programs, but hotel points are harder to come by. Since it’s a bit tricky to find outsized value with CIBC Rewards, you may as well focus on hotels with them – a fixed-value program for a fixed-value booking.

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite generously offers the same coverage of up to $2,500 but with a much lower annual fee of only $120, and a lower income requirement. However, your credit card insurance won’t cover bookings made with Hotels.com gift cards, based on the strategy outlined above.

Since RBC points are more valuable for discounted gift cards or business class flights, it’s better not to rely on their credit cards for hotel insurance unless you’re paying the cash rate.

Hotel Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

When choosing a hotel credit card, you should familiarize yourself with what benefits a hotel credit card can offer, what features to look out for, and how hotel credit cards can fit into an optimized overall credit card strategy.

Why get a hotel credit card?

Hotel rewards are important because you’ll always need a place to stay. Whether you’re venturing overseas for a few weeks or spending a weekend closer to home, whether you travel by plane, train, boat, car, or on foot, a good night’s rest will set you up to enjoy your trip.

When you stay at a major hotel brand, it’s often a good idea to book with points by using their loyalty program. You’ll get free cancellations, no resort fees, and in many programs the Fifth Night Free on any award booking.

Also, if you’ve earned or are aiming for elite status with a hotel program, you’ll only be able to use your elite benefits and earn elite qualifying nights by booking with points or cash directly with the hotel program. Bookings made through third-party booking platforms won’t qualify.

As a side benefit, some hotel rewards can be transferred to an enormous variety of frequent flyer programs. This can open some doors to book sweet-spot flight rewards using points that are harder to earn through the major Canadian credit cards.

What should you look for in a hotel credit card?

The Canadian market for co-branded hotel credit cards is slim, with only Marriott Bonvoy and Best Western Rewards offering bank partnerships here. For Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, or IHG Rewards, you’d have to turn to US credit cards.

Whichever hotel cards you consider, the following benefits are quite common:

  • Large signup bonuses
  • Significant bonus points on spending at any of the chain’s subsidiary hotel brands
  • Annual free night certificates
  • Annual credits for use at any property
  • Property credits for each stay at specific brands
  • Automatic elite status qualification
  • Elite qualifying night credits (annual or with spending)

If you aren’t loyal to a single brand, or if your lodging style is a bit more freewheeling, the advantages of elite status aren’t quite as strong. In that case, you might be better off collecting any bank’s travel rewards program, or even cash back, and using those rewards to book your accommodations.

After all, there are a huge variety of types of places to stay. When you’re looking at an Airbnb or boutique hotel, a hostel, or an all-inclusive resort, a flexible rewards program is often the only way to book.

Alternatively, other travel credit cards (not co-branded with a hotel) often have hotel benefits of their own. You can book hotels through third-party services, like American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts or the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection, and receive many of the same perks as members with elite status.

What’s the optimal strategy for hotel credit cards?

If you’re a dedicated traveller who wants to see as much of the world as possible by maximizing your credit cards, hotel credit cards will play a significant role in your strategy.

On the whole, it’s relatively easier for Canadians to earn points that will cover your flights at a good value, compared to hotels and other places to stay.

Therefore, the objective of your hotel credit card strategy is to give you as many free hotel nights using points as possible, while elevating the quality of all your hotel nights (whether free or paid) through elite status benefits.

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card are the two most prominent hotel co-branded credit cards in Canada.

By getting both cards, you’ll instantly unlock enough points for a couple of free nights via the welcome bonus, and then you can rely on the cards’ anniversary Free Night Awards every year to outweigh their respective $120 and $150 annual fees.

Either of these two cards also gives you 15 elite qualifying nights towards your Marriott Bonvoy elite status. Stay 35 more nights, and you’ll reach the 50 elite qualifying nights required for Platinum Elite status, which is where your elite benefits (like free breakfast, suite upgrades, and lounge access) really start to kick in.

The American Express Platinum Card is another straightforward way to boost your hotel experiences, offering mid-tier Gold status with Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson, as well as access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program to unlock elite-equivalent benefits at a wider range of luxury hotels around the world.

To further maximize points with the major hotel chains, you’d likely need to explore US credit cards, which offer a much wider range of more powerful credit cards among Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and several other global hotel chains.

Meanwhile, if you prefer to stay at other forms of accommodation, like non-chain independent hotels, hostels, or Airbnbs, then your credit card strategy may be more scattered across the various Big 5 banks’ points programs.

These points currencies can all be used to offset against the cash expenses associated with these other types of lodging options, or in RBC and TD’s cases, redeemed at a good value for your accommodation of choice through the Hotels.com and Expedia portals respectively.

No matter your preferred travel style, your accommodations are likely the second-largest travel expense after your flights, so a solid hotel credit card strategy that works for you should be a top priority alongside maximizing points for flight rewards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions we frequently hear from readers about the best hotel credit cards in Canada.

Will hotel status from my credit card give me elite qualifying nights?

No. Elite nights give you elite status, but elite status doesn’t always give you elite nights.

For example, if you earned Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status by holding an American Express Platinum Card, you’d still need a full 50 elite qualifying nights to reach Platinum Elite, the next level up. Being Gold Elite doesn’t get you halfway there unless you’ve earned the qualifying nights to back it up.

When will I receive my 15 elite qualifying nights from the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards?

The 15 elite qualifying nights are typically deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy account within a few days after the credit card application is approved, and then on January 1 every year that you remain a cardholder.

Can I combine the 15 elite qualifying nights from the personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit cards for a total of 30?

For the Canadian-issued Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, the answer is no: you can only earn a maximum of 15 elite qualifying nights per year, even if you hold both the personal and business versions of the Marriott Bonvoy credit card.

The only way to earn 30 elite qualifying nights from credit cards is by getting US credit cards. If you hold US-issued personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, then you’ll earn a total of 30 elite qualifying nights.

When will I receive my Free Night Award from the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards?

The Free Night Award is typically deposited into your Marriott Bonvoy account within eight weeks after the statement containing your renewal annual fee has been posted.

Can I pool points from different individuals’ Marriott Bonvoy credit cards into one account?

Yes, you can pool points between different Marriott Bonvoy accounts, although each account is limited to sending 100,000 points per calendar year and receiving 500,000 points per calendar year.

Points transfer can only be done over the phone. The sender should call Member Support and provide the recipient’s Marriott Bonvoy account number in order to initiate the process.

Ricky Zhang

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