Maximize Your Earn, Part 2: Non-Amex Credit Card Multipliers

 

Welcome back to our series on how to leverage credit card multipliers to maximize your earning potential. In Part 1, we focused on cards issued by American Express. 

American Express is a great bank to accumulate points with because of its vast array of transfer partners. It also has co-branded cards with Air Canada, making it easy to accumulate Aeroplan points, a major player in our Canadian landscape.

Unfortunately, not all retailers accept Amex, given their high merchant processing fees. Undoubtedly there’ll be times you’ll have to pull out a Mastercard or Visa, so in Part 2 of this series, we’ll now look at multipliers on cards issued by other banks.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll only focus on Canadian cards that earn airline points currencies or their equivalent, as opposed to cash back cards or other points currencies.

Canadian Banks with Airline Partners

American Express has the most flexibility when it comes to transfer partners, with a total of six airline partners and two hotel partners. However, there are still some good Visa and Mastercard options.

In Canada, RBC, HSBC, CIBC, and TD all have credit cards that can earn you airline points. 

RBC

RBC offers a few credit cards that can earn airline currencies directly:

RBC also has their own line of Avion credit cards that earn RBC Rewards points, which can be transferred to four airline partners.

The transfer ratios from RBC Rewards to the airline currencies are as below:

RBC Avion Transfer Partner

Transfer Ratio

WestJet Dollars

100:1

British Airways Executive Club

1:1

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

1:1

American Airlines AAdvantage

1:0.7

Keeping these partners and ratios in mind, let’s look at what the credit card multipliers are. 

Credit Card

Points Currency

Category

Multiplier

Annual Fee

RBC Rewards

No multipliers

1x

$120

RBC Rewards

No multipliers

1x

$120

RBC Rewards

No multipliers

1x

$120

RBC Rewards

Basic earn rate

1.25x

$399

RBC Rewards

Basic earn rate

1.25x

$175

British Airways spend

2x

$165

Cathay Pacific spend

2x

$120

WestJet Dollars

WestJet spend

2% back

$119

RBC earn rates are pretty easy to remember. Other than the premium cards and money spent on airline spend, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent. The exception would be the WestJet World Elite Mastercard which earns 1.5% WestJet dollars on regular spend.

For a higher earning rate of 1.25 points per dollar spent, grab a premium card, but be sure you can justify the higher annual fee (perhaps for redeeming for business class flights at 2 cents per point). 

HSBC

HSBC offers their own group of Mastercards that earn HSBC Rewards points, which can transferred to three airline partners at the following ratios. Note that there is a minimum transfer amount of 25,000 HSBC Rewards points.

With these partners and ratios in mind, let’s look at what the credit card multipliers are. 

Credit Card

Points Currency

Category

Multiplier

Annual Fee


HSBC Rewards

Dining & Entertainment

2x

$25

HSBC Rewards

Travel

2x

$0

Gas & Transit

2x

HSBC Rewards

Base earn rate

3x

$149

Travel

6x

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Rewards

Base earn rate

3x

$149

Travel

6x

Sometimes just looking at the multipliers can be misleading. You also have to take into consideration the transfer ratios.

Let’s take an example to illustrate this. Imagine you have to spend $15,000 on a two-week Mediterranean cruise.

If you put that spend on a HSBC Travel Rewards Card, you would earn 3x points on travel, thus netting 45,000 HSBC Rewards points. If transferred to a British Airways Avios account, you would have 18,000 Avios, for an effective earn rate of 1.2 Avios per dollar. Not bad for a card that has no annual fee. 

If you put the spend on a HSBC World Elite Mastercard, you would earn 6x points on travel, netting you 90,000 HSBC Rewards points. By converting these into 36,000 Avios, you’d have a superior effective earning rate of 2.4 Avios per dollar for a card that has a $149 annual fee, whose annual $100 travel credit brings it down to effectively $49.

Looking into the other benefits of this card, it also charges no foreign transaction fees, making it my top choice when travelling abroad. 

TD and CIBC

I’ve grouped TD and CIBC together because they both only have one airline partner, Aeroplan, although keep in mind that any Aeroplan points earned can be redeemed on any one of Aeroplan’s many airline partners

Redeem Aeroplan points for ANA First Class

Both banks offer several different tiered Visa cards that will earn Aeroplan points directly:

Now let’s take a look at how their earning rates compare:

Credit Card

Points Currency

Category

Multiplier

Annual Fee

Base earn rate

0.67x

$0

Air Canada, gas, & groceries

1x

Base earn rate

0.67x

$89

Air Canada, gas, & groceries

1x

Starbucks

1.5x

Base earn rate

0.67x

$0

Air Canada, gas, & groceries

1x

Air Canada, gas, groceries, & Starbucks

1.5x

$139

Air Canada, gas, & groceries

1.5x

$139

Base earn rate

1.25x

$599

Air Canada 

2x

Gas, groceries, travel, dining, & Starbucks

1.5x

Base earn rate

1.25x

$599

Air Canada

2x

Gas, groceries, travel, & dining

1.5x

Air Canada

2x

$149

Shipping, communications, travel, dining, & Starbucks

1.5x

Air Canada

2x

$180

Shipping, communications, travel, & dining

1.5x

Note that for the TD cards with a Starbucks multiplier, you must link your TD credit card to your Starbucks account to earn the multiplier.

The earn rates between different tiers of TD and CIBC cards are rather similar, so when deciding between a TD or CIBC card, it may come down to other factors such as welcome bonuses and other credit card benefits.

If you’re looking for a no-fee entry-level keeper card, then the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card is a good option compared to the TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum, which charges an $89 annual fee.

Keep in mind that TD and CIBC often offer a first year free waiver on their Visa Infinite cards, so with the higher earn rate, you may be better off choosing one of these cards for at least the first year. 

Which Non-Amex Credit Card Should You Use?

To determine which card will best maximize your earn, you’ll have to do a personal analysis to see what your spend and travel patterns are.

Your spend patterns will determine which multipliers pertain the most to you. Your travel patterns will determine which airline program you’ll want to invest in, how many points you may need, and whether you can justify the higher annual fee of a card in exchange for the other benefits that may come with it. 

Below is a chart summarizing the different spend categories and the credit card with the best multiplier based on what airline currency you want to accumulate. 

Spend Category

Aeroplan

Avios

Asia Miles

KrisFlyer Miles

Air Canada

2 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

2.4 points/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

1.92 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

2.16 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

British Airways

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

2.4 points/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

1.92 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

2.16 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Cathay Pacific

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

2.4 points/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

1.92 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

2.16 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Travel

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

2.4 points/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

1.92 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

2.16 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Gas

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Transit

1.25 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Groceries

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Dining

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Shipping

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Internet, cable, phone

1.5 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Everything else

1.25 points/$

TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege

1.25 points/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.25 miles/$

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business

1.08 miles/$

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

If collecting Aeroplan points is your goal, the only options are a TD or CIBC Aeroplan Visa card. Which tier of card you choose will depend on what you spend the most on, whether your spend can justify the annual fee, and the welcome bonus at the time.

If you can justify the annual fee of an Infinite Privilege card, you’ll maximize your earn with 1.25x as a base earn rate and 1.5x on most major categories of spend.

If you’re saving up for an aspirational flight experience like Singapore Suites, then your only option is HSBC and the best card for spend would be the HSBC World Elite Mastercard or HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, which will earn a minimum of 1.08 miles per dollar spent.

If you’re planning to fly on an airline that’s part of the Oneworld alliance, then consider your spending patterns.

For regular spend, it’s a close race between the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or RBC Avion Visa Business, which earn 1.25 Avios or Asia Miles per dollar and the HSBC World Elite Mastercard or HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, which earn 1.2 Avios per dollar for your Oneworld redemptions.

For any travel-related expenses, the twin HSBC premium cards take the prize, at 2.4 Avios or 1.96 Asia Miles per dollar spent.

Perhaps consider holding both an RBC Visa and an HSBC Mastercard so that you have one of each in your wallet, as not all merchants will accept both.

I purposely omitted American Airlines AAdvantage program in the chart for simplicity, as the conversion from Avion isn’t the greatest and both Avios and Asia Miles can be used to redeem for their flights.

There really isn’t too much use for AAdvantage program in the Canadian landscape now that Qatar Airways Qsuites has joined the Avios family. However, one exception would be if you’re looking to book Qsuites with the lowest taxes and fees – in that case, the RBC Avion cards would be the preferred choice. 

If you’re looking at a higher base earn rate, then you’ll want to look at the Visa Infinite Privilege cards, which all earn 1.25 points per dollar on regular spend and 1.5 points per dollar on dining.

The higher earning rates alone, however, may not justify the high annual fee of $599, unless you can take advantage of the other benefits that come with the card.

And finally, if you’re a Starbucks fan, then you’ll probably want to look into a TD card rather than CIBC, as they’re offering a 50% earn bonus if you link any TD Aeroplan card to your Starbucks account.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there are still many merchants that don’t take American Express, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop earning airline points.

RBC, HSBC, TD, and CIBC are all banks that offer Mastercards and Visas that can, in some cases, offer better earn rates on airline currencies than American Express.

Take some time to analyze your own spend and travel patterns and see which card or cards will help you achieve your travel goals sooner. 

 

 

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