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Notes on travel credit cards
February 8, 2014
8:20 pm
Peter
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I've been investigating and using some travel credit cards and have accumulated some notes (valid as of February 2014) around rewards rates, insurance, and points redemptions. There are of course many other features of these cards, and some factors are more or less important depending on who you are. There are also many other travel credit cards such as Aeroplan-affiliated cards, airline-specific cards (WestJet, Alaska Airlines), and premium cards (Amex Platinum); I focused on ones that are useful for any travel and where there is either no annual fee for the first year, or the sign-up bonus more than covers the first year's annual fee.

Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard
http://www.capitalone.ca/credi.....vel-world/

  • Nice sign-up bonus
  • Annual fee ($120) starting in the first year, offset by the bonus in the first year and almost fully offset with a $100 travel points bonus in subsequent years
  • Great 2% rewards rate (for travel redemptions) on all purchases; or 1.5% if you want cash back
  • Great insurance, including trip cancellation
  • Redemption structure can be a pain for some people: you have to redeem for the full amount of a past travel charge, and there are fixed points tiers for purchases of $600 or less. This is somewhat mitigated if you can split costs into several charges or if you are a big spender, but it is enough of a pain to make me cancel the card.

American Express Gold Rewards Card
https://www.americanexpress.com/ca/en/content/gold-rewards-card/

  • Nice sign-up bonus
  • Annual fee ($150) after the first year
  • You can refer others to get more points
  • 2% rewards points for gas / grocery / drugstores; 1% on other spending
  • No trip cancellation insurance but good other insurance
  • Transfer points to Aeroplan or use TripFlex to pay off any travel (very convenient because you can pay off parts of any past charges in any amount over $10)

Amazon.ca Rewards Visa
http://www.amazon.ca/gp/cobran.....pr=con31ca

  • $20 sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee ever
  • No foreign currency charge conversion fee (typically 2.5% on other cards) -- this is what makes this card worthwhile if you're going to make purchases in US dollars or other non-CAD purchases
  • Cash back of 1%
  • No insurance of any kind
  • Similar is the Marriott Rewards Visa (for waiving the foreign currency charge conversion fee) but with an annual fee ($120), hotel rewards,and some insurance

BMO World Elite MasterCard
http://www.bmo.com/home/person.....mastercard

  • Nice sign-up bonus
  • Annual fee ($150) after the first year
  • Great insurance, including trip cancellation
  • Great 2% rewards rate (for travel redemptions) on all purchases
  • Unlike the Capital One and Amex cards, you do not redeem for past travel charges, but you have to use their booking service to apply your points to future travel
February 9, 2014
8:16 pm
Loonie
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thanks, Peter.
For the Amazon one, if you go to the bottom of the screen in question, where there is a link to their various other cards, you can follow that, and then click on the card in question. You will get a lot more details, such as that it is offered by JPMorgan Chase Bank, and well over 200 customer reviews.

October 4, 2014
9:40 am
Peter
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Just a quick note if you have the Amazon or Marriott Visa where foreign currency conversion fees are waived: if you use PayPal, use this semi-hidden setting to prevent PayPal from performing the currency conversion -- PayPal tacks on a foreign currency conversion fee -- and allowing the credit card company to do so:

http://forums.redflagdeals.com.....s-1474582/

October 4, 2014
3:56 pm
Loonie
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Interesting.
I believe Sears Canada credit card also offers the no-conversion-fee perk. kanaka reported on another thread that he had recently gotten one.

October 6, 2014
11:14 pm
Loonie
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Here is something else to bear in mind, as many forum members are seniors. With all of the credit cards that offer "free" travel health insurance, as far as I know, the cut-off age is 65. You can sometimes get it up to age 70 with some of them, but this is variable and always costs extra, so is not really included. Also, it can be hard to find out this information. It is often hidden.

Ultimately, you are most likely paying, one way or another, for something you can't use, if you are over 65th birthday, if your card offers "free" travel health insurance.

I think that all the fee-based cards that offer this ought to offer a discount for seniors on the cost of the card. It would be an excellent competitive advantage for the card issuer that wanted to target the senior traveller. Most people, when asked what they want to do when they retire, include "travel" on their list. We like a bargain and we like to know that the businesses we patronize understand our needs.

Here's another thing seniors like. (Indeed, I think everyone might like this.) We want to know ALL the terms and conditions before we sign up. Just telling us you'll send us something in the mail after we're approved doesn't satisfy us - especially as the print is often insufferably small for seniors and you've just done a hard hit on our pristine credit reports. We'd like it nice and clear and accessible on the internet in adjustable font size without password access restrictions. Some do this, but many do not or make it very difficult to find. Make it easier for us to know the truth and we'll be more likely to sign up - unless, of course, your truth is very unpleasant, in which case you ought to be ashamed of yourselvessf-embarassed and do a better job.

Any credit card companies listening out there?? Hey, I'll give you a cashback if you sign up for my plan... it's called "business".sf-surprised Win-win.sf-smile

October 7, 2014
7:20 am
GS1
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Loonie:

My US$ BMO card has a travel insurance add-on that costs me (being in the 66-70 band) US$329 per year for unlimited 30 day trips for both myself and Mrs. GS. I top it up with another plan that costs about Cdn$5 for Mrs GS and Cdn$12 for me, having had a few medical issues. (My Capital One card also comes with a 7 day trip plan which I have not really investigated.)

The agent that sells me the top-up is wonderful and is regularly on CBC and in a variety of print publications warning of the issues with post-event underwriting.

His plans have an "oopps" clause that pays if you mess up the questions but with a $10,000 deductible (so you don't lose your home when you say NO when you should have said YES).

GS

October 7, 2014
11:54 am
Loonie
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Your agent sounds like a gem, GS.

I think the Capital One plan does exist for 65+ for short trips, but excludes any pre-existing condition for which there has been any change or recommended test etc in the last 6 months through age 74, or one year if you are over 74 http://www.capitalone.ca/media.....nefits.pdf . That would be very restrictive for most people, but will help some. Underwriter is American Bankers Life Assurance co of Florida. However, one would need to read the actual certificate for complete details.

I am very leery of bank policies. I was once shopping for a policy when well under 65, and had someone at a bank read out to me the conditions over the phone. This was one of the Big 5. It contained an exclusion for any pre-existing condition that you may have had, whether you were aware of it or not! Even the person on the phone had to admit there was not much point in buying it. I hope they've improved, but remain doubtful.

October 7, 2014
8:03 pm
GS1
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I am loathe to promote the agent here but will be happy to respond to personal messages. He is based in Ottawa and I have never met him, but have read some of his articles and have spent numerous calls discussing insurance.

In my case I may have or may not have an enlarged aorta. It is larger than "normal" but is not an aneurysm. Tests are done annually and some of those read "investigate for aneurysm". My former policy asked the question about "an aneurysm greater than 4.1 cm which either has or has not been treated". I gathered all my test records and sent them off to him. He sent them to the underwriting department of the insurer and their response was: "does his doctor wish this question to be answered YES or NO" and that was as far as they would go. He and I agreed that if I did have a problem the insurer would likely deny coverage based on their then current interpretation of my "condition".

The agent's solution was to find a policy with the same company that did not ask the question. I am likely paying more, but don't have to worry about being denied. If I recall correctly the questionnaire asked as question 1 if I was taking more than two meds for a list of ailments. Answering YES put me in their highest category and I had no further questions to answer.

I'm 67 and for 62 days insurance am paying $12.01 per day

GS

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