Scotiabank Gold Amex Bonus Extended to June

Scotiabank Gold Amex Bonus Extended

The Scoop

The March 31st deadline for the Scotiabank Gold Amex card has been bumped. Scotiabank wasn’t on the ball the morning of April 1st and continued to have their 15K point, first year free offer with the date of March 31st. What would normally have been thought of as an April Fools joke appeared that afternoon. The deadline was extended to June 31st 2014. Seriously! I’m not certain what calendar they are using but here’s the screenshot:

ScotiaBank Gold Amex Date Error

The competition amongst travel cards in Canada is certainly the strongest it’s been. BMO extended their deadline recently and CIBC removed the deadline for their Aventura based cards.

The ScotiaBank Gold Amex Bonus

The current bonus is 15 000 points with the first year fee waived. ScotiaBank points have a straightforward value of 1 cent per point. They function just like the points from the TD First Class Infinite and the Capital One Aspire in that you buy travel and your card and redeem points afterwards for a fixed value. If you are just hunting for bonuses there are far better offers and this one is probably not worth the credit hit.

Targeted Offers for the ScotiaBank Gold Amex

A number of people have received pre-approvals from ScotiaBank with an added $300 bonus. If you get one of these offers you should jump on it. A $450 sign up bonus with the first year free is huge.

Worth Holding On To?

With 4x points on gas, groceries, dining and entertainment this is a strong card if your grocery store accepts Amex and/or you spend enough in those areas to justify the $99 annual fee. The competition is the TD First Class Infinite and the Capital One Aspire. The TD First Class Infinite offers a 1.5% return on all purchases and 3%/4.5% on phone/internet booked travel with TD. That card has a slightly higher fee at $120 which is waived if you have an All Inclusive account. The Capital One Aspire also has a $120 fee but with 10K points awarded every year you are only paying $20. It provides a 2% return in the form of points on all purchases.

From a points perspective the ScotiaBank Gold Amex card is great if your grocery store takes Amex, if you eat out a lot, use a lot of gas and go out to shows frequently. The additional features, especially the travel insurance, are excellent.

Should You Get The ScotiaBank Gold Amex Card?

If you can get this card with the $300 pre-approval then without question you should sign up for the card. If you spend a lot on gas, restaurants and entertainment and your grocery store takes Amex then you should sign up even if you don’t get the pre-approval bonus.

Average Age Of Credit Cards With Multiple Cards

Average Age Of Credit Cards With Multiple Cards

Part of your Credit Score

The Average age of your credit cards is a factor on your credit score. If you regularly apply for new credit cards it is worth understanding how it might affect your score. This is primarily an exercise in crunching numbers to get a feel for how opening new credit and cancelling credit might change the average ago of credit cards and other credit accounts. There is no conclusion, just a better understanding of the numbers.

Impact on Your Score

The length of your credit history will account for 15% of the average person’s credit score. This 15% is not a hard and fast rule as the percentages change based on your profile. The score includes the following:

  • the age of your oldest account
  • the age of your newest account
  • the average age of all your accounts
  • how long ago specific accounts were established
  • how long ago since specific accounts were used

Even with the potential variation in that 15%, the average age of credit cards is going to account for a small percentage of your overall credit score. This is especially true if you have other accounts, such as lines of credit, which also factor into the average age.

Impact of Cancelling on the Average Age of Credit Cards

The age of a credit card (or any revolving account) is based on the month it was opened. When you cancel an account it does not immediately impact the age of the account or the average age of credit cards and other accounts you hold. The account will continue to age until it drops off of your credit record. In Canada this normally occurs 6 years after being closed. In the United States it is 10 years for an account closed in good standing. The maximum age of an account is therefore 6 years plus the age at which you cancelled it in Canada.

Calculating Average Age of Credit Cards

I tried calculating the average age of credit cards with a spreadsheet but it was just too difficult. After thinking about it (always a good thing) I realized that the math was very simple. As an exercise, let us assume you have no credit cards and apply for any number of cards today and cancel them in one year. The average age of those cards in 1 year will be 1, in 5 years will be 5 – it doesn’t matter how many cards as long as it’s the same number every year. The oldest those cards will be is 7 years, just before they age off (1 year open + 6 years closed before aging off). If you don’t cancel them, then after 7 years your average age of credit cards will keep going up.

If you apply for the same number of cards (let’s say 3) at the same time every year and cancel them after 1 year, the average of your cards will be:

  • year 0: 3×0/3 = 0 years
  • year 1: (3×1 + 3×0)/6 = 3/6= 0.5 years
  • year 2: (3×2 + 3×1 + 3×0)/9 = 9/9 = 1 year
  • year 3: 18/12 = 1.33 years
  • year 4: 30/15 = 2 years
  • year 5: 45/18 = 2.5 years
  • year 6: 63/21 = 3 years
  • year 7: 84/24 = 3.5 years

Note that the age is actually done in months, not years, but the numbers are bigger and look a lot more ugly. What you will find is that after 7 years the average age will climb from 3 to 3.5, then drop to 3 and repeat as cards age off. If you get a different number of cards every year then there are way too many options and you’ll have to do the math yourself ;).

If you have cards you plan to keep then add all their ages to the numerator and the number of cards to the denominator (remember those pesky math terms?). The numbers above will go up any time you don’t cancel a card. If you have a 20 year old card when you start cycling 3/6 cards per year, the average age of your cards would be:

Cycle 3 cards Cycle 6 cards
year 0 20/4 = 5 years 20/7 = 2.9 years
year 1 23/7= 3.3 years 26/13= 2 years
year 2 29/10 = 2.9 years  38/19 = 2 years
year 3 38/13 = 2.9 years  56/25 = 2.2 years
year 4 50/16 = 3.1 years  80/31 = 2.6 years
year 5 65/19 = 3.4 years  110/37 = 3 years
year 6 83/22 = 3.8 years  146/43 = 3.4 years
year 7 104/25 = 4.2 years 188/49 = 3.8 years

So the more cards you cycle through, the less effect older non-cancelled cards have. That’s pretty obvious. But if you’re always cycling through the same number of cards you won’t ever drop below an average of 3 years after you reach year 6.

Summary

What does all this mean? That depends on a lot of factors. You don’t need an average age of 2 years to have a score over 700 if you manage the other factors well.

Not cancelling cards that don’t cost you money will help the average age. Just use them occasionally as if they aren’t used they factor less into your score and may be cancelled.

A higher average age of credit cards (or rather all your accounts) will help. How much better is an average of 3 over an average 2, or worse than an average of 10? Unfortunately I’ve not found much out there that tells you. The formulas are proprietary and there isn’t enough data showing people who have an old credit card, a variety of credit products, keep low balances and yet have a low average age of credit cards.

Keep in mind that the average age of accounts includes more than your credit cards. This should at least give an idea of the effect on the average age of credit cards if you get new cards regularly.

AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus to drop by March 31?

AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus to drop by March 31?

Points may drop from 30K to 20K

NOTE – APRIL 2: Looks like it was just a rumour … bonus points no longer count for Distinction but the referred bonus has stayed at 30K. The non-referred bonus has gone up to 25K from 20K until July 14th but it’s still better to get referred.

It’s just a rumour for the moment but there is the possiblilty that the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold Bonus may drop back to the regular 20K points. Hopefully this is not true but the possibility must be considered. The date provided was March 31, 2014.

The Aeroplan Plus Gold card is also currently free for the first year as are supplemental cards. After the first year the card is $120 for the primary and $50 for supplemental cards. You can cancel this card after 6 months if you don’t wish to pay the annual fee. The card earns 1 Aeroplan point per $ for the first $10K spent, and 1.25AP per $ thereafter.

If you are not referred by someone with the card then the bonus is currently 20K Aeroplan points. However, there is an added 10K (30K) total if you are referred by someone with an card of the Amex Aeroplan family (AeroplanPlus, AeroplanPlus Gold, AeroplanPlus Platinum).

The only official word from Amex is that the AeroplanPlus Gold bonus may be Aeroplan Distinction eligible until April 1, 2014. If you don’t already have this card it might be better to err on the side of caution and get it, as the bonus is one of the best available in Canada. The bonus is awarded after spending at least $500 in the first three months after acceptance.

Get Referred Now for Points and Distinction

If you have a friend or family member with the Amex Aeroplan Gold card have them send you a recommendation through their account. You will get an extra 10K points and your friend or family member will get an extra 10K as well (15K if they have a the AeroplanPlus Platinum card). If you don’t know anyone with the card you can use my Amex AeroplanPlus Gold referral to get the bonus 10K (I won’t complain about any extra points :-) ).

Once you have your card you can start to refer friends and family right away to get bonus points. There is no need to make your minimum spend for the 30K points before you start referring. If the rumour is true then you and your friends/family can get the extra points. If the rumour isn’t true, then you should at least have Aeroplan Distinction eligibility.

Business Gold Rewards from Amex Free No Longer

Business Gold Rewards from Amex Free No Longer

Today Amex has changed the terms of their Business Gold Rewards card. They have removed the first year free offer and have increased the annual fee to $250. Furthermore the required spending to receive 25 000 reward points has gone from $3000 to $5000 in the first three months.

The Amex Business Gold Rewards card is no longer an interesting offer for Amex points. You would be much better off getting the Amex Platinum card with offers 60K points on referral for $699. If you make use of the 2x $200 travel credits you will be effectively paying $299 for 60K points with a minimum $1K spend instead of $250 for 25K points and a minimum $5K spend. You would also have much better benefits!

BMO World Elite Bonus Deadline Extended

BMO World Elite Bonus Deadline Extended

Offer is good until June 1, 2014

The credit card competition is going strong in Canada, at least relative to the traditional situation. The latest is the Bank of Montreal extending their deadline for the BMO World Elite bonus of 30K points and first year free from March 3, 2014 to June 1, 2014. There are a number of competing offers and it looks as though BMO doesn’t want to be the first one to pull back their offer. Not when CIBC and TD are posting that new credit card sign ups are exceeding expectations.

Is this a good card to get for the bonuses? Without question it is.

The highlights of the sign-up

  • 30 000 points that can be redeemed for $300 via BMOs travel service for flights, hotels etc
  • First year free
  • Priority Pass lounge membership with 4 free passes

What makes the card interesting to use

Points are a clear 2% of all purchases (not just groceries/gas/pharmacy) like some cards. Depending on your spending, it may be worth keeping this card even if you have to pay the $150 per year fee. The Capital One Aspire is the competition.

The BMO World Elite insurance for trip cancellation, trip interruption and rental car collision is valid if you pay with points or the card and even if you only partially pay with either. Most credit card insurance policies require the full purchase to be made on the card.

Travel medical insurance on the BMO World Elite Mastercard is valid up to 21 consecutive days (extendible to 31 for $29 per trip if you and your spouse are under 65), unlimited times per year. While no where close to the National Bank Platinum’s 60 day limit, this is free insurance for the first year.

Conclusion

The $300 is easy to use for anyone who travels while the lounge passes and Prioity Pass membership may have additional value for others. The extension of the deadline means you can sign up for other cards now and have three months for your credit score to breathe.

$2400 in Bonuses Since January and Counting

Note: Before applying for multiple cards please read Maximize Credit Cards for Travel which discusses the various considerations including how your credit score may be affected.

Last night I got the call from BMO regarding my credit card approval and amongst their questions was if I had any other credit cards. Hmmm … where to start.

I came into the game with a Visa, US$ Visa and Mastercard. The game started at the end of December. It started with my other half getting the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold card. This card is not the best card for daily use nor for its benefits but it does have a great sign up bonus and is free for the first year. Normally the bonus is 20K Aeroplan points but if you are referred by someone with the card you will get an extra 10K (30K in total – Distinction eligible for until April 1 2014), worth about $450 if you value points at 1.5c/point (a good starting point … you can get higher than this). You need to spend $500 in the first 3 months from the application date in order to get any points. I used the referral of someone who helped me learn about the some of the better ways to use Aeroplan points as the person referring also gets 10K Aeroplan points. If you need a referral you can use mine, or that of a friend, or that of anyone else who has helped you out. This card can be cancelled after 6-14 months if you don’t want to pay the annual fee (I have been told that Amex will refund annual fees in the first two months from the point the fee is charged).

Next up I applied for the Chase Marriott Visa card, also with the first year free, at the start of January as they had a 50K signup bonus, after your first purchase, plus a free night in a category 1-4 hotel (no purchase necessary) worth about $100-$150 if used correctly. The Residence Inn in Westmont, Montreal is 15K points per night and is a category 3 hotel that lists for $200 (although you can probably get something similar on Hotwire for $100-$150) so your 50K Marriott points are worth about $500 in that situation. TownPlace Suites in Richmond VA is 6K points or $89US per night so 50K Marriott points are worth $800 Canadian there. That’s just a quick search – you may be able to find a better deal for your points. I got the coupon for the free hotel night with the credit card but the 50K points only posted with the first statement. Let’s be conservative and say that the signup bonus is worth $600, but it could be close to $1000 depending on your need. I plan to keep this card as I’ll get a free category 1-5 hotel every year which covers the $120 annual fee, Silver Eltite status with Marriott, and it’s one of just two credit cards in Canada that I know of (the other being Chase Amazon Visa) that doesn’t hit you for 2.5% for every foreign transaction. I will only use the card for foreign transactions and at Marriott Hotels. After getting this card my Equifax score dropped 6 points for the hard pull.

The following card was an Amex Gold Rewards card for myself, also free the first year. The signup bonus was 25K, after $500 is purchased in the first 3 months, which can be converted 1:1 to Aeroplan or Avios or could be used directly at 1c/point for travel booked through Amex – I peg the value at $375. Unlike the AeroplanPlus Gold, there is no bonus for getting referred but you can still make someone’s day by using their referral. This card is much better than the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold card as you get double points on groceries, gas and pharmacy purchases (and that includes gift cards for other types of stores that you purchase in those types of stores). Alas, Costco and Walmart do not count as grocery stores for double points.

After that was the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card – 15K Aeroplan points for just a single purchase with points worth $225. With my other half getting one as well we were up to $1875 in sign up bonuses. TD doesn’t tell you that the first year is free but currently it is. Just phone them up (or ask at the bank – if they don’t know have them call Visa). If you sign up before May 9th 2014 you also get a free companion flight on a short-haul rewards flight – but it has to be on Air Canada metal and you need to pay fees and taxes which may make the flight more expensive than paying cash with an alternative airline. If you plan to fly to Nunavut from Ontario then that companion flight is worth a good $1500 though as would the 15K Aeroplan points which is enough to fly Ontario-Nunavut. There are other perks too but I’m only counting the value of points so far.

My fourth card, signed up for at the beginning of February, was the CIBC AeroGold Visa Infinite. Like the TD card, it has a 15K Aeroplan bonus for making one purchase and it has an advertized first year free if you sign up in time. It also provides you with an additional 5K Aeroplan points if you spend $500 in three months on the card. Total value of $300.

The latest card I was accepted for was the BMO World Elite Card. Another first year free card and a $300 sign up bonus that must be used for travel booked through BMO. It also has a bonus of a Priority Pass membership and 4 free passes to their airport lounges per year, but I’m not counting that value. This is a card that may be worth keeping if you spend enough.

So here we are, in less than 2 months with more than $2400 in rewards and still only a 6 point credit hit (you may see a much greater hit depending on your credit history – monitor your credit with Equifax – they have a free trial that will get you your score and you can phone them up before the month is up to upgrade to a free month of the premium monitoring). This week I plan to get the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold myself and for the better half to get the Business version of the Amex Gold Rewards (they don’t check if you have a business but we do have one – you need to spend $3000 in 3 months but you can always get Costco or Esso gift certificates is needed to complete the spending). Including the points for referring each other we will have another 75K Aeroplan points worth $1125. I’m hoping to add a CIBC and BMO cards for my spouse as well. That would take our Aeroplan total to: 30Kx2+25Kx2+15Kx2+20Kx2+10Kx2=200K Aeroplan points. The value of all our sign ups at the end of the week should be $4125.

Later in the year I will get the Amex Business Gold Rewards card and my other half the regular Gold Rewards card for 70K 35K more points worth $1050 $525. I also plan to get the Amex Platinum Card – a $700 fee but with $200 in travel credits each calendar year it means I’m only paying $300 for a 60K signup with referral and the 10K for the referral with is $1050 in value … net $750.

So the total by mid year should be 350K 3150K Aeroplan points (not counting spending), worth $5925 $5400 for long-haul economy travel on Star Alliance airlines (such as United and Swiss) without big fees and taxes, including other signup bonuses. If we cancel the Amex cards we got at the start of the year after we’ve had them for 6 months, and assuming the sign up bonuses are still there a year from now we should be able to get another 150K Aeroplan points taking us to 500K 465K total. With 600K you can get 4 business class tickets to Asia (with fees as low as $200 each) and do a mini round the world trip (mini RTW– see my database of actual miniRTW trips taken by FlyerTalk members) with a potential ticket value of $10 000 each. Worth the trouble? I would say so ….

UPDATE

Equifax is a bit slow with the point drops but they do drop. After 5 cards applied for & approved for myself, three hard pulls reporting (one card had no hard pull and one was pulled at Trans Union) and fourfive new credit accounts (one left) showing up in Equifax there has been almost an 8085 point drop. It is just starting to creep back up 2.5 months later In theory this should start to disappear in 3-6 months but there may be some outstanding points to come off still for the credit that hasn’t yet reported. If you don’t have long established credit this will take a lot longer to recover. The last card reporting dropped the score by 7 points after it had recovered a point. There are two cards still showing “not used or too early to report”. The scores should start to recover after they report in.

UPDATE March 2014:

Amex removed the first year free for the Business Gold Rewards card (not a big deal as they may bring it back) before I could apply and also increased the minimum spend from $3000 to $5000 (changes reflected in strikeouts above). This was done without warning. I will be applying for the Amex AeroplanPlus Gold using the referral before the month is over. Amex has a promotion for the bonus counting towards distinction that expires at the end of March. I am concerned about a rumour that the extra 10K you get from a referral may disappear as well at that time.

UPDATE April 2014:

Managed to get 6 points back out of 85 lost … slowly but surely.

Multiple Credit Cards for Points

Note: This post has been expanded and turned into a more permanent page: Maximize Credit Cards for Travel which discusses the various considerations including how your credit score may be affected in a more organized fashion.

Multiple Credit Cards for Points

Considering the Effect on Credit from Applying for Multiple Credit Cards

For the last couple of years I’ve seen the promos for credit cards and thought that the sign up bonuses, while nice, were insufficient for any real travel (especially if you aren’t racking up points elsewhere) and not worth the trouble. Then I discovered that the limitations of getting a single card can be overcome by churning cards and applying for multiple cards. This left the issue of how it would impact my credit score, so I dug through an excellent but terribly long thread about credit and this are the key points I’ve dug out (caveat emptor: I am not a credit professional … these are from what I read):

Key Effects on Credit

  • hard credit pulls happen when you ask for credit, and shouldn’t happen if an institution has done a soft pull to increase your credit limit or to offer you a product.
  • hard pulls should drop your score by 4-6 points immediately but are not the only way in which your score can be affected by new credit.
  • the point losses from a hard credit pull effects diminish after 6 months and are irrelevant after between 1 and 2 years (as long as you keep your score high you should be able to churn cards as long as you quit 1-2 years before looking for a mortgage/line of credit).
  • hard pulls done in the same week should show up as a single check in the formula so requesting multiple cards on the same day should hurt less
  • most hard pulls are done against Equifax while a few, like Amex are done against Trans Union – choosing applications that hit different organization will hurt less (you will still get new credit hits) as they will reduce different scores.
  • new credit is considered a risk and may bring your score down. This negative effect on your score will be increased by having a shorter credit history and opening multiple credit products in a short period of time. New credit becomes older credit after a year or two and the negative effect diminishes.
  • holding three credit cards is most favourable … more or fewer can hurt your score (although a bunch of old ones would be good)
  • keep the balances ideally under 30% or at least under 75% (doesn’t matter if you pay it off every month … trying to average under 30% usage if you can). Be careful when cancelling credit cards that you don’t increase your balance percentage too much.
  • keep your oldest card … don’t get rid of it but you can downgrade a fee based card to a non-fee based one and keep the history if you want. The age of your oldest card helps … and the average age of all your cards helps so having a really old card or a couple of older ones is better (with a 20 year old card you can have 3 brand new ones and still have a 5 year average … the older your cards the more you should be able to churn at one time). Be careful cancelling older cards that will decrease the average age of your cards.
  • keep a card with a high limit if you don’t have older cards with high limits … you don’t want to increase your overall credit ratio of balance/limit too much
  • use a new card for minimum 3-6 months so that it reports R1 instead of R0 … make sure you use it at least once (and pay it off) just before cancelling so it shows up as R1 on the credit report (this applies to any old cards that haven’t been used in ages … use once, pay, THEN cancel)… ideally use every card once a month to keep them reporting. A card that is R0 (to new to report) will affect your score negatively and will not be looked on favourably by any person approving your credit. A card that is closed R1 should not affect your score if it does not increase your credit usage percentage significantly (e.g. move you above 70% usage).
  • missed payments stay on your record for 7 years (longer exceptions involving bankruptcies) but it’s only reported if you miss by 30 days or more (except Sears who report right away). Missed payments can have a major affect on your credit score and should be avoided at all costs.
  • dropping store credit cards helps your credit.
  • having a mix of credit types helps your score (lines of credit etc).
  • there are lots of places that show you what percentage of your score comes from paying on time, new credit etc … they don’t always say that the fine print says that mix may change depending on your profile.
  • if you keep your score above 650 you should have few problems getting credit. If you keep your score above 700 you will be looked on very favourably.

Credit risk in a nutshell

If you have a long credit card history, a mix of credit types, always pay your bills on time and keep a low balance on all your revolving credit, aren’t looking for a mortgage or line of credit in the next year and your score is above 750 then you should be able to apply for multiple cards (2-5) at one time comfortably (unless you have a short credit history). To be certain you can check your scores before and after you’ve started applying for cards. Leave 3-6 months for your credit to start recovering before applying again. One or two cards every 6 months will have a lot less affect than a so-called app-o-rama (several cards at once – monitor your credit score carefully if you try this).

How do you know your score? Go to Equifax or Trans Union – Equifax, at the time of writing, had a free month for their basic monthly service (scores update every 3 months), which can be updated by phone for a free month of the premium service that updates daily.

Maximizing Points with Multiple Credit Cards

What is the benefit of multiple cards? One is to collect the greatest value of points that your credit comfort will allow. Lets take a look at a couple signing up to a few of the latest offerings:
Person 1:
– Signs up to Amex Aeroplan Gold with a referral & spends $500: 30K
– Signs up to Amex Gold Rewards (with referral from partner) and spends $500: 25K
– refers partner for Aeroplan Gold: 10K
– Signs up for TD Aeroplan Infinite and buys 1 thing: 15K
– Signs up for CIBC Aerogold Infinite and spends $500: 20K
Total: 100K

Person 2:
– Signs up to Amex Gold Reward Business (with or without a referral & spends $3000): 25K
– Signs up to Amex Aeroplan Gold (with a referral from partner) and spends $500: 30K
– Refers partner to Amex Gold Rewards: 10K
– Signs up for TD Aeroplan Infinite and buys 1 thing: 15K
– Signs up for CIBC Aerogold Infinite and spends $500: 20K
Total: 100K

They can now both go to Europe in business class (90K) with 2 stops plus a destination (there are fees involved … a lot less with United or Swiss than AC).

Instead they wait … mid year person 1 gets the Amex Business Gold Rewards (referred by person 1) and spends $3K: 25K
Person 2 gets the Amex Gold Rewards (referred by person 1) and spends $500.
They each get 10K in referrals.

Now they each have 135K in points … lets say they spend $750 per month on groceries/gas/pharmacy on their Gold Reward cards and $500/ month on other things on their gold rewards … that’s 2K Aeroplan points per month. In 15 months they will each have 150K points total and are off an around the world trip that could be worth $10K.

UPDATE:

I was accepted for Amex Gold Rewards (hard pull on Trans Union), three Visa/MC cards (hard pulls on Equifax) and one Visa with no hard pull (pre-approval) in a period of 60 days. The first hard pull generated a 6 point hit. The score dropped another 9 points after a month but it’s unclear as to what triggered the drop. With all three non-Amex hard pulls reported and two of four new non-Amex cards reporting as new credit, the total drop is a little under 40 points. The new Amex card posted to Equifax two months after it was opened and I have not monitored Trans Union (nor do I deem it necessary). With one card left to report the total drop in credit score is almost 80 – still quite healthy but I will wait to see how long it takes to recover. My credit profile is appropriate and I monitor the effect.

Evaluating Travel Credit Cards

Note the bonuses mentioned here may be out of date but the analysis isn’t. You can look at the page Maximize Credit Card Points for Travel for in depth and up to date information on current offers.

There are a lot of different sites that compare credit cards but one thing I couldn’t find was some good advice on how to take advantage of signing up for cards just for their bonus points. Some sign-up bonuses require no minimum spend and so are “free points” assuming your credit score can absorb the hit (I’ll go on about that in another post later). Others require a minimum spend, and if you’re spending money on those, you aren’t earning points with your regular credit card which should be earning you at least 1.5c per $ (while the data here is focussed on Canadian credit cards the principles are the same elsewhere). Is it worth it to spend your money meeting a minimum spend on a card for the sign-up points? This is a sampling at a point in time but the principle can be applied with other cards.

This analysis assumes that one signs up for a card and only keeps it for one year to maximize the value of the sign-up bonus and any free for first year offer, and cancels the card before having to pay for a 2nd year. Some cards may be worth keeping but that’s being ignored for the purpose of this analysis. The only thing being looked at here is that one gets a card and makes the minimum spend (if any) required to get all the sign up points. One thing to take into consideration though is insurance when redeeming points. BMO World Elite is one of the few cards that provides rental car insurance and flight cancellation insurance if you pay only partially with your card or use points – most cards do not provide insurance if you use points. This is not a problem with cards where you book and pay, then claim back points later, but it can be when you need to book with points.

The table below has the following columns:

1) Card – the name of the card

2) The cost of the card for the first year. Some are $0 as at the time of writing they waived the first year fee.

3/4/5) The bonus for signing up. Some require a minimum spend ($500/$1000/$3000 in 3 months), others only one purchase, and the CIBC cards a bit of both. I am only counting points … if you want to factor in the value of airport lounge passes, trip insurance etc whose value will vary greatly by need then you can do the math and write your own blog add it in a comment! 😉 )

6) The total value of the bonus and the points from the minimum spend assuming you make the minimum spend. This assumes that Aeroplan, CIBC Aventura and RBC Avion points are worth about 1.5c per point. YMMV.

7) The “free value” column is the value of the sign-up bonus assuming you made 1 purchase but missed the minimum spend, minus the cost of the card.

8) The last column is the return on each $ spent. This is the value of the total points (minus card cost) if the minimum spend is met divided by the money spent to earn the points (not including card cost). This is a way of prioritizing spending … for instance the Amex Aero Gold card returns 91,5c in points for every $1 spent vs the business version that returns 14c in points for every $ spent (in fact all the cards except the TD Aero Infinite Privilege vastly outperform what you would pocket in points from your day to day card – that TD card would lose money, although it may have other benefits that are worthwhile) . The TD Aero Infinite returns $225 for every $1 spent assuming you just but $1 of stuff. This value needs to be seen in context as the CIBC cards would return the same value as the TD Aero Infinite if you don’t spend the $500.

Note … these tables assume that you get the referral bonuses which are available for some Amex cards (e.g. Amex Aero Gold is 20K bonus without referral and 30K with referral), otherwise the value may be less (you can consider this link for Amex Aeroplan cards or this link for Amex Gold/Platinum rewards cards to get the referrals, all of which I will get a bonus from – the links I provided for other cards I do not get any benefit from). Nor does this table assume any value you may get from making referrals with your Amex card (10K/15K) which can add to the value of those cards.

Aeroplan cards.

card offer deadline first year cost free bonus purchase bonus min spend total value free value return per $ spent
Amex GR unknown 0   25000 $500 $390 $0.00 0.78
Amex Plat unknown 299*(699)   60000 $1000 $619.75 -$299.00 0.6198
Amex Bus GR unknown 250   25000 $5000 $140 $0.00 0.028
Amex Aero Gold unknown (April 1 2014 for Distinction bonus) 0   30000 $500 $457.5 $0.00 0.915
Amex Aeroplan plus unknown (April 1 2014 for Distinction bonus)   5000   $1 $75.015 $75.00 75.015
Amex Aero Plat unknown (April 1 2014 for Distinction bonus) 499 25000 26000 1000 $266 -$124.00 0.266
TD Aero Inf Priv May 9 2014 399 25000   $1 -$24 -$24.00 -24
TD Aero Inf May 9 2014 0 15000   $1 $225 $225.00 225
TD Aero Plat May 9 2014 0 10000   $1 $150 $150.00 150
CIBC AeroGold Inf March 31 2014 0 15000 5000 $500 $311.25 $225.00 0.6225
CIBC AeroGold March 31 2014 0 15000 5000 $500 $311.25 $225.00 0.6225

* The fee for the Platinum card is $699 but each calendar year you get a $200 travel credit. If you get the card mid-year you can get two travel credits and cancel before the year is up … I used $299 as the fee. If you won’t use the credits the math works differently.

Note that the TD cards don’t advertize the first year free but if you call in or go to a bank you should get the card for free. I’ve had to get the people in the branch to phone Visa to verify that the first year is free. The May 9th deadline is for the bonus short-haul companion flight offer – the deadline for the 15K Aeroplan points and first year free is unknown.

Non Aeroplan Travel cards:

card offer deadline first year cost free bonus purchace bonus min spend total value free value return per $ spent
BMO World Elite June 1 2014 0  30000 + 4 lounge passes 0 $1 $300 $300 300.00
Capital One Aspire April 30 2014 $120 35000 + $75 0 $1 $305 $305 305.00
RBC Avion Infinite
unknown 0 15000** 0 $1 $225  $225 225.00
Scotiabank Gold Amex March 31 2014 0  15000 (+ $300***) 0 $1 $150 ($450) $150 ($450) 150.00 (450.00)
CIBC Aventura Inf March 31 2014 0 15000 5000 $500 $311.25 $225.00 0.6225
CIBC Aventura March 31 2014 0 15000 5000 $500 $311.25 $225.00 0.6225

**RBC Avion is free the first year if you have an Infinite card from another bank – there may be issues with customer service reps asking you to cancel your old card – hang up and try again. I’ve pegged the value of RBC points at 1.5c per point … like Aeroplan points there’s a huge variation in the value of those points. There’s a link above to a good summary article about this. You can convert to BA points, in the past with a 50% bonus from time to time. Fixed rate redemptions are 1c per point. Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule can get you over 2c per point.

***Scotiabank is offering $300 on top of 15K to those with preapproval.

BMO points must be redeemed at a fixed rate when booking directly from BMO travel service.

Capital One Aspire World, Scotiabank and TD points can be redeemed after the fact on purchases from any travel provider via the card. Capital One has a tiered system that needs attention to maximize value, while Scotiabank and TD are at a fixed rate.

RBC points must be redeemed for RBC rewards with a variety of values or transferred to British Airways points.

CIBC Aventura points must be redeemed for flights from CIBC with a variety of values.

UPDATE: Added details about the TD first year free and deadline and on all card redemption options.