How I Cashed In On Credit Card Rewards This Year

The key to maximizing your credit card rewards is choosing a card (or cards) that allows you to earn more points in the categories that you spend the most.

Online calculators – like the one developed by MoneySense – can tell you in theory which card gives you the most bang for your buck based on your spending habits, but you won’t know for sure until you actually have the card in your wallet and start using it regularly.

I tried to give my rewards earnings a boost this year by optimizing which credit cards I used for certain categories – favouring cards that paid back 2 percent or more – and taking advantage of several bonus offers by signing up for new cards.

The effort paid off handsomely as I was able to earn more than $1,555 in credit card rewards this year. Here’s how I did it:

  • Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite – $352.88
  • Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard – $600.00
  • Scotiabank Gold American Express – $232.75
  • American Express Gold Rewards – $250.00
  • Amazon.ca Rewards Visa – $20.00
  • MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard – $100.00

My go-to cards are the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite and the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard. I use the Momentum Visa for groceries, gas, and drug store spending as well as for recurring bill payments.  I use the Capital One card for almost everything else.  With just these two cards alone I was able to earn more than $1,000 back on my everyday spending.

Back in April I picked up the Scotiabank Gold American Express card. It came with a $150 travel credit and the $99 annual fee was waived for the first year.

Before the annual fee comes due I’ll have to decide whether to keep this card or the Momentum Visa Infinite. Both pay 4 percent back on groceries and gas, and the Scotia Gold American Express card also pays 4 percent back on dining and entertainment, while the Momentum Visa pays 2 percent back on bill payments and drug store purchases.

Later in the year I signed up for the American Express Gold Rewards card – this promotion came with 25,000 bonus points, which was good for a $250 travel credit, plus the $150 annual fee was waived in the first year. I will cancel this card before the fee comes due next year.

I used the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa sparingly this year, but this card is a must-have anytime you travel to the U.S. or abroad, as it’s one of the only cards not to charge 2.5 percent for converting your foreign currency purchases back to Canadian dollars.

Finally, I grabbed a $100 bonus when I signed up for the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard. I’ll cancel this card before the $89 fee comes due next year.

Final thoughts

There has never been a better time to cash in on credit card rewards. The competitive landscape means that credit card issuers have stepped up their game when it comes to bonus offers and base earning rates.

Related: Cash back credit cards, ranked

By taking advantage of these offers I was able to cash in on more than $1500 in credit card rewards and boost my earnings by over 50 percent.

WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard: Should You Get This Card?

Backed by a big advertising campaign and generous welcome bonus, the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard is making a push to become the nation’s top airline credit card. Should you “get this card”?

WestJet made headlines this fall when the airline announced a $25 fee for a first check bag. WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard cardholders can get around this because their first checked bag is free on all WestJet flights, for themselves and up to eight companions travelling on the same reservation.

Related: Aeroplan “Rewards” More Expensive Than Cash Fare

New cardholders get a welcome bonus of $250 WestJet dollars as well as an annual round-trip companion flight voucher for $99 (plus fees and taxes) after your first purchase.

Earning and Redeeming WestJet Dollars

Here’s what you’ll get with the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard:

  • Earn 1.5% back in WestJet dollars on every purchase you make.
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars when you purchase WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages.
  • Receive an annual round-trip companion flight for $99 (plus fees and taxes) on a WestJet marketed and operated flight in Canada and the continental US (excludes Hawaii and Puerto Rico).
  • Get your first checked bag free on all WestJet flights.
  • Redeem any amount of WestJet dollars, at any time. One WestJet dollar earned is worth one Canadian dollar when redeemed for travel with WestJet or WestJet Vacations.
  • Travel whenever you want with no blackout periods or seat restrictions, and no advance booking requirements.
  • Use your WestJet dollars just like cash towards all or part of your next WestJet flight or WestJet Vacations package.

This card comes with a $99 annual fee and, since it’s a World Elite MasterCard, you’ll need a minimum $70,000 annual income (or $120,000 household income) to qualify. Additional cards are $49 per year.

Related: Getting approved for premium credit cards – some are easier than others

Final thoughts

The WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard is the closest competition to the Aeroplan credit cards offered by TD and CIBC. It’s a good choice for frequent flyers who have grown disenchanted with the Aeroplan / Air Canada program. Unlike Aeroplan miles, WestJet dollars are treated like cash and can be used toward any booking without having to worry about mileage charts and redemption levels.

The $250 welcome bonus is one of the most generous incentives on the market and the ongoing $99 round-trip companion flight voucher is another added bonus. The icing on the cake now is that you’ll get one complimentary checked bag, which will save you $25 per trip.

Sign up for the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard here (link).