Canadian residents have many options to earn miles, however, my advice is typically to ensure your earning strategies is best aligned with your goals. What that means is, if your goal is to create an ultimate honeymoon by flying to Maldives, spending your resources earning British Airways Avios points might not be the best use of your time. On the other hand, if you want to stay at the St. Regis Maldives, then banking exclusively with Scotiabank won’t get you very far.
That being said, it’s important to highlight all the avenues to earning miles to ensure your earnings are maximized and also focused towards your end goal.
Credit Cards are by far the fastest way to accumulate a large number of points in a very short period of time.
Credit card companies routinely offer sign-up bonuses to encourage consumers to use their credit card. They believe that once you provide an incentive to use the credit card initially, it will always be used going forward.
The strategy that many people use is to sign up for the credit card, do whatever “action” companies require you to perform, and then don’t renew the credit card at all, even if there isn’t an annual fee. Individuals take this a step further, by repeatedly signing up for the same credit card every year, cancel them and re-apply again only for the sign-up bonuses.
These types of credit cards are also extremely important since they can quickly help families accumulate a large number of miles extremely quickly.
Note: American Express has explicit terminology to indicate that you will earn one sign up bonus per person per card. Despite the restriction, there are still plenty of opportunities to be earning plenty of rewards with American Express, except, you should be cautious of ensuring you only apply for their cards when there is an elevated offer, rather than a standard offer.
This category cannot help people redeem miles for premium cabin travel without leveraging another method of earning miles, either through credit cards or through regular travel. Many credit cards also have multiple bonus categories, for example online spend might earn 5x the miles you would have normally earned. Even then, to accumulate 200,000 miles, you are still looking at spending over $40,000 per ticket.
Although this category in isolation isn’t very helpful, you should always be seeking how to maximize the miles earned on everyday spend, and this is where things get complicated. Many travel hackers of more than 5 credit cards in their wallet; each one serves a special purpose, one of which will always be because of some bonus category. As an example, in my wallet right now, I have over 8 credit cards, each one serving a single goal of maximizing my everyday spending.
Similar to bonus categories, these types of credit cards are best for everyday expenditures and will likely not help tremendously in achieving your travel goals. That being said, it should not mean you ignore these cards, as often they play a large contributory role in maximizing your rewards on daily credit card spend.
In an ideal situation, your daily expenditure should be satisfied by spending on credit cards that you need to earn sign-up bonuses, however, managing that consistently is not feasible. My personal problematic daily expenditure is my shopping at Costco,, this is one category which I struggle to maximize my rewards for everyday spending.
There are two types of retention offers that I have witnessed, public offers, available to anyone who pays the credit card renewal fee, and “threat of cancellation” offer, for those who threaten to cancel their membership since they had to pay a renewal fee.
For public renewal retention offers, it’s always worth investigating if paying the annual fee is worth the offer, even if the annual fee can be waived based on your spending habits. I typically find this not to be worth it, and instead, I focus on cancelling the card and re-applying after a period of 12-24 months to earn the signup bonus again.
For “threat of cancellation” offers, that isn’t a strategy I normally pursue, because what if no offer is provided, and a cancellation is not done, then chances are, the credit card company may avoid providing any offer at any point in time, since you are clearly using the cards. I only use this strategy, when the there is a credible threat, and occasionally it has made sense keeping the card, other times, I have had to cancel the card.
Traveling or Corporate Expenses
For some travel hackers, they either have the ability to influence purchasing decisions on to their own personal credit cards, or have to fly a lot for work. For those individuals, earning miles is not as complicated as your mile generation is largely driven by regular corporate expenses you would have otherwise done.
With a powerful US Dollar, this method is not as lucrative as it once was before, however, I continue using this method as a way to top-up my miles to quickly make a travel redemption which I would have otherwise had to pay cash for.
Aeroplan and Rakuten are two of the largest shopping portals in Canada. When purchasing goods and services online, it always makes sure to check if you could earn bonus miles or cashback through the Aeroplan eStore or Rakuten respectively.
Although there are a number of ways to accumulate miles, leveraging credit card sign up bonuses is the fastest way to accumulate miles in the shortest period of time. Beyond that, unless you travel for work, or have the ability to influence corporate spend, the other expenses won’t likely have a material impact but it’s important not to forgo those miles. My very first redemption on Cathay Pacific First Class only happened because I credited a 186 mile flight from Vancouver to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.