Top 5 loyalty rewards programs to help Canadian snowbirds fund their lifestyle

Top Loyalty Rewards Programs for Canadian Snowbirds

LAST UPDATED: June 19, 2024

As the cost of living the snowbird lifestyle in general - and travel in particular - continues to increase, many snowbirds are feeling the pinch and looking for ways to save money or get more bang for their buck.

One way snowbirds can mitigate the rising costs of travel is to take advantage of loyalty programs that can help achieve considerable savings and provide additional travel benefits – all it takes is a little bit of research and planning

To help snowbirds get the most of loyalty programs, Snowbird Advisor spoke with loyalty plan expert Barry Choi, who explains his top insider tips on how to maximize your use of these programs.

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at You can also find him on Instagram @barrychoi.

Q: We know that snowbirds not only travel in the winter to escape the cold – but also travel extensively at other times of the year too. How can loyalty programs help fund this lifestyle?

Choi: Just about every merchant has a loyalty program these days, but if you focus on two or three of them, you can get a lot of value out of your everyday spending.

Generally, you’ll want to focus on travel loyalty programs. At the bare minimum, get a co-branded credit card, so you’ll earn rewards on all your everyday purchases.

In addition, see if the program has more ways to earn points. For example, Aeroplan has an eStore where you can earn points on online purchases with select merchants. They’re also partnered with Parkland gas stations (Chevron, Fas Gas, Ultramar, and Pioneer). When you’re fully integrated into a rewards program, you’ll earn those points/miles quickly.

Whether it be flights or car rentals, you can then offset your costs with the rewards you’ve earned.

Q: What are the top 5 loyalty programs you would recommend for Canadian snowbirds?

Choi: American Express Membership Rewards, Aeroplan, RBC Avion Rewards, any hotel program that you frequent, and WestJet Rewards

Q: Can you please explain a little about the benefits of each loyalty program?


  • American Express Membership Rewards – This is the most flexible travel loyalty program in Canada which is why it ranks at the top.

    At the most basic level, you can redeem points for statement credits, with every 1,000 points you redeem providing you with a $10 statement credit. So it doesn’t matter what type of travel you book, you can use your points.

    In addition, American Express has a fixed points travel program. That’s where you can redeem a set number of points to offset a cost of a flight up to a maximum base fare. By going this route, you could potentially double the value of your points.

    Plus, Amex allows you to transfer your points to select airline and hotel partners. For example, you can transfer your points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Since Aeroplan points are worth 1.5 – 2 cents each, you could double the value of your points.

    American Express also has some of the best credit cards in Canada. The American Express Cobalt Card is consistently ranked as one of the best cards with a high earning rate.

    If that wasn’t enough, Amex cardholders also get access to some exclusive travel perks such as The Hotel Collection and Global Dining Collection.
  • Aeroplan – Ever since Air Canada took back Aeroplan in 2021, things have gotten better.

    You can now book any seat available on Air Canada. In addition, Aeroplan has 40+ airline partners where you can use your points to book seats (limited availability).

    Aeroplan also recently launched the HotelSavers program where credit card holders who book four nights on points only pay for three.

    Additionally, you can use your points on vacation packages, cruises, and car rentals. Since Air Canada has the biggest fleet in Canada, collecting Aeroplan points can be highly lucrative.
  • RBC Avion Rewards - RBC gets high praise because the program is also flexible. You can transfer your points to WestJet, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and American Airlines.

    Alternatively, you can use your points on any travel booked through the RBC Travel portal or via the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule (a fixed number of points for flights).
  • Any hotel loyalty program – Every hotel loyalty program is similar, especially the big chains. Regardless of which chain you prefer, stick to it so you can earn status quicker. With status, you get benefits such as late checkout, free breakfast, room upgrades and more. If the hotel offers a co-branded credit card, consider getting it so you can earn points even quicker.
  • WestJet Rewards – To be honest, WestJet Rewards is not as robust as some of the other programs since it’s cash back based. That means the redemptions you can get are limited. That said, if you have one of their credit cards, you get an annual companion voucher, which is an easy way to offset your travel costs.

Q: What are common mistakes people make when using loyalty programs?


  • Not collecting points – Every company has factored in the cost of loyalty points into their pricing, so if you’re not earning points with them, you’re actually losing money.
  • Not knowing how programs work – Each loyalty program is different and it’s up to consumers to know how they work. If you don’t understand the basics, you could end up making less valuable redemptions.
  • Not focusing on select programs – While diversification is always good, generally, you want to stick with 2 - 3 programs and know them inside out. This will allow you to earn and burn points with ease.
  • Letting your points expire – Loyalty points can expire if there’s no account activity within a certain amount of time. Make sure you’re not letting those valuable points go to waste.

Q: What are some insider tips that you can give that snowbirds may not be aware of?


  • Due to the welcome bonuses, signing up for 1 -2 new credit cards each year could give you enough points for a free flight.
  • Loyalty programs are constantly changing, so it’s in your best interest to keep up with them or to explore other programs occasionally.
  • Some U.S. credit cards offer incredible benefits. If you have a U.S. dollar bank account in the United States, you may be eligible for cards offered by other financial institutions.

The bottom line

By taking advantage of a focused loyalty strategy, snowbirds can save money and receive many other travel-related benefits to support not only their winter travel habits, but also their other vacations year-round.

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