There are dozens of rewards programs in Canada that promise to turn your everyday spending into free trips, car rentals, or swag, but which rewards program will get you the most bang for your buck? We explore the top rewards programs along with their associated credit cards in Canada to find out which program is right for you.

Starwood Preferred Guest Card and Travel Rewards

rewards-program-spgThe ideal program for hardcore travelers, the Starwood Preferred Guest rewards program allows you to earn Starpoints when you stay at one of the 1,100 Starwood Preferred Guest hotels. Opportunities to earn points are limited to charges at their hotels unless you have the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express.

With this card, you earn Starpoints on day-to-day spending. In this case, you’ll earn one Starpoint per dollar spent. Depending on your unique spending habits, you’ll earn about $727 in the first year if you spend $1,500 per month on your credit card. You can redeem your rewards for flights, merchandise, gift cards, or more hotel stays.

American Express Travel Rewards

rewards-program-amexAmerican Express is one of the more popular credit card rewards programs. You can redeem points for travel by booking a trip with your credit card or by phone. If you want to use your points for purchases like hotels or car rentals, you can transfer your points to another rewards program. The only downside to an American Express card is that it is not accepted by approximately 20 per cent of retailers.

American Express is popular because their credit cards have generous sign-up bonuses. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card has a 25,000 point sign up bonus. After that, you can earn two points per dollar spent on travel, groceries, gas, or at the pharmacy. You’ll also earn one point per dollar on everything else. If you spend $1,500 per month on this card, you’ll average $508 in rewards in your first year.

Aeroplan and TD Areoplan Visa Infinite

rewards-program-aeroplanAeroplan Miles started as a frequent flyer program. In the beginning, users who often travelled by plane could reward themselves by collecting “miles” to be redeemed for free flights. The program has evolved since its inception, and you can now redeem your miles for car rentals, flights, gift cards, hotels, merchandise, or vacation packages. The biggest downside to the Aeroplan program is that flight availability is limited during busy seasons like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Today, you can use an Aeroplan credit card like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite to earn rewards for everyday spending. With the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend on gas, travel, groceries, and at the pharmacy, and one mile per dollar spent on everything else. If you spend $1,500 per month on your card, that’s about $519 in rewards in the first year.

Air Miles Travel Rewards

rewards-program-airmilesIf you’ve heard of travel rewards programs, you’ve heard of Air Miles. Easily one of the most popular rewards programs in the world, Air Miles allows you to shop at a variety of retailers to earn miles. You can redeem your miles for flights, car rentals, gift cards, vacation packages, merchandise, hotels, or cash. You can even use your miles instantly while shopping to get discounts on everyday purchases like groceries. The only downside to this popular program: if you’re using your miles to book flights, you may have trouble finding the seats you want during busy seasons.

If you have an Air Miles membership card, you can collect points at participating retailers, but if you want to earn miles on every dollar your spend, use an Air Miles credit card like the BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard. With this credit card, you’ll earn 0.1 miles per dollar spent, yielding $461 in rewards in the first year if you spend $1,500 per month.

RBC Travel Rewards and RBC Visa Infinite Avion

rewards-program-rbcrewardsThough not as well known as the rewards programs mentioned above, the RBC Rewards program is still worth considering. You can redeem your RBC Rewards for a variety of perks like car rentals, gift cards, hotels, merchandise, vacation packages, and flights. You can even pay your flight taxes with your rewards. If you’re using your RBC Rewards to book flights, you’ll have plenty of options with their Travelocity-powered search engine.

The biggest credit card attached to the RBC Rewards program is RBC Visa Infinite Avion. If you use RBC Visa Infinite Avion for your everyday spending, you’ll earn 1.25 points per dollar spent on travel and one point per dollar spent on everything else. If you spend $1,500 per month on your credit card, you’ll average rewards of $414 in the first year.

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Each of these programs will help you earn substantial rewards, but to truly maximize your rewards you should choose a credit card that optimizes rewards based on your unique spending habits. If you spend a significant amount of money on hotels, for example, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card would be a good choice for you. Otherwise, another card might be a better option.

These insights have been shared by RateHub.ca. To get recommendations based on your personalized spending profile, you can use RateHub.ca’s credit card rewards calculator and to find the best credit cards.