Redeem Bank-issued Reward Points for Hotel Stays

Since beginning my miles and points journey in early 2015, I have earned and burned through numerous trips, using primarily Aeroplan and Alaska Miles (and Delta Skymiles for a single redemption to Aruba). On many trips, I was able to take advantage of the luxurious Marriott Bonvoy program (previously SPG, Ritz, and Marriott) to cover my accommodation. 

Unfortunately, I quickly found that earning points for hotels is disproportionately more difficult than earning points for flights. This is especially true for Canadians who are not yet signing-up for US cards (if you want to learn more about this, see our post on Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN).

When it comes to airline loyalty programs we have Aeroplan, Air Miles, Alaska Mileage Plan, Cathay Asia Miles, Westjet Rewards, and Amex Membership Rewards (MR) (which can be transferred to Bonvoy, but at a generally lower value than airline transfer). This is just to name a few. 

However, as discussed in our guide to earning free hotel stays, we are mainly limited to Marriott Bonvoy’s program as Canadians. Other programs include Best Western Rewards, but with no great method of earning points.  

So, in this post, I am going to discuss the utility of using redeeming points from the many Canadian Bank rewards programs for hotel stays. Specifically, I shall discuss BMO Rewards, CIBC Aventura, Scotia Rewards, RBC Avion, TD Rewards, and HSBC Rewards. These programs can be overlooked, but they all typically allow for redemptions of flights and accommodations, with varying value and flexibility. My research question here boils down to: which of these points programs are best suited to redeeming for hotels (rather than flights)?  

I am primarily looking at these from a cost-effectiveness standpoint (ie. is it significantly better value to use these points for flights instead of hotels). Furthermore, in the world of credit card rewards, there are several finite resources that limit our rate of earning points: minimum spend requirements (MSR), upfront capital in the form of annual fees (AF), and credit hits. Cents per point (CPP) is a common metric used, which represents the monetary value of each point. However, it is important to note that it is not a perfect metric because it doesn’t take into account the other indirect costs of credit hits, MSRs, and AFs.

Nevertheless, CPP is the best-standardized metric we have right now, and so throughout this post, I will try to discuss credit card bonuses in terms of the value of the bonus (CPP x # of points) subtracting the AF of the card. I will also mention whether points earned on hotel or travel spend are able to be applied to the expense retrospectively (this creates a further discount that should be taken into account when considering pursuing points with a particular program).  

Anyways, let’s review the existing bank rewards programs in Canada.

BMO Rewards

bmo rewards logo

Methods and Rates for Redeeming BMO Rewards Points

As of August 2022, BMO Rewards points can be redeemed for travel that the cardholder has booked directly with a travel provider, such as a hotel chain or airline. 

If you choose to redeem your BMO points for a travel redemption, you can expect to receive 0.67 cents per point.

You can also redeem for Hotel gift cards (Best Western and Fairmont) but at a significantly worse CPP of ~0.56. Not recommended.  

Methods and Rates for Earning BMO Rewards Points

The best way to earn BMO Rewards points is with the BMO Rewards World Elite Mastercard. The current offer for this card (as of November 2019) is 35,000 BMO Rewards points, $150 AF (often waived), and a $3000 MSR requirement in 3 months. It also earns 3 BMO rewards per $1 spent on travel, dining, entertainment, else it earns 2 BMO rewards per $1. 

Cost-effectiveness of BMO Cards for Hotel Redemptions

For the World Elite Card, the 35,000 BMO Rewards points at 0.71 CPP, are worth $248.50 towards hotel redemption. Subtract the AF of $150, and you have $98.5 of overall value… which certainly doesn’t seem too appealing. I would not recommend this card except when the annual fee waiver is offered. 

On the other hand, with the regular BMO MC, using the same calculation, you have $142 of value with a much smaller MSR. Therefore, this card is a much better deal than the WE card when it doesn’t have an AF waiver. 

Of note, BMO points earned on a purchase that is part of a point redemption cannot be applied retrospectively to that redemption. 

CIBC Aventura

Methods and Rates for Redeeming CIBC Aventura Points

CIBC Rewards must be redeemed through the CIBC Rewards Portal, or by phone with the CIBC travel agency. Additionally, CIBC does not offer price matching through this portal.

When you redeem for flights, you can use the Aventura Airline Rewards Chart. The average CPP is approximately 1.16 but can vary quite a bit depending on where you’re traveling. North American long haul seems to give the best value. Also of note, you must have at least 80% of the required points to redeem for flights. If you are between 80-99%, you can pay for points at $0.03 per point. 

Now, you can also redeem for any hotel through the portal. This is a fixed redemption at 1 CPP. 

For any partial redemptions, you earn 3 points per $1 with the Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege credit card and 2 points per $1 with most other Aventura cards. 

Finally, you can redeem Aventura points for gift cards at 0.71 CPP, including Best Western, Fairmont, and Hotels.com 

Methods and Rates for Earning CIBC Aventura Points

The Aventura line includes 3 credit cards:

  1. CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege Card
    • Welcome bonus of 50,000 Aventura points for a $499 AF. $3000 MSR over 4 months. Card has an earn rate of 3 pts per $1 on CIBC Rewards Center. Also comes with a $200 travel credit for Rewards Center. $120 of the AF can be waived by having an open CIBC SmartPlus Account.
  2. CIBC Aventura Visa Business Card
    • Welcome bonus of 35,000 Aventura points (20,000 points after first purchase, 15,000 points after a $3000 MSR over 4 months). The $120 AF is sometimes waived. The card earns 2 pts per $1 on CIBC Rewards Center.
  3. CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card
    • Welcome bonus of 20,000 Aventura points for a $120 AF (sometimes waived). There is no MSR for the 20,000 points (As of Nov. 2019). There is an optional MSR of $10,000 over 12 months for an additional 15,000 points. The card earns 2 points per $1 on Rewards Center.

Cost-effectiveness of CIBC Cards for Hotel Redemptions

The 50,000 Aventura points with the VI Privilege card are worth approximately $500 at 1 CPP. With a $499 AF, and the $200 travel credit, you are essentially just getting $200 in travel credit…

On the other hand, with the Aventura for Business, you have $350 of value. Even with the annual fee, this card would offer more value ($230) than the Privilege. The regular Aventura offers another $200 of value as well. 

The best way to earn Aventura is to pick up the Aventura and Aventura Business when the annual fees are waived. The only card really worth getting despite the AF is the business card. 

Also, Aventura points earned on a purchase that is part of a point redemption cannot be applied retrospectively to that redemption.  

Scene+ Rewards (Formerly Scotia Rewards)

scene rewards logo

Methods and Rates for Redeeming Scene+ Rewards Points

Scene+ Rewards, formerly Scotia Rewards, is another very flexible rewards program that can be used for flights and hotel redemptions (at the same rates). You can redeem Scene+ rewards in two ways. Through the Scene+ Travel Service for 1 CPP (5000 points = $50), or through the “Apply Points to Travel” method, also for 1 CPP.

So why use one method over the other? With “Apply Points to Travel”, you must cover the entire transaction with points, while the Travel Service allows you to pay for the remaining portions with your Scotia credit card. Additionally, you can earn 5% cashback for purchases made through the portal using your ScotiaGold Passport and Passport for Business Visa cards.  

Other methods for redemption include converting points directly to statement credit at 0.67 CPP (low end, 3000 points) to 0.8 CPP (62,500 points or more). You can also redeem points for gift cards at 0.74 CPP. 

One last thing to keep in mind when redeeming these points for hotels: generally you would think it is a no-brainer to book through the Travel Service. However, Scene+ does not offer price matching. So it is always good to make sure they aren’t marking up the cost of a particular redemption by checking what the public pricing is before you pull the trigger. 

Methods and Rates for Earning Scene+ Rewards

There are three primary methods for earning Scene+ points: a debit card, and two credit cards. The Scotia Rewards Passport Debit offers a paltry 1 rewards point per $5 spent. But, can still be useful for purchases that can’t be made with a credit card.

On the credit card side, you can earn with:

  1. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
    • The Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns 5 points for every $1 CDN spent on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, drinking establishments, food delivery services, food box subscriptions, and eligible entertainment purchases (including movies, theatre, and ticket agencies).
  2. Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
    • The Passport Visa Infinite card earns 2 points for every $1 CDN spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases.

Cost-effectiveness of Scotia Cards for Hotel Redemptions

When the Scotiabank Gold American Express card or Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card has an annual fee waiver offer coupled with a welcome bonus, these cards can offer significant value.

RBC Rewards

rbc rewards logo redeem avion points

Methods and Rates for Redeeming RBC Avion Points

RBC Rewards allows for its Avion points program to be used for hotels. This can be done through its rewards portal for 1 CPP, or more flexibly by purchasing hotel gift cards at 1 CPP (the highest CPP you will get for redeeming gift cards out there). These include BW, Global Hotels, and Hotels.com. From time to time, RBC even offers 25% discounts on its gift cards, giving you 1.18 CPP (75% of 10,000 = 8500 for $100 GC). 

Unfortunately, redeeming for hotels is definitely not the best use of RBC Avion points. Redeeming this way is also not very flexible, as you must book through their portal and they do not offer price matching.

Instead, they can be redeemed for flights at a higher average CPP (~1.14), and even up to 2.33 CPP for some short-haul flights. 

However, the other incredible value of Avion points comes by way of RBC transfer partners, which include: British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and American Airlines AAdvantage. These all offer transfer bonuses as well, from time to time. 

Methods and Rates for Earning RBC Avion Points

  1. RBC Avion Platinum Visa card
    • Welcome bonus of 35,000 Avion with a $120 AF*. It has no MSR. It earns 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases. 
  2. RBC Avion Visa Infinite card
    • Welcome bonus of 35,000 Avion with $120 AF* and no MSR. It earns 1.25 points per $1 spent on travel.
  3. RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege card
    • Welcome bonus of 35,000 Avion for $399 AF with no MSR. Earns 1.25 points per $1 spent on all purchases. 

*RBC frequently offers annual fee waivers and other promos on their credit cards to sweeten these deals.  

There are other lucrative methods to accumulate RBC Avion points, such as the renowned product switching method.

Standardized Cost-effectiveness of RBC Cards for Hotel Redemptions

The RBC Avion Visa Platinum and the Visa Infinite give you about $150 of value for hotel redemption when they come with an annual fee. On the other hand, without an annual fee, these are very good offers. They also frequently have bonus offers with higher points (25,000), AF waivers, Drop gift card offers (or all of the above!).   

The Visa Infinite Privilege card is not as great value, mainly because the $399 AF is very steep. Perhaps if you do large amounts of spending for a company, the greater earnings rate could make it worthwhile. Otherwise, I would generally not recommend this one. 

Although Avion points are seemingly best redeemed elsewhere, you may be points rich already and supplementing your hotel redemptions is what is most needed for your travel planning. Remember there are many different ways to win at this game!

TD Rewards

td canada trust rewards logo

Methods and Rates for Redeeming TD Rewards Points

TD Rewards are also a very flexible travel redemption program, which you can redeem one of two ways. First, you can use “Book Any Way” to redeem for any flight, hotel, or travel-related expense at a rate of 250 points = 1$ (0.4 CPP) for first $1200 spent, and 200 points = $1 (0.5 CPP) for amounts over $1200. You also do not need to cover the entire transaction cost like with Scotia rewards, although you are earning a lower CPP for $1200. You also earn 3 TD points per $1 spent with your TD rewards visa card(s). 

The other way to redeem is through the ExpediaForTD.com portal, which allows you to redeem at 200 points = $1 (0.5 CPP) for any and all transactions. For any amounts not covered by points, you also earn up to 9 TD points per $1 (a 4.5% return on value) with the First Class Travel Visa. TD Rewards will also price match on prices through ExpediaForTD.com, but it is only guaranteed for Hotels and Hotel+Flight packages. 

Methods and Rates for Earning TD Rewards Points

There are two credit cards that allow you to earn TD Rewards points:

  1. TD Platinum Travel Visa Card, which earns 15,000 TD Rewards points for a $89 AF (often waived) with no MSR (at least not the traditional kind). With this card, you earn 5 points for each $1 through ExpediaForTD.com and 2X rewards in the first three months up to 45,000 points.
  1. TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card, which earns 20,000 TD Rewards points for a $120 AF (sometimes waived). It has no MSR, and earns 9 points for $1 through ExpediaForTD.com. There is a welcome offer whereby you can earn 2X rewards in first three months up to 45,000 points.

TD recently switched the structure of its rewards to the extended, large MSR that we are now seeing with many credit card companies. Earning 45,000 TD Rewards points would require $7,500 of regular spending or $2,500 of travel spending. If you have a big trip coming up, this can be a lucrative offer, giving you essentially 9% cashback.

Also of note, you can retrospectively apply TD Rewards points to a travel expense. So points earned on spend can then be applied to reduce the transaction cost (through the ‘Book Any Way’ program at 0.4 CPP). Of note, you are also able to product switch TD credit cards.

Standardized Cost-effectiveness of TD Cards for Hotel Redemptions

If we assume you book through ExpediaForTD.com, then the cash values of these credit card offers are $75 and $100 after subtracting the AFs, respectively. If you can meet the elongated spend requirement, that improves to $300 and $325, respectively. Therefore, it is best to wait for an AF waiver before acquiring this card or do it as part of a product switch as you are signing-up for Aeroplan cards. Just don’t forget to consider the opportunity cost of using this card to meet a minimum spend of $7500!  

HSBC Rewards

hsbc rewards program logo

Methods and Rates for Redeeming HSBC Rewards Points

And finally, we come to the beloved HSBC Rewards program. HSBC has the simplest program of all, probably due to their Travel Agency being decommissioned several years ago. Instead, they have straight redemptions for hotels and flights via statement credit for 0.5 CPP. Gift Cards can also be redeemed for hotel chains including Best Western, Fairmont, and Hotels.com.

Methods and Rates for Earning HSBC Rewards Points

HSBC has two credit cards that earn HSBC points:

  1. HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, which earns 20,000 HSBC Rewards points on the first purchase and 18 pts per $1 for 90 days up to 40,000 pts. It has a $149 AF (usually FYF). Otherwise, it earns 3% (6 pts per $1) on eligible travel purchases and includes $100 annual travel enhancement credit. 
  1. HSBC World Elite Mastercard which earns 20,000 HSBC Rewards points on the first purchase and 18 pts per $1 for 90 days up to 40,000 pts. It has a $149 AF (but usually FYF) and earns 3% (6 pts per $1) on eligible travel purchases otherwise. Also includes a $100 annual travel enhancement credit. 

Cost-effectiveness of HSBC Cards for Hotel Redemptions

Simply put, these cards have a value of $100 each, but this increases to $300 if you meet the spend of ~$2,222 in 90 days.

Canadian Bank Rewards Programs: Earning Rates and Characteristics

Points ProgramCPP for FlightsBest  Hotel Redemption MethodCPP with Best Redemption MethodCPP of Points for Gift CardsCPP of Points for Statement CreditRefundable Hotel Trick Possible?Combine points with cash?Pay taxes/fees using points?Apply points retrospectively?Price Matching on Portal?
BMO Rewards0.71BMO Travel Agency0.710.57 
(BW, Fairmont)
n/aNoYesYesNoYes
CIBC Aventura~1.16CIBC Rewards Center☨1.00 
(+2-3x points)
0.71 
(BW, FM, H.com)
0.63NoYes⊥YesNoNo
ScotiaRewards1
(+5% CB)*
Scotiarewards OR "Apply Points to Travel"1
(+5% CB)*
0.740.67 to 0.80
(volume based)
YesYes^YesYesNo
RBC Avion~1.14^^RBC Travel Portal11.00 
(1.18 w/ bonus)
0.58 
("Payback with points")
unknownYesYesYes 
(Payback with Points)
No
TD Rewards0.5
(+4.5%)**
ExpediaForTD.com0.5
(+4.5%**)
0.250.4Yes 
("BookAnyWay")
YesYesYes
(using TD credit card)
Yes
HSBC Rewards0.5Statement Credit0.5unknown (BW,FM,H.com)0.5YesYesYesYesn/a
Abbreviations: CB: Cash back; CPP: cents per point; FM: Fairmont Hotels; H.com: Hotels.com;
☨ Call the CIBC CSR to get them to book Expedia directly (sometimes prices are overvalued on CIBC’s online portal).
⊥ Must have 80% of points required for flights, then top up the rest at $0.03 per point.
^ Only if using Scotiarewards Travel Service and a Scotia credit card to pay.
^^ RBC Rewards Points can be redeemed for on average, 1.16 CPP through the RBC Travel Portal. However, if transferred to Avion during bonus promos, they can be redeemed for as high as 1.75 CPP, and through the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule, as high as 2.33 CPP (Short haul CAN/US), though not including taxes/fees.
* 5% cashback booking through Scotiarewards Travel Service with Scotiagold Passport Visa
** Earned TD rewards (9 per $1) can be used on the same transaction they were earned.

Conclusions

Ultimately, none of these rewards programs offer exceptionally stellar value when it comes to hotel redemptions. You’re unlikely to redeem five nights at a Marriott with a single credit card signup as we could in the days of old. However, there is still lots of value to be gleaned from these programs. Your points acquisition and redemption strategy will be an individual decision, taking into account your particular flight and accommodation needs.

However, a few general rules emerge from what we’ve discussed. All things being equal, you should try to first redeem points that don’t offer any additional value when used for flights, which basically excludes RBC with its flexible transfer partnerships. BMO and TD offer good programs, and their price matching gives you peace of mind that you’re still getting a good deal on the cash value of your chosen hotel. But it is also best to wait for AF promotions on these cards, which are frequent. HSBC also offers very flexible redemptions, as does Scotiabank… as long as you hold a Scotiacard at the time of redemption.

Hopefully, you’ve found this post useful in researching ways to save on accommodation for your next trip. All the best, and as always, happy frugal flying!

Matt Astro

Matt Astro

Contributor at Frugal Flyer
Matt is a technophile and math nerd who discovered travel hacking in 2015. His favorite points-powered trip to date was visiting Estonia. Matt takes no shame in being far too frugal. In fact, he would probably go as far as calling himself cheap. Seriously, if there is a way to get something for free, Matt will find it and take advantage of it (and then maybe write about it here).

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