Scary Good Credit Card Deals

By Robb Engen | October 31, 2019 | Comments Off on Scary Good Credit Card Deals

This Halloween, why not treat yourself to a scary good credit card deal? There are plenty of opportunities in the market today – so why stick with your bland bank-branded credit card when there are so many tempting treats to be had? What’s your rewards sweet-tooth? Does cash back make you salivate? What about a juicy sign-up bonus?

Here at Rewards Cards Canada we’re happy to share these tasty credit card deals:

American Express Cobalt Card

Ranked as the number one rewards card on Credit Card Genius, the American Express Cobalt Card comes with a host of benefits and bonuses for the avid points collector. I use this card myself as one of my primary spending cards, particularly for groceries at Safeway and Save-On Foods, plus at liquor stores and at restaurants that accept American Express cards (hit and miss).

With Amex Cobalt you’ll earn up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points (2,500 points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in purchases on your Card), plus 5x the points on eats and drinks, 2x the points on travel and transit, and 1 point on everything else.

The points earned are called Membership Rewards Select (MR-S) and are slightly less flexible than regular Membership Rewards points (that you’d earn from Amex Platinum and Amex Gold Cards). That said, you can still redeem points for purchases on your statement or transfer your points to the Marriott Bonvoy hotel program at a rate of 5:6.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

TD has two of the top travel rewards cards in Canada, boasting both the First Class Visa Infinite Card and the Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card in its rewards line-up. We’ll highlight the TD Aeropan Visa Infinite Card in this round-up because of the enticing value of Aeroplan miles.

For a limited time, earn up to 40,000 Aeroplan Miles (equivalent to 2 premium economy short-haul round-trip flight rewards and first year no Annual Fee for the Primary Cardholder. This offer ends December 1, 2019. Here’s how the bonuses work:

Welcome Bonus of 15,000 Aeroplan Miles when you make your first purchase with your card.
Earn 2x Aeroplan Miles on eligible purchases in the first three months up to a total of 20,000 Aeroplan Miles.
Earn 5,000 Aeroplan Miles when you add an Authorized User to your Account by December 1, 2019. Annual Fees for Authorized Users continue to apply.

The key here is the annual fee rebate in the first year, plus a welcome bonus of 15,000 Aeroplan miles on your first purchase. The double miles bonus for three months is nice, but the bonus for adding an authorized user will come with a $50 fee.

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card got retooled earlier this year and is now on par or better than the American Express Cobalt Card (depending on how you use the card). The key features in the refresh are the no conversion fees on foreign currency purchases, plus a revamped 5x points on groceries, dining, and entertainment. You’ll also earn 3x points for every $1 spent on gas and transit, and 3x points for every $1 spent on select streaming services.

The kicker is the welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Scotia Rewards points. That bonus breaks down with a one-time 25,000 Scotia Rewards point bonus with your first $1,000 in eligible everyday purchases made within the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional one-time 5,000 Scotia Rewards point bonus when you spend at least $10,000 in eligible everyday purchases in your first year (12-months).

Final Thoughts

These are just a taste of several enticing credit card deals on the market today. Check out our always up-to-date credit card deals page for the latest sign-up offers and rankings.

And, as always, while we like to have fun earning credit card rewards points and uncovering new sign-up offers, remember to pay off your credit card on time and in full each month.

My Experience Using Airbnb vs. Hotels

By Robb Engen | August 6, 2019 |

Airbnb was founded in 2008 and had already served 9,000,000 guests by the time I discovered it in 2013. Since then I’ve used Airbnb for stays in Toronto, Calgary, Kelowna, and Port Renfrew (Vancouver Island). More recently, we stayed at an Airbnb in Inverness, Scotland, and in Kilkenny, Ireland during our epic trip to Europe.

We got a good mix of experiences at Airbnbs and hotels during our trip, so I’m going to use that to share my thoughts on staying in Airbnb vs. hotels. For our trip to Europe we stayed five nights at a hotel in Edinburgh (Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa), seven nights at an Airbnb in Inverness, 14 nights at an Airbnb in Kilkenny, and five nights at a hotel in Dublin (The Westin Dublin).

We chose hotels in the bigger cities for two reasons. One, I had built up a ton of Marriott Bonvoy points and we could redeem them to stay five nights (and get the fifth night free) at each location. Two, we knew these hotels were right in the heart of downtown – close to all the action and attractions.

In the smaller centres, hotels weren’t as plentiful and Airbnb gave us more options from which to choose. We also had longer stays lined up in Inverness and Kilkenny. Staying in an Airbnb meant we’d have more space, including a kitchen to prepare our own meals, plus laundry services to wash and dry our clothes (essential when you pack light for a long trip).

Our Hotel Experience

The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh was arguably the best hotel experience I’ve ever had in my life. We stayed free on points, but I spent $95/night to upgrade us to the Club floor, which included access to the Club Lounge and the spa, plus a full hot buffet breakfast each morning. Simply amazing! The location was terrific, right across from Edinburgh Castle. The service was top-notch, and the food was incredible. Simply put: We wouldn’t have changed a thing about our hotel stay in Edinburgh.

Comparatively, the Westin Dublin was a bit of a letdown. The hotel wasn’t as nice, and there was no pool or Club lounge. The breakfast wasn’t as stellar as the Sheraton’s, but it was adequate. We definitely wouldn’t pay the going rate of $500-$600 per night, but staying on points was okay. The location was fantastic, right in the heart of downtown Dublin and a few minutes from Trinity College and Temple Bar.

All-in-all, our hotel experience was positive and if you plan to visit Edinburgh or Dublin – especially in summer – you can get great value from using Marriott Bonvoy points to get free nights at hotels that can cost upwards of $600 per night.

**Get the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card and you can earn 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (with a referral link) after you charge $3,000 in purchases within the first three months**

Both my wife and I signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card last summer (I also have the business card version) and so we earned 150,000 points to use towards hotels on our trip.

Our Airbnb Experience

We’ve always had a great experience using Airbnb and this trip was no different. Our seven nights in Inverness were spent at a great downtown apartment overlooking the river Ness. We were within 15 minutes’ walk from dozens of restaurants, and steps away from the nearest grocery store. We were eager to cook our own meals, for the most part, after five nights of eating hotel and restaurant food. Our goal was to relax, but still be able to enjoy the amenities that Inverness had to offer.

Our Kilkenny Airbnb was a little more ‘off-the-grid’ in that we stayed just outside the city on a farm. Our goal was again to relax and give our kids a different experience than the hustle and bustle of tourist attractions in the major cities. The farm was gorgeous, and just a 20 minute walk from Kilkenny Castle. The kids each had their own room, and we had plenty of living space – plus acres of farmland to explore.

Our hosts lived in their own house on the farm nearby and stopped by once in a while to say hi, or bring us fresh farm eggs. They also had horses, one of whom had a newborn foal the day after we arrived. It was simply an amazing experience that we could not get in a hotel anywhere in the world.

During our stay, we also discovered a relatively new feature on Airbnb – which is called Airbnb experiences. These are billed as “one of a kind activities hosted by locals”. We found a two-hour pony trekking adventure not too far away that had excellent reviews. It was awesome, and our girls had the best time riding their ponies up the Devil’s Bit mountain.

One of the problems I found trying to book local authentic experiences during our trip was that a lot of activities seemed more like tourist traps. We were thrilled to find an authentic local experience directly through Airbnb, with verified hosts and actual customer reviews. And the hosts were thrilled that Airbnb was sending them great customers, too.

**Try Airbnb for yourself using this referral link and you’ll get $45 off your first stay, plus $17 to use towards an experience worth $63 or more.**

Airbnb: Finding Accommodation

Despite my positive experience staying in Airbnb’s around the world, I’m still surprised by some of the reactions I get from people when I tell them about the service. First of all, there’s a perception that an Airbnb is like a traditional Bnb, or Bed & Breakfast. It’s not. Or, some people think when you stay at an Airbnb you’ll be sleeping on the host’s couch or in their basement. Again, that’s not the case.

While you do have the option of staying in a shared space, like a common room, Airbnb also allows you to filter your stay by the type of place you’re looking for. So, if you want the entire place to yourself, make sure to select that feature and your searches will reflect these results.

Airbnb filtered by type of stay

As you can see from the picture above, you can also have your own private room, with shared common space (like a traditional Bnb). Or, filter your search to include boutique hotel rooms or hostels.

With a family of four, we like to have an entire place to ourselves. The price is typically more comparable to a hotel room, but we get much more room, plus a kitchen and laundry facilities (and the kids often get their own room). The brilliant thing about Airbnb is that we can select all of those filters to narrow down our choices and increase the odds of getting something we’ll love.

Next, we make sure to select our actual travel dates to filter out any accommodation that might already be booked. You can also select a price range if you’re staying on a budget. Finally, if you have an idea of where exactly you want to stay, you can filter the results by neighborhood. The end result is a well-curated list of places that meets all of your criteria and increases the odds of finding a match.

We went through this exact process to find accommodation when we visit Italy next April. Hotel prices in Italy are insanely high, especially in Rome, so we found great value on Airbnb – with prices often less than $150 per night. That’s compared to a price range of $350 – $580 per night for Marriott hotels in Rome.

We wanted to be in downtown Rome, close to the Colosseum, and we found a gorgeous place five minutes away for just $185 per night (we’re staying three nights). As you can see, the cost savings of booking through Airbnb vs. hotels can be dramatic. We love to stay in nice accommodations, but if we can’t use hotel points we want to make sure we get the best value for our dollars (Euros) so we can use the savings to enhance the rest of our stay (attractions, dining, etc.).

Final thoughts on Airbnb vs. Hotels

I used to work in the hotel industry and to this day it still pains me to spend more than $69 per night (employee rates) at any hotel. Staying in hotels for any length of time can get tiring – and not just the food, but the fact that you don’t have a lot of space, or all the comforts of home.

Airbnb has been great for our family because we love to have extra space and to cook our own meals. We love slow mornings, and so the kids can watch TV and my wife and I can enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio without having to rush and get out the door for a breakfast that only runs til 9:00 a.m.

We also love that our kids can stay in a separate bedroom, rather than having us all crammed into a two queen bedded hotel room. Our kids are in bed early and we’d like to stay up and have a glass of wine or watch some Netflix without disturbing them. You can do that with an Airbnb.

Finally, some people worry about the safety of staying in someone else’s place. We’ve never had an issue and have always had great communication with our host, with easy-to-follow check-in instructions (typically a keyless door lock with a re-programmable code). We tend to select “Superhosts” – those who are Airbnb’s top-rated and most experienced hosts – and read lots of customer reviews to look for any negative feedback or red flags.

There will always be a place for hotels in our life, but for any lengthy travel with the kids we’ll check Airbnb first to get a bigger place (all to ourselves), to save money, and to find the best locations.

**Try Airbnb for yourself using this referral link and you’ll get $45 off your first stay, plus $17 to use towards an experience worth $63 or more.**