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How We’re Handling Our Money Situation Overseas

By Robb Engen | June 1, 2019 |


We’re about to take our first trip across the Atlantic – a 32 day family vacation in Scotland and Ireland. Many readers have asked how we’re handling our money situation overseas. Gone are the days of traveler’s cheques, replaced by more convenient methods of payment such as credit cards, debit cards, pre-paid currency cards, and widely accessible ATMs.

We’ll be using a mix of these methods while travelling in Scotland and Ireland, with the notion to save money on foreign exchange, have easy access to cash when needed, and decrease the risk of one form of payment not being accepted.

Here’s what we’ll be using to spend money overseas:

  • Cash: Small amount of GBP and EUR currency
  • KOHO Prepaid Visa —> Sign up using referral code RCCANADA and get up to 1.5% cashback on all purchases
  • STACK Prepaid MasterCard —> Get $25 free when you download and activate your STACK card through my referral link (click via your mobile device since it’s an app)
  • Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card —> No foreign currency conversion fees
  • CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Prepaid Visa —> A single card loaded with up to 10 currencies

Bringing cash overseas

The last thing I want is to take thousands of dollars worth of Pound Sterling and Euros overseas. I also want to avoid dealing with currency exchange counters while travelling abroad as they tend to have the highest exchange rates.

I funnel 95 percent of my spending onto a rewards credit credit card in Canada and I’d like to be able to do the same in Scotland and Ireland.

But I realize not every merchant will accept credit cards, and that certain forms of transportation lend themselves better to using cash. That’s why I plan on taking out a small amount of foreign currency from my Canadian bank before we travel. I’m talking about ~$100 worth of GBP and ~$100 worth of EUR.

Starting our journey with a small amount of cash gives us the flexibility to use it as needed to cover any airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to our hotel from the airport in Edinburgh.

Using the KOHO Prepaid Visa Card

KOHO prepaid Visa

I signed up for the KOHO card shortly after it launched in Canada and use it for miscellaneous spending. KOHO is a prepaid Visa card, not a credit card, so you pre-load it with funds and then spend down the balance. It comes with a mobile app to track your balance and spending. It’s also compatible with Apple Pay.

I’ll be honest, there were two reasons I signed up for KOHO. One was to get up to $60 in free cash (use referral code RCCANADA), plus another $20 when I referred my wife to the card. But second, and more importantly, was for this upcoming trip overseas.

I wanted to save money on foreign exchange and KOHO only charges 1.5 percent on foreign transactions versus 3.5 percent that banks and credit card issuers charge.

I’ve simply loaded up the card with money (via e-Transfer) and now I can use it abroad at any ATM with a Visa Plus sign, or at any merchant that accepts Visa. You’ll get real time notifications in Canadian Dollars, so you’ll always be on top of your spending.

The biggest advantage as a prepaid Visa card is that I can preload it with a set amount and know that I can’t overspend or get into debt if we get carried away on our trip. I also like the fact that I can use it like a Visa, or withdraw cash from an ATM as needed.

Read my full KOHO review over on Boomer & Echo.

Using the STACK Prepaid MasterCard

STACK prepaid MC

Along the same lines as KOHO, STACK is a prepaid MasterCard that will help you save on foreign exchange fees while travelling abroad. Use STACK world-wide wherever MasterCard is accepted. Access your cash anywhere without paying ATM withdrawal fees – although you may incur a fee from the machine itself – and pay zero transaction fees when making purchases outside of Canada.

Get $25 free when you download and activate your STACK card through my referral link.

Note that STACK ran into some problems with its card provider and so those who signed up earlier in the year may not have received their cards yet. I’m told card printing resumed in mid-May so those delays should be caught up soon.

I’ll use STACK overseas in the same way as KOHO – preloading a set amount ahead of time and then use it like a MasterCard or withdraw cash at an ATM if needed.

Why carry two prepaid cards? Well, for one I’d like to try them both out firsthand so I can report back on the pros and cons of using them in a real-life situation overseas. And, two, it’s frankly a hedge in case one of them does not work as advertised.

Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card

I signed up for the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card last summer. The main draw is that it’s one of the few credit cards in Canada that comes with no foreign transaction fees. I also couldn’t pass up the amazing welcome offer of up to 40,000 Scotia Rewards points and six free airport lounge passes!

I plan on using this card for the majority of our spending on groceries, dining, transportation, and at major attractions that accept credit cards. I’ll try and save the prepaid cards for miscellaneous spending and for withdrawing cash as necessary.

With the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite card I’ll not only save on foreign currency mark-up (other credit cards charge 2.5 percent), I’ll also earn 2 Scotia Rewards points for every dollar spent at eligible grocery stores and on dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis, etc.).

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Prepaid Visa

CIBC Air Canada® AC conversion™ Visa* Prepaid Card

File this one under, why the heck not? I signed up for the AC Conversion Card specifically to try it out for this trip. I like that it can hold a variety of foreign currencies so I can spend in the local currency like a debit card. Again, it’s a prepaid Visa card so you preload it with a set amount and then spend down the balance.

The ten currencies you can load onto the card are: U.S. Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Australian Dollars, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollars, Turkish Lira, Swiss Franc, Mexican Pesos and Canadian Dollars.

You can load the card through their website or mobile app and the funds show up instantly, ready for immediate use. I used the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite card to load $100 worth of GBP and $100 of EUR onto my AC Conversion Card so I’m ready to try it out on the trip.

For those wondering, loading the card from my Scotia Visa did not count as a cash advance – it posted as a regular purchase.

I’ll be sure to report back on how it worked when I get back from my trip. You can sign up here for the CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Prepaid Visa card.

Final thoughts on spending money overseas

It takes some creativity to figure out how to best handle spending money in a foreign currency abroad. Carrying too much cash puts you at risk for theft and loss. Not carrying any cash is risky because your credit card might not be accepted at certain merchants or your credit card issuer may lock your account if they suspect suspicious activity (like trying to make purchases in a foreign country).

Finally, while ATMs likely give the best exchange rate compared to foreign currency counters, you need to make sure to check the debit card network to make sure your card is compatible. You also might have a daily cash withdrawal limit that could cause problems when trying to access cash overseas.

For all of these reasons I’m taking precautions and using five different methods of payment during our month-long trip to Scotland and Ireland. I want to make sure we can spend money without any hassle, save money when possible on foreign exchange, and limit the amount of cash I carry to protect us from theft or loss.

How do you handle spending money abroad in the U.K. and Europe?

Best Aeroplan Credit Cards in Canada

By Robb Engen | May 24, 2019 |


The best Aeroplan credit cards offer juicy sign-up bonuses, Air Canada perks, and often waive the annual fee in the first year of card ownership. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Aeroplan miles carry significant value for frequent travellers and those looking for flight rewards.

But unless you’re a business traveler who flies Air Canada on the regular, the best way to earn Aeroplan miles is by using an Aeroplan branded credit card for everyday purchases. In addition, you’ll want to take advantage of periodic sign-up bonuses offered from time-to-time from card issuers like TD, CIBC, and American Express.

Here’s a look at the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada.

Best Aeroplan Credit Cards

TD Aeroplan Credit Cards

TD became the preferred partner for Aeroplan credit cards back in 2014, ending a 20-year partnership between Aeroplan and CIBC. TD also recently joined forces with Air Canada, CIBC, and Visa to take over Aeroplan and its 5 million members starting in 2020.

Canada’s big green bank offers a suite of four Aeroplan credit cards in its portfolio. Here’s a look at each one:

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card

At the high-end is the TD Aeroplan Visa Inifinite Privilege Card, which comes with a $399 annual fee and requires a minimum household income of $200,000, plus a minimum credit limit of $10,000.

With the Privilege Card you’ll earn 1.5 Aeroplan miles on every $1 spent on groceries, gas and drugstore purchases, as well as Air Canada purchases. Earn 1.25 Aeroplan miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases made with the card.

You’ll get exclusive Air Canada benefits, including:

  • Complimentary First Checked Bag
  • Priority Check-in and Priority Boarding
  • Four annual One-Time Guest Access Benefits to an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge (when travelling on an Aeroplan Flight Reward)
  • One 50% discount on a Companion Ticket on an Air Canada flight

You’ll also receive exclusive benefits with Visa Infinite Privilege, including:

  • A complimentary Priority Pass and 6 complimentary lounge visits per year at over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide
  • Visa Infinite Privilege Airport Benefits at Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal-Trudeau International airports: VIP Fast Track Lanes to bypass the security line (Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal-Trudeau), Dedicated airport taxi and limo line (Vancouver), Access to dedicated premium parking spots (Vancouver, Ottawa), Save up to 20% on parking (Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal-Trudeau)
  • Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection. Book a stay through the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection – a portfolio of the luxury brand and boutique properties around the world – and receive a suite of premium benefits.
  • Complimentary Visa Infinite Privilege Complimentary Concierge: On call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Visa Infinite Food and Wine Experiences: Visa Infinite Dining Series – Enjoy exclusive access to dining events hosted at top restaurants across the country
  • Visa Infinite Canada Wine Country Program: Enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences, plus receive exclusive wine tasting benefits at participating wineries in Ontario & British Columbia

Finally, you’ll get a comprehensive suite of travel insurance benefits, including:

  • Travel Medical Insurance: Up to $5 million of coverage for the first 22 days. If you or your spouse is aged 65 or older, you are covered for the first 4 days of your trip.
  • Delayed and Lost Baggage Insurance: For delayed baggage, up to $1,000 of coverage per insured person if delayed more than 4 hours. For lost baggage, up to $2,500 of coverage per insured person.
  • Flight/Trip Delay Insurance: Up to $1,000 in coverage if your flight/trip is delayed more than 4 hours.
  • Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance: Up to $500,000 of coverage for covered losses while travelling on a common carrier (for example, a bus, ferry, plane, train, or auto rental).
  • Trip Cancellation: up to $2,500 of coverage per insured person, with a maximum of $5,000 for all insured persons
  • Trip Interruption Insurance: up to $5,000 of coverage per insured person, with a maximum of $25,000 for all insured persons on the same covered trip.
  • Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage Insurance: Coverage for up to 48 consecutive days.
  • Emergency Travel Assistance Services

When to apply: Watch for the welcome bonus on this one and pull the trigger when it’s up to 50,000 Aeroplan miles.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Credit Card

The more typical “premium” travel credit card is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, which comes with a $120 annual fee and requires annual personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000 to qualify. TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite cardholders will earn 1.5 Aeroplan miles on every $1 spent on groceries, gas and drugstore purchases, as well as Air Canada purchases. Earn 1 Aeroplan mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases made with the card.

You’ll receive exclusive Air Canada benefits when you travel using an Aeroplan Flight Reward:

  • One complimentary first checked bag (with Aeroplan Flight Rewards)
  • Priority check-in and priority boarding (with Aeroplan Flight Rewards)
  • One annual One-Time Guest Access Benefit to an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge (with an Aeroplan Flight Reward)

Get exclusive Benefits with the Visa Infinite Card:

  • Complimentary Visa Infinite Concierge: On call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection: Receive exclusive benefits when you book your stay through the collection featuring over 900 of the world’s most intriguing properties.
  • Visa Infinite Food and Wine Experiences: Enjoy exclusive access to gourmet events at Canada’s top restaurants. Plus premium benefits at participating wineries in British Columbia and Ontario.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card customers will receive the same comprehensive travel insurance benefits as the Privilege cardholders.

When to apply: When the welcome bonus reaches 25,000 Aeroplan miles or more and the first year annual fee is free.

TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum Credit Card

For those who cannot qualify for the higher end Visa Infinite Privilege or Visa Infinite card, there’s the TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum Credit Card. This card comes with a lower annual fee of $89 and does not have any minimum income requirements to be approved. The minimum credit limit is $1,500.

TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum cardholders will earn 1 Aeroplan mile on every $1 spent on groceries, gas and drugstore purchases, and 1 Aeroplan mile for every $1.50 spent on all other purchases made with the card.

This card does not come with exclusive Air Canada benefits or Visa Infinite benefits, but it does come with decent travel insurance coverage that includes:

  • Delayed and Lost Baggage Insurance: Up to $1,000 overall coverage per insured person towards the purchase of essentials such as clothes and toiletries if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours or lost.
  • Flight/Trip Delay Insurance: Up to $500 in coverage if your flight/trip is delayed more than 4 hours.
  • Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance: Up to $500,000 of coverage for covered losses while travelling on a common carrier (for example, a bus, ferry, plane, or train).
  • Emergency Travel Assistance Services: Toll-free access to help in the event of a personal emergency while travelling.
  • Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage Insurance: Coverage for up to 48 consecutive days.

When to apply: When the welcome bonus is 15,000 Aeroplan miles and the first year annual fee is free. *Note that you can hold both the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card and the TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum Card simultaneously. This can be advantageous if you’re looking to take advantage of the welcome bonuses offered by each card.

TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card

One of the best Aeroplan credit cards for small business owners is the TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card. The card comes with a $149 annual fee and the minimum credit limit is $1,000. To be eligible for a small business credit card you’ll need to bring in a master business license (for a sole proprietorship), a partnership agreement (for partnerships), or articles of incorporation (for corporations).

With the TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card you’ll earn 1.5 Aeroplan miles for every $1 spent on eligible travel and gas purchases made with your card. Earn 1 Aeroplan mile for every $1 spent elsewhere.

When to apply: When the welcome bonus reaches 30,000 Aeroplan miles or more and the annual fee is waived in the first year.

CIBC Aeroplan Credit Cards

Despite losing the Aeroplan contract several years ago CIBC still offers Aeroplan branded credit cards and joins TD, Visa, and Air Canada as the new owners of Aeroplan.

Buried beneath their flagship Aventura credit cards you’ll find a decent suite of five CIBC Aeroplan credit cards.

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card

The top-end Aeroplan credit card comes with a $399 annual fee and requires minimum household income of $200,000 to be eligible to apply. Earn 1.5 Aeroplan miles on every $1 spent on groceries, gas and drugstore purchases, as well as Air Canada purchases. Earn 1.25 Aeroplan miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases made with the card.

Get exclusive Air Canada benefits:

  • Priority check-in and boarding, and complimentary first checked bag on Air Canada-operated flights
  • 4 annual One-time Guest Access Benefit passes to an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
  • Access 850+ airport lounges with 6 annual complimentary lounge visits

Its best insurance feature is out-of-province emergency medical, trip cancellation and other safeguards.

When to apply: Watch for the welcome bonus on this one and pull the trigger when it’s up to 50,000 Aeroplan miles.

CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite Card

The original flagship Aeroplan credit card, CIBC’s Aerogold Visa Infinite Card comes with a $120 annual fee and requires minimum personal annual income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000. Earn 1.5 Aeroplan miles on every $1 spent on groceries, gas and drugstore purchases, as well as Air Canada purchases. Earn 1 Aeroplan mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases made with the card.

You’ll get priority airport services and lounge access when using an Aeroplan Flight Reward on flights operated by Air Canada. For travel insurance coverage you’ll get out-of-province medical, trip cancellation or interruption and auto rental collision or damage.

When to apply: When the welcome bonus reaches 25,000 Aeroplan miles or more and the first year annual fee is free.

CIBC Aero Platinum Visa Card

The low annual fee version that still earns Aeroplan miles is CIBC’s Aero Platinum Visa Card. It comes with an annual fee of just $39 and requires minimum annual income of $15,000 to apply. Cardholders will earn 1 Aeroplan mile for every $1.50 they spend on their card.

Auto rental collision and damage insurance is included, along with extra protection on new purchases. Double the manufacturer’s warranty up to an extra yea, plus get theft or loss replacement.

When to apply: When the welcome bonus is 15,000 Aeroplan miles and the first year annual fee is free.

*Note there is also a CIBC Aero Platinum Visa Card for Students. It has the same benefits as the Aero Platinum Visa Card, comes with a $39 annual fee, but does not require any minimum income to apply.

American Express Aeroplan Credit Cards

American Express reached a deal to extend its Aeroplan partnership until June 2020. After that date, Air Canada’s new loyalty program will launch and Aeroplan and its new owners (Air Canada, TD, CIBC, and Visa) will move on without American Express.

For now, though, Amex offers great value for Aeroplan members with its co-branded credit cards and an incredibly flexible Membership Rewards program that allows 1:1 transfers to Aeroplan.

Amex offers four Aeroplan credit cards:

American Express AeroplanPlus Reserve Card

The Reserve card comes with an annual fee of $899 and has a standard welcome offer of 50,000 Aeroplan miles when you spend a minimum $3,000 in your first three months.

  • Earn 1.25 Aeroplan Miles for every $1 in purchases
  • Earn 2 Aeroplan Miles for every $1 of eligible Air Canada purchases

American Express AeroplanPlus Reserve Cardmembers will also receive travel benefits such as:

  • Access to an $200 Annual Travel Credit
  • An annual Partner Ticket benefit for a short-haul or long-haul roundtrip Fixed Mileage Flight Reward when you redeem up to 25,000 Aeroplan Miles
  • Unlimited access to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge where available, and Priority Pass Lounges
  • A complimentary first checked bag on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and under the Air Canada Express banner, up to 5 bags annually
  • Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance, plus Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country)
  • Avoid line-ups at security by accessing the Pearson Priority Security Lane located at the departure level of Terminal 1 & 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport during peak airport operating hours

To be eligible for the Reserve card you’ll need a minimum personal income of $60,000.

When to apply: The $899 annual fee is a turn-off and don’t expect to see a better promo than they currently offer. That said, 50,000 Aeroplan miles can be worth up to $1,250 in flight rewards (at 2.5 cents per mile). Add a $200 annual travel credit and an annual partner ticket (round-trip) and you’re looking at more than $2,000 in travel benefits.

American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum Card

The Platinum version of AeroplanPlus comes with a lower annual fee of $499, and new cardmembers can earn a welcome bonus of 40,000 Aeroplan miles when they spend $3,000 in the first three months.

  • Earn 1.25 Aeroplan Miles for every $1 in purchases up to $25,000 annually
  • Earn 1.5 miles for every dollar in purchases over $25,000 annually

AeroplanPlus Platinum Cardmembers can also enjoy travel benefits such as:

  • Once per year, you can redeem 15,000 Aeroplan Miles for a short-haul round-trip Fixed Mileage Flight Reward in economy class and receive a second complimentary Partner Ticket for the same itinerary.
  • Relax in over 700 lounges worldwide, including Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, access in major airports across Canada and key international locations, and around the globe with Priority Pass Membership
  • Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance, plus Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country)
  • Avoid line-ups at security by accessing the Pearson Priority Security Lane located at the departure level of Terminal 1 & 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport during peak airport operating hours.

There is no stated minimum income threshold to apply for this card. Note that this version is a charge card with no credit limit, but the balance needs to be paid in full or it’s subject to a 30% interest rate.

When to apply: Again, the $499 annual fee will give new applicants pause, however the welcome bonus of 40,000 Aeroplan miles, plus the short-haul round-trip companion voucher could be worth up to $1,375 in travel rewards.

American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card

The AeroplanPlus Gold card comes with a more typical $120 annual fee and offers a welcome bonus of 15,000 Aeroplan miles when you spend $1,500 in the first three months.

  • Earn 1 Aeroplan Mile for every $1 in Card purchases up to $10,000
  • Accelerate your earn rate to 1.25 Aeroplan Miles for every additional $1 in purchases over $10,000 annually

The Gold version does not come with a travel credit, companion voucher, or even airport lounge passes. Instead you’ll get a decent suite of travel insurance coverage and purchase protection.

When to apply: Perhaps this card would be worth a look if the welcome bonus increased to 25,000 miles and/or the first year annual fee was waived.

American Express AeroplanPlus Card

The final tier of AeroplanPlus cards is a low fee version ($60/year) where cardmembers can earn 5,000 Aeroplan miles after spending $500 in the first three months. Earnings are straightforward:

  • Earn 1 Aeroplan Mile for every $1 in purchases

This basic card comes with some travel insurance coverage, but not much. Get $250,000 in travel accident insurance, access to travel emergency assistance, and purchase protection coverage. That’s it.

When to apply: Can’t think of a good reason why.

The Best Aeroplan Credit Card?

The one card not mentioned specifically because it is not an Aeroplan branded credit card is the American Express Gold Rewards Card.

Widely considered to be one of the best and most flexible travel rewards credit cards on the market, the Amex Gold Rewards Card typically comes with a standard welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points and often comes with a promotion where you can get the first year free.

  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in purchases on eligible travel and everyday purchases
  • Transfer your points to frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 in purchases everywhere else

Earn the 25,000 point welcome bonus and then transfer your Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan on a 1:1 basis.

Final thoughts

Aeroplan miles still offer great value for travellers, especially if you know the ins and outs of the program and can avoid hefty fuel surcharges on flight rewards.

The best Aeroplan credit cards give members a chance to boost their rewards balance with juicy one-time welcome bonuses and no annual fees in the first year. It’s a perfect combination for credit card churning and earning enough Aeroplan miles for a dream trip.

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