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Here are the top travel rewards credit cards





Avid credit card point collectors know that travel rewards can offer tremendous value, compared to a cash back or retail program.

The top travel rewards credit cards typically come with an annual fee — but also come with generous bonus points worth hundreds of dollars in cash or travel, and/or waive annual fees in the first year, saving you big dollars.

Access to airport lounge service is among the benefits to holders of the top travel rewards credit cards.
Access to airport lounge service is among the benefits to holders of the top travel rewards credit cards.  (Dreamstime)

While your mileage may vary, the best travel rewards programs provide flexibility when it comes to redeeming points, including the ability to book travel with any provider and use your points to cover fees and taxes. Take advantage of other benefits, such as travel insurance coverage, airport lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding and hotel upgrades.

If a trip, and earning points toward it, are in your plans for the new year, then consider these top travel rewards credit cards on the market, along with their offers (as of Nov. 21, 2018):

1) American Express Cobalt Card. This card offers the highest earn rate of any card in Canada, on groceries, bars and restaurants with five points for every dollar, plus two points for every dollar spent on travel, transit and gas.

New cardholders can earn up to 30,000 points in their first year by spending a minimum $500 each month. This card comes with a monthly fee of $10, or $120 a year.

The ultimate card for flexibility, Cobalt allows you to book travel with any provider and use your points against those charges on your monthly statement. There’s also an option to transfer points to hotel partners such as Marriott and Hilton.

2) American Express Gold Rewards Card. This card, at a notch below its Cobalt cousin, has been a mainstay in the travel rewards landscape for several years due to its flexible Membership Rewards points. Those points can be transferred to Aeroplan, Avios, plus other frequent flyer and hotel programs.

Membership Rewards points can also be used against travel charges on your statement.

Cardholders earn a 25,000-point welcome bonus when they charge $1,500 to their card in the first three months. Earn two points per dollar spent on groceries, gas, drugstore and travel purchases.

This card comes with a $150 annual fee.

3) CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card. A recent overhaul of the Aventura program and its card benefits pushes the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card into the conversation for top travel rewards card.

It starts with a strong welcome offer of 15,000 Aventura points, plus an additional 5,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first four months. The current offer also includes a $120 annual fee rebate in the first year.

Fly on any airline with no restrictions or blackouts when you redeem points through the CIBC Rewards Centre.

Earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and at drug stores, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else.

Additional perks include a Priority Pass membership, which gets you access to 1,200-plus airport lounges, four complimentary lounge visits per year, and a Nexus application fee rebate.

4) Scotiabank Gold American Express Card. This card pays a generous four points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, dining and entertainment. Earn one point per dollar spent on everything else.

As well, this card offers 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. It comes with a $99 annual fee.

Redeem points for travel by booking through Scotia Rewards Travel Service or charge any travel to your card and apply points against those charges once they appear on your statement.

5) BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard. It’s not as competitive as it once was, but the BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard offers too much value to ignore. New cardholders get 1,000 Air Miles after their first purchase, plus 2,000 more when they spend $3,000 in the first three months. The $120 annual fee is waived in the first year.

You’ll also get a companion flight rebate in the first year, exclusive access to LoungeKey airport lounges (with two complimentary passes annually), plus a 15 per cent discount on Air Miles flights within North America. Cardholders earn one mile for every $10 spent.

Final thoughts: There are many factors to consider when choosing a travel rewards credit card. Find what type of program works best for you and then select an appropriate credit card to help collect and redeem points quickly and without hassle.

Robb Engen is a Lethbridge, Alta.-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. He blogs at Boomer & Echo. Reach him at


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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place. HomeYou’ve been selected.Only $1.49/week for your first 4 months.Special offer just for you. Unlimited access.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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A Simplified Guide for Toronto First-Time Home Buyers





Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the fourth largest city in North America, which makes it an exciting place to live in.

But as with other major cities, finding the perfect place to move to can get tricky. If you’re planning on buying a home for the first time in this city, it is indeed a big decision and there are things you should know in advance.

Don’t worry, this guide will help explain the basics of what you as a buyer should know when you decide to buy a home. It will make you feel like a true expert during the buying process.

Decide what type of home you are looking for

There is no right answer to what makes a good home. It all depends on your preferences and needs as the resident. It is, therefore, a good idea to determine as early as possible which features of a home are important to you. If you are buying a home and moving in with someone, it can be a good idea for both of you to make a list and compare.

Toronto is a city that offers different styles of living accommodations and its neighborhoods are quite versatile and diverse, same as the people living there who come from all parts of the world.

The most common forms of housing and real estate opportunities in this city include bungalows, two-storey houses, split-level homes, and the very popular Toronto condos. Due to the high property values, the city boasts of construction of many condominiums as they are a more cost-efficient choice and provide a plethora of benefits.

When you decide on the type of home you want to buy, it is good to do some research and learn the biggest differences between them.

What to think of when choosing homes in Toronto

There are certain things you need to consider when choosing your home in this city. 

Being close to the things you need to visit every day makes life a lot easier. Pay attention to the proximity to shops, preschools, schools, and your job. In addition, access to good public transportation is crucial. Being able to move around the city easily and the opportunity to commute is important to many.

Know that having a balcony can significantly increase the value of your home and improve your well-being. Being able to move easily in the area is something that many people underestimate, but can be very convenient, and this is why you should see if there are good cycles and walking paths. 

And finally, make sure that the house is well designed which is a quality that does not disappear with the age of the house or with renovations. 

Set your budget

Before you start the search for your new home, you must know how expensive of a home you can buy. It is preferable to know in what price range to look for. The budget is usually decided based on your mortgage and how large are the monthly costs you can handle.

A mortgage is always about a balance between risk and income for the bank. The higher the risk for the bank to lend to a particular home, the more expensive the mortgage will be. When it comes to the bank’s reasoning when applying for a loan, it is in principle always a question of whether you as a borrower will be able to repay the mortgage.

The bank also takes into account your financial history. If you are a person who has managed your finances well, the chance increases that you will get your mortgage approved. If, on the other hand, you have a bad reputation with banks, it is weighed in as an aggravating circumstance.

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