Over the past four weeks, you’ve all had the opportunity to cast your votes in the 2022 Prince of Travel Awards, the third edition of our annual awards to recognize excellence in travel, hospitality, loyalty programs, and credit cards.
We’re excited to announce the winners of the 2022 Prince of Travel Awards in all 37 award categories, along with some thoughts and impressions about the results.
The American Express Platinum Card remained strong this year, as the Canadian credit card that offers the most comprehensive suite of benefits, such as unlimited lounge access and access to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts.
The American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card captured its largest share of the vote yet this year, likely due to the abundance of Amex Offers which helped to offset the annual fee. It’s also quite possible that Aeroplan members are finding value in being able to rollover up to 50 eUpgrades for another year.
Meanwhile, despite sitting in a distant third, the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card remains the sole non-American Express premium credit card of choice. Its current record-high welcome bonus of 105,000 Aeroplan points may well have influenced its ranking.
Among mid-range travel credit cards, the American Express Cobalt Card is the clear winner, earning nearly double the amount of votes as the runner-up, the HSBC World Elite Mastercard. That’s not surprising, considering that the Amex Cobalt earns 5x Membership Rewards points on food and drinks, a multiplier that’s hard to beat.
The other surprising news is that this is the first year the HSBC World Elite Mastercard has surpassed the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card to claim second place.
This represents a strong showing from the non-“Big 5” contender, and hopefully we’ll see the HSBC World Elite Mastercard stick around in some form after RBC acquires HSBC Canada in late 2023.
American Express comes through with a clear sweep of this category with their strong suite of business products leading the way in Canada.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express wins this category easily, offering sizeable benefits like unlimited lounge access and Marriott Gold status for travelling business owners. Earning a consistent 1.25x MR points across all categories makes it the best candidate for non-categorized spending.
The American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card comes in a distant second place, with travel benefits that are arguably weaker than the Business Platinum’s. For the business owner looking for Maple Leaf Lounge access and exclusive perks with Air Canada, the Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve Card is the obvious option.
The American Express Business Edge Card ranks in a surprising third place, given the competitive strength of the TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card and even the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card. However, the 3x earn rate on business essentials like rideshares, gas, and office supplies could indeed come in handy if much of your business’s spending falls in these categories.
When it comes up to welcome bonuses, size matters. The 115,000 MR / Aeroplan points from the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card this past summer easily took first place.
Interestingly, the higher welcome bonus of 120,000 MR from the Business Platinum Card from American Express came in a close second place, likely because of the higher minimum spending involved.
The American Express Gold Rewards Card also handily swept the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card, which makes sense since the welcome bonus was higher and also because MR points are more valuable and transferrable to more partners.
The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card continues its dominance among the personal cards, this time taking first place among all Visa credit cards.
In addition to earning valuable Aeroplan points, the category bonus of 1.5x on gas and groceries is slightly higher than the runner-up RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card, which only earns 1.25x on travel purchases.
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card comes in third, thanks to its no foreign exchange fees and its ease of redeeming points compared to CIBC and BMO’s in-house rewards points.
Unsurprisingly, the HSBC World Elite Mastercard wins this category hands-down, as it’s the only Mastercard in Canada to offer flexible rewards that can be transferred to frequent flyer partners.
The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard places second in this category, reflecting the value of its companion voucher benefit, while the National Bank World Elite Mastercard is a rising star in this field.
Overall, the Mastercard portfolio in Canada has certainly weakened this year, as the MBNA Alaska cards have recently left the playing field.
For the third year in a row, unlimited Priority Pass lounge access at 1,300+ airport lounges around the world was chosen to be Canada’s best credit card perk. In all fairness, it would take something spectacular to beat it.
Despite upcoming changes to the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program in 2023, the anniversary Free Night Award on the Amex Bonvoy cards wins second place.
These benefits have retained their value through to the end of 2022, and since dynamic pricing won’t be fully kicking in until 2023, we’ll still be able to redeem topped-up Free Night Awards for stays up to one year later.
Like previous years, there’s so much unexplored room for creativity in credit card perks here in Canada, as we see the same ones win year over year. Here’s hoping we’ll see an issuer shake things up for 2023.
The cash back credit card scene here in Canada is marked by a series of fairly competitive players, with no clear winner among them. Indeed, all five candidates were fairly evenly matched.
The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card eked out ahead of the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express and the Tangerine World Mastercard with just 1% more votes than the chasing pack.
Our results – which had second and third place tied with exactly 22.77% of the vote each, as well as fourth and fifth place tying with exactly 15.35% of the vote each – illustrate how tight the competition is for cash back cards in Canada.
(The fourth- and fifth- place finishers were the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard and the CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card.)
The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card winning this category shows the power of Aeroplan points and how much we value them as a community. It’s the only co-branded Aeroplan credit card in Canada that has no annual fee, making it a great entry-level credit card for Canadians looking to earn Aeroplan points.
The second-place winner of Tangerine World Mastercard is somewhat surprising, as it raises the question of whether we like cash back cards more than reward points when it comes to not paying an annual fee?
The American Express Green Card is a strong contender in third place, and represents a great place to park your MR points without paying an annual fee.
Combine flexible points currencies that can be transferred to frequent flyer programs with no foreign transaction fees and a solid welcome bonus, and we have a clear winner in the HSBC World Elite Mastercard.
Scotiabank’s ranking in second and third place shows the overall strength of their No FX Fee portfolio, though neither card was strong enough on its own to unseat the HSBC World Elite.
Surprisingly, the American Express Air Canada Card won with a decisive 53% victory as the Best New Financial Product.
Perhaps Canadians are intrigued by the card being shrouded in mystery and its status as an invite-only product that most of us will likely never qualify for – though the benefits are indeed indisputably top-of-the-line.
The RBC Ion+ Visa is a reasonable runner-up, since it replaces the previously popular RBC Signature Rewards Visa.
We might have expected to see the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard in third place due to sheer novelty, but understandably, many Canadians spend quite a bit at Costco.
Again, the Chase Aeroplan Card‘s victory as the best US-issued credit card reflects the sheer power of the Aeroplan program. With perks such as complimentary Aeroplan 25K status and the Elite Status Level Up, there are features on this card that aren’t found on any other Aeroplan card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card coming in second place also shows the ongoing strength of Marriott Bonvoy, despite the annual fee increase and the annual $300 (USD) hotel credit becoming monthly dining credits instead.
It’s worth noting that the ever-strong Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card narrowly beat out the Capital One Venture X by about 0.5% of the vote, so that’s one to look out for next year.
No surprises here. As with all previous years, American Express Membership Rewards is the shoo-in to win, and continued its dominance with over 90% of the vote in 2021 and 2022.
This result reiterates the reality that the transferable rewards landscape in Canada is fairly monotonous, and Amex Membership Rewards could certainly use some competition.
At this point, Marriott Bonvoy beating RBC Avion for the third year in a row shouldn’t be a surprise, either. We can conclude that Canadians generally value the ability to transfer to a longer list of frequent flyer programs more so than having a higher transfer ratio to a select few programs.
This category is essentially a battle of which fixed-value points program offers the most flexibility and the greatest ease of redeeming points for maximum value.
Scene+, like the Scotia Rewards that it replaced, stands out as the only program that doesn’t require you to book through their own travel portal. Instead, you can retroactively redeem Scene+ points directly against any travel expenses.
You can spend on travel in order to make the minimum spend, and then immediately go back and redeem your points against the purchase. Do fixed-value points programs get any better than that?
The “best of the rest” is a battle between Expedia for TD, CIBC Travel Portal, MBNA Rewards Catalogue, and BMO Travel Portal. TD Rewards emerged as the victor by a small margin over CIBC Aventura.
After all, Expedia is the “best” of the aforementioned online travel agencies, offering a wider range of items to redeem for compared to the others, including more unique travel items such as tours and Disney theme park passes.
The CIBC Aventura program wins third place once again, but with a significant increase compared to last year, taking 21% of the vote this year versus just 12% last year. This is likely attributed to CIBC’s ongoing promotion, by which members can redeem Aventura points at 1.25 cents per point directly against all travel.
Aeroplan comes out miles ahead of the competition this category, as it still offers the best all-around value proposition for booking international premium cabin redemptions (and even domestic ones when you factor in eUpgrades).
What’s bringing the program even farther ahead of its competitors is that its list of airline partners is still ever-growing, and is currently approaching 50.
We still love Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, although changes are due any day now and are set to be implemented by the end of 2022. Depending on how that goes, this year might be Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan’s last hurrah.
This year, British Airways Avios and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles tied for third place with no meaningful changes to either in the year 2022 at the time this vote took place.
This isn’t a surprise, given that the two programs can book the same set of airlines with opposing strengths – Asia Miles is better for premium cabin long-haul travel, while Avios are better for economy class short-haul travel.
Throughout multiple rounds of devaluations and the upcoming full implementation of dynamic pricing, Marriott Bonvoy continues to win easily as the Best Hotel Loyalty Program.
As the only hotel chain that offers a co-branded credit card in Canada, its first place finish was never in question, but any other hotel chains wishing to enter the Canadian market would be ever so welcome.
As we saw last year, World of Hyatt surpassed Hilton Honors and even nearly doubled their votes, showing the continued faith that Hyatt commands among its loyal following.
As we saw above, we simply have far more Marriott Bonvoy members in Canada than World of Hyatt or Hilton Honors. This is likely due to the ease of earning points and achieving status by having 15 elite qualifying nights from the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
Hyatt’s percentage of the vote has not changed since last year. Meanwhile, despite the ease of acquiring Hilton Diamond status just by holding a US-issued credit card, its benefits are likely the most watered-down out of the three primary hotel elite statuses, as is reflected in the vote.
This vote confirms that flying to Asia is where most of the sweet spots lie right now, especially if you live on the West Coast and can easily take advantage of the Aeroplan and Alaska miles sweet spots.
Qatar Airways has burst onto the scene after joining the Avios program and allowing members to redeem Avios for Qsuites at truly phenomenal rates, taking a respectable second place.
Furthermore, as the award pricing applies to the entire North American continent rather varying from a different regions, travellers from both coasts can take advantage of the incredible pricing.
Earning double referral points with American Express wins this time around, although by only a slim margin of 2%. Indeed, the promotion had incredible potential, as a single referral on the Amex Business Platinum Card would earn you 40,000 Membership Rewards.
Earning status without flying is also something we yearn for, so Aeroplan’s status extension promotion coming in second place is unsurprising. With travel rebounding in earnest this year, 2022 is likely the last year Aeroplan will provide any kind of status extension.
The same reasoning applies to Marriott Bonvoy, as double elite qualifying nights made it easy to qualify for elite status early in the year. Again, with travel back in full and hotels not having any problems filling rooms, it’s unlikely we’ll see a promotion of this nature return on a widespread basis.
As seen earlier, the ability to easily redeem points for Qatar Airways Qsuites was a major win of 2022 for points collectors, so it makes sense that Qatar Airways joining the Avios program wins handily in this category.
A fair number of voters were also happy with the changes that Amex US has made to the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, enjoying an easy route to Marriott Platinum Elite status as a result.
Finally, Hilton Free Night Rewards are easily the most valuable part of the Hilton Honors loyalty program, and the ability to redeem them on any night of the week is surely a positive change.
Oman Air stands out significantly higher than its competitors in this category, and that’s likely down to its aspirational First Class cabin.
Following that train of thought, Bamboo Airways and Air Mauritius both offer a lie-flat business class cabin, which were far superior to the other options in this vote, SunExpress and Aeromar.
Air Canada Signature Class product on the Boeing 787 wins handily over a mostly identical product on the Boeing 777, perhaps due to its advantage as a newer, quieter plane with neat dimming windows.
WestJet rounds up third place, and we’ll soon see its 787 business class product on more international routes, such as Calgary–Tokyo.
Air Canada wins this category by quite a wide margin. With a variety of aircraft in their fleet, their new A220 economy class product has a great 2-3 configuration, which is one of the best in North America.
It’s interesting to see Porter Airlines ranking above WestJet, given that it’s a boutique airline that only flies to a handful of destinations. The airline places a strong emphasis on in-flight products, and its close proximity to the downtown core is another attractive aspect.
Perhaps this vote was based on a prediction, as Porter has recently announced a major route expansion which includes departures from Toronto Pearson International Airport, free Wi-Fi for all passengers, and improved food and drink options.
Once again, Qatar Airways Qsuites has emerged as superior to ANA’s “The Room”.
However, the difference between the two is lower this year compared to last year, which could mean that some of us have made the trip to Japan since borders have been open and are perhaps ranking it more favourably after trying it out.
EVA Air’s Dreamliner business class product takes third place, due to a combination of EVA Air’s incredibly strong soft product paired with an equally impressive hard product.
Compared to last year, Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class has edged out Emirates for first place. It appears as though voters have sided with the double bed in the sky over the onboard shower.
As there was widespread Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer award space released for travel in 2022, usually with multiple seats per flight, many of us were able to try it with a companion. For anyone who has given Singapore Suites a try, it’s truly a magical experience, and sharing with a companion enhances it even further.
Emirates in second place is no shocker, as their opulent and ostentatious First Class experience, complete with a shower in the sky, has always been a fan favourite.
Air France La Première could arguably rank higher, but it’s a product that’s typically nearly impossible to experience without dropping a significant load of cash, so perhaps they’d win more votes if they made it a little easier to book on points. 😉
Here, the top two finishers offer excellent experiences all around. The Air Canada Signature Suite is usually ranked as a top lounge worldwide, but requires either a Business (Flexible) Aeroplan redemption or a paid business class fare in order to enter.
In second place, the WestJet Elevation Lounge in Calgary is excellent in terms of the quality of the lounge experience. Make sure to check it out if you’re passing through Calgary, as it’s also accessible via Priority Pass.
The Maple Leaf Lounge Toronto (International) is one of the most visited in Canada, so it makes sense that it would rank third – even if, say, the fourth-placed Air France Lounge in Montreal is arguably just as nice of an experience.
Coming in first place, the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha is a deserving winner in every way. The lounge offers private relaxing nooks, à la carte dining, work desks, and more.
The Air Canada Signature Suite aims to offer a more private experience through highly restrictive entrance policies, and is overall a smaller lounge with more personalized service.
Finally, the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge in Istanbul is a step below the winner and runner-up. The lounge is physically huge and offers nearly everything you would want, from sleeping rooms to gaming areas; however, the major downfall is how crowded it tends to get despite the large space.
Looking at only the ground experience, the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge has phenomenal dining, sleep rooms, and a jacuzzi.
The Lufthansa First Class Terminal‘s offer of Porsche tarmac transfer was enough to edge out a second place ranking over Singapore Airlines’s renovated Private Room.
As an airline with a great business class reputation, a wide range of destinations served, and excellent award availability, Etihad Airways’s improvement of their hard product on new A350 aircraft with sliding doors can only lead to wonderful things.
Qatar Airways took up second place with its First Class operated on Cathay Pacific’s 777 aircraft, and this truly represents two greats coming together.
Qatar Airways offers a wonderful First Class experience that’s held back only by their somewhat lacklustre seats on the A380; however, with Cathay Pacific’s excellent 777 seat and Qatar Airways’s First Class service, it’s a perfect match.
The final two options tied for third place, each having innovative changes to the business class product this year. Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo aircraft is offering “First Class within business class” on select seats, and Finnair made waves with seats that don’t recline at all.
When it comes to redeeming our hard-earned points for city hotels, the JW Marriott Parq in Vancouver won out.
This category was spread out very evenly, with a small variance between the vote percentage for the five nominees. In the end, the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, the St. Regis Toronto, and The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal are our favourite hotels for redemptions in Canada.
The Muir Hotel Halifax is a sleeper hit though, offering a house car for all your city excursions and luxurious Aesop amenities. If you haven’t yet been there, be sure to check it out if you’re passing through Halifax.
Vancouver is a city ripe with luxury hotels, taking the win in both points and cash bookings. Looking only at city hotels for which there’s no easy way to redeem hotel points, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver took first place.
After that, Shangri-La remained dominant, with both Canadian locations earning a top three placement. Indeed, the Shangri-La properties in Toronto and Vancouver are worth a shot, especially if you can take advantage of the ongoing Amex Offer to lower the cost.
Like the city hotels above, the variance here is not very high at all.
Compared to last year, the Westin Whistler made a significant leap forward, perhaps as more Canadians have been travelling to British Columbia. It’s also easy to appreciate the incredibly high redemption value the Westin Whistler offers during the summer and winter seasons.
The Algonquin Resort St. Andrews by the Sea has jumped in to beat the Kananaskis Resort & Spa for a podium placement this year. Perhaps this can be attributed to more Canadians visiting the Atlantic provinces after the borders reopened.
JW Marriott the Rosseau Muskoka has received a well-deserved third place as as consistently good redemption for Torontonians looking for a weekend break.
When it comes to staying at aspirational resorts in Canada using cash, the Fairmont Lake Louise comes forward as the winner. That’s certainly to be expected, as it might just be the most famous hotel in Canada with its ideal location at the foot of Lake Louise and looking up at the Victoria Glacier.
The Fairmont Banff Springs likely piggybacks off some of Lake Louise’s success, but is also a beautiful hotel in its own right, with a prime location in Banff village.
The third place winner, Fogo Island Inn, is more of a “if you know, you know” destination, serving up just 29 rooms on its own island off the coast of Newfoundland.
Unlike every hotel category in Canada, we clearly have overwhelming feelings about our international city hotels, since The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto won with over 50% of the vote.
In addition to having a fantastic Ritz-Carlton property, Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto is also a fantastic luxury option bookable using Marriott points, and gives the Ritz a good run for its money.
The St. Regis New York is always a popular option as an ostentatiously decorated hotel sitting on prime real estate in Midtown. The hotel oozes luxury at every turn, and free breakfast and suite upgrades for elite members certainly helps elevate the stay.
I’m happy to see the only Hyatt option on the list finising in the top three, and by all means, the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme looks like a fantastic property to squeeze excellent value out of World of Hyatt points.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli and Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi coming out on top isn’t really surprising.
However, Le Méridien Maldives scored more preferably over both Bora Bora properties (St. Regis Bora Bora and Conrad Bora Bora Nui), perhaps reflecting the attractiveness of redeeming a fairly moderate sum of points for an overwater experience compared to all the other options on this list.
Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai is the first property that comes to mind when thinking of aspirational hotels booked on points due to a combination of factors: its accessible location just 45 minutes from Dubai, full board, included activities, Michelin-quality food, and an entire villa and temperature-controlled pool to yourself.
The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in second place is perhaps a surprise compared to the other fantastic hotels included on the list, such as Calala Island Nicaragua. Perhaps this was to be expected, though, as many Canadians enjoy spending the winter season in Mexico.
The Bodrum EDITION is a fantastic property and is well-deserving of third place. Expect to find excellent elite treatment if you have an upcoming stay at the property.
Japan easily and decisively takes the win for the most exciting destination reopening of 2022. This is all for good good reason, after having teased us with the border potentially reopening for the better part of the year.
The excitement over Asia continues as Thailand and Taiwan take second and third place, respectively. The high voter engagement for Thailand is to be expected, especially since Air Canada launched a direct flight to Bangkok earlier this year to account for high demand.
Despite Australia and New Zealand having some of the strictest COVID-19 protocols, they both opened their borders in the past summer, but neither was nowhere nearly popular enough to take a spot away from any of the Asian destinations.
As an aside, of all the voters who participated in Week 4, nobody skipped this question!
With the winners announced, the 2022 Prince of Travel Awards has come to a conclusion. Our sincere thanks goes out to all who participated in the voting process here at the third annual Prince of Travel Awards.
2022 was marked by travel rebounding, and the entire Prince of Travel team has been taking our own revenge jaunts across the world.
On the points front, American Express continues to dominate in the Canadian landscape, along with Aeroplan winning every eligible category from its rival points programs. Among both financial institutions and loyalty programs, we’d love to see more competition in the market as we move into 2023.
We hope you’ve enjoyed voting in the 2022 Prince of Travel Awards, and we wish you a happy holiday season ahead.