Two web sites that I found to be extremely useful with lots of detailed comparative info and unbiased advice:
- Rewards Canada - almost one-stop shopping for the features and costs of available cards, saves a huge amount of work flitting around vendor sites with its large spreadsheet-like comparative table. It seems to be quite up-to-date with the latest temporary bonus offers and specials. There is even a top 5 credit cards for 2010 article. The same web owner runs sister sites for the UK FrequentFlyerBonuses,co.uk and for worldwide FrequentFlyerBonuses.com.
- Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - yes, that's right a federal government agency actually can manage to supply useful information at its section on credit cards. The unique info, not found on the Rewards Canada site, is the table of extra fees and charges, and particularly for the traveller, the Cash advance fee outside Canada and the Converting transactions made outside Canada into Canadian currency (which, frustratingly, is 2.5% in the vast majority of cases)
Despite the top 5 article mentioned above, my eventual choice did not settle on their top-rated RBC Visa Avion Card. Instead the separate Travel Anywhere Credit Comparison showing rewards redemption values versus spending required focused my choice initially on the Capital One Aspire World MasterCard. It seems to offer the best spending to reward ratio. Note the word "seems".
The fine print on the card reward scheme, found only by drilling down into the Capital One website, has some tricky conditions that ensure almost no one will be able to get full value from their points and achieve the seemingly best-in-class rewards. The tricky bit is buried in the Important Disclosures document you see only after starting the application process under the heading Reward Miles Redemption, where it says: "... The reward mileage requirement is as follows: 15,000 reward miles are required for tickets up to $150.00; 35,000 reward miles are required for tickets from $150.01 up to $350.00; 60,000 reward miles are required for tickets from $350.01 up to $600.00. For tickets over $600.00 in value, the required number of reward miles will be determined by multiplying the cost of the ticket by 100 (ex. $741 ticket requires 74,100 reward miles). You need to have the minimum reward miles required in order to redeem - partial redemptions will not be processed." In other words, you cannot buy a $500 ticket and top up the missing $100 you need. You must always use more points than the cost of the ticket. Unless you spend big amounts every year on the card - like $25,000 - you won't get to the 60,000 level of points where the no top-up point loss penalty gets less onerous. For me at least, it would be far too long before enough points for trans-Atlantic flights ($1000+) could be useful. Lesson, read the fine print.
After hours of reading the fine print, I literally came back to the place I started - my existing TD Travel Visa Infinite card. Not that TD Visa is the most wonderful outfit ever (see my own less than wonderful experience with them here and here). But their rewards accumulation and their redemption methods (especially where one gets triple the points when booking travel through their own travel agency, which I have found to be responsive and easy to reach) fit my current lifestyle. The devil is in the details and it is the devil I know.