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The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is often toted at the best no foreign transaction fee credit card in Canada.
But when you look at it closer, that may not be the case.
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is one of only a handful of credit cards in Canada to not charge you that pesky 2.5% foreign transaction fee (a.k.a. fx fee) and only one of two reputable banks that offer this feature on one of their cards. The card realistically comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Scotia Rewards, which has a value of up to $200. But that is where the praise stops. Scotia Rewards aren’t really that useful, and the card has an abysmal earning rate. I frankly think you should look into the HSBC World Elite Mastercard instead.
I think it is sold as the top no fx fee credit card in Canada because it is the most popular. It is the credit card everybody is talking about in the no foreign transaction fee space.
Just because it is the most popular doesn’t mean it is the best.
And just because I don’t think it is the best doesn’t mean you won’t think it is the best no fx fee credit card in Canada.
Today, we’re going to discuss all the ins and outs of the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, so you can decide whether it is the right card for you or not.
Spoiler alert: it is the only credit card I’ve ever regretted getting.
What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?
Since we are going to mention it a lot and it is a huge benefit to the card, I think we should have a quick chat about what an fx fee is.
A foreign transaction fee is a 2.5% fee credit card issuers charge you for making purchases in a foreign currency.
This is on top what ever the currency conversion rate is.
Essentially, a foreign transaction fee is an arbitrary 2.5% that you get charged that goes straight into the pockets of Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and the bank.
Mastercard and Visa get 1% and the bank issuing the card gets the other 1.5%. In the case of American Express, they get the full 2.5% charges.
2.5% may not sound like a lot of money, but it can add up quickly!
If you spend $5,000 in a currency other than Canadian dollars a year, you pay $125 just in fx fees.
The banks claim a foreign transaction fee compensates them for the cost of converting currencies, but it feels like a money grab to most people.
It is a good day whenever you can avoid paying that annoying 2.5% foreign transaction fee.
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is one of the few ways Canadians can avoid paying that extra 2.5% on purchases not made in Canadian dollars.
Let me know in the comments below whether or not you knew you paid an fx fee?! I know a lot of people aren’t aware the charge even exists.
Also, American Express doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on their US credit cards, so I’m more than a little grumpy they still charge it on their Canadian card! Let’s change that Amex!
At first glance, there is a lot to like about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite. I can honestly see why people enjoy this card.
Here are some of the card’s top highlights:
- Up to 30,000 Scotia Rewards as a sign-up bonus (I know I said 20,000 Scotia Rewards in the introduction, but I’ll explain why most people receive 20,000 Scotia Rewards rather than 30,000 Scotia Rewards in the points section of this post)
- No foreign transaction fee on any purchase
- 2x points for every $1 you spend on gas, transportation, groceries, and entertainment
- 6 complimentary airport lounge visits
That’s not a bad list of benefits for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite!
Another spoiler alert: if Scotia Rewards were decent, this credit card would be one of the best in Canada!
Pros and Cons of the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
- No foreign transaction fees
- 6 free lounge visits
- Visa accepted everywhere
- Bad points earning categories
- Scotia Rewards lack value
- Can’t cancel card online
Scotiabank has their own rewards points called Scotia Rewards.
They are completely internal to Scotiabank. Scotia Rewards cannot be transferred to a partner program and can only be redeemed through the Scotia Rewards portal.
They are also a fixed value point.
That means you can’t take advantage of sweet spots (spots in a points program where you get more value for your points than you normally would).
One Scotia Reward is worth between $0.03 when redeemed for merchandize and $0.01 when redeemed for travel.
That’s a pretty low value per point. Especially when compared to other programs in Canada.
Scotiabank advertises a 30,000 Scotia Reward point sign-up bonus, but that is a bit click baity.
In reality, most people will only receive 20,000 Scotia Rewards as a sign-up bonus.
The points are distributed as follows:
- 20,000 Scotia Reward points when you spend $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first three months. Everyday purchases include food, transportation, and entertainment. Travel is not included in the everyday spending category.
- $10,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend $40,000 in everyday purchases in the first year.
No average person is putting $40,000 of everyday purchases on the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite.
If you have that sort of money to spend on everyday purchases, you’re probably going to put that spending on a card that earns you more and better points.
Most people will end up getting 20,000 Scotia Rewards as a sign-up bonus. If redeemed for travel, that is a value of $200.
The points earning on the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite leave a lot to be desired.
It is honestly a bit insulting to users how low the points earning categories are!
- 2 points per $1 spent on gas, grocery, transportation, and entertainment
- 1 point per $1 spent on every other purchase
You read that right. You don’t earn bonus points on travel purchases even though this is a premium travel credit card!
That just blows my mind!
Needless to say, you earn points painfully slow with the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite.
The low points earning and fixed-price points is a terrible combination!
I think Scotiabank thought they could rely on the no foreign transaction fees to bring in customers and put no effort into creating an attractive points program.
No foreign transaction fees is a big selling point, but it isn’t the be-all-end-all.
HSBC offers a no foreign transaction fee credit card that has an amazing points program to go along with it. So you can get the best of both worlds!
Scotiabank makes it really easy to redeem Scotia Rewards, so that is a big plus!
You do all your redeeming through the Scotia Rewards portal.
There are three ways you can redeem your Scotia Rewards:
- Book travel directly through the portal
- Book your own travel and use your points as a statement credit
- Purchase merchandise or gift cards
It is all done through the portal, and the portal is really intuitive to use!
I really appreciate that Scotiabank put the effort into making point redemption so easy!
Best Way to Redeem Scotia Rewards Points
The best way to redeem your Scotia Rewards is to purchase a travel-related expense on your account and use your points as a statement credit.
This gives you the highest value per point and gives you a lot of flexibility on what you use your points for.
Through the Scotia Rewards portal, you are quite limited in what you can redeem your points for. Basically, you can choose between flights or a hotel.
The world is your oyster when you use your points for a travel-related statement credit.
You can use your points to get reimbursed for basically every travel expense.
Airbnb, cruises, train tickets, flights, hotels, baggage fees, airport lounge access, and travel tours all count as travel expenses, and you can redeem your Scotia Rewards as a statement credit for them.
The only catch is you have to go into the Scotia Rewards portal and redeem your points for a statement credit within 60 days of making the purchase.
Any time later than 60 days after purchase, and the item will no longer be eligible to be reimbursed by using points.
The next best way to redeem your Scotia Rewards is booking travel through the Scotia Rewards portal.
It is super easy to book flights and hotel, but, honestly, you can often find the same flights/hotel at a lower rate if you book them yourself.
It is definitely worth the effort to source out the best rate and use your points as a statement credit!
Worst Way to Redeem Scotia Rewards Points
The worst way to redeem your points on any travel credit card is using your points to buy merchandise.
You get a much lower value per point, and it simply isn’t a great use of your points unless they expire soon. The only way Scotia Rewards point expire is if you no longer hold a credit card the earns Scotia Rewards.
In the case of Scotia Rewards, you get about a third of the value per point as you do when you redeem for travel.
Using your points to buy merchandise should be a last resort!
You get a slightly better value per point when you redeem for gift cards, but it is still quite low.
If you do have to redeem your points for something other than travel, I suggest going for gift cards over merchandise.
The annual fee on the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is $139 per year.
That is pretty much in line with other travel credit cards in Canada.
A lot of Canadian travel credit cards have an annual fee of $120, and I think the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite has a little higher annual fee because it has the unique feature of no fx fee.
Scotiabank requires you to have one of the following income requirements in order to be approved for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite:
- Personal income of $60,000
- Household income of $100,000
- $250,000 of assets under management (e.g. stocks and other liquid assets)
If you’ve read some of my other credit card reviews (like the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard), you know my stance on minimum income requirements.
They are classist, discriminatory, and should be a thing of the past.
Your income has nothing to do with your ability to handle credit and use it responsibly. I understand banks justify minimum income requirements as a way to weed out “irresponsible” people and “protect” themselves, but that doesn’t negate the fact that these are bad policies.
Someone who makes $150,000 per year can be worse at managing their money than someone who makes $30,000 per year.
Don’t let a bank make you feel bad about yourself just because they say you don’t make enough to be awarded a premium credit card.
If you have trouble meeting the minimum income requirements on some of these cards, check out American Express. They don’t have a minimum income requirement!
In addition to the minimum income requirements, you have to be a Canadian resident, be the age of majority in your home province, and have a Canadian credit file.
Who Should Get the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Anybody who spends a significant amount of money in a currency other than Canadian dollars and doesn’t want to get the HSBC World Elite Mastercard.
I think the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite caters to a unique niche, and a lot of people won’t get a huge benefit from holding the card.
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is a great choice for people who have multiple Scotiabank credit cards.
You can piggyback points earning and sign-up bonuses to earn a significant amount of points in a relatively short about of time.
But to be honest, Scotiabank doesn’t have a very good selection of travel cards, so I don’t recommend that strategy.
Who Should NOT Get the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
This is not the right credit card for people who don’t spend a lot of money in a different currency other than Canadian dollars.
It also isn’t the card for people who do spend a lot of money in foreign currencies but are cool with using a credit card not issued by one of Canada’s big 5 banks.
The HSBC World Elite Mastercard is the winner in the Canadian no foreign transaction fee space, and it is the card I recommend people look into first.
Okay. I admit that that was a bit of a harsh review.
But I needed you to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite before making a decision.
I think the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite can be a good choice for a small group of people, but I think most people should pass on this credit card.
The upside benefit just isn’t there, unfortunately.
If Scotiabank beefed up their points program and increased the points earning categories on the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, it would be a much more attractive card.
But until that time comes, I just can’t recommend the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card to most people.
Especially people who are interested in travel hacking and maximizing their travel rewards.