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Best Credit Cards with Roadside Assistance for 2019

With winter finally hitting us in full force, you may be thinking about joining a roadside assistance program – if you haven’t already. Unlike car insurance, roadside assistance programs aren’t legally required in Canada, even if they are a good idea.

I won’t bore you with the details of how to get cheap car insurance here, but I will bore you with the details of something arguably as important, if not legally required. If you’re on a long road trip and your car runs into trouble, roadside assistance programs like CAA can not only save you money but also save your vacation.

CAA is one of the most instantly recognizable roadside assistance programs in Canada, but it isn’t the only one. Several programs exist that cover you both in Canada and the States, meaning competition is fierce (and prices are reasonable!).

But what if you don’t want to pay extra for roadside assistance? Prices are reasonable but not exactly cheap, and you may even not end up using it. I use to have CAA for years myself, and I only ever had to call them once to jump my battery. I’m willing to pay to be protected in case something does go wrong (looking at you, car and home insurance), but is there a more cost-effective option?

Yes, so long as you already want a great rewards credit card. Credit cards with annual fees are better in terms of rewards-earning potential, built-in travel insurance, and even roadside assistance! A rewards card that has an annual fee of $99 has the same cost as a roadside assistance program, but it comes with the added benefit of a “free” rewards program as well!

This comparison won’t include any options that aren’t tied to a credit card, however, you should still do your own research to see if they can offer better value for you.

 

Everything at a glance

The four programs we’re comparing come from BMO, TD, Home Trust, and the new Canadian Tire credit cards. Here’s how they stack up to each other. If you want more details about how each works, keep reading below.

 

 

BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard

BMO CashBack World Mastercard

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite

Home Trust Preferred Visa

Triangle World Elite Mastercard

Credit Card Annual Fee

$79 or $120, depending on card

$120

$0

$150

Coverage Area

Canada and continental US (includes Alaska but not Hawaii or Puerto Rico)

Canada and continental US

Canada and continental US

Canada and continental US

Driver or Vehicle

Driver

Driver

Driver

Either, but not both

Battery Boost

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Emergency Fuel

Yes, but fuel is not free

Gasoline only

Yes, with 5L of free fuel

Yes, with 5L of free fuel

Yes

Changing a Flat

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Locksmith

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Winch

Yes, 1 hour

Yes

Yes

Yes

Are motorcycles covered?

No

No

No

No

Tow

Closest facility within 10km

Closest facility within 200km

Any facility within 5km

Any destination within 250km

Number of Calls per Year

4

Unlimited

4

5, plus unlimited tows to any Canadian Tire service centre within towing limits

 

 

BMO CashBack World Mastercard and BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard

No matter which card you choose, you get the same roadside assistance enrollment, so if you want to get a card purely for the bundled assistance then the World Mastercard offers the better value.

However, the World Elite Mastercard earns more cash back per dollar spent, at 1.5% on all purchases. The card pays for itself after $8,000 spent per year, meaning the roadside assistance could be costless. $8,000 is not a lot of annual spending – take it from me! The normal BMO World Mastercard pays for itself after $6320, but has fewer perks. The World Elite also comes with travel insurance, which the normal card does not.

A big downside to this program is the short distance you can be towed, in addition to not having a choice in the destination. This may not be a problem to regular urban drivers, but going on a road trip can see you far more than 10km away from a service station.

 

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite

Although this is the only TD that offers roadside assistance free of (additional) charge, you can add on TD’s program to any card you have from them for an additional fee.

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite earns 3% cash back on groceries, gas, and recurring payments, so it pays for itself after $4,000 spent on those categories. You also earn 1% on all other purchases. Any money you earn on the card can be used to pay down the balance whenever you want (although you need to redeem at least $25 at a time).

An interesting and unique feature of this program is the unlimited number of service calls. You’re unlikely to call them every day, but it’s good to know that you can!

 

Home Trust Preferred Visa

The Home Trust Preferred Visa card has two huge benefits that aren’t seen on any other no-fee card in the Canadian credit card scene. First, it has no foreign exchange fee, and second, it has complimentary roadside assistance.

Unfortunately, their roadside assistance is also the weakest offering. Then again, it is free! With a radius of only 5km you should not rely on this card as your only roadside assistance if you frequently travel outside of the city limits.

 

Triangle World Elite Mastercard

I’m not usually a fan of store-branded credit cards – they usually have high interest rates and low earning potential on rewards that can only be redeemed at their stores, and usually are just gimmicks to entice you spend more. However, the Triangle rewards program, like the PC Optimum program, is actually rewarding if you shop at their networked stores, and the fact that Canadian Tire has their own gas stations (meaning you can redeem CT Money for gas) really boosts the value.

The World Elite Mastercard has a minimum income requirement, something not seen on many store-branded cards, and the normal Mastercard lacks the roadside assistance. It’s a good choice if you shop at Canadian Tire, Mark’s, or Atmosphere and pass the minimum income requirement.

 

Hit the road

If you frequently (as in, more than once a year) make a long road trip, then the TD or Triangle programs will be a much better value. They pay for themselves with your normal spending, with the ability to earn more on top of it, and cover you all across Canada and the US.

If you only drive in the city, then BMO or Home Trust will give you better value, as the annual fees are lower (or non-existent). Whichever one you choose, enjoy the drive!

 


Chris Chris 01/26/2019
Canadian personal finance buff and all-around writing enthusiast, Chris loves breaking down complicated money ideas to show that they're really not so complex. 
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