Credit Card Roadside Assistance vs Paid Roadside Assistance Plans
When you hear the words “roadside assistance,” the first name that might pop into your head is CAA, which has one of the most recognizable roadside assistance programs in Canada. While Canadian drivers are legally not required to enrol in roadside assistance, it is arguably just as important to have as car insurance from a practical standpoint.
Any car can pop a tire or run out of gas on the road. Even the best and brightest of us could accidentally lock our keys inside our car, and in these cold Canadian winters, your car battery may need a boost when you least anticipate it.
With the warmer weather approaching, you might even be planning ahead for your next sunny road trip. Imagine if three-quarters of the way to your destination, your car sputters twice and shuts down. Your vacation is instantly ruined.
Having a roadside assistance program like CAA can not only save you money but also be the deciding factor that saves you from unpleasant situations like these. No one plans to have car trouble, but if it happens, it’s always best practice to have a back-up plan.
For those of us living in Canada, CAA is not the only choice. In fact, there are a multitude of roadside assistance options, from paid membership plans to free roadside assistance that comes as a perk on your credit card. That’s right, it’s completely free.
There are currently six Canadian credit cards which offer this premium benefit. Here is a rundown of all the available credit card options, as well as a comparison of their roadside assistance features.
If you’re interested in learning how free roadside assistance fares in contrast to paid roadside assistance options, here is a comparison of the most popular roadside assistance choices.
First, here is a chart for a quick comparison of credit cards with complimentary roadside assistance plans:
|Home Trust Preferred Visa||Triangle World Elite MasterCard||BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard
BMO CashBack World MasterCard
Shell World MasterCard
|TD Cash Back Infinite Visa|
(Personal / Household)
|Not specified||$80,000||$80,000 / $150,000
$60,000 / $100,000
$60,000 / $100,000
|$60,000 / $100,000|
|Coverage / Eligibility||Cardholder||Cardholder or Vehicle
but not both
|Emergency Fuel Delivery||Yes + 5L of free fuel||Yes||Yes||Yes + 5L of free fuel|
|Flat Tire Change||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Towing Range||5 km||250 km||10 km||200 km|
|Calls Per Year||4||5 + Unlimited towing to
Canadian Tire Service Centres
Among our list of credit cards, the Home Trust Preferred Visa is one of the two cards that provide roadside assistance at truly no cost with a $0 annual fee (the other being the Triangle World Elite MasterCard). Emergency roadside assist is available 24/7 in North America for up to four times a year.
This credit card also has no foreign transaction fee. Most other Canadian credit cards will charge 2.5% on purchases in a foreign currency. You will also get collision insurance on car rentals and unlimited 1% cash back on your everyday purchases.
For a no-fee credit card, it offers quite a few perks. But the drawback to their roadside assistance is the relatively short towing radius compared to the roadside assistance programs offered with other credit cards. Towing is only covered within a 5 km radius from any facility, so this roadside assistance program is best used if you travel within city limits.
The Triangle World Elite MasterCard was introduced in April 2018 as part of a trio of new credit cards released by Canadian Tire. The cards were introduced as a means of revamping their old Canadian Tire Money loyalty program, which led to the creation of Triangle Rewards.
Of the three, the Triangle World Elite MasterCard offers the highest tier of rewards and is the only one that includes an extensive roadside assistance plan.
Cardholders have option of either allocating roadside services to one registered vehicle or receiving services on any vehicle they are in at the time of the service call, but not both. Emergency roadside assistance is available 24 hours a day in both Canada and the U.S., up to five times a year with unlimited tows to any Canadian Tire Auto Service Centre within an incredible 250 km radius. That’s 50 times the distance covered with the Home Trust Preferred Visa.
The Triangle World Elite MasterCard comes with other comprehensive benefits including 4% cash back at participating retailers and Canadian Tire stores, 3% cash back at grocery stores (except Walmart and Costco), car rental collision and loss coverage, and the list goes on. You can read more about the features here.
Impressively, this card also comes at no annual cost; however, there is a minimum income requirement to apply. In order to be eligible, you must have an individual income of at least $80,000 annually.
Now that we’ve covered the no-fee credit card options, let’s discuss the annual fee credit cards.
BMO currently has three fee-based credit cards that provide roadside assistance: the CashBack World Elite MasterCard, the CashBack World MasterCard, and the Shell Cashback World MasterCard.
All three cards share the exact same roadside assistance plan and with them you can request emergency roadside assistance up to four times per year. The roadside assistance coverage includes lockouts, emergency gasoline, battery boosts, flat tire changes, and towing services if a mechanical breakdown is within 10 km of a qualified repair facility.
That being said, the relatively short area of coverage means this plan is not suitable for long distance travel. Those who frequently drive long distances may want to seek another plan. However, if you do regularly drive within the city, one of these cards may be right for you.
Now, if all three cards offer the same basic roadside assistance coverage, you might be wondering what the difference is if you choose one card over the other. To help you distinguish between the three options, we’ve broken down the features of each of the cards.
At a $120 annual fee, BMO’s CashBack World Elite MasterCard is tied for the priciest credit card on our list but it comes with a bundle of benefits that are great for frequent travellers. With a 1.5% return on all purchases, an annual spending limit of $8,000 will easily cover the cost of the card in the form of cash back.
Additional benefits of this card include:
- 5% cash back in your first three months
- Comprehensive travel and medical protection
- Car rental collision damage protection
- MasterCard Airport Experiences membership
If $120 seems like a hefty price for a credit card, you may be interested to know that it is also possible to get this card for free. BMO banking clients who keep at least $6,000 in their chequing accounts can have the $120 annual fee waived along with their monthly banking fee. If eligible, you will receive additional perks such as free banking and a free premium credit card along with your free roadside assistance coverage.
BMO’s CashBack World MasterCard has features similar to the CashBack World Elite, but at a lower annual fee of $79, the rewards and benefits that come with the card are also reduced.
As a cardholder, you will get the following features (in addition to emergency roadside services, of course):
- 3% cash back at Shell
- 1.25% cash back everywhere else
- Travel protection
- MasterCard Airport Experiences membership
If you’re choosing a card solely for the assistance benefit, the CashBack World MasterCard would offer a better value than the CashBack World Elite for its cheaper price.
BMO’s Shell Cashback World MasterCard is ideal for drivers who frequently fill their tanks at Shell locations. With an annual fee of $79, its features and benefits closely match those of the CashBack World MasterCard with some differences in the insurance bundles.
Other features include:
- 3% cash back on purchases at Shell
- 1.25% cash back everywhere else
- Flight delay and baggage insurance
- Car rental collision insurance
- Dismemberment insurance
Of the two cheaper options, it’s ultimately up to you to decide which types of insurance coverage would benefit you more, and to choose the better card accordingly.
The TD Infinite Cash Back Visa is tied with BMO’s CashBack World Elite MasterCard for the highest annual fee with a fee of $120. However, it offers the most extensive roadside assistance coverage. The minimum income requirement to be eligible for the card is an individual income of $60,000 compared to BMO’s CashBack World Elite MasterCard’s minimum of $80,000.
This is the only credit card that allows an unlimited number of emergency roadside assistance calls per year with towing to any auto service centre within towing range. You will also receive 5L of fuel for free with each emergency fuel service.
It’s worth mentioning the rewards system on this card, known as Cash Back Dollars, which can be used to pay off your card balance. You’ll receive 3% Cash Back Dollars on eligible gas and grocery purchases and recurring bill payments. You’ll also receive 1% Cash Back Dollars on all other purchases.
If you spend at least $334 per month in total for groceries, gas, or recurring bills, the card ends up paying for itself after a year.
Now that you’re aware of the available free assistance plans, here are a few paid plans for you to compare.
Basic / Plus
(Silver / Gold)
|Costco Standard Plus
Emergency Roadside Assistance
|Annual Cost||$72 / $116||$69.95 / $99.95||$63.99|
|Plan Eligibility||None||None||Costco Membership|
|Coverage Eligibility||Driver||Driver or Vehicle,
but not both
|Vehicle (Must be under 12 years old)|
|Emergency Fuel Delivery||Yes||Yes / Yes + Free Gas||Yes|
|Flat Tire Change||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lockout Service||Yes (Up to $50)||Yes||Yes|
(1 tow truck & 1 service provider for 20 minutes /
2 tow trucks and 2 service providers for 60 minutes)
|Towing Range||10 km / 200 km||10 km or 25 km to
Canadian Tire Auto Service Centre / 250 km
|Up to 250 km|
|Number of Calls Per Year||4||3 / 5||4|
Of the five paid plans listed above, the Costco Standard Emergency Roadside Assistance Plan offers the best deal as long as you already hold a Costco membership and your vehicle is less than 12 years old. If you don’t have a Costco membership and have no interest in getting one, the Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance Gold plan is comparable in value, albeit at a higher price. For $26 more, you’ll receive free gas during emergency fuel deliveries and five service calls per year instead of four.
Sometimes, a basic plan is all you need. If that’s the case, the CAA Basic option is the more worth it as it four calls per year while the Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance Silver Plan only allows three. One extra call can make a big difference in an emergency situation.
Complimentary roadside assistance that comes with credit cards is a determining factor for paid plans. Annual fee or not, you will be using your credit cards anyway, so free roadside assistance is always a bonus.
Of course, when choosing a credit card with a free roadside assistance plan, you should also consider the other benefits of the credit card. You might only need basic roadside assistance without the other fancy features bundled with a credit card.
There are more comprehensive paid plans offered by CAA and Costco if you’re willing to pay for them or if you need special coverage (such as roadside assistance for motorcycles). We’ve excluded them from this article for the purpose of comparing free roadside assistance plans with paid plans that offer similar sets of benefits.
Ultimately, whether you choose a paid plan or use a complimentary plan would depend on your unique individual or family needs.