The Best Credit Cards in Canada for 2016

Bassel Abdel-Qader
by Bassel Abdel-Qader February 7, 2016 / No Comments

One of the easiest ways to save money is to get a credit card that’s well-suited to your personal needs and spending habits so that you can get the most out of it. This can be daunting because Canadians have an overwhelming number of options when it comes to choosing a credit card. 

The reality is, regardless of how you look at it, there’s no one best credit card in Canada. There are cards for frequent travellers, students, those with bad credit, and everything in between. So, we’ve put together a list of what we think are this year’s best credit cards in their respective categories.

Travel

BMO World Elite MasterCard

  • Signup bonus of 30,000 points (value of $300)
  • Earn a 2% return on all your purchases
  • Free Priority Pass membership, with 4 complimentary VIP Lounge passes each year (value of over US$200)

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American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • Welcome bonus of 25,000 points after $500 in purchases in your first three months
  • Waived annual fee your first year (value of $150)
  • Convert points to Aeroplan or Avios on 1:1 basis

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Cash Back-1 

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite

  • $100 statement credit with $500 in purchases the first three months of card ownership
  • Up to 4% cash back on purchases

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No Annual Fee 

SimplyCash Card from American Express

  • Earn up to 5% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant purchases your first six months (up to $250)
  • Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases and when welcome rate ends

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Fixed Low Interest 

BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard

  • 11.9% interest rate with a $20 annual fee
  • Free extended warranty and purchase protection coverage

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Student 

Scotia SCENE Visa

  • Get 2,000 bonus SCENE points with your first purchase – that’s two FREE movies
  • No annual fee

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Balance Transfer 

MBNA Platinum Plus MasterCard

  • 0% promotional annual interest rate on balance transfers for the first 12 months
  • No annual fee

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Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

For this category, we have a tie between the BMO World Elite MasterCard and the American Express Gold Rewards Card. See below for why we think each of these cards can be the best travel credit card in Canada.

BMO World Elite MasterCard

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Highlights:

  • Receive a signup bonus of 30,000 welcome points, equal to $300 in travel rewards
  • Earn two BMO Rewards points for every $1 in credit card purchases—that’s 2% back in travel rewards
  • $150 annual fee

The BMO World Elite MasterCard lets you earn two BMO Rewards points for every dollar you spend with it. This means that 2% of your purchases come back to you in travel rewards, which can be redeemed through the BMO Rewards program for flights and hotel bookings with no restrictions. The great thing about BMO Rewards points is that you can redeem them for the entire flight charge, including taxes and applicable fees—most other travel rewards points will only pay for the ticket while all other associated costs needs to be paid for with cash. After making your first purchase with this card, you’ll receive a signup bonus of 30,000 welcome points which equals $300 that can be put towards travel perks. You can also add supplementary cardholders to your account free of charge, which allows you to earn more points even faster. One thing that sets this card apart from other travel credit cards is the annual Priority Pass membership that’s included. This comes with four complimentary VIP Lounge passes that you get each year, giving this perk a total value of over US$200. This membership gives you exclusive access to VIP Airport lounges in more than 400 cities in the world for only $27 per person once your 4 passes are used.

American Express Gold Rewards Card

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Highlights:

  • $150 annual fee (waived in the first year)
  • Earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $500 in purchases to your card in your first three months
  • Convert your Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan Miles or Avios on a 1:1 basis

Similar to the BMO World Elite, the American Express Gold Rewards Card also earns you two Membership Rewards points for every dollar you charge to it. Again, this equates to 2% of your purchases coming back to you in travel rewards. The annual fee of $150 is waived in the first year, and the signup bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $250) applies when you use the card to make at least $500 worth of purchases in the first three months after getting it. What makes this card special is the flexibility of the points. While other travel rewards points are only redeemable through the card provider’s rewards program, the Gold Rewards Card lets you transfer your points to other frequent flyer programs and on a 1:1 basis to Aeroplan Miles or British Airways’ Avios.


Best No Annual Fee Credit Card


The SimplyCash Card from American Express

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Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants in Canada (up to $250 cash back) for the first six months
  • Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases when your welcome rate ends

With the SimplyCash Card from American Express, not only do you get a great cash back card but you also get one of the best no annual fee credit cards in Canada. This card has an extraordinary welcome rate of 5% cash back (up to $250) on all gas station, grocery store, and restaurant purchases for the first six months after you get the card. You’ll also receive 1.25% cash back on all other purchases during this welcome period. After you hit the $250 mark or after the first six months, the gas/grocery/restaurant rate drops to 1.25% cash back with no limit on the amount of cash back earned.


Best Cash Back Credit Card


Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite

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Highlights:

  • $99 annual fee
  • Get a $100 statement credit with $500 in purchases in first three months for accounts opened by Feb. 28
  • Earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries, 2% cash back on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Since its introduction in 2011, the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite has consistently been considered one of the best cash back credit cards available to Canadians. It offers incredible cash back rates on everyday spending allowing you to maximize your rewards through average daily purchases. Earn 4% cash back(!) on the first $25,000 you spend at grocery stores and gas stations every year as well as 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at drug stores and on recurring monthly bill payments. Any other purchases after the initial $25,000 or purchases that don’t fall in either of the aforementioned categories, earn 1% cash back. If you apply for this card by Feb. 28 and charge at least $500 to it within the first three months of getting it, you’ll enjoy a $100 statement credit—cancelling out the $99 annual fee in the first year.


Best Student Credit Card


Scotia SCENE Visa

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Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • 19.99% interest rate
  • Get 2,000 bonus points (2 free movies) with your first SCENE credit card purchase

The SCENE Visa Card from Scotiabank is the best credit card for students and moviegoers alike. With no annual fee, you’ll earn 5 SCENE points for every dollar you spend at Cineplex theatres and 1 SCENE point for every $1 spent everywhere else. After making your first purchase with the card, you’ll get 2,000 bonus SCENE points (equal to two free movie tickets). You can redeem these points for free movies, popcorn, music downloads and more on the Cineplex website. You can also redeem your SCENE points at Sport Chek locations where 1,000 points get you $10 off your next Sport Chek purchase.


Best Fixed Low-Interest Credit Card


BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard

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Highlights:

  • No annual fee card with 17.5% interest rate
  • $20 annual fee card with 11.9% interest rate
  • Free protection from both theft and fraudulent use of your card

If you tend to carry a balance from month to month, then you’ll want to focus less on earning rewards and instead opt for the best low interest credit card. These cards allow you to pay off your bills faster because they charge lower rates than most other credit cards. The BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard has no annual fee and offers a low interest rate of 17.5% for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers. For just $20 a year, you can have the rate lowered to 11.9% and still enjoy free extended warranty and purchase protection coverage.


Best Balance Transfer Credit Card


MBNA Platinum Plus MasterCard

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Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • 19.99% interest rate
  • 0% promotional annual interest rate on balance transfers for the first 12 full months

Finally, for the best balance transfer credit card in Canada, we’ve chosen the MBNA Platinum Plus MasterCard. Why? Because it has a 0% promotional annual interest rate on balance transfers for the first 12 months after being issued. So, if you are carrying a balance on other credit cards, you can transfer all your debt to this card for a balance transfer fee of 1%, and then enjoy a 0% interest rate on the amount you transferred for the first year. Watch all your money go towards reducing your debt without any of it being lost to interest charges.

How did we choose the best credit cards for each category?

It’s important to note that these are our opinions based on the research we’ve done for each credit card. Using the various resources available on RateHub, we looked at more than just the monetary net reward each card brings. For instance, we factored in a card’s points flexibility, insurance coverage, card provider and other special card privileges like free baggage check-in or VIP airport lounge passes when deciding what we believe are the top credit cards in Canada.

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