Every year, Ratehub.ca rounds up the best credit cards in Canada to help consumers wade through the financial weeds to find the card most suited to their spending habits and lifestyle.
Like clothing, credit cards aren’t one-size-fits-all. We’ve said this before, so consider it a credit card commandment: The “best” credit card is the one saves you money or creates value, whether it’s through a low interest rate, cash back, travel miles and rewards, or points redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and experiences (think wine tours, concert tickets, or a spa getaway).
To see how cards fit with your individual spending profile, compare multiple cards side-by-side with our credit card rewards calculator.
Ratehub.ca’s best credit cards in Canada
- Best overall rewards cards: Scotiabank Gold American Express, American Express Cobalt Card
- Best for cash back: Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite
- Best no fee cash back card: SimplyCash Card from American Express
- Best for consolidating and paying off credit card debt: MBNA Platinum Plus MasterCard
- Best low interest credit card: American Express Essential Credit Card
- Best travel rewards credit card: BMO World Elite MasterCard
Best overall rewards cards
The Scotiabank Gold American Express offers one of Canada’s highest earn rates, giving you four Scotia Rewards points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants — that’s 4% back in rewards — and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Scotia Rewards can be redeemed for travel (flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages), gift cards, and merchandise from retailers such as Apple and Best Buy. Movie lovers can also convert Scotia Rewards points to Scene points, and vice versa.
This card’s travel rewards program is truly flexible: points can be used to cover all taxes, fees, and surcharges. There are no blackout dates, and you can travel on any carrier. You can book your trip yourself or use Scotia’s full-service travel agency, and have the option of paying for your trip with points upfront or charging the cost to your card and redeeming points to cover it later. The card includes access to VIP airport lounges worldwide with a Priority Pass membership (renewed annually), complimentary concierge services, extensive travel insurance, and access to American Express Invites.
New to the market in 2017, the American Express Cobalt Card has the most flexible interpretation of rewards categories, a lucrative rolling bonus structure, and makes it easy to redeem points. With this card, you’ll earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar on “eats and drinks” (groceries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery), two points per dollar on “travel and transit” (public transportation, taxis and Uber, hotels, or travel by air, rail, water, or road transport), and one point per dollar on all other purchases. With all-inclusive spending categories, no one is left behind.
If you apply by Jan. 30, 2018, you’ll get 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you make $3,000 in purchases in your first three months. For your first year of card membership, earn 2,500 bonus points for each month you spend at least $500 on the card — up to 30,000 points a year.
Membership Rewards points are redeemable for flights and hotels, gift cards, merchandise from retailers such as Amazon.ca or Ticketmaster.ca, or to cover eligible charges on your credit card statement. You’ll also get access to ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movie screenings, and culinary events, plus other special offers through American Express Invites.
If want to redeem for travel, points can be used to cover taxes and fees to fly on any airline, with no blackout dates. The card has a suite of insurance including travel emergency medical and accident, flight delay, baggage loss and delay, and care rental collision/loss damage waiver. Amex Membership Rewards also convert to SPG Starpoints at a 2:1 ratio, so the 5X spending category on eats and drinks gives you 2.5 Starpoints per dollar.
Best for cash back
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite is the best cash-back credit card to squeeze value out of common household spending. This card is ideal for couples, people with children, large households, or anyone who spends big on gas, groceries, recurring bills, and drugstore purchases. To start, you’ll get 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in purchases made within the first three months of card membership. After that, you’ll earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries, 2% cash back on drugstore purchases and recurring bill payments, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
For a cash-back credit card, the Scotia Momentum has surprisingly robust travel insurance benefits: emergency medical and accident, trip interruption, baggage loss and delay, and car rental collision/loss insurance are included alongside the usual zero liability, extended warranty, and purchase assurance.
Cash back rewards are refunded annually, and can be applied to your credit card statement or deposited into an eligible Scotiabank chequing account or savings account. The card’s $99 annual fee is waived for the first year for new accounts opened by Feb. 28, 2018.
Best no fee cash-back card
The SimplyCash Card from American Express has no annual fee, a strong welcome spending bonus, and a flat cash-back rate that makes it easy to calculate returns. With this card, you’ll earn 5% cash back on eligible gas station, grocery store, and restaurant purchases for the first six months (up to $250 cash back). After that, you’ll get 1.25% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn back at that rate. Cash back is refunded once a year as a credit to your account.
This is an excellent card for anyone who wants straightforward earn rate, or a secondary companion credit card with no annual fee. If you’re looking to pay down existing debt but still want rewards for your spending, the SimplyCash Card offers a special 1.99% introductory interest rate on transferred balances in the first six months.
Runner-up: Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
- Earn 2% cash back in up to three chosen spending categories (10 to choose from); 0.5% back on everything else
- Cash back refunded monthly as an account credit, or deposited into a Tangerine savings account
Best for consolidating and paying off credit card debt
The MBNA Platinum Plus MasterCard offers, hands down, the best promotional interest rate currently on the market: 0% interest on on balance transfers for the first 12 months — this means you pay a cent of interest on the amount transferred for an entire year. Because your hard-earned money won’t be lost to hundreds of dollars in interest charges, you’ll be able to pay off your debt faster.
The card has no annual fee, but note that there’s a fee charged of 1% of the amount transferred — however, this is still way less than you’d pay with the typical rewards credit card interest rate of 19.99%. As with all balance transfer credit cards, you should aim to pay off your debt in full before the promotional rate expires after 12 months and shoots up to 21.99%.
Best low interest credit card
If you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month, you shouldn’t be chasing rewards — you also shouldn’t be paying a high interest rate. The American Express Essential Credit Card has no annual fee and currently offers the lowest fixed interest rate for purchases and cash advances at 8.99%, less than half the interest rate of the typical rewards credit card.
Most low interest credit cards offer few (or zero) rewards, but joining the Amex family means access to American Express Invites, which includes ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movie screenings, and culinary events, plus other special offers. Canadians can also access pre-sales for select concerts and events in the United States. If you’re travelling on a common carrier (plane, train, bus, or ship) and charge your tickets to the card and you’ll also get up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance.
If you’re looking to pay off existing high-interest credit card debt, cardholders can nab a competitive 1.99% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months.
Best for travel rewards
The BMO World Elite MasterCard gives you three BMO Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel, dining and entertainment purchases and two points per dollar on everything else, which can be redeemed for travel (flights, hotels, vacation packages, car rentals), gift cards, or merchandise. As a sign-up bonus, your first purchase on the card will net you 35,000 bonus points, which equals $250 in travel rewards.
This card’s biggest strengths are in its flexibility and perks: points can be used to cover travel taxes and fees. The card includes an annual Priority Pass membership, plus four complimentary passes per year, allowing you VIP airport lounge access in more than 400 cities across the world (valued at USD$200). You’re also covered by World Elite travel insurance, which includes up to a combined $2.5 million in travel medical and accident coverage. The card’s annual fee is $150, and is waived for the first year for new accounts opened by April 30, 2018.
Note: Updated to include changes to the BMO Rewards program effective Jan. 15, 2018.
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