It used to be that if you wanted to earn rewards with your credit card, you had to pay an annual fee. This unlocked a variety of benefits including the ability to reap the rewards — either cash back or travel points — on every dollar spent. The downside to having to pay an annual fee was is that if you don’t spend enough to offset the fee, a rewards credit card doesn’t make financial sense.
Many Canadians can’t justify spending up to $120 per year for the privilege of earning rewards. Whether you’re a careful budgeter, a newcomer to Canada, or on a reduced income, there are many reasons why a fee-based rewards credit card doesn’t make financial sense.
Fortunately, there are several credit cards in Canada with no annual fee that still provide great value through cash back, travel rewards, low interest rates, balance transfer offers, or no foreign exchange fees. Below are our picks of the best no fee credit cards in Canada that made the cut for 2019.
The best no fee credit cards in Canada for 2019
|Credit Card||Best No Fee Credit Card For||Card Details|
|Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card (VIEW)||Cash Back||2% in up to 3 categories; 0.5% on all other purchases|
|SimplyCash Card from American Express (VIEW)||Flat-Rate Cash Back||2.5% for 3 months; 1.25% on all purchases thereafter|
|MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® (VIEW)||Travel Points||2 points‡ per $1 on gas, groceries and restaurants|
|MBNA True Line® Mastercard® (VIEW)||Low Interest /Balance Transfers||12.99% APR, and 0% promo rate on balance transfers|
|Home Trust Preferred Visa (VIEW)||No Foreign Transaction Fees||0% FX and 1% cash back|
|PC Financial Mastercard (VIEW)||Store Credit Card||10-45 PC Points|
|BMO CashBack Mastercard (VIEW)||Student Credit Card||5% cash back for 3 months, 1% on everything thereafter|
Best no fee cash back credit card
Winner: Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card gives you 2% cash back in two spending categories of your choice (from a total of 10 options), and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases. If you choose to deposit your cash back earnings in a Tangerine savings account, you’ll get a third spending category earning 2% cash back.
Why we like it:
This card makes it easy to earn cash back in the areas where you spend the most, and at 2%, it offers among the highest return on bonus categories of any no fee credit card. There’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards are refunded monthly (for most cards, it’s annually) as a credit on your account statement or as a deposit in your Tangerine savings account. You can also change your bonus spending categories at any time from the following options: groceries, restaurants, gas, drugstores, entertainment, furniture, motel-hotel, recurring bills, home improvement, and public transportation (which includes parking, taxis and Ubers).
For a limited time, you can also earn 4% on your chosen bonus categories for the first three months.
While this card is lacking in terms of insurance coverage, free supplementary cards are available for authorized users on the account, and new cardholders can receive a promotional balance transfer rate of 1.95% for the first six months.
Best no fee flat-rate cash back credit card
Winner: SimplyCash Card from American Express
The SimplyCash Card from American Express is an excellent no fee cash back credit card, offering 1.25% cash back on all purchases. For the first three months, new cardholders can earn 2.5% cash back on all purchases (up to $150 cash back).
Why we like it:
Once the welcome rate ends, there’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn at the regular 1.25% rate. The flat cash back rate makes it easy to understand your rewards. As well, there’s an optional balance transfer offer of 1.99% for the first six months.
All Amex cardholders receive access to ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movie screenings, and culinary events, plus other special offers through American Express Invites. This card also offers extended warranty protection (doubles manufacturer’s warranty) and, even though it’s a cash-back card, includes $100,000 in travel accident insurance.
Best no fee travel credit card
Winner: MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®
For your first 90 days, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® will earn you a whopping 4 MBNA points for every dollar you spend on gas, groceries and restaurants. After that, you’ll get 2 points per dollar with a $5,000 annual cap on each category. All other purchases earn one point per dollar.
The card also offers two bonuses: first, you can earn 5,000 points after making $500 in eligible purchases within the initial 90 days of opening your account. Second, you’ll receive another 5,000 bonus points when you switch to e-statements within your first 90 days (conditions apply on both bonus offers). The value of 1 MBNA point is $0.01 when redeemed for travel (the equivalent of 1%) or $0.005 if redeemed for cash back (0.5%).
Why we like it:
The ability to pocket 2X the points on bonus categories in your first 90 days and the additional 10,000-point welcome offer is great value for a card that charges no annual fee. MBNA Rewards points are also flexible and can be redeemed for travel on any airline, brand-name merchandise, gift cards from participating retailers, cash back, and charitable donations.
The card includes a suite of travel insurance, including common carrier coverage, trip interruption, baggage loss, baggage delay, and car rental collision/loss damage waiver.
Best no fee card for low interest / balance transfers
Winner: MBNA True Line® Mastercard®
The MBNA True Line Mastercard has a fixed APR of 12.99% on purchases, which is among the lowest fixed interest rates on the market for a no fee credit card in Canada. Plus, if you’re looking to consolidate and pay off credit card debt at a lower rate, it has a 0% rate on balance transfers for the first twelve months — that means you won’t pay a cent of interest for nearly a year (note that a 3% or minimum $7.50 fee will be applied to the amount transferred).
Why we like it:
It packs a double punch of having a low interest rate on purchases (with an APR that’s 7% lower than what’s found on the typical credit card) and an unbeatable balance transfer offer that lasts for a lengthy twelve months. The fact it charges no annual fee also means it can serve as a great back up card to use in case of emergencies when you suspect you’ll carry a balance.
Fraud protection and 24/7 customer service.
Honourable mention: American Express Essential Card
If you’re more interested in a card for its low interest rate on purchases, and less for its balance transfer offer, the American Express Essential is a no fee card that has an APR of 12.99%.
Best no fee card with no foreign transaction fee
Winner: Home Trust Preferred Visa
The Home Trust Preferred Visa offers 1% cash back on all purchases, but arguably its best feature is the fact it charges no foreign transaction fees (if you make a purchase in a foreign currency, most cards tack on a fee of 2.5%). Note that this card isn’t available to residents of Quebec and has a limit of 10 authorized transactions per day.
Why we like it:
It’s a good supplementary card to have if you frequently make purchases in foreign currencies. And with no annual fee, it won’t cost you even if you only use it occasionally for online shopping or while travelling. Also, there’s no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn on purchases.
This card includes free roadside membership (valued up to $100), car rental collision insurance and purchase security insurance are included.
Honourable mention: Rogers World Elite Mastercard
If you’re a high-income earner and make at least $80,000 or $150,000 as a household, you should consider setting your sights on the Rogers World Elite Mastercard. This card charges no annual fee and offers a net return of around 1.5% on purchases you make outside of Canada’s borders. It also provides 2% cash back on Rogers-related purchases and an impressive 1.75% on everything else.
Why we like it:
Provided you meet its income requirements – this card lets you save considerably on fees when spending abroad or making purchases in an international currency. At 1.75%, this card will also earn you the highest base earn rate on domestic purchases of any no fee cash back card, though it does lack a welcome offer.
The Rogers World Elite Mastercard includes 10 days of out-of-province medical insurance, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, and collision/damage coverage on car rentals.
Best no fee store credit card
Winner: PC Financial World Elite Mastercard
The PC Financial World Elite Mastercard is one of three PC Financial credit cards where you can earn PC Optimum points on every purchase. With this card, you’ll get 45 PC Optimum points for every dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix, 30 points per dollar at participating groceries (including Loblaws-owned stores), and 30points for every litre of gasoline purchased at Esso. On all other purchases, this card offers 10 points for every dollar. Every 1,000 points = $1, and a minimum of 10,000 points is needed to redeem $10 off your purchase. The only drawback of this card is it has a relatively high income requirement for a no fee card ($80,000 individual and $150,000 household).
Why we like it:
If you do a lot of shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmaprix, Loblaws-owned groceries and/or Esso, the points can add up quickly. PC Optimum points can be redeemed at a number of Loblaw Cos. Ltd.-owned stores including Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Zehrs, Joe Fresh and online at BeautyBoutique.ca.
When you apply for the PC Financial Mastercard, you could earn up to 115 PC Optimum points for every $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart for the rest of the year (conditions apply). New cardholders can also take advantage of a 0.97% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months.
Best no fee student credit card
Winner: BMO CashBack Mastercard
As a student looking to pick up your first credit card, you’ll want to avoid annual fees. But, you’ll also need to find a card whose approval requirements are easy to meet. Enter the BMO CashBack Mastercard. It has no income requirement and offers a simple flat-rate of 1% cash back on every purchase.
Why we like it:
An excellent starter card, the BMO CashBack Mastercard keeps things simple. There’s no complicated points programs, no income requirements, and no tiered bonus categories, so students can focus on what’s really important: establishing their credit history and racking up some cash back on their everyday spending. The card’s welcome offer of 5% on the first three months of purchases is also super impressive considering it’s just an entry level credit card, and can help students further boost their savings.
This card includes automatic extended warranties (which can come in handy when buying must-have tech for school like a laptop or computer monitor), purchase protection, and discounts on select car rentals to help save on road trips back home.
- The Best Credit Cards in Canada for 2019
- Better Together: 3 Credit Card Combinations to Maximize Your Rewards
- The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in Canada for 2019