Whenever the topic of what I do for a living comes up in casual conversation, someone invariably asks “which credit card do you have?” and “what is the best credit card in Canada?” These are questions I’ve come to expect, and rightfully so, as a considerable portion of my job is spent reading and writing about credit cards.
Mine is an experience that’s similar to several of my Ratehub team members, who receive a fair share of questions about what’s in their wallets due to the fact they work for one of the country’s largest financial comparison websites.
It’s with that in mind that I began to survey people around Ratehub’s office about their credit card decisions and opinions. Scroll down to read my questions and their answers.
What is your primary credit card, and why did you choose it?
Justin (managing editor): “The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card.
I wanted a credit card that offered travel rewards, because I’ve had trouble budgeting for trips in the past and wanted something that offered points I could use toward my travel plans. I chose this card, in particular, for the flexibility it offers when redeeming points (i.e. no blackout dates and the ability to book flights on any airline) as well as the initial point bonus (25,000 points at the time, which is the equivalent of $250).”
Roger (digital ad operations specialist): “The American Express Cobalt.
Probably one of the best-looking cards ever made. On a serious note, I used Ratehub’s credit card comparison tool, and based on my spending habits it showed that the Cobalt would give me the most rewards on an annual basis – even after subtracting the annual fee. The card offers incredible rewards for food (including food delivery) as well as travel and transit purchases. Those are the categories I spend on the most, so it was the right choice for me.”
Alex (director of content): “The BMO World Elite Air Miles Mastercard.
Why? It’s simple really – the stores in my neighbourhood that I regularly purchase from supply Air Miles, and the BMO Air Miles World Elite offers discounts when you fly with Air Miles.”
Kaman (senior digital ad specialist): “The TD First Class Visa Infinite.
I knew that I wanted a credit card that offers top-notch travel insurance benefits (which the TD First Class Visa Infinite does) in order to avoid spending extra on insurance every time I flew abroad. Since I bank with TD and have a premium chequing account set up, they offered to waive the card’s annual fee, which really pushed me towards this card. The only caveat – I have to maintain a substantial minimum balance in my chequing account at all times.”
Chrissy (product designer): “The BMO World Elite.
I wanted a travel credit card because I love the fact I can earn travel points on purchases that I would be making anyway. Cutting down the cost of a flight through a credit card is a really great way to save some money without really trying.”
Hyder (content specialist and the person writing this): “Tangerine Money-Back Card.
Most of my vacations are staycations, and since I travel abroad less than once a year on average, I knew I would be better served by a cash back credit card that offers a straight-forward rebate on my purchases. After doing some research, I found that the Tangerine Money Back Card was the best cash back credit card for me. The card, which has no annual fee, offers a cash back of 2% in up to three spending categories and 0.5% on all other purchases. Not only is 2% higher than what most other no fee credit cards offer, but I also appreciated the flexibility of being able to choose my own spending categories (I went with restaurants, groceries and public transit). It’s worth noting that if you don’t have a savings account with Tangerine, you’re only entitled to two 2% cash back spending categories.”
What are your thoughts on annual credit card fees?
Justin: “I don’t mind them. I use my card enough and earn enough points to offset the cost. That said, when it comes time to pay next year’s fee, I plan on calling the credit card company and asking them to waive the fee. It never hurts to ask.”
Roger: “When I picked my card, I made sure that my net-rewards (total value of rewards after subtracting the annual fee) was greater than what I could earn on a no fee card. If you can find a card that covers those bases, like I did, the annual fee is irrelevant.”
Alex: “It all depends on the benefits you get from the card. If you get more in benefits (points or features) than you pay in fees, then you’re getting a good deal.”
Kaman: “I always try and avoid annual fees. One of the main reasons I went with my credit card was because my bank offered to waive the card’s annual fee since I already had a premium chequing account with them.”
Chrissy: “If you can get more back in rewards than the cost of the annual fee then it’s definitely worth it. If not, I’d likely shop around for other options.”
Hyder (Me): “If you pay off your credit card balance in full every month and earn enough in rewards to offset the $100 or so you spend in annual fees, I believe an annual fee card is worth it. However, I always encourage everyone to constantly assess their card, rewards and spending habits to ensure they’re always out ahead and not facing a situation where they’re losing out to fees in the long term.”
When did you last redeem your points? And what did you redeem them for?
Justin: “I haven’t yet. I’m banking the points and hopefully funding an entire trip to Europe using them.”
Roger: “I haven’t redeemed my points yet, but I am hoarding them to apply to a flight that would otherwise cost me a fortune without these points.”
Alex: “I redeemed my Air Miles last summer to fly myself, my wife and my sister-in-law to Nova Scotia.”
Kaman: “It was roughly six months ago. I travelled to Peru for a volunteering trip and used my points to reduce the cost of my flight tickets by over $1,000.”
Chrissy: “I recently redeemed my points in March for a flight to British Columbia. To top it all off, I’ve only had the card since June of last year.”
Hyder (Me) : “I earn my cash back at the end of every month, after which I directly apply it to my credit card statement. So technically, I redeem my rewards every 30 days.”
Do you use your credit card for most of your purchases? Why or why not?
Justin: “Yes, especially where I earn the most points (4 points per dollar on food and gas). I make sure to pay off my balance in full each month to ensure I don’t pay any interest charges. Essentially, I have replaced my debit card as my primary card.”
Roger: “Absolutely. That is the best way to maximize your rewards. If you plan to pay off your credit card every month, you shouldn’t be using your debit card at all. The points you earn from a decent to good credit card far outweigh any points you get from your debit card. Think of it this way: you’re going to spend that money anyway, so you might as well get something for it.”
Alex: “I do use it for most purchases. I want to my maximize points, and by putting most of my household expenses on my card, I maximize my earnings.”
Kaman: “I use my credit card to cover 99% of my everyday purchases. The remaining 1% is spent at the handful of Asian restaurants I frequent that only accept cash.”
Chrissy: “I use my card for pretty much everything. I don’t earn rewards on my debit card, so I put everything on credit and pay if off every month. Gotta get those points!”
Hyder (Me): “Yes I do. By using my credit card for the majority of my purchases, I earn cash back on purchases that I would otherwise lose out on if I used a debit card or cash. However, I would caution that this approach should only be used if you can pay off your credit statement balance in full every month. If you’re regularly carrying a balance month-to-month, I would suggest cutting down your reliance on credit and opting for debit or cash until you manage to pay your outstanding debt.”
Did you compare credit cards before deciding on which one to apply for?
Justin: “Yes. It was the best option for my goals at the time.”
Roger: “Yup, that is the only way to make sure you are getting the card best suited for you and your spending. I avoided comparing cards for a long time because I was comfortable with my default situation; a credit card my dad recommended to me eight years ago. I didn’t realize how much money and rewards I was missing out on until I used the credit card comparison tool.”
Alex: “I originally researched cards before choosing. While I have stayed loyal on my primary card, I research secondary cards as well to ensure I’m getting maximum benefits.”
Kaman: “Yup. I used Ratehub’s credit card comparison tool to sort out the best travel credit cards from the rest of the pack. However, I ultimately landed on the TD First Class Infinite because TD offered to waive the card’s annual fee since I already had a premium chequing bank account with them.”
Chrissy: “Before joining Ratehub, I didn’t really know that comparing cards was a thing, but now it’s second nature to look at what’s out there before signing up for something new.”
Hyder (Me): “I’ll admit, when I applied for my first credit card while I was a student at university, I simply opted for the credit card from the provider who I happened to be banking with at the time and didn’t invest any time in comparing cards across providers. I have since learned my lesson and have compared all my credit cards, including my Tangerine Money-Back Card.”
What’s your best advice for picking the right credit card?
Justin: “Figure out what you want your card to do for you and prioritize that way. For some, that may be travel rewards or cash back rewards. For others, that might be a no foreign transaction fee credit card or no annual fee card. Don’t worry about which financial institution offers the card you feel is the best for your wants and needs; too many people stick with their primary financial provider and use their (oftentimes) inferior credit cards. Finally, take a look at the bonus offerings. Signup bonuses (which include points or waived fees) are a great way to take advantage of an already solid credit card to help you reach your goals faster.”
Roger: “Identify the categories you spend on the most and get a card that gives you the highest return for those categories. When you find that card, don’t be afraid of a monthly fee if there is one, as long as the rewards you earn are greater than the annual fee and the remainder is greater than the rewards of any no fee card.”
Alex: “Do your research. Credit cards are getting more targeted in the benefits they offer. Finding the one that best fits your lifestyle can lead to a substantial boost in your long-term rewards.”
Kaman: “Compare. Know your options, know what kind of points you want and go from there. The process was a bit easier for me because I’m a frequent flyer, so I knew right off the bat that I needed a travel credit card.”
Chrissy: “Honestly, go with what’s right for your lifestyle. If you like to travel or spend a lot of time overseas, get a travel card. If you just like a little kickback on your spending every month, go for a cash back card. Full disclosure, I also have the SimplyCash Card from American Express so I can get front of the line access to concerts. It’s free, so why not?”
Hyder (Me): “Don’t automatically resort to picking a credit card from the provider you happen to be banking with. Take your time and compare credit cards across multiple banks to find a card that offers you the best rewards based on your personal spending habits.”