It’s a phrase frequently parroted in personal finance journalism, but what exactly does “best credit card” mean, anyway? The truth is, there’s no single “best” credit card in Canada (if there was, we would tell you about it).
The best credit card for you is one that suits your spending habits and 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—everything from VIP tickets for concerts and sporting events to weekend ski or wine country getaways.
For 2017, we’ve done the legwork and rounded up what we consider to be the best credit cards in Canada in their respective categories:
Best cash-back credit cards
- Annual fee: $99 (waived for first year)
- Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases for the first 3 months.
- Earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries (up to $25,000 annually), 2% back on drugstore purchases and recurring bill payments (up to $25,000 annually), and 1% back on all other purchases
- Receive VISA Infinite benefits
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite is the best cash-back credit card to squeeze more value out of household spending. With a hearty 4% back on gas and groceries, 2% on drugstore and recurring bills, and 1% back on everything else, this makes a great card for couples, people with kids, large households, and frequent drivers. The annual fee ($99) is waived for new applicants who apply by Feb. 28, 2018.
Alongside the usual credit card insurance benefits (zero liability, extended warranty, purchase assurance), the card also comes with emergency medical and accident, trip interruption, baggage loss and delay, and car rental collision/loss insurance.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Earn 2% Money-Back Rewards on purchases in two 2% Money-Back Categories of your choice, and 0.50% Money-Back Rewards on all other purchases.
- No annual fee
- Earn 2% cash back on purchases in up to three categories of your choice, and 0.5% cash back on everything else
- No limit on how much you can earn back
Introduced in March 2016, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card has created a lot of buzz for its versatility: it has no annual fee, and offers cash back beyond the usual categories of groceries, gas, drugstore, and recurring bills to include entertainment, furniture, hotel-motel stays, home improvement, public transportation, and parking. With this card, you’ll earn 2% cash back in your chosen categories (0.5% on everything else), with no limit on how much you can earn back. Because of all this, we also rank this card as one of the best no fee credit cards in Canada.
One advantage this card has over others is that it refunds cash back monthly, rather than annually. You can also change your bonus categories to suit your needs. Cash back rewards are applied to your credit card balance, but if you decide instead to deposit your cash back rewards into a Tangerine savings account, you’ll get a third category earning 2%.
MBNA Rewards MasterCard
Earn 4 points†† for every $1 spent on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership and household utility purchases during the first 90 days
- No annual fee
- Earn 1 MBNA Rewards point per dollar
- Points can also be used toward travel, charitable donations, or merchandise and gift cards
- Earn 5,000 bonus points (worth $50) on your first eligible purchase
The MBNA Rewards MasterCard cash-back credit card with no minimum income or credit history required. Plus, there’s no annual fee. With this card’s cash back option, you’ll earn one MBNA Rewards point for every dollar spend on the card, which means 1% cash back on all purchases. Alternatively, you can redeem your MBNA points toward travel, charitable donations, or brand-name merchandise and gift cards.
However, we’re highlighting this card because the cash back option offers the best value: your first eligible purchase on the card nets you 5,000 bonus points ($50).
Best travel rewards credit cards
Earn 5x the points on groceries & restaurants + earn up to 40,000 bonus points within your first year.
- Annual fee: $99 (waived for first year)
- Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) with your first $1000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months
- Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurant purchases; 1 point per dollar on everything else
- No blackout dates; points can be used to cover taxes/fees
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card currently has the highest earn rate on the market, giving you four points per dollar (that’s 4% back in travel rewards) spent on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. There’s no minimum income requirement, and the $99 annual fee is slightly lower than other travel credit cards (the annual fee is waived for new applicants who apply by Feb. 28, 2018). However, you still get a suite of benefits, including 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. This card’s flexibility makes it a win: You can book your trip yourself or use Scotia’s full-service travel agency, travel on any carrier with no blackout dates, and use points to cover all taxes and fees.
BMO World Elite MasterCard
Welcome offer: Get up to 70,000 points and the annual fee waived in the first year for both the primary cardholder and authorized users.*
- Annual fee: $150
- Earn 3 points per dollar on travel, dining, and entertainment; 2 points per dollar on everything else
- Earn 35,000 bonus points (value: $250) when you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months
- VIP airport lounge access with the included Priority Pass membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year
- Points can be used to cover all flight charges and taxes
Note: Updated to include changes to the BMO Rewards program effective Jan. 15, 2018.
With the BMO World Elite MasterCard, you’ll earn three BMO Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel, dining, and entertainment purchases, and two points per dollar on everything else. Unlike some travel rewards programs, which cover the cost of a flight with points but require you to pay taxes and fees in cash, BMO Rewards lets you redeem points for the entire cost of a plane ticket—that includes taxes and fees. As a sign-up bonus, your first purchase on the card will net you 35,000 bonus points, which equals $250 that can be used toward travel perks.
One thing that sets this card apart from the pack is the annual Priority Pass membership, allowing you VIP airport lounge access in more than 400 cities across the world plus four complimentary passes per year, valued at US$200. The card’s benefits come at a cost: it has an annual fee of $150, so it’s for high earners and big spenders.
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Earn up to 50,000 Membership Rewards® points - that’s up to $500 towards your next flight or dinner out with friends
- Annual fee: $150
- Earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 points (value: $250) when you spend $1,500 on the card within the first 3 months
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel and everyday purchases
- Transfer points to other rewards programs
With the American Express Gold Rewards Card, you can earn two Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at grocery stores, gas stations and drugstores, and one point per dollar on everything else. The same two points per dollar deal also applies to travel purchase such as flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises. The card has an annual fee of $150. If you make at least $1,500 in purchases with the card within the first three months, you’ll get a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points, worth $250. With the Gold Rewards card, you can also transfer points to several other travel rewards programs, including on a 1:1 basis to Aeroplan Miles or British Airways’ Avois.
Best low interest credit card
Welcome offer: Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on Balance Transfers for 9 months with a 2% transfer fee and we’ll waive the $20 annual fee for the first year.
- Annual fee: $20
- Low interest rate of 11.9% on purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers
- Zero dollar liability, plus free purchase protection and extended warranty
If you carry a balance from month to month, you should focus on finding the best low interest credit card so you can pay off your balance faster. The BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard is a straightforward, no-frills card with a $20 annual fee and a low interest rate of 11.9%, compared to the 19.99% rate most credit cards carry. But be aware: if you don’t make your minimum monthly payment, your interest rate on purchases, cash advances, and other charges jumps to 16.9%.
Best no fee credit card
- No annual fee
- Earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants for the first 6 months (up to $250)
- Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases once welcome rate ends
- 0% interest rate on all balance transfers for the first 6 months
- No limit on the amount of cash back you can earn
Alongside Tangerine’s card, the SimplyCash Card from American Express is one of the best no fee credit cards in Canada for the returns it offers: for the first six months, you can earn 5% cash back in all gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases (up to $250). After that, you’ll get 1.25% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn.
For new cardholders, there’s also an optional balance transfer offer: if you apply online, you’ll receive a 0% introductory interest rate on all credit card balances transferred within the first six months. Note that a 1% balance transfer fee will be charged on the transaction amount.