The best credit cards for dining at restaurants in Canada

Hyder Owainati
by Hyder Owainati January 16, 2019 / No Comments

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie with a passion for hunting down the trendiest restaurants or simply someone who spends big on eating out (or ordering in), using the right credit card can help you save hundreds of dollars every year.

A number of the best credit cards in Canada have restaurants as a bonus spending category and let you rack up extra points or cash back on every dollar spent on dining (including everything from restaurants and cafes to food delivery services, and in some cases, bars). It’s worth noting that compared to groceries or gas, having restaurants as a bonus category isn’t as common, so the pool of credit cards to choose from are smaller.

The best credit cards for dining at restaurants in Canada (including fast food and take out)

Best credit cards for dining and travel

American Express Cobalt Card

  • Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly)
  • Earn 5 points per dollar on restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and food delivery
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on gas, taxis, public transportation and travel (air, water, rail, or road transport, plus hotels)
  • Welcome Offer: up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The American Express (AMEX) Cobalt easily propels to the top of our list of the best credit cards for dining. With this card, you’ll earn 5 AMEX Membership points for every dollar you spend on a range of food-related purchases (including restaurants, bars, cafes and food delivery services). That’s the equivalent of 5% back in travel points – the richest rewards rate for dining of any credit card in the country.

You’ll also earn 5 points per dollar on grocery purchases, which is why the AMEX Cobalt earned a top spot on our list of the best credit cards for groceries as well as restaurants.

The AMEX Cobalt has a strong welcome offer that provides new cardholders with the opportunity to earn the equivalent of 2,500 bonus points for every month $500 is spent on the card (up to 30,000 points).

While the card does have a $120 annual fee, it’s charged monthly at $10 and includes one free supplementary card, so your partner or family member can help you rack up even more points (which can amount to significant savings if your supplementary cardholder also spends big on dining).

One important consideration is that since this card is issued by American Express, it may not be accepted at some dining establishments. With that being said, American Express is accepted at almost all restaurant, bar and cafe chains and popular independently-run spots in the downtown of most Canadian cities. Plus, the majority of food delivery apps (including Uber Eats and Ritual) accept American Express.

Dining Aside: With the AMEX Cobalt Card in your wallet, you’ll rack up 2 points per dollar on all your transit-related purchases (from gas and airfare to public transit and Ubers) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The points you earn on this card are flexible and can be redeemed for flights on the airline of your choice.

Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on groceries, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on gas, public transit, and streaming services
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Welcome Offer: 20,000 bonus points (value: $200) after $1,000 is spent on the card within the first 3 months

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

With the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, you’ll get 5 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on your restaurant, bar and cafe purchases. Since 1 Scotia Rewards point is valued at $0.01, that’s the equivalent of a 5% return on all your dining purchases.

The card also offers a lucrative welcome bonus of up to 20,000 points ($200 value), which when combined with the card’s rich rewards rate more than offsets its $120 annual fee for the first year.

As its name clearly suggests, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is issued by American Express. Therefore, while this card is accepted at most major and independent restaurants, that may not be the case for every restaurant or bar you visit.

Dining Aside: With this card, you’ll quickly rack up rewards on your everyday purchases, as it offers 5 points per dollar on your grocery and entertainment purchases (in addition to restaurants and cafes), and 3 points on gas, daily transit and streaming services. For all other generic purchases, you’ll get 1 point per dollar. This card also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, offers robust credit card travel insurance benefits and a flexible points that can be used to book flights on the airline of your choice (with no date or seat restrictions).

Best cash back credit cards for restaurants

Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa

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Newly-released in 2018, the no annual fee Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa is one of the best cash back credit cards for dining in Canada. You’ll earn 10% cash back at restaurants for your first 4 months (up to a maximum of $50) and 4% cash back thereafter (up to a maximum of $200).

The drawback of this card is that while it offers high cash back on dining upfront, there’s a steep cap on your rewards earn rate. For example, the 4% cash back rate on restaurant purchases is only applicable up to $200 in annual rewards. After that, you’ll only get 0.5% cash back. You’ll also need to have either a chequing or savings account with Simplii in order to receive this card.

These drawbacks aside however, the fact this card has no annual fee means it can make for a great companion card that can help you pocket some additional savings on all your restaurant-related purchases.

Dining Aside: Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa cardholders also earn 1.5% cash back on groceries (up to a maximum of $225) and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases. The card also includes purchase security and extended warranty protection.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases in up to three categories of your choice, and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

One of Canada’s most flexible rewards credit cards, the Tangerine Money-Back Card lets you earn 2% cash back in up to three different spending categories of your choosing (one of which includes restaurants). While 2% is not objectively the highest rewards rate on dining, the major benefit of this card is that it has no cap on the amount of cash back you can earn (so you’ll always get 2%, regardless of how much you spend at restaurants, cafes and bars). That’s a standout feature for a no fee credit card, as most include rewards caps and maximum spends in their terms and conditions.

Dining Aside: In total, you can choose up to three bonus spending categories (which earn you 2% cash back) and 0.5% on everything purchases. For a complete list of the bonus categories you can choose from, check out our full Tangerine credit card review.

Best credit card for dining with no foreign transaction fees

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Welcome offer: Get 30,000 bonus points ($300 value) with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months – offer available for new accounts
  • Includes Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 6 free visits per year

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

If you’re a frequent flyer who spends big on restaurants while abroad, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite may be more up your alley.

Along with offering 2 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on dining in Canada (including restaurants, bars and cafes), this credit card has no foreign transaction fees.

When using any of the other cards on this list for dining outside of Canada, your points or cash back rewards will be partially or fully offset by foreign transaction fees. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re constantly travelling outside the border.

Dining Aside: The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite currently has one of the strongest welcome offers of any travel credit card in Canada with a $300 points bonus when you spend $1,000 on the card in your first three months. This card also offers 2 points per dollar on all entertainment and commuter-related expenses (including public transit and taxis). The only drawback: the $139 annual fee is the highest on this list.

Also Consider: If you spend big on dining while travelling but want to avoid paying an annual fee as well as foreign transaction fees, you may want to consider the Home Trust Preferred Visa. While the card’s flat 1% cash back rate isn’t the most impressive, the card has no annual fee and lets you save on all your purchases made in a foreign currency when factoring in the foreign transaction fee waiver.

Honourable Mention

Capital One MasterCard

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This co-branded credit card from Capital One and Costco offers 3% cash back at restaurants, with no cap on how much rewards you can earn. Combined with the fact it charges no annual fee makes it a top contender on our list of the best credit cards for dining. There is a major caveat to this card however: its less than ideal redemption process.

Every year, you’ll receive a coupon equivalent to your annual cash back earnings that can only be redeemed at Costco Warehouse locations and nowhere else. Moreover, as a store credit card, you’ll likely have access to a lower credit limit compared to what most other cards offer, which can prove limiting if you’re a power spender.

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