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Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking
The best Mastercards in Canada for 2023
Mastercard is the second most popular credit card company in Canada. It's also the most widely accepted. From big-box retailers, like Costco, to smaller mom-and-pop shops and corner stores, Mastercard is accepted at a number of retailers where swiping a Visa or American Express credit card just won't cut it.
Mastercards are issued in three tiers: World Elite (typically, premium rewards credit cards), World (mid-level rewards cards), and Standard Mastercards (basic no fee, or low interest cards).
Below, we break down our picks of the best Mastercard credit cards in Canada based on card type and spending preferences.
Best overall and cash back Mastercard
If you’re looking for the best cash back Mastercard on the market right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the BMO Cash Back World Elite.
Cardholders will get an industry-leading 5% back on groceries, then 3% back on gas (including electric vehicle charging), 4% on transit and 2% on recurring bills. That’s a whole lot of value on one card. Plus, the annual fee of $120 is quite reasonable for a card with this much earning potential.
It’s also surprisingly flexible: there’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn, you’ll be able to redeem for as little as a dollar at a time, and you can spend your rewards on your statement, deposit it in a BMO bank account, or use it towards stock trading at BMO InvestorLine.
Extra perks on the card also include complimentary roadside assistance, purchase protection and extended warranty, and eight-day out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical benefits of up to five million dollars.
- Welcome offer - earn up to 10% cash back in your first three months and have the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
- Earn 5% on groceries, 4% on transit, 3% on gas (including electric vehicle charging), 2% on recurring bills, and 1% on all other purchases
- No limit on how much you can earn
- Redeem for as little as a dollar at a time
- Redemption flexibility: statement credit, BMO chequing/savings account, InvestorLine
- Personal income requirement of $80,000 can be prohibitive to some users
- $50 charge for any additional cardholders
Best no-fee cash back Mastercard
If you’re looking for a great all-around cash back card with no annual fee, the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard might just be the perfect fit. With this card, you’ll earn an unlimited 2% cash back in two spending categories of your choice (there are a total of 10 categories to pick from, including everything from groceries, restaurants, gas, and more), and 0.5% on all other purchases. Plus, if you opt to have your cash back rewards deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account, you’ll get a third category earning 2% cash back (making opening a savings account with the online bank a no brainer).
In sharp contrast to the Tangerine Money-Back Card, most other no fee rewards cards from Mastercard (or Visa) either offer only two bonus categories, earn up to a maximum 1%, or have rewards caps that can put a ceiling on how much cash back or points you can collect.
The flexibility to pick your own bonus categories - to match your particular spending habits - is a standout feature and isn’t offered by any other credit card in Canada. Better yet, Tangerine lets you change your chosen bonus categories at any time (though, it can take one statement period for the changes to come into effect).
Unlike most other cash back cards, which only let you redeem your cash back once every year, the Tangerine Money-Back Card will deposit your rewards every month. That means you can start taking advantage of your rewards that much sooner.
Plus, if you earn an income of at least $60,000 (or $100,000 as a household), you could be eligible for the higher-tier Tangerine World Mastercard, which comes with additional perks including rental car coverage and mobile device insurance.
- No annual fee
- 2% cash back on purchases in up to three spending categories of your choice gives you unprecedented flexibility to customize your rewards
- Excellent welcome bonus - earn an extra 10% back on up to $1,000 in everyday purchases within the first 2 months. Must apply by October 31st, 2023.
- No limit on amount of rewards you can earn, allowing you to rack up huge savings
- Minimum income requirement of $12,000 makes this card incredibly accessible for most users
- 0.5% cash back rate on everything else is quite low
- Other cards offer more than 2% cash back on specific spending categories, so if you rank value over flexibility, you may be better off with those
- Not a ton of extra perks
Best Mastercard for groceries
With the PC Financial World Elite, you’ll earn 30 PC Optimum points (the equivalent of 3% in store credit) at Loblaws-owned grocery stores. While that obviously includes Loblaws chains, it also includes several other locations - from No Frills and Fortinos to Real Canadian Superstores, and more. Unfortunately, if you use the card at groceries where PC products aren’t sold, like Metro or Longo's, you’ll earn a basic 10 points (1%) per dollar.
The PC World Elite also takes the cake as the best credit card to use when shopping for essentials at pharmacies, as it earns 45 PC points (the equivalent of 4.5%) at any of the over 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart locations across Canada. That’s a huge perk considering Shoppers’ large product offering - which includes everything from health and beauty products to electronics and household items. You’ll also pocket 30 PC Points per dollar when filling up the pump at over 2,000 Esso and Mobil gas stations, and 10 PC Optimum points everywhere else.
Sadly, the card comes with a limitation common to all store credit cards: you can only redeem your points at select PC stores. Luckily, since PC is associated with Loblaws, that includes over 2,500 retailers that carry PC products (one of which is bound to be near you) including Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart. PC points can be redeemed in increments of 10,000, which is the equivalent of $10 (or 10 points for 1 cent in store credit).
And if you don’t meet the PC World Elite’s $80,000 or $150,000 income requirement (or spend at least $15,000 on the card annually that's required to maintain your eligibility), you still have options. You’ll automatically be considered for PC Financial's other no-fee cards (the mid-tier PC World and entry-level PC Mastercard) which have lower income requirements and slightly lower earn rates but are still great rewards cards nonetheless.
- No annual fee
- 45 PC Optimum Points per $1 at Shoppers Drug Mart and 30 PC Optimum Points per $1 at Loblaws banner stores (including No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Fortinos, and more, making it incredibly lucrative for loyal Loblaws customers
- Comes with travel emergency medical and car rental insurance
- Users only earn 10 PC Optimum points per $1 on outside purchases, making the card not particularly useful unless used at Loblaws-owned retailers
- Point redemption is only possible at select PC stores
- Income requirement of $80,000 (or $150,000 per household) may be prohibitive to certain users, but PC does offer lower-tier cards
- Points can only be redeemed in increments of 10,000 ($10 cash)
Best low interest Mastercard
In exchange for a nominal $39 annual fee, the MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard carries the lowest fixed interest rate of any credit card in Canada at 8.99%. No other credit card in the country, from either Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, has a fixed APR below the True Line Gold. Best of all, your interest rate won’t change regardless of your credit rating or the bank’s prime lending rate.
While you’re not getting a lot of perks and benefits with this card, its ultra-low interest rate is the star of the show here. Those looking to keep a balance on their card from month to month would be wise to choose this one.
- Incredibly low $39 annual fee
- Lowest purchase interest rate of any card on the market: 8.99%
- Fraud protection
- Add up to 9 users with no extra fees
- Not a lot of extra perks and benefits
- Much higher 24.99% interest rate on cash advances
- This offer is not available for residents of Quebec
If the MBNA True Line Gold’s annual fee is the one thing keeping you from signing up, you may be interested in its lower-tier sibling, the MBNA True Line Mastercard.
Offering no annual fee (as opposed to the True Line Gold’s $39 yearly charge), the MBNA True Line’s interest rate is set a bit higher at 12.99%, but that’s still drastically lower than nearly any other credit card on the market. For the best of both worlds, you may want to consider it.
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec.
Best Mastercard for travel
With this card, you can quickly rack up points on your everyday spending, as you’ll earn 5 BMO points for every $1 you spend on travel, 3 points per dollar on entertainment, restaurants, and recurring bills, and 1 BMO point for everything else. It also currently offers a welcome bonus of up to 60,000 points with the card’s $150 annual fee waived for the first year.
What really makes this card so appealing, however, is its top-notch travel perks. It comes with a complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass along four annual complimentary passes. You’ll also be covered whenever you travel thanks to the card’s out-of-province insurance, which includes protection in the case of medical emergencies, trip delays and interruptions, lost baggage, and more.
Another great aspect of this card is its flexibility: BMO points can be used to book flights from the airline of your choice - without having to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions. You can also use your points for other travel-related redemptions like hotels, cruises, and even vacation packages (along with their associated taxes) directly from the BMO in-house travel agency.
- 5 BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, 3 points per dollar on dining, entertainment, and recurring bills, and 1 point per dollar on everything else
- Welcome bonus - earn up to 70,000 points and the annual fee waived in the first year for both the primary cardholder and authorized users.
- VIP lounge access with the included membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass, with four annual complimentary passes
- Comprehensive travel insurance package
- Lots of flexibility: points can be used with any airline (no blackout dates or seat restrictions) or hotels, cruises, vacation packages from BMO in-house travel agency
- Personal income requirement of $80,000 could be prohibitive to some users
- Annual fee of $150 is slightly higher than average
Best no-fee Mastercard for travel points
While a no fee travel card may not boast as impressive of an insurance package or the same perks offered by one with an annual fee, with the right card, you could still amass an impressive amount of travel points. Enter the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard.
This no annual fee card earns new cardholders four points per dollar on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership, and household utility purchases during the first 90 days, then two points per dollar on those same categories thereafter. That’s an impressive earn rate for a no fee card, even when considering there’s a $5,000 annual cap on each bonus category. For everything else, you’ll earn one point per dollar. Plus, if you make $500 in purchases on the card and enroll to receive e-statements within the first 90 days of opening your account, you’ll earn 10,000 bonus points ($100 travel rewards). That’s an impressive welcome offer for a no fee card.
You can redeem points flexibly for flights on virtually any airline, including for the cost of applicable taxes and fees. There are a few caveats however: you’ll need to use a minimum of 10,000 points per redemption and MBNA doesn’t offer price matching on flights.
- No annual fee
- Welcome offer - earn 10,000 bonus points ($50 in cash back value)
- Lots of flexibility: redeem points on virtually any airline
- Can only redeem points in increments of 10,000
- No price matching on flights
Best Mastercard for travel insurance
The National Bank World Elite makes it on our list as the best Mastercard for travel insurance due to its great welcome offer, extensive coverage period, and favourable terms for seniors.
This card also provides out-of-province medical coverage for up to 60 consecutive days for those under 55 years old. That's almost three times longer than the standard 21-day coverage period offered by most other travel cards.
Additionally, while most travel cards skimp on coverage for seniors, this card doesn’t. National Bank World Elite cardholders between 65 and 75 years old receive complimentary travel insurance for up to 15 days versus the four days of coverage typically offered to seniors. It's worth highlighting that eligibility may be impacted in the case the cardholder has pre-existing health conditions, so you’ll want to read up on the card’s terms and contact the card’s insurance provider to be fully in the know of any possible exclusions and limitations.
In addition to the insurance benefits, the card also offers up to five points per dollar on eligible groceries and restaurants and two points per dollar on eligible gas and electric vehicle charging purchases, recurring bill payments and a la carte travel purchases.
The card also carries some travel benefits: cardholders can get up to $150 each year in refunds for travel expenses on airport parking, seat selection, check-in fees, airline ticket upgrades and access to airport lounges worldwide, plus free and unlimited access along with one guest to the National Bank World MasterCard Lounge at Montréal-Trudeau airport.
- Extensively thorough travel insurance package (including better insurance for seniors than most other cards)
- Earn up to five points per dollar on eligible grocery and restaurant purchases, and two points per dollar on eligible gas and electric vehicle charging purchases, recurring bill payments and a la carte travel purchases
- Up to $150 each year in refunds for travel expenses on airport parking, seat selection, check-in fees, airline ticket upgrades and access to airport lounges worldwide
- Free and unlimited access along with one guest to the National Bank World Mastercard Lounge at Montréal-Trudeau airport
- Welcome bonus - This card does not have a welcome bonus at this time.
- $250 refund for travel expenses
- $150 annual fee is slightly higher than average for a card of this type
- Complimentary lounge access only applies to Montreal airport
- Annual income requirement of $80,00 is quite high and could be prohibitive to some users
Best Mastercard for balance transfers
While the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard may not have the lowest promotional interest rate for balance transfers on the market, its window of nine months is considerably longer than average. Plus, with a regular purchase interest rate of 12.99%, its standard rate is still much lower than other balance transfer cards after the promotional period ends. That's a big comfort if you're worried about not being able to pay off all your debt on time.
In addition to the excellent balance transfer offer and standard interest rate, this card also features some basic security benefits such as extended warranty and purchase protection.
You won’t earn any rewards with the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard, but that’s not really the card’s purpose. If you’re looking for a solid balance transfer card with an excellent promotional offer, you’ve found one here.
- $20 annual fee is incredibly reasonable
- Welcome offer - earn a 0.99% introductory interest rate on Balance Transfers for 9 months with a 2% transfer fee and have the $20 annual fee waived for the first year
- There are cards with lower introductory and regular interest rates on the market
- No rewards to earn as it’s primary use is for balance transfers
Best student Mastercard
It takes a special combination of factors to make a credit card perfect for students, and the BMO Cash Back Mastercard seems to have them all.
Cardholder can earn an ultra-competitive 3% cash back on groceries (always a necessity) and 1% on recurring bills, including streaming subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify.
The other great aspect of this card is its flexibility: your rewards will never expire, and you’ll be able to redeem them for as little as one dollar at a time.
- No annual fee
- Welcome bonus - earn 5% cash back in your first 3 months
- 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bills and subscriptions, 0.5% on everything else
- Rewards never expire (as long as your account is open and in good standing)
- Redeem rewards for as little as $1 at a time
- Outside of groceries and recurring bills, base earn rate of 0.5% isn’t the best out there among no fee cards
Best store credit Mastercard
If you are looking for a credit card that will help you save money on groceries, the PC Financial Mastercard is a great choice, especially for those who frequently shop at Loblaws-owned stores and Shoppers Drug Mart.
- Welcome offer - earn 20,000 PC Optimum points
- No annual fee and no income requirements, making it accessible to a wider range of customers
- Loblaw is one of Canada’s largest retailers, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to earn and redeem points
- Stack your points by showing your PC Optimum card at Loblaw-affiliated stores and paying with your PC Financial World Elite Mastercard
- Earn rates are high compared to other no-fee credit cards
- Offers travel insurance benefits adding value to cardholders
- Can only redeem points in increments of 10,000
- Points cannot be transferred to other loyalty programs
- Very strict redemption rules - points cannot be used to pay for purchases at non-Loblaws retailers or redeemed against a statement balance. Plenty of other rewards cards on the market offering more flexibility
Looking for a student credit card?
Mastercard credit card tiers
Mastercard does divide its credit card products under three categories: Standard Mastercard, World Mastercard and World Elite Mastercard.
1. Standard Mastercard
A Standard Mastercard can be any credit card, from a low interest credit card (e.g. the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard) to a travel points credit card (BMO Rewards Mastercard) or a cash back credit card (BMO CashBack Mastercard). These entry-level cards are meant to help you make purchases, build credit, and potentially earn some rewards in the process. Standard Mastercards usually charge no or very low annual fees and have no income requirements. Perks on a Standard Mastercard are limited and typically include basic coverage like purchase protection and extended warranty.
2. World Mastercard
A World Mastercard, on the other hand, is always going to be a rewards credit card offering either cash back, points, or miles. These mid-tier credit card also tend to be accompanied by an annual fee (usually around $89 or less), offer additional bonus rewards on every dollar spent, and have annual income requirements of at least $60,000. Most also offer some added perks (i.e. mobile device insurance and rental car collision/damage insurance).
3. World Elite Mastercard
Finally, any World Elite Mastercard is at the top tier of Mastercard’s reward credit cards. The rewards range from cash back to travel rewards, but the cards may also include additional perks such as companion flights, complimentary airport lounge access, enhanced concierge service, and a comprehensive suite of credit card travel insurance benefits. World Elite Mastercards also offer more rewards on every dollar spent when compared to their World or Standard counterparts. Lastly, World Elite Mastercards usually command an annual income of $80,000 as an application requirement, great credit scores, and have a higher barrier to entry in the form of a $150 annual fee for the primary cardholder.
World Elite program
The World Elite Mastercard program offers a wide range of benefits to enhance the cardholder experience. But the selection of features will vary by individual card and issuers. Therefore, it’s important to compare different World Elite Mastercards prior to choosing the one that’s best for you.
First, a World Elite Mastercard may include both personal assistance and personal protection benefits. This includes concierge services and zero liability protection. Any time you need assistance, whether it’s booking a reservation or buying and delivering gifts, you can rely on the exclusive concierge services provided by the World Elite program.
Your World Elite Mastercard may also include shopping protection, including extended warranty insurance, price protection insurance, and purchase assurance. Your protection does not stop there, as the World Elite program also tends to offer top-of-the-line hotel/motel burglary insurance, lost baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, and trip cancellation insurance. This added protection is sure to decrease your worries while you’re travelling.
Two additional perks found on several World Elite Mastercards include airport lounge access provided through Mastercard Airport Experiences by Loungekey that encompasses over 1,000 lounges worldwide as well as with Mastercard global travel assistance service. This will increase your comfort while travelling and ensure you’re able to get emergency assistance virtually anytime, anywhere, and in any language.
Mastercard credit card partnerships
Some of Mastercard’s current credit card partnerships include:
BMO and Mastercard offer two personal Air Miles credit cards together: the BMO Air Miles Mastercard and the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. The first has no annual fee and earns 1 Mile/$25, while the latter has a $120 annual fees and earns reward faster with 1 Mile/$10. Both cards let you rack up additional Miles when shopping at Air Miles partner retailers or from the online airmilesshop.ca e-store.
The Harley Davidson Mastercard lets you earn 1 Harley Davidson Genuine Rewards point for every $2 you spend on your card.
The newly-merged PC Optimum program offers 3 no fee credit cards: the PC Financial Mastercard that lets you earn 25 points for every $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart, 10 points per $1 spent anywhere else and 20 points per litre at Esso; the PC Financial World Mastercard that offers 30 points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart, 20 points at eligible locations where President's Choice products are sold and 10 points per dollar on all other purchases; and the premium PC Financial World Elite that offers 45 points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart, 30 points at eligible PC locations and 10 points on all other purchases.
Walmart offers two Mastercard credit cards. The Walmart Rewards Mastercard comes with a welcome bonus of up to $25 Walmart Rewards Dollars, which can be used in stores, and lets you earn 1.25% of your purchase in Walmart Rewards when you shop at Walmart and 1.00% when you shop anywhere else. The higher-tier Walmart Rewards World Mastercard earns up to 3% on online purchases from Walmart.ca; 1.25% at Walmart stores and all gas stations; and 1% everywhere else. The. Walmart Rewards World has a household income requirement of $100,000.
RBC and WestJet partnered with Mastercard to offer two rewards credit cards for their frequent flyers. The WestJet RBC Mastercard is the more basic of the two, as it comes with a lower annual fee and a smaller welcome bonus. The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, however, has a higher annual fee but also comes with up to $399 in savings in the form of an annual companion ticket.
Hudson’s Bay Company
A new Hudson’s Bay Mastercard (from Neo Financial) lets you earn double the Hudson’s Bay Rewards points on every $1 spent at the Hudson’s Bay and cash back at select retailers partnered with Neo.
Remember that all of these credit cards will be issued by a bank, credit union or retailer – not by Mastercard itself. As well, some of these credit cards may help you earn points specific to a bank’s own branded rewards program, of which there are too many to list here.
Mastercard Click to Pay
Formerly known as MasterPass, the new Mastercard Click to Pay program is a digital checkout option that allows Mastercard users to pay for items and services online with the single click of an icon.
Instead of having to remember login information for specific retail accounts or manually inputting your credit card information as a guest, simply look for the symbol that signifies Mastercard Click to Pay, then select from your saved cards the particular one you’d like to use for the purchase.
The program uses multiple layers of intelligent security such as device protection and fraud recognition to guard against misuse, ensuring your information is kept safe.
Mastercard Priceless Cities
Available exclusively to Mastercard users, the Priceless program offers cardholders the ability to have unique in-person and virtual experiences and discounts on activities and shows in cities all over the world, ranging from cooking classes and concerts to sporting events and virtual seminars
More on Mastercard
Headquartered in New York, Mastercard is the second-largest credit card company in the world. Infamous for its catchphrase, “For everything else, there’s Mastercard,” the company holds a 30% share of the credit card and debit card market according to Reuters. Mastercard operates in more than 210 countries, and is known for both its credit card, debit cards, and prepaid card products.
Cards summary (+/-)
Natasha Macmillan, Business Director of Everyday Banking
With over a decade of experience in the finance industry, Natasha works closely with Canada's top financial institutions - from banks to credit unions - to help Ratehub.ca's 1,200,000 monthly users get matched with the right banking products. read full bio
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