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Do no fee credit cards offer rewards?
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What is the best no fee Mastercard?
What is the best no fee travel card?
What is the best no fee cash back card?
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In depth: Ratehub's best no fee credit card in Canada for 2023
Best no fee cash back credit card
Tangerine Money-Back Card
- Everyday rewards: Earn 2% cash back in 2 categories of your choice (or 3 when you also open a free Tangerine Savings Account), and 0.5% on everything else.
- Welcome offer: New users can Earn an extra 15% back on up to $1000 in everyday purchases within the first 2 months. Click “check eligibility” to get an additional $100 Amazon gift card 🎁 upon approval.
- Income required: $12,000
Why it made our Best Of list: If you’re looking for simplicity, flexibility, and the ability to earn some serious cash back on your everyday spending, it’s hard to beat the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. It’s currently the only no fee card to offer 2% in straight cash in up to three categories - and to top it off - there are no spending caps and you have the freedom to select your own bonus categories.
You can have your pick from a list of ten choices that include conventional credit card bonus categories like groceries, gas, recurring bills, and pharmacy purchases, to rarer categories like dining and public transit, and niche options like furniture and even home improvement. The best part is you’re not locked into your choices and can change up your bonus categories at any time (though, you’ll have to wait about one or two statement periods for the changes to go through). You’ll earn 0.5% cash back for all your purchases that don’t fall under one of your chosen bonus categories.
Your cash back rewards will be deposited every month and Tangerine’s intuitive app makes it easy to track your spending.
With an annual income requirement of $12,000, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is also super accessible. That said, if you earn at least $60,000 (or $100,000 as a household), you could be upgraded during the application process to the Tangerine World Mastercard, which offers the same rewards structure and also has no annual fee but comes with additional frills like mobile device insurance and complimentary rental car loss/collision/waiver coverage.
Best no fee flat-rate rewards card
SimplyCash from American Express
- Current welcome offer: Earn a $10 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $300 in purchases on your card. This could add up to $100 in statement credits in the first 10 months.
- Everyday rewards: 2% cash back on eligible gas purchases in Canada, 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases in Canada (up to $300 cash back annually), and 1.25% cash back on all other eligible purchases
- Income required: None
Why it made our Best Of list: The major appeal of the AMEX SimplyCash is, well, its simplicity. The card offers 2% cash back on eligible gas purchases in Canada, 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases in Canada (up to $300 cash back annually), and 1.25% cash back on all other eligible purchases. Plus, there's also the card's current welcome offer where you can earn a $10 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $300 in purchases on your card. This could add up to $100 in statement credits in the first 10 months.
When compared to many other no fee rewards cards, the SimplyCash's strong accelerated earn rates and no annual fee also make it a solid option for those in search of an everyday cash back card.
Then there's the card's insurance coverage: purchases made with the card are covered by AMEX'S Buyer's Assurance Protection Plan up to one additional year, and their Purchase Protection Plan will insure eligible items charged to the card against accidental physical damage or theft of up to $1000 per occurrence. For travellers using the card, you can also get up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance when you use the card to buy your common carrier (plane, train, ship, or bus) tickets.
The card also offers great side perks including AMEX Offers (which lets you earn discounts on eligible products from retailers partnered with American Express) and American Express Invites (which provides access to presale tickets to live events like concerts and musicals).
- Also read: AMEX SimplyCash review
Best no foreign transaction fee card with no annual fee
BRIM Financial Mastercard
- Everyday rewards: 1% on everyday purchases, plus bonus rewards when at over 200 retailers partnered with BRIM (including Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Emirates Airlines, and more). Pay no foreign transaction fees for purchases in a non-Canadian currency.
- Regular interest rate: 19.99%
- Income required: None
Most Canadian credit cards charge foreign transaction fees - a 2.5% surcharge (separate from the conversion rate) tacked on every purchase you make in an international currency. The Brim Mastercard is among the select few cards that don’t, letting you enjoy the convenience and added security of paying with plastic while abroad or online without the added cost.
The Brim Financial Mastercard also offers plenty of value when used in Canada, as it’ll earn you at least 1 point per dollar on all your purchases while also offering the opportunity to rack up bonus points at over 200 retailers (including up to 3x the points on Emirates Airlines, 4x on Apple, and 10x at Lululemon). Points on the Brim Mastercard effectively act like cash back, with 100 points redeemable for $1 in statement credits. Cardholders can also access valuable side perks like mobile device insurance, a free Boingo Wi-Fi membership, and common carrier accident insurance.
Best no fee cash back card for groceries
BMO CashBack Mastercard
- Current welcome offer: Earn 5% cash back for the first 3 months or the initial $2,000 in purchases (whichever you hit first), plus an introductory rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for the first nine months (2% fee applies).
- Everyday rewards: 3% cash back on groceries (up to $500 per month), 1% on recurring bills (up to $500 per month), and 0.5% on everything else
- Income required: $15,000 (eligibility requirements vary for students)
Why it made our Best Of list: The BMO CashBack Mastercard is an entry-level, no-frills rewards card yet still manages to offer stellar rewards on everyday essentials and a great welcome bonus.
It’s the only credit card in Canada to earn triple the cash back on groceries without charging any upfront annual fee. Better yet, it’s a Mastercard, which means you’ll earn the 3% bonus at virtually all major grocery chains including No Frills and even eligible Walmart Supercentre locations (which isn’t the case for either Visa or American Express cards). The BMO CashBack Mastercard’s welcome offer also lets you rack up to $100 in bonuses just for getting approved as a new cardholder.
Ideal for anyone who wants a no-nonsense rewards card, the BMO CashBack Mastercard also keeps things simple by forgoing points or rigid redemption rules. You’ll earn straightforward cash that you can apply against your balance at any time of the year in increments of as little of $1. Easy!
There’s also the fact it is extremely easy-to-get, with an annual income requirement of just $15,000. If you’re a student looking to pick up your first-ever credit card, you can also be approved without employment provided you receive some form of financial support either from a scholarship or an allowance from your family.
One important caveat to highlight: The BMO CashBack Mastercard imposes a monthly spending cap on groceries. You’ll earn 3% on the first $500 in grocery purchases per month and 0.5% afterwards; which all things considered is a pretty generous cap and will reset every month.
Best no fee low interest credit card
MBNA True Line Mastercard
- Regular interest rate: 12.99% on purchases and 24.99% on cash advances
- Income required: None
- Welcome offer: Get a 0% promotional annual interest rate for 12 months on balance transfers completed within 90 days of opening the account.
Why it made our Best Of list: If you need the flexibility to pay off your credit card balance more gradually over time (as opposed to in full every month), you’ll want to carry a low interest card - not a rewards credit card.
As far as no fee low interest cards go, the MBNA True Line is arguably the best in Canada for one simple reason: it has a fixed annual interest rate of just 12.99%. That’s a fraction of the standard 19.99% interest rate you’ll find on most credit cards. Depending on the size of your balance, that lower rate can mean saving several dozens (if not hundreds) of dollars every year in interest, leaving you with more money on-hand to pay off your debt sooner.
With the card's current welcome offer, new users can Get a 0% promotional annual interest rate for 12 months on balance transfers completed within 90 days of opening the account. And, if you're planning on making it a family account, you can add an additional 9 authorized users for no additional annual fee.
If you want to use the card for a larger purchase, you can take advantage of the MBNA Payment Plan, which allows you to pay for eligible credit card purchases of $100 or more through low-interest monthly payment plans of 6, 12, or 18 months.
Best store credit cards
Best for Loblaws: PC Financial World Elite
- Everyday rewards: 45 PC Optimum points per dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart, 30 PC points per dollar at Loblaws banner stores, 30 PC Points per litre at Esso stations, and 10 PC points per dollar everywhere else.
- Value of points: 10,000 PC Optimum points =$10 / 10 PC points = 1% when redeemed at PC affiliate stores including Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, and No Frills.
- Income required: $80,000 (plus, you must spend at least $15,000 on the card every year to maintain eligibility of the World Elite Mastercard)
Why it made our Best Of list: If groceries is one of the biggest line items in your monthly budget and you do a lot of shopping at stores under the Loblaws banner, the PC Financial World Elite can help you save big.
This premium no fee card will earn you 30 PC Optimum points per dollar spent at all Loblaws banner stores (which includes retailers like No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and Fortinos). When considering 10 PC points equals 1% in store credit, that’s about 3% on your grocery bills at Loblaws stores - an impressive return for a no fee card. The PC Financial World Elite also offers strong returns on your drug store purchases from Shoppers Drug Mart (4.5%) and on gas at Esso stations (3%). The card also offers some great side-benefits for a no fee card including out-of-province travel medical insurance (for trips up to 8 days) and rental car insurance. As you’d expect from a store credit card, redemptions aren’t as flexible as a typical cash back or travel card, and PC Optimum points can only be redeemed for merchandise from affiliated stores. Luckily, for PC Optimum point collectors, that includes over 2,500 locations from some of Canada’s largest grocery, gas, and pharmacy retailers.
Best no fee travel credit card
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus
- Current welcome offer: Earn 10,000 bonus MBNA Points when you sign-up for e-statements and make at least $500 in purchases within the first three months of receiving your card. Plus, earn twice the points per dollar on the card’s three bonus categories (gas, groceries, and dining), for the first three months.
- Everyday rewards: Earn 2 MBNA Points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and dining up to $5,000 annual spend in each category. Earn 1 MBNA Point on all other purchases.
- Value of MBNA Point: 100 MBNA point =$1 / 1 point = 1% when redeemed for travel rewards (i.e. flights)
- Income required: None
Why it made our Best Of list: Along with the card’s impressive welcome offer - which is easy to qualify for and can add up to well over $100 - the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus is our favourite no fee travel card since it offers strong rewards on your everyday spending with a flexible and easy-to-understand points system.
You’ll earn a solid two times the points in three bonus categories and 1 point on everything else, which you can go on to redeem for flights on virtually any airline at a rate of 100 points for $1 on mbna.ca. The value of your points will remain consistent no matter when or where you’re flying - making it easy to work exactly how much your points are worth.
Best no fee credit card for rebuilding credit
Home Trust Secured Visa
- Deposit required: at least $500
- Income required: None Specified (virtually guaranteed to be approved)
Why it made our Best Of list: If you’ve hit a financial rough patch or are new to Canada - and your credit history is the worse for it - the Home Trust Secured Visa might be exactly what you need. As a secured credit card, there are few roadblocks in terms of the approval process and you're virtually guaranteed to get the card, even if you’ve had a recent history of bankruptcy or bad credit.
By using the Home Trust Secured Visa responsibly and paying your bills on time (and ideally, in full) every statement period, you can build or rebuild your creditworthiness. Over time, the Home Trust Secured Visa can improve your credit score and prove to lenders you can be trusted with managing borrowed money. And that means it'll help open up the door for you to get approved for other types of loans or credit.
The best part is the HomeTrust Secured Visa doesn't charge an upfront annual fee just for the privilege of carrying the card. However, like with any secured credit card, you’ll need to provide a deposit. Home Trust requires a deposit of at least $500, which will be equal to the size of your credit limit, and it’ll serve as collateral in the event you default on the card. Rest assured though, if you pay back what you owe on the card in full, you’ll get your deposit back once you close your account with Home Trust.
Best no fee Air Miles credit card
BMO Air Miles Mastercard
- Current welcome offer: 1,500 bonus Miles when you spend at least $1,000 within your first three months, plus an introductory rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for the first nine months (2% fee applies).
- Everyday rewards: Get 3x the Miles for every $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners and 2x the Miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store. Plus, earn miles twice when you shop at Air Miles partner retails and show your Collectors Card
- Income required: None
The sheer size of the Air Miles program can be hard to wrap your head around. With over 11 million active members, nearly two-thirds of all Canadian households rack up Air Miles on their everyday purchases. If you’re a collector who wants to up your miles game while avoiding annual fees, the BMO Air Miles Mastercard is our recommendation.
What really sets the card apart is the fact you’ll earn triple the miles for every $25 spent (the equivalent of 0.12 miles per $1 spent) when shopping at participating Air Miles partners (Foodland, LCBO, Shell, Sobeys Urban Fresh, Staples, plus more) and twice the miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store. Depending on whether you redeem miles as Cash Miles (for discounts off your everyday purchases) or Dream Miles (for travel), that’s a net return of between 1.26% to roughly 1.52% in rewards on every dollar spent at partner retailers. Plus, that doesn’t include the fact you can double dip and earn miles twice when shopping at partner retailers by using your credit card while also showing your Air Miles Collector Loyalty Card at the same time.
Another great feature of the BMO Mastercard is its 1,500 Air Miles bonus miles when you sign-up as a new cardholder - the equivalent of $157 or around $181 in rewards, depending on what you redeem for.
We’d also like to give a shoutout to airmilesshops.ca, an online shopping portal dedicated to Air Miles collectors that offers specific bonus offers and discounts from a huge range of retails from Apple, Amazon, Walmart, H&M, and so much more.
For all your other everyday purchases, you’ll earn an admittedly less than stellar 0.4 miles per dollar (the equivalent of 0.42% - 0.48%; which is a notch below the base earn rate of 0.5% earned by many other no fee cards). However, when considering the sign-up bonus and countless ways you can boost your earn rate at partner retails and when shopping online, this card is a great match for current Air Miles collectors looking to maximize their returns.
Best no fee card for balance transfers
PC Financial Mastercard
- Balance transfer offer: 0.97% interest rate for the first six months (22.9% after offer ends)
No, this isn’t a case of deja vu. While PC Financial was already mentioned on our list as one of the best store credit cards, it deserves an entirely separate callout for its outstanding balance transfer offer.
New cardholders who get approved for any of PC Financial’s three no fee credit cards (including the entry-level PC Financial Mastercard) are eligible to receive a 0.97% balance transfer promotion for their first six months. This means you can transfer the debt you owe on your current credit card over to your new PC Financial Mastercard and pay it off at a rock-bottom rate instead of the typical 19.99%. With less of your money being lost to interest, you're granted a limited period of time during which you can pay off your debt faster and more efficiently. It’s important to mention, however, once the offer ends after six months, the card’s standard balance rate of 22.97% will kick in. If you do plan on taking advantage of the balance transfer offer, make sure you have a plan of action and funds to pay off as much of the debt you transferred over as possible before the six-month promotional periods ends.
Scotiabank American Express
- Current welcome offer: Earn up to 12,000 bonus Scene+™ points in your first year (that’s up to $120 towards travel) - Offer ends April, 30 2023
- Everyday rewards: 3X Scene+ points on purchases at participating grocery stores (Sobey's, IGA, FreshCo, and more), 2X Scene+ points on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, and drinking establishments, 2X Scene+ points on eligible gas and daily transit, 2X Scene+ points on eligible select streaming services, 1X Scene+ point on every other purchase
- Value of Scotia Point: 5,000 Scotia points =$50 / 1 point = 1% when redeemed for travel rewards (i.e. flights)
- Income required: None
Letting you earn 3x the points on eligible purchases at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and Freshco, 2x the points on everything from groceries and restaurants to gas, daily transit, and streaming services, the Scotiabank American Express Card offers a solid point value on nearly all major spending categories. While it may not boast the bigger points accelerators of some other cards in certain categories, it's wide coverage allows it to compete well with other mid-range rewards cards in the market.
One of its biggest perks is the fact it comes with comprehensive travel insurance as a complimentary benefit. With the Scotiabank American Express, you’ll receive rental car insurance, travel accident insurance, trip interruption insurance ($2,500 per person) in case you need to cut your trip short due to an emergency, as well as travel emergency medical insurance ($1 million for trips up to 8 days) that’ll cover medical bills in the event you fall in while abroad.
That’s a wide range of insurance benefits bundled into a card that’s effectively free to carry, especially when considering paying outright for similar coverage could easily add up to over $100 per trip. In comparison, most other no fee cards, particularly those from the big banks, usually only offer one or none of those insurance perks.
The other great feature about the Scotiabank American Express is how flexibly you can redeem points. With Scotia points, you’re not forced into using the bank’s in-house travel agency or proprietary travel search engine. Instead, you can purchase a travel expense directly from an airline, hotel, or travel provider with your credit card and apply your points at a later date to offset the cost. This means you can comparison shop and browse the best travel deals on sites like Google Flights or Expedia and still use your points. Some more great features: you can apply points retroactively up to 12 months after you booked your travel and points are redeemable in flat increments of 5,000 points for $50 or 1 cent per point (there are no complicated rewards charts or maps).
Card summary (+/-)
Should you get a no fee credit card?
While the answer to this question largely depends on what kind of credit user you are and what you desire out of your credit card, there are a few common situations in which a no-fee credit card will be the right choice for you:
You're trying to build credit
If you're a student or a recent immigrant, you likely don't have much credit history (if any) in Canada. Starting your credit journey with a no-fee card is a great way to begin building your credit history and score without having to pay an annual fee. You may want to move on to a fancier, more expensive card eventually, but a no-fee card is perfect if you're just starting out.
You don't use your credit card often
Not everyone is a constant user of credit. For some, pulling out their card every once in a while for special purchases (or using it just a few times a year to keep their account active) is enough. For users like these, an annual fee simply isn't worth paying. Why tack on an extra yearly bill for a card you only use sporadically? In these cases, a no-fee credit card is the perfect choice. You can use it as little as you'd like and never have to worry about being charged for the privilege.
You'd like to have an additional credit card
Because different types of credit cards are better in certain situations, many users prefer to carry more than one. Even if your main card boasts fancier rewards and an annual fee, keeping a no-fee card handy can be beneficial as a backup. A frequent flyer, for example, may use a high-fee rewards card for all their travel expenses, but prefer a cash back card for daily use (groceries, gas, etc.) that doesn't have a yearly charge eating into their earnings.
Things to consider in a no fee credit card
Interest rates should always a big factor in choosing the right credit card, especially if you plan on keeping a balance from month to month. While the standard purchase interest on most credit cards in Canada sits around 19.99%, there are no fee cards out there which offer lower rates (such as the MBNA True Line Mastercard, which currently offers 12.99%). Try to avoid no fee cards with interest rates above 20%, as these have the capacity to saddle you with debt if you're not careful.
Ideally, you're looking to get the best of both worlds with a no fee card that also offers rewards. There are certainly many out there, so it's helpful to think about your most common spending categories and what you ultimately want this card to do for you. Frequent travelers may be interested in a card that offers accelerated points on travel purchases, whereas those intending to use the card for everyday essentials may prefer a card that will earn them a great cash back rate on things like groceries and gas.
If you're stuck choosing between two cards, a solid welcome bonus could be the deciding factor. Many cards offer attractive incentives for new customers to sign up, usually involving a higher-than-average point value or cash back rate for the first few months of ownership.
Just remember - you'll typically have to spend a certain amount on the card within that time frame to get the bonus, so a smart move would be to plan a few large-scale purchases during that time.
While not all no fee cards come equipped with insurance coverage, some do, so it's worth paying attention to that detail if it's something you'd like to have. The most common types of credit card insurance coverage are varying types of travel insurance along with purchase protection, mobile device, and extended warranty. While it's not an essential feature for some users, it's also a nice thing to include, so pay attention to which cards are offering it as part of their package.
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 more
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