The best rewards cards for
|Card||Best used for||Annual fee||Rewards|
Food & transit
Gas & groceries
better choices made
to Canada’s top financial institutions
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Mikael Castaldo, Senior Business Manager Everyday Banking
In depth: Ratehub's best no fee credit card in Canada for 2021
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.
- 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 2.5% on every purchase you make for the first three months or on your initial $6,000 in purchases (whichever comes first).
- Everyday rewards: 1.25% cash back per dollar
- Income required: None
Why it made our Best Of list: The major appeal of the AMEX SimplyCash is, well, its simplicity. The card does away with bonus categories and tiered earn rates to instead offer an impressive 1.25% cash back across the board on no matter what you buy.
When compared to many other no fee rewards cards, the SimplyCash will earn you upwards of double the returns on otherwise generic purchases like clothes and electronics. Its strong flat earn rate and no annual fee also makes the SimplyCash great for pairing with another card since it offers above-average returns on purchases that don’t fall under most credit card bonus categories.
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 (provides access to presale tickets to live events like concerts and musicals).
- Also read: AMEX SimplyCash review
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 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)
- 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
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.
Best no foreign transaction fee card with no annual fee
Home Trust Preferred Visa
- Everyday rewards: 1% cash back on purchases in Canada. 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 Home Trust Preferred Visa is among the select few cards that don’t - letting you enjoy the convenience and added security of paying with plastic while abroad without the added cost.
This card will save you 2.5 cents on every $1 in foreign purchases, which can quickly add up when you factor for expenses like transit, dining, tours, hotel stays, shopping, and other costs you commonly charge to your card while out of the country.
The Home Trust Preferred Visa also offers plenty of value when used in Canada, as it’ll earn you 1% on all your domestic purchases while also providing access to valuable side perks like rental car loss/collision/damage coverage. Even if you don’t use the card much in Canada, since it’s free to carry, it’s great to keep in your wallet just for when you're travelling.
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
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 for Canadian Tire: Triangle Mastercard
- Everyday rewards: Earn 4% at Canadian Tire and affiliate stores, 1% at grocery stores (excluding Costco and Walmart) up to $12,000 annual spend, 5-7 cents at Husky/Gas+ stations, and 0.5% everywhere else.
- Value of rewards: 1% in Canadian Tire Money (CTM) = 1% off purchases from Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and Atmosphere.
- Income required: None Specified
Why it made our Best Of list: The Triangle Mastercard is by far the fastest way to earn Canadian Tire Money - letting you pocket 4% in CTM Money on everything from Canadian Tire and its roster of affiliate stores. Plus, you’ll earn an accelerated 1.5% at most grocery stores outside of Walmart and Costco.
Another great feature of the Triangle Mastercard is its no-fee financing feature. You can use the card to make a big-ticket purchase from Canadian Tire (at least $150), and pay it off gradually in instalments without owing additional interest - giving you extra financial breathing room without having to pay for the convenience.
Best no fee 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 card 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
- Everyday rewards: 0.12 miles per dollar spent at Air Miles partner retailers and 0.4 miles everywhere else. 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 Partner retailers. Partners like Foodland, LCBO (in Ontario), Shell, Sobeys Urban Fresh, and Staples. 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: 5,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend at least $500 on the card within your first 3 months
- Everyday rewards: Earn 1 Scotia point per dollar spent on all your everyday purchases.
- Value of Scotia Point: 5,000 Scotia points =$50 / 1 point = 1% when redeemed for travel rewards (i.e. flights)
- Income required: None
At a flat 1 point per dollar on everything you buy, the Scotiabank American Express Card may not earn the most points (especially when compared to alternatives like the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus) but it does offer perks sorely lacking on most other no fee, entry-level travel cards.
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 (+/-)
Mikael is a Senior Business Manager at Ratehub.ca and the driving force behind our Everyday Banking Team. He knows everything there is to know about the best credit cards and bank accounts, and works closely with Canada’s top financial institutions - from banks to credit unions - to help ensure our over 1,200,000 monthly users get matched with the right plastic. A numbers guy at heart, having worked as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, he’s found himself right at home as a personal finance expert at Ratehub.ca.read linkedin bio
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