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The best rewards credit cards in Canada for 2024

Natasha-M 1
Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking

June 7, 2024

Rewards credit cards are the most popular type of credit card in Canada, and for good reason: they offer tons of benefits in the way of points, cash back, travel perks, and insurance. Continue reading to discover our top rewards and points credit cards.

Canada’s best rewards credit cards at a glance

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Finding a new credit card just got easier. Instantly compare up to 3 credit cards side-by-side to see how their rewards, features, perks, and rates stack up.

Our methodology: how we choose the best credit cards

FAQ

What is the best rewards credit card in Canada?


Which credit card rewards program is the best?


How much are rewards points worth?


How do you redeem credit card rewards?


Do credit card points expire?


Can I get a rewards credit card with bad credit?


Best rewards credit card in Canada

featured

4.5 Ratehub rated

Best for Groceries & dining

First year reward
$660/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $156 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 5pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

15,000 bonus points (a $150 value)

Annual fee

$156

Best travel rewards credit card and best no foreign transaction fees credit card

featured

4.0 Ratehub rated

Best for Travel perks

First year reward
$515/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $150 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 3pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

25,000 bonus points (a $250 value)

Annual fee

$150

Best rewards credit card with no annual fee

featured

4.5 Ratehub rated

Best for Flexible spending

First year reward
$856/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $0 annual fee

Earn rewards

0.5% – 10% earn rate

Welcome bonus

$100

Annual fee

$0

Best premium rewards credit card and best rewards credit card for travel perks

featured

5.0 Ratehub rated

Best for Premium perks

First year reward
$224/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $799 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 2pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

70,000 bonus points (a $700 value)

Anniversary bonus

30,000 pts (a $300 value)

Annual fee

$799

Best cash back rewards credit card for gas and groceries

featured

4.5 Ratehub rated

Best for Groceries & gas

First year reward
$735/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after the annual fee

Earn rewards

1% – 4% earn rate

Welcome bonus

$300

Annual fee

see Details

Best Aeroplan rewards credit card

featured

4.0 Ratehub rated

Best for Aeroplan Points

First year reward
$664/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $139 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 1.5pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

25,000 bonus points (a $360 value)

Anniversary bonus

15,000 pts (a $216 value)

Annual fee

$139

Best rewards credit card for Air Miles

featured

First year reward
$515/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $120 annual fee

Earn rewards

0.1pts – 0.3pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

3,000 bonus points (a $315 value)

Annual fee

$120

Summary of the best rewards credit cards in Canada

How rewards credit cards work in Canada:

What is a rewards credit card?

Rewards credit cards offer “rewards” in the form of cash back, points or miles for every dollar you spend. You can use these rewards to offset your statement balance or for purposes like travel, purchasing merchandise and gift cards, and more (depending on the issuer). 

The ideal user for a rewards card is someone who consistently pays off their monthly statement in full. This is because carrying a credit card balance generates interest charges, which can erode any potential savings gained from accumulating rewards. 

It's important to note that popular credit cards offer additional rewards for specific types of purchases. Merchant category codes play a critical role in helping cards distinguish between money spent at a grocery store versus a restaurant. 

Types of credit card rewards

1. Cash back rewards

Cash back rewards are precisely what they sound like - a percentage of cash back you’ll get for each purchase made with your card. You can apply this cash back to reduce your statement balance or save on upcoming purchases. Most cash back rewards cards offer higher percentages for select spending categories such as groceries, restaurants, or travel. This means you can earn more if your card aligns with your spending habits. One of the key advantages of cash back is its simplicity - unlike points, your cash back balance is straightforward and expressed in dollars and cents. 

2. Points-based rewards

Points-based rewards work similarly to cash back but require a bit more calculation to determine their true value (for more details, refer to FAQ section). Like cash back, points-based rewards cards allow you to earn points based on your spending. You typically earn more points for specific types of purchases. Once you’ve collected enough points to redeem, you can usually do so through the provider’s online portal or app. Redemption options may vary, ranging from merchandise and gift cards to travel and statement credits, depending on the issuer. 

3. Travel rewards

Travel rewards cards offer an opportunity to earn miles, which are rewards associated with co-branded credit cards like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite or BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. With every dollar you spend on cards like these, you collect “miles” that can be redeemed for discounts on air travel or even a free flight, depending on the number of miles you've earned. It is important to note that the number of miles you collect doesn’t represent how far you can travel for free. Instead, it simply signifies how many points you’ve earned. The average value of a mile is around $0.01, although the specific value may vary depending on the card's point system. 

4. Gas rewards

Gas rewards cards offer a unique advantage for those who frequently find themselves at the pump. These cards allow you to earn rewards, typically in the form of points or cash back, every time you fill up your car’s tank. You can accumulate rewards with each purchase which can then be redeemed for discounts on future gas purchases. Over time this can lead to significant savings, making gas rewards cards an excellent option for commuters and drivers looking to offset their gas costs. One important thing to note with gas rewards cards, is they may also provide additional benefits such as discounts on roadside assistance, vehicle maintenance or other vehicle related purchases. 

5. Hotel rewards cards

Hotel reward cards cater to avid and frequent travelers who often stay at hotels. These cards allow you to earn points for every dollar spent on eligible hotel stays. The accumulated rewards can be used for complimentary hotel nights, room upgrades, and even free stays at participating hotels within the card’s network. Additionally, many hotel rewards credit cards offer perks such as early check-in, late check-out, complimentary breakfast, access to exclusive hotel amenities, and more. 

6. Store / brand rewards credit cards 

Store or brand reward cards can help shoppers save and improve your shopping experience with a specific retailer. These cards allow you to earn rewards, such as loyalty points or discounts, with each purchase from the specified retailer. These cards are a great choice for frequent shoppers at a retailer who wish to take advantage of exclusive deals and savings. 

Popular credit card reward programs in Canada 

Credit card reward programs hold strong appeal. Given that there are a multitude of options available, it is important to understand how each reward program works before selecting your card of choice. A high level understanding of your card can help you better use your points. Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular rewards and loyalty programs in Canada: 

Air Miles Rewards

Chances are you’re well aware of the Air Miles rewards program, as this program has been around for a long time and has nearly 10 million active accounts in Canada. This program offers members Air Miles rewards, when they make purchases at partner retailers using an Air Miles co-branded credit card. These miles can then be redeemed for a wide array of products, such as free flights, hotel stays, gift cards, merchandise, and more. The Air Miles program has changed in recent years, and there are fewer partners to earn points with now. You can earn points at Air Miles partners including Metro, Dollarama, Shell, Hello Fresh, and others. You’ll earn more points when you book through Air Miles travel. You also get to choose how many Cash Miles you want to earn vs. Dream Miles, which is great customizability, but many Air Miles credit cards have very low earn rates.

Aeroplan Rewards 

Aeroplan is a travel rewards loyalty rewards program operated by Air Canada, Canada’s largest airline. The value of an Aeroplan point varies, but on average one point is worth 2 cents. Points are most valuable for long-haul flights within North America, based on our analysis. Aeroplan points are earned by using an Aeroplan credit card for everyday purchases, flying with Air Canada or one of its partner airlines (United, Lufthansa, etc.), or making qualifying bookings or in-store purchases through Aeroplan’s brand of partners, such as Avis car rentals, LCBO, and Uber Eats. Aeroplan points can be redeemed for flights, hotel accommodations, gift cards, and much more.

Aeroplan point values for flights, example using a flight from Toronto to Vancouver:
17,000 points required + $329 cash for taxes/ fees = $0.025 value per point (2.5 cents)
TD Aeroplan Visa offers 1.5 points per $1 on groceries = 1.5 x $0.025 = 3.75% return on spending (values vary depending on flights selected)

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards are exclusively for American Express cardholders. This reward program grants points each time you use your card for purchases. AMEX Membership Reward points are known to be easily redeemable for a variety of rewards, including flights, travel experiences, gift cards, and merchandise, including Amazon purchases.

The average value of 1 American Express Membership Rewards point is 1 cent per point, although points often have more value for flights within North America than for other routes. You can redeem points through the Fixed Points Travel program, where you always need a set amount of points for the ticket price of flight routes, and you have to pay for taxes and fees yourself. The points required depend on the length of your trip in miles.


Example calculation: how many Amex points you need for a flight
Points earned per $1 spent on restaurants/ grocery with Amex Cobalt: 5 points
Value of one point for a flight to Calgary from Toronto with Fixed Points: (40,000 points required, base ticket cost is $324.38 +$154.37 in taxes/ fees)
Value of 1 point $324.38/40,000 = $0.0081

Value of $1 spent with the Amex Cobalt 
$0.0081 x 5 points = 4.05% return

  • 15,000 points (maximum $300 base ticket price) required for Canada/U.S. flights: Calgary – Vancouver, Montreal – New York, Toronto – Montreal, Toronto – New York, Toronto – Ottawa 
  • 20,000 points (maximum $300 base ticket price) required for Canada/U.S. flights within or from a Canadian Province/Territory to an adjacent Canadian Province/Territory/U.S. State (except Alaska)
  • 40,000 points (maximum $700 base ticket price) for Canada/U.S. flights : From a Canadian Province/Territory to a non-adjacent Canadian Province/Territory/ U.S. State (for example. Toronto to Vancouver) 
  • 60,000 points (maximum $900 base ticket price) for flights from Canada to Europe
  • 50,000 points  (maximum $800 base ticket price) for vacation destinations (Canada to Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii or Mexico) 
  • 100,000 points (maximum $1,700 base ticket price) for worldwide flights; from Canada to Africa, Asia, Australia, Middle East, New Zealand, South America or South Pacific

BMO Rewards

Redemption options with this program for travel are flexible - using the Pay with Points, you can book flights, hotels and other travel with any provider and redeem your BMO Rewards points as a statement credit to cover the purchase. Your points are always worth the same using this method at 150 points = $1 (or less than 1 cent at 1 point = $0.0067), which isn’t the highest value around, but the flexibility for redemptions is a major plus. For a $300 flight from Toronto to New York, for example, you’d need 44,777 points. You can also use BMO Rewards for investments at a rate of 15,000 points = $100, which is also worth $0.0067 per point. Redemptions for merchandise or gift cards have a bit less value at 200 BMO rewards points = $1 (1 point = $0.005). 

CIBC Rewards: Aventura Rewards

Aventura Rewards is another flexible rewards program that allows cardholders to earn points with co-branded Aventura credit cards. While the average point value of 1 cent per point is strong, CIBC rewards points can no longer be transferred to other programs like Aeroplan, so you’ll have to book through the CIBC Rewards Centre. Aventura Points are worth 1 cent per dollar on average.

PC Optimum Rewards

The PC Optimum loyalty rewards program is under the umbrella of Loblaws which includes participating stores such as Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Mobil and Esso gas stations. Members earn points every time they make eligible purchases at any PC Optimum partner retailer. PC Optimum points can be redeemed in increments of 10,000 points equating to $10, which can be applied to in-store purchases and for discounts on gas. PC Optimum cards provide great value if you’re a frequent shopper at their partner stores and gas stations.

With the PC World Elite Mastercard, the return at Loblaws is:
Points earned per $1 spent: 30
Value of one point: ($10/10,000 = $0.001)
Value of $1 spent: $0.001 x 30 = 3% return on $1 spent 

Scene+ Rewards

Scene+ has certainly evolved into a comprehensive points system over the past few years. Scene+ allows you to earn and redeem points from spending at several grocery stores, Cineplex theaters to dining at restaurants, shopping at partner retailers, and even booking travel through Scene+ Travel. Points values are fixed for travel, so it makes the redemption process a lot easier, but you’re potentially missing out on higher point values. 1 Scene point is worth 1 cent when redeemed for travel.

Return on groceries with the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

1 Scene point = 1 cent when redeemed for travel

(i.e., you need 300,000 points for $300 towards a flight purchase)

So for groceries at partner stores, your return is:

3 points x 0.01 = 3% return

Additional benefits of reward credit cards

Reward credit cards can go beyond points and cash back to offer a range of additional benefits and perks. These extra benefits can enhance your overall credit card experience, adding significant value to your card membership. We have listed three common key perks to consider: 

  • Airport lounge access: Many reward credit cards provide complimentary or discounted access to airport lounges, giving you enhanced comfort while waiting for your flight. 
  • Exclusive discounts: Reward credit cards often come with exclusive discounts and offers from partner merchants, helping you save on everyday expenses. 

 

How to maximize your credit card rewards

1. Pay your bills in full and on time

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: to make the most of your rewards credit card, it is critical to pay your statements in full each month. This ensures that interest charges don't outweigh the benefits of your rewards, allowing you to take advantage of your savings and really get the best out of your card.

2. Take advantage of welcome offers

Most rewards cards offer attractive welcome bonuses, allowing you to earn big if you meet a specific spending threshold within a given promotional period (usually the first three months or so). Strategically plan to make larger purchases during this period to take advantage of these offers, which can quickly boost your points or cash back earnings. 

3. Spend in accelerated categories

Many reward credit cards feature “accelerated” spending categories that offer higher-than-average points or cash back rates. These categories can include groceries, gas, travel, recurring bills, and more, depending on the card. Select a card with accelerated categories that align with your spending habits to maximize your rewards. 

4. Stack your cards

For those who can handle multiple cards, a common strategy is to carry multiple rewards cards, each serving different purposes. For example, you may keep a travel rewards card specifically for travel purchases, while an everyday cash back card offering high earning rates on gas and groceries becomes your primary choice for weekly expenses. This approach allows you to maximize rewards in every spending category. 

5. "Double-dip" with loyalty cards

If you carry a co-branded rewards credit card in your wallet, like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, you can effectively “double-dip” by using it alongside your loyalty card at participating retailers like the LCBO. This means you'll get double the points compared to what you would typically earn, bringing you closer to a free flight or other rewards. 

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