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The best rewards credit cards in Canada for 2022

Rewards cards are the most popular type of credit card in Canada, and for good reason: they offer tons in the way of points, cash back, perks, and insurance. Whether you're looking for a rewards card to make the most of your travel or one to help you maximize earnings on everyday purchases, we've got the right match for you. Read on for our top rewards credit cards in Canada.

 

Best overall rewards credit card and best travel rewards credit card

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If you’re looking for a well-rounded, lucrative rewards card that’s just as great for everyday spending as it is for travel, the American Express Cobalt has got you covered. Cardholders can take advantage of the strong travel insurance, impressive welcome bonus and flexible point redemption options. 

Offering an industry-leading five times the points (valued at $0.01 per dollar) on eligible restaurants and food delivery purchases, three times the points on eligible streaming services, and twice the points on travel and daily transit, the American Express Cobalt easily takes our prize for best overall rewards credit card in Canada. Aside from that, the card’s welcome bonus gives new users the ability to earn 2,500 points for each month you spend $500, up to a maximum of 30,000 points—that’s $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.

Pros:

  • Great welcome bonus - earn 2,500 points for each month you spend $500, up to a maximum of 30,000 points—that’s $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.
  • Flexible and easy point redemption, allowing cardholders to redeem their Membership Rewards for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or purchases. Frequent flyers can also transfer their points 1:1 to several loyalty programs. 
  • Earning potential for restaurants and takeout is significantly higher than most other cards
  • Access to Front of the Line Presale and Reserved tickets to concerts, theater performances, movie screenings, and culinary events, along with other special offers
  • Strong travel insurance package including up to $5,000,000 in travel emergency medical 
  • No fee for additional authorized users (an average fee of $30 - 50 on other comparable cards) 

Cons:

  • Monthly fee of $12.99 (coming to an annual fee of $156, which is higher than most other rewards cards) 
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • Travel insurance package does not cover trip cancellation or medical coverage for cardholders over the age of 65
  • Airport lounge access isn’t provided, which may be disappointing to frequent travels

 

Honourable mention for best travel rewards credit card

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The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card has a best in class return on spending due to the 5 times multiplier for every $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, food delivery and entertainment and 3 times multiplier on gas and transit. This adds up to a ton of points on your everyday purchases. On top of that, cardholders will not have to pay a foreign transaction fee on foreign currency purchases and have access to a cohesive travel insurance package. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card is a great travel companion offering significant savings. 

Pros: 

  • No foreign exchange fee on any foreign currency purchases while traveling abroad or shopping online (typically a 2.5% fee)
  • Extensive insurance coverage - The $1 million travel medical insurance lasts for 25 days, which is one of the longer coverage periods you’ll get. 
  • High average % return on spending (5 points per $1 on purchases) - best in class multipliers across groceries, restaurants, entertainment, gas and transit
  • Great welcome bonus with the opportunity to Earn up to $850* in value in the first 12 months, including up to 45,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived. Offer ends 30 April 2023.
  • Access to VIP airport lounges and around the clock concierge services 

Cons:

  • Points will expire if they are not used with 12 months of the purchase date
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • Annual Fee $120

Best no-fee rewards credit card

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While the fact that the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is a no annual fee card is a big reason behind its popularity, what really sets this card apart is the customizability. With this card, you can choose your own bonus categories (which will earn you a strong cash back rate of 2% per dollar spent). This is rare in the credit card market and means you can avoid being locked into a bonus category that you can’t take full advantage of or that doesn’t align with your spending habits. On top of that, your cash back is refunded on a monthly basis (instead of the standard annual reimbursement). 

Pros:

  • Flexibility to pick up to three bonus categories to earn 2% cash back on (out of a total of 10 options), which is in sharp contrast to most other cards where you have fixed bonus categories that you have no control over
  • 2% cash back per dollar on bonus categories is one of the richest earn rates for a no-fee card
  • Freedom to change up your bonus categories at any time (changes will take up to 90 days to come into effect)
  • Widely accepted almost everywhere including No Frills and Costco as it is a Mastercard credit card
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection
  • Free supplementary cards for authorized users

Cons: 

  • For all purchases that aren’t categorized under one of your chosen bonus categories, you’ll earn just 0.5% cash back
  • No travel medical insurance or any substantial side perks
  • Not as many perks as other rewards cards

Best no foreign transaction fees rewards credit card

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The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card is the best credit card for traveling as it is one of few cards waiving foreign transaction fees (a saving of 2.5% on all foreign currency) in addition to valuable travel benefits like comprehensive travel insurance, airport lounge access worldwide (with 6 free visits per year), and the ability to redeem your Scene+ points for travel. 

Pros:

  • One of the few Canadian credit cards to offer no foreign transaction fees (saving you 2.5% on all your purchases made in a non-Canadian currency)
  • Earns three Scene+ points for every dollar spent at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and FreshCo, among others; two Scene+ points for every dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases
  • Flexible point redemption
  • Priority Pass membership with six free visits per year to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Dining series
  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership
  • Comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and flight delay, among others

Cons: 

  • Annual fee of $150 is higher than the average for cards of this calibre
  • Much lower return than other cards with comparable annual fees

Honourable mention for best no foreign transaction fee credit card:

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All three of Brim’s Mastercards charge no foreign transaction fees and offer a flat earn rate across all purchases, simplifying the rewards program. Depending on which Brim Mastercard you choose, you can earn either 1%, 1.5%, or 2% cash back on all purchases (with the Brim Mastercard, Brim World, and Brim World Elite respectively). Not only can you earn cash back, but you can easily rack up bonus rewards when shopping from over 200 eligible partner merchants. Some of our favourites include up to 4% on Apple and Microsoft, and 3% on Nike, Lufthansa, Etihad, and Emirates Airlines.

All Brim Mastercards also offer complimentary mobile device insurance and free Boing Wi-Fi Membership. Plus, the World and World Elite versions provide rental car insurance and out-of-province/country emergency medical insurance.

Pros:

  • Welcome bonus waives the annual fee for the first year, enhancing the first year benefits
  • No foreign exchange transaction fees saving you 2.5% per purchase in a non-Canadian currency (online or abroad) 
  • Solid across-the-board cash back earn rate of 2% with the opportunity to earn more at select partners
  • Flexible rewards system letting you easily redeem Brim Rewards in increments of 100 points for $1 in statement credits (or 1% per point, effectively like a cash back card)
  • Strong insurance coverage which includes the travel insurance package (out-of-province medical, flight delay, baggage delay, and more) and the mobile device and event ticket insurance - two areas of coverage which are a bit more rare to find

Cons: 

  • The card’s flat 2% earn rate only covers $25,000 in purchases annually, then dips to 1% which may be limiting for high spenders
  • Personal income requirement of $80,000 could pose a barrier for some (For those looking for a version of this card with a lower income requirement, Brim’s World Mastercard and basic Mastercard offer many of the same benefits with a less-prohibitive hurdle)

Best premium rewards credit card

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When it comes to extra perks, the American Express Platinum Card is in a class all its own and is very easily classified as the best premium credit card in Canada. While its annual fee isn't cheap, the American Express Platinum Card offers all the bells and whistles and benefits that makes it worthwhile. Aside from its point value (three points per dollar on eligible dining/food delivery in Canada, two points per dollar on travel, one point per dollar on everything else), this card comes packed with tons of extra benefits, including complimentary airport lounge access with unlimited passes to Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, a dedicated concierge line, an annual $200 travel credit, hotel upgrades and Platinum Concierge services, and one of the best travel insurance packages on the market.hat, your cash back is refunded on a monthly basis (instead of the standard annual reimbursement). 

Pros:

  • Very lucrative welcome bonus - earn up to 80,000 Membership Rewards® points - that’s up to $800 towards a weekend away.
  • 3x points on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada (which will come in handy when traveling domestically) and 2x points on travel purchases
  • No minimum income requirement - a rarity for a card of this calibre
  • Lounge access - unlimited free access for you and one guest to over 1,200 airport lounges as part of the American Express Global lounge collection 
  • VIP benefits at Toronto Pearson Airport including access to Pearson Priority Security Lande, free valet parking (usually a $25 fee), and 15% discount on parking as a statement credit
  • Upgraded gold hotel status with Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards and Hilton Honors and car rental privileges with Hertz and Avis 
  • Transfer point 1:1 to several frequent flyer programs
  • One of the best travel insurance packages on the market, including everything from out-of-province emergency medical to $500,000 travel accident insurance and beyond

Cons: 

  • A very high annual fee of $699, which can be seen as $499 after the annual $200 travel credit
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard

Best rewards credit card for travel perks

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The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card is the best credit card for traveling as it is one of few cards waiving foreign transaction fees (a saving of 2.5% on all foreign currency) in addition to valuable travel benefits like comprehensive travel insurance, airport lounge access worldwide (with 6 free visits per year), and the ability to redeem your Scene+ points for travel. 

Pros:

  • One of the few Canadian credit cards to offer no foreign transaction fees (saving you 2.5% on all your purchases made in a non-Canadian currency)
  • Earns three Scene+ points for every dollar spent at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and FreshCo, among others; two Scene+ points for every dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases
  • Flexible point redemption
  • Priority Pass membership with six free visits per year to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Dining series
  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership
  • Comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and flight delay, among others

Cons: 

  • Annual fee of $150 is higher than the average for cards of this calibre
  • Much lower return than other cards with comparable annual fees

Best rewards card for gas and groceries

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The biggest selling point of the CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite is its impressive rewards on everyday essentials. On top of the 1% earn rate for all purchases, this card earns an industry-leading 4% cash back on both groceries and gas purchases – two of the most common spending categories for Canadian households. Thanks to CIBC’s new Cash Back on demand feature, cardholders can choose to redeem rewards at any time as a statement credit starting in increments of $25. 

Pros:

  • Significantly higher earn rates on groceries and gas than most other cards (4% cash back)
  • Flexible cash back redemption option allowing users to redeem their cash back at any time in increments of $25
  • Access to CIBC’s Pace It program, allowing you to pay off large purchases in monthly increments
  • Features an excellent digital-only welcome bonus: Welcome Offer: Get a first-year annual fee rebate for you and up to three Authorized Users† and 10% cash back for the first 4 statements on net purchases of up to $2,500.†
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Program, entitling you to attend special dining events and hotel perks at participating hotels and restaurants

Cons:

  • Annual fee ($120) and personal income requirements ($60000) may be prohibitive 
  • Insurance coverage isn’t as comprehensive as other similar rewards cards (if insurance is a priority for you, consider the cards featured on our list of Best credit cards for travel insurance)

Best retail rewards credit card

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If you’re a loyal shopper with a particular retailer, it’s usually wise to take advantage of their store rewards card if offered (especially if it comes with no annual fee). Using a retail rewards card is a great way to save big on regular, everyday purchases, and the best example of this is the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard

Using this card, shoppers can earn 30 points per dollar (10,000 points = $10) at all Loblaws banner grocery stores (Loblaws, No Frills, Valu-Mart, and more), 45 points per dollar at all Shoppers Drug Mart locations, 30 points per litre at all Esso Mobil stations, 30 points per dollar at PC Travel, and a respectable 10 points per dollar everywhere else. If you’re a frequent shopper at any of these retailers, you could easily rack up big savings with no annual fee taking away from your rewards. 

Pros

  • High earn rate potential at all Loblaws-owned grocery stores and PC Travel, Shoppers Drug Mart locations and Esson Mobil stations
  • Access to Mastercard World Elite benefits (Boingo WiFi, Dragonpass airport lounge access, plus more)
  • Point redemption is easy and straightforward - as soon as you have 10,000 points, you can redeem them for $10 off at any Loblaws-owned retailers
  • No annual fee
  • Extra travel insurance perks
  • Easy-to-understand point redemption

Cons

  • Can only redeem points in increments of 10,000
  • High $80,000 personal income requirement which could be prohibitive to many
  • 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

Best rewards credit card for Aeroplan

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Aeroplan clients and frequent Air Canada fliers searching for a card to help them earn more on travel should look no further than the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite. The card’s limited-time welcome offer is impressive: Earn up to 50,000 Aeroplan points when you sign up. They’ll also waive the annual fee for your first year. Must apply by January 3, 2023.†. Users can earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent on eligible gas, grocery and direct through Air Canada purchases (including Air Canada Vacations) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. 

Pros:

  • Aeroplan points can be redeemed for flights on Air Canada or over 27 Star Alliance member airlines (including United Airlines and Lufthansa, to name a few)
  • Access to Air Canada perks: first bag checked free on Air Canada flights for the primary cardholder and up to eight travel companions (up to $30 in savings per traveler on flights across Canada and the US) plus the ability to earn credits towards achieving elite airline status
  • Up to $100 in Nexus Membership reimbursements available every 48 months; allowing for smoother cross-border travel within Canada or between the US
  • Comprehensive travel insurance benefits with up to 21 days of out-of-province/country medical emergency coverage, flight delay insurance, lost/delayed baggage insurance, and even hotel/motel burglary insurance for stays within the US and Canada
  • Can get double the Aeroplan points when using this card in conjunction with your Aeroplan card at participating retailers

Cons:

  • The card’s annual fee is $139 versus the $120 typically found on comparable rewards cards
  • The Aeroplan points program isn’t the most straightforward, and navigating your way around the program’s quite elaborate rewards chart / understanding how to best maximize points can require considerable effort
  • Aeroplan points can’t be redeemed on any airline but only on Air Canada and Star Alliance Members

Best rewards credit card for Air Miles

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For those who collect Air Miles, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard offers a generous welcome bonus -  You’ll get 3,000 bonus Air Miles when you spend a minimum of $3,000 in the first three months. They’ll also waive the card’s annual fee for the first year.

Beyond that, this card will also earn you a solidly competitive three Air Miles for every $12 you spend at participating retailers (arguably the best bang for your buck among Air Miles cards on the market), two miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store, one mile for every $12 spent anywhere else, and a 15% discount on all Air Miles flights in North America with no blackout dates. 

While the card’s income requirement of $80,000 (or $150,000 per household) may be prohibitive to some, there isn’t much question that this card is the best choice for Air Miles loyalty members.

Pros

  • Three Air Miles per $12 spent at partnered retailers and two Air Miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store
  • 15% discount on all North American Air Miles flights
  • As Air Miles is one of the larger loyalty programs on the market, redemption options are wide and varied (flights, car rentals, hotels, cash, merchandise, etc.)
  • Excellent insurance package including trip cancellation/interruption, emergency medical, and more
  • Complimentary lounge pass with Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, and free access to over a million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world
  • Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass and an exclusive 25% discount on one worldwide Air Miles flight redemption during the calendar year

Cons

  • Annual fee of $120
  • High $80,000 personal income requirement may present a barrier for many
  • Despite having the best earn rate for Air Miles of any card on the market, the card’s standard rewards value is generally lower than others

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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 then redeem these rewards against your statement balance or for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more (depending on the issuer). 

The ideal user for a rewards card is someone who pays off their statement in full every month. This is because credit card debt generates interest which will begin to eat into and negate any possible savings gained from the collection of rewards.

Types of credit card rewards

 

Cash back rewards

Cash back rewards are just what they sound like - a percentage of cash back you’ll get from each purchase made on your card that you can use to pay off your statement balance or save on upcoming purchases. Most cash back rewards cards will offer higher percentages on select spending categories such as groceries, restaurants or travel, allowing you to earn more if you have a card with accelerated categories that match your buying habits. The main benefit to cash back is how straightforward it is - unlike points, your cash back balance is stated plainly in dollars and cents.

 

Points-based rewards

Points-based rewards work similar to cash back, but require a bit more calculation in order to find their true value (see our FAQ section for more details on this). Like cash back, points-based rewards cards allow you to earn points on each dollar you spend and you’ll typically be able to earn more for certain kinds of purchases. Once you’ve collected enough points to redeem, you can usually do so through the provider’s online portal or app. Depending on the issuer, your redemption options can vary from merchandise and gift cards to travel and statement balances.

 

Miles

Miles are rewards you can earn with co-branded rewards cards such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite or BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. With every dollar you spend on cards like these, you’ll collect “miles” which you can redeem for discounts on air travel (or a free flight, depending on how many miles you have). An important note: the amount 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, but different cards may have higher or lower values depending on their point system.

How to maximize your credit card rewards

 

Pay your bills in full and on time

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: all the rewards you’ve collected won’t mean much if they’re being overshadowed by a mountain of interest-bloated debt, so the best thing you can do to maximize your earning potential is to pay your statements on time and in full. This way, you can take full advantage of your savings and really get the best out of your card.

 

Take advantage of welcome offers

Most rewards cards come with very attractive welcome bonuses, allowing you to earn big if you spend a certain amount on the card within a given promotional period (usually the first three months or so). Strategically plan to make larger purchases on your card within this window in order to take advantage of these offers, as they’ll typically allow you to collect a shockingly high amount of points or cash back very quickly.

 

Spend in accelerated categories

A common factor among many rewards cards is their habit of offering “accelerated” spending categories which allow you to earn higher-than-average points or cash back. These can be anything from groceries, gas, travel, recurring bills or more depending on the card. Before you choose a rewards card, think about what you tend to spend the most amount of money on every month, then choose a card with accelerated categories that match your buying habits to maximize rewards.

 

Stack your cards

For those who can handle multiple cards, a common hack for pro users is to carry multiple rewards cards for different purposes. For example, you may keep a travel rewards card specifically for travel purchases while an everyday cash back card with high earning rates on gas and groceries serves as your primary go-to for weekly expenses. This way, you’ll be able to get the highest rewards possible in every category you spend in.

 

"Double-dip" with loyalty cards

If you carry a co-branded rewards credit card in your wallet (such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite), you can effectively “double-dip” your cards by using it alongside your loyalty card at participating retailers, getting double the miles you normally would as you get closer and closer to a free flight.

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