Long before I started travelling and collecting travel rewards, I used a cash back credit card for my everyday spending. I loved to collect cold-hard cash back on every purchase and then use the rewards to fund a short-term goal, like a family vacation or a weekend away with my wife.
My go-to card for cash back was the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card. Simply put, it had the highest earn rate in the categories where I spent the most money on daily living. It truly was Canada’s king of cash back rewards.
As a self-professed rewards credit card junkie, I’ve tried all types of cash back and travel rewards cards to find one that best fit our lifestyle at the time. This year, I’ve come full circle and returned to my beloved Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card.
Still the Cash Back King
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card still reigns as Canada’s cash back king, earning accolades from the Globe and Mail, MoneySense, Red Flag Deals, and our own friends and partners at Credit Card Genius as Canada’s top cash back credit card.
- Customers earn 4% cash back for every dollar spent on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscriptions.
- Customers earn 1% cash back on all other purchases – with no cash back limit.
- Customers earn 2% cash back on daily transit (buses, taxis, trains, rideshare – like Uber – and more) and on gas purchases.
Scotiabank added some additional perks to the card, making the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite one of the most robust cash back credit cards for insurance protection.
The card offers insurance for your mobile devices, upcoming trips, car rentals and purchase security/ extended warranty protection on most items.
|Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card summary of features|
|Annual fee||$120 (first year waived)|
|Recurring bills & subscription purchases||4%|
|Public transit / Ride sharing||2%|
|All other purchases||1%|
|Mobile device insurance||$1,000|
|Trip cancellation insurance||$1,500 per person|
|Annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases||20.99%|
Note that to be eligible for the card, you must have a minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000, or minimum assets under management of $250,000.
10% Cash Back Sweetener
What sealed the deal for me to sign up for the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card was the incredible bonus offer of 10% cash back on all purchases for the first three months (up to $2,000 in total purchases) for new cardholders.
It doesn’t take a math wizard to see the potential to earn $200 in cash back on $2,000 in spending (within the first three months).
The annual fee is also waived in the first year for new sign-ups, so there’s another huge incentive to try out this cash back credit card and earn big rewards on your everyday spend.
I also love the enhanced insurance benefits on the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card because it’s rare for a cash back credit card to have this robust of insurance protection. Trip cancellation insurance alone is a coveted feature as many would-be travellers have found out this year.
How I Plan to Maximize My Cash Back
I wasn’t just drawn to this card because of the 10% cash back bonus period, or the first-year annual fee waiver, or the additional suite of insurance protection. I also look for a credit card that can help maximize the rewards on my daily spending long after any promotional periods have expired. The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card definitely fits the bill as my preferred spending card for the foreseeable future.
Here’s my plan for maximizing cash back rewards this year:
Like many of you, our travel plans were put on hold this year. We had to cancel our trip to Italy that was schedule for April, as well as a trip to the UK in July. What a disappointment!
That’s why I’ve pivoted to using a cash back credit card for my everyday spending. Every dollar counts in these trying times, and so I liked the idea of earning 10% cash back for three months while we get through this crisis.
In our daily life, we order groceries online at Save-On-Foods two or three times per month and I switched the credit card on file to the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card to help me maximize the 10% bonus period offer. We continue to use the card and take advantage of the 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bills & subscriptions. More recently, we subscribed to an online grocery delivery service from Calgary called Spud.ca.
*This is a good time to note that this card comes with a high spending cap of $25,000 on each of the 4% and 2% spending categories, which for me means I can continue to earn a high cash back rate all year without worrying about reaching the limit.
We do have some recurring bill payments, such as our ENMAX energy bill, our TELUS cable and internet bill, our monthly gym membership, our Netflix subscription, and a Globe and Mail subscription. I’ve switched over those recurring charges to the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card to take advantage of the 4% cash back.
Customers will receive their cash back once per year, in November, so by then I hope to have earned $500 in cash back on my spending. Indeed, I’ve already earned more than $250 in cash back rewards, and that’s in addition to the $200 earned during the 10% cash back bonus period.
Check out Scotiabank’s cash back calculator to see how much cash back you could potentially earn with the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card.
Additional Perks and Protection
Mobile Device Insurance – My wife is looking to upgrade her iPhone this year and, if she does, we’ll definitely take advantage of mobile device protection insurance. This covers new cell phones, smartphones, or tablets purchased on or after August 1, 2019, when you charge the full cost of your new mobile device to your card, or charge all of your wireless bill payments for such device to your Card when you fund such purchase through a plan.
With mobile device insurance you may be covered for up to $1,000 in the event your cell phone, smartphone, or tablet is lost, stolen, accidentally damaged, or experiences mechanical failure.
Car Rental Discounts – Customers can save up to 25% off base rates at participating AVIS locations and at participating Budget locations in Canada and the U.S. when you pay with your Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card. This will come in handy when we (hopefully) are able to travel again in the near future.
Visa Infinite Concierge Service – I love the idea of luxury travel and what could be more luxurious than having your own complimentary concierge available 24/7 to help plan a trip, book restaurant reservations, or score VIP tickets to a show? I’ve never tried the concierge service before, but we plan to take advantage once the crisis is behind us and we’re able to travel again.
I’ve been really pleased to return to my cash back roots and come back to the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card this year. I plan to maximize my cash back rewards, take advantage of the new insurance add-ons, and try out some of the Visa Infinite perks. I plan to keep the card and continue using it as my go-to card for everyday spending.
Want to join me? You can sign up for the card by February 28, 2021 and be eligible for a bonus offer of 10% cash back on all purchases for the first three months (up to $2,000 in total purchases). The annual fee will also be waived in the first year.
What are you waiting for?
I’m a big fan of all-in-one ETFs and indeed invest my own money in Vanguard’s VEQT – the 100% equity version of its all-in-one balanced ETFs. These ETFs are a game changer for self-directed investors who want to invest in a low cost, broadly diversified, and automatically rebalanced portfolio.
Vanguard was first to launch its suite of asset allocation ETFs in January 2018, and they were quickly followed by Horizons and iShares later that year. BMO got in on the action in early 2019, and this year has seen the launch of TD’s “one-click” ETFs, and finally Tangerine’s global ETF portfolios.
Vanguard’s VGRO continues to be the most popular of the all-in-one ETFs, attracting $457 million of new in-flows year-to-date. The entire asset allocation ETF category has attracted $2.13 billion of new in-flows so far this year.
Before investing in an asset allocation ETF you’ll want to first identify a risk-appropriate asset mix. These ETFs come in several flavours, but most often you’ll find a conservative (40% equities and 60% bonds), balanced (60% equities and 40% bonds), or growth (80% equities and 20% bonds) option.
The point of an all-in-one ETF is for it to truly be your one fund portfolio solution. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket. These ETFs are wrappers that contain several other ETFs, which themselves hold thousands of individual stocks and bonds.
“An asset allocation ETF is a simple and efficient way to invest in a portfolio of ETFs that is broadly diversified by asset class and across regions, in one convenient package.”
While each asset allocation ETF provider offers a slight difference in terms of how their ETFs are constructed, which indexes they follow, and the fees they charge, the general concept is the same across the board: low cost, broad diversification, and automatic rebalancing.
With that in mind, here’s an overview of the best all-in-one ETFs you’ll find on the market today:
|ETF Provider||ETF Name||ETF Symbol||Asset Mix||MER|
|Vanguard||Vanguard Conservative Income ETF Portfolio||VCIP||20 / 80||0.25%|
|Vanguard||Vanguard Conservative ETF Portfolio||VCNS||40 / 60||0.25%|
|Vanguard||Vanguard Retirement Income ETF Portfolio||VRIF||50 / 50||0.29%|
|Vanguard||Vanguard Balanced ETF Portfolio||VBAL||60 / 40||0.25%|
|Vanguard||Vanguard Growth ETF Portfolio||VGRO||80 / 20||0.25%|
|Vanguard||Vanguard All-Equity ETF Portfolio||VEQT||100 / 0||0.25%|
|iShares||iShares Core Income Balanced ETF Portfolio||XINC||20 / 80||0.20%|
|iShares||iShares Core Conservative Balanced ETF Portfolio||XCNS||40 / 60||0.20%|
|iShares||iShares Core Balanced ETF Portfolio||XBAL||60 / 40||0.20%|
|iShares||iShares Core Growth ETF Portfolio||XGRO||80 / 20||0.20%|
|iShares||iShares Core Equity ETF Portfolio||XEQT||100 / 0||0.20%|
|Horizons||Horizons Conservative TRI ETF Portfolio||XCON||50 / 50||0.15%|
|Horizons||Horizons Balanced TRI ETF Portfolio||HBAL||70 / 30||0.15%|
|Horizons||Horizons Growth TRI ETF Portfolio||HGRO||100 / 0||0.17%|
|BMO||BMO Conservative Index Portfolio ETF||ZCON||40 / 60||0.20%|
|BMO||BMO Balanced Index Portfolio ETF||ZBAL||60 / 40||0.20%|
|BMO||BMO Growth Index Portfolio ETF||ZGRO||80 / 20||0.20%|
|TD||TD One-Click Conservative ETF Portfolio||TOCC||30 / 70||0.25%|
|TD||TD One-Click Moderate ETF Portfolio||TOCM||60 / 40||0.25%|
|TD||TD One-Click Aggressive ETF Portfolio||TOCA||90 / 10||0.25%|
|Tangerine||Tangerine Balanced ETF Portfolio||INI420||60 / 40||0.65%|
|Tangerine||Tangerine Balanced Growth ETF Portfolio||INI430||75 / 25||0.65%|
|Tangerine||Tangerine Equity Growth ETF Portfolio||INI440||100 / 0||0.65%|
You can sort the table by ETF provider, asset mix, and fees.
Again, it’s tough to definitively say which all-in-one ETF is best. Each fund provider takes its own approach to ideally achieve a similar outcome (when comparing similar asset mixes). Here’s my takeaway:
- If you want the lowest cost portfolio, go with an iShares or BMO asset allocation ETF.
- If you’re a TD customer, and use the new TD GoalAssist investing app, go with the TD “one-click” portfolios (they’re free to trade)
- If you’re looking for tax efficient investing in a non-registered (taxable) account, go with the Horizons TRI ETF portfolios
I chose the Vanguard funds because I believe in the company’s mission to take a stand for all investors and to treat them fairly. I also know that Vanguard regularly reduces its product fees and so I expect their asset allocation fees to eventually match the fees charged by iShares and BMO.
This Week’s Recap:
The TFSA new contribution limit for 2021 was officially released this week. It’s staying at $6,000, where the annual limit has been since 2018. I’ve updated my TFSA contribution limit guide to reflect the new changes and highlight that the total lifetime TFSA contribution limit is now up to $75,500.
Last week I explained why health and dental insurance isn’t really insurance – it’s an employee benefit.
Watch this week for my long-awaited post on how I changed up my approach to credit card rewards this year to maximize my cash back.
Promo of the Week:
Black Friday deals are already here and many of you will be taking advantage of online shopping as we head into the holiday season. This is a reminder to always be sure to visit a cash back rebates site before visiting your favourite online retailer. It’s a great way to collect an extra 1-5% (or more) cash back on spending you are going to do anyway.
Become a member of Great Canadian Rebates and take advantage of online coupons and earn cash back rewards. GCR features over 400 merchants to satisfy all your shopping needs.
Ebates.ca pays you cash back every time you shop online, and it’s FREE to join. Sign up now and when you spend $25 you’ll earn a $5 cash back bonus.
Our friends at Credit Card Genius are getting into the Christmas spirit and have opened their annual $1,000 cash Christmas giveaway. They’re giving away five cash prizes, so head on over and enter to win.
One of Canada’s oldest personal finance sites – Million Dollar Journey – just got a new face lift. In addition to Frugal Trader’s regular financial freedom updates, Kyle Prevost has been writing some unique stuff about moving to the desert and making a tax-free income as a teacher.
Jamie Golombek shares everything you need to know about converting your RRSP into a RRIF this year.
Larry Swedroe explains an investing truth: that for every buyer there must be a seller.
If one spouse makes most or all the financial decisions, the uninvolved spouse can be left vulnerable. Jason Heath explains why seniors, their family and their advisors should try to involve both spouses in money discussions.
Jonathan Chevreau tackles an interesting question: Should retirees speculate in the stock market?
The Economist wrote about a passive attack – how index investing is reshaping the investment industry.
Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald says that outdated assumptions and conflicts may be guiding advice on CPP timing:
“In a way,” MacDonald said, “advisors are being compensated to tell Canadians to take their CPP as soon as possible.”
We took a look earlier at asset allocation ETFs. Here, PWL Capital’s Justin Bender takes a look at iShares’ new ESG ETF portfolios:
Morgan Housel continues to write some incredibly thought-provoking articles – this one on the big lessons from history.
Of Dollars and Data blogger Nick Maggiulli explains how to save for a big purchase.
Rob Carrick answers a question from a reader who is on the cusp of retirement and wondering about an ETF that pushes the limits on aggressiveness.
Gen Y Money asks, do you need mortgage insurance? Likely not from your bank.
Michael James previously wrote about why owning long term government bonds is crazy, and followed up with a four question bond quiz.
Andrew Forsythe shares why he changed his free spending ways to become “cheap and proud”.
Finally, Rob Carrick interviews retirement expert Fred Vettese on low rates, when to start CPP, and millennials in love with stock trading.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
This article was originally published several years ago and written by insurance expert Glenn Cooke. I’ve received many questions from clients and soon-to-be retirees asking about losing their employer health insurance coverage, so I’ve decided to re-publish this excellent piece today.
Many years ago I was working as a student actuary pricing health insurance and dental plans for employers. As I was poring over claims that were not eligible to be paid because they were too large (wait, it gets even more exciting) I had an epiphany. I rushed into my supervisor and declared “this stuff, it isn’t really insurance”!
“No, Glenn”, my knowledgeable actuary supervisor explained, “they’re benefits, not insurance.”
“But everyone thinks they have insurance!” I said. “People think if they get really sick, they will have coverage.” My supervisor’s response was that employers use these benefits to attract and retain employees, and that they are expected by employees – but the employers need to cut costs. And they do so sometimes by reducing benefits that nobody every asks about. People are more worried about whether they have a card they can swipe to pay for their drugs than they are about a cap on their annual claim amount.
Now, before I get specific about health and dental insurance, I want to mention the basic precept of insurance. Insurance is intended to cover catastrophic financial loss. And it should be both – catastrophic and financial. If it’s not financial, it’s not really insurable. And if it’s not catastrophic then there’s no real need for insurance.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what we probably have with our work plans.
For the most part, when people talk about health insurance they really mean drug costs. There are other benefits with many health insurance plans like chiropractor coverage, but drug costs are the base coverage.
Can we suffer a catastrophic financial loss with drug coverage? Absolutely.
I can imagine a situation where I or a family member has thousands or tens of thousands in drug and related costs every year. And those costs could be ongoing. Such a problem is certainly financial and easily catastrophic. The perfect fit for insurance.
So you have a plan at work and you have $20,000 of drug claims one year. You’re covered right?
Not so fast. Many work plans have a cap or an upper limit. You may find your work plan has a drug cap of say $5,000. Any costs in excess of that $5,000, and you’ll quickly find out that you don’t actually have insurance (that’s what I was doing in my work above, finding claims in excess of I think it was $2,000, and capping it at that level – because that’s all the insurer was responsible for). How’s that for an unpleasant surprise.
Now the various provinces have some assistance for us in worst case scenarios like this, but I think many of us are making the mistaken assumption that our work plan provides coverage in these situations. If that’s your assumption, I suggest you call your HR department and find out what the actual caps on your drug costs really are.
Real Health Insurance
So you just realized you have a problem – if you actually need catastrophic drug coverage, your work plan may fail you in your hour of need.
The solution? Stop loss coverage. This type of insurance is intended to do just that – put a stop to an ongoing loss. It’s not intended for little claims, just those where you’re really starting to bleed financially. You can also view it as very high deductible coverage. Small claims, no payment. Large claims, it’ll cover everything past a certain point.
You can purchase this type of stop loss coverage privately, outside your employer. Probably the best known provider is Manulife. Their ‘CoverMe’ plan has a standalone option called catastrophic coverage that provides no coverage up to about $5,000 (there’s a couple of options available) and then covers 100% of eligible drug costs past that.
One or two other companies may have similar standalone products, I’ll leave it to you to Google them rather than promoting a list of products. Manulife’s CoverMe catastrophic coverage is available online.
If you are purchasing private health coverage, there’s one very big gotcha to look out for – how are your premiums determined next year? Some companies reserve the right to raise just your premiums. Others say they’ll only raise premiums as a class (or a group). You probably want the second choice. If you have $15,000 in claims one year, do you want to be with a company that has the option of saying here’s your renewal premium – it’s $18,000? Kind of defeats the purpose.
In summary, be careful that you are informed. You may think you have insurance for catastrophic drug coverage but really may not. Get educated on what your work plan provides, and consider purchasing stop loss insurance privately to fill the gaps in your work plan.
Do you buy insurance to cover oil changes for your car? It’s kind of a silly idea. You know you need to pay $50 or so every 5,000 to 7,000 km (not spring and fall like one person I know). It’s a routine event you can plan for, and the cost is not overwhelming for most of us.
So, why do you think you need ‘insurance’ for your twice yearly dental cleanings? Twice a year you know you have to pay $150 to get your teeth cleaned. It’s routine, it’s not unexpected (so you can plan for it) and the costs shouldn’t be catastrophic for most of us.
In fact, routine dental treatments such as cleanings simply don’t fit the basic insurance definition of ‘catastrophic’. If you can’t pay the costs of routine dental cleanings, you can start to budget for them so that next time the cash is there. No need to pay the insurance company’s 20% mark-up.
But what about braces? Crowns? Other items. I would say that some of these things can be planned and budgeted for. And they’re probably not catastrophic. They might be expensive and dent our savings or our credit cards, but they shouldn’t break us.
So why does everyone want dental insurance?
The answer is because many of us see this benefit as ‘free’. The employer pays for it so we don’t have to pay for that $150 cleaning – or even budget for it.
Of course it’s not free. The employer is paying your dental costs + 20% in order for you to have this benefit. (The same is true for things like glasses, chiropractors, and similar coverages). So, we’re conditioned to calling this insurance and thinking it’s for worst case scenarios. But again, since when is $150 every six months something we need to have insurance for?
To summarize my initial point – there’s nothing wrong with this type of coverage. But we as consumers should perceive this as a ‘benefit’ of working there, and not so much as insurance.
So what about worst case dental scenarios? Don’t we need insurance for those?
Sure. But what are those scenarios? I’m not a dentist, but unlike drugs, I don’t see a lot of risk in having $20,000 in dental claims, year after year. I personally don’t see the risk. I stand to be corrected, but if I run into a large dental claim, it’s likely to be seen as medical and treated under our provincial health care plan.
Like all insurance types, it pays to take a few minutes to inform yourself of what you’ve got in the way of benefits and what the limits are. The same is true for dental insurance.
If you’ve got it for free at work, hey, snatch it up like it’s the last cookie. If you’re paying for it then it might be worth doing some budgeting to find out what your actual dental costs are, what you figure your risk is for large dental claims, and see if budgeting for those costs is better than insurance.
The ability to do this points significantly to the catastrophic point I mentioned. You can’t ‘budget’ your way around replacing a $500,000 home if it should burn down tomorrow – that kind of thing we need insurance for.
It’s also perhaps worth noting that in other countries such as the US, it’s not just prescription drug coverage that’s important – true health insurance is a must. While we Canadians are fortunate to have government health care, Americans can run into $5,000 in costs just to have a baby, or $100,000 if they have a heart attack. There’s a huge need for insurance as a result.
I’ll close with a short story. When my wife became self-employed she lost her gold plated dental plan. She was bound and determined that we needed dental insurance. You know, EVERYONE has it. So we purchased dental insurance for two years. At the end of two years she added up our insurance costs versus our claims, and our costs were almost exactly 20% higher than our claims.
We no longer carry dental insurance – we budget for it. I’m prepared to pay for braces or other dental emergencies – your risk tolerance may be different but it is something I recommend you at least address.