I’ve spent several years reviewing credit cards and trying to determine which card is best. What I’ve learned is that when it comes to finding the best credit cards in Canada there’s no one-size fits all answer. That’s because the card that suits you best is uniquely determined by how much you spend, in which categories you spend the most, and the type of rewards you want to receive.

The truth is that the quickest way to maximize your rewards is by using a combination of credit cards. For example, you can have one card for groceries and gas, one card for dining and entertainment, one card for airline travel. That way, you’re taking advantage of each card’s best features, which puts more money back in your wallet.

RelatedCompare credit cards here

I’ve taken a snapshot of the best credit cards in Canada today and broken them down into categories to help you figure out which card is right for you.

Best Credit Cards in Canada

Best Credit Cards in Canada

Best Credit Cards for Cash Back Rewards

Cash back rewards are great because you don’t have to worry about how many miles you need, which flight charts to follow, or whether your points will expire. Most cash back credit card programs give you the option to redeem your points through a statement credit or a cheque in the mail. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Best Credit Cards For Groceries and Gas:

The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card is the cash back king in Canada. That’s because it pays 4 percent cash back on groceries and gas, plus 2 percent cash back on drug store spending and recurring bill payments. The card comes with a $99 annual fee (waived in the first year).

I personally use the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card for all of our non-Costco grocery spending. I also use it when I fill-up at Co-op gas bars and through Co-op’s membership rewards program I’m able to earn a juicy 11.5 percent back on gas purchases.

The only downside to this card is that it pays just 1 percent on all other spending.

Best Credit Cards for Everyday Spending:

The MBNA Rewards World Elite card is perfect for someone who’s looking for one rewards card that pays a consistent cash back rate across all spending categories. With this card, you’ll get 2 percent back on every purchase. The MBNA card comes with an $89 annual fee (waived in the first year). You’ll also get 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase.

Using multiple credit cards, such as one for groceries, another for restaurants, and yet another for travel can be a hassle to manage. I know that my wife complains about having a purse full of credit cards (my fault) and she can’t remember which one to use at certain stores.

An everyday spending card that pays a straight 2 percent cash back can help reduce the number of cards in your wallet while still earning big rewards.

A couple of downsides to this card, though: if you spend a lot on groceries and gas then you’re missing out on the higher earning rate from cards like the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite; and it also lacks a couple of key travel insurance features, such as travel medical and lost luggage.

Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fee:

Some people simply refuse to pay an annual fee for a credit card. That’s fair enough, but understand that no-fee cards typically pay fewer rewards than their premium counterparts.

The best of the no-fee bunch is the SimplyCash Card from American Express. You get 5 percent cash back on grocery, gas, and restaurant purchases for the first six months, then 1.25 percent back on all of your spending afterwards – with no limit on how much you can earn.

The downside is that some merchants choose not to accept American Express cards, meaning you’d be wise to keep a back-up Visa or MasterCard in your wallet.

Honourable mention goes to the new President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard. It’s a no-fee card that pays 3 percent back at President’s Choice and Shoppers Drug Mart stores, and 1 percent everywhere else. The caveat is that you can only redeem your points at PC locations.

Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards

The allure of a free vacation draws many Canadians to travel rewards credit cards and frequent flyer programs. Travel rewards can be more lucrative, but the trade-off means having to navigate through certain program restrictions and fees.

Airline:

The WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard has vaulted to the top of the travel rewards card conversation. That’s because, in addition to a $250 welcome bonus and $99 companion flight, this card pays 1.5 percent for every dollar spent, plus 2 percent for every dollar spent on WestJet flights. This card comes with a $99 annual fee.

The downside: This card is obviously aimed at frequent WestJet flyers and so if you don’t fly regularly with WestJet then you’d be better off with an everyday travel rewards card.

Everyday spending:

This is a tough category because there are so many choices available. The one that stands out today is BMO’s World Elite MasterCard. First of all, you get an incredible 30,000-point welcome bonus (good for a $300 travel credit). You can also earn 2 percent back on every purchase.

The biggest complaint about most travel rewards programs is that customers aren’t able to redeem their rewards how they want due to seat restrictions or blackouts. And when they do find a flight that works, programs like Aeroplan don’t allow you to use your rewards to pay for fuel surcharges and taxes.

BMO’s rewards program lets you fly on any airline with no blackout dates, and use your points to cover all flight charges and taxes.

The downside: This card comes with a higher-than-most $150 annual fee, and because it’s a World Elite card applicants need to earn a minimum of $70,000 per year to qualify.

International travel:

I’d be remiss not to include a seemingly innocuous card like the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa. If you weren’t aware that every other credit card in Canada charges a 2.5 percent fee to convert your foreign currency purchases back to Canadian dollars, then you’re missing out on this hidden gem.

That’s right, you’ll not only save 2.5 percent on every dollar you spend in the U.S. and abroad, but you’ll also earn 1 percent back on every purchase (2 percent back on every Amazon purchase). New sign-ups will also receive a $20 Amazon.ca gift certificate upon approval. Reach 2,000 points and you’ll automatically receive a $20 statement credit.

Other rewards

I typically avoid rewards cards that are exclusive to one merchant or retailer. The rewards have to be particularly generous for me to even consider looking at a niche card.

One that stands out just came on the market this week. A partnership between Scotiabank and GM has produced the Scotiabank GM Visa Card and the Scotiabank GM Visa Infinite card.

With the no-fee version, customers get five percent in GM rewards on the first $5,000 of purchases annually, and two percent thereafter with no limits on earnings. With the Infinite card, customers get five percent in GM rewards on the first $10,000 of purchases annually, and two percent thereafter with no limits on earnings. This version comes with a $79 annual fee.

$1 in GM Earnings = $1 off the purchase price or lease of a new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, or Cadillac.

Final thoughts

It’s possible to earn 2 percent or more in credit card rewards just by finding the best credit cards and matching them to the categories in which you spend the most. That works out to $480 when you spend $2,000 per month.

Last year I cashed in on over $950 in rewards from my two main credit cards – the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite and the now discontinued Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard. I then was able to add another $600 in rewards by taking advantage of several sign-up bonuses (and then cancelling the card before the annual fee kicked-in a year later).

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26 Comments

  1. Jacob on September 10, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard doesn’t gives 3% on Shoppers Products.. well it didn’t as of last month when I complained to them about this over the phone. They did say in that same phone that they’re planning on introducing a new card sometime this Fall where it will include Shoppers and Gas (I believe it was Petro Canada) and a more favorable PC Points system.

    • Echo on September 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Hi Jacob, sorry – I linked to the PC Financial World MasterCard. The new one is the World Elite MasterCard and does pay 3 percent at PC stores, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Esso gas stations. This card is brand new, likely the one they were talking about last month. The link in the post has now been fixed.

      • Jacob on September 11, 2015 at 2:44 pm

        Thank you for the information. I’ll be calling them up now to upgrade my card to PC Financial World Elite MasterCard from PC Financial World Mastercard.

  2. Ashley on September 10, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Do you have any comments on closing cards down, does your credit history take a hit for that? I’m considering closing my Capital One card as you did because of the changes but I don’t want to be without a card that shows my good payment history.

    • Echo on September 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      Hi Ashley, I actually didn’t cancel my Capital One card because they grandfathered the benefits (like the 10,000 anniversary miles). However, in my opinion, as long as you use credit responsibly, and you don’t have an immediate need for a new loan, there’s nothing wrong with cancelling an old card that you don’t plan on using any more.

      Here is a quote from an interview I did with Equifax last year about this issue:

      “An inactive account will not factor into the score after certain periods of inactivity, but may still impact debt service equations. Each file is different, but the consumer should be accessing and using credit products based on actual need.

      A long-standing credit product in use by the consumer (and in good standing) over a significant period of time will have a positive impact on a score.

      Scores look at longevity of product use: the longer the product is in use, the more positive the score impact.”

  3. Justin on September 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    What are your thoughts on the BMO world elite airmiles card? I need to get myself an west jet card. Cheap way to get a 2nd seat for a trip in north america.

    • Echo on September 10, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      Hi Justin, that one looks pretty good. Can’t complain about 3,000 bonus Air Miles for signing up. I do prefer travel cards that are more flexible in how you redeem points, and so Aeroplan and Air Miles come up short there for me. However, if you get a good sign-up bonus then the card might be worth it.

      • Justin on September 11, 2015 at 9:07 am

        Thats what I was thinking, I already have the airmiles one(upgraded when it came out) but I’m looking for a good credit card to share with my wife for groceries and home costs. Right now using the no-fee scene card and are looking to upgrade to something that can give us more travel benefits. I love vacations, but don’t like paying for them haha. I’ll try using a combination of the airmiles and the point system.

  4. AnnieA on September 11, 2015 at 8:16 am

    I am a no-fee fiend! In other words I am philosophically opposed to them.

    • Robert on September 11, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I’m with you, philosophically. However, I reason that any rewards are merely a return of original overcharging, which I also oppose.

      • Echo on September 11, 2015 at 8:10 pm

        So what’s a consumer to do? Don’t play the rewards game, and become a victim of overcharging. Play the game half-heartedly, using a no-fee card on some transactions and earning 0.5 to 1 percent back. Or go all-in and try to earn 2 or more percent back on your spending, beating the credit card issuers at their own game.

        The worst option, in my opinion, is the consumer who uses debit for every transaction and pays the bank $15 per month for the privilege of using his or her own money.

        • Stephen Weyman on September 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm

          I agree, STOP USING YOUR DEBIT CARD CANADA:

          http://www.howtosavemoney.ca/stop-using-your-debit-card-canada

          I agree with your analysis for the most part. I’m reworking my Best Credit Cards In Canada page to be similar to your breakdown here next month.

          • derek on December 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm

            Another way to look at this is no credit card is the best credit card. Plastic makes me buy more….Not a lot- but more than 3% ( the highest cash back card I can find).
            $150 a year on debit fees is nothing compared to my former $200 a month on line habit. Cash is ultimately the best though.



  5. Robert on September 11, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I use a TD Infinity card. They are inflexible on fees, but it seems to return a reasonable amount to me, especially when I use it for travel spending, when it increases earned points.

    I do not know how it stacks up against the others, but until they upset me I am not likely to shop around.

    • Echo on September 11, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Hi Robert, are you talking about the TD First Class Visa Infinite card? I tried that one out this summer and used its TD Expedia booking feature to book a couple of hotel rooms. Very reasonable and easy to redeem points.

  6. Chuck on September 11, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Foa a great hotel travel card that also does not charge the 2.5% add’l foreign exchange, I suggest the Chase Marriott Rewards Cdn card if you travel outside Canada. The hotel points benefits are also great

  7. kcowan on September 11, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Also the amazon Chase Visa gives foreign ATM withdrawals for 1% of the WD amount (minimum 5%) so I am putting a positive balance on it and using it in Italy to avoid the 2.5% vig from those bastard Canadian bank debit cards.

  8. Tom on September 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Not going to lie – I’m using (and perhaps got a little bit suckered into) CIBC Aventura Gold. I got my CIBC card when I was 18 – which is why I still use their credit cards (closing that would probably trash my credit score!) They have waived my annual fee for 2 years now (first year was the offer they had, plus $150 worth of points – 2nd year was because I called to switch to any card that doesn’t have a $120 annual fee). It’s pretty much a 1% rewards card, 1.5% for gas and groceries though. Have not actually redeemed points yet, but have played on their website and it seems very simple). But I use a credit card for 2 reasons really – the insurance coverage and the fraud protection (protection from unauthorized transactions), so I’ve never really felt the need to shop around. I like getting my double warrantee on anything I purchase, and the car rental insurance (saves me >$300 a year!). Everything past that (points, cash back, price protection, etc) is all just a bonus to me. And should CIBC stop waiving my annual fee, I’ll just switch to a $20 or free card that has those 2 things I look for. (They do exist; even at CIBC)

  9. Tom on September 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Any thoughts about the capital one world aspire travel world elite MasterCard? I have its predecessor card and I’m still get the annual 10000 point anniversary bonus.

    • Echo on September 13, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Hi Tom, that card was widely considered the best travel credit card in Canada. You essentially get 2 percent back on all spending, plus the 10,000 anniversary miles nearly offsets the $120 annual fee (at least reduces it to $20), and you can use their no hassle redemption program to pay off any travel purchases.

      I’d keep it as long as they continue to grandfather the benefits (including the 10,000 anniversary miles).

  10. Steve Oliver on June 22, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I just got an Amex cash back card which is offering 5% back for first 6 months on groceries, drug store and restaurant purchases. Its a no fee card and Ill keep it to get advanced ticket selection throught their Front Of The Line offers on Ticketmaster.
    We just got a new TD Aeroplan Visa Card with no fee for first year through our TD All Inclusive Bank Account that has no fee with a minimum monthly balance of $5,000. This Aeroplan Visa Card came with 30,000 free points which easily covers any return flight in North America! After the free year ends, we will cancel the card and we get to keep the points! Our core card is the TD Travel Select Card which gives us points tonuse for travel and entertainment at a rate of 3 points per dollar for any purchases. The cah was recently reduced to $40 per 10,000 points. This is equivalent to 1.2% cash back. Its travel insurance is excellent and has been extended to 21 days if I recall correctly.

  11. Dominic Byrne on January 23, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    What’s your opinion on the tangerine money back Mastercard no fee card.
    Thanks Dominic

  12. Ann Hill on January 24, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Looking for a card with no foreign currency fee? My Amazon card is being discontinued as of March 2018

    • Ruth on May 14, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Home Trust Preferred Visa is offering the same benefits as the former Chase Amazon Visa card. No foreign currency fees and 1% cash back with no fee. I also prepay prior to a trip and withdraw cash on the card through ATMs if needed. The fee was 1% on the withdrawal with a minimum fee of $5.00 still less than bank conversions on a withdrawal of $500 or over and then the ATM fee from where I withdrew.

  13. Julia on July 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    How about doing a new post looking at the current credit card options? This post continues to be highlighted on your site despite the fact it was posted in 2015 and the information is out of date. I’d hate to think your readers are currently applying for (for example) the Amazon.ca card on the basis of the now-obsolete thumbs-up given here.

  14. Bob Masney on February 19, 2019 at 7:27 am

    There was no mention of CTC MASTERCAD, which gives u an instant $0.10 per liter of gas purchased at CTC gas bars. Must have $2000/mo. In purchases to qualify. 2 cars 3 full ups each at 50+ liters =$30 per month saving. 3ox12 , $360 annual instant saving. How does this compare.?

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