Methodology for Canada’s Best Credit Cards (2012)



From the September/October 2011 issue of the magazine.


best_creditcards_322Go to Canada’s Best Credit Cards of 2013.

We show the top cards for you, depending on your goals and spending patterns. This list is based on scenarios and assumptions, and may vary from how you actually use your cards. Our data is current as of July 2012.

For all cards, we used a five-year average for rewards, dividing the benefit of any sign up bonus points across the five years. We only included sign up bonuses or teaser interest rates that were standing offers, excluding those with specific deadlines. We deducted annual fees from the value of the rewards.

We looked at more than 100 credit cards issued by RBC, TD, Scotiabank, BMO, CIBC, National Bank, HSBC, Capital One, MBNA, President’s Choice, Canadian Tire Financial, American Express and Desjardins. We did not look at every card offered by each issuer.

Extra rewards for various spending categories were calculated based on the following spending patterns:

Groceries: 20% of spending

Gas: 10% of spending

Pharmacy purchases: 10% of spending

Travel: 10% of spending

American Express sponsored stores: 10% of spending

Air Miles sponsored stores: 50% of spending

If extra rewards were given for gas from a specific retailer, we assumed all gas was purchased there. If extra travel rewards were given based on using a certain travel agency, in most cases we assumed all travel was booked through it. Other reward bonuses tied to specific retailers, such as extra points for spending money on specific restaurants, weren’t factored in.

For travel cards, we looked at how many flights you would earn, basing the value of the flights on the 3-day average prices on 25 common routes. If the flights required redemption of miles or points, we used the average of the appropriate redemption schedules as published by the provider.

For merchandise cards, we based our calculations on the amount of points/miles you need to purchase gift cards.

For student cards, we calculated the total cost of interest and fees less any rewards at various spending levels. We assume the monthly spending level was equivalent to the standing unpaid balance on the card.

11 comments on “Methodology for Canada’s Best Credit Cards (2012)

  1. on the scotia momentum visa infinite the fee is $99,00 and not $0


  2. I disagree with your analysis. I have RBC Avion. If I spend $15,000/month x 12 months=180,000 points. Travel in canada used up 350 points for up to $750 flight. You would have 5.14 flights of $750 you could use in a year = $3857
    I switched to TD when I saw your analysis 2 years ago and hadn't done my research. Avion is far better!


    • I think you meant to say you used 35000 points for 750 which would make more sense, that would give you a 2.1% return on your money, which is not bad. You however have to factor in that you pay 120 dollars for the Avion Card.
      The TD card is free with a chequing account that is free so long as 5000 is withheld in the account. I.e. therefore the cost of the card is waived at that point. But you have to calculate the opportunity cost of leaving 5000 doing nothing. Therefore max rates for savings account are about 1.35% and therefore the cost of the card = 60ish dollars.

      The TD card gives you 1.5% return on the value of the points for the amount of dollars you can use for trips, which is close to the 2% of RBC. As 1 dollar = 3 TD points. Where the TD card kills the Avion card and that is a question of individual use and therefore can be different, is when you use TD/expedia to book travel in which case 1 dollar = 9 TD point to which I have calculated a 4.5% return on your money. I.e. currently 40,000 = 200 therefore 40,000/3 = 13,333 spent and therefore 200 / 13,333 = 1.5% returned. However had you earned those points at 9 = 40,000 / 9 = 4444 and therefore 200 / 4444 = 4.5% to which it goes unmatched by RBC.

      Spending 4000 dollars on vacation for a family is very realistic however and that is why I believe that it wins overall. i.e. no fee with the account.


      • you are right Randy assuming you have de 5k to place and you don't use it to buy RRSPs or anything else, wich is not everyones case, and if you fdonthave it, it would cost you at least 3% on a credi margin to have it in your account . You might also be right that you makle more points using your card on travel but my idea of having a travel card is using the points to travel and not the travel to make points. So I still pick the


  3. How do I see the rest of the cards, instead of just the top 5? I would like to see where my current card stands, to determine whether it is worth the trouble to switch.


    • Hi Scotty,
      We published the top 8 cards in each category (cash back, travel, merchandise, low rate, student, small business) in the September/October issue of MoneySense, on newsstands now. We do not publish the full list of 100 cards we rank. Thanks for reading!


      • Stefania,
        I can see not publishing the 100 cards in the magazine but it would be a helpful reference to view on-line for those of us who are interested in knowing if a card we use was included or not (e.g. if it was not included, it could be better or worse – probably worse) but we would know that it was excluded.


  4. I currently have a CIBC VISA Dividend Platinum card (which no longer accepting new applications). How does it compare with Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite?
    Also, all things being equal (and I know it will depends on your preference), which is better to have – a cash back card, retail merchandise, or a travel card?


  5. td first class infinite visa gives you 1.50% back vs 1.25% back on the rbc avion card…read the fine print on the rbc website


  6. Just tell me how much it costs per month or per year – and the benefits of the card – the rest I can take care of………..


  7. Unless credit cards from banks become regulated they will continue to lull us into think that they are nice to us and help us with low interest. It is just a strategy to get us there. Then start running the race

    currently no laws just guidelines forever now…the right way is don't get caught…


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