Canada's Best Cash Back Credit Cards 2020

Canada’s best cash back credit cards 2020

Whether they’re fee or no fee, these cards will put money back in your pocket

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The concept behind cash back credit cards is very easy to understand. You get a small percentage back on purchases you make with the card, and the reward comes in the form of cash back, meaning money. The beauty of this system is that cash back rewards are flexible and you can spend them on anything you want.

No two cash back credit cards are identical so you need to consider the annual fee, earn rate, how much your charge to your card and any additional benefits before you apply. To help you pick the right card we’ve put together a list of what the top options have to offer based on different categories.

The best cash back credit cards in Canada 2020


Best cash back credit card

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite*

The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite is a strong cash back card that offers competitive perks and rewards and comes with an excellent welcome offer. Cardholders can earn an impressive 4% cash back on groceries, recurring bills and subscription services—a structure that may well suit large families or households. Transportation expenses—gas and public transit—earn at 2%, and everything else comes in at 1%. Note that there is a $25,000 cap on qualifying spends in each category; any purchases exceeding that amount will earn the base 1%. There’s also $1,000 in mobile device insurance and $1,500 per person in trip cancellation protection.

Since this is a Visa Infinite card, there is a minimum annual income of $60,000 or a minimum household income of $100,000 requirement to be approved for the card. The annual fee—now $120—will be waived for new applicants for the first year.

  • Annual fee: $120 (first year free)
  • Welcome bonus: 10% cash back on all your purchases for 3 months
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on groceries, recurring bills and subscription services; 2% on public transit and gas; and 1% on everything else
  • Income requirement: $60,000 (personal) or $100,000 (household)
  • Additional benefits: Mobile device insurance; travel insurance; concierge service; Visa Infinite Dining and Wine Country Series

Click here for more details about the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite*


Best cash back credit card for groceries and gas

Meridian Visa Infinite Cash Back

For many Canadians, the largest and most regular expenses are gas and groceries. For them, finding a cash back card that rewards well on these spends is just good money management. With 4% back in both these categories, the Meridian Visa Infinite Cash Back card tops the list. You’ll receive 2% on drug store purchases and recurring bills, and the 1% base earn rate on all other purchases sweetens the deal. 

The Meridian card also offers a few extra features like mobile device insurance and up to 48 days of travel insurance.

  • Annual fee: $99 (first year free)
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on gas and groceries; 2% on drug stores and recurring bills; 1% on everything else
  • Income requirement: $60,000 (personal) or $100,000 (household)
  • Additional benefits: Mobile device insurance; travel insurance; concierge service; Visa Infinite Dining and Wine Country Series


Best flat-rate cash back card

The SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express*

The SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express is ideal for if you spend a lot on your credit card and don’t want to deal with different spending categories. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all your purchases, regardless of whether it’s gas, groceries or plane tickets.

Although the card has an annual fee of $99, you get an increased earn rate of 5% cash back (up to $300) on all purchases for the first six months of card membership.

If you’re looking to reduce your debt, you can also take advantage of the optional balance transfer at the time of application. The balance transfer rate is 1.99% for the first six months and you can transfer up to 50% of your credit limit, up to a maximum of $7,500.

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Welcome bonus: 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 6 months (up to $300 cash back)
  • Earn rate: 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Additional benefits: American Express Invites; optional balance transfer; referral bonus

Click here for more details about the SimplyCash Preferred*


Best no-fee cash back card with bonus categories

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card*

Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardIf you want a cash back card that has no fees and is easy to understand, then the Tangerine Money-Back Card is a good choice for you. All cardholders get to choose two categories where they earn 2% cash back. If you opt to have your cash back deposited directly into your Tangerine Savings Account, then you get to choose a third category that earns you 2% cash back. All other purchases earn you 0.5% cash back.

Since this is a basic no fee cash back card the other benefits are thin. However, you do get purchase assurance, which protects your purchase from loss, theft or damage within 90 days and an extended warranty that doubles your manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year.

If you meet the $60,000 annual income requirement you’ll automatically be considered for the Tangerine World Mastercard, which comes with additional perks such as mobile device and rental car insurance.

  • Earn rate: 2% cash back on up to 3 categories; 0.5% on all other categories
  • Welcome offer: Get 4% cash back on your 3 categories for the first 3 months
  • Income requirement: $12,000

Click here for more details about the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card*


Best no fee cash back card

Rogers World Elite Mastercard

The Rogers World Elite Mastercard often doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. With this card, you earn 1.75% cash back on all your purchases. Best of all, you can redeem that cash back towards most of your purchases made with your card within the last 90 days.

The 4% cash back on purchases made in a foreign currency effectively means you earn 1.5% in cash back on purchases once you factor in the 2.5% foreign exchange fee. In other words, this is a great card for travellers.

Getting 2% cash back on Rogers products and services is nice, and so is the basic travel insurance included, but they aren’t game changers.

  • Welcome bonus: $25 in cash back rewards when you make your first card purchase
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on purchases in a foreign currency; 2% on Rogers products and services; 1.75% on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $80,000 (personal) or $150,000 (household)
  • Additional benefits: Travel insurance; cash back on foreign purchases


Honourable mention

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite Card*

With an annual fee of $120 (which is waived for the first year) and an earn rate of 3% cash back on gas, grocery and recurring bill payments, the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite Card is worth considering seriously.

The welcome bonus of 10% on all categories is great, as is the included TD Auto Club membership which is basically a roadside assistance package. TD Auto Club is comparable to CAA and covers you for things such as a dead battery, tire changes, gas delivery, $200 in accident towing, $200 in emergency transportation and more.

When it comes to travel insurance, you only get travel medical coverage and delayed and lost baggage insurance which is not very comprehensive, however the welcome offer and the TD Auto Club membership are excellent perks in their own right.

  • Annual fee: $120 (free for first year)
  • Welcome bonus: 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months on the initial $2,000 in purchases
  • Earn rate: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and recurring bill payments; 1% on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $60,000 (personal) or $100,000 (household)
  • Additional benefits: TD Auto Club membership; some medical insurance

Click here for more details about the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite Card*


Canada’s best cash back credit cards — rewards overview

Card Net reward (excluding 1st year sign-up bonus)
Meridian Visa Infinite Cash Back $393
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite $369
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express $381
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card $286
Rogers World Elite Mastercard $420
SimplyCash Card from American Express $300


Cash back versus travel credit cards

When choosing a rewards credit card, many Canadians find themselves torn between two types: cash back and travel. This shouldn’t come as a surprise—both are popular and have valuable strengths. Here we break down both card types to help you decide which card is right for you.

Simplicity

It’s important to be able to understand your credit card rewards program, and cash back cards are about as clear as you can get. If you earn 2% back, you absolutely know you’re going to receive two cents on every dollar—no complicated math is required. With travel rewards credit cards, there are sometimes different earn rates and redemption values. These variables can affect how or when you want to collect or redeem. 

  • Bottom line: If you’re invested in earning travel rewards, acquainting yourself with your card’s program may be the best way to go, otherwise you can’t top cash when it comes to simplicity.

Rewards and bonus categories

How you earn can be just as important as what you earn. Travel rewards credit cards usually offer a very wide breadth of spending categories to earn in, while cash back cards can be more restrictive.

Aside from a few exceptions, the majority of cash back credit cards offer the same limited selection of bonus categories (namely gas, groceries and utility bills). In comparison, travel credit cards have a far larger selection of bonus categories (like restaurants, hotel stays, flights, Uber rides and public transit, in addition to the groceries and gas), which means you can potentially earn more points on more types of purchases. 

  • Bottom line: You’re likely going to earn more Points or Miles, in more spending categories, with a travel rewards card than cash with a cash back card. 

Flexibility

The reason they say cash is king is because it can be used for anything you want, such as your everyday spending on gas and groceries. In contrast, the points you earn on travel cards are usually geared towards travel rewards and offer the best value when redeemed for flights and hotel stays.

  • Bottom line: Cash is the most flexible reward out there, but if you’re looking to save on flights and hotel stays, a travel card can offer considerably more value.

Welcome bonuses

Typically, travel rewards cards can offer hundreds of dollars in rewards as a sign-on bonus, while cash back cards usually offer an increased earning percentage for a short introductory time. One thing to note is that bonuses on cash back cards are usually easier to earn—while travel rewards cards usually are worth more but have stricter spending requirements. 

For example, with the BMO World Elite Mastercard, you can get 3,000 bonus Points ($240 value) only after you spend $3,000 on the card within your first three months. In contrast, the BMO CashBack World Elite’s welcome offer lets you earn 5% cash back right out of the gate on all your purchases for the first three months but maxes out at just $200. 

  • Bottom line: The welcome bonuses on cash back cards are typically worth less but are easier to get than the offers available on travel cards.  

Side perks

Perks are little extras available to you as a cardholder. These are usually things like airport lounge access, longer and more comprehensive travel insurance coverage, or refunds on certain expenses like a Nexus entry fee. As you can see, perks are very often tied directly to travel, so it should come as no surprise that you’re more likely to find them on travel rewards cards than on cash back cards

  • Bottom line: In many ways, cash is the perk on a cash back card. If you’re looking for little extras, your best bet is a travel rewards card.


More on the best credit cards


Our methodology

For the best cash back credit cards 2020 ranking, MoneySense tapped into Ratehub.ca’s‡ credit card tool and calculated the numbers for both fee and no fee cash back rewards cards based on $2,000 in monthly spending. We used the following scenario: $500 on groceries, $200 on gas, $200 on restaurants, $125 on bill payments, $175 on travel, $225 on entertainment, $75 on pharmacy purchases and $500 on everything else.

The end game was a magic number—that is, the annual net reward in dollar terms to identify the top cash back cards for each type of spender, along with an honorary mention. Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including limited-time accelerated earn rates, the range of spending bonus categories, annual fee waivers, purchase protections and travel insurance perks.

‡MoneySense.ca and Ratehub.ca are both owned by parent company Ratehub Inc. We may be partnered with some financial institutions, but this does not influence the “Canada’s Best Credit Card” rankings. You can read more about this in our Editorial Code of Conduct.