Canada's Best Credit Cards 2020

Canada’s best credit cards 2020

Find credit cards that offer you more cash back and more rewards, based on the way you spend


Finding the right credit card could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. Whether you’re looking for lower fees, more rewards or simply valuable perks like travel medical insurance or rental car savings, every dollar counts. If you use your credit card wisely, pay off your balance monthly and find the right rewards program for you, you’re sure to come out ahead. There’s a slew of credit card options out there, and it can be challenging to find the best deal—but MoneySense is here to help. We’ve highlighted the best credit cards in 11 different categories so that you can zero in on the ones that fit your spending habits, and offer features you truly value. Remember, this ranking is only a starting point; the final decision is up to you. 

The best credit cards in Canada 2020

Best travel rewards card for everyday spending

American Express Cobalt*

With a high earn rate, generous welcome bonus and easy-to-use Points, the American Express Cobalt Card is our top pick as the best travel credit card for everyday spending. 

The Points you earn can be redeemed for travel at a rate of 1,000 Points for $10 for any flight on any airline with no blackout dates, or used towards the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program, which lets you unlock even better value on round-trip flights. If you prefer to use your rewards for accommodations, you can transfer your points to one of the American Express Hotel partners including Marriott Bonvoy.

  • Annual fee: $120 ($10 monthly)
  • Welcome offer: Up to 30,000 Points (2,500 Membership Rewards Points every month you spend a minimum of $500 to your card in your first year) 
  • Income requirement: $12,000
  • Earn rate: 5 Points per $1 spent on dining out and groceries; 2 Points per $1 spent on travel; 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Additional benefits: Travel insurance; American Express Invites

Click here for more details about the American Express Cobalt*

Scotiabank Gold American Express*

The Scotiabank Gold American Express has been a longtime favourite for Canadians, especially those who travel. The first thing you’ll notice about this card is the Scotia Rewards earn rate is a very healthy 5 Points per dollar on groceries, dining and entertainment. Gas gets 3 Points per dollar, as do spends in two another categories: public transit and eligible streaming services. All other purchases earn you 1 Point per dollar spent. Since 5,000 Scotia Rewards Points works out to $50 in travel, the 20,000-Point welcome bonus is worth up to $200 and gives you a big head start on saving for your next big trip. This card also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee—it’s one of the very few Canadian cards to offer this perk. Consider it a 2.5% bonus (the amount usually charged) on all foreign currency transactions, including online purchases. 

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome offer: 20,000 Scotia Rewards Points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 5 Points per dollar spent on groceries, dining and entertainment; 3 Points per dollar on gas, public transit and eligible streaming services; and 1 Point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $12,000
  • Additional benefits: No foreign transaction fees; travel insurance; 35% off Priority Pass membership

Click here for more details about the Scotiabank Gold American Express*

Best Visa travel card

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card*

Some people want to earn points when they travel, as well as on an ongoing basis. If this sounds like you, then the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card is our top choice. You can rack up TD Rewards Points throughout the year and then easily make a redemption through Expedia for TD. With this card, you’ll get 3 Points per $1 spent on all your everyday purchases and 9 Points per $1 spent when you make online purchases through Expedia for TD. That means you’re earning a 1.5% and 4.5% return respectively in travel Points. Expedia For TD is just like the regular Expedia platform so you’ll have no problem finding ways to redeem your Points.

With the annual fee of $120 rebated for the first year and a welcome bonus of up to 80,000 Points—which has a travel value of up to $400—this is one of the best travel credit card offers available right now.

  • Annual fee: $120—rebated for the first year
  • Welcome offer: 20,000 TD Rewards Points when you make your first purchase on the card; plus an additional 5 times the Points on card purchases made in the first 3 months, up to a maximum of 20,000 Points each month
  • Earn rate: 9 Points per dollar spent on travel online with Expedia for TD; 6 Points per dollar spent on travel via phone order with Expedia for TD; 3 Points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $60,000
  • Additional benefits: Travel insurance; Priority Pass membership discount; rental car coverage; discounts at Avis and Budget Rent a Car

Click here for more details about the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card.*

Best cash back card

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite*

When it comes to cash back cards, you want a high percentage back across the largest number of categories. That’s why the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite gets our nod. With this card, you’ll receive 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bill payments charged to your card, 2% on gas and public transit spends, and 1% on all other purchases. Together, these make up some of the highest earn rates in the country—across some of the most common purchases. 

This card’s package of perks like concierge services, the Visa Infinite Dining and Wine Country program and like travel insurance round out the offering. You’ll also get mobile device insurance, something that could come in handy as you wine and dine on your travels. 

  • Annual fee: $120—rebated for the first year
  • Welcome bonus: 10% cash back on your purchases (up to $2,000) for the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bills; 2% on gas and daily transit; 1% on everything else
  • Income requirement: $60,000
  • Additional benefits: Mobile device insurance; travel insurance; concierge service; Visa Infinite Dining and Wine Country program

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

Best no fee cash back card

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card*

Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardIf you’re looking for a no fee cash back option, then the Tangerine Money-Back card needs to be on your radar. With 2% cash back on up to three spending categories of your choice (such as groceries, gas and dining) and 0.5% back on everything else, this card is an excellent choice in the no fee category. When you sign up, instead of having the bank set categories for you, you can customize your cash back. You choose two categories where you earn 2% right away, but if you set your cash back to deposit directly into your Tangerine account, then you get to add a third category—meaning you can reap some considerable rewards. 

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.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome offer: Get 4% cash back on your bonus categories for the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 2% cash back on up to 3 bonus categories of your choice; 0.5% on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $12,000
  • Additional benefits: Purchase assurance and extended warranty

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

Best no fee card for travel rewards

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard*

The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard offers a strong sign-up bonus for a no fee card, and the 10,000 Points on offer are easy to earn. All you need to do is make $500 in gas, grocery and restaurant purchases within 90 days of getting your card to receive the first 5,000 Points, and sign up for paperless e-statements to receive the remainder. MBNA points are flexible and easy to redeem for a variety of things including travel, where you get the most bang for your buck at 100 Points to claim $1 in travel. For reference, it takes 200 Points to claim $1 in cash back.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome offer: 5,000 bonus MBNA Rewards Points when you sign up for e-statements, plus 5,000 points after you spend $500 with your first 90 days; 4 Points per dollar on bonus categories for the first 90 days
  • Earn rate: 2 Points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and restaurants (up to $5,000 annual spend); 1 Point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Additional benefits: Purchase assurance and extended warranty

Click here for more details about the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard*

Best for saving on foreign transaction fees

Rogers World Elite Mastercard

Rogers World Elite MastercardFrequent travellers and cross-border shoppers need a card that won’t break the bank when it comes to the foreign transaction fees that most banks charge (usually 2.5%) when you make purchases in another currency. The Rogers World Elite is our top pick because it offers 4% cash back on non-Canadian currency purchases, which works out to a 1.5% return when you factor in foreign transaction fees. Pair that with no annual fee, 2% back on Rogers services and 1.75% back on all other purchases, and you have a very competitive card. Another perk is the travel medical insurance, which covers you for trips up to 10 days. However, this card comes with a steep annual income requirement, so you may want to consider another option if you don’t make $80,000 a year.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: $25 when you make your first purchase within your first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 4% on foreign purchases (1.5% after foreign transaction fees); 2% on Rogers services; and 1.75% cash back on all other purchases
  • Income requirement: $80,000
  • Additional benefits: Travel emergency medical insurance for 10 days; rental car insurance; trip interruption and cancellation coverage

Best low interest credit card

MBNA True Line Gold*

People looking to reduce the amount of interest they pay should consider a low-interest credit card like the MBNA True Line Gold card. You won’t earn anything for your spending on the card, but the interest rate is just 8.99%, which is significantly lower than the average of 19.99% most other credit cards charge. If you’re currently carrying a balance on a credit card with a higher interest rate, then you should also consider taking advantage of the optional balance transfer at the time of application. Balances transferred won’t be charged interest for a full six months, which could save you bundles.

  • Annual fee: $39
  • Purchase interest rate: 8.99%
  • Balance transfer offer: Optional balance transfer at 0% interest for the first 6 months (3% transfer fee, $7.50 minimum fee)

Click here for more details about the True Line Gold Mastercard*

NOTE: APR and balance transfer offer is different for residents of Quebec

Best card for balance transfers

MBNA True Line Mastercard*

The MBNA True Line Mastercard is another lower interest credit card but it has a few unique features. With the balance transfer option, your promotional interest rate is 0% for the first 12 months. There is a balance transfer fee of 3% with a minimum of $7.50, but you get 90 days from the time of your account opening to complete your balance transfer.

Once your promotional period ends, your interest rate goes up to 12.99%, which is still lower than most credit cards; but if you can manage to pay off your balance when your rate is 0%, you can avoid any additional interest charges.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase interest rate: 12.99%
  • Balance transfer offer: Optional balance transfer interest rate of 0% for the first 12 months (3% transfer fee, $7.50 minimum).
  • Additional benefits: Discounts at Avis and Budget Rent A Car

NOTE: APR and balance transfer offer is different for residents of Quebec

Click here for more details about the True Line Mastercard*

Best student credit card

BMO CashBack Mastercard*

The academic year tends to be front-loaded with expenses: text books, lab supplies and, if you’re living off-residence, housewares and the cost of setting up utilities. This is where a rewards card comes in handy, especially with a juicy welcome bonus of 5% cash back on purchases on your first three statements. After the bonus period, you’ll still earn 1% cash back on everything else. Fortunately for busy students, this straightforward card doesn’t have a complicated points system or tiered earn ratesit just provides simple cash back.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome offer: 5% cash back on your first 3 statements (for purchases of up to $2,000)
  • Earn rate: 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Additional benefits: Extended insurance on purchases made with the card; up to 25% off rentals at eligible Alamo and National Car rental agencies

Click here for more details about the BMO CashBack Mastercard*

Best hotel card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express*

For those who travel frequently and want to make the most of their hotel-stay purchases, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express simply can’t be beat. You can earn Bonvoy points on your credit card purchases that can be redeemed for a variety of perks and bonuses within the Marriott Bonvoy environment, including hotel stays at more than 7,000 properties worldwide, flights and rental cars, or you can exchange them for gift cards, merchandise or event tickets. The earn rate is 5 Points per dollar at Marriott properties and 2 Points per dollar everywhere else—and the 50,000 point welcome bonus (enough for three nights in a Category 2 hotel) gets you started on your way.  With an annual free night and travel insurance, this is by far the best hotel card on the market. 

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points after you charge $1,500 to your card within 90 days
  • Earn rate: 5 Points per dollar at Marriott properties; and 2 Points per dollar everywhere else
  • Additional perks: travel insurance; car rental coverage; annual free night’s accommodation

Click here for more details about the Marriott Bonvoy Card.

Best store or retail card

PC Financial World Elite Mastercard*

PC Financial Word Elite MastercardDue to its association with Loblaws stores and Shoppers Drug Mart, the PC Optimum program offers members access to a  wide variety of ways to earn PC Points, including gas, drug store and grocery purchases. With an earn rate of 30 Points per dollar in Loblaws-owned stores (including No Frills and Real Canadian Superstores), 45 per dollar at at Shoppers Drug Mart, and 10 everywhere else, this card is one of the best no fee cards for gas and groceries on the market. It’s simple to redeem your PC Points. You simply show the card at checkout anywhere PC products are sold and get $10 back for every 10,000 Points. There’s even an included package of travel and car rental insurance—and it carries no annual fee.   

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earn rate: 30 Points per dollar in Loblaws stores (including No Frills and Real Canadian Superstores) and PC Travel; 45 Points per dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart; 30 Points per litre at Esso; and 10 Points everywhere else
  • Income requirement: $80,000 (personal) or $150,000 (household)
  • Additional perks: Travel insurance; car rental coverage

Click here for more details about the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard*

Best card for perks

American Express Platinum*

If you’re looking for a premium card with all the perks, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better than the American Express Platinum. The included travel insurance alone is worth a second look, but add to that complimentary airport lounge access with unlimited passes to Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, an annual $200 travel credit, hotel upgrades and Platinum Concierge services, and you’ve got a key to an upgraded experience. The card offers plenty of Membership Rewards Points earning opportunities on dining, travel and everyday purchases, and comes with a juicy 50,000 Point welcome bonus. Another advantage of joining the Amex system is that you’ll gain access to the lucrative Fixed Points Travel program, and you’ll be able to transfer your Points to dozens of other loyalty programs. 

  • Annual fee: $699
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 Points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 3 Points per dollar on dining; 2 Points per dollar spent on travel; 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Additional Benefits: Free lounge access at over 1,200 airport lounges; $200 annual travel credit; travel emergency medical insurance; travel accident insurance; car rental coverage; hotel upgrades; Platinum Concierge services; American Express Invites

Click here for more details about the American Express Platinum*

Canada’s best credit cards — Rewards overview

Card Net reward (excluding 1st-year sign-up bonus)
Scotiabank Gold American Express $612
American Express Cobalt $501
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite $369
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card $303
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card $286
MBNA Rewards Platinum $348
BMO CashBack Mastercard $120

How do credit cards work?

It’s important to understand exactly what credit cards do, so you can use them to maximum advantage without falling into financial trouble. There are lots of benefits that come along with having a credit card. For example, they offer credit that can be used when you make a purchase, for balance transfers and/or cash advances. Essentially, your credit is like a short-term loan with a balance that comes due every month. As you pay down your balance, the credit available to you the following month starts to go back up to the maximum credit limit on your card.

A credit card’s strongest advantage is convenience. Simply pay for your purchase with your credit card and you will be billed for the outstanding balance the following month—no cash in your wallet required. Other benefits include the ability to accrue rewards and points—such as cash back or travel points—based on a percentage of your purchases each month, usually between 1% to 4%, depending on which credit card you choose. You can then redeem those points for gift cards, travel or other items offered through the credit card company’s online rewards catalogue.

Credit cards can also help you build credit. If you always pay on time, that will help you achieve a high credit score (650+points), allowing you to borrow for a mortgage or a car loan in the future at a reasonable interest rate from your local financial institution.

Of course, credit cards need to be used responsibly and work best when you are a disciplined spender. Have only one or two cards in your wallet and make sure they match your spending habits. And of course, make sure you can pay off the balance in full (or at the very least make the minimum payment) every month so you don’t have to pay hefty interest on your unpaid balance. This can result in costly fees as well as getting points knocked off your credit score—a real no-no. But with a bit of diligent oversight and self-control, credit cards become helpful and convenient financial tools that can make everyday purchases easy.

How to decide: What is the best credit card for me?

To decide which credit is the best for you, you need to look at your priorities. If you normally carry a balance or you want to reduce your debt, then a low-interest or balance transfer card should be the only types you consider.

People who always pay off their full balance every month need to decide whether a travel or cash back card makes more sense for them. Travel cards can offer lucrative rewards, but if you don’t like to travel, there’s no point in getting a travel credit card. If this sounds like you, then a cash back card may be the way to go.

Now that you’ve got your category of card selected, take a look at the earn rate, additional, benefits and which type of points you earn for each card. If you happen to spend a lot on gas and groceries, then look for a card that has a high earn rate for those categories.

The annual fee should also be a consideration in your decision making, but if you think you’re getting good value out of your additional benefits and you’re making more back than you paid with the fee, then it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Credit card points versus cash back: What to consider before deciding

In the end, most decisions will come down to whether a cash back or travel rewards credit card suits your needs and spending habits best. As mentioned, travel rewards can be lucrative, but cash back is simple since you don’t need to worry about any potential travel restrictions. Think about the following for each type of card.

The first thing you want to look at is the earn rate. Take a look at your spending habits and pick a card that will earn you the most rewards. For example, if you spend a lot on gas, then pick a card that earns you more cash back at gas stations. High earn rates are great, but keep in mind that many of the top cards have a high income requirement. Cash back is simple to understand, but some credit cards will only give you what you’ve earned after you reach a minimum amount or once per calendar year. Find out how you’ll get paid and make sure you’re okay with it before you apply. If you’re considering a card with an annual fee, make sure the extra cash back you earn is worth more than the fee. If it’s not, stick to a no fee card.

Selecting a rewards credit card

Generally speaking, cards that earn you points are usually best used for travel redemptions. These cards will likely give you other ways to cash out your points, but the majority of the time, you get the most value for your points when redeeming for travel. Similar to cash back cards, you want to pick a card that gives you the most points on the categories you spend the most money. You also want to figure out what type of travel you prefer; you could get an airline-branded credit card or a hotel-branded one. There are also credit cards that allow you to redeem for any type of travel. Regardless of what you go with, you need to know how the reward programs work so you can maximize your points.

More on Canada’s best credit cards

Our methodology

For the best credit cards 2020 ranking we ran the numbers for each of the cards in the seven categories based on $2,000 in monthly spending ($1,000 monthly for the student cards) as well as interest rates and offers. We also made some assumptions on spending—grocery spend of $500, gas of $200, restaurants of $200 and bill payments of $125, travel of $175, entertainment of $225, pharmacy purchases of $75 and other purchases of $500. (These were adjusted lower for student cards).

The end game was a magic number—that is, the annual net reward in dollar terms to identify the top cards in each category, plus an honorary mention. As highlighted above, our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including the value of a credit card’s welcome bonuses, insurance benefits and flexibility.

‡ and 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.