Canada’s best low interest credit cards 2021
If you carry a balance, consider these low-interest cards.
If you carry a balance, consider these low-interest cards.
If you know you’ll likely be carrying some debt on your credit card from month to month—or are simply trying to pay off a balance—then a low-interest credit card might be a good choice for you. After all, why lock yourself into the typical 19.99% credit card interest rate when you have the option to pay about half that? Here are some solid low-interest cards to consider:
|Card||Interest rate (APR)||Annual fee|
|MBNA True Line Gold
(get more details)*
|MBNA True Line
(get more details)*
|BMO Preferred Rate
(get more details)*
|12.99%||$20 (waived first year)|
|National Bank Syncro Card
(get more details)*
|Prime plus 4%
NOTE: MBNA True Line offers are not available for residents of Quebec
Most credit cards offer a fixed interest rate, meaning that there is a single, unchanging percentage charged against your purchases. (Balance transfers or cash advances frequently have a different, but also fixed, rate.)
For a reasonable $39 annual fee, you can get a purchase interest rate in the single digits, which is much less than the typical 19.99% rate, helping you save in the long run.
NOTE: this offer is not available for residents of Quebec
Get more details about the MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard*
The Modulo Visa—from the Desjardins Group, a Canadian co-operative of credit unions—has a lot more than low interest going for it. The purchase interest rate of 10.99% is very competitive, but unlike most low-interest cards, the Modulo includes rare perks and rewards. First, in a sort of twist on the cash back idea, the Modulo offers 1% of your purchases back in Bonusdollars Rewards, each worth 1 dollar each that can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, travel, financial products and even donations to a charity. The card also carries travel and mobile device insurance, which makes the already modest annual fee of $50 even more reasonable.
With an 11.9% annual interest rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers, the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard doesn’t have the lowest rate on this list. But don’t write it off yet. This card does allow you to earn rewards on credit card purchases. When you charge it for dining or entertainment, you’ll receive 2 HSBC points per $1. Other everyday purchases earn 1 point per $1. HSBC points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise or gift cards, as well as financial rewards like credit on your Mastercard, mortgage or savings account. In the travel category, 1 point is worth $0.005.
Typically, the tradeoff with a low-interest card is that it comes with an annual fee, but somehow the no fee MBNA True Line Mastercard manages to offer a 12.99% interest rate on purchases and balance transfers.
Welcome offer: Get a 0% promotional annual interest rate (“AIR”) for 12 months on balance transfers within first 90 days of opening the account.
Get more details about the MBNA True Line Mastercard*
The only Amex on this list, the Essential offers a 12.99% interest rate on purchases and cash advances with no annual fee. Cardholders get priority access with American Express Invites, which includes Front of the Line offers for concerts, events and even restaurant reservations.
The Preferred Rate Mastercard from BMO offers a 12.99% interest rate across the board, meaning that purchases, balance transfers and cash advances are all charged at the same low rate. The annual fee is only $20, putting it in easy reach of most, and new applicants will receive a waiver for the first year. The card’s balance transfer offer of 3.99% for the first 10 months (plus a 1% transfer fee) isn’t the best deal available, but it’s a nice-to-have. As a BMO Mastercard, this card will work well for those who want to keep all their accounts with a single institution and stick with a big bank.
Get more details about the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard*
As the name suggests, these cards don’t have fixed interest rates—and the rate you are charged on unpaid balances can change based on a few factors. Typically, the rate is tied to an index (usually the prime rate), which fluctuates, with an additional fixed percentage on top. For example, a card might charge the bank’s prime rate plus 5%. Also, it’s important to note that your credit score will play a role in determining how low of a rate you can get. Today’s prime rate is 2.45%.
This all might sound impossibly complicated, but there’s a simple reason to consider a variable rate card: If you have an excellent credit score, you could land some of the lowest rates available in the credit card market. However, if you don’t have a great credit score, want to keep things simple, or you’re looking for a card that also comes with a great balance transfer promotion, you may want to consider one of the fixed rate cards covered above.
With the Rate Advantage Card, RBC incentivizes your financial responsibility by offering a variable rate (on top of the prime rate) that changes according to your credit score. The better your rating, the lower your interest—a program that could really pay off. As of the date of publication of this article, the Royal Bank’s prime rate is 2.45%, so your interest rate would fall somewhere in the range of 7.44% to 11.44%. The better your credit score, the higher the likelihood your interest rate will fall in the lower ranges. Aside from the ability to link to Petro-Canada for fuel savings, this product doesn’t offer much in the way of extras, but it also commands no annual fee.
Another contender in the variable rate category is the Syncro card from National Bank, offering prime plus 4% on purchases and prime plus 8% on cash advances and balance transfers. The one caveat is the interest rate won’t go lower than 8.90% on purchases and 12.90% on balance transfers or cash advances.
National Bank’s prime rate is at 2.45% as of this article’s updated publication date, which means your interest rate will sit at 8.90% for purchases and 12.90% for cash advances and balance transfers.
Get more details about the National Bank Syncro*
While not a low-interest credit card, CIBC’s Pace It earns a place on our list as a program designed to help consumers pay off larger debts, in installments, at a lower interest rate. Here’s how it works: Consumers pay a one-time fee of 1.5% of the purchase amount and choose an installment plan. The options are 6 months at 5.99% interest, 12 months at 6.99% interest, or 24 months at 7.99% interest. The idea is to allow consumers to make larger purchases without blowing their budget with high interest rates.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, until June 30, 2020, Pace It is offering a promotion that reduces the minimum purchase amount from $250 to $100, and offers a rebate of the 1.5% fee on eligible purchases.
It’s important to note that Pace It applies only to certain purchases, so the low interest rate won’t be across the board. However, if you need to make a large purchase and like the idea of paying in installments, now would be the perfect time to investigate. CIBC Pace It is not available in Quebec.
If you look at the terms and conditions associated with your credit card, you’ll see your APR—the “annual percentage rate” charged by the issuer. Although the cards on this list offer lower rates, most credit cards charge an APR of around 19.99%. As the name suggests, your APR is communicated in annual terms, but it’s actually calculated daily, and charged monthly. While the calculations are fiddly, the concept itself isn’t too complicated: You can figure out your daily rate by dividing your APR by 365 (the days in a year) and use that to determine how much interest you’re being charged on any outstanding debt.
For example, let’s say you have $1,000 in debt on a credit card with a 19.99% APR. Your daily rate will be around 0.0548% (19.99%/365), so in one day that $1,000 will accumulate just over $0.54 in interest charges. Your interest compounds daily, which means that the next day, assuming you don’t make any additional purchases, you’d be charged interest on a total of $1,000.54, and so on—which is why it’s better to pay down your debt as quickly as possible. If you don’t pay off your balance in full by the date noted on your statement, you’ll owe interest, starting on the day that you made your purchase.
The example above is simplified. If you continue to make purchases on your card over the course of the month, the bank will usually take the average balance to calculate the daily interest. Of course, if you pay off your credit card in full every month, you won’t owe any interest at all on your purchases.
For variable rate cards, like the RBC Rate Advantage Card and the National Bank Synchro, the same idea applies, except that your interest rate changes alongside the prime rate.
In all cases, also note that the interest you are charged on purchases might differ from the interest charged on cash advances or balance transfers.
It’s tempting to choose credit cards that offer rewards or cash back, but these cards are really only worth using if you have the ability to pay off your credit card in full every month. Otherwise, you’ll rack up interest charges that far outpace the value of your rewards. Say we take the same example above: $1,000 in debt on a credit card with a 19.99% APR gets you around 0.0548% (19.99%/365), or just over $0.54, in interest charges every single day.
If you go with a low-interest credit card, you’ll save big on the debt you’re trying to pay off. Some cards go as low as 8.99%. For example, a $1,000 debt will cost you around $0.24 per day (8.99%/365). The low APR will more than make up for not earning rewards. With less of your payments lost to interest, you can actually pay down your debt. After that, your money is yours to spend on that dreamed-of vacation or another goal.
For the best low-interest credit cards 2021 ranking, we selected low interest rate credit cards based on their annual purchase interest rate (APR). Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including balance transfer offers, purchase protection, insurance perks and annual fees.
‡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.
*If a link has an asterisk (*) at the end of it, that means it’s an affiliate link and can sometimes result in a payment to MoneySense (owned by Ratehub Inc.) which helps our website stay free to our users. It’s important to note that our editorial content will never be impacted by these links. We are committed to looking at all available products in the market and where a product ranks in our article or whether or not it’s included in the first place is never driven by compensation. For more details read our MoneySense Monetization policy.
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