Canada's Best No Fee Credit Cards 2019 - MoneySense

Canada’s Best No Fee Credit Cards 2019

These cards provide perks without an annual fee

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If you’re looking for a card that delivers top rewards cards without annual fees, look no further. In exchange for slightly lower earn rates, these no-annual-fee products still get you a slew of rewards—everything from limitless cash back, to no restrictions on travel. So whether it’s cash back that you want, no foreign transaction fees, or rich travel rewards, these no-fee credit cards offer gold-plated payback to your bottom line.

The best no fee credit cards in Canada 2019


Best no fee cash back card

Tangerine Money-Back*

With its competitive cash-back program and flexible spending categories, the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard serves up a sweet deal. Cardholders automatically get 2% back on purchases in two spending categories, with a third category made available when they set up an automatic rewards deposit into a Tangerine Saving account. All other spending earns 0.5%.

This means 2% cash back is available on purchases in up to three of the following categories: groceries, restaurants, gas, drug store, recurring bill payments, entertainment, public transit and parking, furniture, home improvement, or hotel and motel stays. And here’s a pro-tip: customers are able to change their categories with notice, which means savvy shoppers can maximize their earnings. If, for example, you’re anticipating a renovation or remodel in your home, you can select the furniture and home improvement categories in advance to reap mega-rewards on these big buys—and then switch to another spending category once the renvo is over (changing bonus categories can take up to 2 statement periods).

And while this card offers only minimal perks like Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty, it does allow you unlimited cash back, unlike many other cards that cap your rebates. Finally, for new customers applying before January 31, 2020, Tangerine is offering a welcome bonus of 4% in up to three categories for a full three months.

  • Earns great rewards: 2% cash back in up to three spending categories of your choice from 10 different options, and 0.5% on all other purchases.
  • Free: No annual fee.
  • No reward limits: Lets you earn unlimited Money-Back rewards on your everyday purchases.
  • Welcome offer: Get 4% cash back on up to three categories for the first three months (offer valid for cardholders who are approved by January 31, 2020).
  • Automatic earnings: Cash back can be applied monthly, either to your credit card balance or deposited into your savings account.

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


Best no fee credit card for travel points

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard*

This card allows account holders to collect MBNA points, redeemable for a variety of rewards including cash back, hotels, and merchandise—and travel. Trip-happy cardholders will enjoy the ability to redeem 100 points for $1 worth of travel—an impressive redemption rate of 1% that will help you get to your dream vacation faster. If you choose to redeem your points for cash back or to make charitable donations, the rate is 200 points per $1.
Racking up points is easy with an earn rate of 2 points per $1 spend on groceries, gas, and restaurant purchases, and 1 point on everything else. And, great news for those saving against a large travel purchase, the points never expire as long as your account with MBNA is open.

Additionally, this card offers seven types of insurance including unexpected return home, rental collision and accidental death and dismemberment, balance protection, and extended warranty. While you’d likely need additional travel insurance to fill in the gaps, this card gets you started—a rarity on a no-fee product.

  • Solid earn rate: Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on eligible gas, groceries, and restaurants ($5,000 max annual spend per category) and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
  • Flexible rewards: Points can be redeemed for various rewards including flight tickets, hotels (at a rate of 100 points per $1) cash back and charitable donations (200 points per $1), merchandise and gift cards.
  • Free: No annual fee
  • Welcome offer: New applicants can earn up to 10,000 bonus points and 4 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and restaurants for the first 90 days

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


Best earn rate on foreign purchases

Rogers World Elite Mastercard

With its healthy regular 1.75% cash back, 2% back on Rogers products, and no annual fee, this card should make most Canadian card users sit up and take notice—but for travellers and online shoppers, it’s a bona fide cause for celebration. That’s because purchases in a foreign currency earn a whopping 4% cash back, which covers the foreign exchange fee credit cards typically charge—between 2.5% and 3%—with a bit extra on top. Cash rewards can then be redeemed towards any eligible purchase made on your card, for the ultimate in flexibility. Cross-border shoppers, regular travellers and those who buy online will be very interested in this card.
There is one drawback to this card, which is that applicants must show an annual income of $80,000; that’s going to exclude many Canadians. For those who can meet this requirement though, it’s a great card.

  • Great earnings: Get 4% cash back on purchases in a foreign currency, 2% on Rogers products and services charged to your card, and 1.75% on all other purchases.
  • Free: No annual fee. Plus, additional cards are free. (But note, the individual income requirement for this card is $80,000, which is higher than most credit cards.)
  • Warm welcome: Get $25 in cash back rewards when you make your first card purchase within three months of receiving your card.
  • Flexible redemption options: You can redeem your cash back rewards towards any eligible purchases made on the card in the last 90 days.
  • Emergency medical coverage: This includes Emergency Air-Transportation or Evacuation; additional hotel and meal expenses (up to $200 a day for a maximum of 10 days) if incurred after the planned return to Canada; emergency dental care; and more. (Certain conditions apply.)


Best for no foreign transaction fees

Home Trust Preferred Visa*

There’s more than one way to improve cross-currency shopping, and ditching the foreign exchange fees altogether is a popular—but rare—one. The no-fee HomeTrust Preferred Visa is one of the few products available to Canadians that foregoes this fee, and along with a respectable 1% cash back on all purchases without limit, it’s a card to consider. Like many no-fee cards, the HomeTrust Preferred doesn’t offer much in the way of insurance beyond purchase security, but it does provide one big bonus perk: membership in Roadside Assistance, which includes up to four service calls annually across North America. Also, when you use this card to pay for an automobile rental, collision and loss coverage are included. The HomeTrust Preferred Visa has a very accessible minimum annual income requirement of $15,000.

  • Free: No annual fee.
  • Fewer fees: No foreign transaction fees on purchases in other currencies.
  • Roadtrip companion: Roadside Assistance gives card holders up to four annual service calls across North America, and Rental Car Loss and Collision is included.

Click here for more details about the Home Trust Preferred Visa.*


Best no-fee low interest card

American Express Essential Credit Card

Many credit card products offer excellent rewards and perks, but if you’re running a balance, their benefits can quickly pale. Whether you’ve encountered unforeseen circumstances or numerous large expenses all at once, a low-interest product can help you get back in the black.

With no annual fee and a low 12.99% interest rate, the American Express Essential sets you up to succeed. First-time applicants can further benefit from a 6-month 1.99% rate on balance transfer from higher-rate cards. In addition to purchase protection and buyer’s assurance, this card comes with $100,000 in travel accident coverage.

  • Free: No annual fee
  • Low-interest balance transfer: Transfer a balance from a higher interest card at time of application and enjoy a low rate of 1.99% for the first six months.
  • Travel insurance: This card comes with $100,000 in travel accident insurance, along with purchase protection and buyer’s assurance.
    Entertainment access: Includes American Express Invites for cardholders, with Front Of The Line Access and special offers.


Best no-fee balance transfer card

MBNA True Line Mastercard*

If you’re carrying a balance, you’ll want to get that debt onto a lower-interest card as quickly as possible—but the rate is only part of the equation. When card holders need to move money between cards, three numbers come into play: the regular interest rate; the balance transfer rate; and the balance transfer fee. Ideally, all three numbers are as low as possible. With a regular interest rate of 12.99%, a promotional balance transfer rate of 0% for 10 months, and a balance transfer fee of 3%, the MBNA True Line comes out on top. Add that the fact that this card commands no annual fee, and this is a powerful product for someone trying to pay off their debt.

  • Free: No annual fee.
  • Low rates: The promotional 0% interest rate for 10 months and regular rate of 12.99% will keep your interest charges in check. (Note: interest rates for this card are different for Quebec residents).
  • A tool for your whole family: Add up to 9 authorized users without an additional fee.

Click here for more details about the True Line Mastercard*


Best no-fee student card

BMO CashBack Mastercard*

Canadian students have their own needs, including a way to cover the financial burden of tuition and school expenses, the need to establish a healthy credit history, and an unending quest for cash on hand. With no annual fee, a welcome bonus of 5% cash back for three months (up to $100), and a low $15,000 annual income requirement, the BMO CashBack card is designed with students in mind.

The 5% cash back offer is top-notch (and applicants who plan ahead might do well by timing their first three months with the beginning of a semester—those books add up!), but 1% back on everything else is nothing to sneeze at. As a student card, there’s no specific income requirements and you can get approved even if you’ve never had a credit card before. It also comes with standard insurance coverage like extended warranty and purchase protection. Overall, this is an attractive entry-level card.

  • Free: No annual fee.
  • Bonus cash back: New members get 5% cash back for the first three months, up to $100.
  • Rental discounts: Members receive 25% off at National and Alamo car rentals

Click here for more details about the BMO CashBack Mastercard*


Best no fee flat-rate cash back card

SimplyCash Card from American Express*

These days, many cash-back cards offer attractive welcome bonuses, but once the promotion is over, the core product fails to impress. Not so with the SimplyCash Card from American Express. This card gives new users 2.5% back for a full three months (up to $150 in rebates), and afterwards reverts to a regular rate of 1.25%. While some cards complicate things by breaking down their rewards into spend categories, the SimplyCash lets you earn equally across categories—and, there is no limit to the cash you can earn back at the regular rate. Earn more by referring a friend—you can receive $100 in thanks each time you refer up to 15 friends.

The SimplyCash American Express includes shopping and travel protections, including $100,000 in travel accident protection, buyer’s assurance and purchase protection. And cardholders are automatically enrolled in American Express Invites, giving them access to premium entertainment options.

  • Three-month bonus: Get a welcome bonus of 2.5% cash back in the first three months, up to $150.
  • No annual fee: This card and up to 9 additional cards are free.
  • Broad rewards: Get 1.25% cash back on all purchases regardless of purchase category (after the welcome bonus ends). Plus, no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
  • Refer a friend: Get $100 cash back for each approved referral up to a maximum annual referral bonus of $1,500.
  • Entertainment perks: Includes access to select Toronto lounges, including Roy Thomson Hall and Budweiser Stage. Plus, get Front Of The Line access to presale tickets for the most in-demand concerts, theatre productions, restaurants and more.

Click here for more details about the SimplyCash Card from American Express*


Canada’s Best No Fee Credit Cards – Rewards Overview

Card Net reward (excluding 1st year sign-up bonus)
Tangerine Money-Back Card $286
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus $348
Rogers World Elite Mastercard $420
Home Trust Preferred $240
BMO CashBack Mastercard $120
SimplyCash $300


In-Depth: THE BEST CREDIT CARDS BY CATEGORY


The methodology

For the Best No Fee Credit Cards 2019 ranking, MoneySense ran the numbers for no annual fee rewards cards based on $2,000 in monthly spending ($1,000 monthly for the student cards) using Ratehub.ca’s‡ credit card calculator. The following spending scenario was used: $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. (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 no fee rewards card for every type of card user, along with an honorary mention. Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including welcome offers, the range of spending bonus categories, purchase protections and travel benefits.

‡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.