Canada’s best rewards credit cards 2020
These top-rated credit cards have a fee but give huge pay-offs.
These top-rated credit cards have a fee but give huge pay-offs.
When choosing a good overall rewards card, you have to consider the entire package of goodies before making a final decision. Do you prefer a no fee card or are you willing to pay for perks? Are you more interested in spending bonuses, VIP lounge access, cash-back rewards or no blackout periods when booking travel? Whatever your criteria, there’s a card on this list to ensure you reap rewards as you spend.
With a slightly different, but equally impressive earn rate and welcome bonus as the Scotiabank Gold, the American Express Cobalt shares the top spot in our everyday spending rewards card category. Cobalt Cardholders earn 5 Points per $1 spent on eligible food delivery, groceries and restaurants; 2 Points per $1 spent on gas and transit buys (including taxis, public transit and eligible flight tickets); and 1 Point per dollar on all other purchases. Did you catch that in the transit category? Flight tickets are included, making this a seriously attractive card for travellers. Additionally, this Amex will get you started with up to 30,000 Points—worth $300 in travel—in your first year.
Rewards Points are super flexible, and can be used towards travel (including on taxes and fees and without blackout periods or airlines restrictions), merchandise and gift cards, or a cash credit on your card. The American Express Cobalt offers tonnes of travel perks like an insurance package that includes emergency medical, lost or stolen baggage, flight or baggage delay and car rental theft and damage coverage. Plus, cardholders can access the Fixed Points program, which allows them to get the most value out of their Points for round-trip flights.
An exceptional earn rate and welcome bonus paired with useful perks like no foreign transaction fees and included travel insurance make the Scotiabank Gold American Express one of our top two picks for best rewards card for everyday spending. With this card, members get five Points for every dollar spent in the groceries, entertainment and dining categories, and 3 Points per dollar on gas, public transit and eligible streaming services. These categories are attractively broad, but rest assured that any other purchases earn at 1 Point per dollar. And, for new members, there’s a welcome bonus to get you started: You can earn up to 20,000 Points in your first year.
Scotia Rewards are extremely flexible and can be redeemed for a variety of travel rewards as well as merchandise or a credit against your statement. Book travel through the Scotia Rewards Travel portal at a rate of 100 Points for $1 in travel. (If you use a different site, then you’ll have to apply your Points to get a statement credit instead of redeeming at the time of purchase). The Scotiabank Gold American Express also has very tempting perks like the foreign transaction fee waiver, which will save you 2.5% on purchases in another currency (in-person or online), and an included package of travel insurance that is worth the $120 annual fee all on its own.
Those looking for a cash back card with a generous earn rate and welcome offer need look no further than the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite: Cardholders earn 4% back on groceries, recurring bills and subscription services, 2% back on public transit and gas, and 1% back on all other purchases—with no cash back limit. This represents a significant earnings opportunity, particularly since the $120 annual fee is waived for the first year for new members and you can earn 10% cash back (up to $2,000) in the first 3 months.
On top of the cash back rewards, the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite includes an excellent insurance package. Travellers are covered for emergency medical, travel accident, trip cancellation or delay, delayed or lost baggage, and rental car loss or damage. This card also includes up to $1,000 in new mobile device insurance, which protects against lost, stolen or accidentally damaged phones or tablets. Finally, as part of the Visa Infinite program, this card includes Visa Infinite Services such as a concierge service and wine country discounts in Ontario and British Columbia.
Just because you want to earn cash back rewards doesn’t mean you need to pay a hefty annual fee—and that’s where the no fee Tangerine Cash Back Credit Card comes in. With this Mastercard, there’s an automatic 2% back in two spending categories of your choice, and, when you sign up to have your rewards automatically deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account, you get 2% in a third. All other purchases earn at a rate of 0.5%. The 10 spending categories are: grocery; recurring bill payments; furniture; drug store; restaurants; home improvement; hotel/motel; entertainment; gas; and public transportation and parking.
One of the main benefits of the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is that you can earn back unlimited cash, and you can change your selected categories once per billing cycle to suit your spending habits.
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.
Visa is one of the largest credit card companies in the world, with numerous options for consumers—and when it comes to travel rewards, the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite gets our nod. The regular earn rate of 3 TD Points per dollar multiplies nicely on travel purchases: you get 9 Points per dollar for flights booked online through Expedia (which works out to a healthy 4.5% return); 6 Points per dollar for flights booked on the phone through Expedia; and 3 Points per dollar spent on everything else. The best part is you can redeem those Points for a variety of rewards, including any travel expense—not just flights—from Expedia’s vast travel catalogue, and your TD Points never expire. For the earn rate, flexibility, and included insurance coverage, this card is a winner.
The BMO World Elite Mastercard is a strong contender in the travel rewards category, offering and an earn rate of 3 BMO Points per dollar on travel, dining and entertainment, and 2 Points per dollar on everything else. These Points can be redeemed for a variety of products and services, including travel, merchandise and gift cards. BMO Rewards can be used towards any flight, hotel, rental car or cruise, including taxes and fees. The BMO World Elite also lets you travel in comfort with four annual Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, and rest assured you’ll be covered while you’re away with a comprehensive insurance package.
Rewards cards for stores can be extremely valuable for loyal customers. Our pick for the best card in this category is the PC Financial World Elite, which operates within the PC Optimum environment—and the PC Optimum program is one of the most popular in the nation.
With this card, you can earn PC Optimum Points on every purchase, at a regular rate of 10 Points per dollar, and an accelerated rate at associated retailers. Earn 45 Points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart, and 30 Points per dollar at Esso, PC Travel or any Loblaws stores like Fortinos, Extra Foods and No Frills—among the best returns for a no fee card on groceries. Redemption is easy and flexible, too. You simply redeem at the cash register anywhere PC products are sold, in units of 10,000 Points; each unit is worth $10. While these Points are most frequently used towards grocery or drugstore purchases, you can also shop for travel through the PC Travel portal.
Unlike most no fee cards, the PC Financial World Elite carries some insurance like travel emergency medical and car rental loss or collision, and entitles you to concierge services.
|Card||Net reward (excluding 1st year sign-up bonus)|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express||$612|
|American Express Cobalt||$501|
|Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite||$369|
|Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card||$286|
|TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card||$303|
|BMO World Elite||$244|
|PC Financial World Elite||$439|
For the best rewards credit cards 2020 ranking, MoneySense tapped into Ratehub.ca’s‡ credit card tool and ran the numbers for cash back and travel credit cards, based on $2,000 in monthly spending. We made the following assumptions: 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 all other purchases of $500.
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. Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including welcome bonuses and accelerated earn rates, annual fee waivers, loyalty program flexibility 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.
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