Best Rewards Credit Card Rankings in Canada for January 2018
Credit cards don’t exist solely to help you spend money. If you choose the right one for your lifestyle, you can earn just by doing your regular shopping. The key is to choose a credit card with a solid and worthwhile rewards program that suits you.
First, let’s clarify what a rewards credit card is. Credit card rewards programs come in different formats, but the basic idea is the same; you earn a fixed number of points for every dollar that you spend. Once you’ve earned enough points, you can redeem them for different types of rewards, depending on the specific card. These include travel rewards cards, which give you points toward flights and other travel expenses; hotel rewards cards, which let you earn free hotel stays; auto rewards cards, which give you points toward gas and car-related purchases; and dining cards, which generate rewards points when you eat out.
When trying to determine the best rewards card for you, consider your spending patterns. Your card should allow you to earn points when buying the items you would be purchasing anyway. For example, if you are a frequent business traveler, then a hotel rewards credit card that earns extra points on hotel stays would be a smart choice. A large family would do best with a rewards card that earns points at the grocery store they shop at most frequently, while anyone who covers a lot of miles would benefit from an auto rewards credit card.
We’ve put together the below list to allow you to compare the different options available in Canada with greater ease (click the card names for a super-fast scroll to their respective reviews).
- Best Lifestyle Rewards Credit Card Winners:
Winner: American Express Cobalt
Runner-up: Scotiabank SCENE
- Best Day-to-Day Rewards Credit Card Winners:
Winner: Canadian Tire Options Mastercard
Runner-up: PC Financial World Elite Mastercard
- Best Travel Rewards Credit Card:
- Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Card Winner:
- Best Sign-Up Bonus Rewards Credit Card Winner:
- Best Post-Promotional Rewards Credit Card Winner:
Best Lifestyle Rewards Credit Card Winners:
#1 American Express Cobalt
Why it’s a winner: The American Express Cobalt is the best rewards credit card in Canada for foodies and bon vivants. You earn a giant 5 points per $1 spent on eating out in restaurants or bars, as well as on food delivery, and even on your grocery bills.
The 2 points per $1 spent on travel—which includes hotel stays, gas, and ground transportation—make it a diverse card as well. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1. Receiving up to 40,000 points as a welcome bonus is obviously another major plus. This is achieved by spending at least $3,000 on the card in the first three months, and $500 per month on the card for the rest of the first year.
Points earned can be redeemed on flights, concerts and events, Amazon.ca purchases, etc. Or they can be redeemed for statement credit.
American Express Cobalt users also receive great insurance on all of their travel and merchandise purchased with the card, and free supplementary cards can help accumulate points faster.
#2 Scotiabank SCENE Visa
Why it’s a winner: The Scotia SCENE is a good fit for true movie buffs. You’ll earn 5 points for each dollar spent in Cineplex Odeon cinemas and 1 point on every $1 spent anywhere else. There’s a welcome bonus of 4,000 points, which is equivalent to 4 free movie tickets.
What makes this rewards structure worthwhile is that you only need 1,000 points to earn a movie ticket. Given that a movie ticket + popcorn costs about $17 or so, you’ll be earning one free ticket for every 10-12 cinema visits, even if you don’t use your card anywhere else. Other reward redemption options like music also begin at 1,000 points.
The Scotiabank SCENE card has no annual fee, and the qualifying income level is low, making it one of the best reward credit cards in Canada for students.
Best Day-to-Day Rewards Credit Card Winners:
#1 Canadian Tire Options Mastercard
Why it’s a winner: The Canadian Tire Options Mastercard should be considered by anyone who fills up their car at Canadian Tire or makes purchases in its stores. The card generates e-Canadian Tire money at a 10x-faster earn rate when used at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Mark’s and PartSource stores. The inventory offered in these shops makes the card a good fit for those who own multiple cars, do a lot of their own home repairs, or work in auto/home maintenance-related industries.
You can redeem your Canadian Tire money at Canadian Tire gas bars or in Canadian Tire stores themselves. There’s no annual fee for the Canadian Tire Options Mastercard, and currently cardholders enjoy a special offer of 0% APR on financing for purchases of up to $200 in any Canadian Tire store.
#2 PC Financial World Elite Mastercard
Why it’s a winner: When you compare rewards credit cards in Canada—particularly those with no annual fee—you’ll find that few cards offer a meaningful points rate outside of the promo period. With the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard, you earn 30 points per $1 spent at stores like Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmaprix, pctravel.ca, and PC mobile. For families and shoppers who regularly shop in these stores, this might be worthwhile, particularly because the card comes with no annual fee.
Redeeming your points is refreshingly simple. Once you’ve earned 20,000 or more, all you need to do is present your credit card to the cashier when you go to pay and ask him/her to take $20 (or more) off your grocery bill. Since you get the money directly off your grocery bill, we consider it to be a ‘cash equivalent’ credit card.
It should be noted that a PC Optimum point is worth relatively little compared to, say, offerings from cash back cards with accelerated earn rates for groceries. 1 PC Optimum Point = $0.001 redeemable at one of the aforementioned grocery stores; this might end up being less valuable than, say, a cash back card that earns 3% on all grocery spend. That said, the PC Financial card does come with an impressive array of insurance and extended warranty perks, so it might be more beneficial for some than a cash back card.
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card:
BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*
Why it’s a winner: The regular earn rate—1 Air Mile per $10 spent—is simple and transparent enough, but what’s better is that there’s broad a network of 100+ stores that allow you to earn even more miles: Amazon.ca, Apple, and eBay are a few of the vendors that yield an extra 1 Air Mile per $20 spent.
As a welcome bonus, you can receive up to 3,000 Air Miles, and the regular annual fee of $120 is waived for the first year. With a flight from Canada to Cancun costing just 5,000 Air Miles, it won’t take too long before you’re jetting off.
Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Card Winner:
Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®
Why it’s a winner: Given that it has no annual fee, there’s basically nothing to lose and free hotel stays to gain from MBNA’s Best Western Mastercard (as long as you pay off your balance each month). The card generates a high rate of 5 points per every $1 you spend in a Best Western property. Purchases in other ‘eligible’ locations earn a regular flat rate of 1 point per $1 spend, though MBNA is rather unclear as to what does and does not fall under this category. We recommend the card primarily to those who travel frequently and accumulate significant hotel spend.
The Best Western Mastercard is currently offering a 20,000-point welcome bonus, enough for a one-night stay. The spending requirement to get the points is very low: just make one eligible purchase that you don’t return.
Aside from hotel stays, Best Western points can be redeemed on dining and gift cards. Other perks include travel protection, extended warranty, and lost luggage assistance on travel that you book with this card.
Best Sign-Up Bonus Rewards Credit Card Winner:
TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card
Why it’s a winner: The TD First Class card offers one of the highest earn rates of any visa card rewards program, with a massive 9 points (4.5%) per $1 spent on travel purchases made using your card through ExpediaforTD.com. Regular purchases earn 3 TD points.
There’s a great welcome bonus going on, too. If you sign up by March 1st, 2018 you’ll get a rebate on the card’s annual fee of $120, and a 50,000-point welcome bonus to get you started.
When you go to redeem your points, you’ll find you can spend the dollar amount on travel at any time. Your points have a higher value when you book through Expedia, though, which nets you the 4.5% earn rate if you do. If you book your travel outside of Expedia, you’ll still end up with an equivalent earn rate of 3.6% on ExpediaforTD.com purchases and 1.2% for other purchases, which is not to be sneezed at. However you do it, there are no blackout dates. The TD website will tell you exactly how much travel credit you’ve earned, and you can spend it on any part of your travel.
The TD First Class also features extensive travel insurance which covers everything you need and then some. If you travel outside of Canada once a month, you’ll be saving around $700 annually with this insurance. Just note that this is a premium Visa card rewards program which requires a minimum personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.
Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express
Why it’s a winner: Massive promotional rates might initially be very appealing, but the benefits that a card offers after these promotions expire are what give the card long-term value. The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card gives a solid 2 points per $1 spent in participating Starwood and Marriott hotels worldwide, as well as 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere.
What gives the SPG card extra staying power is that it offers a renewable bonus year after year. If you charge at least $40,000 to the card before its annual reset date, you earn a free weekend night stay at a Starwood Category 1-4 hotel.
Another factor that makes Starwood Preferred Guest one of the best reward credit cards Canada has to offer is its flexibility when redeeming points. You can transfer your Starpoints on a 1:1 basis to nearly 30 other airline frequent flyer programs, including Aeroplan. You can also redeem them outright for flights on over 150 airlines, or for free nights at more than 1,200 hotels worldwide (no blackout dates for either).
Summary of Best Rewards Credit Card Rankings in Canada
|Credit Card||Rewards Structure||Welcome Bonus||Redeem Points On||Annual Fee||Income Requirement|
|Amex Cobalt Card||5 points per $1 on dining, 2 points per $1 on travel, 1 point per $1 elsewhere||40000 points||Travel, events, merchandise, statement credit, purchases on Amazon.ca||$ 120||$ 0|
|Scotiabank SCENE||5 points per $1 at participating cinemas, 1 per $1 elsewhere||0 points = 4 free cinema tickets||Cinema tickets, music||$ 0||$ 80000|
|PC Financial World Elite Mastercard||3% in three categories, 2% in one category, 1% elsewhere||points||Grocery bills||$||$|
|Canadian Tire Options Mastercard||10x e-Canadian Tire money at select stores||None||Purchases and gas at Canadian Tire stores/bars||None||None
|BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard||1 mile per $10, additional miles at participating stores||Air Miles, fee-free 1st year [expires April. 30th, 2018]||Air Miles flights and merchandise||$ 120||$ 80000|
|Best Western Mastercard||5 points for $1 spend at Best Western, 1 point per $1 elsewhere||20000 points||Hotel stays, dining and gift cards||$ 0||$ 15000|
|Starwood Preferred Guest||2 points per $1 at SPG and Marriott hotels, 1 point per $1 elsewhere||20000 points||Flights and hotel stays||$ 120||$ 0|
|TD First Class||3 points per $1. Accelerated rate 9 points per $1 on purchases through ExpediaforTD.com. Equivalent rewards rate of 4.5% and 1.5% when redeemed through Expedia or of 3.6% and 1.2% when redeemed elsewhere.||50000 points, 1st year fee rebate||Any travel. Higher redemption rates for travel booked through Expedia||$ 120||$ 60000|
The Best Rewards Credit Cards Give You Easy Ways to Save
With so many great rewards credit cards for Canadians to choose from, there’s definitely a card that suits every shopper. Identify the best rewards credit card for your personal spending habits, start earning points, and redeem them for travel, dining, groceries, or gifts.
Have any questions about these (or other) cards? Drop us a line a the comments section below. We promise to write back!