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Best Rewards Credit Card Rankings in Canada for January 2018

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January 3, 2018 3145 6

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.

What Are Rewards Credit Cards?

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.

How To Choose The Best Rewards Credit Card

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.

Best Rewards Credit Card Canada 2018

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:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
American Express Cobalt30,000$120Read MoreApply Now
Scotiabank SCENE Visa2,000$0Read MoreApply Now

Best Day-to-Day Rewards Credit Card Winners:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
PC Financial World Elite Mastercard0$0Read MoreApply Now

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard3,000$120
First Year Free
Read MoreApply Now

Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Card Winner:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®20,000$0Read MoreApply Now

Best Sign-Up Bonus Rewards Credit Card Winner:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
TD First Class Travel®Visa Infinite* Card50,000$120Read MoreApply Now

Best Post-Promotional Rewards Credit Card Winner:

Credit CardSign Up Bonus PointsAnnual FeesCard ReviewApply for Card
Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American ExpressUp to $250 in statement credits$120Read MoreApply Now

Best Lifestyle Rewards Credit Card Winners:

#1 American Express Cobalt

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 30,000 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.

Click here to learn more on the American Express  Cobalt™Card

#2 Scotiabank SCENE Visa

Scotiabank’s SCENE Visa card

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 2,000 points, which is equivalent to 2 free movie tickets (valid only for new accounts opened before June 30th, 2018).

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.

Get 4,000 points, enough for 4 Free Movie Tickets!
Apply Now

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.

Click here to apply for the Scotiabank SCENE Visa card

Best Day-to-Day Rewards Credit Card Winner:

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.

Get 10 PC points per dollar spent everywhere plus 20 PC points per dollar spent at PC Travel! No annual fee.
Apply Now

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.

Click here to apply for the PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard®

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card:

BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*

Carte MasterCard BMO AIR MILES World Elite

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 a 15% discount on all Air Miles flights in North America with no blackout periods.

Get up to 3,000 AIR MILES bonus Miles*
Apply Now

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.

Click here to apply for the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*

Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Card Winner:

Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®

Best Western 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.

Get a FREE night's stay with the Best Western Rewards® MasterCard® credit card!
Apply Now

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.

Click here to apply for the Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®

Best Sign-Up Bonus Rewards Credit Card Winner:

TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite* CardWhy 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 June 3rd, 2018 you’ll get 20,000 points just for making a purchase on the card + another 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in your first 90 days.

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.

Get up to 50,000 TD Points, plus a full Annual Fee rebate for the first year.
Apply Now

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.

Best Post-Promotional Rewards Credit Card Winner:

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.

Earn up to $250 in statement credits!

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).

Click here to apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest®* Credit Card from American Express

Summary of Best Rewards Credit Card Rankings in Canada

Credit CardRewards StructureWelcome BonusRedeem Points OnAnnual FeeIncome Requirement
Amex Cobalt Card5 points per $1 on dining, 2 points per $1 on travel, 1 point per $1 elsewhere30000 pointsTravel, events, merchandise, statement credit, purchases on Amazon.ca$ 120$ 0
Scotiabank SCENE5 points per $1 at participating cinemas, 1 per $1 elsewhere2 free cinema ticketsCinema tickets, music$ 0$ 80000
PC Financial World Elite Mastercard3% in three categories, 2% in one category, 1% elsewhereNoneGrocery billsNoneNone
Canadian Tire Options Mastercard10x e-Canadian Tire money at select storesNonePurchases and gas at Canadian Tire stores/bars NoneNone
BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard1 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 Mastercard5 points for $1 spend at Best Western, 1 point per $1 elsewhere20000 pointsHotel stays, dining and gift cards$ 0$ 15000
Starwood Preferred Guest2 points per $1 at SPG and Marriott hotels, 1 point per $1 elsewhere0 pointsFlights and hotel stays$ 120$ 0
TD First Class3 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 rebateAny 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!

Article comments

Sanja Brestovac says:

Hi, great website guys! Looking for a new everyday, all-use card and hesitating between the Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite and the BMO World Elite Mastercard (since Amex is not accepted everywhere). No issue with the credit requirements and not worries about the difference in the annual fee. Want the best overall card for points, perks and insurance. Thanks for helping me out!

GreedyRates says:

Hi Sanja! We really appreciate the compliments, and are happy you’ve found GreedyRates helpful. If you’re comparing the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card and the BMO World Elite Mastercard, we can help you narrow down which is best. When looking for a great everyday card, both are a solid choice, so you can’t really go wrong, but there are certain nuances to grasp. For example, it would help to understand where your biggest expenses are. The Scotia Momentum card offers 4.00% cash back on gas and groceries for its primary rewards, while the BMO card helps cardholders earn 3 points per $1 on their travel, dining, and entertainment costs. It’s also useful to compare how the real-world value of these rewards stacks up against cash back.

Using our Loyalty Program Bible (linked below), we can see that BMO rewards are worth around $0.007 each, so a $100 purchase in the primary earnings category would be 300 points, or a value of about $2.10. The same $100 purchase would earn $4.00 cash back in an accelerated category with the Scotia card. The lesser earnings category closes the gap somewhat, with BMO’s 2 points per $1 translating to around $1.40–whereas Scotia’s 1.00% cash back default would earn $1.00 on a $100 purchase. Cash back is relatively direct (statement credit) while BMO points can be used on merchandise, travel rewards, and statement credits.

Another subjective notion is the perks that come with the two cards. The two have comparable travel medical insurance, but BMO has the extra inclusion of four free VIP airport lounge passes each year. That’s a $200 value. Both cards nullify the annual fee during the first year as well, making it a close race. In our opinion, if you’re a regular traveller, the BMO card is more beneficial, while the Scotia card makes a larger financial impact from everyday purchases. The choice is yours!

You can learn more about the two cards by reading our full Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card review and our BMO World Elite Mastercard review.

GreedyRates Staff

Richard Tench says:

To make this article useful you would have needed to identify rebate percentages by calculating the value of points.

GreedyRates says:

Hi Richard! Thanks for your suggestion. You’re right: comparing different rewards programs is pretty difficult, because rewards points denominate value differently and are collected at varying rates. To help contrast one card with another, or multiple cards, we’ve built our Loyalty Program Bible, which gives a specific CAD value for each type of reward point, depending on what it’s redeemed for. You can check it out in the link below. Thanks!


GreedyRates Staff

Sue Madigan says:

Hi there ! I have a small business and spend about $30000 monthly on my TD VISA
aeroplan card at the moment. I like to redeem the points on flights with Air Canada
or visa cards or gas cards. What should I switch to ?

GreedyRates says:

Hey Sue, thanks for your question! If you want a Visa card that’s great for travelling with Air Canada and can offset gas purchases, you’ll like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card. It grants an impressive 25,000 Aeroplan miles right out of the gate, and then another 25,000 for spending $1,000 during the first three months. With $30,000 monthly spending, you’ll easily eclipse that amount, and including the bonuses, will easily cover the cost of several flights during your first year.

This is because gas, groceries, drugstore purchases and Air Canada bills earn miles at a rate of 1.5 per $1, with 1.25 points per $1 spent everywhere else. The cherries on the cake are priority check-in and boarding, complimentary checked bags, four annual Maple Leaf Lounge passes, and a once-yearly 50% companion flight discount. If this card doesn’t satisfy all of your requirements, feel free to point out where we went wrong and we’ll supply another recommendation. Thanks again!

GreedyRates Staff