Canadian Credit Card Roundup: January-March 2018
Earlier this year, we featured the good, the bad, and the ugly of credit cards in 2017. We’re just a few months into the New Year, and it looks like Canadians are ready for the sequel. Unfortunately, this follow up is as mixed as its predecessor. The negative news trend continues, but there have been a few announcements to get excited about.
There are a surprising number of new credit cards that have been introduced to the market this year. These cards will definitely appeal to Canadians with very specific/niche needs or shopping habits, but I’m not quite ready to put them in the ‘game changing’ category’ with the likes of the American Express Cobalt that was launched last year.
BMO Introduces New Lineup of Small Business Credit Cards
At first glance, BMO bringing four new cards to the market at the same time seems a bit excessive, but each card has different rewards, so small business owners get to choose a card that benefits them the most. Let’s take a look a quick look at the cards and what they offer.
- BMO Rewards Business Mastercard – Get 35,000 points ($250 value) after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. 3 BMO Rewards points are earned for every $1 spent on eligible gas, office supplies, and cell phone and internet recurring payments. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent. The annual fee of $120 is waived in the first year. You can learn more by reading our full BMO Rewards Business Mastercard review.
- BMO CashBack Business Mastercard – This no-fee cash back card earns you 1.75% on all purchases at Shell, 1.5% at other eligible gas stations, office supplies and cell phone and internet billings, and .75% on all other purchases. For the first four months, you’ll earn 6% cash back up to $125 on eligible purchases.
- BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard – 1,000 AIR MILES are awarded after your first purchase and you’ll get another 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. With this card, you’ll earn 1.25 Miles for every $10 spent at Shell and 1 AIR MILES Reward Mile for every $10 spent on all other purchases. There is an annual fee of $120, but it’s waived for the first year.
- BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard – This no-annual fee option gives you 500 bonus AIR MILES after your first purchase. Your earn rate is 1.25 Miles for every $20 spent at Shell and 1 AIR MILES Reward Mile for every $20 spent on all other purchases. You can learn more by reading our full BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard review.
Scotiabank Introduces a No Foreign Trans. Fee Card
Scotiabank introduced the Passport Visa Infinite card, which is the first credit card from a major Canadian bank to waive foreign transaction fees. Clearly this card is aimed at travellers, as aside from the welcome reprieve of foreign trans. fees it also offers rewards and benefits that will make travelling cheaper. The sign up bonus is 25,000 Scotia Rewards points, which has a value of about $250 and you’ll get 2 points per dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. In addition, you get a Priority Pass Standard Membership and 6 annual airport lounge passes.
Canadian Tire Changes Its Loyalty Program
After 60 years, the Canadian Tire Corporation has decided to update its loyalty program. Canadian Tire Money (CTM) still exists, but you can also now increase your earning potential with Triangle Rewards at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and at participating Mark’s, L’Équipeur and Atmosphere locations. In addition, Canadian Tire is introducing two new Mastercards that come packed with benefits.
- 4% back in CTM on purchases made at Canadian Tire, Mark’s, Sport Chek and Atmosphere
- 5 cents back per litre in CTM at Gas+ locations
- 0.8% back on all other purchases
Triangle World Elite Mastercard:
- All of the above benefits
- 3% back on grocery store purchases (on first $12,000/yr.)
- 1% back on all other purchases
- Roadside Assistance Gold Plan
- Dedicated Concierge Access
BMO World Elite Mastercard (comments are based at time of writing – offer is subject to change)
If you’re looking for a great travel rewards credit card, consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard. The 35,000 welcome points after spending $3,000 in your first 3 months are worth about $250 and the annual fee of $150 is waived for the first year. In addition, you’ll get a free Priority Pass standard membership and 4 annual airport lounge passes. You can learn more about the card by reading our full BMO World Elite Mastercard review.
Canadians have taken a beating the last few months with popular cards being discontinued, sign up bonuses reduced, and other credit cards devalued altogether. This is a troubling trend and it rightfully has us concerned.
Home Trust Sees Massive Delays in Processing Applications
What was a very positive development last year has quickly turned negative. When Home Trust introduced its Preferred Visa card, Canadians were excited since it was a natural replacement for the Amazon.ca Visa card. Well, now that Chase has cancelled both its Amazon and Marriott cards, it’s quite clear that Home Trust has not been able to keep up with the demand for their alternative card. Many applicants report waiting up to 8 weeks for the card to arrive from the time of application. Home Trust tells us that they’re making efforts to speed up the approval process, but the current delay is disappointing nonetheless.
Can’t wait that long? Take a look at the Rogers Platinum Mastercard instead. Technically it doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, but it does give 3% cash back on purchases in foreign currencies, which balances out (and a little bit extra) the 2.5% foreign trans. fee. The card is available for no annual fee.
Scotiabank Reduces the Signup Bonus on Multiple Cards
Signup bonuses change all the time, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow whenever they’re announced; especially when it affects multiple credit cards. First off, the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card dropped its 5% cash back bonus for the first three months, but it’s still a strong card with no annual fee.
The Scotiabank Gold American Express saw the biggest devaluation, with its signup bonus dropping to 15,000 Scotia Rewards points (down from 25,000) and the annual fee of $99 no longer being waived for the first year. This change likely happened due to the introduction of the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card.
As for the Scotiabank Scene Visa card, the signup bonus is now 2,000 Scene points which is down from 4,000 points.
Chase Is Out of Canada
As of March 15th, Chase closed all of its Canadian accounts. This was a huge mess since both of their cards were quite popular and had no foreign transaction fees. Fortunately, there are some good alternative cards that are worth getting.
If you had the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa, then you should think about applying for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, since you can transfer your Starpoints to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio.
For those who had the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa, the Home Trust Preferred Visa is a good replacement since it has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, but don’t forget about the 8-week wait time we brought up earlier. (we’ll reiterate our recommendation of the Rogers card as an alternative).
BMO Devalues Its World Elite Mastercard
Earlier in the year, we went into detail about the changes to the BMO World Elite Mastercard, but it’s worth a quick recap. BMO basically changed its rewards structure so you now earn 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, dining and entertainment purchases, while all other purchases will still get 2 points for every $1 spent. This may sound appealing, but overall your rewards earn rate is likely lower now. That being said, the card does come with 35,000 points as a signup bonus, the annual fee of $150 is waived for the first year, and the card’s travel insurance is top notch, so it’s still a decent premium travel rewards card overall.
Business Platinum Card® from American Express Sees Massive Changes
For point collectors, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express was one of the best credit cards out there, but that may no longer be the case. Previously, when applying for the card through a referral, you would receive a massive 75,000 Membership Rewards points when making $5,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. Now you’ll receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points and you’re required to spend $7,000 within the first three months.
If that wasn’t bad enough, for those making the referral, you now get only 15,000 Membership Rewards points which is down from 25,000. Oh, and the annual fee was increased from $399 to $499, which obviously hurts too. The only positive change with this card is that you now get unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges.
To be fair, these benefits have been quite generous over the last two years, so it was only a matter of time before American Express made adjustments to their rewards.
CIBC Makes a Small Change to the AC Conversion Card
As of April 13, 2018, you’ll no longer be able to add Canadian dollars to the CIBC Conversion Card. This isn’t a big deal since you’ll still be able to unload any Canadian dollars you have in your wallet through ATM withdrawals, wallet transfers, and point of sale or online purchases. It’s likely this change was implemented due to too many people using the Canadian currency feature on the card for manufactured spending.
Although some experts suspected that certain Canadian credit card programs and features weren’t sustainable, it’s absolutely shocking to see so many changes in the last 15 months. The positive takeaway from all of this is that Canadians have learned that there is no such thing as ‘loyalty’ when it comes to what we put in our wallets. If the right product comes along we’re happy to jump ship no matter how long we’ve been with our current bank/credit card issuer.