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Shopping around for the best credit cards in Canada can be daunting. With so many options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when making a decision. There’s a lot to consider including:
How much are you willing to pay annually?
What type of credit card are you looking for?
Does the credit card offer a welcome bonus or a rewards program?
Are there special perks or benefits for cardholders?
Luckily, Young and Thrifty is here to help make your decision a cinch. From cash back cards to travel rewards cards to low-interest cards to the best card for balance transfers, we’ve scoured the market and selected the best credit cards in Canada for 2019. After extensive research, these eight credit cards stand out as the winners.
Remember, there is no such thing as one best credit card. You should pick a credit card that most suits your needs and lifestyle. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for the best credit cards in Canada.
Summary: Best Credit Cards in Canada 2019
|Credit Card||Best For|
|Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard||Best No Annual Fee Cash Back Card|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card||Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Card|
|Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite*||Best Cash Back Card for Groceries Spending|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*||Best Visa Travel Card|
|BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*||Best Travel Rewards Credit Card|
|Best Western Mastercard®||Best Card for Hotel Rewards|
|MBNA True Line® Mastercard®||Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers|
|TD Emerald Flex Rate Visa*||Best Low-Interest Rate Credit Card|
|Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card||Best Luxury Hotel Rewards Credit Card|
|Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card||Best Student Credit Card for Rewards|
Best No Annual Fee Cash Back Card
Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard
Annual fee: $0
Income Eligibility: $12,000
Credit score required: Good
The Tangerine Money-Back MasterCard is a winner for its flexibility and simplicity. There’s no annual fee or no complicated rules or limits: cash back rewards are earned automatically and paid monthly either to your credit card balance or redeemed into your savings account. Upon sign-up, for your first 3 months, you choose two of Tangerine’s money-back categories that you want to earn 4% cash back and get 0.5% on everything else. You can also get a bonus third 4% cash back spending category if you redeem your cash back into a Tangerine savings account. It’s that easy! Apply ASAP, because this promo expires on January 31, 2020!
- No annual fee
- Earn 4% Money-Back Rewards on purchases in up to three Money-Back Categories, for the first three months
- 2% cash back on two eligible Tangerine spending categories (groceries, gas, drug store, restaurants, recurring bill payments, furniture, home improvements, hotels, entertainment, public transportation/parking)
- 0.5% cash back on everything else
- Automatic, monthly reimbursement to your credit card balance or savings account
Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Card
Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card
Annual fee: $120
Credit score required: Good to excellent
Income Eligibility: Minimum $12,000 annual income
We're big fans of the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card. It's not only one of the best travel credit cards in Canada, but it also offers no foreign transactions fees. That means you will not pay 2.5% foreign transaction fees on any foreign currency purchases, including online shopping and when travelling abroad — only the exchange rate applies. It's a big money-saver when you're on the road.
We also love the Scotia Rewards points program. For every dollar you spend on eligible grocery stores, restaurants, fast food, and drinking establishments, you’ll earn 5 Scotia Rewards®* points; 3 points per $1 on eligible gas, daily transit, and select streaming services; and any other purchases come in at 1 Scotia Rewards point per dollar spent. Earning up to $300 in bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year is also a cinch: just spend $1000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, and you'll earn 25,000 points. If you spend another $10,000 in your first year and get an additional 5,000 bonus points.
What's also exceptional about this credit card is the flexibility in rewards redemption. All you have to do is login to the system and select the “Apply Points to Travel” option. Then just use your accumulated points to offset any travel cost (flights, rental cars, hotels, etc.) charged on your credit card. It’s that easy – no black-out periods or mind-boggling restrictions.
Best Cash Back Credit Card for Groceries Spending
Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card
For cash back on your grocery purchases look no further than the Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card. With this card, Canadians can regularly earn 4% cash back on every $1 spent on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases – a substantial amount that adds up over time.
Meanwhile, you can also get 2% cash back for every $1 spent on gas and daily transit, as well as 1% cash back on everything else with no cash back limit. It's one of the most generous cashback offerings on the market. Cardholders also receive the benefit of mobile device and trip cancellation insurance. There is a $120 annual fee (waived for the first year) and a minimum annual income of at least $60,000+ is required to apply.
What we like: 4% back on groceries and reoccurring bill payments makes it one of the most generous cash back credit cards in Canada.
What we don’t like: High mandatory income requirement and supplementary cards come with a $50 fee.
- 4% cash back on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases
- 2% cash back on gas and daily transit category (public transit and taxis)
- 1% cash back on anything else purchased on this credit card
Best Visa Travel Card
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*: Best for Aeroplan Members
Limited time offer – online only! Earn up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles (equivalent to 2 economy short-haul roundtrip flight rewards) and first year no Annual Fee for the Primary Cardholder. Conditions Apply. Must apply online by March 2, 2020.
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
Aeroplan collectors will definitely want the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* in their wallet. New cardholders get a generous welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles – 15,000 after you make your first purchase. Then get up to another 15,000 Miles by earning 5 additional Aeroplan Miles on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to a total spend of $1000 per month). That's the equivalent of 2 economy short-haul roundtrip flight rewards! The annual fee of $120 is a bit steep, but new cardholders can take advantage of the first year rebate. The catch? You must apply online by March 2, 2020, to take advantage of this limited-time, online-only offer.
Cardholders also earn 1.5 Aeroplan Miles for every dollar spent on eligible grocery, gas, drugstore, and Aircanada.com purchases – everyday spends that rack up quickly and easily. Plus, earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on everything else, and you can earn double the rewards on purchases made at participating Aeroplan partners and online retailers via the Aeroplan eStore.
The card also offers some awesome travel perks, such as travel insurance, car rental insurance, and exclusive VIP benefits when travelling on Aeroplan flight rewards operated by Air Canada, like priority boarding/check-in, first checked bag free, and one free guest lounge pass per year. Check out our comprehensive TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* review.
What we like: Welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles, double miles on participating Aeroplan partner spends, VIP perks
What we don’t like: High annual fee
- Limited-time offer: Earn up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles and get an annual fee rebate for the first year (Must apply by March 2, 2020. Conditions apply.)
- 1.5:$1 spent on gas, grocery, drugstore, and purchases on AirCanada.com
- 1:$1 spent on all other purchases
- Twice the miles earned when you use your card at over 150 Aeroplan partners and more than 120 online retailers
- Your Aeroplan Miles don’t expire as long as you’re a TD Aeroplan Credit Cardholder
Other card details: Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card
BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*
One of the best credit cards in Canada for travellers is the BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*. Cardholders are able to earn up to $540 between all its enticing introductory bonuses. From its excellent introductory bonus of 35,000 welcome points (worth $250), $150 annual fee waiver (after spending $3000 in the first 3 months) and 4 free passes for worldwide VIP airport lounges every year —a $140 value.
All purchases made with the BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®* will earn 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent and you can earn an accelerated rate of 3 points per dollar with eligible travel, dining, and entertainment purchases. This is only valid up to a maximum spend amount of $50,000 annually, but that’s still very reasonable. Also, the points you accumulate can be used for any airline and can cover all flight charges and taxes, and there are no blackout dates — incredibly enticing features. For perks, travellers also love the four free airport lounge passes annually and the comprehensive travel insurance included in the cardholder benefits.
The BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®* has plenty of great perks, but keep in mind that it comes at a price. There is an annual fee of $150 (but it's waived for the first year) and a minimum income of $80,000 to apply.
What we like: Excellent introductory bonus worth $540 – Welcome bonus of 35,000 points, 4 free airport lounge passes per year, accelerated earning rate for eligible merchants, annual fee is free for first year.
What we don’t like: High annual fee and high-income requirement to apply
- Welcome bonus of 35,000 points (when you spent 3000 in the first 3 months)
- Annual fee waived for first year
- 2 BMO points for every $1 spent
- 3 BMO points at eligible travel, dining, and entertainment merchants (maxed out at $50,000 per year)
- 4 free airport lounge passes per year – $140 value/year
Best Card for Hotel Rewards
Best Western Mastercard®
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
While not an all-around travel credit card, the Best Western Mastercard® is ideal for cardholders who frequent hotels and are looking to score some free stays. Cardholders earn 5 Best Western Rewards® points for every $1 spent at Best Western hotels and 1 BWR® point for every $1 spent elsewhere. BWR® points can then be redeemed for future stays, dining, or even gift cards.
Other enticing perks: new cardholders earn a welcome bonus of 20,000 BWR® points (that’s enough for 1 free night!). For travellers, there's also car rental insurance coverage included on this card, saving you even more dough. This credit card fast-tracks you to Gold Status after your first eligible purchase, entitling you to an extra 10% in BWR® bonus points for eligible stays as well as perks like room upgrades (when available) – all you have to do is make a qualifying purchase with the card. If you spend $10,000 or more in one year on eligible purchases, you'll get bumped to Diamond Status, which gives you an extra 30% in BWR® bonus points for eligible stays.
Above all, the Best Western Mastercard® is ideal for budget travellers, as there is no annual fee and no minimum income requirement to apply.
What we like: Welcome bonus of 20,000 Best Western Rewards® points, no annual fee, no minimum income requirement
What we don’t like: limited rewards program compared to other travel cards
- Welcome bonus of 20,000 Best Western Rewards® points is enough for a free 1-night stay
- Every $1 spent at Best Western properties earns you 5 Best Western Rewards® points
- Every $1 spent elsewhere earns 1 Best Western Rewards® point
Other card details: Annual Interest Rate on Purchases (“AIR”): 19.99% | Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99% | Interest on Balance Transfers & Access Cheques: 22.99%
Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
Canadians looking for a balance transfer credit card should look no further than the MBNA True Line® Mastercard®. The big draw is that cardholders won’t have to pay any interest (0%!) on balance transfers for the first 12 months. After the promo period ends, the regular balance transfer interest rate is 12.99%, which is still considerably lower than most credit cards in Canada. This card is a great option for those seeking to pay off debt fast. Apply now, because this amazing offer ends on February 29, 2020!
What makes the MBNA True Line® Mastercard® even more attractive is the fact that there is no annual fee and no minimum income requirement – making it easy for anyone to apply. Additional perks include around the clock fraud protection and 24/7 customer service.
What we like: No annual fee, 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 12 months, no minimum income requirement
What we don’t like: No rewards
- Special offer: 0% for 12 months on balance transfers completed within 90 days of account opening, with a 3% transfer fee (minimum fee of $7.50). Apply by February 29, 2020.
- Regular Annual Interest Rate on Purchases (“AIR”) of 12.99%
- Around-the-clock fraud protection
- Access to 24/7 customer service
Other card details: Interest on Cash Advances: 24.99% | Interest on Balance Transfers & Access Cheques: 12.99%| Interest on Purchases: 12.99%
Best Low-Interest Credit Card
TD Emerald Flex Rate Visa*
Credit score required: Good to excellent
Income Eligibility: None
Annual Fee: $25
Limited Time Offer – Online Only. Get a full Annual Fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year. Conditions apply. Must apply online by March 2, 2020.
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
What makes the TD Emerald Flex Rate Visa* our top choice for the best low-interest rate credit card in Canada? Instead of just offering a flat fee interest rate, the TD Emerald Flex Rate Visa* card's purchase interest rate is variable. It is tied to the TD Prime Rate and varies depending on your credit assessment. Given that TD’s Prime Rate is currently 3.95%, here's how it works:
Customers with a good credit score will qualify for a purchase interest rate as low as TD Prime + 4.50%.
- the lowest possible interest rate is 8.45%.
Less credit-worthy applicants could qualify for:
- an interest rate of 16.70% (TD Prime + 12.75%).
It’s important to note that the interest rate is tied to the prime rate, which is variable. That means if TD Bank raises its prime rate, your interest rate on your outstanding debt will also increase. But given that prime interest rates have been low in Canada, it can also mean that you end up saving big bucks over the long-term. If you have a good credit rating, this card is a great option for getting a rock bottom interest rate. We also love that the annual fee is very affordable at $25. But if you apply online by March 2, 2020, you'll get a full annual fee rebate for the first year.
Other card details: Interest on Cash Advances: TD Prime + 4.50% up to TD Prime + 12.75%
Best Luxury Hotel Rewards Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card is a luxury hotel rewards credit card that will have you sleeping in style in no time. Cardholders earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points for every $1 in eligible card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy™ properties, and 2 points for every $1 in all other card purchases everywhere else. This credit card has a reasonable annual fee of $120, and new cardholders receive a welcome bonus of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of card membership. With this credit card you’ll receive complimentary Marriot Bonvoy™ Silver Elite status and an Annual Free Night Award on your card anniversary, plus access to a suite of insurance like emergency travel assistance, travel accident insurance, car rental insurance, baggage loss and delay insurance, flight delay insurance and hotel theft insurance.
- Earn 50,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your card in your first three months of card membership
- $120 annual fee
- Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points for every $1 in eligible card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy™ properties
- Earn 2 points for every $1 in all other card purchases everywhere else
- Transfer points to frequent flyer miles with a wide selection of airlines
- Variety of insurance coverage
Best Student Credit Card for Rewards
Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card
If you’re a movie lover, the Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card could be an excellent choice. It’s not only a no-fee credit card, but also a rewards credit card to boot: you’ll earn 5 SCENE points for every dollar spent at the movies, and you can redeem your SCENE points for free movie tickets, concessions, live events and more. The redemption rate is really low (starting at 1,000 points), which means you can use this card for everyday purchases and cash in the points for fun things like movies and meals. Even better, the points never expire.
What We Like:
- Earn 5 SCENE points per dollar spent at Cineplex theatres
- Earn 1 SCENE point per dollar spent on everything else
- Earn 2,500 bonus SCENE points with your first $500 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months
Comparison of Canada's Best Credit Cards
|Credit Card||Credit Card Type||Special Card Feature/Bonus||Annual Fee||More Info|
|Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card||Cash Back||4% cashback in up to 3 categories (first 3 months)||$0||Learn More|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card||Rewards||Up to 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points / no foreign transaction fees||$120||Learn More|
|Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card||Cash Back||4% cash back on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases||$120 (free first year)||Learn More|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*||Aeroplan Travel||A welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles (Conditions apply. Must apply online by March 2, 2020.)||$120 (Waived first year. Conditions apply. Must apply online by March 2, 2020.)||Learn More|
|BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*||Rewards||35,000 point welcome bonus||$150 (free first year)||Learn More|
|Best Western Mastercard®||Budget Hotel Rewards||Welcome bonus points are enough for a free 1-night stay||$0||Learn More|
|Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card||Best Luxury Hotel Rewards Credit Card||50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your card in your first three months of card membership||$120||Learn More|
|MBNA True Line® Mastercard®||Balance Transfer||0% balance transfer rate for 12 months (Offer ends February 29, 2020)||$0||Learn More|
|TD Emerald Flex Rate Visa*||Low Interest Rate||Interest rate is one of the lowest in Canada||$25 (Waived for first year if you apply online by March 2, 2020)||Learn More|
|Scotia SCENE Visa Card||Student Card||Earn 2,500 bonus SCENE points with your first $500 in everyday purchases in 3 months||$0||Learn More|
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
How Do Credit Cards Work?
It’s essential to understand how credit cards work, so you can use them to their maximum efficiency without getting into financial trouble. Access to a credit card brings many benefits, including:
Access to credit – A credit card is an ideal tool if you need to make an online purchase, transfer an existing credit balance, or access cash quickly via a cash advance. A credit card is a revolving credit tool, meaning you can continue to charge purchases while paying back the balance.
Convenience – Credit cards allow you to make purchases using just a plastic card or even your phone, so you don’t need to carry cash for your daily purchases.
Build Credit – Opening a credit account and keeping it in good standing by making your monthly payments is an excellent way to build your credit score. A high credit score gives you access to competitive mortgage and car loan rates.
Rewards and Cash Back – Certain credit cards let you earn points, like Aeroplan miles, AIR MILES, or cash back, to reward your daily spending. Points or cash back accrue when charging purchases to your credit card. Good rewards credit cards let you earn between one and five points per dollar spent, or between 1% – 5% of your purchase value as cash back rewards. You can redeem your points for hotel stays, flights, electronics, and experiences.
How to Choose the Best Credit Card
When it comes to choosing the best credit card, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” solution for everyone. Choosing the right credit card depends on your priorities and your spending habits.
For example, if you have existing credit card debt that you’ll like to pay off, consider a low interest or balance transfer credit card. These credit cards offer low-interest rates and make it easier to pay off high-interest debt.
If you are in the habit of paying off your credit card balance every month and avoiding interest charges, a rewards credit card will maximize your spending by letting you accrue points and giving you access to unique perks. If you love to travel, a travel rewards credit card lets you earn points towards flights and hotels. If you’d prefer a cash reward, a cash back credit card is right for you.
Not all cash back and rewards credit cards are created equally. Some offer extra bonuses for spending in different categories, and others have perks and benefits that may suit your needs, like VIP airport lounge access or rental car discounts. Some rewards credit cards have minimum income requirements or annual fees.
Deciding Between Points vs. Cash Back
Travel rewards credit card and cash back credit cards each have their own unique perks. Here are some aspects to take into consideration when deciding between the two:
Cash Back Credit Cards
All cash back credit cards pay you a percentage of your spending in cash and most reward you differently depending on which categories your spending falls in the most. It’s essential to look at the earnings rate and choose a credit card that will benefit your spending the most. For example, if you are spending hundreds of dollars per month on gas for your long commute, only consider credit cards with a high cash back reward in that spending category.
Second, make sure to consider how the annual fee will cut into your rewards, and don’t choose a credit card with a yearly fee that is higher than your potential rewards.
Finally, consider how the cash back is rewarded. Some credit cards deposit your money back earnings quarterly, and others deposit it annually. Some credit cards let you put your cash into a savings account, while others only apply the rewards against your credit card balance.
Rewards Credit Cards
Most rewards credit cards let you earn points that can be redeemed for travel rewards like hotels and flights, but some also allow you to purchase electronics, home goods, and even Blue Jays tickets. You’ll still want to consider how the rewards credit card will reward your unique spending habits as we outlined above, and you’ll need to take the annual fee into consideration. If you’re an Aeroplan or AIR MILES collector (or both!), you’ll definitely want to consider an AIR MILES or Aeroplan credit card to maximize your miles accumulation.
Finally, some travel rewards credit cards are affiliated with particular airlines or hotel chains, so if you have a preference in that area, this factor may weigh into your decision-making process.
With so many credit cards on the market, finding the best one can be tricky. Just remember that there’s no “best” credit card for everyone, and finding a credit card that works for you requires a little research. Luckily, our in-depth analysis of the best credit cards in Canada will give you a bit of guidance and help you find one that suits your lifestyle.
The Best Credit Cards by Category:
- The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards
- The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- The Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards
- The Best Cash Back Credit Cards
- The Best AIR MILES Rewards Credit Cards
- The Best Aeroplan Credit Cards
This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.