During COVID-19, most Canadians are sequestered at home, waiting for the day that it’s safe to get outside again. With a global lockdown on international travel, running your expenses through a travel rewards credit card is a waste of your earning power. And make no mistake: the money you spend on groceries, jigsaw puzzles, and toilet paper (if you can find any) rack up. If you’re looking for the best points card in Canada or the credit card with maximum benefits, look no further. No matter what you’re doing during your quarantine, we’ve got a top pick in every category so you can reap rewards from your apocalypse shopping today.
The Best Rewards Credit Cards in Canada
- The CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card — Best For Grocery Purchases
- BMO CashBack® World Elite®* Mastercard®* — Best For Shopping
- BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* — Best For Costco Purchases
- BMO CashBack® Business Mastercard®* — Best For Small Business Owners
- TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card — Best For Commuters/Gas Purchases
- American Express CobaltTM Card — Best for Restaurants and Takeout
- Signature RBC Rewards Visa—Best for Insurance Coverage
Get More Out of Groceries
If social media is any indication, loads of homebound Canadians are opting to spend their lockdown training to be the next Jamie Oliver, which means they’re spending like never before on groceries. Pay for your gigantic grocery purchase with the right credit card and you can reap some sweet cash rewards.
For your grocery spends, the CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card tops this category. Its standard 4% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases† is better than average, and you’ll also get 2% cash back on eligible transportation, dining purchases, and recurring payments† and 1% cash back on all other purchases†. Plus, there’s no limit on the total cash back you can earn.* Also, it comes with a nice welcome offer: new cardholders get 10% cash back (up to $200)* Plus, a first-year annual fee rebate!† It also comes with car rental insurance, travel insurance (including travel medical), and exclusive luxury hotel and travel benefits offered through the Visa Infinite program – all of which will come in handy once you can leave the house again.
- Annual Fee: $120 (first-year annual fee rebate)†
- Interest on Purchases: 19.99%†
- Interest on Balance Transfers: 22.99%†
- Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99%† (21.99% QC only)
- Income Eligibility: $60,000 individual or $100,000 household
- Credit Score Required: Good
- Welcome Offer: Get 10% cash back (up to $200)* Plus, a first-year annual fee rebate!†
- Additional Benefits: Earn cash back on every dollar you spend, includes insurance coverage and shopping protection, access to Visa Infinite benefits
Quebec Residents – Learn More about this CIBC product here
Résidents du Québec : Pour en savoir plus sur ce produit CIBC, suivez ce lien
Supersize Your Shopping Rewards
Living in lockdown means restricting unessential travel and this — along with boredom — is sending people to their computers to get their shopping done. Whether it’s Chapters.ca for your next read, The Bay for new sweats, or Home Depot for the supplies for your garden project, online shopping is the way to go.
The BMO CashBack® World Elite®* Mastercard®* ranks number one on our list when it comes to online shopping. As it has no spending categories, you can earn 1% cash back on all card purchases* – with no caps or category limits. Plus, as a welcome bonus, you’ll get up to 10% cash back in your first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases) and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year*. Redemption is a cinch: cash back rewards can be deposited into your BMO chequing or savings account, applied as a statement credit, or deposited into your BMO InvestorLine account. So you can put that $200 towards your next meal or spending splurge.
- Annual Fee: $120 (first-year annual fee rebate)
- Minimum Income Eligibility: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
- Credit Score Required: Excellent
- Additional Benefits: Travel insurance, complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey*, shopping protection
- Interest on Purchases: 20.99% | Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)
Collect Colossal Cash Back at Costco
Attention Costco shoppers: there’s a sizzling earn rate in aisle 7! With its massive selection of freakishly oversized products, Costco is a favourite for families (and more recently, toilet paper hoarders). Getting a good deal is what the warehouse store is all about, but exploiting those spends is complicated by the fact that Costco only accepts Mastercard. For these spending sprees, the credit card with maximum benefits is the BMO CashBack® Mastercard®*. With no annual fee, this card has a regular earn rate of 3% back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments, and 0.5% on everything else. Even better, the welcome offer bumps this up to 5% cash back on all purchases for the first three months for new cardholders. So stock up at Costco now and get a pay-off for your pandemic shopping later!
- Annual Fee: $0
- Income Eligibility: $15,000
- Credit Score Required: Good to Excellent
- Welcome Offer: 5% cash back bonus for first 3 months on all purchases and 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months (with a 1% transfer fee)
- Additional Benefits: Up to 25% off rentals at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations, purchase protection and extended warranty
- Interest on Purchases: 19.99% | Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)
Cash In On Your Commute
Not everybody is sequestered in their home during this time. If you’re an essential worker commuting to your job, you’re likely already aware of the new, lower gas prices showing up across the country. For commuters during COVID, there are two excellent options for credit cards that will give you some moolah at the pump:
If You’re a Self-Employed/Small Business Owner:
Got a small business? With BMO CashBack® Business Mastercard®*, you can fill up on cash rewards at the pump. As a welcome offer, new cardholders get a generous 6% cash back on gas (as well as office supplies and cellphone and internet bills) for the first four months but the regular rate of 1.5% — 1.75% if you gas up at Shell — isn’t too shabby either. This is a business card, so you’ll need a business license to apply. But with a $0 annual fee, this is an attractive product, even for a sole proprietorship.
- Annual Fee: $0
- Income Eligibility: N/A
- Credit Score Required: N/A
- Welcome Offer: Earn 6% cash back on gas, office supplies, and cell phone/internet bills for the first 4 months.
- Additional Benefits: Earn cash back on every dollar you spend, purchase protection and extended warranty
- Interest on Purchases: 19.99% | Interest on Cash Advances:22.99%
If You Are An Employee:
Don’t own your own biz? If you’re working during COVID-19, you can still cash in on the commute with the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card. Their standard 3% return on gas, groceries, and recurring bills is excellent, as is the 1% back on everything else. And, until August 16, 2021, new cardholders will get a whopping 6% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months up to a total spend of $2,000. That means you could potentially earn back $120 — a dividend you can spend elsewhere or put against your balance. Plus, this card comes with some great perks like travel insurance and emergency road services, both of which will come in handy once you can leave the house again.
- Annual Fee: $120 (Annual fee rebate for first year. Must apply by August 16, 2021)
- Minimum Income Eligibility: $60,000 personal or $100,000 household income
- Credit Score Required: Good to Excellent
- Welcome Offer: Earn 6% in Cash Back Dollars on all purchases for the first 3 months up to a total spend of $2,000 (Conditions apply. Must apply by August 16, 2021.)
- Additional Benefits: Earn up to 3% cash back on eligible everyday purchases; includes travel insurance and Emergency Road Services with the Deluxe TD Auto Club Membership
- Interest on Purchases: 20.99% | Interest on Cash Advances: 22.99%
*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
Chow Down To Rack Up Points
If you rely on that Friday night pizza order to get you through the week, or if you’re just done with cooking, why not choose a credit card that rewards you for every dollar you spend on restaurants and takeout? The American Express Cobalt™ Card gives you a healthy kickback on those purchases, and groceries too, with 5 Membership Rewards® points for every dollar you spend. You’ll also get 2 points/dollar on travel and transit purchases, and 1 point/dollar on everything else.
To jumpstart your earnings, the welcome offer awards you up to 30,000 Membership Rewards® points. All you have to do is spend $500/month on your card to earn 2,500 points each month for the first year (up to 30,000 points).
- Annual Fee: $120 ($10 per month)
- Minimum Income Eligibility: N/A
- Credit Score Required: Fair to Good
- Welcome Bonus: Earn up to 30,000 Membership Rewards® points in the first year
- Additional Perks: Insurance, exclusive entertainment access, access to VIP benefits at the Hotel Collection from American Express®
- Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 21.99%
Get It Covered with Insurance Benefits
Now that we’re all spending a lot more time at home because of the pandemic, we’re more likely to splurge on purchases we can enjoy in our homes. But are your purchases protected in case disaster strikes?
With the RBC Signature Rewards Visa Card, you’ll enjoy a suite of insurance coverage that makes buying that new appliance or little luxury a little bit easier. There’s purchase protection against damage, theft, and loss as well as good old warranty extension—just in case something goes kaput. And, if you need a “staycation” weekend outside of the city, the RBC Signature Rewards Visa has you covered with rental car insurance.
It’s also a rewards credit card. With this low annual fee card ($39 waived if you’re a student or banking client), you’ll earn 1 RBC Rewards point per $1 on your card purchases, which you can redeem for everything from gift cards to merchandise to travel. You can even use points to pay down your credit card balance, pay bills, make loan repayments, or contribute to select investment products. Bonus points can be earned simply by spending with your card at certain retailers.
- Annual Fee: $39 (No fee for students with an eligible bank account and RBC Signature No Limit Banking® clients)
- Minimum Income Eligibility: N/A
- Credit Score Required: Good
- Rewards: Earn 1 RBC Rewards point for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases and earn bonus points through card purchases at selected retailers.
- Additional Perks: Purchase security and extended warranty protection, insurance benefits, savings of 3¢ per litre on fuel at Petro Canada + 20% more RBC Rewards Points and 20% more Petro Points when you link your Petro Points with your RBC card
- Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
What to Do With Your Travel Rewards During COVID-19
Just because you’re stuck at home now doesn’t mean you’ll never travel again. If you have existing travel points, there are a few things you can do:
Save Your Points For Later
Check to see if the points expire on your travel rewards credit card. For instance, if you hold a TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Credit Card, your Aeroplan points never expire so long as you’re a cardholder. It’s partly why we named it one of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada. So, if there’s no expiry, you’re free to hang onto your points until you’re able to get back in the air (or on the road).
Redeem For a Statement Credit
Depending on your rewards program, you may be able to redeem your points for a statement credit. For instance, the Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card offers the ultimate flexibility in redemption. If you don’t want to hoard your Scotia Rewards points for travel at a later date, you can redeem your points to receive a statement credit.
Transfer Your Points
If your travel rewards program doesn’t have an alternative or if you’re up against an expiration deadline, you may be able to transfer the rewards to a different program. Failing that, you might opt to donate your rewards — most programs have charity partners.
If you can’t save your points, get a statement credit, or transfer ‘em elsewhere, you may want to use them before you lose them. You could (optimistically) consider redeeming your points now and travelling later. For instance, see if you can get a flight or hotel deal for next year. Just make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance with trip cancellation/interruption coverage in case there’s another wave of COVID-19 that stalls your travel plans. Check out The Best Credit Cards for Travel Insurance in Canada.
Canadians have access to some great travel rewards credit cards, but with COVID-19, travel points may not be the most valuable rewards to collect. Until the pandemic blows over, your best bet may well be switching to one of the best cash back credit cards or one of the best credit cards in Canada that offers flexible rewards or points. Also, take advantage of the best credit card offers and sign-up bonuses while you’re making plenty of pandemic purchases. No matter what your sequestered spending habits, you can find a credit card with maximum benefits