We’ve compared and selected the best rewards credit cards in Canada on the market today. Rewards credit cards are the most popular type of credit card. There are many kinds of rewards you can choose from: travel rewards, cash back, or general points earning rewards cards.
If you do a lot of spending with your credit card, it may be wise to start earning. There are many cards on the market that can double or triple your current rewards earning rate.
The cards listed below are the cards that currently have the highest earn rates, the largest welcome offers, and the best points redemption programs. While most rewards cards comes with an annual fee, the perks and bonuses you receive over the year, especially if you’re a frequent spender, will largely make it back multiple times over. For most cards, you’ll get your first year’s annual fee waived or rebated back to you in full.
Best overall rewards credit card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
Welcome Offer: 45,000 Membership Rewards® points. Earn up to 30,000 Points in your first year, plus apply by May 5, 2021, and you can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend a total of $3,000 in your first 3 months of Cardmembership
Earn Rate: 5x rewards on dining, coffee shops, grocery stores. 2x rewards on travel, lodging, transit. 1x point for everything else.
Annual Fees: $10/month
*Apply by May 5, 2021, you can earn a Welcome Bonus of 15,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. This, on top of the regular 30,000 points welcome bonus means you can get 45,000 points in your first year.
Few other cards come close to the earn rate of the American Express Cobalt Card. It’s the perfect card for everyday spending as it provides the highest earn rate for grocery, dining, and drinks purchases at 5 points per $1 spent. For travel and transit, you’ll earn 2 points for every $1 spent with your card. For everything else, you’ll earn 1 point.
One of the reasons why this is one of the most popular cards is the flexible points redemption program. You have a lot of options on how to use your rewards points. You can use your points for dining, groceries, drinks at bars, movie tickets, retail shopping, and even movie streaming services. You can also book travel through the Fixed Points Travel Program or American Express Travel Online, get tickets to concerts and events through Ticketmaster, buy gift cards and merchandise through their membership rewards shop, and even redeem shopping purchases from Amazon. You also get access to Front of the Line by American Express Invites to advanced movie screenings.
With a welcome bonus up to 45,000 Rewards Points, travel insurance, and no fees to hold additional cards, the American Express Cobalt Card is our top pick as the best overall rewards credit card in Canada at the moment.
Best for highest cashback rewards
SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express
Welcome Offer: 10% cashback in your first 4 months (up to $400).
Earn Rate: Flat rate of 2% back on purchases when your welcome period ends.
Annual Fee: $99
Min. Income Required: $0
If you’re looking for the highest cashback rewards + welcome bonus + earn rate on the market, the SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express is the card for you. It comes with a large welcome offer of 10% cashback for the first 4 months of cardmembership (up to $400). After that, you can enjoy the highest flat cashback rate of 2% on all purchases, with no cap on how much you can make. The card also comes with a slew of travel insurance offers, and has no minimum income requirements.
Best for flexible spending
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Welcome Offer: 25,000 Points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Card membership
Earn Rate: 2x points for travel, groceries, gas stations, and drugstores. 1x point on everything else.
Annual Fees: $150
Min. Income Required: $0
The American Express Gold Rewards Card allows you to spend on a large number of categories with a high earn rate. You’ll get 2 rewards points for every $1 spent with your card on groceries, gas, drugstores and travel. You’ll earn 1 rewards point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Along with the other perks and benefits (like travel insurance, access to The Hotel Collection from American Express, and benefits from Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program), the card comes with a large welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points. You’ll receive your welcome bonus in full when you charge $1,500 to your card within the first 3 months of membership.
Another benefit of the Amex Gold Card is that you’re able to convert your Membership Rewards 1:1 for Aeroplan Miles. If you’re an Aeroplan member, no other card has a higher Aeroplan Miles earn rate than this card.
Best lifestyle rewards credit card
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card
Welcome Offer: Get up to 40,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
Earn Rate: Earn 5x the BMO Rewards points on groceries, dining, gas and transit. Get 1 BMO Reward for every $1 spent on everything else.
Perks: Get a $50 annual lifestyle credit to spend however you want. Mobile Device Insurance that covers you for up to $1,000. Pay with Points by browsing your recent transactions & redeem your points for as little as $1.
Annual Fee: $120
Min. Income Required $60,000 personal or $100,000 household
A lifestyle card is a somewhat newer category of credit card. They’re called lifestyle cards because the welcome offer, earn rates, and perks offered are all designed to reward you for everyday life purchases. For example, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card will give you $50 annual lifestyle credit that you can use on whatever you want. You will get a new $50 credit for each year you’re a card member. You also get rewarded highly (5x BMO Rewards points) for lifestyle purchases like groceries, dining (includes delivery apps) and gas and transit. When you consider the whopping 40,000 points welcome offer and the annual fee waived for the first year, there’s a reason why this is a favorite card amongst millennials.
Best overall rewards mastercard
BMO World Elite™* MasterCard®*
Welcome Offer: 40,000 Points + First year fee waived
Earn Rate: 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment. 2x points for everything else.
Annual Fee: $150
Min. Income Required: $80,000 personal or $150,000 household
If you’re looking for the highest rewards possible, you’ll want a card with the biggest welcome offer, waived annual fee for the first year, and high earn rates for every dollar of spend with your card. The BMO World Elite™* MasterCard®* hits all these checkmarks. You’ll get a whopping 40,000 points as a welcome bonus + your $150 annual fee waived for the first year + 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, dining, and entertainment. You’ll also get complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, with exclusive VIP access, plus four annual complimentary passes ($140 value/year).
Plus, you’ll also get access to over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, and best-on-the-market travel and medical insurance.
Best for free hotel rewards + free stays
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
Welcome Offer: 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (after you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Card membership) + Free night stay each year you are a cardholder.
Earn Rate: 5 points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. Earn 2 points for every $1 on all other purchases.
Annual Fees: $120
Min. Income Required $0
For many people, the majority of your credit card rewards go towards free hotel stays. And if you want to maximize the number of free nights per year, the Marriott BonvoyTM American Express® Card is the best hotel rewards card on the Canadian market. It gives you a free night’s stay each year you’re a cardmember + welcome bonus of 50,000 Marriot Bonvoy points. 50k points is enough for 3 free nights at a Category 2 hotel.
Best credit card for maximum travel rewards
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite
on TD's website
Welcome Offer: 60,000 TD Points (travel value of $300) + First year fee waived
Earn Rate: 9x points when you book travel online through Expedia For TD. 3x points on everything else.
Annual Fee: $120
Min. Income Required: Personal $60,000 or Household $100,000
If travel points are your thing, the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card is the top travel points card on the market today. It comes with one of the largest welcome bonuses of 60,000 TD Rewards Points, has one of the most flexible points redemption programs (travel bookings can be made anytime through Expedia for TD), and offers the highest number of points per $1 of spending.
The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card gives you 3 TD Points for every $1 spent on all purchases. When booking travel through Expedia for TD, you’ll earn a whopping 9 TD Points for every $1 spent. The waived first year fee combined with the slew of travel benefits (like travel insurance, car rental insurance, and car rental savings) makes this the #1 card on the market for people looking to collect maximum travel rewards and save on their next trip.
Best credit card for Aeroplan + flight rewards
American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card
Welcome Offer: 3,000 AIR MILES Reward Miles (when you charge a total of $1,500 in purchases to your Card within your first three months of Card membership).
Earn Rate: 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors. Earn 1 Mile for every $10 in purchases at other eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores. Earn 1 Mile for every $15 in purchases everywhere else.
Annual Fee: $120
Min. Income Required: $0
For frequent flyers who spend a lot of money on travel, the American Express® Aeroplan® Reserve Card is a must-have credit card that can maximize your rewards. Enjoy up to 65,000 Aeroplan points, and a $100 statement credit. You’ll earn 3x points on eligible purchases made with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations, 2x the points on dining and food delivery purchases, and 1x points on everything else.
The American Express® Aeroplan® Reserve Card also comes with some of the most incredible travel perks: You’ll get priority check-in, free checked bags, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling. You’ll also get access to select Air Canada Maple Leaf LoungesTM. The annual fee for this card is higher than other cards, but if you’re a frequent flyer, this is a card that can earn you much more rewards for the flights you’re already paying for.
Best no-fee rewards credit card
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
on Tangerine's website
Welcome Offer: choose up to 3 categories and receive a 4% cash back on those for the first 3 months.
Earn Rate: 2% cash back on your selected categories, and 0.5% on everything else.
Annual Fee: $0
Min. Income Required: Personal $12,000
The Tangerine Money-back Card gives you incredible cashback rates considering it’s a no-fee rewards credit card. You’ll enjoy 4% cashback (on 3 spending categories that you select) for the first 3 months. After that, you’ll get 2% cashback on your selected categories, and 0.5% cashback on everything else. If you’re interested in finding a free credit card that still offers high rewards, this is the card for you.
Best premium rewards credit card
The Platinum Card® by American Express®
Welcome Offer: 25,000 Points (after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first three months) + $200 annual travel credits
Earn Rate: 2x points for travel, 3x for dining, and 1x for everything else.
Annual Fees: $699
Min. Income Required: $0
The American Express Platinum Card has one of the highest annual fees on the market. However, it comes with some of the biggest perks and bonuses. Cardholders will receive 25,000 Bonus Membership Rewards® points. You’ll also get an extra $200 travel credit every single year that you’re a member. That’s already enough to cover the annual fee without even considering the points you’ll earn back from purchases.
You’ll earn 3 points for every $1 spent on eligible dining, 2 points for travel purchases, and 1 point on everything else. Plus, earn an extra point on top for each $1 spent on eligible hotel or car rental bookings made with your card. You can spend your points to redeem purchases, book travel through the Fixed Points Travel Program, order gift cards, and even transfer points to other loyalty programs like Aeromiles.
And if you’re looking for travel perks, The American Express Platinum Card offers the highest travel insurance coverage at $5M for the first 15 days, car rental insurance, 24/7/365 access to Travel Emergency Assistance (access to worldwide emergency medical assistance services and legal referrals), and even StandbyMD Travel Medical Concierge (24/7 access to physician telephone consultations, arrangement of house call visits, and referral to medical facilities).
All of these rewards, perks, and benefits combined with the fact that you’ll have no pre-set spending limit, makes this a pricey-but-worth-it option for many people.
Another great no-fee rewards card
Shell AIR MILES®† MasterCard® from BMO
Welcome Offer: Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles!* That’s enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash.*
Earn Rate: Always get 3x the miles at participating AIR MILES Partners. 1 Mile for every $25 in card purchases everywhere else
Annual Fee: $0
Min. Income Required $15,000
If you’re not a heavy spender and just want a good rewards credit card that you can rack up points with, then the Shell AIR MILES®† MasterCard® from BMO is your best choice. Even with no annual fee, you’ll still earn hefty points through the Air Miles loyalty program.
Cardholders will get 950 bonus Air Miles as a welcome bonus, then be able to earn 2x the Miles on all purchases made at participating Air Miles partners.
You’ll earn 5x Miles on purchases at Shell locations in Canada until December 31, 2020, and get 1 Mile for every $20 spent everywhere else.
Methodology: How we choose the cards in this list
Simple Rate chooses the best rewards credit cards in Canada based on evaluating size of welcome bonuses, points earnings rates, redemption options, and other perks and benefits.
The Comprehensive Guide To Rewards Credit Cards
The world of rewards credit card is complex. It’s bustling with options both on a macro level – types of reward cards and micro level – nuances among the available choices. These intricacies can make it intimidating for anyone looking to leverage the benefits of reward cards to enhance their finances. But don’t worry – this article will help you explore the topic of rewards credit cards from groundup.
The concept of rewards card originated in the late 1800’s when S&H – a company founded by Thomas Sperry and Shelley Byron awarded consumers with collectible Green Shield Stamps for meeting certain shopping quota at gas stations, department stores and supermarkets. This core model entered the credit card industry when AT&T’s Universal Card began incentivizing purchases with cashback rewards that could be later applied to the customer’s phone bill.
How do Rewards Credit Cards Work?
Reward programs are used as a way to encourage loyalty among cardholders. The more the card is used to pay for things, the higher the potential to earn significant incentives. Generally, rewards credit cards offer earnings on a per-dollar level across three currencies– points, miles, and cash-back. The collected rewards can be redeemed for a number of things, including cash which is often given as a statement credit, cheque, or deposited directly to your savings account. Some issuers let you access your rewards once a year, while others allow frequent redemption.
Here is a general process of how Rewards Credit Cards work:
Welcome bonuses – Credit card issuers offer bonuses to new users as a way to encourage them to quickly sign-up. These offers may be only valid for a limited period. Once you apply and get accepted, you will be eligible to earn the bonus provided you fulfill a few conditions– like, make your first purchase or spend a certain amount within a specific number of months. Welcome bonuses are there to remove the need for starting from ground zero. They give you a nice cushion you can stack up on with ongoing rewards, and they also cancel out the smaller expenses associated with owning a credit card, such as annual fees.
Standard rewards – You will earn rewards for every transaction you make with your credit card. But, the amount of rewards differ based on spending categories. For example, some credit cards may offer a higher reward for travel related purchase than on groceries. Make sure to get a reward credit card that offers the maximum rewards on the category that sees the biggest expense from you. So if your biggest daily, weekly, and monthly expenses revolve around groceries, then pick a credit card like PC Financial Mastercard.
Reward redemption – How you redeem your rewards depends on the terms and conditions of the rewards card you sign up for. Every credit card company has their own reward program structure, which can be found on their website and will be provided to your upon applying. For example, travel credit cards will let you redeem your points for free hotel stays, car rentals. They will also let you use your points on flight tickets with no blackouts or seat restrictions. Generally, your rewards can be redeemed for statement credit, as a discount on your next purchase, gift cards from popular retail stores, discounts on airfare and hotels.
Types of Rewards Credit Cards
Here are the most common types of reward credit cards available in Canada:
Cashback credit cards
Cashback cards give you a rebate in the form of a percentage of the amount you spent shopping. These usually range from 1%- 6%. While some may offer a flat-rate percentage of 1% across all spending categories, others might have a more varied reward model, where one category brings more cashback than the others. You will be able to see your rewards on your monthly statement or you can track them online.
Cashback credit cards can be divided into 3 categories:
Flat-rate cashback credit card – Offers a single cashback percentage across all categories regardless of where you shop.
Tiered-cashback credit card – Offers different cashback percentages for different categories.
Rotating-bonus credit card – Offers a higher percentage rewards on specific categories for a certain window of time. Percentages rotate quarterly. Sometimes they also let you pick your own bonus categories. These require a little more proactive approach than the other two variants of cashback rewards because you will have to manually activate the bonus categories through your account online.
Also, keep in mind that when a card gives you bonus cashback for certain categories, you will earn those rewards based on where you shop irrespective of what you purchase. So, if your rotating bonus category for that month is paying the highest rewards for grocery stores, you will receive the same bonus for anything you buy at the supermarket, even if its not groceries.
Cashback rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit, as a deposit to your savings account, or sometimes even as a cheque. Most people choose to withdraw their cashbacks as a statement credit which reduces the amount you owe to your credit card issuer. If your cashback earnings for a month is $40 and your balance is $100, then you will only have to pay $60 out-of-pocket.
General points reward cards
These credit cards reward you with points based on a pre-set structure. The points accrued can be redeemed across multiple general categories such as electronics, travel, jewelry, beauty, groceries, gas etc.
Travel/Hotel points reward cards
Travel credit cards reward you with points for all purchases. But, they will give you bonus points for travel related spending made through your card. You can redeem your points for free hotel stays at hotels within the credit card company’s partner network, vacation packages, flight tickets and more. Some general travel rewards credit card will allow you to convert your accumulated points to airline miles like Aeromiles.
Gas rewards card
Gas rewards credit cards give you points or cash back for making purchases at any or brand specific gas company, like Shell.
Airline or Hotel-specific rewards card
This type of rewards credit card is usually associated with one airline or hotel-chain. While you can earn points on all your purchases, you will be able to get higher rewards when flying with the specific airline or staying at a specific hotel. Some credit cards give you generic air miles that can be redeemed for travel related purchases across any airline or online travel website.
Is a Rewards Credit Card Right For You?
Rewards credit cards is a good choice for mostly anyone who shops, especially if you’re someone who has a dominant category that takes up the majority of your expenses. So, if your expenses revolve around travel, then why not get yourself a travel reward card and get incentivized for the kind of shopping you already do? Rewards are a fantastic way of saving up for certain things like paying off debt, vacation packages, hotel rooms, car rentals and even your next trip to the supermarket.
Anyone shopping for a reward’s credit card should consider the following points:
Have a good credit score – Most good rewards credit cards require applicants to have a credit score of at least 650. Credit cards with low credit limit requirements often have a high interest rate, and come with a weaker rewards and benefits package.
Don’t carry a balance – You should only get a rewards credit card if you are able to pay your month-to-month balance in full. Otherwise you will be charged an interest which will inadvertently increase the amount you owe your credit card company. Also, to earn the most rewards you have to keep purchasing more things using your credit card. But if you are unable to pay your bills consistently, then continuing to spend more on things in an attempt to receive rewards is a self sabotaging behavior which can have a detrimental impact on your credit score and credit history. If you tend to carry a balance month-to-month, you will be better off with a credit card with a low APR.
Your spending is hyper-specific – If you travel a ton, or spend the most in a single category like gas, groceries, or hotels, then it may be worth looking into a rewards credit card that incentivizes your frequent spending. You will be able to quickly rack up points without having to change your spending patterns to fit the need of the rewards model.
You will use the rewards – Rewards are fantastic. But if they aren’t used, then they’re worthless. One reason many people don’t use rewards is because they aren’t relevant to their spending habits. And because most rewards credit cards come with annual fees and other kinds of expenses, you should not get one whose rewards do not reflect your lifestyle.
How To Pick the Best Rewards Credit Card
When it comes to the right rewards credit card, there is a plethora of options available. But before applying for one, make sure to assess the quality and relevance of the rewards credit card to your life.
Here are a few factors to consider when researching for the best rewards credit card:
Welcome bonus – While a generous welcome bonus is always nice, do make sure that the ongoing rewards rate once your promotional period is over is not shabby either. Also, be aware of the spending requirements and other stipulations associated with unlocking the signup bonuses. Usually, the bigger the bonus, the more you will need to spend to redeem it.
APR – While the responsible thing to do as a credit card holder is to pay your balance in full every month, this may not be feasible for many. Opt for a rewards credit card that offers a 0% intro on APR and balance transfers, and a low ongoing interest rate.
Annual Fee – Most credit cards that offer the richest rewards require an annual fees. But there are several fantastic rewards credit cards available that offer their services at no fee, like the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. Make sure that the annual fee of the rewards card you choose to use have perks and benefits that surpasses the fee. Also note that some cards will even waive your annual fee for the first year.
Rewards cap – Rewards credit cards may limit the amount of rewards you can earn in a quarter or a year. Make sure you are aware of these caps.
Expirations – Check to make sure that your rewards do not expire if you don’t redeem it immediately. If you are someone who likes to accumulate points for the long haul to spend it on a big purchase years in the future, then it’s imperative that you go with a credit card that has no expiration on rewards.
Redemption threshold – Does your rewards credit card require you to have a certain amount of points, miles or cash before you can redeem it? If yes, make sure it’s a reasonable amount.
Types of Rewards – Consider the reward model of the credit cards. If you think you’d get the most value from a cashback credit card, then there is no point in applying for a card that rewards you in points or miles.
Foreign Transaction Fees – Do you travel or shop internationally a lot? In that case, the foreign transaction fees (usually 3%) might eat up your rewards. Opt for a travel rewards credit card that has no foreign transaction fee.
Insurance and added perks – The type and comprehensiveness of the insurance package you require from your rewards credit card might vary from person to person. If you travel a lot, ensure that you’ve at least a few basic coverages available like trip interruption insurance, travel medical insurance, and common carrier insurance. Perks are something that you get for simply signing up, and not using the card. This can include complimentary lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding, fraud protection, roadside assistance, purchase protection and more.
How to Get the Maximum Rewards From Your Credit Card
Your goal with rewards credit card should always be to redeem your incentives for the maximum value. This is especially true if the credit cards rewards you in miles or points. This is because the same 50,000 points that might give you a $100 gift card, might only give your $50 if you choose to redeem it for cashback.
Here are a few things you can do to maximize your rewards:
Pay your balance in full: By paying your balance every month, you will accumulate rewards and not interest-spiked debt.
Choose the correct card: There is no universally perfect rewards credit credit that suits everyone’s needs. Get a rewards credit card that makes the most sense in your life.
Put your recurrent bills on your rewards credit card: The more you charge through your card, the more rewards you will earn. Recurrent bills are something you have to pay every month, so putting this expense on your rewards credit card and paying it off each month is a fantastic way to increase your credit score while racking up rewards. Also use your credit card for your every day expenses. This will help you quickly meet the spending requirements needed to unlock your sign-up bonus.
Know what doesn’t bring rewards: Don’t mindlessly use your rewards card to pay for everything. Use a more strategic approach so that you are only charging your card on expenses that will bring you the most rewards.
Pair your cards: Sometimes pairing complementary cards, like using PC Financial Mastercard with PC Optimum card with enable you to earn double reward points for the same purchase. You can also pair up two or three rewards credit cards provided by the same (or different) credit card issuer to gain rewards across different categories at the same time. If the cards belong to the same issuer, you should be able to consolidate your points distributed across multiple cards to one card.
Redeem the smart way: Redeem the rewards in a way that brings you the most value. If you are working with a travel reward cards, you will get a higher redemption value if you spend it on travel purchases instead of getting a cashback. Cashback rewards, on the other hand, will give you the most value for your buck if you redeem the incentives as a statement credit instead of a giftcard.
Use the perks: If your credit card comes with free concierge service, lounge passes, or travel credits, use it. Most people don’t and its often because they aren’t aware of the amenities that they can take advantage of just by carrying the card. Be aware of the perks on your rewards credit card, especially if you are paying an annual fees to maintain it.
Pros and Cons of Rewards Credit Cards
Earn rewards on everyday spending – Rewards credit cards are an easy way to derive practical monetary value from your everyday spending. These rewards can bring you significant savings on your future shopping endeavors.
Build up your credit score – Regularly using your rewards credit card and consistently paying off your balance is a guaranteed way to build up your score and maintain its health.
Protects you and your items – Most rewards credit card comes with a suite of insurance that protects you and your loved ones while you are on the road. Most always come with policies such as purchase protection, price protection and extended warranty insurance that covers your newly purchased items against loss, theft and damage.
You get a welcome bonus – Just by signing up and using the rewards card, you will be able to get your hands on a huge amount of points and miles that can accelerate your reward collecting adventure.
Easy to overspend – It’s easy to put an exorbitant amount on your rewards credit card just so you can earn more rewards. But that can land you in debt really quick. Even though your spending is incentivized, you should not start spending more just to unlock a few more points.
High Annual Fees – Most of these cards come with a high annual fee, which can quickly add up if you owe multiple rewards cards.
High APR – While this shouldn’t be a problem if you pay your balance in full every month, a high APR instantly increase the amount you owe to the bank if you fail to pay your balance.