You could be earning up to 3x the cash back by choosing the best cash back credit card compared to just walking into your bank and taking whatever one they offer you.
For example, if your family spends a reasonable $25,000 annually on credit, you would net $125 in cash after fees with the worst cards. The top ranked card on my list would earn you $411 every year - big difference, eh?
But, there's more than just max cash to consider...
You also need to think about annual fees, sign up bonuses, increased cash on purchases like gas and groceries, insurance coverage, and other perks. Not to mention subtle details like how the cash back is paid to you (statement credit, cheque, direct deposit), caps and tiers on your earnings, and how often the cash is paid out.
I've taken all these things into account - and more - with my unbiased ranking system. You won't find that anywhere else.
2017 Cash Back Credit Card Rankings
76 cash back credit cards were considered for this comparison - you can find the top 10 in the table below ranked from best to worst.
To increase your options, cards that aren't marketed as cash back cards but allow you to convert your points to cash, statement credits, or money to invest are also included.
The table scrolls horizontally by using the slider at the bottom.
|Apply||MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard|
|Apply||Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite|
|Apply||BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard|
|Apply||Scotiabank Gold American Express Card|
|Apply||Rogers Platinum MasterCard|
|Apply||CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite|
|Apply||Desjardins Visa Prestige Platinum|
|Apply||Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card|
|Apply||SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express|
|Apply||Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard|
|Overall Score||Net Cash $25,000 Spend1||Net Cash $100K Spend2||Annual Fee||First Year Free||Sign Up Bonus Value3||Insurance Score||Perks Score|
up to $150*
up to $200*
* Limited time promotion ending soon.
1. $25,000 in annual spending works out to $2,083 in monthly spending which is achievable for a typical Canadian family funneling most of their spending through their credit card. The cash back shown is calculated by splitting spending sensibly across spending categories like groceries, gas, drugstore, travel, bills, and everyday spending. All spending bonuses, tiers, limits, and caps are taken into account in these calculations. Sign up bonuses are NOT included in these numbers, so that will be an extra perk for you. Finally, the annual fee is deducted from the cash back earned giving you the true cash back earned for the year.
2. $100,000 in annual spending works out to $8,333 in monthly spending which is too high for most families. I have included these numbers to better evaluate cards and give an advantage to cards who don't have spending caps or limits. It also allows cards that have a good tier system to shine at higher spending levels. The cash back shown is calculated by splitting spending sensibly across spending categories like groceries, gas, drugstore, travel, bills, and everyday spending. All spending bonuses, tiers, limits, and caps are taken into account in these calculations. Sign up bonuses are NOT included in these numbers, so that will be an extra perk for you. Finally, the annual fee is deducted from the cash back earned giving you the true cash back earned for the year.
3. The sign up bonus value is the maximum possible dollar value you can get from the bonus if you take full advantage of it. So, with a 5% gas and grocery bonus for 6 months with a $250 cap - $250 would be the value.
The Top 3 In Detail
1) MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard
No longer the underdog, this card is finally being widely accepted as the best cash back credit card in Canada. You get a straight 2% cash back on all purchases with no strings, bonuses, limits, or caps and you can get paid whenever and however you want - SWEET.
If you look closely at the scores, you'll see many of the top cards are very closely ranked. Then, you'll see that this card beats them all by a wide margin. That's because not only do you earn the most cash, but you also get great insurance coverage, and maximum flexibility. That isn't a combination that any other card can offer.
One catch. You'll be earning points that can be redeemed for cash, not cash directly. But why would you redeem your points for anything but cash? The other reward choices, like travel, give you the same 2% return on your spending. There's really no incentive to make any other choice.
Why You Want It:
- Top flat cash back rate of 2%, the highest of any card.
- 10,000 bonus points as a sign up bonus - that's $100 in free money.
- No charge for extra cardholders so your whole family can rack up the rewards quickly.
- No limits, tiers, or restrictions on how much cash you can earn.
- Choose how you get your reward: cheque, bank deposit, statement credit, travel, gifts, gift cards, and more.
- Rare price protection coverage that gives you a refund if you ever spot something you bought at a cheaper price.
- Redeem whenever you want as often as you want.
I've had this card in my wallet since it launched in 2011 and still use it as my primary credit card today. Last year alone, I redeemed $1253 worth of cash and there's nothing stopping you from doing the same.
2) Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite
If you're a big gas and grocery spender, then this is the card for you.
The 4% bonus on gas and groceries is unmatched by any other card. If more than 30% of your spending is regularly on those two things, then it will push your total cash back higher than the #1 ranked card
The downside is that you only get 1% cash back on your regular purchases, which is a major drag on rewards.That and you only get to redeem your cash once a year - but that restriction is actually pretty common amongst cash back credit cards. If you do the math and see that you will get more rewards overall, the lack of redemption flexibility is a pretty small tradeoff.
Why You Want It:
- 4% cash back on gas and grocery spending - no one else comes close.
- Good insurance package including 15 days travel medical - highest in the top 3.
- High $25,000 spending limits on bonus gas and grocery cash back.
- First year annual fee of $99 is often waived so you can try it out at no cost.
- Increased 5% cash back on first $3,000 spent (limited time).
3) BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard
Cash back credit cards are all about the money - that's why they aren't normally known for their insurance coverage. The BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard is the one glaring exception to that general rule because it has the best insurance coverage of any credit card in Canada...
That means double the extended warranty and purchase protection of most of its competitors, travel medical and trip cancellation insurance - both rare, and even complimentary roadside assistance. The roadside assistance is a great value if you're a road warrior and can ditch CAA. It also has top notch car rental insurance if you happen to rent vehicles frequently for work or pleasure.
The tradeoff is that you get less cash back - 1.75% on all purchases - coupled with a slightly higher annual fee ($120 vs $89) when compared the #1 ranked card.
Why You Want It:
- A high flat cash back rate of 1.75%.
- 4% cash back for the first 4 months - capped at $250.
- Free roadside assistance is included - few offer this.
- No limits, tiers, or restrictions on how much money you can earn.
- The best insurance package of any cash back card.
- Amazing card for heavy drivers because of all the car rental and driving related perks.
What Matters To You?
What's important is that you get the right card for YOU - not just the highest ranked. I've broken down the top cards by popular features to help make the right choice based on your needs.
Getting The Most Money
If you're looking for a cash back credit card, then getting top dollar is probably pretty important. Flexibility, fees, income requirements, perks, and insurance may mean very little to you.
If that's describes you, then you definitely want the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard. A typical family spending $25,000 annually (about $2000/mth) will net $411 in cash after the annual fee is paid for. That's a very high 1.64% return on spending. In the first year, you'd earn $511 because of the $100 sign up bonus.
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite is a solid second choice. The 1% on regular purchases is a real bummer, but it turns out those massive 4% bonuses on gas and groceries really do lift the overall payout. A typical family spending $25,000 annually will earn net $407 in rewards annually.
Where You Spend Your Money
Is most of your spending concentrated at certain stores or on small set of regular purchases? Many cards give you bonus cash back in spending categories like gas, groceries, drugstore, bills, restaurants, and travel. If you spend most of your money on these things, then it makes a lot of sense to choose a card with a matching spending bonus.
The most popular high spending bonus card is the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite. It gives you 4% cash back on gas and grocery purchases and 2% cash back on recurring monthly bills - a very rare bonus. If you spend a lot on those essentials, then you'll quickly get ahead with this card.
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is another stellar choice. It is the only card where you choose which spending categories give you a bonus. You can choose up to 3 categories to double your regular cash back from 1% to 2%. It is also one of the few top cards with no annual fee. Nor are there any caps or limits on cash earned, making it a great choice for many.
With cash back credit cards, it's easy to tell if paying an annual fee is worth it. You simply take your annual rewards earned and subtract the annual fee to give you your net annual rewards. If your net annual rewards are higher with a fee-based card than a no-fee card, then the choice should be easy. To make it easier, all the dollar values in my rankings already have the annual fee deducted.
But, as much as I try to convince people that annual fees aren't necessarily a bad thing, there are those who are dead set against ever paying a fee. Fortunately, there are still some good no-fee options.
If you went the most cash and a lot of extra flexibility being able to choose your own 2% bonus categories, then the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is what you want. Another major perk is that there are no limits to the amount of cash back you can earn - even in the bonus categories.
Check ouy my complete no fee cash back credit card rankings here.
Lower Minimum Income Needed
Most high ranking cards require at minimum $35,000 in personal income to qualify, while the World and World Elite cards ask for $60-$80,000. That makes the SimplyCash Preferred from American Express a great choice with its paltry $15,000 minimum income requirement. Basically anyone with a job can qualify.
Another interesting choice is the Rogers Platinum MasterCard that has no set minimum - but that card only really shines if you have a Rogers or Fido service to pair with it.
One thing to remember about minimum incomes is that you can often still be approved even if the minimum is higher than what you are currently earning. As long as you have good credit and a good payment history, they will often assess your application on a case by case basis. If you don't appear to be high risk, you could be approved anyway. Your chances vary by bank - but if there's a card you really want - you can always try and see what happens.
Great Perks And Insurance
The BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard is the clear choice when it comes to insurance. It offers 14 different types of insurance and is better than all the other cards in 3 of those categories - no small feat. Add on complimentary roadside assistance and concierge service and you've got a real winner.
The Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold is another solid pick. As a travel rewards card first and a cash back card second, it offers 11 different types of insurances with 5 of them being best in class. It is one of the few cards to offer unlimited trip interruption coverage, 60 days worth of emergency travel medical, and even $1,000 in mobile device coverage. That means you're covered if you happen to accidentally trash your cell phone.
Which One Will You Choose?
Let me know in the comments what your cash back card of choice is.
Finally, always remember that letting credit cards with rewards entice you into much higher spending and debt is NEVER worth it. Please only apply for these cards if you plan to pay them off in full every month.