Not all cash back credit cards are created equal. On the high end, a cash back card could have you enjoying 2% return on all your spending ‒ and on the low end, some cards only offer 0.4% back.
Simple enough, right? But here’s where things get complicated...
If perks and insurance are something you enjoy or if you’re looking for a card that won’t hold your cash hostage for an entire year ‒ then there are more factors to take into account more than just the return on spending.
Not only that, some cards are riddled with hoops and frustrating tiers that take away the ease and simplicity of cash back cards.
The point? It pays to look at the details.
2018 Cash Back Credit Card Rankings
70 cash back credit cards in Canada were considered for this comparison ‒ you can find the top 10 in the table below ranked from best to worst.
Cards that allow you to convert your points to cash, statement credits, or money to invest ‒ even if they aren't marketed as cash back cards ‒ are included to give you more options.
The table scrolls horizontally by using the slider at the bottom.
|Apply||Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite|
|Apply||SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express|
|Apply||Rogers World Elite Mastercard|
|Apply||CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite|
|Apply||CIBC Dividend Platinum Visa|
|Apply||TD Cash Back Visa Infinite Card|
|Apply||Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard|
|Apply||Scotiabank Gold American Express|
|Apply||Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card|
|Apply||SimpyCash Card from American Express|
|Overall Score||Net Cash $25,000 Spend1||Net Cash $100K Spend2||Annual Fee||First Year Free||Sign Up Bonus Value3||Insurance Score||Perks Score|
|4.3||$342||$1,680||$120||No||up to $210||2.1||1.9|
|3.8||$312||$1,250||$0||Yes||up to $75||0.6||1.6|
* 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 In Detail
1) Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite
The number one card on our list is the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite.
This card will give cardholders up to 4% cash back on all purchases –
- 4% cash back on all eligible gas and grocery purchases,
- 2% cash back on all eligible drugstore purchases and recurring bills, and…
- 1% cash back on all other purchases.
If gas and groceries are some of your biggest expenses, there is no question that this card would be a great addition to your wallet.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that you will only get your cash back once a year as a statement credit. However, if you're spending $2,000 a month in those categories, you're going to be earning $960 in cash back – that is a pretty sweet deal.
As if that wasn't enough, this card will give you credit card concierge service, Visa Infinite perks, and a pretty solid insurance package.
Long story short, this is a very solid cash back card, especially if gas and groceries are some of your biggest expenses.
The downsides? As a Visa Infinite card there is a pretty high minimum income requirement attached. However, if you are able to meet the 60K personal or 100K household income, it’s a no-brainer.
Also, this card will only give you 1% cash back on anything outside of gas, groceries, drugstore purchases, and recurring bills, so if most of your spending is outside these categories, you may want to consider one of the cards below.
Why You Want It:
- 4% cash back on gas and groceries.
- 2% cash back on drugstore purchases and recurring bills.
- 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- 9 different types of travel and purchases insurance.
- Visa Infinite benefits and perks.
- Concierge Service.
- First year free.
2) SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
The SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express is another card that gives you a flat 2% cash back on all purchases with no caps or limits.
On top of that, it has one of the best sign up bonuses of any cash back credit card – 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 6 months (up to $300 earned). Assuming you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months, you will earn the full $300, subtract the 2% you would normally earn, and you have a bonus of $180:
$6,000 * 2% = $120
$300 - $120 = $180 bonus
That’s an extra $180 just for signing up and using your card. Or $300 if you don’t have a cash back card that already earns you 2% now!
And if insurance is important to you, here’s a list of insurance coverages that comes with the card:
Why You Want It:
- 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 6 months (capped at $300).
- No limits, tiers, or restrictions on how much money you can earn outside of the first 6 months $300 cap.
- Decent insurance package for a cash back card.
- Great perks like Amex Invites and Front of the Line.
- No charge for extra cardholders.
3) Rogers World Elite Mastercard
If you're looking for a premium cash back credit card, but you would rather not pay an annual fee, the Rogers World Elite Mastercard could be one worth considering.
This card will give you 1.75% back on your everyday purchase – with no limit on the amount of rewards you can earn.
Where this card really shines, however, is if you are a Rogers customer. This World Elite card will give you 2% back on all of your Rogers services and the rewards you earn can be used on your Rogers bills, purchases at Rogers and Rogers partners, or if you call customer service once a year, you can redeem your rewards as an annual statement credit.
Another thing that makes this card a stand out is the fact that you will earn 4% cash back on any purchases made outside of Canadian currency – so if you travel a lot (or even do a lot of online shopping), this card could be a good one to consider.
Add to that the 6 types of insurance you can get and this card is among the best no fee cards in Canada.
The downsides? The fact that you need to call customer service every year is something that might not be fun for most people, plus it could be a little hard to remember for some.
Plus, if you're not a Rogers customer, the 2% cash back on Rogers services is something that you won't ever be able to take advantage of.
Why You Want It:
- 4% cash back on all purchases made in foreign currencies.
- 2% cash back on all Rogers products and services.
- 1.75% cash back on all other purchases.
- $25 welcome bonus.
- 6 types of travel and purchase insurance included.
- One of the few World Elite cards in Canada with no annual fee.
What Matters To You?
I've broken down the top cards by popular features to help make the right choice based on your needs.
The Most Money In Your Wallet
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 be a little lower on your priority list.
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite is also a solid choice. The 1% on regular purchases isn’t really something to brag about but it turns out a massive 4% bonus on gas and groceries really does lift the overall payout. A typical family spending $25,000 annually will earn net $407 in rewards annually.
Rewards Matched With Your Spending Habits
Many cards will give you bonus cash back in different popular spending categories like: gas, groceries, drugstore, bills, restaurants and travel. So, if you spend most of your money in one or two of these categories, then it could make a lot of sense to choose a card with a matching spending bonus.
For instance, 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 the majority of your spending is in these three categories, then this card will have you earning rewards quickly.
Notable mention: Although it didn’t make the top ten list, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card (ranked #18) is worth mentioning here as well. This card not only allows cardholders to earn extra rewards in up to 3 different categories, but it also allows you to choose which categories you want to earn 2% cash back in – then gives you the option to change those categories as your spending habits change. The kicker is that it doesn’t have an annual fee.
Low or No Annual Fees
Not sure if an annual fee is worth it? 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. (Please note: all the dollar values in my rankings already have the annual fee deducted.)
Annual fees aren't necessarily a bad thing, but there are some who are dead set against ever paying a fee. Fortunately, there are still some good no-fee options.
Check out my complete no fee cash back credit card rankings here.
Lower Minimum Income Needed
While most high ranking cards require anywhere from $35,000 to $80,000 in personal income to qualify, the SimplyCash Preferred from American Express (the #2 ranked card on our list), actually doesn’t have any minimum income requirement. So, it’s a pretty great option for anyone who doesn’t qualify for the other cards.
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.
Something to keep in mind: Minimum income requirements aren’t always set in stone. Sometimes you can still be approved for a card 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. Your chances vary by bank – but if there's a card you really want – you can always cross your fingers and try.
Premium Perks And Insurance
The Desjardins Odyssey Visa Infinite Privilege card has the best in class insurance package on the market. Coming out on top in 9 of the 11 insurances it includes plus all the Visa Infinite Privilege perks, it’s not hard to see why this card comes out as the clear winner.
The BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard is another great choice when it comes to insurance. It offers 13 out of 16 different types of insurance – the most of any cash back card. Add on complimentary roadside assistance and concierge service and you've got a real winner.
Which One Will You Choose?
What are some of the main things you look for in a cash back credit card? Are there any features you just can’t live without?
Or perhaps you have a favorite cash back credit card in your wallet or maybe there is one that you tried, but didn’t like? Let me know in the comments.
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.