What Canadian credit cards give the best best bang for our buck?
That’s what these rankings are all about.
These cards rose up to the top because they offer the very best in their respective category. If you’re looking for cash, travel, no fees, insurance, or even the best overall card – we’ve got you covered.
But, how do you decide which is best for you?
Only you can really answer that question. Here are some basic things to consider:
- Keep your spending habits in mind. How much you spend and where you spend it does matter. The key is to never overspend for the sake of rewards.
- Travel or cash rewards. Most cards can be broken down into one of these two camps. Travel cards usually give higher value rewards but lack the complete flexibility of cash.
- Point value matters. If you go with a travel or points card, it’s pretty easy to see which cards earn more points. But, keep in mind that not all points have the same value. That’s why we show you an estimated real dollar value for the rewards you will earn.
- More than just rewards. Credit cards have a lot of features, perks, and insurance coverage outside of rewards. Our top cards aren’t just there for the rewards. Don’t miss out on all their other great features too.
We tracked 160 credit cards in Canada, reviewed over 50 features of each card, calculated the dollar value of each card reward ‒ and let the numbers speak for itself.
Of course, the decision of whether the winner meets your needs is still yours...but you won't find a better starting point than this:
Best Credit Card Overall
American Express Cobalt Card
The newest credit card from American Express, has raised the bar when it comes to credit cards.
Amex Cobalt has some of the top earn rates of any credit card on the market – including the highest available 5x the points on all food which includes standalone grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and pubs. So, whether you’re a home-cooking or eating-out-with-friends type, you’re going to be earning maximum rewards.
Aside from the high food earn rate, the Cobalt card will also reward you when you spend money on travel…of any kind. Gas, public transit, or summer travel plans – all of these will give you 2x the rewards for every $1 you spend.
And for all other purchases? You get 1 point per dollar for everything else you spend.
Another area where this card stands out is that its annual fee and bonus rewards payout is done differently. Instead of one lump some for both, you get them in monthly increments. So, if you feel like the $120 annual fee is a hard pill to swallow in one lump-sum, how about $10 monthly?
And instead of having some crazy high spend requirement to get your signup bonus, it is $500 a month on your card to get the bonus. Every month that you do, you will earn 2,500 points ‒ giving you up to 30,000 points in your first year (which we value approximately $500).
Plus you get solid insurance coverage including travel accident and emergency medical ‒ and all other Amex perks like Front of the Line, American Express Invites, and the new Cobalt Perks Program.
With top overall return on spending, flexible monthly fee, generous sign-up bonus, solid perks, good insurance, and no minimum income required ‒ Amex Cobalt sits at the top of 160 credit cards in Canada right now.
Best Cash Back Credit Card
MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard
If you’re looking for the best cash back credit card, look no further than the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard. Sure, it was built as a travel rewards card ‒ but MBNA allows you to redeem their rewards at an impressive 1:1 ratio, 1 point = 1 cent.
Normally you lose at least 30% value when redeeming points for cash, not so here. You get the same 2% earn rate whether you’re redeeming for travel or for cash. Back to cash though...
You get 2 points for every purchase you make, an impressive 2% cash back on ALL your purchases – no limits, no complicated tiers, and no frustrating hoops to jump through.
Many other cash back cards will hold your rewards captive for a year, only allowing you to redeem them at a certain time, and often only as a statement credit. But not with the MBNA Rewards World Elite card. You also get to redeem your points any time and any way you want:
- direct deposit,
- statement credit,
- merchandise, and
- even charity donations.
As if all that wasn’t enough, this MBNA card even offers 8 types of complimentary insurance coverage including rare price protection that allows you to price match any purchase charged to the card with any lower price you can find without the usual restrictions.
As a “travel” credit card you get most of the insurance and perks of your typical travel rewards cards come with – giving you the best of both worlds.
Top cash back, flexible rewards redemption, and insurance for an annual fee of $89. The annual fee of many of its competitors range from $100 to $120, which means with MBNA’s lower annual fee, you net more rewards.
Added bonus: Because this is a Mastercard, you can use it at Costco and Loblaw ‒ and earn 2% cash back.
Best Cash Back with No Annual Fee
The SimplyCash Card from American Express
For the 2nd year in a row, the American Express SimplyCash Card remains on top of the no fee cash back pile. The SimplyCash Card gives you a solid 1.25% cash back on ALL purchases with no tiers and no limits and most importantly…no annual fee.
It’s no secret that the main issue with Amex credit cards is that they aren't quite as widely accepted as Mastercard and Visa. Sure, most major stores, chains, and restaurants do accept Amex ‒ still, you will find a few that don't. So, if you’re considering an Amex card, it’s always good to check with some of your most frequented establishments to see if they do accept it.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a way to maximize your cash rewards and be covered for overall acceptance, why not combine this card with the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard? With Tangerine, you get 2% cash back on up to 3 bonus spending categories that YOU get to choose and change as needed, and 0.5% on all other purchases. This way you'll get 2% on your most important purchases and then 1.25% everywhere else with your SimplyCash Card from Amex.
Rounding this card off, it comes with one of the highest sign up bonuses of no fee cash back cards – 2.5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months you have the card (up to $150 earned). Plus you get 4 types of insurance included, Amex benefits like Front of the Line, American Express Invites, and a $100 bonus for every approved person you refer to the card (up to $1,500 annually).
Best Travel Credit Card
American Express Cobalt Card
Once again, the American Express Cobalt Card comes out on top, if you’re looking for the best travel credit card in Canada. In fact, the best way to use Cobalt is as a travel credit card redeeming for flights. You can also redeem for statement credits and any other type of travel you want, but that reduces your reward value.
The travel rewards that come with this card are very valuable when redeemed using the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program, which will allow you to redeem 40,000 points for a long haul flight to Canada or the US worth up to $700.
$700 flight / 40,000 points = 0.0175 = 1.75 cents
1.75 cents for every dollar you spend is one thing, but also remember that you will get 5x that for ALL food purchases and 2x for ALL travel and transit purchases. That means when earning 5X rewards on food, you’ll be getting an eye-popping 8.75% return on spending.
On top of that, you’ll be protected by 9 types of purchase and travel insurance, which which includes travel accident, emergency medical, flight delay, rental car theft and damage, and more.
Pro tip: Pairing your Amex with a no fee cash back Mastercard like the Tangerine Money-Back is a great backup for any acceptance issue you might come across. You can even get up to 7 bonus spending categories by combining the 4 from the Amex Cobalt (groceries, restaurants, gas, and travel) with up to 3 more YOU get to choose from Tangerine.
Best No Fee Travel
CIBC Aventura Visa
Rewards, insurance coverage, and perks that are often associated with travel credit cards don’t come cheap and annual fees are needed to support all those benefits. Which is why no fee travel credit cards are few and far between.
However, the CIBC Aventura Visa does a pretty good job of balancing travel benefits and zero fees. This card comes with valuable rewards, a nice sign up bonus, a few types of complimentary insurance, and a low income requirement. Here’s what you get:
- 1 point per dollar on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases (up to $6,000 spent annually),
- 1 point per dollar on travel purchases through CIBC Rewards Centre, and
- 1 point for every $2 spent anywhere else.
These points can be used for any flight, on any airline, with no blackout dates, and no seats are off-limits.
Best AIR MILES Credit Card
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
If you're an AIR MILES fanatic, then this is the card you want. It’s so far ahead of its competitors, that it’s really no competition. With the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, you get the best AIR MILE earn rate of any card – 1 Mile per $10 spent on ALL purchases.
You’ll also get an exclusive 15% discount on the cost of reward flights, giving your miles even more value when it comes time to redeem them. You’ll need to choose Dream over Cash rewards if you want to take advantage of that though.
Next, this card has more types of insurance than ANY other credit cards on the Canadian market right now. 14 out of 16 possible types – including 15 days travel medical, $2,500 trip cancellation, $750 personal effects that covers you for lost or stolen items for the entire duration of your trip (which is very rare), and more.
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite has some other solid benefits, including credit card concierge, a 2,000 mile sign up bonus, plus lounge access with 2 free annual passes.
Best Aeroplan Credit Card
American Express Gold Rewards
While Aeroplan’s future is still up in the air until 2020, they continue on as one of the most valuable rewards program in Canada. For now, you can still get a 2.5 cent value for each of your Aeroplan miles, whereas most other rewards programs offer a 1 cent value.
Sure, the Amex Gold Rewards Card is not an Aeroplan branded credit card, yet it allows you to convert Membership Rewards points 1:1 to Aeroplan. And you get double rewards bonus for gas, grocery, drugstore, and travel purchases for a reasonable $150 annual fee.
Also because this is not an Aeroplan-branded card, you get security of rewards that should remain valuable no matter what happens to Aeroplan.
The generous sign up bonus worth $625, 10 types of insurance coverage, and those fun Amex perks seal the deal.
Best Insurance Coverage
Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard
The Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard is a flexible rewards credit card that gives you valuable rewards, great benefits, and currently has the best credit card insurance packages on the market. (Plus, if you’re a Desjardins Credit Union Member, you get a few added perks.)
Although it only offers 11 of the possible 16 types of insurance, it comes out on top in 5 of those categories. Check out all the types of insurance included here:
Added bonus: Most credit card insurance will only cover you until you reach the age of 65, but one notable thing about this card is that the insurance extends to age 75 – one more reason, this card comes out on top.
Best Perks Credit Card
The Platinum Card
When it comes to credit card perks, the Platinum Card really is in a class of its own.
I got this card myself a few years ago for the big sign up bonus and crazy perks and was very hesitant to give it up. I kept it for a 2nd year because of its high 15,000 point bonus for referring others (worth $375 in flights when transferred to Aeroplan). Eventually, I did go back to the Gold Rewards Card because I am no longer actively referring people and couldn't justify the $699 annual fee.
So, what kind of perks are we talking about?
First, the huge 50,000 point one-time sign up bonus (worth approximately $1,250) is kinda hard to ignore ‒ which makes the $699 annual fee worth it for the first year alone.
Then, there’s the $200 annual travel credit that you can use on any travel booked through American Express. This is based on a calendar year, so you can actually use the credit twice before your 2nd year annual fee kicks in, effectively reducing the first year fee from $699 to $299.
Then there's these:
- Redeem your points for ANY type of travel or convert 1:1 to Aeroplan or Avios airline miles.
- Unlimited airport lounge access for you and a guest at Priority Pass lounges worldwide (very rare).
- Access to American Express lounges and select lounges at most Canadian airports.
- VIP treatment at Toronto Pearson which includes valet service and a security lane.
- Discounted companion tickets, complimentary upgrades, and special airfares with select airlines.
- Complimentary hotel upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, or spa credits at more than 975 hotels worldwide.
- Complimentary Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
- Complimentary Club Carlson Gold Elite status.
- Complimentary Hilton HHonors Gold status.
- Free Preferred Golf membership for 1 year giving you free rounds at select golf resorts with a 2 night stay.
- Standby MD travel medical concierge including house calls in foreign countries.
- Advanced ticket sales and reserved seating at select events with Amex Invites & Front Of The Line.
- Dedicated customer service line for Platinum cardholders.
- Unique experiences exclusively for Platinum cardholders.
- Discounts and upgrades on Hertz and Avis car rentals.
- Platinum concierge AND travel service.
Making the Right Choice
Everyone’s preferences are different, and I would never assume to know what your needs are ‒ only you can do that.
Still, I think this is a solid starting point when it comes to separating the best credit cards in Canada from the rest.
We took a look at nearly every feature possible, the fine print, and we include all those features in our rankings – not just rewards. In particular, the American Express Cobalt Card stands out with its great balance of rewards, flexibility, insurance coverage, fees, bonuses, and perks that none of its rivals have been able to match.
Here’s a summary of the top cards so you can find the right fit for you:
|Best Credit Cards||Winning Categories||Features||View Product|
|American Express Cobalt Card||Best Overall and Best Travel Credit Card||
|MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard||Best Cash Back Credit Card||
|The SimplyCash Card from American Express||Best No Fee Cash Back||
|CIBC Aventura Visa||Best No Fee Travel||
|BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard||Best AIR MILES Credit Card||
|American Express Gold Rewards||Best Aeroplan Credit Card||
|Desjardins Odyssey World Elite Mastercard||Best Insurance Coverage||
|The Platinum Card||Best Perks Credit Card||
Finally, remember that letting credit cards with rewards entice you into much higher spending and debt is NEVER worth it. Only get one if you will pay it off in full each and every month.