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Canadian Rewards Programs: Are You Loyal?

List of Canadian loyalty rewards programs

Rewards programs are meant to create loyalty…

Repeat customers and repeat business are the name of the game.

But my experience has been that it doesn’t pay to be loyal. Shopping around for both the best prices AND the best rewards bonuses and perks is 100% the way to go...

IF you’re willing to invest the time.

A quick check shows that I am currently a member of at least 30 rewards programs. I don’t use them all on a regular basis - I have my favourites just like anyone. (Don’t miss my top 5 below.)

Then, there’s other times when rewards programs just aren’t worth it.

But, I do try to keep my eyes open for amazing opportunities in any one of those 30+ programs. If they make me an offer I can’t refuse - then I’ll take it!

That said, it’s hard to know what’s out there and targeted specifically at Canadians. I’ve put together a pretty comprehensive list below - please add any I missed in the comments!

Cash Rewards For Shopping Online

If you want more details on how to earn cash back when shopping online, you can read my cash back site guide.

Get a top flexible travel credit card.
Plus a travel bonus worth another $150.
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Store & Retail Rewards

Grocery Rewards

There are other programs not exclusive to grocery stores like AIR MILES and More Rewards that can be collected at grocery stores. You can find them in the Stores & Retail section above.

Gas Rewards

Entertainment Rewards

Bank & Credit Card Rewards

Restaurant Rewards

Travel Rewards

Airline Rewards

There are more than 5,000 airlines worldwide, many of which fly to Canada and have some sort of rewards program. It can make sense for Canadians to collect points with those airlines, but I am only listing those directly affiliated or heavily operating out of Canada here.

Hotel Rewards

There are dozens of hotel rewards programs and most of them aren’t specific to Canada. I’m listing several popular ones here that have a significant presence in Canada. I find using Priceline generally preferable to collecting hotel rewards points.

Other Rewards

Top 5 Canadian Rewards Programs

Which rewards points are most worth collecting?

You want to look at things like popularity, earning opportunities, frequent big bonus, valuable rewards. I’m sure if you ask 5 people and you’ll get 5 different answers.

I’ve been heavily invested in rewards programs for more than a decade and in my opinion these 5 are worth your time:

1) Shoppers Optimum

With all the incredible 20x bonus points days and other bonus earning opportunities I consider this to be the best rewards program in Canada.

The main complaint is that Shoppers Drug Mart prices are expensive. Honestly, they aren’t that much higher priced than Superstore. If you factor in their weekly big sales you can actually spend less than most other stores.

The kicker is that if you are shopping on a 20x points day, you’re immediately earning 21% back in points that you can use to purchase nearly anything in the store including groceries and other staples. If you stack other product specific bonuses and coupons - that percentage only rises.

2) Great Canadian Rebates

Earning actual cash back on practically everything you buy online is just too enticing to ignore.

These guys were the pioneers of cash back in Canada. More than a decade later they still offer the highest payouts, have the largest collection of partner stores, and pay out the most often.

I honestly can’t remember having a single problem with them. My cash back always tracks properly, I always get paid, and their website is simple and easy to use.

3) Aeroplan

People continue to complain about Aeroplan - but it continues to be awesome if you can learn to jump through a few relatively simple hoops, be a little bit flexible, and actually redeem your miles for flights.

Compared to the recent AIR MILES fiasco - read why Air Miles reversal was a “bogus victory” - Aeroplan looks like a bright shining star. At least with Aeroplan you have relatively predictable availability, the opportunity to get any seat on the plane if you really want it, and good value on many of their routes if you’re willing to look.

It’s true that they have far fewer retail partners than AIR MILES - because they are a true airline rewards program first and foremost - but the big bonus opportunities are much easier to come by that will get you flying faster.

Related: The Top Aeroplan Credit Cards Right Now

4) American Express Membership Rewards

American Express has some of the strongest credit cards in Canada when it comes to rewards.

Their achilles heal is the merchant acceptance, but if you can get past that then none of the other cards can even compete.

The main strengths are that you can convert Membership Rewards points 1:1 to Aeroplan, the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum cards are both very strong and have massive sign up bonuses, and if you can now redeem your points for literally any purchase you make.

Tip: Converting to Aeroplan can easily double or triple the value of your Membership Rewards points so I always recommend you do that if you are willing to figure out Aeroplan enough to get decent value for your miles.

5) PC Plus

PC Plus was the first truly customer specific rewards program and app in Canada. It tailors the offers directly to your shopping habits and does top notch job at it. Offers often give you up to 20% back in point value on specific items you regularly buy.

They also have more general points bonuses for purchasing $X in a certain product category like meat, produce, or natural health products. These can stack with individual item bonuses, which is great.

It’s so sad that you don’t earn PC points on every purchase you make at the large variety of Loblaws owned stores that offer PC points. For me that’s the one thing holding this program back from being amazing.

Back To You

So, are you loyal?

What points do you go out of your way to collect on a regular basis?

 

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Comments

john
john's picture

uhmmm , do you carry all these cards in a backpack?

January 24, 2017 @ 9:01 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

No - my car armrest :) I also have all my card numbers stored in a Google doc that I can access from anywhere on any device.

January 24, 2017 @ 9:07 am
SustainablePF's picture

I prefer to use Stocard for my card data.

January 24, 2017 @ 2:47 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I put all my cards into an app once and then found that it wouldn't scan properly at most stores with my smartphone so I gave up and haven't tried again since. Don't want to repeat that experience.

January 24, 2017 @ 4:40 pm
Susan
Susan's picture

The Mr. Sub I use still has a card that they stamp so after buy 10 subs, I get one free.

There is the half size and the large size. I don't believe all locations belong to it though as one time when I wasn't in my area, I went to another one and they said they don't do that there.

What a great Bagel on Dundas near Dixie has a stamped card system too. I am not 100% but I think it is buy 10 dozen bagel's and get one free.

January 24, 2017 @ 9:15 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes - you have to keep your eyes open for good local or store-specific programs like that. They can often be better than what the big chains offer.

January 24, 2017 @ 9:19 am
Rita
Rita's picture

My beef with Optimum is, though they are easy to accumulate, you are limited as to how many points you can redeem, and there is also a maximum. So, if you have lots of points and you want to redeem for a high priced item, you can only redeem up to the maximum and then have to pay for the difference, which kinda defeats the purpose if you have the points to use anyway. And also, not too much to choose to redeem on e.g. small appliances, etc.
Another thing is that if you are redeeming points, you do cannot take advantage of e.g. 20X points, etc. at the same time. Since Shoppers and the Loblaws group are now under one umbrella, it would be nice if we can redeem Optimum points when shopping at the Loblaws group of companies also, especially when we can you our PC credit card to collect points when shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart.

January 24, 2017 @ 9:25 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

The caps are annoying - that's why I usually redeem for grocery and household items. I find that forces me to use my points for practical things though which provides more practical money saving opportunities instead of buying want items I don't really need.

January 24, 2017 @ 10:13 am
Miron
Miron's picture

I did not know about all of these absurd limitations that make the card almost useless but beyond this, their prices are skyrocketing... I avoid them as much as I can... the only good thing about them is their opening hours... even on holidays, they are open late... in case of an emergency they might be useful!

February 03, 2017 @ 11:11 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I want to do a price comparison between them and another store sometime because there prices don't seem that much higher to me than say Superstore for instance.

February 12, 2017 @ 8:45 pm
Angela SC
Angela SC's picture

No Canadian Tire bucks/card for you?Almost as frustrating as the Optimum to use.Must use in store not at gas bar or vice versa.I can never keep it straight.Also Costco cards(executive one)you can earn cash rewards at the end of the fiscal year.Can be worth it if you shop there a lot.

January 24, 2017 @ 11:21 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I have it listed as "My Canadian Tire Rewards" as I believe that is the official name. Good call on the Costco Executive. I've avoided that for years but I did sign up this year because I had a few bigger than normal purchases to make for our house. I plan to downgrade again next year after I get my rewards coupon.

January 24, 2017 @ 11:28 am
Ken S
Ken S's picture

So, I've taken a lot of your advice of late, and I tend to keep the major rewards cards handy (Air miles, Aeroplan, CDN Tire, HBC), and use a cashback credit card to pay for purchases. This has worked amazingly well, allowing me to make money each year on those credit cards, as well as have my Disney tickets paid for each year by Air Miles.

Unfortunately this year, the Air Miles reward rate for Disney tickets has finally gotten so bad that I'd rather just use the points for cash and buy the tickets outright, but that's still profit for nothing more than carrying around some cards.

So, I'm "loyal" in the sense that I'll prefer to shop at stores with rewards, but I'm no longer loyal to any specific store anymore.

January 24, 2017 @ 1:48 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Glad to hear it is working for you Ken - it's great to have those yearly perks like the Disney tickets that you might otherwise be reluctant to spend money on. At least you know you're getting the extra cash with your credit card rewards and Air Miles redemptions to cover their cost.

January 24, 2017 @ 1:55 pm
Rob D
Rob D's picture

Don't laud Aeroplan, they did what Airmiles didn't have the moxie to go through with.
About a dozen years ago they instituted a points expiry policy and screwed may Canadians in the process. I lost 90k in points, and trust in AC. There are still ongoing class action suits over this.

January 24, 2017 @ 2:11 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, I'm aware. I'm glad they listened to their customers and backed down in the end though - there wasn't a threat of legislation to block them at the time.

I'm not trying to paint them as saints - just a better option than many others. It's easy to get good value from Aeroplan.

January 24, 2017 @ 2:59 pm
sandra
sandra's picture

hello

thanks for this helpful article! I am a subscriber and always find your posts informative. Quick question - regarding Air Miles - in your opinion is it better to go for the Cash or Dream category? I read your piece here (https://www.howtosavemoney.ca/5-best-ways-to-redeem-your-air-miles) but can't seem to see which one you would go with overall or do you do a balance? thanks!

January 24, 2017 @ 4:07 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I am Dream, but I think Cash is more valuable and easy to use for most people. Air Miles is making Dream rewards so hard to use and redeem and they are focusing more bonuses and energy on the Cash side of things. I will probably switch eventually myself.

January 24, 2017 @ 4:39 pm
sandra
sandra's picture

thanks-appreciate that you took the time to answer! keep up the great work!

January 24, 2017 @ 6:46 pm
Miron
Miron's picture

I did check many times and the maximum value you can get (10.5 cents per airmile) is when you use cash... unfortunately Metro is too expensive unless what you need is on sale... another option is Shell gas stations but on the other hand, using Petro Canada points you might get better gasoline deals.

February 03, 2017 @ 11:21 am
moneyhelp
moneyhelp's picture

I am/was a loyal Airmiles collector for over a decade, but after forcing people to use their air miles or lose them by the December 31st deadline, it left a really bad taste in my mouth, and even more so, after they cancelled their expiry policy, anyone who already redeemed their rewards (like me), cannot return their merchandise and get those points back, I am so done with Airmiles.

My only problem is, I use the platinum air miles credit card and it has been my primary card I use for all purchases, and now that I am looking at replacing the card (currently thinking of getting Simply Cash Amex card with no annual fee and/or Tangerine MC) I know if I cancel the card, all my credit history goes with and of course I don't want that to affect my credit score. So the alternative is keeping it, but there is an annual fee. Granted not crazy expensive ($65/year) but still. I was told that if I switch to another Amex card, in other words stay within the Amex family, which I don't mind, as I like Amex (especially their End of Year Summaries for tax purposes) that will not affect my credit score, even after Amex cancels the Airmiles card, is this correct? Essentially want to switch primary cards, but don't want to negatively affect my credit score I worked hard to achieve.

Thanks for a great article! :)

January 24, 2017 @ 11:13 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, I believe it is correct that your credit history remains intact with Amex. I would recommend the SimplyCash as a great no fee Amex to switch to.

February 12, 2017 @ 8:47 pm
T. G.
T. G.'s picture

Thanks for providing this list. I use Flipp (mobile app) to find which store has the best price for the items I'm interested in. Then, use Checkout 51 (also mobile app) https://www.checkout51.com/ for additional savings. Extra bonus if the store also has a loyalty program.

January 24, 2017 @ 11:39 pm
fRANK bUTLER
fRANK bUTLER's picture

Steve
I inadvertently deleted your comment on doing away with cable companies. My latest bill with Eastlink is $286.00. That's far too much for a senior on fixed income.

The other comment is: Airmiles: I have been collecting points since 1997. I never checked my point balance until just recently
only to find my points were put into the dream section rather than the cash section. They won't transfer my 1600 plus points to the cash side. That leaves me stranded in a points collector that does me absolutely no good.
Any ideas as what I can do.
Thank in advance.

Frank Butler

January 25, 2017 @ 8:42 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Sent you an email Frank.

January 27, 2017 @ 9:46 am
John Bissett
John Bissett's picture

You missed what must be one of the oldest plans: Co-op equity and cash back. By becoming a member of your Co-op you earn "equity" on all purchases at grocery, hardware and gas outlets. These details come from the CO-OP FAQ.

8. What is 'Co-op Equity and Cash Back'?

Earnings from the co-op are distributed to members based on their purchases during the year.
Earnings are returned to members either as equity or cash, depending on each co-op’s financial situation.
The cash portion is paid out to you each year.
The equity portion is your money that is being held back by the co-op to help finance the business, and maintain and upgrade assets to ensure ongoing success.

9. When do I get my equity back?

Equity is normally paid out:

when you move away from the trading area or
when you reach a certain age as specified by the Board of Directors or
when you die and the equity is paid to your estate.

The full FAQ is at this URL.

https://www.coopconnection.ca/wps/portal/fclretail/FCLInternet/AboutUs/C...

January 26, 2017 @ 3:48 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks John - I actually was a member more than a decade ago. Completely forgot!

January 27, 2017 @ 9:47 am
Jennifer Plant's picture

I love PC points! We save them up till right before Christmas and then cash them out...makes Christmas a little less stressful. I also checked into our Airmiles and saw that they were on Dream...not what we wanted.

January 27, 2017 @ 7:15 pm
Miron
Miron's picture

I just got my CIBC Dividend Platinum Visa Card (4% cash back from groceries and gasoline purchases) after switching from CIBC PetroPoints Master Card that is no longer offered. The problem is that most groceries stores except for the expensive ones like Metro are not accepting Visa. I would have used it at gas stations and sometimes at Metro when there is something on sale but in this scenario, the annual fee of $99 would be an issue. I called CIBC to cancel the card after many years with their Master Card and a manager made a good offer: keep the card and they would reimburse the annual fees for me and my wife ($99+30). Nice... I accepted!

I am afraid that it was not a good idea: all the cash back I am earning would be deposited into my account after one year only so I will not be able to cancel it before they would charge me the new annual fees next year! What do you think?

February 03, 2017 @ 11:43 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

It really depends on your spending. The CIBC card you have or the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite offer great value for those that spend a lot on gas and groceries and normally you can easily overcome the annual fee and still come out ahead of no fee cash back credit cards to boot.

In your case, it sounds like you won't be spending all that much. I would suggest tracking your spending and crunching the numbers to estimate how much you will actually earn.

If you wait to get your rebate and then cancel, you should at least be able to get a pro-rated portion of your annual fee back anyway.

February 12, 2017 @ 8:50 pm
freya
freya's picture

I have a PC credit card and I get about $30-$50 back each month by buying things I already will be buying, also I get points for all my purchases on my PC card regarless of the store and I get 7¢ back on every liter of gas I buy at the gas station. No annual fee I have no complaints at all

March 22, 2017 @ 2:22 am

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