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Which credit cards in Canada are a cut above the rest?
To answer that question, we start by poring over every detail of more than
Using this rating as our guide, we determine the winning credit cards across 24 different categories. But only you can choose which credit card fits your wallet best.
And the 24 best credit card winners are…
Ranging from 0% interest, to 2% cash back, all the way to 3.76% average rewards return on spending, here’s an overview of the well-deserved winners.
|Best Credit Card Categories||Best Credit Cards in Canada||Rewards & Savings||Learn More|
|Best Cash Back||Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite||2.08% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best No Annual Fee||MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®||1.35% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Flexible||Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card||2.30% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Travel||American Express Cobalt™ Card||3.76% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Balance Transfer||MBNA True Line® Mastercard® credit card||0% promo rate (10 months)||Learn More|
|Best Foreign Exchange Travel||Brim World Elite Mastercard||2.25% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best AIR MILES||BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*||2.12% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Low Interest||MBNA True Line® Gold Mastercard® credit card||8.99% interest rate||Learn More|
|Best Grocery||American Express Cobalt™ Card||8.75% typical return on groceries||Learn More|
|Best Restaurant||American Express Cobalt™ Card||8.75% typical return on restaurants||Learn More|
|Best Gas||American Express® Gold Rewards Card||5% typical return on gas||Learn More|
|Best Insurance||Brim World Elite Mastercard||2.25% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Student||BMO® CashBack® Mastercard®* for students||1.07% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Business||American Express Business Edge™||2.53% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best U.S. Dollar||RBC U.S. Dollar Visa Gold||1.13% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Store||BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*||2.12% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Perks||American Express Platinum Card®||3% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Rewards||American Express Cobalt™ Card||3.76% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Aeroplan||American Express® Gold Rewards Card||3.44% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|People’s Choice||Scotiabank SCENE Visa||1.26% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Mastercard||BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®*||2.12% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Visa||TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card||2.97% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best American Express||American Express Cobalt™ Card||3.76% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
|Best Overall||American Express Cobalt™ Card||3.76% avg. earn rate||Learn More|
Please note the average earn rate is based on reasonably optimized spending and reward redemptions – we assume you won’t choose the toaster when flights are worth 4x as much!
We also use a default of $2,000 per month in spending split sensibly across spending categories, like gas and groceries. For more personalized results, enter your own spending habits into our compare credit cards spending calculator in the sidebar.
Let’s get into each category one by one and review the winners…
1. Best cash back credit card
The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite gives you 4% back on recurring bills and grocery purchases, 2% back on gas and daily transit, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases ‒ for a $120 annual fee. On top of that, this Visa Infinite card will give you concierge service, Visa Infinite perks, plus 11 different types of insurance included at no extra cost.
And as an added bonus the first year is free, so you can take this card out for a test drive.
- 11 types of travel and purchase insurance.
- Visa Infinite benefits.
2. Best no annual fee credit card
If you want rewards with no fees, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® not only has no annual fee, but offers a high earn rate for your spending as well. You’ll earn up to 2 points per $1 spent on your purchases. When redeemed for travel through MBNA Rewards, that’s a return of up to 2% on your spending. Throw in 7 types of travel and protection insurance and a great welcome bonus, and it’s no surprise this is our #1 no annual fee card.
- 7 types of insurance included, including rare rental car personal effects and accident insurance.
- Welcome bonus of up to 10,000 points.
- Double points on gas, groceries, and restaurants for the first 3 months (calculated as part of the welcome bonus below).
3. Best flexible credit card
If you don’t want to be tied down to one store or one type of reward redemption, flexible rewards credit cards fit the bill nicely. You get to be in charge and choose what you want to use your rewards on: travel, merchandise, cash back, investments, donations, and much more. At minimum, you won’t be boxed in with blackout dates and limited choice of airlines when redeeming for flights. The best card in Canada right now to give you that flexibility combined with high reward value is the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card. These rewards can be used for virtually anything. For best value, redeem for any travel purchase from Scotia Rewards and use your points to help pay for your trip. It’s that simple.
- 8 ways to redeem points, with a value of up to 1.75 cents each.
- American Express perks like Front Of The Line and Amex Offers.
- No foreign exchange fees.
4. Best credit card for travel
Travel credit cards are some of the best credit cards you can get. The best of the best will offer its cardholders premium perks, big sign-up bonuses, and rewards that’ll often get you the biggest bang for your buck. This #1 travel credit card is no exception. The American Express Cobalt™ Card gives cardholders a solid mix of flexible rewards, a generous welcome bonus, good insurance, and fun perks that all point to this card as the best travel credit card in Canada (as well as our best card overall). Plus, if you use your points with the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program, you’ll get a solid 3.76% return on your spending on North American flights, making this card a top choice for travel lovers.
- 9 ways to redeem points, with a value of up to 1.75 cents each.
- 9 types of travel and purchase insurance.
- American Express perks like Front Of The Line and Amex Offers.
5. Best credit card for balance transfers
We know it can be easy to fall behind on payments and end up with credit card debt we had no intention of racking up. If this is the case for you, a balance transfer credit card could be just what you need to help dig yourself out. Balance transfer credit cards allow you to take debt from one card and move it to another. Depending on what card you choose, you could end up with 6 to 10 months of low or 0% interest on those transfers. The top balance transfer card in Canada right now is the MBNA True Line® Mastercard® credit card. It will give you 10 months of relief from high interest charges with 0% balance transfer interest – that’s nearly a whole year of interest savings to try and get your credit card debt sorted out. (Not sure how balance transfer work? Read this blog post.)
- Low permanent purchase and balance transfer rates of 12.99%.
- Travel accident insurance.
6. Best foreign exchange travel credit card
No one wants to pay fees when they don’t need to, so credit cards with no foreign transaction fees are highly sought after. The bad news? These cards are few and far between. Our #1 no foreign exchange fee travel card is the Brim World Elite Mastercard. With this card in your wallet, you’ll skip that dreaded 2.5% fee and get an average of 2.25% return on spending, and 15 types of insurance coverages.
- Redeem your cash back when you have as little as $1 earned.
- Earn bonus rewards when shopping with Brim’s 150+ retail partners.
- Includes rare mobile device and event ticket coverage.
7. Best AIR MILES credit card
The BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®* is the best AIR MILES credit card on the Canadian market right now – and for good reason. For starters, you get a sign-up bonus that’s enough for 1 short-haul flight. Then, for every purchase made, you get 1 mile for every $10 spent. And if that wasn’t enough, concierge service, lounge access, and a 15% discount on AIR MILES flights in North America are also included. Plus, this card will give you 14 out of
- 8 ways to redeem your miles, with a value of up to 21 cents each.
- Access to Mastercard Airport Experiences with 2 free passes.
- World Elite Mastercard benefits.
8. Best low interest credit card
We always suggest that cardholders pay their credit card off in full every month, but we also realize that sometimes life can get in the way and it’s easier said than done. If you find yourself forgetting to pay your card off in full and you end up with interest charges, that 20% can be pretty frustrating. If you’re looking for a lower rate, the
MBNA True Line® Gold Mastercard® offers a permanent low rate of 8.99% on both purchases and balance transfers.
- 0% interest on balance transfers for 6 months.
- 7 types of travel and purchase insurance.
9. Best credit card for groceries
Eating is a basic part of life – whether it be buying groceries or dining out. So why not get plenty of rewards for this basic need with a credit card that offers great rewards on food purchases? We give the crown to the
Best Visa card for groceries
Prefer to use a Visa instead? Then the
Best Mastercard for groceries
Our best Mastercard for groceries is the
10. Best credit card for restaurants
Find yourself eating out all the time? For the most rewards you can get on your restaurant purchases, you can’t top the
11. Best credit card for gas
Spend a lot of money on gas? If you own a vehicle (unless you drive an electric car) you’ll be spending a good chunk of money on gas for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there are plenty of cards that give you extra rewards for your fuel purchases. And the best one is the American Express® Gold Rewards Card. While it only earns 2 points for every $1 you spend, transfer your points to Aeroplan where you can get a value of 2.5 cents for each one. This translates to a 5% return, the absolute best you can find for your gas purchases.
- 10 ways to redeem points, with a value of up to 2.5 cents each.
- Transfer points to 6 airlines, including Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.
- 10 types of travel and purchase insurance.
12. Best credit card for insurance
Insurance is one of those things that people may not realize their credit card even comes with, but can be extremely valuable. Depending on your card’s insurance coverage, you could gain extended warranty on all your purchases, mobile device protection, emergency medical, and even help if your flight or baggage gets delayed. In fact, credit cards can give you up to 17 types of travel and purchase insurance, and the card that comes with the best insurance coverage is the
13. Best student credit card
If you’re a student, responsible use of credit cards can give you a good start on building your credit history and teaching yourself good spending habits. Sure, getting your first credit card can be stressful, maybe scary. The key is to spend within your means and pay off your balance in full and on time. The other thing is to research and compare your options. With no annual fee, cash back on every purchase, and multiple redemption options, the BMO® CashBack® Mastercard®* for students is at the top of our list.
- Redeem your rewards whenever you like.
- Extended warranty and purchase protection.
14. Best business credit card
If you’re running a small business, every $1 matters. So you know getting the best credit card can go a long way. The top spot for this category goes to the American Express Business Edge. Why this card? It offers premium, high value rewards. Earn up to 3 points per $1 spent on gas, rides, electronics, office supplies, and eats, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. With an Amex Membership Rewards point worth up to 1.75 cents each, you’re looking at a great return for your business purchases.
- 9 ways to redeem your points.
- Ability to transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors.
- Welcome bonus of up to 42,000 points (only 30,000 of which are shown below because you need to spend $3,000 a month to qualify for the remaining 12,000 and we only assume $2,000 in monthly spending).
15. Best U.S. dollar credit card
If you travel to the United States a lot (whether for work or play) and you have a U.S. dollar bank account or income, a U.S. dollar credit card could make sense. U.S. dollar credit cards are based in U.S. funds, and because of this, cardholders are not charged foreign currency transaction fees. This also means, however, bill payments will need to be made in U.S. funds. The RBC U.S. Dollar Visa Gold is one of the few Canadian-issued U.S. dollar credit cards that allows cardholders to earn rewards – and who doesn’t want to earn rewards on their purchases?
16. Best store credit card
Store credit cards are tricky, because you’re often tied to one store when it comes to redeeming your rewards. But AIR MILES credit cards count as store credit cards as well. And as such, the
17. Best credit card for perks
Credit cards are not just about rewards – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many come with some drool-worthy perks. The top card in this category by a mile is the American Express Platinum Card®, which gives you unlimited lounge access for you and a guest, a dedicated concierge line, a $200 annual travel credit, VIP treatment at the Toronto Pearson airport, incredible perks at hundreds of hotels, complimentary high-tier status, and much more.
Bonus read: Learn about all 17 credit card perks here.
18. Best rewards credit card
If cash back or travel rewards are all the same to you, you don’t care so much about annual fees, and what you’re really looking for is a whole lot of rewards – then this award category is for you. If you’re looking for the card that will give you the biggest return on your spending, the
Looking to max your rewards? Compare 20+ Canadian rewards programs side-by-side.
19. Best Aeroplan credit card
You may be surprised by the #1 card in this category…especially since it doesn’t actually reward cardholders with Aeroplan miles directly. And yet, the best Aeroplan card in Canada right now is the
20. People’s choice credit card
A company can make lots of claims about their portfolio of cards, their customer service, and the ease of use of their rewards – but where the rubber meets the road is when a customer receives their card and gets to try it out. You find out what a card is really like when you get to hear what real people have to say. You voted with your credit card reviews and we listened. The Scotiabank SCENE Visa claimed the victory, with the average user giving it a 4.4 out of 5 stars.
21. Best Mastercard
Looking for the absolute best Mastercard on the market right now? The
22. Best Visa
Prefer having a Visa in your wallet? The TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card is our top Aeroplan-branded card. It starts you out with a welcome bonus worth 15,000 miles, enough for a short-haul flight in North America. Plus, you’ll earn up to 1.5 miles per $1 spent on your eligible purchases, and get great benefits on reward flights operated by Air Canada. And the comprehensive insurance package provided with the card will even cover you on your reward flights as well. It’s all for an annual fee of $120, which is rebated for the first year.
- 7 ways to redeem your miles, with a value of up to 2.5 cents each.
- 11 types of travel and purchase insurance.
- Visa Infinite benefits.
- 1st checked bag free, plus priority check in and boarding on Aeroplan rewards flights operated by Air Canada.
23. Best American Express
American Express cards tend to offer the highest rewards and the best perks. Not to mention all their cards have no minimum income requirements. Our top pick goes to the
24. Best overall credit card
Curious what the best credit card in Canada is? We were too, so we took every aspect into consideration – all 126+ features, all
There you have it…
The best credit cards in Canada for 2020 in 24 categories.
If you’re looking for a new credit card, this is the place to start. (Find out why here.)
But it doesn’t stop here. Our compare cards page will go over all the best credit cards based on parameters you enter in and give you our genius rating out of 5 for each one.
Choosing the right credit card for you
So with all these great options available, how do you choose the right credit card for you? There’s a lot of factors that go into choosing the proper credit card.
Savings vs. rewards
First, do you have existing credit card debt, or do you typically carry a balance? You’ll want a credit card that offers low interest rates or has a great balance transfer promotion. The savings you’ll see on interest far outweigh any credit card rewards you might be forfeiting.
If this isn’t you, then you can decide on what type of rewards you want to earn. If you travel at least every other year, you’ll see the most valuable rewards with a travel card. Plus, travel cards have the best travel insurance coverages in case things happen and your plans change.
If you don’t travel, like to keep things simple, and don’t want to get into complicated rewards programs, a cash back card is best – money you can use for whatever you like (even travel).
No fee vs. premium cards
You’ll also need to decide on whether or not to pay an annual fee. Our rule of thumb is you need to spend $1,200 per month on your card to offset the payment of an annual fee.
And if your monthly spend is less than $1.2K? Probably best to stick with a no fee card.
Our listing here of the best credit cards is a good starting place. But there are more tools on our site at your disposal. Use the compare cards page to get a broader look at other cards that are suited for you.
And if you want more options? All of our best card pages have lots of other cards to consider as well.
How do credit cards work?
For the average consumer, credit cards are quite simple. You use them to pay for purchases, and once per month, you’ll get a bill detailing all your purchases, and how much you have to pay back. And for many credit cards, you’ll also earn some rewards you’ll be able to use.
How credit card companies make money
It’s all thanks to interchange fees. The credit card companies charge the merchant a percentage of the total transaction amount to cover their costs, part of which goes into giving out rewards.
Of course, there are other ways the credit card companies also make money:
- high interest rates on unpaid balances (typically around 20%),
- annual fees, and
- other miscellaneous fees, such as cash advance and balance transfer fees.
All of these fees combine to allow credit card companies to offer rewards, perks, and insurance coverages.
Standard credit card features
There’s a long list of credit card features we’ve come to expect (and forget sometimes). Here’s a few:
- Zero liability guarantee which means no money leaves your bank account when fraud happens.
- Convenient cashless transaction.
- Security protection through chip and pin and fraud algorithms.
- Pending transactions that allow you to reserve hotels, car rentals, and other services.
- Convenient mobile payment option.
- Free access to Boingo wi-fi for Mastercard cardholders.
- Statements with convenient transaction history.
3 types of rewards credit cards
When it comes to earning rewards, there are 3 general types of credit cards.
1. Cash back
The simplest rewards cards are cash back credit cards. For every purchase you make, you’ll get a percentage back in the form of cash back. For most credit cards this cash back gets applied as a statement credit once per year. Some do offer the ability to redeem your cash back when you like, once you’ve reached a certain amount of cash back earned.
Then there are travel credit cards. And while many travel credit cards can also be flexible rewards cards, pure travel cards have one major difference – the flexibility (or lack thereof). You have to book travel from a specific provider or airline, with no predetermined value. With travel cards, there’s also no cash redemption option, the other big difference between these cards. You won’t have the flexibility just to get some cash for your points.
3. Flexible rewards (or multi-purpose rewards you can use all-around)
Finally, there are flexible rewards credit cards. With these credit cards, you can redeem points for any travel booking you like (which in most cases has to be made through the reward program’s booking site). There’s always options to redeem your points for gift cards, merchandise, and they usually have cash redemption options as well. Cash redemption usually comes in the form of statement credits, but some allow you to turn your points into investments and other banking products as well.
4 types of credit card interest rates
Looking to save on credit card interest? There are 4 types of interest rates that credit cards may feature.
1. Purchase interest rate
The primary rate is the purchase interest rate. Once your grace period ends on your new purchases (which is typically 21 days after you receive your statement), the purchase interest rate comes into effect and gets added on to your monthly bill. However, it gets calculated from the date purchases are made, not when your grace period ended.
2. Cash advance interest rate
Cash advance rates get applied when you take out cash at an ATM using your credit card. These interest rates kick in right away as soon as you make your cash advance – there’s no grace period with cash advances. Most credit cards charge a fee for the cash advance, on top of what the ATM provider may charge as well.
3. Balance transfer interest rate
Balance transfer rates take effect when you transfer the balance from one credit card to another. This rate also starts accruing right away, and for most credit cards there’s also a fee you have to pay to complete the balance transfer. In many cases, you can also have an option to get money transferred directly to your bank account.
4. Promotional balance transfer interest rate
The last rate we track is the balance transfer promotion rate. Some credit cards offer an introductory rate on balance transfers for a set number of months after the account has been opened. These rates are incredibly helpful if you have an existing balance on a credit card.
Ranking methodology: How we determine Canada’s best credit cards
How do we decide what the best cards are? We take into account over 126 features of each credit card which includes 3 types of rewards, 4 types of fees and interest rates, 17 types of insurance coverage, and 98 other major perks and benefits.
These are broken down into 8 main categories for scoring:
- Low Fees,
- Low Interest,
- Acceptance, and
- User Reviews.
We then take those features and put them through our algorithm, which calculates a score out of 5.
That being said, each award has a set of preferences, which gives extra weight to select categories. For example, for the best travel credit card, we give extra weight to rewards, specifically travel rewards. In other cases, like determining the best credit card, our default weighting is used so take everything equally into consideration.
Do you have a go-to credit card for 2020 that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments below.
Or if you’re looking for more personalized recommendations…
Take our 3-minute quiz and we’ll find the credit cards best suited for your wallet based on your preferences.
BONUS Alert: Find your best card, refer your friends, and get $5 for each successful referral. If we don’t find your top card? We’ll give you $5.
How do you rank the best credit card in Canada?
We rank the best credit cards in Canada using our rating methodology. We analyze over 126 data points on every credit card, then put all these features through our algorithm, which then assigns a score out of 5 (our Genius Rating).
What is the best rewards credit card in Canada?
The best rewards credit card in Canada right now is Amex Cobalt. You’ll earn up to 5 points per $1 spent on your purchases, which is also coupled with a high point value of up to 1.75 cents each.
What is the best Visa card in Canada?
Our top rated Visa credit card is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite. With this card, you can earn up to 1.5 miles per $1 spent, get access to great Air Canada benefits on reward flights, and get the first year fee rebated.
What is the best Mastercard in Canada?
The best Mastercard in Canada is the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard. You’ll earn 1 mile for every $10 spent, get 14 types of insurance coverage, and a 15% discount of the number of miles needed to redeem for a rewards flight within North America.
What is the best credit card for cash back?
To earn the most cash back, the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite has high earn rates on a variety of essentials. You’ll earn 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bills, 2% cash back on gas and transit, and 1% cash back on everything else.
What is the best credit card for points?
To earn the most reward points possible, the Scotiabank Gold American Express offers a high amount of flexible rewards points on every purchase. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants and entertainment purchases, 3 points per $1 spent on gas, transit and select streaming services, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
What is the best credit card with no annual fee?
Our top credit with no annual fee is the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard. You’ll earn up to 2 points per $1 spent on your purchases, and get 7 types of insurance coverage.
What’s the best credit card for my wallet?
Want to find the best credit card for you? Take our creditcardGenius Challenge. Complete our 3-minute questionnaire, and we’ll find the best credit card for you. If you’re not convinced, we’ll give you $5. If you like our suggestion, you’ll be able to refer friends, where you’ll earn $5 for each successful referral, up to $25 earned.