As many of you already know, I’m a big fan of using credit cards for the points, but paying off the balance in full when it is due.  My primary credit card for a couple of years now has been the MBNA Smart Cash credit card.  Why?  Because they offered high rewards, 3% on gas/groceries up to $600 in spending/month, and 1% on everything else with no cash back limit.  I, along with many readers, considered it to be the best cash back credit card in Canada.

While it has had a good run, things were bound to change when TD bought out MBNA in late 2011.   Unfortunately, the Smart Cash card has changed (Oct 2012)  for the worse.  The good news is that it will remain a free credit card, but bad news is that the benefits have been drastically reduced.  The gas/groceries cash back has been decimated from 3% on $600/month spending ($18/month max) to 2% on $400/month spending ($8/month maximum).  To make matters worse, they have put a cap on the 1% cash back which did not have a limit before to $1,250/month in spending ($12.50/month maximum).


  • 3% cash back on gas/groceries up to $600/month spending ($18/month)
  • 1% cash back on everything else with no limit.
  • No annual fee.
  • Extended warranty
  • Theft Insurance


  • 2% cash back on gas/groceries up to $400/month spending ($8/month)
  • 1% cash back on everything else up to $1,250 in spending ($12.50/month).
  • No annual fee.
  • Extended warranty
  • Theft Insurance

According to MBNA reps, these changed will take affect on Dec 1, 2012 for existing card holders.

Upgrade to the Smart Cash World

All is not lost for Smart Cash holders! Some are eligible to upgrade to the free Smart Cash World card.  I upgraded to the World version prior to the changes because of the incremental benefits without the additional fee.  What is the difference between the World and the regular version?

  • The $1,250 spending cap on the 1% cash back has been removed.  In other words, no limit on the 1% cash back.
  • In addition to the regular insurances (travel, extended warranty, purchase protection), the World card offers Price Protection insurance.  This insurance will pay you back the difference on your purchase if you find a lower price elsewhere within 60 days.

How do you Upgrade?

For me, it was an option available when I logged into my online MBNA interface, under Account Services.  However, if it’s not there, you can call MBNA to see if you are eligible for the upgrade.

Final Thoughts

Although the Smart Cash card has reduced its benefits, it is still a very competitive card in the Canadian free cash back credit card space – especially if you upgrade to the Smart Cash World.  This card is now ideal for the light-medium spenders, however, heavy spenders will need to look elsewhere to maximize returns.  For me, I’m thinking about using the Smart Cash World for gas/groceries only, and perhaps the 1.5% capital one card for everything else.  You can see my comparison of top cash back credit cards here.

For existing Smart Cash holders, what alternatives are you considering?


  1. Echo on October 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

    It’s important to note that you’ll need personal income of $60,000+ or total household income of $100,000+ to request an upgrade to Smart Cash World.

    When you upgrade, you’ll again receive up to 5% cash back on grocery and gas spending for the first six months (but only up to $400/month instead of $600/month).

    When I crunch the numbers (and look beyond the first year incentives and bonuses), the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite comes out ahead for me. Cap One’s Cash and Travel cards are also worth a look.

  2. FrugalTrader on October 29, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Hey Echo, thanks for the clarification. The only thing about the Scotia card is that 1, it has an annual fee, and 2, for an infinite card, the insurances are lacking. Have you switched yet? For the heavy gas/grocery spenders, maybe a good alternative is the Scotia card (if you’re willing to pay the annual fee) and the cap one card?

  3. Echo on October 29, 2012 at 11:20 am

    @FT – I haven’t switched yet, but I’ll do it this month before the Smart Cash changes take effect. The other thing that’s nice about Scotia Momentum is you get 2% back on recurring bill payments.

    I think it’s best to use two cash back cards in tandem to take advantage of the category multipliers.

  4. SST on October 29, 2012 at 11:52 am

    A re-post from the other SmartCard article:

    “the Scotia fine print…

    Requirement #1:
    Have a minimum gross individual annual income of $60,000 or a minimum $100,000 household income.

    Seeing as how the median Canadian HOUSEHOLD income is $77,000 (2010), this would render half of all Canadian households ineligible to hold this card. According to StatsCan, only 35% of Canadian households are eligible to hold this card.

    With the TD/MBNA card, household income requirement is $35,000; an 85% household eligibility rate.

    Individual eligibility rates are ~15% for Scotiabank and ~43% for MBNA [via StatsCan].

    Rate of return is not the ONLY parameter for determining “topness”.
    Looks as though Scotia panders to the well-off, as well as coving their own butt in terms of defaults.

    Again, if your household is earning $100,000 a year and you are in need/want of an extra $500 a year, something is seriously awry in your financial life. Whereas $300 in a $35,000 a year household has a much greater impact.”

    I’m getting a kick out of high-earning people complain that free is good, but less of a free thing is “for the worse”. Amusing indeed.

  5. Jordan on October 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I will be switching completely to the WorldPoints World card (which I had already been using for everything except grocery & gas purchases).

    It has an annual fee of $89 but provides 2% cashback on all purchases with no limit. Essentially, if you now spend at least $8900 annually on non-grocery/gas purchases, you’re better off with this card vs Smart Cash.

    The best option with no annual fee is to continue to use the Smart Cash card for grocery & gas purchases, and the Capital One Aspire Cash World for all other purchases: 1% cashback, plus 50% “bonus” cashback annually (effectively 1.5%) with no limits.

  6. Paul T on October 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    @SST, about a year ago I upgraded my scotia card (no fee cash back card) to the Infinite card. It was as simple as calling in and asking for it. As for the $100,000 household income:

    Scotia Rep: “Do yo make at least $60,000 or does your household make at least $100,000”
    Me: “Yep”
    Scotia Rep “Then I can upgrade your card”

    Now, I had the regular cash back card for a few years (solely as an emergency backup, not actually using it), so it might be a more rigorous process for new applicants.

  7. Tom on October 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I still feel the best card out there is the Capital One Aspire Travel card. A ton of welcome bonuses worth $350 + $100, and 2% cashback (though you have to be careful – since you only get 2% when applying against travel purchases, and even then there’s a tiered redemption table). Annual fee is $120, but you get 10,000 miles ($100) every year as an anniversary bonus, so really it’s only $20, beating the Worldpoint card’s $89..

    The Worldpoints card does sound interesting if it doesn’t require you to apply against travel to get your 2% and/or have tiered redemption if it does, but it doesn’t seem publically available and does have a higher annual fee – perhaps something that one needs to call about? I currently have a Smart Cash card and have received that letter about the 3% going down to 2%.. (I’ve only been using it for gas and groceries to date, though interestingly my local Walmart Supercentre counts for all purchases because it has a grocery department)..

  8. Jordan on October 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    The reward rates are definitely attractive on a few of the travel cards, but we don’t travel all that much, so I tend to look exclusively at pure cash redemption.

    I’m not entirely sure about the availabilityof the WorldPoints World card, but I believe they are still accepting applications, albeit with a fairly high personal income / household income requirement.

    The classification of Wal-Mart, Superstore, etc. as “grocery” was definitely a great aspect of the Smart Cash — we would deliberately make larger electronics / entertainment purchases at Wal-Mart to take advantage.

  9. Echo on October 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    @Jordan – The World Points card is closed to new applicants, otherwise, you’re right, that would be the best card.

  10. Jordan on October 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    @Echo – Thanks for the info, I hadn’t realized that.

    In that case, for pure cashback it sounds like as Frugal said, the Aspire Cash World at 1.5%, plus either the Smart Cash or Scotia Momentum for grocery/gas, depending on whether your spending is sufficient to justify the annual fee.

  11. Alex on October 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I have checked with MBNA representative.Current MBNA Paltinum SmartCash cardholders are not affected by the new SmartCash card changes. So, you can still keep the old Platinum SmartCash card and do nothing as long as the TD does not sends you an ammendment document related to your current Platinum SmartCash benefits. It’s definetely not worth swithing yet.

  12. william on October 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm


    Regarding your comments to people earning $100k a year having something “awry” in their financial lives if they want to save an extra $500. My wife and I make approx $130k/year, and yet I am always searching for deals, less fees and being generally responsible financially.

    While I agree the money makes more of an impact on those who earn less, it doesn’t mean that the higher earners should be wasteful or careless, just because they do well. And no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being just as frugal if you make $130k, or $35k. Could that $500 not maybe go to charity for the higher earners, or perhaps their retirement, etc?

  13. FrugalTrader on October 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    @Alex, it really depends on the rep that you speak with. Call again and see what another rep says.

  14. Jeremy on October 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    The eligibility when I just upgraded to the MBNA SmartCash World was one of: household income >$100k, personal income >$60k, or annual spending >$15k.

    Now I’m considering getting a Capital One for everything other than gas/groceries just in case TD changes their minds and increases restrictions again.

  15. Tom on October 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm



    We make a good six-figure combined income as well and still look for deals via credit cards, shop at Nofrills instead of Loblaws/Sobeys, load up the pantry on door crashers/sales, watch tv on an antenna instead of cable/satellite, put on my own winter tires.. Just those things added up are enough for an extra vacation a year – it all adds up!

    Btw, part of the reason for the higher income requirements is that there are fewer credit card defaults on higher income earners, who typically don’t carry a balance, and that compensates for the higher cash-back percentages being offered. Most high-cashback cards have a higher minimum income requirement that reason. Vendors pay as little as 2.7% per transaction, so if you’re getting 2% cashback, then Mastercard and your issuer have to split that remaining 0.7% because they likely won’t earn any interest on a balance carried forward to the next month. They make their money off high-earners via volume (transaction fees) mixed with lower default rates.

  16. My Own Advisor on October 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I hate the changes myself, but I’ll still keep the card. :)

    We probably spend less than $800 per month on gas and groceries combined, so we don’t need to worry about the cap but the 1% reduction isn’t cool. It’s still a very good card as you have written.

    Thanks for the update FT!

  17. Brian on October 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Do you have a breakdown of what light/medium/heavy credit card spenders are?

  18. Echo on October 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    @Alex – I heard the same thing from an MBNA rep, but I called and spoke with their media relations department and she confirmed these changes will affect all existing Smart Cash cardholders as of December 1st. So if you haven’t received the letter yet, check the mail. I got the letter yesterday.

  19. FT on October 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

    @My Own Advisor, do you and your wife have separate cards so that you have $400 for gas/groceries each?

  20. Alex on October 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

    FT & Echo you were right. Got TD letter yesterday and already applied for CapitalOne Aspire cash back credit card. Will switch to new MBNA World card and use it only for gas&groceries 5% for 6m and then $400/month in total after that. Will use Aspire card for evrything else. I would project that TD will loose many loyal MBNA customers and I guess, by my example, the overall credit money spent with MBNA SmartCash will go sugnificantly down. Not very smart way of preserving existing customers or expanding the business.

  21. FrugalTrader on October 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    @Brian, in comparing the MBNA card and the Cap one 1.5% card, they break even around the $10k spending mark assuming that you max out the grocery/gas spending. If you spend more than $10k per year on credit, then the cap one return is higher.

    The optimal solution is to the use the MBNA card for gas/groceries, then the cap one for everything else. But then you need to put up with multiple cards in your wallet and multiple bills to take care of.

  22. BudoMike on October 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Is it true that when we switch credit cards that our credit rating takes a hit?

    • FrugalTrader on October 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      @BudoMike, yes, when you apply for a credit card they will do a hard credit check. My understanding is that occasional hard credit checks are ok, but if you have a lot of credit checks within a short time frame, then that can affect your score.

  23. SST on October 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    @willian: “While I agree the money makes more of an impact on those who earn less, it doesn’t mean that the higher earners should be wasteful or careless, just because they do well.”

    It’s F-R-E-E money you receive for using the companies credit (if you never carry a balance, that is).

    To complain that things have changed “for the worse” because your amount of free has declined has absolutely nothing to do with being “wasteful or careless” at any level of income. Basically people are complaining because the aren’t getting paid more to use more credit.

    Please don’t fool yourself, there is a marked difference between shopping for value to save money and getting paid to use a product.

    All that aside, it is capitalism, after all, and if what Paul T (#6) says is true, everyone should take advantage of Scotia’s lax application/upgrade protocols to secure themselves a couple of extra points per year.

  24. Paul T on October 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    @SST, don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that the cash back isn’t in any way “free”. We’re all paying it through inflated prices. Essentially people that use debit and cash (who pay the same amount for a product as I do with my cash back CC) are paying for consumers of any credit cards rewards.

    As for trying to eek out every last penny of rewards. There is a law of diminishing returns, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and take advantage of any opportunities to save money. Easier to save a buck than to make two and give 1/2 of it back in taxes. :)

  25. SST on October 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    @Paul T: perhaps saved for a a more complex article on how credit card rewards cause price inflation..or don’t.

  26. Sustainable PF on November 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I agree with Echo – 2 cards is best. I think we’ll stick w/ MBNA for our gas/groceries and really take a close look @ Scotia for our other (and larger) purchases.

  27. Manish on November 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Actually the program is even worse than outlined in the article. Its not that you can earn $8 per month on gas/groceries and $12.50 on everything else – for a max total of $20.50 per month. The $400 gas/groceries limit is included inside the $1250 overall limit. So the max that you can earn is $16.50 ($8 on $400 gas/groceries and $8.50 on remaining $850) per month for yearly total of $198 per year.

    Here is the comparison (this is only for people who qualify for aspire card and smartcash world card)

    The Aspire Cash card will give you $198 for $13200 annual spending (198/.015).

    For the SmartCash World card you can get 2% on $4800 = $96 by maximising your gas/groceries. At 0.5 % differential aspire card will cover that much at $19200. So if you charge above $19200 annually then aspire card is the way to go.

    Dump the SmartCash Card
    Get SmartCash World Card if your annual spend is below $19200 and you can spend $4800 on gas/groceries
    Get Aspire Card otherwise

    What happens when we include 5% cash back for first 6 months if you move to Smart Cash World (max dollar value 120). Aspire Card will match that at $24000. So here is the new conclusion

    Dump the SmartCash
    If annual spending less than $19200 then upgrade to SmartCash World
    If annual spending between $19200 and $24000 then upgrade to SmartCashWorld. Use it for 6 months and then move to Aspire Card.
    If annual spending above $24000 then move directly to Aspire Card.

  28. Brian on November 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Okay, is there a link for the Aspire card? At minimum I’m around $3500 a month!!! Is there a better paying card for me?


  29. Manish on November 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    @Brian Here is the link

    You might want to check out Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite. It has $99 fee. But should pay for itself at your level of spending.

  30. RRSTD on November 6, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    When I qualify for the next $50 on my MBNA Card it will be “addios amigo”. I have switched to BNS Infinite Cash-back card. 4% cb on gas and groceries (up to $25000), 2% cb on recurring bills and drugstore and 1% cb on everything else. Based on my history, I’ll recieve $960 after my $99 fee. Goodbye to TD/MBNA Smartcash … they made a dumb cash move. I don’t like fees, but in this case it has merit.

  31. Brian on November 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I’m definitely going changing over to a new card, Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite seems like the best choice for Cash Back. We all know that Cash is King. However I’m wondering if there might be some other reward cards (Travel) that I should consider.
    Any suggestions?

  32. Josh on December 5, 2012 at 12:14 am

    What would be the best card for someone with household income under $60k? Though we’ve never carried a balance on our credit cards, we can’t qualify for the best Aspire and Scotia cards. We spend around $1200/month on our credit cards (basically all of our spending other than bills).

  33. FrugalTrader on December 5, 2012 at 9:50 am

    IMO, if you are in the $1k/month range in spending, then the smart cash card is likely still your best bet.

  34. Paul N on December 18, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Has anyone had a problem with upgrading their mbna smart cash to the world card? I was able to do it but when you speak to their operators they don’t really seem to want to do it “happily”. The agent I spoke to said they were losing money on the program so they had to reduce the rewards. I think they are counting on people being lazy and just not taking the time to switch cards or do research on better cards.

    They told a friend of mine they had to review if she was qualified and would get back to her by mail? She pays her balance every month and has never had an issue paying? That was weird…. (and has qualifying salary)

    I’ve been a real cheerleader for Mbna but now ….

  35. warren hewho on March 9, 2013 at 12:59 am

    i just got approved for bns moment infinite,even though i agree i don’t like the 99 annual fee should i get the cap one and go tandum or just stay with BNS,i have a daughter goes to school and paying for gas ,insurance, car repairs plus my car, i would like some help , what should i only use cap one if i get approved for ,and BNS FOR .is it better to ha;f two cards or just the BNS card , need some advice thanks to all inadvance

  36. warren hewho on March 9, 2013 at 1:03 am

    i spend probably 1500.and will increase a little here and there feed back on above thanks

  37. Brian Thompson on March 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

    @warren I would suggest that it all depends on your monthly card spending. The cash back rates on the Momentum Infinite card are superior. I myself just switched to it and will only use it. That way I will ensure that I cover the annual fee.

  38. warren hewho on March 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    thanks Brian ,ya i was thing of getting the one cap to ,so i can use them side by side but im just going to try with the BNS only and see how that works ,again thanks for your advice and encouragement ,this is a great site ,i just started to be aware on how much i wasted money in the past ,and not taking advantage on these credit card kick backs, it like 10 years ago i clued in at a bank where i had a savings and a chequing account , and when i woke up to say i realized i was paying alot of money at the end of the year then times by ten years the service charges , so i got out of that and im in a institute where no monthly fees , ,Im with presidents choice ,they have been great and ,i do online banking anyway , and if i need a live person ,either on the phone there there or ,go to one of the outlets i usely one or two people are there to help.Again thanks Brian

  39. warren hewho on March 10, 2013 at 1:40 am

    i had a question on the BNS moment infinite card i was reading .whats does it mean when it says Eigible Gas Stations with the infinite card and On Gas Stations with the other ,so where can i use this card to get the 4%,? and when it says Up to 4% am i missing something, i need some advice thanks in advance

  40. warren hewho on March 10, 2013 at 1:52 am

    warren here again sorry for the questions but im new to this ,on the BNS infinite card ,what grocery stores, gas stations ,and drugs stores are eligible to use this card and recurring bills i do understand that ,besides cellphone and landline bill,car insurance ,k thanks to all for the help in advance hope to here from you soon

  41. Echo on March 10, 2013 at 1:53 am

    @Warren – here’s the list of qualifying merchants –

  42. Brian Thompson on March 10, 2013 at 1:55 am

    You have to use the card at certain retailers. If you go to the BNS web site it has a list of those retailers. Here’s a link to the list.

  43. warren hewho on March 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks Brian and echo, ,one other thing i did not see is the recurring bills , i have , tel us and rogers and Netflix and i donate to a ministry with my credit card is there a list some where for say bills utilities and if yes is it a 2% on utility companies that are well know ,could you provide a list please ,or send me to that cause i don’t see on the list you gave me , again thanks for that list ,that has lot of places to go and benefit on,thanks Brian ,,echo in-advance

  44. warren hewho on March 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    hello another question i called BNS 1 800 and talk to a person on the 2% cash back on utility bills and she said they cant guarantee the 2% from those companies ,it should show on r statement beside those companies with a circled r , my question to anyone does this card or has anyone seen there 2% back on ur say rogers cell or what ever utility company u have ,or ru just getting 1% back on that , let me know thanks to all ,for the help and feed back

  45. rrstd on March 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I get my 2% on all my recurring bills including rogers and Tim Horton reloads on my Timmy card. This is by far the best card for cash back.

  46. warren hewho on March 10, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    i go to icbc and pay my daughters and mine car insurance ,is that considerd recurring can i get 2% on that to ,thanks to all for all the help

  47. warren hewho on March 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    does any one have any advice on student credit card my daughter has two more years of university and she has a rbc student credit card its very low on interest ,but no perks, what is the top student card out ,thanks in advance for all imputs

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