Top Free Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada for 2020

This post was originally written in 2007 but has been updated annually since. The reason why I’m posting it again now is because there have been changes to the best free credit card in Canada.  More below.

After you guys gave me your favorite credit cards, I did a little research and came up with what I think are the best free cash back cards in Canada. With rewards points constantly depreciating in value, sometimes it’s best to get cold hard cash back.

Getting paid to use a credit card combined with no annual fee is a combination that I look for when choosing a credit card. Funneling our spending through a free cash back credit card (or a combination of a couple) gives us a significant cash back bonus at the end of the year. In fact, we’ve used our cash back rebate over the past couple of years to offset large “nice to have” expenses like travel.

What do I look for in a cash back card?  If I’m looking for a single “do it all” credit card, then the most important feature is high cash back on everyday spending.  What’s great about high cash back on everyday spending is that it can be paired with a credit card that offers higher cash back on particular categories.  To me, secondary features are insurance coverage for purchases and travel.

A couple years ago, I named the Tangerine money-back credit card as the best free cash back credit card in Canada. At the time, they offered 2% cash back on two spending categories (up to three categories if you opened a savings account with Tangerine), 1% on all other spending, and a 1.5% surcharge for foreign exchange transactions (typically 2.5%). A real winning combination of features.  Unfortunately, Tangerine reduced their “all other spending” to 0.5% cash back and jacked up their foreign exchange transactions to match the market at 2.5%. 

This year, we have a new winner for the best free cash back credit card in Canada, and it wins by quite a margin in my opinion. Let’s take a look at how the best free cash back credit cards compare.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada (all with no annual fee – updated August 2019):

Rogers World Elite Mastercard

  • 4% unlimited cash back rewards on all eligible purchases made in a foreign currency
  • 2% unlimited cash back rewards on Rogers™ products and services charged to your card
  • 1.75% cash back rewards on all other eligible purchases
  • Instantly redeem your cash back rewards towards any eligible purchase in the last 90 days via Mastercard® Pay with Rewards™ app.
  • Insurance coverage: Extended Warranty and Purchase Protection; Rental Car Collision/Damage; Out-of-Province/Out-of-Country Emergency Medical; Trip Interruption and Trip Cancellation.

Read my full Rogers World Elite Mastercard review, or apply now by clicking the button below:

Big gas/grocery spender? Check out the Scotia Momentum Infinite Visa which returns 4% on groceries and recurring payments. The Scotia card also offers a 2% return on gas and daily transit purchases and 1% on everything else. Limited time promo – annual fee waived for the first year ($120/year after the first year).  More details here.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card (editor’s pick)

  • Earn 2% Money-Back Rewards on purchases in up to three 2% Money-Back Categories of your choice, and 0.5% Money-Back Rewards on all other purchases;
  • No annual fee;
  • No limit on the amount of Money-Back Rewards you can earn;
  • Three 2% Money-Back Categories if you choose to have your Rewards deposited into your Tangerine Savings Account, or two 2% Money-Back Categories if your Rewards are deposited back onto your Credit Card (categories include: drug stores, restaurants, entertainment, furniture, gas, grocery, home improvements, hotels, public transportation and parking, recurring bill payments);
  • Free Cards for Authorized Users on your Account; and,
  • Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty.

Read my full Tangerine Mastercard review, or apply now by clicking the button below:

Capital One Platinum MasterCard Exclusively for Costco Members

  • 0.50% cash back on first $3,000 in purchases;
  • 1.00% cash back on any amount over $3,000;
  • 2.00% cash back on gasoline;
  • 3.00% cash back at restaurants;
  • Car rental insurance;
  • Purchase assurance – 120 days insurance in case of theft or damage;
  • Extended warranty – doubles manufacturer warranty (maximum extension of up to 2 yrs).;
  • Price Protection – find a lower price within 60 days of purchase and they will cover the difference
  • Baggage delay insurance.
  • Notes: Need a Costco Membership ($55/yr), rebate is collected every January @ Costco as a gift card or cash.

American Express SimplyCash Card

t’s not very often I recommend an American Express credit card due to lack of retail acceptance, but this one is worth mentioning since it offers 1.25% cash back on all purchases regardless of the type of spending.

  • 5% cash back on all of your gas, grocery and restaurant purchases for the first 6 months;
  • 1.25% cash back on all purchases;
  • Car Rental Insurance;
  • Purchase Protection – 90 days insurance in case of theft or damage; and,
  • Extended Warranty – doubles manufacturer warranty (maximum extension of up to 1 yr).

Capital One Aspire Cash Platinum Mastercard

  • Earn 1% cash rewards on all purchases;
  • No limit to the amount you can earn;
  • Add an authorized user for $0, and earn even more cash;
  • Car rental insurance;
  • Purchase assurance – 120 days insurance in case of theft or damage;
  • Extended warranty – doubles manufacturer warranty (maximum extension of up to 2 yrs);
  • Price Protection – find a lower price within 60 days of purchase and they will cover the difference; and,
  • Baggage delay insurance.

Read my full Capital One Aspire Cash Platinum Mastercard Review, or sign up now by clicking the button below:

RBC Cash Back Mastercard

  • 2% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $6k spending per year, after that, reverts back to 1%);
  • 0.50% cash back on regular purchases up to $6k spending;
  • 1% cash back on regular purchases after $6k spending in a year;
  • Purchase assurance – 90 days insurance in case of theft or damage; and,
  • Extended warranty – doubles manufacturer warranty (maximum extension up to 1 yr).

CIBC Dividend Visa

  • 2% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $6k spending per year, after that, reverts back to 1%);
  • 0.50% cash back on regular purchases up to $6k spending;
  • 1% cash back on regular purchases after $6k spending in a year;
  • Purchase assurance – 90 days insurance in case of theft or damage; and,
  • Extended warranty – doubles manufacturer warranty (maximum extension of up to 1 yr).

Canadian Tire Cash Advantage Mastercard

  • 0.25% cash back on the first $1,500 in purchases;
  • 0.50% cash back on the next $1,500 in purchases;
  • 1.00% cash back on any amount over $3,000;
  • 1.5% cash back on purchases over $24,000;
  • Double the cash back (depending on current tier basically up to 3%) at Canadian tire stores, gas stations and Mark’s Work Wearhouse;
  • No maximum rebate; and,
  • Pays out rebate quarterly which is applied against your balance.

Based on my Scenario, since we funnel what we can through a credit card for the cash back and/or points, we typically spend about $30k / year on a credit card. In that, about $11k in groceries and about $2.5k in gas. This would equate to a cash back rebate of:

  1. Rogers World Elite Mastercard: $525
  2. AMEX: $375 (assuming that I can use this card everywhere I shop – big assumption since AMEX acceptance is not great from my experience)
  3. Tangerine Money-Back Card Credit Card: $352 (no limit on two categories @ 2% – I picked gas and groceries. Return would be higher if I had a savings account with Tangerine which gives three categories for 2%)
  4. Costco M/C: $340 (strong insurance package)
  5. RBC: $330
  6. CIBC: $330
  7. Canadian Tire: $303
  8. Capital One: $300 (lower but strong insurance package)

Conclusions

Finally, a free cash back card in Canada that gives premium credit cards a run for its money!  The Rogers World Elite Mastercard is a breath of fresh air in offering a generous 1.75% cash back on general spending, and 4% cash back on foreign purchases (net 1.5% cash back after 2.5% FX fee)! 

While the Rogers Mastercard is pretty strong, it gets even better if you stack the card with other free cards like the Tangerine card and the PC Financial World Elite MasterCard.  Combining these cards would likely bring your cash back to over 2% per year.  Not bad for not paying any annual fees! 

Although AMEX ranked fairly high for cash back (1.25% on all spending), the issue as previously mentioned is that the acceptance is spotty.  From my previous experience of using an AMEX, I would say that it was accepted about 50% of the time based on my own shopping habits.  The $375 in cash back is likely closer to $190, however, your shopping habits may have better luck with AMEX.

If you are a big spender, then you may get better returns with a premium card even after the annual fee. Check out my post on the best premium cash back credit cards in Canada.

Any thoughts?

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FT

FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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Paul N
1 month ago

I found the discussion on this very helpful over the years, and have posted a few times over the years here myself..

Once again the CC companies seem to be watering down their cash back rewards. My fav go to “MBNA Rewards World Elite” card has joined this club as well. Any suggestions for the best deal for July 2021?

I see the American Express card seems to be what I prefer in reward structure, 2 different cards that give you rewards regardless of what you buy. However a lot of places won’t take American express or tack on a premium to your bill, because they charge retailers a very high transaction % fee. So you may not really be getting the reward you are hoping for. In turn, not my first choice…
Suggestions?

Bernie
2 years ago

How does the “Home Trust Preferred Visa” card compare? Its not mentioned above.

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernie

Here are the features of the Home Trust Preferred Visa:

– 1% Cash back on all purchases with no limit
– no foreign currency fee (2.5% waived)

Using the 30k scenario above would return $300 cash back, which would be lower than any of the ones listed above. Also, the foreign currency return on the Rogers card (net 1.5% back on foreign currency transactions) is better. This card used to look attractive only for foreign currency transactions – until the Rogers Mastercard came along.

moneyhelp
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernie

I have the HTPV card. Haven’t yet used it yet when travelling, but got it essentially for the no Fx fees. There are also other benefits, like road side assistance, although never used it, so I don’t know how good it is.

The other good thing, is that the 1% is automatically credited to the account in January of the following year, whereas some other credit cards, you have to call in (I think Rogers and Fido are like this) and ask them on December. Not sure what happens if you forget to call, but I would imagine it would roll over to the following year, but that’s a pain.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  moneyhelp

That was the old way but Rogers has an odd system; cash back can be applied to any at any past purchases any time you have more than $20 worth.

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

I recently cashed in a large amount of rewards on Rogers and this worked quite well. It can be a pain to select multiple transactions, but I was lucky that I had one large transaction that covered everything. I do this more frequently now and “move” the money into HIS account (I use envelope budgeting in Banktivity which makes this possible).

smayer97
2 years ago

Nice to know about Meridian Visa. I agree with you that you should always look at cost vs benefit. I too carry a fee based card as a result, in addition to fee-free cash-back cards.

Now, if you shop at No Frills, any Visa product is a no go as it is not accepted there (several years now). But even if you shop at any other Loblaws affiliate, compared to the PC Mastercard which offers 3% on groceries (if you can qualify for the World Elite version), the Meridian Visa performs worse after the annual fee.

So a full comparison is needed based on personal shopping patterns.

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Interesting, we are in Calgary and are able to use our Visa at NoFrills down the street. I used to hold a PC MasterCard as we used NoFrills quite a bit. Once I found the Infinite series cards and the 4% back, I cancelled the PC MasterCard, as that is all we were using it for.

Our NoFrills carries all the PC products, so I assume it is the same NoFrills. Interesting that they take Visa and yours does not.

All that being said, totally agree on the full comparison – each person has to look at their own spending habits and make choices based on that.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Interesting comment. Maybe this issue is isolated to the GTA? Or Ontario? When they made the change everywhere around here, I assumed it was a company-wide move. Obviously not. Thx.

So makes perfect sense to go with Visa with that spend.

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

I wonder if it depends on the owner. Ours is “Blair’s No Frills”…maybe Blair was okay with accepting Visa :-)

nobleea
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

All the no frills here in Edmonton do not accept Visa either. However, I think their merchant terminals will accept it, so if you say its a MC and just stick a Visa in, I don’t know if it would stop the transaction.

Kristi
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Our Real Canadian Wholesale Club can take Visa but only on one till – if you are at a different till, the cashier can actually transfer your purchase to the till that has Visa set up and you just walk over there and pay with Visa. Weird but it works.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

@Kristi Interesting…what city and/or location?

Kristi
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

@smayer97
Burns Lake, BC

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Thx. So, so far it looks like an east vs west thing but clearly not a company wide decision.

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

By the way, the Meridian Visa (MV) only performs worse if you spend less than $12,901 on groceries in a year (1% gain on $12,901+ greater than the $129 annual fee on MV). We are a family of 5, and our annual grocery spend is more than this.

Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

If you have a Loblaws brand store close by(I.e. Superstore) that accepts Visa, then buy the Loblaws brand gift cards using your Visa. Then shop at Nofrills using the Loblaws gift cards.

Dean
2 years ago

Ah – credit card rewards – love this discussion as it always seems to change in Canada.

I know your analysis is for free cards, but don’t negate the value of a paid card. For example, the Meridian Visa Infinite gives you 4% back on groceries. Based on your estimate of an $11k spend on groceries, and using 2% as a high for the cards you mentioned, you would be getting $220 back. If you used the Meridian Visa Infinite, you would get 4% back on groceries, which is $440 for a gain of $220. Subtract the annual fee of $129 (with supplementary card) and you would come out $91 ahead. In addition, 1st year fees are waived, so you would actually be ahead the full $220.

My current credit card structure is as follows:

1. My wife and I hold separate WestJet MasterCards for the additional 2 free flights a year and free checked baggage. The cost of these are covered by our bank plan with RBC.

2. Meridian Infinite Visa for 4% back on gas and groceries and 2% back on pharmacy and reoccurring bill payments.

3. Rogers World Elite Mastercard for all other purchases and foreign currency purchases.

The other thing we do to maximize rewards is purchase gifts cards at our local grocery store. For example, I buy Apple iTunes gift cards for our monthly Apple fees (iCloud, music) and Amazon gift cards for our Amazon purchases. By doing this, I get the full 4% on these purchases, as opposed to the 1.75% I would get with Rogers.

GYM
2 years ago

I love my Rogers world elite and my PC Financial World Elite- two of my favourite no fee cards!

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  FT

Agreed. Good cards, especially since PC finally restored downloading data to Quicken. Though not a deal breaker, unfortunately, Rogers does not support this feature, as yet, though they do support downloading an OFX file… so maybe some day…

Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Interesting – I am able to access Rogers through Direct Access using Bantivity (Mac). Quicken must use different technology.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  Dean

Quicken uses the same OFX standard except they require that FIs/Banks register with them. They control this by requiring additional info be added to the OFX standard format which Quicken then validates on import.

So if would require Rogers to register with Quicken and make some modifications.

moneyhelp
2 years ago
Reply to  GYM

Only issue I have with Rogers WE CC is that it requires a personal income of $80K annually. A bit out of my reach :)

dave mackenzie
2 years ago

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite 1 Aug 2019 increase to $120+50 and gas lowering to 2% and drugs 1%
What’s the best (free) card now ??

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  dave mackenzie

Wow. that is really cutting back on benefits, making it less competitive. Such is the constantly changing credit card landscape…

smayer97
3 years ago

I have noticed what appears to be an error in the article…Any reference to
“Extended warranty – doubles warranty up to 2 yrs”

The correct wording for most of these is that they actually extend the warranty by doubling the existing warranty up to an additional year. What this also means is that if you have a warranty that is 3 yrs, it will actually add an extra year.

Some plans typically have caps too or restrict some items, most commonly automotive parts, but also in some cases computer or certain electronics. Read the fine print.

So the wording above does not accurately reflect what these extended warranties provide.

Please update the article.

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  FT

Oh, that sounds nice. Even so, I believe the wording needs to be adjusted to better reflect what the extended warranties are, as is does not reflect the plans as I have shown.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

BTW, I came across info that clarifies Capital One’s extended warranty. It turns out that the credit card warranty adds extra time to ANY warranty (IIRC up to one extra year), including if you purchase extended warranty. WOW!
(All other cards, you have to choose between buying extended warranty OR be satisfied with the card extended warranty of 1 extra year).

I wish I had kept the reference as it showed a chart that explains in clear visual detail. If I come across it again, I’ll try to update here.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Ok, I got it slightly wrong… Capital One only offers up to 24 months extra (which is still better than all other cards).

Turns out it is CitiBank credit card that offers what I described…24 months (not UP TO 24 months extra…WOW) on top of even extended warranty purchased, DOUBLE WOW, up to a max of 7 years.

Unfortunately, CitiBank is no longer available in Canada :-(

But just for those interested, here is a link to a copy of the chart I mentioned (not the original place I say it but good enough).
https://awardwallet.com/blog/best-credit-cards-extended-warranty-coverage/

Would be nice if someone offered something like that in Canada.

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

(thought I already posted this…)

Seems I made a small mistake. Turns out that Capital One only offers up to 24 months (though that is far better than most).

Turns out it is CitiBank that offers 24 months (NOT just UP TO 24 months) extra, and this is ON TOP of any extended warranty purchased, up to a max of 7 yrs. Unfortunately, Citibank is no longer offered in Canada, so this is moot now (unless you travel to and purchase in the US). But for anyone interested, see the chart in the following article:
https://awardwallet.com/blog/best-credit-cards-extended-warranty-coverage/
(it is not the original chart I found but it is good enough)

Ravi
3 years ago

Any cards that have better returns than 2.5% and are unlimited? Like can take 500k plus in rewards?

Many of you may have heard of Plastiq and Paytm. New services that for a fee basically let you use your credit card to pay just about any payee you can with online bill payments via your bank.

It turns out I can pay my main payables via them, but wouldn’t want to unless there’s a significant benefit greater than the 2.5% fee. Like 3.5% or something.. Cash back or points or something. Any thoughts?

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  Ravi

For Cash Back, the only one I know is the Laurentian Visa Dollars here:
https://www.laurentianbank.ca/en/personal_banking_services/my_ideas/ideas_visa_dollars.html?utm_source=banquelaurentienne&utm_medium=banner&utm_content=dollarsCard&utm_campaign=visa

The Laurentian Visa offers 3% and has NO CAP on earnings. It only costs $65/yr.

All others I have come across pay less % or have low caps.

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

P.S. Of course, this only works IF the Plastiq charges are considered recurring…also not sure if the charges are recorded as Plastiq or with the original vendor name.

Ravi
3 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Yea, seems unlikely based on what I read in their rules the way the payment system is setup it doesn’t seem conducive, but you can schedule payments. Also the way CRA looks at it, apparently if you convert miles/points to cash, its a taxable benefit. Says some articles.

It’s a huge number if I flow through multiples of the amount I mentioned, and to benefit only half a point, alot of risk .

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  Ravi

For completeness, Laurentian Visa is not pts system; it is cash back.

But yes, does seem dicey…you would have to be sure about the recurring status to qualify.

Ken
3 years ago

Hi Guys,
CIBC offer me 4% cash back on gas spending, it is CIBC Dividend Visa Card which replaced the CIBC Petro Canada Master Card, I lost the detail package (anyone can provide the detail?), could anyone tell me is this a good credit card?

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  Ken

Details can be found here: https://www.cibc.com/ca/visa/dividend-platinum-card.html

In summary:
$99/y + $30/extra card (max 3) (1st yr free for all)
4% on gas and groceries (good if you do not shop at No Frills; they only accept MC)
2% for Telus and Tim Hortons purchases
1% on all else
Max $20K spend on first 2 rates or $80K total spend for all rates.
Nice Insurance extras too (purchase, extended warranty, car rental).
So depending on where you buy and what you buy you have to see if it is a good fit for you.
I point out that to get the most of any of these cards, it is often best to use more than one at the same time to cover all bases and get the max return.
For me that combination works out to be the Laurentian Dollars Visa and the PC World Elite MC (I may add the Rogers MC too) (see above for details).

smayer97
3 years ago
Reply to  Ken

BTW, for the exact same cost you can get the CIBC Dividend Infinite Visa but it has MORE travel insurance coverages included at no extra cost. The only caveat is that you need a higher annual or household income ($60K or $100K respectively).

See details here: https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-banking/credit-cards/all-credit-cards/dividend-visa-infinite-card.html

Ken
3 years ago
Reply to  smayer97

Thank you smayer97.
Actually, CIBC won’t charge me the annual fee, and the 4%, gas only, not groceries.
I used to be the CIBC Petro Canada MC holder, now CIBC and Petro Canada divorced. That’s the reason CIBC send me the VISA to replace the Petro Canada MC

Vin
4 years ago

Rogers master card gets you 1.75% anywhere annual fee of $29 waived if you have Rogers product with auto pay.

smayer97
4 years ago
Reply to  Vin

Yes, nice option. Been mentioned above many times since 2016.