best cash back credit card in Canada

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.

 

Rogers World Elite Mastercard Review

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 (editors 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.

 

Tangarine Mastercard Review

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.

 

Learn More Here

American Express SimplyCash Card

 
It’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).

 

Learn More Here

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.

 

Capital One Aspire Cash Platinum Mastercard Review

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).

 

Learn More Here

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).

 

Learn More Here

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.

 

Learn More Here

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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I have the Costco Amex card and I get about $300 back every year. Like you say, the only problem is Amex is not accepted everywhere, so it is necessary to have backup card.

What a unique post! I never really thought a lot about how Canada might differ from the types of credit cards you could get. I’m going to send this to my cousin in Alberta. Good work, eh. :)

PC Financial Mastercard, http://www.pcmastercard.pcfinancial.ca/rocen/cardapp/index.htm. $25 incentive for signing up, about 1% cashback, but could be greater if you redeem PC points for movie tickets for example, which would give you about 1.25% – 1.4% cashback. Also rental vehicle insurance coverage, and free warranty doubling on product purchases, as well as the other typical types of incentives like it. No cap on reward points that I’m aware of.

The Costco mastercard is not strictly cash wither. You have to pay a 55$ Costco membership, and then you get sent a cheque once a year. if you want that check in Cold hard cash, I think you have to go intop Costco and get cash at the membership desk. Oh and while you are in Costco, you might as well go inand spend another $200 on groceries. The PC is just as much a cash back card, if you shop at Shoppers, and Loblaw grocery stores. 3% back on the elite card at Loblaws and Shoppers. 7 cents a litre back at gas bars. 2-4 cents off at Esso. and 1% back on everything else in the world.

if you are including the Costco card, which you have to pay $55 a year and you have to go into the store to cash your cheque., its only fair to include the AMAZING PC mastercard

BTW, money back on gas bars for PC card varies by Province. In Ontario, it is only 4 cents. I still like the card very much.

there is actually a pretty good comparison of other no-fee cards at redflagdeals under the article section. I love my amex costco – especially when you pair if up with their executive membership which gives you an additional 2% rebate.

How does the TD Visa cash back card compare? I would like to see your top least fave cards!
Thanks
Bonnie

I don’t see the Capital One 1% Cash Back Platinum Mastercard offered on their website. The link takes me to the Capital One No Hassle Rewards Platinum MasterCard which is a miles card, not a cash rebate card. Is this card available to the general public?

Thanks for the information! It’s sad to see how much higher US cash back cards can be (like Amex Blue).

FrugalTrader;

I assume you would have to spend $2250 extra a year at Costco to make the exec membership worthwhile? But that must be hard since one would think your current purchases at Costco are already included in the 30K you charge.

not precisely cash back, but for ‘feel good’, Citizens Bank of Canada visa cards donate 10¢ to your choice of Amnesty international or Oxfam Canada each time you use it. In addition, you can redeem your rewards points for RRSP contributions or term deposits.

Yes, you can redeem miles for cash back and get either a cheque or a credit to your account. To initiate cash back, you need a minimum of 10,000 miles, which equals $75.00.

Sounds like it only works out to 0.75% cash back on the capital one platinum card :(

http://www.capitalone.ca/canada/faqs/rewards_card_offer.php?linkid=CAN_Z_Z_Z_CRPLAT_C1_01_T_RCOFQ#12_pg_sl

I use PCF M/C. I use the points to pay for groceries at Loblaws stores. Here in Alberta, that would be The Real Canadian Superstore. I earn 1% in points. I can apply points in $10 increments ($1,000 worth of card expenditures) off my groceries as right at the checkout. Not cold, hard cash — but works like cash. Since I shop there every week or so, it works out fine. I have never redeemed points for anything else.

Hi FT, thanks for the info about the SPG card. I read your review of it as well. I’m using the American Express Aeroplan Plus Gold card, http://www10.americanexpress.com/sif/cda/page/0,1641,19913,00.asp. I’ve been a long time Aeroplan reward miles member. Do you think that the SPG rewards system would be more beneficial, considering I typically book flights on Star Alliance airlines?

Also off the top of your head, do you think that the Aeroplan card is less beneficial than the CIBC Aerogold, http://www.cibc.com/ca/visa/aerogold-visa-card.html? The reason I ask about this is because we’re actually in the process of switching to this car, because of the 15,000 Aeroplan reward miles incentive they offer for sign up. Strangely enough I submitted an application several weeks ago online and still haven’t heard from them. Anyway, the 15,000 miles incentive is enough for one flight to the closer U.S. states and Canadian provinces, which we do often enough.

Yes, acceptance is a biggie for us and something I’ve definitely noticed! We have Amex and PC Financial Mastercard, so the Mastercard has been acting as our backup card for that reason mostly.

Amex also has fantastic customer service and their security systems setup seem to be more robust, at least compared to my experience with it versus PC Financial Mastercard.

I try to fly Air Canada first with my reward miles, then Star Alliance second if that’s not possible. Re the SPG card, hotel redemptions are nice but are they only for Starwood properties?

[…] Top Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada […]

[…] Top Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada. […]

I have the Canadian Tire cash back Mastercard along with other credit cards. I am now shying away from using them as it seems every one of them want your business and offer cash back, points or miles. For people who want the cash back and pay their bill on time, its a good way to get a few percent back but for those who run a balance, you really are not getting anything back. The card companies hope you always run a balance.

I just phoned capital one – they do NOT currently offer the cashback card!

If you google for “capital one cash back” the first result is for their cashback card – but when you click the link it brings you to their miles reward card. I was confused about wtf was going on so I just phoned and the rep confirmed that they are not offering a cashback card in Canada right now. I even took the rep through the links where it makes reference to the cashback program and she stated that was left up for customers that currently have the card and not for new signups. She said that she couldn’t even see the same info on her end because the offer wasn’t available for reps to see. Too bad – the reward is just slightly less than the CDN Tire cashback card but the Captial One offers other perks like purchase protection, extended warranty and car insurance which the CTFS card does not. Actually, the CTFS card offers a $5 / mo service which gives you purchase protection and warranty doubling up to 7 years. But that makes it a $60/year card so no deal.

[…] FrugalTrader05:00 amAdd comment The last time I posted about top cash back credit cards in Canada, I picked the American Express Costco credit card that returns 1.5% on purchases above $5000 during […]

I,too, had the canadian tire mastercard.If one owns a house or a condo,this card is very good indeed.My reason for cancelling it concerned the
$5.00 monthly fee for the purchase protection and
extended warranty.For the moment,I am using the
rbc starbucks visa and the bmo mosaik with the .5%
cashback option.

Seems to me that the best card is the Citi Bank Driver’s Edge card. It isn’t a cash back card per say but gives a full 2% on all purchases (up to $1000 back per year). If you buy cars and most of us do then it’s just like a cash back card and it can be used for new or used car purchases. It also has other featres included like purchase protection and has no fees at all.

[…] written quite a bit about worthy credit cards in Canada.  In part 1, I picked the Costco AMEX that returns 1.5% of your money, in part 2, I picked the new AMEX Gold with their new 2% cash back […]

with canadian cash back cards. do we have to declare the cash back as revenue on our income tax return.

thx lt

Hello All,

I have a different solution.

I use the RBC Classic II card. It has a RBC points system similar to Aeroplan to buy merchandise and plane tickets. You get 1 point for every dollar spent. It does not sound fantastic until you realize you can convert up the RBC points for Esso Xtra points to get gas. Basically,3000 RBC points converts to 5000 Esso Xtra points the is values at $30.00 free gas. If you do the math, it is 1% cash back for gas without the wait. Also, if the have the Affinity savings account, the credit card annual fee is covered.

With gas getting more expensice, every little bit helps.

Regards, jim

I have the Citi Enrich Platinum MasterCard which is the best card for me. Here are the features. Note that this card is not available to everyone and is not on the website.

Citi Platinum Enrich Mastercard
*need to make $35,000 a year to get it or have a $5000 credit card limit already through Citibank*

Features:

– no annual fee

– ZERO LIABILITY: “should your card fall into the wrong hands, you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized purchases made in store, over the phone, or on the web. Feel safer now? That’s the idea.”

– extra security: free photocard (your photo and signature are digitally imprinted on the front of the card; this is a free service)

– free supplementary card(s) (by the way, supplementary card numbers are exactly the same as the number for the primary cardholder’s Mastercard; I think Citibank is the only company I know of that does it like this, and I personally think it’s nuts)

– 1% cash back from the first dollar you spend (in other words–there’s no minimum you have to spend first) up to a max of $500 cash back (or $50,000 spent on your card per year).

– price protection for 60 days (if you find the exact same item advertised for cheaper elsewhere, you’ll get the difference back) up to $100 difference per item (and up to a max of $500 per year). Computer hardware and software, food, cars, and pets are excluded from price protection (and you can only submit up to 3 duplicate items at once, I think; for example, if you purchase 5 duplicate shirts, you can only claim 3 for price protection on the same insurance form). You have to submit an insurance claim form each time

– (notice it’s $500,000) travel accident and baggage delay insurance: “You receive up to $500,000 Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance coverage whenever you travel by plane, train, bus, or boat–at no extra cost–when you purchase your tickets in full on Citi Enrich Platinum Mastercard. You’re covered for up to a maximum of $500,000 for losses resulting from injuries while traveling.” If your baggage is delayed for more than 24hrs Chubb Insurance Company of Canada will reimburse the cardholder up to $300 ($100 per day your baggage is delayed for up to 3 days).

– Car Rental Collision/Loss damage waiver : “When you charge the full cost of the car rental to your Citi Bank Enrich Platinum Mastercard, you’ll be insured up to the actual cash value of the car if it is damaged or stolen.”
This usually saves anywhere from $10-$20 on car rentals, since you don’t
have to pay extra for insurance.

– Insurance from loss, damage, or theft on items purchased for up to 90 days

– Extended Warranty (doubles manufacturer’s warranty for up to a full year)

Here is a great site comparing CAsh Back credit Cards:

http://www3.telus.net/CalgaryBen/

American Express Gold Credit Card with Cash Back give up to 2% with no annual fee.

Use TD Canada trust’s rebate credit card if you spend over 3k per year you get 1 % rebate with no annual fee, and it’s a visa card which is accepted nearly everywhere.

thanks for this post! I read your blog, but I guess I hadn’t started when you made this one.. a quick google search for “credit cards canada cash back” gave me your post right at the top of non sponsored links.

I have never experienced such extremely awful customer service until I encountered President Choice Financial. I would strongly recommend that you consider any other option in Canada before signing up with President’s Choice. It would be hard for me to imagine that any company could have customer service that is more awful than this firm.

Their policy is that they will only give new customers a $3,000 dollar credit limit regardless of credit history, income, etc.. When I told them they were forcing me to get another card and take my business elsewhere by imposing such a low limit, their response was to ask me if they should cancel my card.

After 5 years of paying my bill in full each month, I was late on a payment as I was out of the country. They put a block on my card and it stopped working. No one notified me, no one called me to explain what they had done and when I called them it was made very clear to me that it was my problem not theirs and they really didn’t care if it was an inconvenience for me nor were they apologetic. I immediately paid the bill in full but they continued to charge me interest for two additional months after this. They had a very complicated explanation about charging interest on the average monthly balance of a bill regardless if you paid it in full during the month. The interest charges were excessive and no where could one calculate these numbers using any common way of applying the advertised interest rate. It doesn’t take being late more than once to offset any of the free points you think you’re earning here.

During the same time frame that they blocked my card, I received a letter from the SVP of the company telling me what I great customer I was and how I was going to be recognized with double points. I then wrote a letter to this SVP expressing my concerns and he never bothered to even reply to my letter. I tried speaking with a number of customer service reps and the common theme was they are told to be very aggressive and not to apologize for anything and they really could care less if you take your business elsewhere. That was made very clear when they were unwilling to reverse an interest charge for $1.69.

I would rarely ever take time to post my concerns about a business but after what I experienced I think it’s really important to prevent others from having to find this out on there own. I have taken my business elsewhere and I advise you to do the same.

I’m using CIBC Dividend Visa and I’m satisfied, but I’m also thinking for having also a Mastercard …

You might also find this Canadian rewards credit card calculator useful. You enter your categorical spending profile and it calculates your reward with various Canadian cards. It also find the best combinations of cards for you:

http://www.creditcardtuneup.com/?country_cd=CA

President Choice didn’t offer cash back but redeem for free groceries. I find it the best among all credit cards.

I did not see the unadvertised, but available American Express Gold card. It offers a 2% rebate on purchases, no maximum. the first 5000 spent in the year is prorated at a lower rate, but once you are over the 5k, all of your purchases will yield 2% back. They send you a cheque in January. No annual fee.
Information about this can be obtained at redflagdeals.com
Great card.

MBNA Canada now offers a 1% non-tiered cashback with platinum benefits (purchase protection, warranty extension, rental car damage waiver, etc.) called PremierRewards. This is comparable to the Citi Platinum Enrich. There are two links for the card on their website, but only one leads to the no annual fee version. Go to “Popular Cards”.
I have the SPG card for the signup bonuses, but I don’t travel a lot so I’ll be switching to PremierRewards.

Haha…didn’t see that you’d already listed that one above…sorry.

I am surprised nobody mentioned
VISA Desjardins Elegance GOLD.
aside from the card benefits below, its the only card I know that only charges 1.8% foreign currency conversion rate instead of the standard 2.5%
for every card mentioned here. btw Capital One cards in Canada charges the standard 2.5% as well.

Card features
A rewards program that allows you to accumulate BONUSDOLLARS and exchange them against travel, gifts, tickets to shows and Desjardins products and services.
Travel and accident insurance.
Insurance in case of loss, theft, damage or fire for most goods purchased with your card.
An extended warranty of up to one year on goods purchased.
Accord D Desjardins financing, a second, separate credit limit.
Cash advances up to $5,000 a day, anywhere in the world.
ZERO liability in the event of unauthorized use of your card.
Better security through chip technology.
Other advantages

discounts up to 20% at Hertz worldwide
access to AccèsD to manage your VISA account online
free access to our Travel Assistance Service
low-cost additional card
register for the Overdraft Transfer service to cover a cheque, bill payment, or any other transaction that exceeds the balance in your Personal Chequing Account (PCA) or any other eligible account.

WARNING: Most of these cards accrue interest “on the later of: (1) the transaction date of the Purchase, or (2) the first day of the billing cycle in which the Purchase occurred. Interest Rate Finance Charges accrue daily”, and the rates are in the range of 19.99%!!

This means a $100 purchase would cost .33 a day, and increase daily (paying interest on the interest).
If you don’t pay the credit card company within 3 days, it is already costing you more than the 1% you get back. Lets say you wait until you get your bill, and then wait another 10 days or so (until the payment is due) for a total of about 30 days. This will cost $9.86. Instead of saving $1, you pay $8!

If you have debts, for example a line of credit at 6%, it would be better to get a card with a grace period and pay one or two days before the due date. With a grace period, you can make a large purchase (lets say $2000) and avoid the interest you pay on that purchase for about 30 days. (save nearly $6.00)

The one thing left out is with most bank credit cards, payment with online banking is easy and FREE. Thats one of the main reasons I have stuck with the CIBC dividend. Takes seconds to pay it off and no charge for transfers within my CIBC accounts.

I have the citibank enrich platinum master card and it pays 1% of any amount spent up to 50K

“The one thing left out is with most bank credit cards, payment with online banking is easy and FREE. Thats one of the main reasons I have stuck with the CIBC dividend. Takes seconds to pay it off and no charge for transfers within my CIBC accounts.”

You can pay any card off for “free” if you have a ICICI HiSave Chequing account (can transfer money from your HiSave Savings Account). Alternatively you can use PC Financial Chequing account. Bill payments are free.

Only real downside with these free chequing accounts is that you pretty much have to keep a bank account open at your other big 5 financial institution too (for emergency customer service situations where you need to talk to a real bank), which complicates your paper work a bit by having so many accounts open. But oh well, having a credit card complicates things too and it seems no way to get around complexity when it comes to saving dimes

I was looking for a comparison for all cards, free and with annual fee. The calculator mentioned in post 42 does take into account a way to compare cahs back and rewards cards. Unfortunately I’m not sure it has all of the available CC in Canada since I didn’t see any of the cards I actually use.

@Detractor post#40 –

I got a $5,000 credit limit upon applying in 2005 (I actually asked for a lower limit). I didn’t even apply at a PC pavilion, just filled out an application form and mailed it in.

My experience with them thus far has been good, can’t complain about the free cheques and no-fee banking.

Frankly, I’ve seen clients with $10K- $20K credit limit who max out all the time and refinance their mortgages every 2-3 years to pay off those balances.