I’ve written about top cash back credit cards in Canada before, and even modified my top pick. However, there are an abundance of other rewards based credit cards out there that deserve a look. My selections are based on the value of the rewards and the extra perks given. Also, all the cards chosen have no annual fee as I don’t believe in paying to use a credit card.

Note that I don’t even look at the interest rate on the card as I don’t carry a balance. I’m only interested in the rewards and the 30 day interest free loan is a bonus.

As there are numerous “rewards” credit cards in the Canadian market place right now, I decided to split them up by category. Listed below are two broad categories of my favorite rewards cards based on travel and consumer.

Top Consumer Rewards Credit Card

There a few store based loyalty credit cards out there with no annual fee. The one that you choose will depend on where you shop the most. Personally, I would choose a store card that would be used often, and has a high return on spending. Here are my favorite consumer rewards credit cards.

1. Scotia Cineplex SCENE Visa (link) (editors top consumer pick)

If you are a fan of Cineplex and a collector of SCENE points (like we are), then this free Visa offered by Scotia is packed with value.  Depending on your area, evening movies are around $12 per adult (non 3D).  SCENE collectors are eligible for a free movie ticket after collecting 1000 points.  With this Visa offering 1 SCENE point for every dollar spent, and bonus points on Cineplex spending, the return works out to be at least 1.26% on movie tickets.  The more you spend at Cineplex using this card, the higher the return on spending.

You get 5x bonus points for using this Visa in Cineplex, in addition to the 100 points your regular SCENE membership gives you when buying movie tickets.  For example, two movie tickets cost around $24.  Using your SCENE Visa and your SCENE membership card would give you 220 points per movie visit.   The 5x bonus also counts toward concession spending.  So if you put $2k on this card a month, it’s at least two free movie tickets per month.

The downside is that it does not offer any insurances.


  • 4000 bonus SCENE points on activation (enough for 4 movie tickets), 250 bonus points when you sign up for the SCENE membership;
  • 1 SCENE point for every $1 spent on the Visa card;
  • 5 SCENE points for every $1 spent at Cineplex;
  • 1000 SCENE required for a free movie ticket; and,
  • SCENE membership offers 10% off concessions.

2. PC Financial

I like this no fee MasterCard as it is simple and the user gets points towards an everyday expense… groceries! This card return on spending is about equivalent to a 1% cash back card except when they give away bonus points when purchasing in store products. Great card for those who get groceries at Loblaws.


  • 10 points for every $1 spent on the card towards grocery dollars.
  • They have promotions at various times of the year to earn extra points, but for the most part the conversion is a 1% return on your money.


  • Theft Insurance/Extended Warranty (not applicable to computer hardware/software)

Top Travel Rewards Credit Card

For those that like to accumulate travel rewards via their credit card. What I look for in a travel rewards card is one that has versatility and not locked into a single airline or company. As well, the return on spending needs to be relatively high, and preferably with an insurance package (updated June 2010).

1. Capital One Aspire™ Travel Platinum MasterCard® (editors top travel pick)

In the process of updating this article, I stumbled upon this card and I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. This card enables the card holder to earn “miles” on their purchases. After doing all the conversions, it works out to be 1.25% return on your spending if the miles are used for travel.

The advantage of this card is the flexibility where the miles can be used towards any travel with any company (flights, hotels, cruises etc). As well, points can be redeemed instantly online without contacting a rep over the phone. What really gives this no fee card the competitive advantage are the “best in class” insurance benefits.


  • Earn 1 reward mile for every $1 spent – on all purchases.
  • 10,000 bonus reward miles with your first purchase.
  • 25% extra anniversary bonus reward miles every year.
  • Redeem for travel, cash, merchandise or gift cards.


  • Price Protection – If you find a lower price on your purchase within 60 days, Capital One will refund you the difference up to $100
  • Theft Insurance up to 120 days (typically 90 days)
  • Extended Warranty up to 2 years (typically up to 1 year)
  • Car Rental Collision and Damage Waiver
  • Delay Baggage Benefit
  • Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance ($250k)

Editors Note: If you spend more than $1,000 per year, then, after factoring in bonuses, you’ll get a higher return with the fee based Capital One Aspire™ Travel World MasterCard®. This card works out to be a 2% return towards flexible travel with every imaginable credit card insurance benefit included. You can read the full Capital One Aspire™ Travel World MasterCard® Review here – one of my favorite fee based cards out there today with a lowish net annual fee of $20 (after annual bonuses).

2. BMO Air Miles MasterCard (link) (editors pick)

Some of you are very loyal Air Miles collectors but lets face it, they can take a long time to accumulate. That’s where an Air Miles credit card can help. This BMO offering is the best Air Miles credit card in Canada (imo) as they offer 1 air mile for every $20 in spending with no annual fee. As well, they have a respectable insurance benefits package, but not as comprehensive as the capital one card listed above.


  • 1 Air Mile for every $20 in spending.
  • 1.5x Miles at Shell, National Car Rental and Alamo


  • Theft Insurance (90 days)
  • Extended Warranty (up to 1 year)

3. American Express Blue Sky

This card is similar to the Capital One offering where the card holder accumulates points towards any type of travel. The great thing about this card is the rewards accumulation of 1.25% return on the cardholders spending. However, the insurance offering is lacking and the reduced acceptance of AMEX relative to Visa/MasterCard needs to be accounted for.


  • Earn 1.25 points for every $1 spent on the card.
  • Redeem points for any travel (hotels, flights, car rentals) charged to the card with no blackout dates. 10,000 points = $100.


  • Travel Accident Insurance

4. American Express Air Miles (link)

The American Express offering is similar to the BMO except it does not have any insurance benefits. They offer 1 mile for every $20 in spending along with a 100 bonus miles the first time you use the card.

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I am quite fond of the PC Financial Mastercard, mostly because its “rewards” are something I’d be buying anyway.
It’s worth noting that they recently added a double points feature for anything you buy at a store that sells PC products (Loblaws, No Frills, valu-mart, etc). Which means you are getting a bit above 1% on average.

Similar to the Blue Sky American Express (never heard of it!), although there is a $99 fee for it, is the new TD Travel Platinum Visa card. You earn 3 points per $1 charged. 20,000 points equals $100 in travel rewards which can be used against any travel.

Notice no Visa in the list above…

FYI, BMO has an AirMiles Mastercard Gold that gives 1pt for every 15$. Comes with a 90$ annual fee tho.

I’ve personally dropped it because i have issue with “points”.

Here’s a good comparison article for no-fee credit cards:

My card is an American Express Gold with 2% tiered cash back rebate (no fee as well). I do use it for my bills, gas, and groceries so I’ll be able to reach the $5K top tier quickly and there is no limit on the rebate. The downside is that AE isn’t not accepted that widely so a backup mastercard or cash is necessary.

When I was an university student signing up for a credit card, they signed me up for BMO Moasiak First Home buyers plan. I didn’t really care because I just wanted a free mug and t-shirt. Little did I know that it was a 5% return towards my first home mortgage and years later, my wife and I would have close to $5000 from the rewards to pay off on our downpayment. Unfortunately, they don’t offer it anymore and they took it off after I redeemed my reward.

Is there analysis of the distortion the effect these points cards have on the economy? After all, when someone buys toothpaste, it does not magically create more airplane fuel (the opposite, in fact). I believe it is mostly the merchants who get to pay for all this, but there must be other effects.

I had the SPG MasterCard for a brief period (they had a great promo that offered a lot of points). The problem I have with hotel-related benefits is that I use hotwire and priceline a lot and they save me far more $ than these points would.

My credit cards are not no fee – CIBC Aeroplan Visa and American Express Air Miles (because I need it to shop at Costco). I must get 60k of Aeroplan points with my Visa per year (it is great to double dip when I book business travel using my CC – the net cost is $0 to me but I get the benefit of thousands of points).

We have yet to use our Airmiles for anything expensive – one of the best redemption values is probably Shell car washes. It only takes 75 Airmiles to get 2 car washes.

I have the CIBC Shopper’s Optimum VISA. 5 shoppers’ points per $1 spent. The reward rate is around 1%…

It’s not that great, but since I don’t really travel, Air Miles aren’t of much use to me. I also don’t really spend enough $ to get to the top tier rate of most cash rewards cards.

And I have a question… Pardon my ignorance, but what’s the “real” difference between VISA and Mastercard?

JM: The problem with the 2% tiered Amex Gold cashback is that it’s no longer available to new members.

@davidm et al.

Yeah, I though I heard that credit card transactions cost the seller upto 4%, meaning they’re just giving you a 25% cut. And if everyone does it, then prices (in theory atleast) should go up 4% or more. I’m not sure of the sellers cost for debit.

Nonetheless, I’m guessing that the 4% has already been priced into the products, assuming that people will use credit card alot (cause people already do…) and hence the situation seems to be this; I’m paying 4% more already, if I dont use my 1% back card, then I’m leaving 1% worth of my money on the table for the seller.

At my favorite local/small businesses I avoid the credit card like the plague, I’d even goto cash if I knew it helped keep more of my money in their pockets, rather than in some big card company’s.


MikeG, it is my understanding that using a debit card only costs the merchant .25c, so it makes more sense to use it when possible. Personally I would like to see costs be as realistic and direct as possible; I do not want to subsidize other people when making my purchase, especially since I am a strong believer in “vote with your dollar” and these scheme (what else can you call them?) interfere with that.

I’ve read that merchants are suffering due to the extra costs they have to add to their products because of the credit card company’s take. I think the best solution would be to encourage reduced “cash prices,” personally I’d rather pocket the 4% and use it how I see fit rather than a limited catalogue. A directory of stores that offer cash prices would be very useful.

Mike G…you will not find many visa/MC discount rates at merchants at 4% today (Even Amex is not usually that high). Most would be in the 2.25-2.75% range. You would have to be a risky low volume web merchant to get 4%. Rewards are funded through interest not merchant fees.

Icarus…BMO also has a 1/20 card for $35 and a 1/40 card for free.

Madfish, Visa and MasterCard are competing credit card companies. In Canada, unlike other countries, a financial institution can only issue one brand. Most of the big banks have gone with Visa while most of the credit unions go with MasterCard.

Now, of course, we are seeing the influx of US-branded MasterCards (Citi, MBNA, etc.).

Both Visa and MasterCard are now publicly traded companies – MasterCard has done very well for those that bought in early. Visa only recently went public.

MikeG and davidm – it is not uncommon to see independent computer stores to price goods at ‘cash prices’ and ‘credit card transactions incur an additional 4% charge’. While it is the only type of retailer I can remember that puts that policy in print, I’ve bargained with independent men clothiers or labour contractors on a ‘cash discount’ for goods. Typically you ask if they can do better on the price, and they state if you are willing to pay in cash they can knock a certain percent off.

Cannon_fodder, you are right, and I shop at the stores, and sometimes get a “cash price” discount, but it would be nice to see a bit more organization behind this to counter the whole artificial points thing, which I’m sure has some negative effects on the general economy, and to basically pass on the savings to customers. I thought I had heard in the past that merchants were forbidden (by the credit card companies) from offering cash prices, but I guess not. I sincerely doubt points clubs are a good deal for the average consumer, but they would certainly be good for those who exploit them.

Under the Visa merchant agreement, merchants are specifically excluded from charging a premium for use of a visa card. There’s nothing to stop them from offering a cash discount, but Visa doesn’t want customers paying a premium for credit card usage.

Ahh, that’s it then. I was just reading about a new practise at gas stations in the US, where they advertise the cash price and tack on a charge for using credit cards. Seems reasonable to me, if it’s clearly stated; why should I subsidize someone else’s method of payment?

We’re been using the SPG cards for many years now (although I think the Amex when we lived in NY gave us 1 point per $1 spent, so we’re not making out as well up here). It’s a great programme. Maybe dollar for dollar we’d save/earn more with a different one, but all those SPG points have been used on weekends away we might not otherwise have taken, so that’s a bonus over Costco discounts or something as far as I’m concerned. I’ve also found the SPG booking people to be extremely smart, thorough and flexible; certainly they helped me a lot in a trip to Italy last year.

The bad news is that I’m thoroughly conditioned to adore the sweet sleeper mattresses, or whatever they’re called, in the Sheraton hotels. I can see myself dropping several thousand on one of those some day soon because I badly want one.

My top choice is the Canadian Tire Options Mastercard. It’s a no-fee card that lets you earn Canadian Tire Money on any purchases you make, and extra “money” for purchases made at Canadian Tire stores or gas bars.

I’ve used this as my primary credit card since 2005 and we’ve seen a very nice return- as of last count, we’ve redeemed over $600 in Canadian Tire Money on a ceiling fan, lawnmower, canoe, snow tires, and various power tools, and we’ve still got close to $200 on the card. I shop at Canadian Tire a fair bit, and we purchase almost all gas at Canadian Tire gas bars, so the rewards add up pretty quick.

FT, the lushest Sheratons we’ve used are the Maria Isabel in Mex City (which had indoor tennis courts!) and the Westin in Dublin. Very luxurious, so quite special. I also liked the W in mexico city, mainly because of the several-head shower, which is gigantic, has a hammock in it, and full height windows but my husband disagrees, doesn’t like the W style. The Sheraton Centre in Toronto is lovely too, it has a fab indoor/outdoor pool, great views over Nathan Phillips Square and is just a cool hotel in many ways. We stayed there after getting married across the street in City Hall. If you make it there I’ll buy you a pint with my SPG card :)

We’re staying in the Westin in Halifax in a couple of weeks!

I too use the Amex 2% cash back, and very happy with it. Switching to Rogers this weekend and will be adding that monthly fee to the Amex, if only Enbridge and Hydro would take credit cards!
As many of the best no fee cards are Amex it would make an interesting read making a list of all the Canadian retailers/companies that do accept it, maybe one could change our spending habits to get more points?

I don’t have the SPG credit card, but I stay at a lot of SPG hotels since I travel a lot for work. SPGs rewards program that really lets me stay at hotels that I’d never stay at if I was paying the bill.

The Sheraton in Fredericton, NB was one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in. They gave us a riverside suite with balcony towards the top. The view of the sunset over the Saint John river was amazing.

The Fallsview sheraton (Niagara Falls) also has some really good vistas. Our second trip there my then 2-yr old was in awe.

Only problem I find with Starwood is when paying for a room with money you can get different prices from each of the SPG website, SPG phone line, and calling the hotel itself.

In my mind no fee + rewards = Good card!

I find it funny to read about people paying cash “subsidizing” people paying with credit cards ! Handling, sorting, counting cash takes time and in business, time equals money.

At the end of the day, who pays for the 30min that a cashier takes to close her register ? All buyers (including those who paid with a CC).

Linda , what? I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

I highly doubt the 30 mins of wages, even at $30 an hour, come close to 4% of the sales… Atleast for my grocery store.

Nonetheless it does seem that debit would be the optimal situation, nothing to count, and low fees.

Maybe Canada should do away with cash money all together, and only have electronic transactions, it’d be hard to cheat on your taxes, and good luck buying drugs with your debit card, not to mention printing/maintaining the money supply costs money…

Just food for thought..

Although I also use the no longer available 2% Amex… my backup card is the Scotiabank 1% no fee cashback Visa. It has a small tier before you hit hit the full 1%, but I’ve had enough places that don’t take Amex to blast through the tier each year so far. I’d rather have 1% cash back than be forced to spend 1% at a specific store.

FT, did you forget about the Citi Enrich Platinum Mastercard?

– no fee
– 1% cashback
– double warranty on purchases up to 1 year extra
– 60 day price protection (refund if cost of item drops)
– travel accident insurance
– car rental collision/loss/damage coverage

For my two cents, this offers a much better value than either PCF Mastercard or Amex Airmiles, and probably more than Amex Blue Sky.


You know that CIBC id dropping the Shoppers Optimum VISA. You have to choose either an Aeroplan card or a Dividend one.

“Citibank Drivers Edge Mastercard”

Makes me remember my “CIBC Ford Visa” card many years ago that allowed me to rack up dollars to spend on a new Ford in the future.

Then, one day, a letter arrived that stated that they were discontinuing the reward program and that I had up to 18 months to buy a new Ford and use my accumulated points, which I believe at that point were around $1,800, off a new Ford. After that, the dollars vanished. Pardon? 10 years may have passed, but I still have a bitter taste in my mouth.


I recently read a presentation (couldn’t attend in person) that provided a plethora of statistics showing that the amount of money in circulation, even in countries like Canada, is actually increasing faster than inflation. I was quite surprised since I knew Canadians are world leaders in terms of debit/credit card use and we don’t use cheques on a per capita basis like Americans do. In fact we are seeing more use of credit cards for low dollar value transactions (without requiring a signature) and fobs (such as at gas stations, coffee shops, etc.).

Once we can work out a secure payment system between private individuals (possibly using our cellphones) then we should be at the beginning of eliminating cash in my opinion.

Re: 31. Thomas.

No I didn’t know about that. Do you know why they are discontinuing it…?

Maybe I’ll just jump ship and switch to a better (non-CIBC) card. I don’t like the Dividend card…

HSBC is also a good credit card with no annual fee on the first year

The double points on the PC Financial MasterCard are on *anything* in the store, not just PC Products.

Sometimes, a full fee credit card can be an advantage when the program is good.
I have the Platinum Desjardins credit card.
I have a 130$/year + 50$/year for the second card for my wife. Yep, that’s 180$/year of fees!!!
But I am sure I get more from my card than you do… Read on…
The plan is fairly simple:
1- 1% of bonus “Desjardins” money
2- When reaching 20 000$ spent in the year, there is another 1% cash back accumulated for all purchases over that amount.
3- When spending outside the country, an extra 1% is added to the “Desjardins” money.

The “Desjardins” Money – can be used for any loan you have there or for RSP contributions at that bank. Close to real cash in my case because I have my home mortgage there.

Every year, I get 1100$-1200$ of cash back… Pays the fee multiple times!

One other thing to consider: when you get “points”, you redeem them using their “deals” on items and services (like flights)… but if you evaluate the cost of what they charge… it’s most of the time way more than you would have paid if you had purchased a real ticket or the item at your local store… when on rebate.

I have had cards with points… GM card at the time it was cumulating 5% (and feel forced to buy a GM car), Ovation, with points and a catalog, President Choice Mastercard… they were good, but not as good as this program.

I travel a little for work and when I do, I get 3% cash back (I spend way more than 20 000$ each year and use my credit card all the time). When at home, I get 2% cash back.

If you pay up the card every month (use you credit line at the bank, not the one on the card…), then you really get something back from it. If you forget only once to pay it… you are screwed for the entire year of return… Never do that.

About where that money comes from…. Well, it comes from merchands (50%) and it comes from people who do not pay their full credit card account every month (50%).

I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Capital One cards. The benefits are pretty good:
– 90 day theft/loss protection
– extended warranty up to 1 year
– car rental collision insurance
– travel accident insurance
– lost luggage insurance (if tickets are bought on your card)
– your choice of ~6 card designs (make-your-own is available in U.S. and coming soon to Canada)

For free, they offer either a 1% cashback card (only 0.5% on first $3000), or a travel points card that gives you 1% but can only be redeemed on travel and hotels. They call this the “no hassle” rewards card because there’s no blackout dates or any other restrictions: any travel you charge to your card is eligible for redemtion. However, to get the full 1% return value, your ticket purchase (can include multiple tickets) must cost exactly $150, $350, or be over $600. So it’s not quite hassle-free.

If you typically spend over $10000 per year on your credit card, then it’s better to get the Miles Plus card that gives you 2% back on travel – even though there’s a $99 annual fee. Just do the math – it’s easy.

The cashback “Plus” card is tiered as: 1% for first $10,000, 1.5% between 10 and 20K, and 2% over 20K. But because of the $59 annual fee, you’d have to spend over $18,800 to make this card better than the free version. This makes a good math problem if your kid is taking Grade 9 algebra.

I’d also like to mention something about the Citibank cards: they are the only card (that I’ve found so far) that allows you to have your photo on it – thus making it very hard for a theif to use it. Also, a lot of stores have started asking to see ID when you use a credit card, so this card would save you some hassle. They also offer 90-day theft/loss insurance, extended warranty, car rental insurance, travel accident insurance, and the price protection (up to $100) as mentioned in card #2.

Guys These cards Have great features, However Scotiabank just launched a new one called Momentum it give 2% cash back, might be worth a look I will check it next week.

Just received a notice in the mail about my air miles mastercard.

Airmiles BMO Mastercard will now follow the ratio of 1 air mile for every $20 spent (previously it was 1 for $40 spent). This is for their no annual fee card.

Looks like they’ve lost quite a bit of the market since other cards (ie. like my AMEX air miles, 1:20, no annual fee) offer better rewards for no annual fee.

Just wondering if anyone else received this notice by mail?

I have ben using the SPG Mastercard now for 3 or 4 years. My attitude has been that with the high fees that CC card companies charge the merchants why should I pay them $175 a year for 2 cards when I’m doing them a favour! The worst part of the cards tied to the airlines is you have to travel on their terms and take the worst flight times or cough up more points in order to get your seat. When you get to the destination, the costs of staying at nice hotels are higher than the flights in most cases. I use the points all the time, no blackout dates on rooms, upgrades to suites and you can use the points on arrival to cover your other charges….

Westin has the Heavenly Bed ( they started the whole hotel bed craze!)
Sheraton with their Sleeper Bed

Great hotels to stay:
Sheraton Niagra Falls
Westin Harbour Castle Toronto – awesome views
Sheraton Towers Chicago – great location
Sheraton Dolphin – Disney – truly a great vacation spot

All free and don’t pay taxes or fees….

Anyone know how comprehensive the insurance coverage is for a card like the MBNA SPG Mastercard? I thought that in general terms, “free” insurance coverage on these cards often isn’t as good as insurance you’d otherwise pay for when you rented a car or went on holiday, for example.

Annual Interest Rate
19.99% on card purchases
21.99% on cash advances, balance transfers and Scotia® VISA cheques.¹

Minimum Credit Limit

Annual Fee¹ $39
Additional Cards
Scotia Momentum Cash Back Program

Annual Fee¹ $15
Grace Period Interest-free up to 21 days2

A full 2% cash back on all eligible gas, groceries, recurring payments and drug store purchases3.
A full 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases4.
Purchase Security and Extended Warranty protection on most purchases.

SPG is being discontinued by Mastercard / Starwood Resorts. Unreal and looking for an alternative with comparable rewards.

I have recently graduated from university and have just started a full-time job. I am looking for a credit card with no annual fee that will allow me to collect airmiles. Any suggestions?

PC Financial Mastercard sucks. Its extended warranty is a lie & a joke, for it excludes the most useful & important purchases on which extended warranty can be useful – auto, computers or any related hardware, software. Almost all other credit card’s extended warranty doesn’t exclude computers.

BMO Mosaik Mastercard has been 1 air mile for every $20 for a while now. With no annual fee.

I am really surprised no one has ever mentioned the RBC Avion Platinum. It does come with a hefty annual fee ($120), but if you use the card for a lot of purchases you get back soooo much more in flights!
-1 point for every $1 spent
-Every few months they have a special, convert your RBC points to BA miles at a rate of 1.5%
-Extended warantee
-Travel insurance
-Car rental insurance
etc etc. I forget all the rest.

Basically 35,000 BA miles will fly me from East coast Canada all the way to Hawaii round ticket. To get 35,000 BA miles, you need 23,500 RBC points. So basically it comes down to this, every year I pay $120 and receive a $1500 round trip flight. It’s worked out like this for a long time. I’ve been to Hawaii three times with this card. Every two years I get enough points to fly my boyfriend and I to Hawaii. That’s spending $240 and receiving $3000 in flights.
My mom and dad also have this card (they spend way more than me) and every 2 years they have enough tickets to fly 5 people round ticket to Hawaii.

Yeah I know, we like Hawaii too much. lol But you get the idea. I have other credit cards, but most, if not all my purchases are put on this card. I looooove it.

Oh and for anyone who’s looking to start building credit or fixing your credit, I highly recommend Capital One for Newcomers. It’s a secured mastercard, everyone is accepted, and one time fee of $59. This is how I first started out.