The Best Credit Cards in Canada for 2021

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When you look at the various lists of the best credit cards in Canada, you’ll quickly notice that every one has different criteria. Some people will say they’re unbiased and used data points to come up with their lists, but I think that’s silly as you can’t rely strictly on numbers to come up with the best cards.

In my opinion, there needs to be some bias. Many companies will have a bias towards cards that earn them a commission. I personally prefer to pick cards that are more practical towards everyday Canadians. Not everyone will agree with my list of the best credit cards in Canada, but these cards will at least get you looking in the right direction.

Credit cardBest for
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite CardCash back
American Express Platinum CardFrequent travellers
American Express Cobalt CardEveryday spending
Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardNo fee
PC Financial World Elite MastercardGroceries
Scotiabank Passport Visa InfiniteAll-in-one travel
American Express Aeroplan Reserve CardAeroplan
WestJet RBC World Elite MastercardAirline
Marriott Bonvoy American Express CardHotels
STACK MastercardNo foreign transaction fees

Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card

  • $120 annual fee – first year free
  • Earn 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bill payments
  • Earn 2% cash back on gas and transit purcahses
  • Earn 1% cash back on everything else
  • Travel and mobile device insurance included

A list of the best credit cards in Canada wouldn’t be complete without one of the best cash back credit cards. The Scotiabank Momentum VISA Infinite Card is a top pick since you’ll earn 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bill payments, 2% on gas and transit purchases; and 1% on all other purchases. Admittedly, there are other cards that have a higher cash back rate, but I like the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card because the increased earn rate has a high cap rate of $25,000 in purchases, per category. Additionally, you get some pretty sweet insurance, including comprehensive travel, purchase protection, and extended warranty.

American Express Platinum Card

  • $699 annual fee
  • Up to 105,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus when using a referral link
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points on travel, and 1 point on all other purchases
  • $200 annual travel credit
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • Hotel status upgrades

Okay, so you might not be eager to travel, but there’s no denying that the American Express Platinum Card is the best credit card for frequent travellers. Heck, it always ranks high on my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. A lot of people would never consider this card since has an annual fee of $699, but think about the value.

You get an annual travel credit of $200 so you’re really only paying $499 a year. The unlimited lounge access you get allows you to bring a guest. There’s a comprehensive travel insurance package included. Plus, you can transfer your If you’re a regular traveller, the lounge access will easily be worth more than that, and I’m not even factoring in the additional travel benefits such as status upgrades at hotels and travel insurance. This card earns American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan, which can yield you even more value. Oh, don’t forget about the welcome bonus. It can easily be worth more than $1,000. Honestly, even if you’re not a frequent traveller, this card is worth considering.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
  • 2,500 monthly Membership Rewards points after charging $500 in purchases each month for a year (30,000 points total)
  • 20,000 additional points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

The American Express Cobalt card recently made some changes for the better. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on food; 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services; 2 points per $1 spent on travel and; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. That’s a lot of points you can earn on your everyday spending. You now earn regular American Express Membership Rewards points with this card, which are incredibly valuable. 1,000 points are worth $10 in travel or a statement credit. That means you can use this card for travel rewards or cash back. Additionally, you get access to the Fixed Points Travel Program, which can give you some more value.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

  • No annual fee
  • 15% cash back up to $1,000 in spending ($150 cash back) for the first 2 months – Until Dec. 31, ’21
  • 2% cash back on up to 3 categories
  • 0.5% cash back on all other purchases

Credit cards with no annual fee are incredibly popular, but they don’t typically come with many benefits. The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is an exception to this trend as you can earn up to 2% cash back on three categories of your choice while all other spending earns you 0.5% cash back. You get to choose two categories that earn you 2% cash back right away, and a third one if you set up your cash back to automatically deposit into your Tangerine account. Note that there is a World version of this credit card which gives you some additional benefits such as mobile device insurance, but you need a personal income of $60,000 or a household income of $100,000 to qualify.

PC Financial World Elite Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 45 PC Optimum Points per $1 dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Earn 30 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent where PC Products are sold and at PC Travel
  • Earn at least 30 PC Optimum Points per litre at Esso/Mobil locations
  • Earn 10 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on all other purchases

This is where my list of the best credit cards in Canada gets a bit subjective. The PC Financial World Elite Mastercard is the best credit card in Canada for groceries, but you need to do your grocery shopping at Loblaw’s owned stores. The reason for this is that this credit card earns you 30 PC Optimum points per $1 spent at Loblaw’s owned stores. If you shop at Shopper Drug Mart, you earn 45 points per $1 spent and gas purchased at Esso/Mobil locations earns you 30 points per litre. If you shop at a grocery store that accepts, American Express, the Cobalt Card is a better choice.

The real value of this card comes with PC Optimum. PC Optimum is one of the best loyalty programs and they have many ways you can earn additional points, including joining PC Insiders. If you don’t do your grocery shopping at Loblaw’s owned stores, you’re better off with the American Express Cobalt Card or Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee – first year free
  • 20,000 Scene+ points welcome bonus
  • 5X Scene+ points on travel for the first 3 months
  • Earn 2 Scene+ points per $1 spent on grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit
  • Earn 1 Scene+ point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Priority Pass Membership + 6 passes per year
  • No foreign transaction fees

I’m getting a bit niche here, but most Canadians don’t want to juggle multiple credit cards. Travellers who want flexibility with their credit cards should consider the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. It comes with no foreign transaction fees, lounge access which includes six free annual visits, and great travel insurance. That said, Plaza Premium lounges were recently removed from the Priority Pass program, so your passes will have limited use in many Canadian airports. You’re better off using the restaurant credits available (if any).

Scotia Rewards is a pretty basic program, but you can use points on travel booked through the Scotiabank travel portal or you can claim points on travel charged to your Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card. Although you can’t transfer your points to airline or hotel loyalty programs, this card is still one of the best credit cards in Canada and one of the best Scotiabank credit cards. Overall, this card gives travellers enough perks where they don’t need to carry anything else in their wallets.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

  • $599 annual fee
  • Earn up to 90,000 Aeroplan points as your welcome offer
  • Earn 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada, 2 points on dining and food delivery, and 1.25 points on all other purchases
  • Unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for you and a guest
  • Free first checked bag, priority check-in and boarding on Air Canada

Choosing the best Aeroplan credit card in Canada is tricky since it really depends on the type of traveller you are. Speaking strictly from a benefits viewpoint, the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card is the clear winner. The welcome bonus is usually quite generous. For reference, past offers have ranged between 90,000 Aeroplan points + a Buddy Pass to 150,000 points.

Your earn rate is 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada; 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on dining and food delivery; and 1.25 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America and free checked bags. Admittedly, the $599 annual fee will turn many people off. A good alternative is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card since it typically has no annual fee for the first year.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $119 annual fee
  • $250 WestJet Dollars sign up bonus after your first purchase
  • $200 Additional WestJet Dollars when you charge $5,000 in the first 3 months (must apply by Jan. 5, 2022)
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages
  • Earn 1.5% back in WestJet dollars on all other purchases
  • Annual companion voucher and free checked bags

Choosing the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard as the best airline credit card will rub some people the wrong way, but hear me out. The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is ideal for families with kids since you get an annual WestJet companion voucher. That voucher allows you to buy an additional ticket at a base fare starting at CAD $119. Plus, I’ve already featured Aeroplan cards for other reasons.

Think about families with two kids. If each parent had the card, they could each use it on one of their children. You also get free checked bags, so the potential savings could be huge. Don’t forget, when you sign up for the card, you also earn a good welcome bonus of WestJet dollars after your first purchase. Think about families travelling to Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, any money they can save will help a lot. If you don’t fly WestJet, use one of the other cards on my list of the best airline credit cards in Canada.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 70,000 Bonvoy points when spending $1,500 in the first three months
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points

For those looking to earn hotel stays no better credit card than the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Marriott has over 7,000 properties in more than 120 countries. In other words, you’ll have no problem finding a Marriott hotel whenever you travel. The earn rate is an incredible 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating properties and 2 points per $1 spent everywhere else.

As a cardholder, you start every year with 15 elite night credits which makes it easier for you to earn higher status. The regular welcome bonus is usually 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. However, there are occasional promos where you can earn up to 70,000 points. That’s enough points for 5 free nights at a category 2 hotel when you factor in Marriott’s book 4 nights on points, get the 5th-night free feature. Note that you can earn an extra 1,000 points if you use a referral link when signing up and charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months.

STACK Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • $25 free when you sign up with my referral link (must click with a mobile device) and fund your account with $300
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No foreign ATM fees
  • 20% cash back on select hotels with STACK Travel
  • Discounts on a variety of merchants

The STACK Mastercard doesn’t come with many benefits, but it has no foreign transaction fees on purchases and ATM withdrawals. The ATM you’re using may charge you a fee, but STACK won’t. No other credit card offers no foreign transaction fees on ATMs which is why the STACK Mastercard is one of the best credit cards without foreign transaction fees. Since STACK is a prepaid card, you can only spend what you’ve loaded on your card.

If you sign up to STACK with my referral link, you’ll get $25 when you activate your card. Note that you must click this link via your mobile device for it to work. This offer is exclusive to Money We Have readers.

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The Best Credit Cards in Canada for 2021

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

1 Comment

  1. Jeff on November 28, 2020 at 3:22 PM

    Hey Barry, love the content! I’m actually thinking about writing a post about credit cards for my own blog soon, so this article was a really great resource. Also, I like how you’re a DIY investor and travel enthusiast (very inspiring). Good stuff!

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