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.

Best card forCredit card
Cash backScotia Momentum Visa Infinite
Frequent travellersAmerican Express Platinum Card
Everyday spendingAmerican Express Cobalt Card
No feeTangerine Money-Back Credit Card
GroceriesPC Financial World Elite Mastercard
All-in-one travelScotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
AeroplanAmerican Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
AirlineWestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
HotelsMarriott Bonvoy American Express Card
No foreign transaction feesSTACK Mastercard

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card – Best for cash back

  • $120 annual fee – Waived for the first year
  • 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases)
  • 4% cash back on groceries and recurring payments
  • 2% cash back on gas and daily transit
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Mobile device insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Purchase security
  • Extended warranty

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 – Best for frequent travellers

  • $699 annual fee
  • 65,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $6,000 in the first three months
  • 20,000 Membership Rewards points when making any purchase between months 14 and 17 of cardmembership when using a referral link
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $200 Annual travel credit
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • Special benefits at Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • Hotel status upgrades
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits
  • Exclusive dining experiences with the Global Dining Collection
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package
  • Buyer’s assurance
  • Purchase protection

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 – Best for everyday spending

  • $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 Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (Groceries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery)
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel (flights, hotels, trains, public transportation, taxis/Uber)
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included
  • Mobile device insurance
  • American Express Invites access
  • Free supplementary cards

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. 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 – Best no fee card

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back on up to 3 categories
  • .5% cash back on all other purchases
  • Automatic monthly redemption with no minimum balance required
  • Instantly pause your card
  • Adjust your credit limit online
  • Automatic pay my balance feature
  • Purchase assurance and extended warranty

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 – Best for groceries

  • 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 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 liter.

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 – Best all-in-one travel card

  • $139 annual fee – First year free
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 30,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Priority Pass Standard Membership + 6 free visits per year
  • 5X Scotia Rewards points on travel for the first 3 months (up to $2,500 in total travel purchases)
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual bonus of 10,000 points ($100 value) if you spend a minimum of $40K per year
  • Included travel emergency medical, delayed and lost baggage, and trip cancellation / trip interruption insurance
  • Rental car collision / Loss damage insurance included
  • Hotel / Motel Burglary insurance included

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 and lounge access which includes six free annual visits. 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 – Best for Aeroplan

  • $139 annual fee – First year free – Must apply by December 5, 2021
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • 15,000 additional Aeroplan points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Air Canada Buddy Pass after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Earn 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent on Air Canada, including Air Canada Vacations
  • Earn 1.5 Aeroplan points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries or purchases
  • Earn 1 Aeroplan point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Air Canada Travel Benefits: including eligible Free First Checked Bag (up to 8 people), Status Qualification Boost and Preferred Pricing on flight rewards
  • Aeroplan Elite Status Benefits: Rollover Status Qualifying Miles, Rollover eUpgrade Credits and Priority Airport Upgrades
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package
  • Mobile device insurance
  • Purchase security
  • Extended warranty
  • NEXUS+ application fee reimbursement of up to $100 for the primary cardholder and additional cardholders 

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 – Best airline card

  • $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 everyday purchases
  • Annual companion voucher
  • Save 3¢/L on fuel and always earn 20% more Petro-Points when you link your WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard
  • Free first checked bags for the primary cardholder (up to 8 bags on the same reservation)
  • Some travel insurance included
  • Free Boingo Wi-Fi
  • Purchase security and extended warranty insurance
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey

Choosing the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard as the best airline 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.

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 – Best for hotel stays

  • $120 annual fee
  • Up to 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points welcome bonus
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 on eligible card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 on all other purchases
  • Free annual night award that can be redeemed at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties worldwide, with a redemption value up to 35,000 points
  • 15 Elite Night credits each calendar year
  • Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when you spend $30,000 on your card each year
  • Complimentary in-room, premium internet access while staying at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels

For those looking to earn hotel stays no better credit card than the Marriott Bonvoy American Express. 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 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $1,500 to your card in the first three months. 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 – Best for no foreign transaction fees

  • No annual fee
  • $25 free when you sign up with my referral link
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No ATM fees (ATM provider may charge a fee)
  • 20% cash back on select hotels with STACK Travel
  • Discounts at a variety of merchants
  • Access to exclusive experiences
  • Real-time notifications
  • Spending analysis
  • Automated savings plan
  • CDIC insured

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.

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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