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Picking the best credit cards in Canada depends on what you’re looking for. Some people may want travel rewards while others prefer cash back. You can even break things down further by looking for a hotel credit card or one without an annual fee.

The best card comes down to personal preference, but if you’re looking to get a new credit card or you want to make a swap, you’re going to need some guidance.. Here are the best credit cards in Canada for 2021.

Credit cardBest for
American Express Personal PlatinumBest credit card for frequent travellers
Scotia Momentum Visa InfiniteBest cash back credit card
PC Financial World Elite MastercardBest credit card for groceries
American Express Aeroplan ReserveBest sign up bonus
Marriott Bonvoy American ExpressBest hotel credit card
American Express CobaltBest for high spenders
Scotiabank Passport Visa InfiniteBest all-in-one travel card
TD Aeroplan Visa InfiniteBest airline credit card
Tangerine money-back credit cardBest no fee credit card
STACK MastercardBest no foreign transaction fee credit card

American Express Platinum

  • $699 annual fee
  • 25,000 Membership Rewards points sign up bonus
  • 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

If you’re a frequent traveller (which may not be the case for many people in 2021), the American Express Platinum Card is the card you should get since it’s one of the best travel credit cards in Canada. What puts it above the rest of these cards is that you get unlimited lounge access. Yes, there’s a $699 annual fee, but you get an annual travel credit of $200 so you’re really only paying $499 a year.

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 which are flexible since you can transfer them to airline and hotel loyalty partners.

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite

  • $120 annual fee – first year free
  • 10% cash back on all purchases for 3 months (up to $2,000 in spending)
  • 4% cash back on groceries and recurring bill payments
  • 2% cash back on gas and transit purchases
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Mobile device insurance
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Concierge service

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 s 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. Interestingly enough, you also get a comprehensive travel package which is rare for cash back credit cards.

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 30 PC Optimum Points per litre at Esso/Mobil locations
  • Earn 10 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on all other purchases

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 shopped at other grocery stores, you’d only earn 10 points per $1 spent. 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. The good thing about PC Optimum is that there is a lot of PC Optimum hacks that will allow you to earn points fast including using PC Insiders.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve

  • $599 annual fee
  • Primary offer – 35,000 Aeroplan points + $100 statement credit when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Alternative offer – 10,000 Aeroplan points + $100 statement credit when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 Additional Aeroplan points, per month, when you spend $1,000 monthly for the first 6 months
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations purchases
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining and food delivery in Canada
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
  • Air Canada travel benefits
    • Free first checked bag for up to 8 people travelling on the same reservation on Air Canada flights
    • Maple Leaf Lounge and Air Canada Café access within North America
    • Annual Worldwide Companion Pass (when you spend $25,000 each year)
    • Priority Airport services at Pearson International Airport
  • Aeroplan Elite Status Benefits: Rollover Status Qualifying Miles, Rollover eUpgrade Credits and Priority Airport Upgrades
  • Travel insurance 
  • Access to Amex Invites
  • $199 for additional users (can share some benefits) or $0 just to earn points

Canadians looking for a generous welcome bonus should take a look at the American Express Aeroplan Reserve card since you can earn up to 65,000 Aeroplan points. This is easily one the quickest ways to earn Aeroplan points. Under the new Aeroplan, the number of points required for a free flight depends on where and when you’re flying.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

  • $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 points, no better credit card than the Marriott Bonvoy American Express. Marriott has over 7,000 properties in more than 120 countries so this card is perfect if you like to stat at hotels. 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, but you can earn an extra 1,000 points if you use a referral link and charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months.

American Express Cobalt

  • $10 Monthly fee 
  • 2,500 monthly MR-S points after charging $500 in purchases per month for a total of 30,000 points in the first year
  • 15,000 additional MR-s points when charging $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Must apply by May 5, 2021.
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (Groceries, restaurants, bars, cafés, and food delivery)
  • 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
  • American Express Invites access
  • Free supplementary cards

Although the American Express Cobalt card caps the increased earn rate for each category at $30,000 per year, this is still the best card for high spenders. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on food, 2 points per $1 spent on travel and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. As you can see, these points can quickly add up. In case you’re not aware, the Amex Cobalt card earns you MR-S points which is slightly different from regular American Express Membership Rewards Points. You still get access to the Fixed Points Travel Program and you can transfer your points to hotel partners, but you can’t transfer your points directly to any airlines.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • $139 annual fee
  • 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
  • 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

Travellers who want flexibility with their credit card should consider the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card since it comes with no foreign transaction fees and lounge access which includes six free annual visits. 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.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite

  • $139 annual fee – First year free
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • 10,000 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 

The recent changes to Aeroplan included an update to their credit cards. The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card is arguably the best Aeroplan credit card and is easily the best airline credit card. Not only do you get an Air Canada Buddy Pass as part of the welcome bonus, but you also get free checked bags for up to 8 people on the same itinerary. The earn rate is decent since you’ll earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and Air Canada purchases. All other purchases get you

Tangerine Money-Back Credit 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% interest. 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.

STACK Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • $5 free when you sign up with my referral link
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No ATM fees (ATM provider may charge a fee)
  • Discounts at a variety of merchants
  • Access to exclusive experiences
  • Real-time notifications
  • Spending analysis
  • Automated savings plan

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 to your card.

If you sign up to STACK with my referral link, you’ll get $5 when you activate your card. Note that you must click this link via your mobile device for it to work.

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. Avatar 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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