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Top No Fee Rewards Credit Cards in Canada


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.

Rewards:

  • 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 (link)

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.

Rewards:

  • 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.

Extras:

  • 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® (link) (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.

Rewards

  • 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.

Extras

  • 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® (link). 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.

Rewards

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

Extras

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

3. American Express Blue Sky (link)

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.

Rewards:

  • 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.

Extras:

  • 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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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 72 comments… add one }

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader February 3, 2010, 9:04 pm

    Tracy, when you say East Coast Canada, do you mean Halifax?

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader February 5, 2010, 4:36 pm

    Guys, just a heads up that I have updated this article to include more recent offerings. The old article had 2 expired cards as the top 2 picks.

  • BK February 12, 2010, 1:37 pm

    Hey MDJ, checkout the MBNA Smart Cash card.

    3% cashback on grocery / gas, 1% cashback on everything else.

    You can apply online, though the card isn’t listed on MBNA’s website. Checkout this thread on RFD for details: http://www.redflagdeals.com/forums/mbna-new-smart-cash-mc-722828/

  • f February 12, 2010, 2:07 pm

    i like the TD package. you get pretty much everything free with select account (infinite visa with 3-9 points per $). and e-series funds. long hours. can not be beat.

  • Mike February 12, 2010, 6:17 pm

    I just signed up for the Best Buy Rewards Visa which gives a min 1.25% on all purchases and 2.5% on all purchases at Best Buy. I still like my PC Financial and Costco but my everyday card will be the Best Buy for now. They are also giving $10 Best Buy gift card for opening an account.

    Regarding the Air Miles card, I had a card a few years ago and the points value at 1 airmile for $20 is really poor. I decided the best value was in gift cards through airmiles and at the time buying a $50 card cost 350 airmiles. You would have to spend a lot of monthly spending to get that one gift card and the flights are expensive when using points unless you use lots of bonus deals at Safeway. I used to be an Air Miles loyalist but saw that there was better programs out there.

  • Al February 13, 2010, 4:02 pm

    I’ve got to go with the Citibank Drivers Edge card. 2% on all of your purchases on any car, new or used. I’ve cashed in almost $5000 on three cars over the decade. There is a max of $500 a year I think. Everyone buys cars. It was free for the last 10+ years but they may have added a fee recently. Still blows the rest away.

  • Elbyron February 16, 2010, 3:21 pm

    Al,
    The Driver’s Edge card now has a $59 annual fee. Perhaps you buy 3 cars per decade, but not everyone upgrades so frequently. One drawback to this card is that your earned points expire 7 years from the calendar year in which they were earned (I think it used to be only 5 years). Most people will probably buy a vehicle in the next 7 years, but if you’re not planning to, then this isn’t the card for you. Also, I think they have now eliminated the $500 max, which was a big drawback for those who spend over $25,000/year.
    It is definately one of the best annual fee rewards cards out there. I rank it #2 behind the Capital One Miles Plus card (same as above but with 2% return; the additional 1% pays for the $99 fee if you spend over $9900). The only reason I like the Capital One card more is that I travel a lot more frequently than I buy cars, and I don’t like waiting several years to redeem the rewards of my card.

  • Mo February 28, 2010, 2:45 pm

    According to their website, point on Miles Platinum MasterCard® can only be used for flights, not hotels, etc. I was just in touch with Capital One via their chat feature (which I am convinced was a bot and not a human, as advertised) and they told me the same thing: airlines, cash, merchandise.

  • Steve March 3, 2010, 9:47 am

    Can you comment on the new MBNA Travel Rewards card? It looks to me like the redemption rate is around the 2% range!

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader March 3, 2010, 2:00 pm

      Steve, the full details of the travel rewards card hasn’t not been released. I will write something when it comes available though.

  • Brian March 7, 2010, 4:32 am

    In response to #14Cannon_fodder, Canadain banks can issue both mastercard and Visa. Goto RBC Visa, they issue Visa and also WestJet Mastercard reward card.

  • Steve February 23, 2011, 5:17 pm

    FT,

    Was there something ever written about the MBNA Travel Rewards card?

  • Gael July 13, 2011, 1:32 pm

    CIBC visa, the most baxic caard. No fees and 1% back paid out (or put against your balance) once a year in December.

  • Wayne May 24, 2012, 5:08 pm

    These people at pc financial really do suck. They will take your money from your account and give it to a third party without your knowledge and consent and without a court order. That’s a criminal offense with jail time and a fine. AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE!

  • Adam B. July 11, 2012, 7:39 pm

    I am dissatisfied with my Capital One travel rewards card, for one reason: When you go to redeem points, you must redeem a multiple 15,000 points for each multiple of $150 you redeem, and you must redeem against a single transaction.

    So, if I spend 1 night in a hotel and pay $100 (because I’m pretty cheap), I have to spend 15000 points on it. If I spend $20 on a ferry, 15000 points. If I buy a flight for $301, I have to redeem the same amount as if I spent $449, and if I buy two $301 one-way flights, I’d have to redeem them individually and take the hit twice.

    I admit it gets better the more money you spend, but it irritates me that 1% is a theoretical maximum instead of a proper rate. Might as well just take the cash back.

  • leo September 13, 2012, 12:52 am

    Can someone suggest me a good credit card with no annual fee that will approve for someone with no credit history. Please note its not bad credit history.. its NO credit history. My wife has always just used my credit card.. i never bothered to build her credit history until now.. I dont like secured credit cards either..
    thx in advance.

  • Yanni November 24, 2012, 5:15 pm

    I’ve been consulting this site for years, and I admirer your dedication to squeezing as much reward as possible out of these credit card company. I have followed many of your advice first with the MC SPG, then MBNA Smart Cash. So I have been both using cash back cards and rewards card, and I’ve used both extensively.

    Now my question is with the new changes, and eligible upgrade we have to the MBNA Smart Cash World, what is the overall best card (or combination) for those of us that use that use plastic for everything we purchase, (and pay it in full). I saw that for “light to medium users” the best was to combine the MBNA Cash Back World and the Capital one Cash Back, but what about the “heavier” user, who purchase $15-30k a year? Even with annual fee, and including cash and rewards.

    Thank you for your comments!

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader November 26, 2012, 6:25 pm

      @Yanni, thanks for the kind feedback. For a medium/heavy user, I think a combo of the SC World and the capital one 1.5% cash back card is the best bet. Some people like the Scotia 4% card (gas/groceries/drug stores), but there is an annual fee.

  • Yanni November 24, 2012, 5:25 pm

    @ leo: My first credit card I ever had was the PC Financial, I had no credit history, and was a very poor student. If you buy groceries at their stores, it’ll give you a nice 1% points for grocery, something we all use all the time. I know a lot of people using this site have it because the rewards are good, it’s fairly easy to get, no annual fees, the points are really easy to use, and it rewards you with something we all need… food.
    Hope it helps!

  • smayer97 March 18, 2014, 1:06 am

    Update on the PC Financial Mastercard. Aside from any other features, as of the beginning of 2014, they have an option to upgrade the card to the World version for free to obtain 20 points per $1 spent vs the original 10 points. (I just performed this upgrade a couple of weeks ago).

    This effectively makes this card equivalent to a 2% cash on groceries card. Especially important is that there is NO CAP!

    I consider this as points card that is as good as cash, because points values convert to cash @100% (vs other reward cards that penalize you if you opt for cash equivalences).

  • smayer97 March 18, 2014, 1:28 am

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