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Top Premium Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada

To follow up on my list of free cash back credit cards in Canada, I’ve had a number of readers come to me about the “fee” based cards that can offer more cash back, even after accounting for the annual fee.

My favorite free cash back credit card right now is the MBNA Smart Cash card.  While the value of this card has diluted over the years, it still offers 2% cash back on gas/groceries (up to $400/month in spending) and 1% on everything else.

While free credit cards are great, there are times when household spending increases to the point where the extra value offered by the “premium cards” are worth the annual fee.  Over the last couple of years, it seems that the premium space has become more competitive with better choice and value for Canadians.

Out of the bunch, there are three premium credit cards that stand out from the rest. These, in my opinion, are the best cash back credit cards in Canada with an annual fee.

1.  Scotia Momentum Infinite Visa (link)

Right now, this is my favorite premium credit card out there due to the huge 4% cash back that they offer on gas and grocery spending.  In fact, if you spend more than $470/month in gas/groceries then this card will offer you more cash back than the free Smart Cash card (assuming $129/year for primary and secondary card).

In addition to the 4% cash back, they offer 2% on drug store and recurring payments, then 1% on everything else.

You are can read my full review here.

The Rewards

  • 4% cash back on gas and groceries up to $25,000 in spending per year (1% cash back afterward).
  • 2% cash back on drug stores and recurring bill payments (cable, phone, internet etc.) up to $25,000 in spending per year (1% cash back afterward).
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases (no apparent limit).


  • Purchase Protection – 90 days insurance in case of theft or damage (up to $10,000).
  • Extended Warranty – Doubles warranty up to 1 year.
  • Rental Car Collision Insurance.
  • Travel Medical Insurance.
  • Trip Interruption.
  • Flight Delay.
  • Delayed and Lost Baggage.

Annual Fee: $99/year ($30 for secondary card) – annual fee waived for first year.

2. MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard (link)

This is perhaps one of the most underrated credit cards in Canada right now.  While I like the Scotia card above due to the grocery rewards, this card is great for all other spending as it rewards 2% cash back without any limits.  However, the insurance package is not up to what I would expect for an “World Elite” card.

The Rewards

  • 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit.


  • Purchase Protection – 90 days insurance in case of theft or damage.
  • Extended Warranty – Doubles warranty up to 1 year.
  • Rental Car Collision and Belongings Insurance.
  • Price Protection – Find a lower advertised price within 60 days of purchase and they will cover the difference.
  • Unexpected Return Home – Coverage in the case of death of an immediate relative while on a trip.

Annual Fee: $89/year ($0 for secondary card) – annual fee waived for first year.

3. BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard (link)

This is BMO’s latest offering in the cash back space, and it’s a good one!  The card offers 1.75% cash back with no limits and perhaps the best insurance coverage out of them all.  While it has the highest annual fee for the primary user ($120/year), there is no fee for a secondary user, and if you have a BMO Premium Chequing account, the annual fee for this card is waived.

BMO Premium Chequing is a pricey account that charges $30/month, but that is waived if you carry a $5,000 balance.  This card is a decent choice for BMO banking customers.

The Rewards

  • 1.75% cash back on all purchases with no limit.


  • Purchase Protection – 180 days (compared with 90 days for others) insurance in case of theft or damage.
  • Extended Warranty – Doubles warranty up to 2 years (compared with 1 year for others).
  • Rental Car Collision and Belongings Insurance.
  • Complimentary Roadside Assistance.
  • Unexpected Return Home – Coverage in the case of death of an immediate relative while on a trip.
  • Flight Delay Insurance.
  • Lost Baggage Insurance.
  • Travel Medical.

Annual Fee: $120/year ($0 for secondary card) – annual fee waived for first year.  Annual fee waived permanently if you hold a BMO Premium account – avoid the $30/month account fee by keeping a $5,000 balance.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of premium credit cards out there competing for your annual fee payments.  However, out of the forest of Canadian credit cards, I have three favorites: Scotia Momentum Infinite Visa; MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard; and, BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard.  All three are good choices which really depend on your shopping habits.

If you are a family with a big grocery and gas bill every month, then the Scotia card will likely give you more cash back than anything else on the market.

However, if you value simplicity in just having one card for all your shopping, then its a toss up between the MBNA and BMO card.  Both cards are MasterCard which has the bonus of being accepted at Costco.

The MBNA has a higher cash back reward and a lower annual fee, but the BMO card has a better insurance package.  If I had to choose between the two, I would pick MBNA unless I did all my banking with BMO to avoid the annual fee.

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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.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • SST July 13, 2015, 11:11 am

    I wonder if any smart person has taken it upon themselves to actually quantify the actual benefit (aka “cash back”) of credit card rewards; I will assume not. I will also assume many smart credit card users ignore the time-worn economic adage: there is no free lunch, preferring to take the perceived short-term gain which causes actual long-term loss.

    “It has been shown that credit cards usage has an increasing effect on inflation rates through time…” — Temple University, Dept. of Economics, 2010

    (I know, I know…I should simply unquestioningly jump on the CC wagon instead of being an instigator…but that’s no fun.)

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader July 13, 2015, 11:19 am

      I can always count on you SST to provide a contrarian view. :) In addition to points, I like credit cards to help track spending. Do you use a credit card SST? Or do you stick with cash only?

  • LifeInsuranceCanada.com July 14, 2015, 10:30 am

    SST, there is no such thing as a free lunch – but I think those reward cards make their money back by charging the retailers more money and potentially a higher interest rate. Back 15 years ago when we had a business that took credit cards, Visa and MC gave us one rate, Amex gave us another much higher rate (because Amex had more rewards).

    Not sure if that’s still the case, but it’s one reason why I try not to use credit cards with small businesses – the business ends up paying 2-3% of everything you buy, just in cc fees.

  • SST July 14, 2015, 3:45 pm

    pt. 1
    Always my pleasure, FT; although there are plenty far more lettered, peer reviewed, and published than I who hold the same view:

    “A credit card is just a short-term loan so there is a certain amount of inflation that results from the persistent rise in credit that gives people more purchasing power. ” — Cullen Roche (Pragmatic Capitalism/Orcam Financial), an expert in operational economics (i.e. how the world actual works).

  • SST July 14, 2015, 10:08 pm

    Guess my comments this week are just too spammy for MDJ. :(

  • SST July 16, 2015, 11:38 am

    pt. 2
    I stick with cash as much as possible, it’s easy. There are exceptionally few routine expenditures which require the use of a credit card (or even debit card). The position of the credit card in society and the economy is a quandary which has grown due to decades of most ignoring the damage in lieu of convenience and perceived benefit-to-self. People do so much work to find the “best” credit card, but never stop to think if it’s best to use a credit card in the first place. I can also see CC’s replacing sovereign currency for commerce within the next few decades, which would be horrendous.

  • SST July 16, 2015, 11:39 am

    pt. 3
    @LIC: “…I try not to use credit cards with small businesses – the business ends up paying 2-3% of everything you buy, just in cc fees.” Why use CCs with any sized business, assuming they all pay some kind of fee?

  • SST July 16, 2015, 11:41 am

    pt. 4
    My question was serious — do you know of any studies which have analyzed credit card “reward benefits” vs. inflation creation…y’know, just to see… :)

    From a timely Canadian perspective: A Visa/MasterCard theory of recessions

    (I guess keeping posts to sub-100 word length beats the “spammy” machine!)

  • John July 17, 2015, 6:12 pm

    @sst. I agree with your comment regarding the inflation factor, however there is nothing that will change this short of the impending collapse and contracting of credit. You may as well get your rewards while you can, perhaps at the expense of folks that pay cash only or are economically disadvantaged and cannot obtain these cards. The banks win no matter what. May as well play the game too

  • SST July 17, 2015, 11:00 pm

    @John: Nope, can’t endorse that mindset, even in the minutiae. Call me a Pinko Capitalist.

    It’s not the banks who are the problem (this time), it’s the credit card companies — Visa, MasterCard, et al. They should probably face legislation of the same manner as Pay Day Loan companies. Or maybe I’m just jealous that they’ve done such a fabulous job of embedding their detrimental business model into the very fabric of society; bamboozlement at its best.

    As whatshisname said, “In the long run we are all dead,” so, yeah…get yours while you can and damn the torpedoes! ;)

  • Jon July 19, 2015, 10:14 pm

    The scotia card insures for theft, damage, and loss. Mbna Only theft and damage. Scotia also has better travel insurance including trip interruption, baggage loss and delay, trip delay, emergency medical and some others.

  • SBC August 4, 2015, 12:35 pm

    MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard is best in my opinion – cash back has several benefits. The card is great, especially If you were grandfathered in without an annual fee.

  • Elbyron August 7, 2015, 8:17 pm

    I’m disappointed that the Capital One Aspire World Elite card didn’t make the list. In addition to all the insurance coverages listed for the BMO card, it also has trip cancellation insurance. This provides up to $1000 reimbursement if you cannot depart due to illness, injury, death in immediate family, jury/military duty, travel advisory, and most importantly: it pays for your expenses due to missed connections caused by weather or mechanical failures.
    Another major difference in insurance coverage is that BMO only gives you medical coverage for the first 8 days of the trip and only for people under age 65, while Aspire gives you 22 days if under 65 or 8 days if over 65.
    Finally, while a 1.75% cash-back is respectable, you can redeem your Aspire points against travel charges over $600 for an effective cash-back rate of 2.04%.
    With the exception of BMO customers who already pay $30/month (or pay $100/year in opportunity costs by maintaining the minimum balance), anyone who travels even occasionally will benefit more from the Aspire card.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 7, 2015, 8:22 pm

    @Elbyron, thanks for the feedback. I would consider the capital one card a good “travel” card, but the point of the article was for cash back only. Does capital one have a cash back card that can compete with the list above?

    • Elbyron August 7, 2015, 8:44 pm

      Actually, the Aspire card does offer you the choice of getting “pure” cash-back for your points, so you can count it among the other cash back cards. If used this way, you only get a return of 1.5%, but if you have any travel charges you’d redeem against those instead and get a return between 1.5 – 2.02% depending on the amount of the charge. So while it’s often grouped under “travel” cards because that’s the best way to use it, you could argue that its cash-back option also qualifies it to be listed here. And for anyone who ever travels, the reward is essentially just a cash-back because you’re not exchanging points for free travel, you’re getting a credit applied to your card for a flight/hotel/vacation that you already purchased (from any source). I’d call it a “conditional” 2.02% cashback card with guaranteed minimum 1.5% cashback.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 8, 2015, 11:17 am

    Good points Elbyron. To me, if I were to include the cap one card as cash back, I would include it as 4th place. Perhaps higher if they didn’t eliminate the annual bonus.

    I’m going to put together a post on the best premium travel credit cards out there.

  • Manish August 12, 2015, 1:39 pm

    I have had the Scotia Infinite Visa Card for a couple of years and I am pretty happy with the switch from MBNA world card. I get more cash back even after taking yearly fee into account ($120). When I learnt that BMO offers 1.75% on all purchases, I did a comparison with my Scotia card to see if it would be a better deal for me. Year to date I have earned $560 with my card. When I ran the numbers with BMO card, I would have earned $561. So it is pretty much a wash.
    It is possible that someone else with a different ratio spent on groceries/ drug stores and gas might get a better (or worse) outcome. But the closeness of the results make me wonder that BMO chose 1.75% (and not 2%) after considerable data mining. 1.75% is in fact the effective pay out of Scotiabank card as well.

  • TomTrottier November 23, 2015, 2:28 am

    Walmart also has a free cash-back MasterCard, though you can only spend the cash at Walmart.
    1.5% for Walmart purchases, 1% back for outside purchases

  • Scot December 21, 2015, 12:29 pm

    Anybody with an A/C at Tangerine (formerly ING Direct & owned by Scotiabank)
    Should also check-out the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. Follow the link below…


    NO ANNUAL FEE, and you get to chose your 2% categories (either 2 or 3) depending on how you wish to rec’v your cash (ie. applied to the card, or deposited into your
    A/C at the end of each month.

  • Dee Johnson December 24, 2015, 4:32 pm

    I think that paying a credit card fee for the travel insurance is much cheaper than buying travel insurance. With some research, I have discovered that there are different rules and restrictions for the cards that offer travel insurance. Has anyone looked into this and can suggest which card they think is best for travel insurance.

  • smayer97 April 28, 2016, 4:38 pm

    Why not include a review of the Laurentian Visa?
    3% on recurring charges
    2% on Gas & Groceries
    1% on all else
    $65/yr fee (was $49/yr) – $50 refunded if spend $500 within 50 days. Extra $25 if spend $3000 within 1 yr. No cost for extra cards.
    Purchase Insurance + Extended Warranty

    Also Rogers Mastercard (is this a PREMIUM card or should it go under “No fee” cards as an equivalent to No Fee here: http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/top-cash-back-credit-cards-in-canada.htm ?)
    1.75% on EVERYTHING as POINTS (Catch – redeemable only towards Rogers expenses)
    $29/yr fee – waived 1st yr. Waived EVERY year IF charge Rogers services to card
    Backed by Rogers Bank (new).

    • smayer97 April 28, 2016, 4:43 pm

      P.S. Laurentian is MY top card, because I have large recurring payments. @3% it is great!
      I combine this with PC Mastercard which although it is a Points card, it points are equivalent to CASH. NO complicated conversion…1000pts = $1.
      With this combination, I have achieved over 2% overall, when considering ALL purchases, including ones where I only get 1%.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 28, 2016, 8:44 pm

      I don’t know a lot about the LB Visa, I will take a look. Sounds like a great card if you have a lot of recurring expenses charged to the card.

  • Ravi May 12, 2016, 9:06 am

    Hi, would you consider a new article? I’m very interested to learn of the best premium card, where it be cashback or travel benefits. I found last year I got a few k in cash back on CIBC World Elite Unlimited, but it ended up as a credit onto my card.. which I use for business expenses. So my business got it, as opposed to me personally via points or other.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader May 12, 2016, 9:07 am

      Hi Ravi, sure, I can look into the best overall premium credit cards and get a list together.

  • Karl Boehme July 22, 2016, 2:05 am

    I came about your website today after I hadn’t realized the my CIBC Drivers Edge Master Card was being morphed into a CIBC Visa Dividend Infinite Card. Your site is great but has left me with a question. I need to have a MasterCard now as I technically don’t have one. I’m a Tangerine customer so this looks like a good possible fit but I had never realized anything about the “unqualified spend categories”. Are there any cards out there (free or premium) that give rewards in these “unqualified spend categories”
    Karl B

    • smayer97 July 22, 2016, 11:59 am

      The Tangerine MC offers 1% for all other categories. And if you deposit the cash back rewards into a Tangerine savings account, you get 3 preferred categories.
      BUT if you need a MC card and you expect your annual spend to significant per year, I would strongly have you consider the MBNA World Elite card, assuming you qualify based on annual income.

      You would have to run the numbers based on the categories that qualify vs do not with Tangerine and compare that to the MBNA + the annual premium to see if it would benefit you. Currently, the MBNA is the best premium cash back MC card IMHO, if you need MC.

      Alternatively, if you shop primarily at Loblaws related stores, the PC Wold Elite MC is a great alternative choice (with NO premium), at 3% for all grocery purchases, 4¢/l discount for gas at Loblaws affiliated stations (these include Superstore Gas Bar, No Frills, and Refuel stations in Ontario), and 1% on everything else. Note that this is a points cards, which I call an equivalent to cash, but only if you shop at Loblaws affiliated stores.

      • Martin August 23, 2016, 8:48 pm

        Has anyone used the almost new Myvanilla prepaid Master card that came out last year or this year? It is reloadable. If there is 7-11 stores that also sell Petro Can gas in your area, then that is the best way to maximize the Scotia momentum Visa Infinite cash back by combining the reward powers of Visa cash back & Petro points if you use the Scotia Visa to buy the reloadable Myvanilla prepaid Master card from the 7-11 stores that also sell Petro Can gas to earn Petro Can points. You can change all non gas $ grocery spendings to earn 4% or more rewards when combining the Visa cash back & Petro Can points.

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