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2021's Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Canadians

Earn guaranteed cash back when you make everyday purchases with a cash back rewards credit card.

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What is a cash back credit card?

A cash back credit card is a rewards credit card that allows you to earn a small percentage (usually around 1-4%) of your purchase back in cash, helping you save money on everyday purchases. Cash back rewards can be based on a flat-rate, bonus, or flexible bonus structure. Each structure has its own benefits.

Most cash back cards allow you redeem your cash reward as either a deposit into your bank account or a statement credit that reduces how much you owe on your credit card statement. Start saving money by finding the best cash back credit card today.

The Best of Finance Winners for 2021: Best Cash Back Credit Card

Click any of the categories below to snap to that section.

  First year value* Annual fee Winner
$717 $120 (First year waived) Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card
$465 $0 SimplyCash™ Card from American Express

*The RATESDOTCA Best of Finance methodology assumes the cardholder spends an average of $2,000 a month on their card to determine the first-year value. The calculation includes all welcome bonuses and promotional offers at the time of publishing.

Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card

Cash back credit cards are straightforward: cardholders earn a small percentage of each purchase back in rewards. Still, there are differences between the two types of cash back cards:

  • Category cash back: This type of card rewards the user for shopping in specific spending categories like gas or groceries at an accelerated rate — for example, 4% cash back for some purchases and 1% back on everything else. Routine shoppers can maximize their rewards with a category card.
  • Flat-rate cash back: This type of card rewards the user for all their purchases, no matter the category, at one rate. For example, earn 1.25% cash back on everything you buy. Cardholders who shop broadly may benefit the most from this type of card.

Cash back is usually applied as a statement credit every month or once per year on a specific date. It can also be deposited directly into a savings account.

We compared the top cash back credit cards using our Best of Finance methodology and ranked the cards that provided the highest first year value.

  First year value* Annual fee Top features
$717 $120 (First year waived) Earn 4% cash back on groceries, recurring bill payments and subscription purchases
$734 $120 (First year rebated) Earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries
$701 $99 Earn 2% cash back on all purchases

Winner: Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card

New cardholders of the Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card can earn 10% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases in the first three months. Regularly earn 4% cash back on grocery purchases, recurring bill payments and subscription services. Get 2% cash back on gas and daily transit and 1% back on everything else.

This card also features travel insurance, mobile device insurance and concierge services.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian would earn roughly $717 in rewards in the first year.

First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$153
Annual rewards
$564
Annual fee (First Year Waived)
0
Total first year value
$717
Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$153
Scotia Cash Back Rewards
Annual rewards
$564
Scotia Cash Back Rewards
Annual fee
$120
First Year Waived

2021 Winner – Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card
Includes comprehensive travel insurance and rare mobile device insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details
First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$153
Annual rewards
$564
annualFee (First Year Waived)
0
Total first year value
$717
Welcome bonus
$153
Annual rewards
$564
2021 Winner – Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card
Includes comprehensive travel insurance and rare mobile device insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details

Runners-up: Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card

Back to the top.

CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite*

Apply for the CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* to earn 10% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases for the first four months. Regularly earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries; 2% cash back on transportation, dining and recurring bill payments; 1% back on everything else.

Cardholders can also access travel insurance, mobile device insurance and exclusive offers.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $734 in rewards in the first year.

Annual fee:

$120

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • Earn 10% cash back for the first four statement periods, up to $2,000 in total purchases.

Offer expiry date: N/A subject to change without notice

Rewards:

  • Earn 4% cash back on gas and grocery purchases.
  • Earn 2% cash back on transportation, dining and recurring bill payments.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express

The SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express offers cardholders 10% cash back on up to $4,000 in total purchases for the first four months. That could add up to $400 cash back. Regularly get 2% cash back on all purchases, no matter the spending category.

Cardholders can also access travel and shopping coverage and exclusive offers through American Express® Experiences like presale tickets and curated events.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $701 in rewards in the first year.

Annual fee:

$99

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • Earn 10% cash back on up to $4,000 in purchases for the first four months. That could add up to $400 back.
  • Plus, earn a $100 statement credit when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first four months.

Offer expiry date: N/A subject to change without notice

Rewards:

  • Earn 2% cash back on all purchases.

Best No-Fee Cash Back Credit Card

Flat-rate credit cards offer the same percentage of cash back for all purchases without designating specific spending categories. That means cardholders can earn the same amount of cash back whether they buy groceries at the supermarket or a couch from an online retailer.

While flat-rate credit cards typically offer fewer rewards than, say, a category card for gas or recurring bill payments, they can complement fee cards quite well. Using a no-fee, flat-rate card as a secondary card can ensure you are always earning the most for miscellaneous purchases, like gifts, tech and furniture — for no fee and no fuss. These purchases usually fall outside the typical accelerated earning categories.

We compared the top flat-rate rewards cards using our Best of Finance methodology, focusing on cards with no annual fee and ranked the cards that provided the highest first-year value.

  First year value* Annual fee Top features
$465 $0 Earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases
$240 $0 Earn 1% cash back on all eligible purchases + Pay no foreign transaction fees

Winner: SimplyCash™ Card from American Express

Earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases with the SimplyCash™ Card from American Express. Cardholders may not earn the most rewards for groceries, gas or the usual accelerated reward categories. Still, they can earn more money than the typical no-fee card for transactions like technology, sports equipment, gardening tools and clothing. Often, no-fee credit cards offer around 0.5% back for these purchases.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $465 cash back in the first year.

First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$165
Annual rewards
$300
Annual fee
$0
Total first year value
$465
SimplyCash™ Card from American Express

card image
Welcome bonus
$165
AMEX Cashback Rewards
Annual rewards
$300
AMEX Cashback Rewards
Annual fee
$0

2021 Winner – Best No-Frills Cash Back Credit Card
Straigtforward, no fee card with a generous 6 month welcome offer
Details at a glance Collapse details
First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$165
Annual rewards
$300
annualFee
$0
Total first year value
$465
Welcome bonus
$165
Annual rewards
$300
2021 Winner – Best No-Frills Cash Back Credit Card
Straigtforward, no fee card with a generous 6 month welcome offer
Details at a glance Collapse details

Runners-up: Best No-Frills Cash Back Credit Card

Back to the top.

Home Trust Preferred Visa Card

The Home Trust Preferred Visa Card offers cardholders 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. Plus, pay no foreign transaction fees abroad and online. Only the exchange rate applies. This feature is almost impossible to find on a no-fee card and is quite rare for even top-tier travel rewards cards. Cardholders can save around 2.5% to 3% on foreign currency purchases with this perk.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian would earn around $240 cash back in the first year.

Annual fee:

$0

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • There is no welcome bonus currently.

Offer expiry date: N/A

Rewards:

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases.

What are the different types of cashback credit cards available?

Different cashback credit cards offer different perks. Here are the three different type of cashback offers you can expect to find in a credit card rewards program:

  • Category: Category cashback credit cards are the most popular cashback cards. They offer you cashback bonuses on purchases that fall under certain categories such as groceries, gas, and bill payments. Purchases outside these category may have a fixed cashback rate.
  • Flat-rate category: A flat-rate cashback card offers you a fixed cashback rate on all purchases. This is a good option for you if your purchases fall into miscellaneous categories rather than “bonus” categories like groceries and gas. A flat-rate cashback will help you earn the same rate of cashback on each and every purchase.
  • Flexible category: A flexible bonus cashback credit card allows you to choose your cashback bonus category, allowing you to align the card with your spending habits. Choosing a flexible bonus cashback card is great for people who to customize their cashback options. These bonus categories can be groceries, hotels, entertainment, public transportation and parking etc. See the best cashback credit cards in Canada today.

Interested in earning cash back rewards? Here’s what you need to know.

What are the benefits of a cash back rewards credit card?

Using a cash back credit card allows you to earn a percentage of your money back when you make your purchases, meaning you don’t have to change any of your spending habits to start earning credit card rewards. Cash back rewards are just as good as cash because the cash back credit is instantly applied to your credit card statement. You have the flexibility of using your cash back rewards for anything you want.

Cash back cards do have their potential cons. Like most rewards credit cards, cash back credit cards may also come with a higher annual fee averaging $100-$120, so make sure that the cash back rewards structure helps you earn the maximum rewards on your day-to-day purchases (and offsets the annual fee). Also, many cash rewards programs have an annual maximum limit, meaning your cash back rewards will be capped at a certain amount.

How does a cash back credit card work?

Cash back credit cards usually work on a percentage formula. For example, if your cash back credit card promises you 3% instant cash back on grocery purchases, and you decide to purchase $500 worth of groceries with your card, you will earn $15 back into your credit account. This means you save 3% from your total amount spent.

If the same card promises you a bonus cash back of 5% on entertainment purchases and you purchase movie tickets for $200, you’ll receive an instant cash back of $10.

How can I redeem my cash back rewards?

When it comes to redeeming your cash back rewards, most credit card providers pay you the cash back in the form of a credit on your monthly statement. If you hold a bank account with the same credit card provider, you can also receive cash back deposits into your chequing account. The frequency of your cash back rewards payments depend on your credit card provider and the card itself. Some credit card providers allow you to redeem your cash back credit at intervals such as monthly, quarterly or annually, while others may set up an automatic redemption whenever you reach a certain balance, or even allow you to redeem whenever you choose.

Your credit card lender may also give you the option of receiving a cheque with your total cashback credit at the end of the calendar year.

Cash back credit cards rewards structure

Every cash back card has its own rewards structure, allowing you to earn cash back rewards in different ways. Here are the three different types of cash back rewards structures you’ll see when you start comparing cash back credit cards:

Bonus cash back: Bonus cash back credit cards are the most popular cashback credit cards. A bonus cash back credit card offers you cashback bonuses on purchases that fall under certain categories such as groceries, gas, entertainment, and bill payments. Typically, the cash back rate on purchases in these categories are much higher than the flat rate you might earn on other cards. This specialization makes bonus cash back cards excellent choices for individuals who know they spend predominantly in these everyday categories. If all of your purchases don’t fall in one of the “bonus” categories, don’t despair. Purchases outside these categories will reward you at a lower fixed cash back rate, so you earn no matter what!

Flat-rate cash back: A flat-rate cashback credit card offers you a fixed cash back rate on every purchase. This is a good option for you if most of your purchases don’t tend to be focused around certain categories such as groceries or if you aren’t sure of your monthly purchases.

Flexible bonus cash back: A flexible bonus cash back credit card is customizable. It allows you to choose your cash back bonus category, helping you align your rewards with your spending habits. Your bonus categories can be anything from groceries, hotels, entertainment, to public parking.

*Rates, product information, and reward estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice. This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely those of RATESDOTCA. Information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting, May 18, 2021. Read our full disclaimer.

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