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The Best Rewards Credit Cards in Canada

Compare the best rewards credit cards to get the perks you actually want.

What's your rewards preference?
Which one is more important?
Annual fees?

Best rewards credit cards in Canada Aug 07, 2020

Rewards credit card 101

Looking to get more out of your credit card? Rewards credit cards help you earn back valuable cash rewards, point rewards, travel rewards, or a combination on every purchase you make through your credit card. Find out which of these credit card rewards match your lifestyle and compare the best Canadian rewards credit cards on RATESDOTCA.

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Compare cashback and reward points to see which one suits your needs

Both cashback and rewards/travel points have benefits. This table breaks down some of the pros and cons for both types of cards.

The pros and cons of credit card rewards

Rewards Type Cashback Rewards/ Travel points
 Pros
  • Versatile - Use cashback to pay off your credit card bill or make new purchases
  • Holds a 100% cash value, meaning that you can use the instant cashback as money
  • Cashback can be based on a fixed flat-rate or bonuses for certain categories like gas, groceries etc.
  • Earn more cashback on regular purchases like groceries and gas
  • Rewards points are usually more valuable that cashback, because you can only use them for certain purchases
    May offer accelerated ways to earn in loyalty programs you may be using already (For example, PC Optimum)
  • Rewards are accumulated in your rewards account
  •  Allows you to access perks like discounted travel tickets, gift cards, credit card partner services like SCENE points, etc., depending on the card
  • Some of the redeemable rewards are hard to get otherwise such as the Priority Pass, which allows you to access the airport lounges around the world
 Cons
  • Cashback cards often have less perks such as travel insurance or access to discounted companion airfare tickets
  • Can only be redeemed on items/services that are part of the rewards program

What type of credit card rewards can I earn?

Each rewards credit card comes with a unique rewards program. Depending on the card, the rewards points can be redeemed for travel rewards, instant cashback, gift cards and much more. The type of rewards credit card you choose greatly depends on the kind of rewards you want to ultimately redeem for.

Here are the most popular credit card rewards and perks:

  • Travel rewards: If you’re a frequent traveler, travel rewards will be highly useful to you. A travel rewards credit card can earn you Air Miles or points that can be redeemed for flights, train tickets, hotel stays, travel upgrades and much more. See our travel cards.
  • Cash back rewards: Cashback rewards are great for the thrifty shopper. These cards give you instant cashback based on a specific percentage of your retail purchases, instantly saving you money. Cashback rewards can be based on a flat-rate, bonus, or flexible bonus structure. Learn more about cashback rewards.
  • Gift rewards: Some banks offer credit card rewards programs that allow you to use your points to redeem gift cards or items from their catalogues such as perfumes, vacuum cleaners, tablets etc. If you like to cash in your rewards frequently, you can use your points for multiple smaller rewards, like movie tickets or gifts cards for a dinner out. For example, the Scotiabank Rewards Points program allows you to browse through their rewards product catalogue to redeem your rewards points and select anything from coffee makers to a Swiss Chalet gift card.
  • Gas rewards: Do you spend a lot on gas every month? A gas rewards credit card can help you earn rewards or get cashback on your gas purchases. You can find two categories of gas rewards credit cards on the market: a rewards credit card with gas rewards or a loyalty gas credit card. A rewards credit card with gas perks allows you to purchase gas from anywhere and earn rewards each time you buy gas. In contrast, a loyalty gas rewards credit card will be tied to a specific gas retailer, allowing you to only earn rewards if you fill up your gas at their specified locations.

Credit card perks

In addition to rewards, you can also enjoy a variety of perks from most rewards credit cards.

  • Travel perks: Travel rewards credit cards often offer travel related perks such as discounted airfare prices and VIP airport lounge access with membership to services such as Priority Pass or LoungeKey. Almost every travel card also includes additional travel insurance perks which can save you time, money and peace of mind on short trips. Travel rewards over all make travel much more convenient and can save you a lot of money use all these features.
  • Insurance perks: Your rewards credit card can also come with a variety of insurance coverages such as travel, auto and accidental insurance. These can come in handy when you face unexpected situations like trip cancellations and roadside car issues. If you rent cars often, you might want to look for a rewards credit card that offers car rental insurance. As somebody who loves to travel, find a rewards credit card with travel insurance perks like trip cancellation insurance. Here’s an example of a credit card that comes with several insurance benefits:

Rewards credit card with insurance perks 

Rewards credit card with insurance perks

Tip: You can also use a combination of rewards credit cards to take advantage of multiple rewards programs. For example, you can use a bonus cashback card and a travel rewards card to save money and at the same time earn travel rewards for your trips. This strategy will help you maximize your annual credit card rewards and perks.

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.
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Flexible cashback 

Cashback credit card with flexible bonus categories.

Trying to figure out which rewards will work for you? These common questions about rewards credit cards can help you decide.

How do I know which rewards credit card is for me?

When choosing a rewards credit card, remember to look for rewards and perks that complement your lifestyle. There are many different types of rewards cards. Some offer travel rewards, while others cater to cashback, retail discounts, gift cards and much more. Look for cards that have rewards and ways to earn that better suit your financial and lifestyle goals.

Two things to consider when choosing a rewards card

1) How will I earn points/cash back (Or what / where do I spend money): Cards have different earn rates on different spend categories – get a card with a high rate on the thing you buy the most (if you are a big family, maybe this is groceries – if you are a young urbanite, maybe this is entertainment)

2) What do I want to spend (redeem) my points on: Some credit card users want cash back or statement credits because it’s the most flexible. However, cards that offer only cashback usually have lower reward rates than say their travel point counterparts. Even if the card has a flexible points rewards option (you can redeem earned points for cashback or travel) it is common for the redemption value of cash reward to be less than if the points were redeemed on travel.

To be eligible for most rewards credit cards, you must have good to excellent credit. If you need to work on your credit score, opting for a low interest credit card or a no-fee credit card can help you get there.

What is the annual fee for a rewards credit card?

Rewards credit cards typically come with an annual fee ranging anywhere from $100-$200. Some credit card companies waive the first year fee. Choose your rewards card strategically so the advantages outweigh the annual fee.

Why do rewards credit cards have annual fees?

Most rewards credit cards come with an annual fee due to the high-value benefits that come with the card. When choosing a rewards program, pick one that will help you get the most out of your credit card. For example, say you choose a cashback rewards credit card that has an annual fee of $100, comes with a 2% instant cashback on groceries and gas purchases, and 0.5% on other purchases. If you spend an average of $900 a month on groceries and gas alone, you’ll earn at least $216 in cashback by the end of the year, which offsets the annual credit card fee.

Similarly, most travel rewards credit cards come with bonuses. For example, say you choose a travel rewards card that comes with a welcome bonus of 2,000 Air Miles and a promise of an additional 4,000 Air Miles when you spend more than $10,000 in the next six months. You also can earn one Air Mile for every $10 spent. This offers you the potential to earn more than 6,000 Air Miles within six months of holding the card. These Air Miles are worth a few or more domestic trips, helping you save up on travel costs.

Looking for great offers on rewards credit cards? Check out the latest offers on credit cards.

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