Canadas best cash back credit cards 2023 – MoneySense


Canada’s best cash back credit cards in more detail

Cash back credit cards are an extremely popular type of rewards card in Canada. They’re easy to use, don’t require participation in loyalty programs, and they let you earn the most flexible reward of all—cash! When you make purchases with a cash back card, you get a percentage back. When you redeem, you can apply it to your credit card bill, so your cash rewards can be used to buy pretty much anything. 

Each cash back credit card has its own features and benefits, so you’ll want to compare the annual fee, earn rate and any additional benefits before you apply. To help you pick the right card we’ve put together a list of our favourites based on different categories.

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Best overall cash back credit card

Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite*

At a glance: Particularly rewarding for families or anyone who spends big on groceries, the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite also offers seriously impressive cash back on all your recurring bills (like phone, cable and Netflix subscriptions). It’s ideal for anyone looking for a well-rounded, all-in-one cash back card.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn rate: 4% on groceries and recurring bill payments, 2% on gas and transit, and 1% on everything else
  • Interest rate: Purchases 20.99%, cash advances 22.99%, balance transfers 22.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases).

  • With the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card, you’ll earn 4% cash back on groceries, the highest rate of any cash-back card on the market in Canada. 
  • You’ll also earn 4% cash back on recurring bills and subscriptions, again the highest earn rate around for this category, too. This means 4% cash back on your phone bill, subscriptions or any other recurring bill set for automatic pre-authorized monthly payments. You can even get 4% back on your gym membership if it’s a recurring bill.
  • Gas and transit costs can really add up, making the 2% cash back rate a welcome reprieve. This rate even applies to ride-share spends, such as Uber. 
  • Although the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite does have earnings caps on bonuses, at $25,000 annually per category, these are quite generous. You can be assured you’ll get 4% cash back on the first $25,000 you spend on groceries or recurring bills, and after that you’ll earn the base 1% cash back rate.


Best base-rate cash back credit card

SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express*

At a glance: The highest-earning base-rate cash back card in Canada, the SimplyCash Preferred card from American Express earns you a tidy 2% unlimited cash back on all your purchases, plus an accelerated 4% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases up to $1,200 annually.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases up to $1,200 annually; 2% cash back on everything else.
  • Interest rate: Purchases 20.99%, cash advances 21.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $40 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases on your card. This could add up to $400 in statement credits in the first 10 months.

  • This premium card has no specific income requirements for eligibility, unlike its Visa or Mastercard alternatives, both of which require an annual income of $60,000.
  • You can add additional authorized users for free, so you won’t have to pay an additional $30 to $50 to pick up supplementary cards for your partner, spouse and/or child.
  • This card comes with perks you’d expect from an American Express card, including Amex Experience, which grants early access to presale tickets to a wide range of events (think concerts and sports events) and Amex Offers (additional discounts and savings through the app). 
  • It comes with robust travel insurance, with up to $5,000,000 in emergency travel medical coverage for trips up to 15 days, for cardholders aged 65 or younger.
  • You could earn up to $1,500 cash back annually by referring your friends and family to have this card, too.


Best no-fee cash back cards

For bonus categories: Tangerine Money-Back*

At a glance: Tailored to lower volume spenders who won’t earn enough rewards to offset an annual fee, the Tangerine Money-Back credit card gives you the unique ability to choose and switch up your own 2% bonus categories.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earn rate: 2% cash back on up to three categories of your choice; 0.5% base rate on everything else
  • Interest rate: Purchases 19.95%, cash advances 19.95%, balance transfers 19.95%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 15% cash back when you spend up to $1,000 in everyday purchases within your first 2 months (up to a limit of $150 cash back). Must apply by January 31st, 2023.

  • The Tangerine Money-Back credit card is the only card in Canada that lets you pick your own bonus categories. You can choose up to three bonus categories to earn 2% cash back based on your own spending habits. Choose from restaurants, groceries, gas, recurring bills, entertainment, furniture, hotel/motel, home improvement, drug store and parking/transit. 
  • And you can change your chosen bonus categories at any time. It takes one billing cycle for any changes to apply, so use this feature strategically. For example, if you’re planning on a road trip, opt for dining, gas and hotels. Moving? Choose furniture, groceries and recurring bills. 
  • Typically, no-fee cash back cards from the big banks only offer two bonus categories, while the Tangerine Money-Back credit card has three. 
  • There are no limits or caps for the bonus categories, so you’ll earn 2% year-round (if you choose to keep those categories) regardless of how much you spend.
  • As a Mastercard, this card is accepted virtually everywhere, including Costco. (The warehouse club retailer only accepts Mastercard). 
  • Unlike with Visa or American Express, most Walmart Superstore locations are considered a “grocery store” by Mastercard, so you can earn 2% on your purchases with this card, provided you choose groceries as a bonus category.
  • Cash back is automatically redeemed every month, so you won’t need to wait for an annual payout.

For base-rate cash back: SimplyCash card from American Express*

At a glance: The no-fee SimplyCash card from American Express is well-suited to lower volume spenders (those who spend less than $500 per month on their card) who are unlikely to earn enough rewards to offset an annual fee.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earn rate: 2% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases up to $300 annually; 1.25% cash back on everything else.
  • Interest rate: Purchases 20.99%, cash advances 21.99% balance transfers %
  • Welcome bonus: In your first ten months as a cardholder, earn a $10 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you make at least $300 in purchases (for a total value of up to $100).

For high earners: Rogers World Elite

At a glance: The impressive flat earn rate particularly on U.S. purchases makes the no-fee Rogers World Elite Mastercard a card to consider for high-earning snowbirds or online shoppers.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earn rate: 3% cash back on U.S. currency purchases; 1.5% back for all other purchases
  • Interest rate: purchases at 19.99%, cash advances at 22.99%, balance transfers at 22.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn $25 cash back when you make your first purchase

Best cash back credit cards for groceries and gas (tie)

CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite

At a glance: With inflation and shrinkflation, here’s some good news from the grocery store and at the pumps. The CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite earns you an impressive 4% bonus category for groceries and gas. You also get a 2% rate on dining, transportation and recurring bills, which makes this a well-rounded, all-in-one cash back card.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on groceries and gas; 2% on dining, daily transit and recurring bills; and 1% back on everything else
  • Interest rate: Purchases 20.99% cash advances 22.99% balance transfers 22.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Get a first-year annual-fee rebate for you and up to three authorized users, and 10% cash back for the first four statements on net purchases of up to $2,500.

Meridian Cash Back Visa Infinite

Meridian Visa Infinite

At a glance: The Meridian Cash Back Visa Infinite Has a below-average annual fee, but it still offers the most competitive rates on groceries and gas spends. Also, its notable travel insurance coverage manages to beat out most travel cards, too.

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Earn rate: 4% cash back on gas and groceries; 2% on drug stores and recurring bills; 1% on everything else
  • Interest rate: Purchases 19.5%, cash advances 21.99%, balance transfers 19.5%
  • Welcome bonus: Annual fee is free in the first year

Honorable mention

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite*

TD Cash back Visa Infinite

At a glance: The TD Cash Back Visa Infinite features a strong range of bonus categories but is particularly suited to auto owners thanks to its built-in road assistance benefits.

  • Annual fee: $139
  • Earn rate: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and recurring bill payments; 1% on all other purchases
  • Interest rate: purchases 20.99%, cash advances 22.99%, balance transfers 22.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 10% cash back for the first three months on up to a total of $2,000 in purchases. Plus, receive a first-year annual-fee rebate for the primary and additional cardholders. Must apply online by May 28, 2023. Not available in Quebec. QC residents, please click here.

Best no fee card for groceries

BMO CashBack Mastercard*

At a glance: The BMO CashBack Mastercard offers 3% cash back rewards on groceries and doesn’t charge an annual fee, making it ideal for value-seekers and big grocery shoppers. It also has lenient approval criteria for students looking to pick their first credit card (if you’re a student, click here).

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Earn rate: 3% cash back on groceries; 1% on recurring bills; 0.5% on everything else
  • Interest rate: Purchases 20.99%, cash advances 22.99%, balance transfers 22.99%
  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 5% cash back in your first 3 months and a $50 cash back bonus. Plus, get a 0.99% interest rate on balance transfers for your first 9 months (with a 2% transfer fee).

More on the best credit cards


How to make the most of your cash back credit card

Never carry a balance

The payoff with a cash back credit card is the cash—a reward that is easily cancelled out by the penalties and interest accrued if you carry a balance. Like all rewards credit cards, cash back cards tend to carry annual interest rates at the higher end, usually around 19.99%. At this rate, unpaid debt will rapidly accumulate interest charges that eat up any gains you’ve made. As long as you pay off your balance in full every month, you’ll avoid this pitfall, but if you find you regularly carry a balance, you might consider a low interest credit card instead.

Compare your cash back card options

It’s easy to go with the cash back card offered by your current bank, but that’s not always the best choice. Take the time to compare your options to identify the card that delivers the highest return based on your particular spending habits and lifestyle. Remember: you don’t need to open a chequing or savings account with a bank in order to get a credit card, and you can pay your bill electronically from any bank account.

Don’t dismiss cash back cards with an annual fee

While it might seem counterintuitive to pay an annual fee on a cash back card, be aware that cards with a fee generally deliver better rewards and perks. If these perks are worth more than the annual fee (and if the card fits your spending habits in other ways), you might choose a cash back card with a fee.

Consider using multiple credit cards

Using too many credit cards at once is generally frowned upon, as this can be a sign of insolvency. However, a strong credit-card strategy can involve pairing cards to maximize benefits. For example, the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite offers 3% back on gas, groceries and recurring bills, but only 1% on everything else, while the Tangerine Money Back Card has no annual fee and offers 2% back in up to three spending categories of your choice. Strategically it would make sense to select drug stores, parking/public transit and restaurants to fill in the gaps on everyday spends without having to pay more for the better earn rate.

Add your partner as an authorized user

Adding an authorized user, typically your partner, to your account can be a cost-effective (or even free!) way to boost your earnings on a premium card. With this setup, both cardholders accrue rewards or cash back on their spends without paying double the annual fees. If, for example, your card has a $120 annual fee, you might be able to get an additional authorized user for as little as $30 more. Some premium cards, like the SimplyCash Preferred from American Express, even let you add authorized users for free. It does bear mentioning that this requires some thought as only the primary cardholder will be responsible for paying off the balance—not the authorized users.


Cash back versus travel credit cards

When choosing a rewards credit card, many Canadians find themselves torn between two types: Cash back and travel. This shouldn’t come as a surprise—both are popular and have valuable strengths. Here we break down both card types to help you decide which card is right for you.

Simplicity

It’s important to be able to understand your credit card rewards program, and cash back cards are about as clear as you can get. If you earn 2% back, you absolutely know you’re going to receive $0.02 on every $1—no complicated math required. With travel rewards credit cards, there are sometimes different earn rates and redemption values. These variables can affect how or when you want to collect or redeem. 

Bottom line: If you’re invested in earning travel rewards, acquainting yourself with your card’s program may be the best way to go, otherwise you can’t top cash when it comes to simplicity.

Rewards and bonus categories

How you earn can be just as important as what you earn. Travel rewards credit cards usually offer a very wide breadth of spending categories to earn in, while cash back cards can be more restrictive.

Aside from a few exceptions, the majority of cash back credit cards offer the same limited selection of bonus categories (namely gas, groceries and utility bills). In comparison, travel credit cards have a far larger selection of bonus categories (like restaurants, hotel stays, flights, Uber rides and public transit, in addition to the groceries and gas), which means you can potentially earn more points on more types of purchases. 

Bottom line: You’re likely going to earn more points or miles, in more spending categories, with a travel rewards card than cash with a cash back card. 

Flexibility

The reason they say “Cash is king” because it can be used for anything you want, such as everyday spending on gas and groceries. In contrast, the points you earn on travel cards are usually geared towards travel rewards and offer the best value when redeemed for flights and hotel stays.

Bottom line: Cash is the most flexible reward there is, but if you’re looking to save on flights and hotel stays, a travel card can offer considerably more value.

Welcome bonuses

Typically, travel rewards cards can offer hundreds of dollars in rewards as a sign-on bonus, while cash back cards usually offer an increased earning percentage for a short introductory time. One thing to note is that bonuses on cash back cards are usually easier to earn—while travel rewards cards usually are worth more but have stricter spending requirements. 

For example, with the BMO World Elite Mastercard, you can get 3,000 bonus points ($240 value) only after you spend $3,000 on the card within your first three months. In contrast, the BMO CashBack World Elite’s welcome offer lets you earn 5% cash back right out of the gate on all your purchases for the first three months but it maxes out at just $200. 

Bottom line: The welcome bonuses on cash back cards are typically worth less but are easier to get than the offers available on travel cards.  

Side perks

Perks are little extras available to you as a cardholder. These are usually things like airport lounge access, longer and more comprehensive travel insurance coverage, or refunds on certain expenses like a Nexus entry fee. As you can see, perks are very often tied directly to travel, so it should come as no surprise that you’re more likely to find them on travel rewards cards than on cash back cards.

Bottom line: In many ways, cash is the perk on a cash back card. If you’re looking for little extras, your best bet is a travel rewards card.



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