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Published: Nov 8, 2022, 11:45am
Edited By
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If you’re looking for the definitive best credit card in Canada, know that credit cards are not one size fits all. There’s no single credit card that can truly be the best option for everyone simply because we all have different needs. If you’re a family looking to earn cash back on your high grocery bills or a globetrotter looking to earn rewards and get comprehensive travel insurance, your best cards are going to differ. This is why Forbes Advisor has taken a different approach. Rather than counting down a list of the ten best credit cards overall, what we’re really going to give you is a list of the best credit cards for various spending scenarios.
The following credit cards were evaluated as the best in their own credit card category and each score reflects a result that was weighted to that category’s criteria and within that, achieved the highest standing.
$200

$120 (waived in the first year)

20.99% – 24.99% (variable)

$200

$120 (waived in the first year)

20.99% – 24.99% (variable)

The reason this card tops the cash back category is simply because it earns the most in annual cash back in Canada, even when you factor in the $120 annual fee. Plus, that fee is waived the first year and you get a generous welcome bonus of up to 10% cash back on your first four statements (a $250 value). Besides all that, this card offers a host of other perks, like travel and consumer insurance protections.
60,000 Aeroplan Points

$120 (rebated in the first year)

19.99%

60,000 Aeroplan Points

$120 (rebated in the first year)

19.99%

With a welcome bonus worth $1,200 in value, the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business Card Plus offers net annual earnings of $456.68 when you book Air Canada and a decent $430.63 in value when you book other travel. It also comes with a bevy of travel perks like airport lounge access, a free checked bag and an Air Canada Buddy Pass.
2,500 Membership Rewards points

$155.88 ($12.99 per month)

20.99%

2,500 Membership Rewards points

$155.88 ($12.99 per month)

20.99%

The American Express Cobalt will not only earn you 2 American Express Membership Rewards per dollar spent on travel or gas purchases (make that 3 points per dollar if you make travel bookings online through the Amex Travel Portal), but it also comes with many valuable travel insurance coverages and a $100 USD hotel credit. Plus, Membership Rewards points are super flexible, with four ways to redeem them for travel purchases, including transferring them at a 1:1 rate to a myriad of other travel partners.
35,000 Aventura Points

$139 (waived in the first year)

20.99%-24.99%

35,000 Aventura Points

$139 (waived in the first year)

20.99%-24.99%

The CIBC Aventura Gold Visa offers $526.99 in net annual reward earnings after the first year, as well as a large number of travel benefits, including free airport lounge access every year, a rebate on a NEXUS application fee every four years and 10 types of insurance coverage.
5% cash back on your first $2,500 in purchases

$0

20.99%

5% cash back on your first $2,500 in purchases

$0

20.99%

This no-annual-fee card earns the title of the best student credit card in Canada for a variety of reasons, but a standout is its competitive welcome offer of 5% cash back on all purchases for the first three months. This makes it perfect for buying start-of-semester essentials like textbooks and tech. This card also offers the highest cash back where you need it most (3% on groceries and and 2% on your bills) and offers spending insights to help you stay on budget. According to Forbes Advisor’s calculation on average spending in Canada, you can earn $312 in cash back per year with this card. If you maximize the welcome offer, which caps out at $125, you can earn a whopping $437 in cash back your first year, which you can redeem any time, for any amount.
2,500 Membership Rewards points

$155.88 ($12.99 per month)

20.99%

2,500 Membership Rewards points

$155.88 ($12.99 per month)

20.99%

The American Express Cobalt ranks as the top grocery credit card in Canada in large part because of its impressive earnings. Canadians can earn 37,680 points on their annual grocery spending alone — an impressive $376.80 value. All in all, Canadians can earn a whopping $593.80 in net rewards yearly, and that’s factoring in the annual fee.
10,000 Membership Rewards

$0

20.99%

10,000 Membership Rewards

$0

20.99%

At first glance, the earn rate and annual earnings for the Amex Green Card don’t look that impressive, but when you transfer the Membership Rewards you earn on every purchase to its large number of airline and other loyalty partners, this card really starts to prove its worth. When you consider it’s a no annual fee card, it’s clear that it’s all profit.
None

$0

12.99%-19.99%

None

$0

12.99%-19.99%

If you’re carrying a high credit card balance, and need to pay it down to get out of debt, the MBNA True Line Mastercard has the best and longest balance transfer welcome offer available in Canada. Beyond that, it also has a low standard interest rate for purchases in general. However, you will miss any opportunity to collect rewards or any traditional credit card perks, but if you’re paying interest on a high credit card balance, getting out of that whole is likely a better reward in and of itself.
10,000 MBNA Rewards Points

$0

19.99%-24.99%

10,000 MBNA Rewards Points

$0

19.99%-24.99%

Enjoy annual earnings north of $400 ($415.23 with recurring bills at 1 point per dollar and $439.59 with recurring bills at 2 points per dollar) for no annual fee. In addition, you’ll get ultra flexibility as to how you’d like to redeem your points and the highly coveted mobile device insurance.
None

$0

None

None

$0

None

If you have bad credit, but want the perks and convenience of a credit card (for, say, online shopping), KOHO allows you to create your own credit card with money you already have. This colourful card is easily loaded via e-transfer from your bank account or loaded with direct deposit from your paycheque. Plus, KOHO allows you to build your credit with its credit builder feature and, unlike a secured credit card, you can get a little bit of cash back for every purchase.

When determining a rating for individual credit cards, the Forbes Advisor Canada editorial team factors in an exhaustive list of data points. With the best credit cards in Canada, the scoring model used takes into account factors such as, but not limited to, annual reward earnings, fees, welcome bonuses and other benefits and features. Keep in mind, what may be best for some people might not be right for you. Conduct informed research before deciding which cards will best help you achieve your financial goals.
Rewards: Earn 4% cash back on grocery and gas purchases and 2% cash back on dining, transportation and recurring bills. All other purchases give you 1% cash back and there’s no cap on how much you can earn.
Welcome Offer: Earn 10% cash back on $2,500 in net purchases over the first 4 statements.
Annual Fee: $120
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: This card earns you a healthy $537.50 per year in cash back (even when you factor in the $120 annual fee – a cost which is a bit of a drawback on its own). Truly, the only other negative thing about this card is that you need to have at least $60,000 in personal annual income or $100,000 in annual household income to qualify for it.
Rewards: Get 2 points per dollar for every purchase made with Air Canada directly and at the Air Canada eStore. Get 1.5 points per dollar on travel purchases like non-Air Canada flights, cruise lines, rental car companies and tour companies. You’ll also earn the same on transportation purchases like limos, cabs and buses, as well as any dining, shipping, internet and phone purchases. Plus, you’ll get 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Get up to 60,000 Aeroplan Points in the first year (10,000 when you make the first purchase, 20,000 points when you spend at least 3,000 during your first four monthly statements and 30,000 when you spend at least $35,000 in the first year.
Annual Fee: $120 (rebated in the first year)
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: For a $120 annual fee ( $50 annually for each additional cardholder), you’ll also get four complimentary guest passes to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge and a free first checked bag for you, your employees and up to eight traveling companions. You also get a one-time Air Canada Buddy Pass in the first year, which gives your travelling companion a base flight fare of $0 anywhere Air Canada flies in North America. This is over and above the travel and consumer insurance you get, including flight delay, baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, rental car auto collision damage or loss insurance, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance and purchase protection and extended warranty insurance.
Rewards: Earn 5 Membership Rewards per dollar spent on groceries (up to $30,000 annually), 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible streaming services, 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations, travel bookings and transit, 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on everything else and 1 additional Membership Rewards point for every dollar spent on eligible hotel or car rental bookings made with American Express Travel.
Welcome Offer: 2,500 points for each month in which you spend $500 on your card, adding up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points over the year (a $300 value).
Annual Fee: $155.88 ($12.99 per month)
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Though American Express is still not accepted everywhere in Canada – taken at fewer retailers than Visa and Mastercard – the benefits of the Amex Cobalt are so plentiful, it’s very much still worth using. You’ll get flexible redemption options for Membership Rewards points, such as statement credits, and the ability to transfer points to leading frequent flyer programs, an extensive suite of travel insurance coverages, including $5 million in out-of-country and out-of-province emergency medical travel coverage. Plus, you’ll also get an annual $100 USD hotel credit that can be used on dining, spa or other leisure activities at select hotels.
Rewards: Get 2 Aventura Points per dollar when you make travel purchases through the CIBC Travel Rewards Centre. Plus, receive 1.5 Aventura Points per dollar on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. Finally, earn 1 Aventura Point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: 35,000 Aventura points in the first year, including 20,000 when you make your first purchase and 15.000 when you spend $1,000 or more on each monthly statement in the first year.
Annual Fee: $139 (waived in the first year)
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: For the $139 annual fee (not applied in the first year) you will get many additional benefits. These include four complimentary airport lounge visits per year on the DragonPass network of over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide through the Visa Airport Companion Program and a rebate on a NEXUS application fee every four years. You’ll also get emergency medical out-of-province and out-of-country travel medical insurance in the amount of $5 million for 15 days for those under age 65. Flight delay and baggage insurance is also included along with mobile device insurance, auto rental collision damage/loss insurance, hotel burglary insurance and $500,000 common carrier travel accident insurance. This is in addition to purchase security and extended warranty insurance.
Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on up to $2,500 worth of purchases made in your first three months (up to a maximum of $125 in cash back). You can also get 3% cash back on groceries (up to $500 per month). Plus, you’ll receive 1% cash back on recurring bill payments (up to $500 per month). If that weren’t enough, 0.5% cash back will come to you on all other spending with no purchase limit.
Welcome Offer: Earn 5% cash back on your first $2,500 in purchases for the first three months (up to $125 maximum in cash back). Must apply by July 23, 2023.
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: In addition to the cash-back rewards you can earn and the generous welcome offer, you can apply your cash back to a BMO chequing, savings or InvestorLine account with no limit to how much you can deposit at any amount. You will also be able to track your spending with BMO Financial Insights so you can stay on budget.
Rewards: Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on all eligible purchases and 1 additional Membership Rewards point when you book hotel stays and car rentals through the Amex Travel online portal.
Welcome Offer: Earn 10,000 bonus American Express Membership Rewards when you make $1,000 in net purchases in your first 3 months of card membership.
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Though one point on all purchases doesn’t sound like much, it all quickly adds up. Add to that, some pretty decent additional benefits for no annual fee, like Amex’s patented Front Of The Line access to exclusive events and concerts or 90 days of purchase protection. The real benefit of the Amex Green Card though is the ability to transfer the Amex Membership Rewards Points you earn to pretty much any of the most popular travel loyalty programs at a ratio of 1:1.
Rewards: None
Welcome Offer: 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months when the transfer is made within 90 days of account opening.
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Though devoid of rewards and insurance benefits, the MBNA True Line Mastercard has the lowest promotional interest rate and the longest promotional benefit period on balance transfers in the country. It also carries a lower than average 12.99% standard interest rate on purchases and balance transfers when the 0% balance transfer promotional rate ends. Remember though, to qualify for the promotional rate on balance transfers, the actual transfer must take place within the first 90 days you have the credit card. There is also a 3% fee that goes along with all balance transfers regardless of when they happen.
Rewards: Earn 4 points per dollar on restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership and utility purchases for the first 90 days (2 points per dollar in those categories thereafter). Plus, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: 10,000 MBNA Rewards (5,000 once $500 is spent on purchases and another 5,000 when you switch to e-statements).
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Along with being able to redeem for cash back, travel, charitable donations, gift cards and merchandise, you’ll also receive a birthday bonus of 10% of the number of points you earned over the last 12 months before your birthday. You’ll also get mobile device insurance, which is rare when it comes to insurance benefits on credit cards. As for customer protection insurance, you’ll  get 90-day purchase protection and an extended warranty that’s one additional year past what the manufacturer offers.
Rewards: 0.5% in cash-back rewards on all purchases, and 2% cash back on three major purchase categories of your choosing when you sign up for a premium account and even more cash back when you shop at KOHO partners.
Welcome Offer: None
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: KOHO is on the Mastercard network. So even though it’s a prepaid credit card, it’s still widely accepted. That said, unless you use the credit building features, this card won’t help repair your credit score the way a traditional credit card or secured credit card would. You also have to pay to play in some cases, as credit building features cost $10 per month and a premium account membership that gives you a higher earn rate on cash back costs $9 a month or $84 per year.
Credit card data researched and collected by Debra Toews, Tia Duncombe and Jack Choros.
In all honesty, the best credit card in Canada is the best credit card for your specific spending needs. It’s important to determine what perks are important to you and what purchase categories make up the bulk of your spending to find the best credit card in its category like cash back, travel, rewards and business. Thankfully, Forbes Advisor has done that, so you don’t have to.
The credit card on this list with the highest net annual earnings (that’s minus the annual fee) is the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business Card Plus with net annual earnings of $456.68 when you book Air Canada and a decent $430.63 in value when you book other travel arrangements. As for consumer credit cards, then highest net annual earnings on this list belongs to the American Express Cobalt at $594.52
Generally, if you want the best credit cards available in Canada, you’re going to need a credit score that’s in the Good/Excellent range. That’s a credit score somewhere between 660 and 900.
Not all of the best credit cards have income requirements. For example, the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard, the BMO CashBack Mastercard for Students, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard, the MBNA True Line Mastercard and the American Express Cobalt are just a few cards on this list that don’t require a certain annual income. When it comes to Visa Infinite cards, the income requirement is typically $60,000 in annual personal income and $100,000 in annual household income. As for Mastercard World Elite branded cards, they typically require $80,000 in annual personal income and $150,000 in annual household income. Check your cardholder agreement for cardholder income information on specific credit cards.
Aaron Broverman is the lead editor of Forbes Advisor Canada. He has over a decade of experience writing in the personal finance space for outlets such as Creditcards.com, creditcardGenius.ca, Yahoo Finance Canada, Nerd Wallet Canada and Greedyrates.ca. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario with his wife and son.

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