One of the most frequent questions readers ask is which credit cards are best for earning rewards. Unfortunately, the most common answer is “it depends”. Do you prefer travel rewards or cash back? How much do you spend every month, and in which categories do you spend the most (i.e. groceries, gas, travel)?
As for the cards, which ones offer bonus points for signing up? How much do you have to make in order to qualify? Do you mind paying an annual fee?
You can see why a credit card comparison tool can help.
Which rewards cards do I use?
For years I’ve tried to find the best combination of rewards cards to fit my spending profile. Below, I’ve highlighted the credit cards I use to get the most back from my every day spending. I’ve also rounded up the best current promotion for signing up for each card:
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite
This is the top cash back credit card in Canada because it pays 4 percent back on grocery and gas purchases, plus 2 percent back on purchases at drug stores and for recurring bill payments.
Spending on this card averages roughly $835 per month and I’ve earned $250 cash back since November. Make sure you spend enough on groceries and gas to justify the $99 annual fee. You’ll also need to meet the minimum income requirements in order to qualify.
Promotion: Sign up for the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite using this link and you’ll get a free $100 gift card, plus your first year’s fee is waived.
Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard
I use the top-tier card from Capital One for “everything else”, which means any purchase that falls outside of groceries, gas, drug store, and recurring bill payments.
Surprisingly, that’s a lot. The past six months we’ve averaged $1,670 spending on this card, which includes bigger ticket items we’ve purchased like a new BBQ this spring and a new couch for the basement. Any travel spending goes on this card as well.
Related: Best credit cards for travel rewards
The Capital One card pays 2 points for every dollar spent and so far this year we’ve earned 32,500 miles. That’s enough for a $300 travel credit or else the miles can be converted into $244 cash back.
Promotion: Sign up for the Capital One Aspire Travel card using this link and you’ll get 35,000 bonus points (good for a $350 travel credit) plus a free $50 gift card.
TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express
About half our grocery shopping is done at Costco and so we signed up for the TrueEarnings Card to earn a bit of cash back on our spending (Costco does not accept Visa or American Express). We spend about $350 per month at Costco and I just received a cheque for $44 on this year’s spending.
A quick note about this card: It looks like it has been discontinued. I emailed American Express and here’s what they had to say about it:
“I can confirm that American Express and Costco Canada will no longer be partnering to offer a co-branded credit card in Canada. As such, no new applications for the TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express will be processed at this time. There isn’t much more that I can share as we’re still finalizing the details on this, however, in the meantime Cardmembers will still be able to use their Costco co-brand Card as usual until further notice.” – Amanda Betti, Public Affairs & Communications, American Express Canada.
That doesn’t sound good for fans of this card, so stay tuned to see how this will affect current cardholders.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
This was fortuitous, but I had signed up for the Scotiabank Gold American Express card a few months ago to take advantage of a 15,000 welcome bonus promotion. They also waived the $99 annual fee in the first year.
I used the card for a trip to Toronto in the spring, but it hasn’t made it into my card rotation yet. The travel card pays 4 points for every dollar spent on groceries, gas, dining, and entertainment.
If the TrueEarnings card ends up being discontinued then I’ll use this card at Costco and for restaurant spending. I have 16,000 points at the moment, which works out to $160.
Promotion: Sign up for the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card using this link and you’ll get 15,000 bonus points plus the annual fee is waived in the first year.
Amazon.ca Rewards Visa
Nearly every credit card charges a ridiculous 2.5 percent fee to convert purchases made in a foreign currency into Canadian dollars. But the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa does not charge for foreign currency conversion. For that reason alone, this card is worth holding if you ever travel to the U.S. or abroad.
We’ve also started using Amazon for more of our shopping – Christmas and birthday presents, electronics, etc. With this card you’ll get 2 points for every dollar spent at Amazon.ca, plus 1 point for purchases made anywhere else.
For foreign purchases, that means you’ll essentially get a 3.5 percent return on your spending.
Every 2,000 points are automatically converted into a $20 statement credit.
I haven’t used the card outside of Canada (yet) but I have made a few purchases online and earned 800 points ($8) to date.
Promotion: Use this link to sign up and you’ll get a $20 Amazon gift certificate upon approval.
It would be nice if one credit card issuer could offer a card that could satisfy all of our needs. Unfortunately, the trend is moving toward co-branded niche partnerships (like the new CIBC Tim Hortons Visa), so we’re forced to carry multiple cards in order to maximize the rewards on our spending.
I’ve found the key is to use one or two cards to cover the majority of your purchases (like the Momentum Visa / Aspire Travel combo) and then fill in the gaps with niche cards (like Costco or Amazon) that fit your unique spending habits.
Our household spends about $3,000 per month (or $36,000 annually) on our credit cards and that will translate into roughly $750 worth of rewards – just over 2 percent back.
Which credit cards do you use to maximize your rewards?