- Annual fee: $0
- Welcome offer: None
- Interest rate: 12.99% on purchases, 12.99% on cash advances
- Additional benefits: Access to Amex Front-of-the-Line presale and reserved tickets, offers, and dining, retail and entertainment experiences; up to $100,000 in death and dismemberment travel insurance; access to Amex’s Plan It Installment Program.
- American Express cards entitle cardholders to presale tickets, exclusive events and curated dining and entertainment experiences.
- You’ll have access to Plan It, which allows you to pay off larger purchases in installments for a fixed monthly fee.
- The included travel insurance is limited to up to $100,000 of accidental death and dismemberment coverage.
- Doesn’t include many perks or extras.
At a glance: With a very reasonable $20 annual fee and a 12.99% interest rate, the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard will appeal to those who want to stick with a big bank—particularly current BMO customers. The welcome offer sweetens the pot with a 0.99% promotional interest rate on balance transfers for nine months and a first-year fee waiver.
- Annual fee: $20
- Welcome offer: Earn a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 2% transfer fee for the first 9 months.
- Interest rate: 12.99% on purchases, 15.99% on cash advances and 15.99% on balance transfers
- Additional benefits: Extended warranty and purchase protection
- The promotional offer gives you a 0.99% balance-transfer interest rate for nine months and waves the annual fee for your first year.
- With a BMO Performance chequing account, you’ll never have to pay the annual fee.
- Add another cardholder for free.
- Does not include insurance, rewards or other extras.
- The balance transfer promotion runs for nine months, which is not the longest offer among cards on this list.
Variable rate cards
As their name suggests, these cards don’t have fixed interest rates—and the rate you are charged on unpaid balances can change based on a few factors. Typically, the rate is tied to an index (usually the prime rate), which fluctuates, with an additional fixed percentage on top. For example, a card might charge the bank’s prime rate plus 5%. Also, it’s important to note that your credit score will play a role in determining how low of a rate you can get.
This might sound complicated, but there’s a simple reason to consider a variable rate card: If you have an excellent credit score, you could land some of the lowest rates available in the credit card market. However, if you don’t have a great credit score, you want to keep things simple or need a card that also comes with a great balance transfer promotion, you may want to consider one of the fixed rate cards covered above.
At a glance: The Synchro card by National Bank offers a variable interest rate of 4% + the bank’s prime rate (or a minimum of 8.90%) on purchases and 8% + the prime rate (or a minimum of 12.90%) on cash advances and balance transfers.
- Annual fee: $35
- Welcome offer: None
- Interest rate: 4% + prime (or a minimum of 8.90%) on purchases, 8% + prime (or a minimum of 12.90%) on cash advances, 8% + prime (or a minimum of 12.90%) on balance transfers
- Additional benefits: Access to Mastercard Priceless Cities program; purchase protection and extended warranty
- The minimum interest rates of 8.90% for purchases and 12.90% for balance transfers and cash advances are very competitive.
- While the appeal of variable rate cards comes from the potential to snag the best rates on the credit card market, the minimum rates offered by this card undercut the lowest rates of other cards on this list by only 0.09%.
Honourable mention: CIBC Pace It
While not a low-interest credit card, CIBC’s Pace It earns a place on our list as a program designed to help consumers pay off larger debts, in installments, at a lower interest rate. Here’s how it works: consumers pay a one-time fee of 1.5% of the purchase amount and choose an installment plan. The options are 6 months at 5.99% interest, 12 months at 6.99% interest, or 24 months at 7.99% interest. The idea is to allow consumers to make larger purchases without blowing their budget on high interest rates.
It’s important to note that Pace It applies only to certain purchases, so the low interest rate won’t be across the board. However, if you need to make a large purchase and like the idea of paying in installments, now would be the perfect time to investigate. CIBC Pace It is not available in Quebec. (For more information on buy now pay later plans, read this.)
How your credit card interest works
If you look at the terms and conditions associated with your credit card, you’ll see your APR—the “annual percentage rate”—charged by the issuer. Although the cards on this list offer lower rates, most credit cards charge an APR of around 19.99%. As the name suggests, your APR is communicated in annual terms, but it’s actually calculated daily and charged monthly. While the calculations are fiddly, the concept itself isn’t too complicated: You can figure out your daily rate by dividing your APR by 365 (the number of days in a year) and use that to determine how much interest you’re being charged on any outstanding debt.
For example, let’s say you have $1,000 in debt on a credit card with a 19.99% APR. Your daily rate will be around 0.0548% (19.99%/365), so in one day that $1,000 will accumulate just over $0.54 in interest charges. Your interest compounds daily, which means that the next day, assuming you don’t make any additional purchases, you’d be charged interest on a total of $1,000.54, and so on—which is why it’s best to pay down your debt as quickly as possible. If you don’t pay off your balance in full by the date noted on your statement, you’ll owe interest, starting on the day that you made your purchase.