- Welcome offer: You can earn 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months up to $2,500, including up to $500 spend on grocery, up to $500 spend in recurring bill payments, and up to $1,500 qualified spend on all other purchases. Get an introductory interest rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for the first nine months. A 2% fee applies to balance amounts transferred.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Earn rate: 3% cash back on groceries; 1% on recurring bills; 0.5% on everything else
- Additional benefits: Members receive 25% off at National and Alamo rental car companies
- BMO’s CashBack MasterCard has the most generous earn rate for groceries of any no-fee card in Canada.
- Get 25% off on car rentals at National and Alamo locations.
- Enjoy 15% off admission to Cirque du Soleil shows in Canada and 20% off resident shows in Las Vegas.
- The card only comes with basic extended warranty and purchase protection.
- The BMO CashBack MasterCard’s base earn rate is only 0.5%.
Best no-fee credit card for PC Optimum points
PC Financial World Elite Mastercard*
At a glance: For everyday spending on essentials, the no-fee PC Financial World Elite Mastercard is a popular choice. You’ll earn PC Optimum points, one of the best-known and most useful loyalty programs in the country. There are no complicated reward rules to navigate; cardholders can simply redeem points instantly at the cash register anywhere PC products are sold.
- Earn rate: 45 points per $1 at Shoppers Drug Mart; 30 points per $1 at Esso, PC Travel or any Loblaw-owned stores; 10 points per $1 everywhere else
- Interest rates: 20.97% on purchases, 22.97% on cash advances, 22.97% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: personal income of $80,000 or household income of $150,000, as well as a minimum annual spend of $15,000
- Additional benefits: Travel emergency medical insurance; car rental loss or collision coverage; concierge services
- Easily redeem points in 10,000-point increments while shopping—for $10 off a purchase.
- With the PC Financial Mastercard, it’s easy to “stack” points by scanning your PC Optimum points card and paying with your PC Optimum Mastercard whenever you make an eligible purchase.
- As Loblaw is one of Canada’s largest retailers, there’s no shortage of opportunities to earn and redeem points.
- You’ll need a personal income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000 to qualify.
- The PC Financial World Elite Mastercard doesn’t come with many perks.
Best no-fee credit card for Canadian Tire
Triangle World Elite Mastercard
At a glance: The Triangle World Elite Mastercard from Canadian Tire is a digital evolution of the company’s well-loved Canadian Tire dollars and offers excellent earnings for those who regularly shop at Canadian Tire and partner stores. It’s also one of the few no-fee cards that offer car rental collision insurance and give you access to a roadside assistance plan.
- The card’s 4% earn rate at participating stores is one of the highest earn rates for a no-fee card.
- The Triangle World Elite Mastercard is jam-packed with enticing extras like roadside assistance, concierge service and rental car insurance.
- You’ll get 7 cents back per litre of premium fuel and 5 cents back per litre on all other fuel types.
- The card has a high annual income requirement of $80,000 in personal income or $150,000 in household income.
- The Triangle World Elite Mastercard’s 4% earn rate is only really useful for those who shop often at Canadian Tire and partner stores.
- Because you’re earning Canadian Tire Money rather than cash, you can only redeem it at a limited selection of participating merchants.
Best no-fee credit card for building credit
Home Trust Secured Visa*
At a glance: The Home Trust Secured Visa is an excellent pick for people who want to build their credit but who might otherwise have difficulty getting approved because of a low credit score or because they are new to Canada and don’t have much of a credit history. What makes this card especially unique is that it’s available with a lower interest rate (which can help you keep your debt in check) in exchange for paying a small annual fee.
- Welcome bonus: None
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 19.99% on cash advances
- Earn rate: None
- Additional features: None
- The Home Trust Secured Visa has two secured credit card options to fit a cardholder’s individual needs: a no-fee card with a 19.99% interest rate, and a low-interest card with a rate of 14.90% and an annual fee of $59.
- The card is specially designed for people with potentially problematic credit histories, such as self-employed individuals, students, newcomers to Canada and people with bad credit.
- The card features a lower-than-normal foreign currency conversion fee of 2%.
- Cardholders don’t earn any cash back or rewards.
- The Home Trust Secured Visa has no extra perks like insurance.
- You must provide a security deposit to use the card.
Best no-fee card for travel insurance
Rogers World Elite Mastercard
At a glance: If you’re looking for a credit card with a strong selection of travel insurance and no annual fee, the Rogers World Elite Mastercard can’t be beat. The card comes with emergency medical insurance, insurance for trip cancellation and interruption, and collision and damage coverage for car rentals.
- Annual fee: $0
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: Earn $25 cash back when you make your first purchase
- Earn rate: 1.5% cash back on all purchases; 3% cash back on all U.S.-dollar purchases
- Annual income requirement: personal income of $80,000 or household income of $150,000
- Additional benefits: Out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical insurance; trip cancellation/interruption protection; rental car collision/damage coverage; complimentary membership to the Mastercard Travel Pass program, with access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide; free Boingo Wi-Fi at over 1 million hotspots worldwide; and Mastercard Travel Rewards
- While the card does charge an FX fee (typically around 2.5%) on all purchases made in a foreign currency, cardholders receive 3% unlimited cash back rewards on all eligible purchases made in U.S. dollars.
- Enjoy complimentary membership to the Mastercard Travel Pass program, which gives you access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.
- Cardholders can take advantage of free Boingo Wi-Fi at over 1 million hotspots worldwide.
- The card has a minimum annual income requirement of $80,000 in personal income or $150,000 in household income.
- You must charge at least $15,000 per year to the card or your account will be cancelled.
- While you get a free airport lounge membership, no free visits are included. You must pay USD$32 per person per visit.
Frequently asked questions
The potential drawbacks of a no-fee credit card include:
- Ho-hum rewards and cash back: Your reward earning power can be somewhat lacklustre when compared to the revved-up rewards you’ll usually reap with premium cards that have an annual fee. For example, with the American Express Cobalt card, you’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on groceries and restaurants, 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services, and 2 points per $1 spent on travel, transit and gas (with everything else getting you 1 point per $1). You can see that at those earn rates, points can pile up pretty quickly.
- Not-so-welcoming welcome offers: Because one of the major selling points of a no-fee card is that there is no fee, the welcome bonuses offered to attract new applicants are not as generous as cards with annual fees.
- Fewer perks: With few exceptions, no-fee cards lack the perks and benefits—particularly insurance—that tend to come with annual-fee cards. Typically (though not always), no-fee cards do include very basic protections, such as zero liability, purchase protection and extended warranty, but you’ll usually miss out on travel insurance, concierge service and perks, such as airport lounge access. Ultimately, you’ll have to weigh these benefits against the fees and decide whether a no-fee credit card works best for you.
For the best cash back credit cards 2022 ranking, MoneySense tapped into Ratehub.ca’s‡ credit card tool and calculated the numbers for both fee and no-fee cash back rewards cards based on $2,000 in monthly spending. We used the following scenario: $500 on groceries, $200 on gas, $200 on restaurants, $125 on bill payments, $175 on travel, $225 on entertainment, $75 on pharmacy purchases and $500 on everything else.
The endgame was a magic number—that is, the annual net reward in dollar terms to identify the top cash back cards for each type of spender. Our methodology also took into consideration other factors, including limited-time accelerated earn rates, the range of spending bonus categories, annual-fee waivers, purchase protections and travel insurance perks.
‡MoneySense.ca and Ratehub.ca are both owned by parent company Ratehub Inc. We may be partnered with some financial institutions, but this does not influence the “Canada’s Best Credit Card” rankings. You can read more about this in our Editorial Code of Conduct.
This article was originally published on Feb. 19, 2019, and has since been updated.