Credit Cards

This post covers the best deals in the Canadian credit card market. As always, I want to give you readers the best available deals.* If I’m missing something, or you know about a better deal, please email me at info@dcta.ca.

NOTE: There are other [good] credit cards out there. The following are the general cards I recommend. For some cards, they might have a decent deal, but I have personally evaluated them as something I cannot recommend. Also, some cards might only have a limited-time promotion that is worthwhile. For those cards, I will post them in the daily blog rather than here.

NO FEE CARDS

It’s like free money

These cards have NO ANNUAL FEES. They are generally good for day-to-day spending. However, they do not typically have good signup bonuses, and are therefore not a good candidate for churning.

AMEX Blue Sky (this is NOT a referral)

  • No annual fee.
  • 10,000 ‘Blue Sky’ Points bonus after spending $500 in the first three months.
  • 1.25 ‘Blue Sky’ points for each dollar spent.
  • ‘Blue sky’ points act basically as a cash-back program. 10,000 ‘Blue Sky’ points converts into a $100 statement credit. Essentially, this is a 1.25% CASH BACK card + $100 statement credit at sign-up – note that it’s not a true cash-back in the sense that the points directly convert into cash, but they apply towards travel spending.
  • Comes with the basic AMEX travel accident insurance.
  • AMEX is not nearly as accepted as VISA/Mastercard (but this is slowly changing).
  • There is no travel insurance (luggage, delays, etc.)

MBNA Smart Cash (this is NOT a referral)

  • No annual fee.
  • Widely accepted (Mastercard).
  • True cash-back card – 5% cash-back for the first six months of card ownership on gas/groceries, and 2% thereafter (1% on everything else).
  • This is an easy card to get.
  • No type of insurance on this card.
  • MBNA customer service can be at times quite frustrating.

Chase AMAZON.CA Rewards (this is NOT a referral)

  • No annual fee.
  • No foreign exchange fee! This is quite significant: on most credit cards, whenever you make a purchase in foreign currency, you’re going to be charged the spot exchange rate + 2.5%. Some issuers, like AMEX, actually charge 2.5% to convert the currency into USD (if neither CAD or USD), and then another 2.5% into CAD. This card DOES NOT CHARGE that 2.5% fee. It charges the spot exchange rate at the time the charge posts onto your credit card. You also get a 1% cash back, so that is a 3.5% savings on foreign purchases on this card vs. a non rewards card. I recommend you only use this card when buying something in foreign currency – it’s not good value for spending in Canada.
  • You get a $20 amazon.ca gift certificate when approved. –  1% cash back everywhere, 2% cash back on amazon.ca (does NOT apply to amazon.com, co.uk, etc. ONLY .ca).
  • Not good value for domestic purchases.
  • The card is ugly 😉

FIRST YEAR FREE (FYF) CARDS WITH ANNUAL FEE

These cards are usually the best candidates for churning, as there is no fee for the first year, and they typically come with significant sign-up bonuses. I don’t usually recommend keeping any of these cards past the first year, thereby saving yourself the annual fee, and being able to churn it later on.

AMEX Gold (this IS a referral)

  • FYF
  • 25,000 MR points after spending $1500 in the first 3 months. MR points convert 1:1 to BA Avios (takes 2-5 days to transfer) and to Air Canada Aeroplan (instant). Transfers to a number of other programs at lower rates – MR points are incredibly valuable.
  • 2 MR points/$1 for gas/grocery/drugstore/travel, 1 MR/$1 for everything else.
  • Very good travel insurance.
  • This card is VERY churnable – I suggest you get it for 6 months, then cancel, wait 6 months, and get it again.
  • AMEX has a very good referral program: once you get this card, you can refer your family, friends, etc. For every successful referral, you get 15,000 MR points.
  • AMEX is not nearly as accepted as VISA/Mastercard (but this is slowly changing).
  • Has a hefty fee after the first year.
  • Extremely high interest rate if you carry a balance (NEVER do it!)

AMEX Gold Business (this IS a referral)

  • FYF
  • 40,000 MR points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. MR points conver 1:1 to BA Avios (takes 2-5 days to transfer) and to Air Canada Aeroplan (instant). Transfers to a number of other programs at lower rates – MR points are incredibly valuable.
  • Very good travel insurance
  • AMEX has a very good referral program: once you get this card, you can refer your family, friends, etc. For every successful referral, you get 15,000 MR points.
  • This is a business card. If you are a sole proprietor (have you ever sold something on eBay? Are a landlord? ANYTHING BUSINESSNY?), you can just put your full name under “business name.” I’ve done this plenty of times without issue.

Chase Marriott Rewards Visa (this is NOT a referral)

  • FYF
  • 50,000 Marriott points after first purchase.
  • No foreign exchange fees. I would not rely on this card though for this, as it does have a fee after the first year.
  • I would not recommend actually using this card all that much – the Amazon card is better for foreign purchases (as it doesn’t have a fee after the first year), and the quicker you get this card, the points, and then cancel, the sooner you can churn it. For this card, I would suggest a 1 year wait period between churns.
  • Hefty annual fee after the first year.
  • It can be a challenging card to be approved for.
  • Chase customer service isn’t the friendliest.

CARDS WITH FEES

They’ll cost ya!

These cards have annual fees that are not waived for the first year. The following cards are worthwhile to look at even though they have a fee.

Capital One World Aspire (this is NOT a referral)

  • $75 GCR bonus.
  • 35,000 miles at signup ($350 travel rebate).
  • 10,000 miles annually ($100 travel rebate).
  • Excellent insurance (travel, and merchandise).
  • 2% cash-back (in travel rebate) on all purchases.
  • $120 annual fee (though with the GCR rebate plus the signup rebate: 75+350-120= $305 at signup. With the 10,000 points back annually, ends up being virtually a $20 fee).
  • Rather complicated points redemption system (works on tiers).
  • Getting the card is rather annoying. If approved, they will send you a document that you have to bring to a Canada Post outlet to verify your identity, THEN they will send you the actual card.
  • With Capital One, they want NO applications done within 45 days before applying to them.

Capital One IHG (this is NOT a referral)

  • 60,000 IHG points on approval (IHG often has “point break” deals where award nights can be had for 5000 points. I recently did this for the Crowne Plaza in Johannesburg. So, with these 60,000 IHG points, you can theoretically get up to 12 free hotel nights).
  • I would classify this as a complete CHURN card. No real reason to use it, just get it once, get the 60,000 IHG points, and then cancel. Wait 1 year to reapply. With Capital One, they want NO applications done within 45 days before applying to them.
  • You’re basically buying 60,000 IHG points for $120, which is a GREAT deal.
  • You get 1 year of IHG Platinum status (which doesn’t help too much, but can get you upgrades.)

AMEX Platinum (this IS a referral)

  • 60,000 MR points after $1000 spend in 3 months (that’s enough for an economy round-trip to Europe on Aeroplan).
  • You get a full Priority Pass card, which entitles 1 person to free lounge access to over 600 lounges in airports around the world – very useful!
  • Annual (calendar year) $200 travel credit. When you use this credit, you have to do so with the Amex Travel folks – you can book flights, hotels, trains, etc. As the $200 credit is applied per calendar year, not for the year of the card, I suggest applying in Sep/Oct, or thereabouts. That way, when you get the card, you get the first $200 travel credit, and then after Dec 31, you get the second $200 travel credit within the same annual fee.
  • Probably the best travel/merchandise insurance you can get.
  • Special benefits at YYZ (lounge, speedy lines, etc).
  • You also get Club Carlson Gold Elite, Starwood Gold, and Accor Platinum status.
  • Quite a few more benefits.
  • A VERY hefty annual fee ($699). However, I believe it is worth it: if you apply later in the year, you get 2*$200 travel credit. That alone brings the actual fee down to $299. The lounge access + the 60,000 MR points alone are worth way more than $299 (I value the lounge access alone at more than $299). I would not, however, advise that you keep this card for more than a year.
  • Extremely high interest rate on balances – don’t keep a balance!

Sometimes these deals will benefit me under a referral program, and sometimes they won’t. Whatever credit card offer I post here is the best deal I know about for that card.