Looking for the best credit card* in Canada? With so many different credit cards and spending styles, there isn’t actually one “best” credit card that works for everyone. But you can find the right credit card for you by identifying the features you want, your spending habits and your financial history. Compare the different types of available credit cards with a range of features and find the right card for you.
To choose the right credit card, you need to look at how you plan to use the card, your current financial situation and your future goals. These details allow you to compare benefits and features based on your circumstances so that you can find a credit card that suits your needs.
For example, if you want a credit card that offers rewards and perks, you could look at travel rewards cards or gold and platinum options. Or, if you want a card to help you manage your expenses, you could compare low interest rate or 0% or low purchase or balance transfer cards. You can use this guide to discover the types of cards available, who they’re suited to and learn how to find the right credit card for you.
0% or low interest balance transfer credit cards
- What are they? Balance transfer credit cards let you pay off an existing debt from a credit card with low or 0% interest for a set period of time (usually up to 10 months). You might also be able to consolidate other debts with a balance transfer card, such as personal loans.
- Who are these credit cards suited to? If you have existing credit card debt that’s accumulating high interest, a balance transfer can help you pay off that debt faster.
How can I find the best balance transfer credit card?
1. Compare balance transfer offers. Most balance transfer cards offer an introductory low or 0% interest rate, so you’ll need to look at how many months this rate applies and what interest rate is charged at the end of the introductory period.
2. Check for fees. As well as the annual fee, check to see if a one-off balance transfer fee will apply. A balance transfer fee is usually 1-3% of the amount you’re transferring.
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- What are they? Otherwise known as frequent flyer credit cards, travel rewards credit cards help you earn points or miles on everyday purchases, which can then be used for a variety of different rewards including travel and merchandise.
- Who should consider travel rewards cards? Anyone who wants to maximize their points or miles to enjoy free flights, hotels and other benefits.
How can I find the best travel rewards credit card?
Here are the key points to keep in mind so you can find a frequent flyer credit card that works for you:
- Which program is available? Some credit cards are tied directly to a specific airline rewards scheme, such as WestJet. Others allow you to transfer credit card rewards points to partner programs, such as the American Express Membership Rewards program.
- Compare the earn rate. The earn rate is the number of points or miles you earn per $1 spent. Also, check whether there’s a cap on how many points or miles you can earn each month or each year.
- Other valuable features. What other features do you want from your card? Are there any bonus points on offer, complimentary insurance, airport lounge passes or an annual fee waiver?
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No foreign transaction fee credit cards
- What are they? These credit cards are designed to make it more affordable to spend money overseas or online with international retailers. Unlike most debit and credit cards, they don’t charge a foreign transaction fee every time you use your card to spend in an international currency.
- Who are these credit cards suited to? If you’re a frequent traveller, have a vacation coming up or regularly use your credit card to shop online with international retailers, a no foreign transaction fee card could be a smart way to avoid extra costs – you’ll usually save yourself 2.5% on every transaction.
How can I find the best credit card with no foreign transaction fees?
Compare these key features:
- Annual fee. You may be saving on foreign currency conversion fees, but you’ll want to make sure the annual fee doesn’t offset these savings.
- Travel perks. If you’re looking to use your card overseas, see if you can get further savings with complimentary credit card travel insurance. Insurance coverage and eligibility requirements differ across cards, so compare your options to make sure the coverage is right for you. Other travel perks that could come with a no foreign transaction fee card include rewards programs and airport lounge access.
- Interest rates and fees. If you plan to use the card regularly, a card with a lower interest rate will reduce the cost of any balance you carry. Also check the rates and fees that may apply when you use your credit card at an overseas ATM.
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Credit cards with rewards and complimentary extras
- What are they? Rewards credit cards offer reward points based on the amount you spend. You can redeem your points for shopping, travel, gift vouchers and many other rewards.
- Who are these cards suited to? Frequent credit card users who want to maximize points or miles for everyday spending without being tied to a single airline rewards scheme.
How can I find the best rewards credit card for me?
Think about the following factors to help you choose a rewards credit card that suits your budget and goals:
- What kind of rewards do you want to redeem? Reward programs differ greatly in the variety of rewards they offer, from flights to shopping, gift cards, merchandise and experiences. Make sure the rewards available are of interest to you.
- Compare point earnings and caps. Check how many points or miles your card offers per $1 spent. Many rewards credit cards also have points caps that only allow you to earn a specified amount of points during a statement period, so check for this limitation too.
- Other features of the card. Look for complimentary insurances or balance transfer offers, as well as the rates and fees charged.
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Gold, platinum and black credit cards
- What are they? Gold and Platinum credit cards provide access to premium features such as complimentary insurance and concierge services. Black cards are considered the highest tier of credit cards and are typically invitation-only in Canada, with the highest earners and biggest spenders in the country swiping them.
- Who are these cards suited to? These cards are designed for high earners and big spenders who want extra features for paying with plastic.
How can I find the right gold or platinum credit card for me?
Here are the key questions to ask when you’re choosing a gold or platinum credit card:
- How much does the card cost? Because of their premium features, these cards typically have higher annual fees than other credit cards. Annual fees can sit around $450 or higher. To maximize the value you get from one of these cards, be sure you’ll regularly use the features it offers.
- What are the rates and limits? The purchase rate may not be as competitive on premium cards. But if you want a very high spending limit, this type of card could be suited to your needs.
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Cards with low or 0% purchase rates
- What are they? These credit cards offer a lower ongoing, variable interest rate on purchases when compared to other cards.
- Who are these credit cards suited to? If you plan on paying off purchases over time and want to keep your interest charges to a minimum, a low rate credit card could be a good option.
How can I find the best low rate credit card for me?
Compare the following major factors to help you find a low rate credit card that suits your needs:
- Compare interest rates. If you’re going to carry a balance from month to month, then the lower the purchase interest rate, the better. Compare the introductory and ongoing balance transfer rates, purchase rates and cash advance rates to make sure the deal is right for you.
- Fees. Check what other fees apply, including annual fees, balance transfer fees and joining/ongoing membership fees for rewards programs. These can significantly increase the cost of the card.
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Low and no annual fee credit cards
- What are they? Low and no annual fee credit cards have low or no fees, often $0 to $39 annually. This gives you the convenience of a credit card without high costs.
- Who are these credit cards suited to? If you regularly pay off your balance each month, a low fee card will be your cheapest option. This type of card is also practical if you rarely pay with plastic.
How can I find the right low or no annual fee credit card?
These key factors can help you find a low or no annual fee credit card that works for you:
- Compare fees and interest rates. The lower the fee, the better. Check whether the low fee applies throughout the life of the card or just for the first year. Also check the interest rate and ensure that interest charges won’t outweigh the low fee benefit.
- Combine with a balance transfer for more savings. If you have existing credit card debt, a balance transfer credit card can help you repay your debt with 0% or low interest. Remember you’ll still need to pay off the debt before the 0% or low interest period expires.
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Student credit cards
- What are they? Low cost credit card options that are available to students who need a convenient line of credit.
- Who are these cards suited to? Students who are looking for affordable credit card options, and who may not qualify for other cards. They’re a good way to build credit history and understand the responsibilities of debt.
Which student credit card is right for me?
While there isn’t one “best” student credit card for everyone, thinking about these factors will help you find one that works for your lifestyle and spending habits:
- Are you eligible? Even though they’re called “student credit cards”, some of these products still have minimum income, employment and residency criteria you must fulfill in order to be eligible. For example, most cards have a minimum income requirement of $12,000 or you will need a guarantor – such as a parent – to share the financial responsibilities of the card. You may also have to be under a certain age or prove that you’re in college or university.
- Compare key features. Check what interest rate will apply to your purchases and whether or not you’ll be charged an annual fee. Also consider low foreign transaction fees if you plan to use the card overseas during a study abroad year or a vacation.
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Business credit cards
- What are they? Business credit cards give your business access to a convenient line of credit to help you manage fluctuations in your cash flow. Additional cards and spending caps also mean you can manage your employees’ spending.
- Who are these cards suited to? There are business credit cards for individuals, small businesses and corporations that provide access to credit to help manage finances.
How can I find the best credit card for my business?
These simple steps will help you compare a range of business credit cards and choose one that works for your company’s needs:
- Consider the card features. You can opt for a card that earns rewards points or miles, offers complimentary insurances or helps you keep costs down with a low interest rate or annual fee. Some business credit cards also offer integration with accounting software and include additional cards for employees. These extras may cost a small fee but may end up saving you money and time in the long run.
- Assess the costs. If cash flow issues mean you won’t always be able to pay off the card immediately, then seek a card with a low purchase rate. If your key requirement is being able to track and centralize business spending, look at other features such as complimentary business tools.
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Credit cards with contactless payments
- What are they? Most credit cards now offer tap-and-go payments at checkout. A growing number of options also link with Apple Pay and Android Pay so you can make payments from a compatible mobile phone or device.
- Who are these cards suited to? iPhone and Android users who want to cut their time at the checkout and increase the convenience of credit card payments.
Weigh up the following factors when choosing one of these cards:
- Provider. Apple Pay works with most of the big banks in Canada including RBC, BMO, TD, ScotiaBank, CIBC, Tangerine and others. If your preferred bank hasn’t launched Apple Pay yet, it might be wiser to wait for it to adopt the technology rather than applying for the card now.
- Eligible devices. Apple Pay is only available on Apple devices. It’s supported on newer model iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch and Mac. If you’re on an older iPhone device which an older iOS variant, you’ll have to update if you want to access Apple Pay.
- Which mobile phones are compatible with Android Pay? Almost all Android smartphones with NFC (Near Field Communication) can take advantage of Android Pay. This includes the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, Sony Xperia Z5, Nexus 6P or Samsung Galaxy S6, S7. If you’re still unsure check whether your current smartphone accepts Android Pay.
- Which banks support Android Pay? Of the big five banks, CIBC, BMO and ScotiaBank currently offer Android Pay (as of November 2018). It is compatible with other financial institutions in Canada including National Bank, Desjardins, President’s Choice Financial, ATB Financial and Canadian Tire Financial Services.
Get more value from a credit card by comparing the latest offers and applying now. Or, learn more about credit cards in our guide here.
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