Best credit card perks and benefits

The best benefit of a credit card is subjective to your everyday spending categories and what is most accessible to you. While redeeming for a free flight might be a tremendous value to frequent travellers, if you don’t fly a lot, you might end up with a large pool of airline miles sitting in a balance where alternate redemptions may be of low value. In this case, redeeming for free groceries on a different credit card designed for grocery or cash-back benefits makes more sense.

The best benefits of a credit card in Canada are the ones that allow for the most flexibility in redemptions. Premium credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card come at a higher annual fee but offer flexible annual credits that can be used on a long list of travel and dining partners, unlimited lounge access at partner locations and even status matching with popular brands like Marriott Bonvoy.

Meanwhile, those who like eating out can find high-earn rates on a card like the American Express Cobalt Card, with up to 5x points on dining and groceries and a flexible redemption currency that can be transferred to everything from travel, hotels or even statement credit to pay off everyday bills–a popular choice for many new credit card holders in Canada.

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Best credit card perks vs. rewards

When considering which perks or rewards are right for you, it’s important to understand the difference first:

A perk is a benefit that’s included with your credit card, something such as:

  • Access to a lounge
  • Status matching
  • Car rental upgrades
  • Free nights at a hotel
  • Concierge service for booking dining and entertainment
  • Roadside assistance
  • Purchase and travel insurance
  • Annual travel credits
  • Flight buddy passes

A reward is something that you redeem a currency or certificate for through spending on a credit card:

  • Free groceries
  • Free gas
  • Hotel stays
  • Reward flights
  • Cash back
  • Gift cards or products

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Types of credit cards to look out for

There are several categories credit cards in Canada can be grouped into. These include:

Credit cards with the best benefits in Canada

A high-annual-fee credit card will yield the highest return, with one caveat: You must remember to use the rewards before their expiration dates.

For those who are part of the exclusive Aeroplan Elite Flyers Club, there are some high-value credit cards to consider. The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, American Express Aeroplan Reserve and CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege cards offer an Annual Worldwide Companion Pass, rollover Status Qualifying Miles (SQM), extended eUpgrade credit validity, Priority Rewards redemption credits and flight credit coupons. These perks are among the most valuable for a credit card in Canada, but remember, they're only beneficial if you make the most of them and redeem them before they expire.

If you fly less, you might want to consider a credit card offered through a grocery store like the PC World Elite Mastercard that gives you a high earn rate if you shop at Loblaws banner grocery stores, Esso or Mobil gas stations, and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies with a lower threshold for redeeming for cashback.

If you're someone who values simplicity and doesn't have the time to constantly track and optimize your perks and rewards, the Rogers Red World Elite Mastercard could be the perfect fit. With a $0 annual fee, a flat 1.5% cashback on Canadian-currency purchases, and 3% back on USD purchases that essentially refunds foreign exchange fees, it's a straightforward way to earn rewards without the hassle of managing them.

Which bank has the best credit card rewards?

Bank credit cards are quite competitive and offer many standard perks and rewards. However, slight differences like earn rates, accelerator and program participation might sway Canadians from one credit card to another. A few factors will persuade you towards the right program:

  • Which program offers you the most value (Aeroplan vs. Air Miles)
  • Which grocery you shop at (Loblaws vs. Metro vs. Sobeys)
  • Which gas station you fill up at (Esso vs. Shell)
  • Whether your bank offers an annual fee waiver for banking with them
  • Do you have a preferred airline? (Air Canada vs. WestJet)

Bottom line

Ultimately, you should analyze your spending categories and retailers, cross reference it with redemption partners and rewards value, and see which card will offer you the most value every year. Premium credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card are on paper the most prestigious in Canada, but come at a high annual fee.

For many Canadians, the lower-cost or no-fee credit cards offer just as much, if not more, value as the premium cards, so doing your research will set you up for rewards success.

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Winston Sih Journalism lecturer | Contributor

Winston Sih is a freelance multi-platform journalist and television host specializing in technology, digital media, travel, and personal finance. Sih works with a variety of clients as a media consultant, is a journalism lecturer at The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University, and media professor at Seneca Polytechnic.

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