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Updated: December 07, 2023

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Best credit cards in Canada for December 2023

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware this post may contain links to products from our partners. We may receive a commission for products or services you sign up for through partner links.

Fact Checked: Scott Birke


Updated: December 07, 2023

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

We appreciate the perks of the best credit cards here at, but we can't claim there’s one best credit card in Canada for everyone.

The range of best Canadian credit cards available is vast, spanning cards that earn flexible cash back and travel rewards to those with low interest rates and low credit score requirements. But how do you separate the best Canadian credit cards from the rest? 

To help you actually choose which is the best credit card for you, here's our list of the best credit cards in Canada broken down by category.

  • Review methodology: How we chose the best credit cards in Canada

    + rates credit cards on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best) and are based on the following criteria: annual percentage rate (APR), annual fee, balance transfer fee, foreign transaction fee, penalty fee and APR, rewards programs, sign-up bonuses, customer service, security, additional features, acceptance, and credit score requirements. For more, read’s complete review methodology.

    Different categories of cards are rated using different weightings and each card is rated according to its primary category.’s business relationships have no effect on ratings.

Best credit card in Canada: American Express Cobalt

5x Earn 5x the points on food and drinks at restaurants and with food delivery

3x Earn 3x the points on streaming subscriptions

2x Earn 2x the points on travel and transit

1x Earn 1x the points on everything else

$100 Up to $100 USD to use on hotel amenities (e.g. dining, spa) when you stay two or more consecutive nights

20.99% Purchase APR

21.99% Balance Transfer Rate

21.99% Cash Advance APR

$155.88 Annual Fee 12.99/mo

Fair Recommended Credit Score

$0.00 Required Annual Personal Income

  • Overview of the Amex Cobalt


    The Amex Cobalt is one of the best credit cards for travel rewards in Canada. Compared to other mid-tier travel cards, this option offers better value and versatility. From its high earn rate in everyday spending categories to its full suite of insurance offerings, this card is sure to be regularly used in your wallet.

    While $155.88 is a higher annual fee for a mid-range card, they break it down into manageable monthly payments of $12.99 making it much more accessible to all.

    Earn rate: Earn 5x the points per $1 spent on eating & drinking (think groceries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and food delivery), earn 3x the points on streaming subscriptions (e.g. Apple TV+, Crave, Disney+, Netflix, Spotify and more), earn 2x the points on gas, ridesharing, taxis, flights, subway and trains, and earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else (plus additional bonus for hotel and car rental bookings through Amex Travel Online).

    Insurance: Emergency medial, travel accident, flight delay, lost luggage, hotel burglarly, rental car insurance and more—the Cobalt comes packed with travel insurance. It'll even pay up to $1,000 in the event of theft, loss, or accidental damage anywhere in the world (you just have to have bought your phone with the card within 2 years from date of incident).

    Read more: The best Amex cards in Canada

    Terms and conditions apply.

Compare other top credit cards in Canada

Best credit card for travel points: Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card

2x Earn 2x the Scene+ points for every you spend

0% No foreign transaction fees

10 Complimentary airport lounge passes per year

9.99% Purchase APR

$399.00 Annual Fee

0.00% Foreign Transaction Fee

Good Recommended Credit Score

Welcome Offer Ends Oct 31

Earn up to $2,100* in value in the first 14 months, including up to 60,0004 bonus Scene+ points.

Claim offer
  • Overview of the Scotiabank Platinum Amex


    It's hard to beat a card that gives you high earn rates on everyday expenses and a flexible points program that allows you to use those points on any airline, anytime without restriction. Then, to avoid foreign transaction fees while travelling puts the Scotia gold over the top.

    Oh wait! The travel insurance is what really gives the Scotia Amex Gold its winning status in the travel category. Not all cards, for a moderate annual fee, give you Emergency Medical travel insurance and Travel Accident insurance. But then, they throw in trip cancellation, flight delay, lost baggage, hotel burglary, rental car insurance, plus new mobile device insurance, purchase security and extended warranty—it's one of the best insurance packages I've seen.

    While it doesn't come with Airport lounge passes, it does give you a discount for your membership to Priority Pass giving you access to 1,200 lounges across the globe, saving you anywhere from $8.25 to $49.08 per month (I couldn't see in their fine print what the discount actually is, I need to do some more research.)

Compare other best credit cards for travel points

Read more: Best travel credit cards

Best credit card for cash back: CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card

4% Earn 4% cash back on gas, EV charging, and groceries.

2% Earn 2% cash back on dining, transportation, recurring payments or bills.

1% Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases with no limit.

10 cents Save 10 cents per litre with CIBC and Journie Rewards (Ultramar, Chevron, Pioneer, Fas Gas)

20.99% Purchase APR

22.99% Balance Transfer Rate

22.99% Cash Advance APR 21.99% for Quebec residents

$120.00 Annual Fee First year free. Each additional card is $30 per year, max 3.

Good Recommended Credit Score

$60,000.00 Required Annual Personal Income

  • Overview of the CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite


    If we could build the ideal cash back rewards card, it would pretty much look like this. As far as rewards credit cards go, the CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card makes earning and redeeming cash back almost effortless. With high flat rates and no rotating categories, this is a general cash back card that deserves a top spot in your wallet.

    You’ll earn between 1% and 4% cash back no limit on the total cash back you can earn. After the Welcome Offer ends, you’ll earn 4% on some categories that probably take up a good portion of your spending, eligible gas, EV charging and groceries; 2% on eligible transportation, dining purchases and recurring payments such as bills; and 1% on all other eligible purchases. CIBC sets you up for success with cash back categories that should naturally cover your spending on needs, wants and fun and keeps it simple by locking these categories in rather than switching them up.

    This isn’t a bad card for travelling either with benefits like insurance and discounted car rentals along with global perks like 1% cash back for every $1.00 spent on a CIBC Global Money Transfer™.

    Although a $120 annual fee might seem steep for a credit card outside of the premium category, we feel that it’s worth paying for these high base earning rates. Plus, you can actually have this fee waived every year you also have a CIBC Smart Plus™ Account. This is a chequing account with unlimited transactions and few fees.

    To qualify for the CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card, you’ll need an individual income of $60,000 or more or a household income of $100,000. Interest rates for this card are high at 20.99% for its Purchase Annual Interest Rate and 22.99% (for non-Quebec residents only) for its Cash Advance Annual Interest Rate along with a Balance Transfer Annual Interest Rate of 22.99% (for non-Quebec residents only), so we don’t recommend this card if there’s any chance you won’t be able to pay off your balance in full from month to month. But otherwise, consider it if you need a card for the bulk of your purchases.

    Read our CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card review

    This is a digital-exclusive offer.

    To be eligible for this offer:

    1) this offer must have been directly communicated to you from CIBC or from a partner/affiliate; and

    2) you must apply for the eligible card through the link provided in the CIBC or partner/affiliate communication to you.†

    This offer is reserved for you. Please do not forward it to anyone else.

    CIBC may approve your application, but you are not eligible to receive this Offer if you have opened, transferred or cancelled another eligible card within the last 12 months.†

    †Terms and Conditions Apply

    This offer is not available for the residents of Quebec. For Quebec Residents offer - visit product page here

    Résidents du Québec : Pour en savoir plus sur ce produit CIBC, suivez ce lien

Compare other great credit cards for cash back

Read more: Best cash back credit cards in Canada

Best credit card for students: BMO CashBack® MasterCard®

3% Cardholders earn 3% (up to a monthly max of $500) cash back on groceries

1% Cardholders can earn 1% (up to $500 per month) on any recurring bill payments and 0.5% (no monthly max) on all other eligible purchases

0.5% Cardholders can earn 0.5% (no monthly max) on all other eligible purchases

20.99% Purchase APR

22.99% Cash Advance APR

$0.00 Annual Fee

Fair Recommended Credit Score

$15,000.00 Required Annual Personal Income

Welcome Offer Ends May 31

Get 5% cash back in your first 3 months and 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months

Claim offer
  • Overview of the BMO CashBack Mastercard


    Consistently one of the best credit cards for students, the BMO Cash Back Mastercard understands what students need. Kicking it off with no annual fee is one thing, but you can earn up to $125 in cash back in your first three months with its 5% cash back welcome offer—essentially, they're paying you to use this card.

    Then it rewards on the right categories without forcing you to shop at any particular store. You get 3% on cash back on all grocery stores and supermarkets (whatever's closest to you), 1% cash back on recurring bills (think Spotify, Netflix, cell phone, internet) and 0.5% cash back on everything else.

    You also don't have to wait for your cash back, you can redeem it anytime. Some cards force you into monthly or annual pay outs. And, you can put that cash back towards your credit card or a BMO chequing or savings account or into a BMO investor line account (a great way to start investing early).

    The only difference between the Student BMO CashBack Mastercard and the BMO CashBack Mastercard is the non-student version gives you a 0.99% balance transfer for 9 months—so if you're carrying credit card debt, pay it off faster with lower interest rates.

    Finally, the extended warranty insurance and purchase protection makes buying your laptop and cell phone a little more comfortable knowing BMO has your back in case something bad happens.

    And, if you do need a new laptop, you can use BMO PaySmart™ installment plans that turns your credit card purchases into smaller, interest-free monthly payments with a low fee.

Compare other fantastic credit cards for students

Read more: Best student credit cards

Best credit card for balance transfers: MBNA True Line® Mastercard®

0% New cardholders can enjoy a 0% promotional annual interest rate† (a 3% transfer fee applies) for 12 months on any balance transfer✪ completed within 90 days of opening the account

12.99% Purchase APR

12.99% Balance Transfer Rate

24.99% Cash Advance APR

$0.00 Annual Fee

Good Recommended Credit Score

  • Overview of the MBNA True Line Mastercard


    You just can't beat a 0% balance transfer offer (even with a 3% fee) because it gives you a whole year, 365 days to pay down that balance. And, there's no annual fee, so it's a credit card that really helps you pay down debt without costing you a big up front payment.

    Once your debt is paid off, you can continue to enjoy a low interest rate of 12.99% (which, sadly, also applies to any new balance transfers). Its cash advance fee of 24.99% is a deterrent and should be avoided.

    If you buy something big, anything over $100, take advantage of the MBNA Payment Plan which breaks up big purchases into monthly payment terms of, 6. 12, or 18 months for a small fee.

Compare other top credit cards for balance transfers

Read more: Best balance transfer credit cards

Best credit card for rewards: CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card

2 Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre†

1 Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent at eligible gas stations, EV charging, grocery stores and drug stores†

1 Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases†

20.99% Purchase APR

22.99% Balance Transfer Rate

22.99% Cash Advance APR

$139.00 Annual Fee

Good Recommended Credit Score

$15,000.00 Required Annual Household Income

  • Overview of the CIBC Aventura Gold


    There are many rewards cards, but the CIBC Aventura Gold takes the gold for its perfect balance of a mid-tier annual fee ($139, free in the first year) and with loads of ultra flexible Aventura points (any airline, anytime). And the rewards keep piling up: NEXUS application fee rebate ($50), 4 Airport lounge passes (over $190 value), and three free authorized users ($50 each)—all told a value worth over $1,200.

    But that's just the welcome offer.

    You'll earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel through CIBC Rewards Centre, 1.5 points on gas, EV charging, groceries (earn more with Journie Rewards by filling up with Pioneer, Chevron, FasGas and Ultramar), and drug stores, and 1 point on all other purchases per $1 spent.

    Then let's tack on emergency medical, travel accident, flight delay, baggage, rental car, hotel burglary and mobile device insurance—and you are ready to reap the Aventura rewards.

Compare other best credit cards for rewards

Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard® American Express Cobalt® Card
Scotiabank gold american express credit card mbna rewards world elite mastercard credit card american express Cobalt credit card
Scotia Gold Amex MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard American Express Cobalt
Apply now Apply now Apply now

Read more: Best rewards credit cards

Best credit card for airport lounge access: American Express The Platinum Card

2 Earn two points for every $1 in card purchases on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada and on eligible travel, and one point for every $1 in all other Card purchases.

20.99% Purchase APR The Preferred rate of 20.99% applies to your Flexible Payment Option balance.

$799.00 Annual Fee Includes $200 annual travel credit and $200 annual dining credit

2.50% Foreign Transaction Fee

Excellent Recommended Credit Score

  • Overview of the Amex The Platinum


    With unlimited access to Airport lounges around the world, you should step into luxury and prestige of the Amex The Platinum. This card has everyone talking in the headquarters and there are many reasons why.

    For starters, the main drawback is its $799 annual fee. But, in "credit card math" land, it's basically free when they give you 100,000 Membership Rewards points (a value of $1,000). Amex also rewards its cardholders with a $200 annual travel credit and an annual $200 dining credit, so now the card is a profit centre (something like that anyway).

    But its biggest perk is the American Express Global Lounge Collection giving you unlimited access to more than 1,300 airport lounges across 140 countries.

    Make no mistake about it, this is a premium card and will require an good to excellent credit score, but there is no minimum income requirement (nor is there a pre-set spending limit because it's a charge card).

    If you book with American Express Travel, you can get even more benefits with an average value of $550 US at over 1,300 properties giving you daily breakfast for two, late check-out, noon check-in, in-room wi-fi and room upgrades when available.

    This card also fast tracks you to Hilton Honors gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status. If you're flying out of Toronto's Pearson Airport, you can get through the security lane faster, complimentary valet service, and a 15% discount on parking.

    The Platinum also includes a full suite of travel insurance coverage from out of province/country emergency medical up to $5,000,000 for 15 days, $500,000 travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip interruption insurance, flight delay insurance, baggage delay, lost/stolen baggage, hotel burglary, and rental car insurance.

    If that's not enough, consider The Platinum Card® has its own website—a dedicated hub curated for cardmembers to learn more about coverage and discover more special offers.

    , ††, , ***, Terms and Conditions apply

Compare other great credit cards for airport lounge access

Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card
Scotiabank Passport visa infinite credit card TD aeroplan visa infinite privilege credit card scotiabank platinum american express credit card
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite review TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege review Scotiabank Platinum Amex
Apply now Apply now Apply now

Read more: best airport lounge access credit cards

Best credit card with no annual fee: Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

2% Earn 2% cash back on 2 categories of your choice (e.g. groceries, recurring bills, gas, drug stores, etc.)

3 Get a Tangerine Savings account and add a 3rd 2% cash back category.

0.5% Earn 0.50% on all your other everyday purchases.

19.95% Purchase APR

1.95% Balance Transfer Rate 1.95% interest for first 6 months, 19.95% after that.

19.95% Cash Advance APR $3.50 within Canada, $5.00 outside Canada

3.00% Balance Transfer Fee 3.00% of the amount transferred, or minimum of $5.00

$0.00 Annual Fee $0 for additional cardholders

2.50% Foreign Transaction Fee

Fair Recommended Credit Score

$12,000.00 Required Annual Personal Income

Welcome Offer Ends Jan 31

Get 10% cash back on up to $1,000 in everyday purchases made within 2 months. Pay only 1.95% balance transfer interest for the first 6 months.

Claim offer
  • Overview of the Tangerine Money-Back


    What's better than a credit card with no-annual fee? One that rewards you with unlimited cash back rewards on everyday purchases (that you pick).

    Until January 31, 2024, you can get 10% cash back in your first two months (up to $100).

    Now, Tangerine has a unique approach to cash back. Instead of telling you where you'll earn the most cash back and limiting you to certain categories they select, they instead give you the options. There are 10 categories to pick from: grocery, furniture, restaurants, hotel-motel, gas, recurring bills, drug stores, home improvement, entertainment, and public transportation and parking. So, just pick where you spend the most amount of money and start reeling in the cash. Anything outside those categories earns 0.50% cash back.

    Your cash back can be applied to your credit card balance OR you can put it into a free Tangerine Savings account which unlocks a third 2% cash back category—talk about win-win.

    Another little bonus, during your first 30 days, you can transfer existing credit card balances for a low 1.95% interest for 6 months which makes switching credit cards even easier.

    I'm also a big fan of the Tangerine app. I have my emergency fund there as well as many sinking funds for different purposes (renovations, car maintenance, and more). The interface is user friendly and it's all free.

    Finally, this credit card gives you purchase assurance to cover loss, theft or damage on most new insured items for 90 days after purchase and extended warranty which doubles the manufacturer's warranty.

Compare the other best credit cards with no annual fee

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® American Express® Green Card RBC Cash Back Mastercard
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard credit card American Express Green Card credit card RBC Cash Back Mastercard credit card
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard American Express Green review RBC Cash Back review
Apply now Apply now Apply now

Read more: Best no annual fee credit cards

Best credit card for bad credit: Neo Secured Credit

15% Up to 15% on first new purchases with Neo partners

5% With Neo Partners

1%-3% on gas and groceries

3%-4% Streaming, ridesharing, and food delivery services

2%-3% With retail partners

0.5% On everything else

19.99% - 26.99% Variable APR

24.99% - 28.99% Cash Advance APR Plus a $2.50 fee in Canada, $5 fee anywhere else

$0.00 Annual Fee Option to pay $4.99/month for premium membership to unlock higher cash back rewards

Poor Recommended Credit Score

$0.00 Required Annual Personal Income

  • Overview of the Neo Secured Credit card


    Guaranteed approval, avoid a hard credit check, and get started with as little as $50—sounds like an ideal card.

    Neo goes further and offers up to 5% cash cash with its partners (and there are many)

    Fast food: Subway, Boston Pizza, Papa John's Five Guys, Booster Juice, Hero Certified Burgers and more

    Restaurants: Joey's, Earl's The Keg, Cora's, Shoeless Joe's and more

    Grocery stores: Loblaws (No Frills, too), Walmet, Real Canadian Superstore

    Clothing: Gap, Old Navy, Lululemon, Roots, Hudson Bay, and more.

    Streaming with Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime. Get gas from Shell, Esso, and Petro Canada.

    These partners just keep adding up to great cash back.

    The "everyday" cash back is 1% in gas and groceries, even they aren't partnered.

    And, you get all this with no annual fee and a sweet app with smart financial tools that help you build back your credit, fast.

Other best credit cards for bad credit (secured cards)

Capital One® Guaranteed Secured Mastercard review Home Trust Secured Visa KOHO Extra
Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard credit card Home trust secured visa credit card Koho Extra Prepaid credit card
Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard review Home Trust Secured Visa review KOHO Extra review
Apply now Apply now Apply now

Read more: Best secured credit cards

Expert Tip: Choosing the best Canadian credit card

Consider your personal spending habits when choosing the best credit card for you. What to look for when choosing the best credit card can be daunting, but if you break it down by your goals and your spending habits then it will be easier to decide. Consider this: are you more likely to use points? Or would you prefer cash back? Do you spend more money on groceries or do you like eating out? Do you have loyalty to any specific brands or are you willing to shop around? Choosing the best credit card means choosing the one that you are personally going to get the most value from based on your lifestyle. Take the time to consider where you shop and compare earning rates, partners, and of course, rewards value.

Hannah Logan, credit card, saving and travel expert

How do credit cards work?

Let’s get back to basics for a moment and talk about how credit cards actually work from the application process to paying off your balance.

Applying for a credit card

When you apply for a credit card, you are typically authorizing a credit card issuing to do a hard credit check to determine your eligibility. They’ll analyze your credit file for the following:

  • Borrowing history and payments
  • Credit history and mix of accounts
  • The total amount of debt you owe
  • The age of your credit accounts

Overall, they’re looking for your creditworthiness, or how likely you are to repay your debt. 

If you’re approved, you’ll be assigned a credit limit based on what the issuer believes you would reasonably be able to pay back based on your credit experience and cash flow. This credit limit, also referred to as a credit line or spending limit, is the total amount you’re permitted to spend on your card. You may not be permitted to exceed this limit.

Traditional credit cards are unsecured, meaning they don’t require you to make a deposit when opening. Instead, they have credit and income criteria they’re looking for to decide if you’re a good candidate for new credit. Secured cards, on the other hand, work differently. They do require you to make a deposit as a form of collateral, which protects the issuers in the event that you’re not able to pay back what you owe. Issuers are far more likely to accept applicants with lower credit scores and more imperfect credit histories for secured cards because of this.

While many secured card applications still include a credit check, these cards typically determine your credit limit based on the amount you deposit rather than your credit. Usually, your security deposit is equal to your credit line. So if you deposit $1,000, you can spend up to $1,000.

Spending with a credit card

A credit card is a revolving line of credit. Essentially, you can use it and pay it off for as long as your account is still open. Each time you pay back what you owe, your credit limit resets and you can borrow up to your credit limit again. In some cases, you can exceed your credit limit, but this depends on what your card issuer is willing to let slide.

Every time you put money on your card, you’re going into debt until you repay your balance. How long you carry that debt is up to you.

Making credit card payments

You make credit card payments every month to repay some or all of your balance. You can either make the minimum payment, which is calculated as a percentage of your balance (usually 2% or 3%), a full payment of the statement balance, or a custom amount between these two. Paying off your full balance each month is key to avoiding debt and interest.

Most issuers grant cardholders an interest-free payment grace period (usually 21 days), after which at least the minimum payment is required. After the grace period, interest begins to accrue on any remaining debt. 

Building credit with a credit card

Using credit affects your credit. Issuers report your payment activity to the credit bureaus, which can work against you or in your favour depending on if you’re staying on top of your payments. 

If you make your credit card payments on time every month, your score should steadily increase. If you make your payments after the due date or miss them entirely, your score may rapidly fall. Other factors such as how much of your credit limit you use, how many other credit accounts you have, and how old your credit cards are can affect your credit.

The more responsible you are with your credit card and the less debt you carry, the more creditworthy you appear in the eyes of lenders. Remember that everything lands on your report eventually and avoid maxing out your cards, missing payments, etc.

Read more: 7 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

How does credit card interest work?

Credit card interest is charged when you don’t pay off your balance in full. You’ll pay the regular purchase APR on whatever portion of your credit card balance remains on your account after its posted due date. Every month, you’ll receive a statement that tells you how much you’ve spent and what you owe. More specifically:  

  • What your full statement balance is or the total amount you spent in the previous statement period
  • The minimum payment you’re required to make
  • When the minimum payment is due

You need to pay at least the minimum payment to keep your account in good standing. But if you pay only the minimum, you’ll owe interest on what remains of your statement balance.

Take this example. Say your credit card charges a regular purchase APR of 19.99%. Over the course of a month, you spend $2,000 on that card. Your minimum payment is $20, and this is what you pay on the due date. You carry the remaining balance of $1,980 into the next statement period. You’ll continue owing interest on this amount until it’s paid off in full. If you take six months to repay the balance and don’t spend any more on the card until then (or for the sake of this example make other payments), you will pay a total of $117.09 in interest for a grand total of $2,097.09.

Credit card interest rates are usually variable, so they can change at the issuer’s discretion. Click the link below for more information about how interest is calculated.

Read more: Understanding and Calculating Credit Card Interest

Types of credit cards in Canada

As you can probably guess from the fact that we’ve chosen 14 different credit cards just for this list, there are a lot of different types of credit cards. On the surface, credit cards all serve the same purpose of giving us an easy way to spend money and borrow. But when you get down to the details, different cards can help borrowers achieve very different end goals.

Take a look at the seven main categories of cards.

Rewards credit cards

Rewards cards pay you in some way when you spend. This can be in the form of cash back, travel, or points. Redemption options and earnings rates will vary by card, but the general idea is that you’re earning something on some or all of your spending. Rewards cards often earn the most rewards in a certain category such as groceries or travel.

Branded credit cards

Branded credit cards are offered by credit card issuers in partnership with other corporations such as retailers, airlines, or hotels. These typically earn the most rewards for loyalty programs specific to the associated brand and may also offer perks like preferred bookings, discounts, or priority treatment.

Student and beginner credit cards

Credit card issuers for student and starter cards don’t expect to see applicants with polished, well-rounded credit histories and shiny credit scores. There’s definitely a time and a place for starter cards. College students, new immigrants to Canada, and people rebuilding after bankruptcy are just a few examples of those who might benefit from these cards.

Balance transfer cards

Balance transfer credit cards are different from your typical credit card. They’re not meant to replace your other cards but rather provide a vehicle for debt repayment. By transferring multiple card balances to one single balance transfer credit card, you can save on interest and make your life easier as you work to pay back what you owe. These cards often offer promotional 0% APRs for a set number of months from account opening so you don’t have to start paying interest right away.

Low-interest credit cards

Like a balance transfer credit card, a low-interest credit card is designed to give you a break. But rather than a low introductory rate, these have regular APRs that are lower than comparable cards so that when you do carry a balance, you won’t owe as much interest in the long run. These can be smart for people who struggle with debt and overspending.

Secured credit cards

Secured cards are unlike unsecured cards in that they require refundable security deposits when you sign up. But functionally, secured and unsecured cards work in the same way.

You can spend up to your limit and will owe a portion of your balance each statement period. You’re responsible for making your payments on time and your activity is reported to the bureaus. Secured cards are easier to get, so they can be better for those with bad or brand-new credit.

Business credit cards

Business cards can help business owners and entrepreneurs simplify their business-related spending and save money on certain expenses. For example, if you travel a lot for work, you could get a business card that offers benefits for frequent travel. If you spend a lot on marketing, you could get a rewards card that earns points in this category. 

Business cards can fit into almost any of the categories already mentioned but are specifically for business owners.

5 ways to compare the best credit cards in Canada

When choosing the right credit card for you, you should be mindful of the good and the bad. Try to look into all of the following details when comparing your options.


Any fees your card has will eat into your rewards earning – and budget. This is why it’s important to be mindful of annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and more when thinking about signing up for a card.

But free isn’t always better. Often, great cards are worth paying for. A card’s value can easily cancel out an annual fee in just a month or two if it includes a variety of statement credits, discounts, and perks. Consider what fees you’re willing to pay for the benefits of having a particular card.

Read more: Why Pay for a Credit Card with an Annual Fee?

Credit card rewards

One of the most significant features of any reward/cash-back card is how fast and easy it is to earn rewards/cash. Overall, the higher the earn rate, the better.

However, to really understand a card’s value, it’s essential to know what points are actually worth in real-world terms as well as how easy they are to use. Flexible redemption is almost always more important than higher rates. Bonus points (sorry) if rewards can be transferred to other programs.

Credit card perks

Cards can offer a wide variety of perks. Often, the type of card dictates what types of perks you may get. For example, a card that earns travel rewards may include complimentary travel insurance. Low-interest credit cards may include purchase protection.

Whenever you get to the perks section of a card’s sales page, you should think as realistically as possible. Sure free stuff is nice, but which perks are you actually going to use and which ones are you going to forget you have? Which ones do you already pay for that you could save money on and which ones would you never pay for but use if you had them for free?

Examples of credit card perks include: 

Credit card interest

APRs are a huge factor for any kind of credit card, especially for people who don’t pay off their balance in full each statement period. Pay close attention to how much interest you might pay if you carry a balance, make a balance transfer, request a cash advance, or miss a due date on your card payment.

Credit card sign-up bonuses

The bigger the welcome bonus, the better. But we generally favour substance over flash, and we’re critical of cards that won’t deliver repeated value over time. Even the best credit card sign-up bonus won’t make a mediocre card worth signing up for, so don’t sign up for a card to get a bonus unless you would sign up if it didn’t have that bonus too.

Read more: Best credit card offers

How to sign up for a credit card in Canada

When signing up for a credit card, you’ll need to fill out an application. Typically, this asks for the following items: 

  • Your personal information including your full legal name and date of birth
  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Your permanent address 
  • Details about your income and employment (often including how much you earn and the terms of your employment)

After providing these details, the issuer of the card you’re applying for will review your application. If you qualify or disqualify automatically, you’ll receive a near-instant decision. If the issuer has concerns about some of the information you’ve given or just needs to take a closer look at your application, you may be asked to wait a few business days for a final decision. 

Before you fill out any application, check for prequalification if it’s an option. This is a good idea because applications almost always do hard credit checks, which can negatively impact your credit, especially if you have several new ones together on your credit report. Prequalification uses a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit.

If you’re approved, you’ll usually receive your physical card in the mail a week or two after applying. Some cards offer a digital version you can start using right away.

Note: Got a sign-up bonus you think you can easily qualify for? Make sure to adjust your spending as needed to hit the spending requirements for the bonus, within reason. Maybe swap a bill payment or two over to this new card or use this one for the majority of your grocery purchases for a few weeks.

Activate your card when it arrives and start using it right away.

Tips for using a credit card

Credit cards can empower you to spend more freely and even save money on your expenses. But they can also be dangerous. If you’re not careful, you can quickly go into debt or damage your credit with a credit card.

Here are five tips for using credit safely. 

Pay your bill on the same day every month – Rather than trust yourself to remember to pay your bill when it’s due, set yourself a reminder for the same day each month. Or, better yet, schedule your payments to come out of a linked bank account automatically before or on the due date.

Make more than your minimum payment – Whenever you can, try to pay off your full statement balance each month rather than the minimum payment. Though you can get away with only paying the minimum, you’ll get charged interest on the rest of your balance.

Check your statements often – Get into a habit of reading through your credit card transactions on a regular basis, maybe weekly or biweekly. This way, you have a better idea of your spending habits and can catch any suspicious charges as early as possible.

Watch your credit score – You can check your credit score at any time without impacting your credit, and this is an especially great idea if you’re working to improve your score. Even if your credit is in good shape, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on how it’s changing.

Use it like a debit card – Some of the best advice we can give credit card users new and old is to pretend your card is actually a debit card. Use only what you know you have in the bank and pay it off right away. Do your best to stay well under your credit limit.

Should you get a credit card?

Above all, a credit card is a convenient tool that can have serious consequences on your financial life. It’s important to remember that when you use a card, you’re taking out a temporary loan from your issuer. This is a big deal and you shouldn’t take using your credit card lightly.

Credit cards have both pros and cons. They, of course, offer purchasing convenience, and smart use of a card can help you build a solid credit score and thus make it easier to be approved for a loan or a mortgage in the future. Add to that the potential for rewards and freebies and there are a lot of reasons to sign up for one.

But the possible downsides are just as dramatic, often even more. Poor credit card use can lead to overspending, unsustainable debt levels, and bad credit that can take years to repair.

If you feel nervous about your ability to use a credit card safely and responsibly, consider an alternative until you’re ready.

Read more: Credit Card Alternatives: Debit Cards, Prepaid Cards and Charge Cards

American vs. Canadian credit cards

American and Canadian credit card products are surprisingly different. Some cards are available to both Americans and Canadians while others are available in only one country. 

Many U.S. credit cards do permit Canadian citizens to apply, but there are a few barriers to consider. One is your credit. U.S. and Canadian credit histories are separate, and your Canadian credit history (unfortunately) won’t usually count when you’re applying for a U.S. card. So if you’ve got your eye on an American credit card as a Canadian citizen, get to work on your U.S. credit for a better chance of approval.

Read more: U.S. Credit Cards That We’re Unabashedly Jealous of in Canada

Credit card issuer vs. credit card network

If you’re going to make the most of your credit cards, it’s important to understand the distinction between an issuer and a network. A credit card issuer is a financial institution (like a bank or credit union) that issues and manages your credit card. They approve or deny your application, establish a card’s earning rate and perks, and process your payments.

While there are hundreds of different issuers in Canada, there are only three main networks: Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. (Discover is also a network somewhat popular in the U.S., but few Canadian merchants accept their cards.) Networks set the fees that merchants pay for processing a credit card transaction. American Express is both an issuer and a network while Visa and Mastercard are networks only.

For a breakdown of the best of each network, check out our top credit card picks for VisaMastercard and American Express in Canada.

Best Canadian credit card FAQs

  • What are the different credit card companies in Canada?


    Most financial institutions such as a banks or credit unions can have their own credit cards, and some credit card companies offer only credit cards.

  • Is one credit card network better than the others?


    Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted networks. These cards are accepted just about anywhere in the world you go and can be used online with most retailers.

  • What minimum income do you need to qualify for a credit card?


    Credit cards may or may not have strict income requirements. Depending on the card you’re applying for, these requirements could be low – $15,000 is a fairly common minimum – or much higher – $100,000 or more. As a rule, the more premium the card, the higher the minimum accepted income.

  • How many credit cards should you have?


    This question has a potentially frustrating answer: it depends. While it’s more than okay for some people to have multiple credit cards, others will be better off sticking with one. The right balance depends on your personal credit habits. If you use your credit card for everything, always pay your bills on time, and don’t have a problem with overspending, you might be fine to have a few for different purposes such as one for your everyday spending, one for travel, and one for larger purchases. Read more in our guide to How many credit cards should you have?

Summary: Best credit cards in Canada

Best Canadian credit cards Best credit card by category Apply now
Amex Cobalt credit card American Express Cobalt
Best credit card in Canada
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Scotiabank Platinum American Express
Best credit card for travel
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CIBC dividend visa infinite CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite
Best credit card for cash back
Apply now
BMO cash back mastercard credit card BMO CashBack Mastercard
Best credit card for students

Apply now
mbna true line mastercard credit card MBNA True Line Mastercard
Best credit card for balance transfers
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CIBC Aventura gold credit card CIBC Aventura Gold
Best credit card for rewards
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Amex The platinum credit card American Express The Platinum
Best credit card for airport lounge access
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tangerine money back credit card Tangerine Money-Back
Best credit card with no annual fee
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Neo secured credit card Neo Secure credit
Best credit card for bad credit

Apply now

Canadian credit cards come in many different shapes and sizes. Okay, so they’re all pretty much the same shape and size, but they’re really varied in terms of what they require, what they offer, and who they’re best for.

If you’re searching for your next credit card or your very first one, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to make the decision. Finding the right card for you is well worth it.

Other types of best credit cards in Canada

BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information.

American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.

About our authors: faces of finance

Lauren Graves
Lauren Graves, Author
Tyler Wade
Tyler Wade, Content strategist & writer

Lauren Graves is a writer and editor specializing in finance writing and education.

Tyler Wade has worked in personal finance for over 5 years writing for brands like Ratehub, Forbes, KOHO, and now He was the host and producer of the Real Money Talk podcast. He's the father of two, husband to one, and loves all things tiny.


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