Canada’s best no-fee credit cards 2022
Canada’s best no-fee credit cards 2022
Some of the best things in life are free—so why should you expect any different from your credit card? Canada has an impressive array of no-fee credit cards that don’t charge cardholders an annual fee, while also delivering respectable rewards like cash back and travel points. Many of these no-fee cards also boast attractive extras like solid welcome bonuses, no foreign transaction fees and useful travel insurance. Individuals who don’t always pay off their balance every month will be happy that a few of these cards even feature a standard low interest rate or an attractive balance transfer promo. Here are our picks for the best no-fee credit cards in Canada.
Best no-fee credit card for cash back
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card*
At a glance: The Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard is a perennial no-fee favourite thanks to its automatic 2% cash back on purchases in two spending categories, with a third category available if you set up an automatic rewards deposit into a Tangerine Savings Account. What makes this card really stand out is that cardholders get to personalize their extra-earn categories from among a whopping 10 options.
- You get to choose your own cash-back categories from 10 everyday spending categories, and there is no cap on earnings.
- The Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard features a generous welcome offer and balance transfer promotion.
- The card has a low income-qualification threshold.
- Spending outside of cash back categories earns a base rate of only 0.5%.
- The card features no rental car or travel insurance.
Best no-fee credit card for base-rate cash back
SimplyCash Card from American Express*
At a glance: An ideal card for those who spend much of their budget on groceries and gas, the SimplyCash American Express gets you 2% cash back in those two categories. The card also has a pretty generous base rate of 1.25% for all other spending. Especially notable is the $100,000 in travel accident protection, a rare perk for a no-fee card.
- Welcome offer: Earn a $10 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $300 on purchases. This could add up to $100 in your first 10 months of having the card.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 21.99% on cash advances
- Earn rate: 2% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases up to $300 annually; 1.25% cash back on everything else
- Additional benefits: Access to virtual events and special offers with American Express Experiences
- The Front of the Line and American Express Experiences programs give cardholders access to presale tickets and exclusive invites to entertainment and dining events.
- Unique referral program offers an added opportunity to earn $50 for referring approved applicants (up to $750 cash back annually).
- $100,000 in travel accident protection, as well as buyer’s assurance and purchase protection.
- American Express cards aren’t as widely accepted at merchants as Visa and Mastercard cards.
- SimplyCash American Express’ accelerated earn rates are each capped at $300 annually.
Best no-fee credit card for FX fees
Brim Financial Mastercard*
At a glance: Brim Mastercard has one of the rarest—and most coveted—features of any credit card in Canada: no foreign transaction (FX) fee. When making purchases in a non-Canadian currency, most issuers charge cardholders a fee of around 2.5% on every purchase—and that’s on top of the exchange rate. Brim completely waives this fee. The card also comes with up to $500 in mobile device insurance and a free Boingo Wi-Fi membership.
- Annual fee: $0
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 21.50% on cash advances, 19.99% on balance transfers
- Earn rate: 1 point per $1 everywhere, and bonus points at Brim partner merchants, like up to 4% at Microsoft, 4% at Nike, 3% at Warby Parker, plus more than 200 other retailers
- Additional benefits: No FX fees, free Boingo Wi-Fi membership, and up to $500 in mobile device insurance
- Annual income requirement: None specified
- The card has no FX fee, meaning you avoid paying around 2.5% on all purchases made in a foreign currency.
- Brim Mastercard comes with free Boingo Wi-Fi membership, which provides access at over a million hotspots worldwide.
- The card has a solid selection of insurance, including protection that’s normally hard to come by for no-fee cards, such as mobile device, event ticket reimbursement and common carrier accident insurance.
- Brim Mastercard has a somewhat low standard earn rate of 1% (though higher earn rates are available at select merchants).
- There are no standard accelerated earn categories with this card.
Best no-fee credit card for travel points
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard*
At a glance: A perfect travel companion for frequent fliers, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard has a flexible rewards program that offers the best value when points are redeemed for travel. It also features a wide selection of revved-up earning categories, including restaurants, groceries, digital media, memberships and household utility purchases. The icing on the cake is the yearly Birthday Bonus, which can really help punch up your point balance.
- Welcome offer: For the first 90 days, you can get up to 10,000 points (approx. $50 in cash back): 5,000 for registering for paperless e-statements, 5,000 for spending $500 in purchases with the card. Plus, earn 4 points for every $1 spent on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership and household utility purchases. (Not available for residents of Quebec, instead click here.)
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 24.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Earn rate: Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on eligible groceries and restaurants ($5,000 max annual spend per category) and 1 point per $1 on everything else
- Additional benefits: Unexpected return home coverage; rental collision and accidental death and dismemberment insurance; balance protection and extended warranty
- Each year, cardholders get Birthday Bonus points equal to 10% of the total number of points earned in the previous 12 months, to a max of 10,000 points.
- The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard has one of the most flexible rewards programs of any no-fee card, allowing cardholders to redeem points for cash back, merchandise, gift cards, charitable donations and travel.
- The card also has generous mobile device insurance of up to $1,000, as well as discounts at Avis and Budget rental car companies.
- The earn rate of 2 points per $1 spent on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership and household utility purchases is capped at $10,000 annually in each category. You will then only earn the base rate of 1 point per $1.
- Points are best redeemed for travel, for which you’ll get a value of 1 cent per point, whereas points are only worth half a cent each when redeemed for a statement credit or charitable donation.
Best no-fee credit card for low interest
MBNA True Line Mastercard*
At a glance: This no-frills card is short on extras but is a powerhouse when it comes to potentially saving cardholders money. If you tend to carry a balance, a lower-interest card can be a lifesaver for your bottom line. With an interest rate of 12.99%, the MBNA True Line Mastercard charges nearly half of what most credit cards in Canada charge, potentially making it easier to catch up on debt.
- Interest rates: 12.99% on purchases, 24.99% on cash advances, 12.99% on balance transfers
- Additional benefits: Add up to nine authorized users without an additional fee
- Welcome offer: Get a 0% promotional annual interest rate (“AIR”) for 12 months on balance transfers within the first 90 days of opening the account.
- Note: This offer is not available for residents of Quebec
- The MBNA True Line Mastercard’s lower-than-average interest rate of 12.99% can make it easier to keep debt at a more manageable level.
- The 0% promotional annual interest rate for 12 months on balance transfers will also be an asset for cardholders looking for some breathing room while they pay off accumulated credit card debt.
- Enjoy a discount on qualifying car rentals at participating Avis and Budget locations.
- The card has a high cash advance interest rate of 24.99%.
- The MBNA True Line Mastercard doesn’t offer any rewards, cash back or insurance.
Best no-fee credit card for students
BMO CashBack Mastercard*
At a glance: BMO’s CashBack MasterCard is a good fit for students looking for a no-fee card that will earn them a little extra cash as they build credit. While the card doesn’t come with lots of perks, its 3% cash back on groceries is the most generous earn rate available in that category for a basic credit card without an annual fee.
- 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 biggest advantage of a no-fee credit card is obvious: it’s free. Better yet, if you never carry a balance and you use a no-fee card that offers cash back or rewards, you’ll actually be in a better financial position than you would without the card. A card that complements your spending habits and hobbies (like travel) can also save you a nice chunk of change on things like foreign transaction fees, insurance and rental cars.
In some cases, these benefits can be significantly intensified with a premium card that has an annual fee, so depending on your spending habits, an annual-fee card can be a worthwhile expense. You should consider a no-fee credit card if:
- You already have an annual-fee card and are looking for a backup card, or you want a no-fee card that has some of the features your premium card lacks (like no foreign transaction fees for when you travel abroad).
- You are new to Canada or have a shaky credit history and are looking for a free option that could help you improve your credit rating over time.
- You want to avoid debt at all costs and so normally avoid credit cards in favour of a debit or prepaid card, but would like to have a credit card on hand just in case.
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.