Best Rewards Credit Cards 2021

Best Rewards Credit Cards 2021

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 14, 2021

You’re already spending your money on expenditures like groceries, gas, transportation, entertainment, and travel, so why not be rewarded for your spending? That’s exactly what rewards credit cards can do for you. With every dollar you spend, you’ll be rewarded with points that can later be redeemed for things like free groceries, lower-cost travel, and discounted merchandise, among other things. 

There are also plenty of perks that many credit cards offer along with their rewards, like travel insurance, and front-of-the-line service at concerts and events. 

But with so many rewards credit cards out there, how do you pick just one? We’ve rounded up our favourites based on numerous factors to help you decide which card you should apply for. 

Criteria Used To Evaluate Rewards Credit Cards

Our round-up of the best rewards credit cards was made using a few criteria to accurately assess each card, including the following: 

  • Rewards
  • Perks
  • Welcome bonus
  • Point redemption options
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee
  • Insurance

Summary Of The Best Travel Credit Cards

When it comes to the best rewards credit cards, the following make the cut:

CategoryCredit Card
Best Credit Card For Day-to-Day SpendingScotiabank Gold American Express
Best Travel Rewards Credit CardTD First Class Travel Visa Infinite
Best No-Fee Rewards Credit CardMBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard
Best Credit Card For GroceriesScotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card
Best Credit Card for Restaurants and EntertainmentAmerican Express Cobalt Card
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card (2)

Best Credit Card For Day-to-Day Spending: Scotiabank Gold American Express

Why spend cash when you can use your Scotiabank Gold American Express and earn rewards points at the same time? Imagine being rewarded with free money every time you pay for something using your credit card. That’s essentially what having a points card is like. 

With the Scotiabank Gold American Express, you earn points on every dollar you spend, and once you accumulate enough, you can put them toward travel and merchandise. Plus, you will save on foreign transaction fees and will even have your travels protected with travel insurance. 

Main Benefits

  • Earn up to 20,000 Scotia Rewards Points as a welcome bonus when you spend $1,000 spend within the first 3 months. 
  • Earn 5x rewards points for every dollar spent at grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment.
  • Earn 3x rewards points for every dollar spent on gas, eligible streaming services, and public transit.
  • Earn 1x rewards points on all other expenditures. 
  • No foreign transaction fees. 
  • Travel emergency medical insurance.
  • Travel accident, trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
  • Rental car collision/damage coverage.
  • Discount on Priority Pass airport lounge access.
Annual FeePurchase APRCash Advance APR
$12019.99%22.99%
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

If you’re an avid traveller, you may want to consider applying for a credit card that allows you to earn rewards points that can be put toward airfare, accommodations, and rental cars to help keep the cost of travelling as low as possible. Travel rewards credit cards also offer a variety of other awesome perks, such as VIP access to luxury airport lounges, priority boarding on flights, and travel insurance. 

While there are plenty of travel rewards credit cards available, the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite is one of the better ones. You’ll earn 9 times the points for every dollar spent on flights booked on Expedia online, 6 points for every dollar spent on Expedia when you book over the telephone and 3 points for every dollar spent anywhere else. 

Once you’ve accumulated enough points – which shouldn’t take long to do thanks to the healthy points setup – you can redeem them for any travel expense. Plus, your points never expire as long as your card is active.

Main Benefits

  • Earn 20,000 as a welcome bonus when you make your first purchase (must apply by September 8, 2020; equal to $100 in value when redeemed for travel).
  • Earn 9x rewards points per dollar spent on online Expedia bookings.
  • Earn 6x rewards points per dollar spent on telephone Expedia bookings.
  • Earn 3x rewards points per dollar spent on all other expenditures. 
  • Redeem points on many different travel rewards, not just airfare.
  • First year fee waived.
  • Travel medical, trip cancellation/interruption. 
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Car rental collision/loss insurance. 
  • Savings with Avis and Budget car rental.
  • Priority Pass membership discount.
  • No travel blackouts. 
  • No seat restrictions.
Annual FeePurchase APRCash Advance APR
$12019.99%22.99%
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

Best No-Fee Rewards Credit Card: MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

It’s great to be able to earn rewards with every purchase you make with your credit card that can then be redeemed toward various types of purchases, but it’s even better when you can do so without having to pay an annual fee. When it comes to no-fee rewards credit cards, MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard ranks right up there with the best. 

With this card, you can earn 4x the rewards points on every dollar you spend within the first 90 days of getting your card on eligible purchases, then 2x the rewards after that. For all other purchases, you’ll earn 1x the rewards points for every $1. And if you like to travel, you’ll get certain types of travel insurance with your MBNA Platinum Plus Mastercard, including accidental death benefits, unexpected return home coverage, and car rental collision damage insurance. And your points never expire as long as you keep your account open. 

Main Benefits

  • Earn 4x rewards points for every dollar spent at participating grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2x rewards points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, and restaurant purchases (up to $5,000 per year in each category).
  • Earn 1x rewards points for every dollar spent on all other purchases. 
  • Earn up to 14,200 welcome bonus points.
  • Earn 5,000 points when you spend $500 within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 5,000 points when you enroll for e-statements within the first 3 months. 
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, and more.
  • Assistance with travel ticket replacement, lost luggage, and legal help when travelling.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Save at least 10% off base rates in Canada and the U.S. and 5% off the base rates internationally at Avis and Budget Rent car rental.
Annual FeePurchase APRCash Advance APR
$019.99%24.99%
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card

Best Credit Card For Groceries: Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card

No one can get away without blowing a small fortune at the grocery store, so you might as well get rewarded for your hefty expenditures. And the best way to do that is to get yourself a credit card that rewards you with plenty of points for every dollar spent at your local supermarket. There are a few to choose from in this category, but the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card is probably one of the better ones. 

This card offers a hefty 4% cash back on all eligible grocery store purchases. But not only is the cash back rate high, so is the yearly cap on how much you can spend to earn that rate. You can spend as much as $25,000 in one year to earn 4% cash back, after which you will earn 1%. 

Main Benefits

  • First year annual fee waived. 
  • Earn 4% cash back on eligible grocery store purchases after the first 90 days (on up to $25,000 spent a year).
  • Earn 4% cash back on recurring bill payments.
  • Earn 2% cash back on public transit and gas.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance, including emergency medical, trip delay/cancellation, lost baggage, travel accident, and rental car damage/loss.
  • Mobile device insurance up to $1,000.
  • Includes Visa Infinite Services, like wine country discounts in Ontario and B.C. and concierge services.
Annual FeePurchase APRCash Advance APR
$12020.99%22.99%

Best Credit Card for Restaurants and Entertainment: American Express Cobalt Card

If you love going out to eat or attending concerts and other events, then the American Express Cobalt Card is for you. You’ll earn a handsome 5 points for every dollar you spend at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, and bars, including for food deliveries. You’ll also be able to take advantage of some sweet perks that foodies and entertainment-goers will appreciate, such as front-of-the-line advance access to movies and events, and special offers and experiences, to name a few.

The avid traveller can also enjoy 2 points for every dollar spent on travel, including hotels, ground transportation, and gas. You’ll be greeted with 30,000 points, which is worth $300 in travel to help you get a leg up on saving for your next trip. All other purchases earn 1 point for every dollar spent. You can redeem your points on travel-related expenditures, Amazon purchases, or a statement credit.

Main Benefits

  • Earn up to 30,000 points within the first year.
  • Earn 5 Points for every dollar spent on eligible groceries, food deliveries, and restaurants.
  • Earn 2 Points for every dollar spent on gas, public transit, and airline tickets.
  • Earn 1 Point for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Travel insurance includes emergency medical, flight delay, lost/stolen baggage, hotel burglary, and car rental damage or theft.
  • Enjoy advanced screenings of movies.
  • Redeem points on streaming services, movie tickets, concerts and events, eats and drinks, retail, and more. 
Annual FeePurchase APRCash Advance APR
$12019.99%21.99%

Why Apply For A Rewards Credit Card?

Credit cards not only make it convenient to purchase products or services without having to carry cash, but they can also benefit you, too. If you pick the one that suits your particular lifestyle, you’ll find yourself collecting points that can then be put toward the exact types of expenditures you make, helping you to reduce the cost of such purchases. 

Every time you hit the stores, those points will add up without you even thinking about it. And when you’re ready to book a hotel, pay for a meal, or buy your groceries, you may find that you have enough points to cover the cost. 

That’s the beauty of rewards credit cards. As long as you choose a credit card with a rewards program that suits you well, you can make that card work for you. 

Pros & Cons Of A Rewards Credit Card

Should you apply for a rewards credit card? Before you do, weigh the pros and cons of these financial products.

Pros 

  • Earn rewards points every time you use the card to make a purchase
  • Redeem for various purchases and perks
  • Use points to pay for groceries, entertainment, travel expenses, and merchandise
  • Take advantage of big welcome bonuses
  • Gain access to VIP airport lounges in some cases
  • Travel insurance for medical, trip cancellations, and rental car damage
  • Build good credit with responsible use

Cons

  • Expensive annual fees for most rewards cards
  • Some cards charge foreign transaction fees 
  • High credit score may be necessary
  • High income may be necessary

How To Choose The Right Rewards Credit Card

There are dozens of rewards credit cards available, so how do you know you’re picking the right one? Every credit card has its own set of perks and drawbacks that you should assess before you apply, but some might be better suited for your lifestyle than others. Based on the above list, there is one card that we feel is best for various categories, which should help you narrow down your choices. 

Here are some considerations to make when choosing the right rewards credit card for you:

  • Opt for a card that offers high rewards for each dollar you spend. 
  • Check out the welcome points bonus to help you get a head start.
  • Look for cards that offer a significant number of points per $1 at places that you normally spend your money at, like restaurants or grocery stores. 
  • Look at various perks that each card offers, such as travel insurance.
  • Verify whether or not foreign transaction fees are charged.
  • Consider the annual fee.

How To Get The Most Value From A Rewards Credit Card

To get the most out of your rewards credit card, consider the following:

  • Make sure the rewards align with your interests. There are different rewards programs, and the one that you choose should match your interests and lifestyle. 
  • Use your rewards credit card for all your purchases. Every dollar helps you earn points, so the more you use your card – versus cash or debit cards – the more points you can accumulate. 
  • Get familiar with the terms of the rewards. Make sure you are spending wisely with your card to maximize your rewards by checking out the fine print on your credit card. 
  • Use your rewards credit card where you’ll collect the most points. Rewards credit cards offer more rewards points for purchases made at participating retailers, so try to focus your expenditures at these places to collect the most rewards. 
  • Look out for bonus point-earning incentives. Some rewards credit cards offer incentives to earn extra rewards for specific purchases from time to time. When this happens, take advantage to earn more points.
  • Add an authorized credit card user. Add your spouse or partner to your account as an authorized user to help collect more rewards points faster. 

Final Thoughts

Everyone has expenses to pay for. And even the purchases that are considered leisurely still require you to open your wallet. But rather than part with your cash and get nothing back in return, you could be using a rewards credit card that can help you earn rewards points for every dollar you spend. There are tons of rewards credit cards out there, so you’ll want to make sure you pick one that closely aligns with your lifestyle. 


Rating of 5/5 based on 1 vote.

Lisa has been working as a writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same. She's used a variety of financial tools over the years and is currently growing her money with Wealthsimple, while stashing some capital in a liquid high-interest savings account so that she always has a financial cushion to fall back on. She's also been avidly using her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect as many Aeroplan points as possible to put towards her travels!

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