FI Personal Finance Travel

What’s in This Canadian FI-Seeker’s Wallet?

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Disclosure: There’s one card with referral links in this post—the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite. That means I may receive a commission if you apply for this card after clicking through my link. There’s no cost to you, and you’ll be helping to offset the costs of running this blog. Thank you! (The rest of the links in this post are NOT referral links.)

A little help for my fellow Canucks

One of my goals for this blog is to help Canadians on the FI path. As I’ve written about before, we love our American FI friends, but we need more Canadian content!

One area where the landscape’s vastly different for Canadians is the credit card scene. We have far fewer and less-lucrative sign-up offers. However, all hope isn’t lost for us! Canadians can still benefit from credit card rewards—it just takes a little time and know-how.

Why I’m writing this article

  • I like learning what other Canadian FI-seekers have in their wallets. It alerts me to new cards and offers, and helps me confirm if I’m using the best cards. I hope to do the same for you. 
  • While I’m no expert, I’ve been doing this for a while and have knowledge to share. 
  • I have a unique take on credit card rewards: I’m neither passive nor hardcore. That is, I care about and try to optimize our rewards, but I don’t maximize things at all times. 
  • There’s not enough being written about credit card rewards from this middle-of-the-road perspective, so I’d like to help fill that gap!

Note: This post is simply a listing of my favourite cards, with details and a short review for each. In last week’s post, I outlined our overall credit card rewards strategy in more detail. It’s a step-by-step guide on how we easily earn over $1,000 per year in credit card rewards.

My middle-of-the-road approach to credit card rewards

  • We keep a handful of long-term, everyday cards in our wallets, and supplement them with 2–3 short-term cards each year. 
  • I only apply for new short-term cards when I have the time and energy to do so. (Sometimes this means I let good sign-up offers pass me by—and that’s totally fine by me!)
  • I feel this approach is the best of both worlds: we always earn a good cashback rate with our long-term cards, and when I feel like building our travel miles, I apply for short-term cards to get the sign-up bonuses. 
  • It’s also a very simple, low-maintenance way to access generous rewards with a minimum of time and hassle.

Disclaimers

We’ll get into my card reviews in just a sec. Before that, let’s go through a few disclaimers:

For your financial safety

Card hacking is only suitable for responsible credit card users. That means you pay your balance in full every month, only spend on what you can afford and actually need, and have a good credit rating.  

Do your own due diligence

As with all things financial, never blindly accept anyone’s recommendations. When applying for credit cards, take the time to do your own calculations and research. It’s the only way to know if you’re actually getting the best value from your credit card rewards. 

Referral links

One of the cards in this post contains referral links (the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite). That means if you click through my links to apply, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

My monetization manifesto

Know that I only recommend credit cards which I’ve used or am currently using—and that I feel will truly benefit you. For more about the monetization on my blog, see my Monetization Manifesto and my Terms and Conditions.

My favourite long-term cards

These are the long-term cards we keep in our wallets year after year. Their rewards and benefits are so good that it just makes sense for us to use them everyday.

The Rogers World Elite Mastercard—my favourite free cashback card

  • We earn 1.75% cashback on everything with this card.
  • There’s no other free card with such a high earn rate and no category restrictions.
  • We should net 1.5% cashback on our foreign currency spending—unlike most credit cards which charge a 2.5% foreign currency transaction fee. (But see Why I use a USD Visa at the end of the article for some nit-picky details about this).
  • The card’s FREE!
  • Since it’s a Mastercard, it’s free to use for bill pays through PayTM.
  • None—it’s free!
  • We spend $28,000 annually on this card.
  • NET ANNUAL REWARD: $490

Note: Links to the Rogers World Elite Mastercard are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for referring new customers.

The Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite—my favourite premium cashback card

  • We earn 4% on gas and groceries. (These are two of the larger line items in our budget.)
  • We also earn 2% on recurring bills and drug store purchases.
  • $99 for primary cardholder, $39 for supplementary cards (first year waived).
  • Bonus: The $39 annual fee for the Scotia US Dollar Visa* is waived if you’re a Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite cardholder. *Not a referral link

This is our annual spend/cashback on the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite:

  • Gas: $2,800 spend/$112 cashback
  • Groceries: $6,500 spend/$260 cashback
  • Recurring bills: $2,300 spend/$47 cashback (Kid 2’s orthodontics count as a recurring bill)
  • Annual fee rebate for Scotia US Dollar Visa: $35
  • Minus annual fees for my card and M’s: $99 + $30
  • NET ANNUAL REWARD: $325

Disclosure: Links to the Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite are referral links. That means I may receive a commission if you apply for this card after clicking through my link. There’s no cost to you, and you’ll be helping to offset the costs of running this blog. Thank you!

The Scotiabank US Dollar VISA—my favourite US dollar card

  • No foreign currency conversion fees when making purchases in US dollars.
  • Purchase security and extended warranty protection is included.
  • Supplementary cards are free, so I’ve given M’s parents, my sister, and my brother-in-law their own cards. This helps them avoid foreign currency conversion fees too!
  • Normally, $35—but free for us because we’re Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite cardholders.
  • None—this card doesn’t offer rewards. 
  • However, if we were to use a regular credit card for our USD purchases, we’d pay 2.5% on top of the higher exchange rate charged by Visa. 
  • You could say we earn 2.5%+ on our USD purchases by using this card!
  • See Why I use a USD Visa at the end of the article for some nit-picky details about this.

Note: Links to the Scotiabank US Dollar VISA are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for referring new customers.

My favourite short-term cards

In addition to the long-term cards I’ve listed above, I also apply for 2–3 short-term cards each year. These short-term cards are almost always travel rewards cards (whereas my long-term cards are all cashback cards).

For me, none of these short-term cards have been worth holding onto past the first year. The regular earn rates tend to be pretty low, so I always cancel them before the annual fee is due.

BUT, the sign-up bonuses are so huge, it’s worth the hassle to sign up for them. (See How to Easily Earn $1K/Year in Credit Card Rewards to learn how I manage these sign-ups.)

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express—my favourite way to earn Bonvoy points

  • Bonvoy points are one of the best due to their flexibility (wide range of hotels to redeem at; many points transfer partners.)
  • The sign-up bonus for this card is always excellent.
  • $120 (No ‘first year free’ offer that I’m aware of)
  • The current sign-up bonus is for 50,000 Bonvoy points—which are worth about $0.01 CAD for flight or hotel redemptions. That’s a $500 value!
  • You earn 2 points per dollar spent on non-Marriott purchases, so your $1,500 minimum spend would earn you an additional $30 in points.
  • There’s no first year free offer for this card. The annual fee is $120.
  • NET REWARD: $410

Note: Links to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for recommending this card.

  • While the Air Miles program has its problems, it’s made changes for the better in recent years. I feel the points are still worth earning.
  • This card also offers free airport lounge passes as a sign-up bonus. We’d never splurge on lounges, so this is a nice way to enjoy a bit of luxury for free!
  • In my experience, this card is churnable—that means you can re-apply for the card in the future and receive the sign-up bonus again. (However, it’s not supposed to be churnable, so your mileage may vary.)
  • First year free, $120 thereafter
  • The current sign-up bonus is for 3,000 Air Miles—which are worth about $0.12 CAD each for flight redemptions. That’s a $360 value.
  • There’s currently no annual fee for the first year—so you net $360 if you meet the minimum spend of $3,000.
  • You earn 1 point per $10 dollars spent, so your $3,000 minimum spend would earn you an additional $36 in points.
  • You also receive two free airport lounge passes as a sign-up bonus. Each pass is worth $27 US ($36 CAD) for a total reward value of $72.
  • NET REWARD: $468

Note: Links to the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for recommending this card.

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite—my favourite way to earn Aeroplan miles

  • Aeroplan miles are relatively flexible since they can be used for any airline in the Star Alliance network.
  • This card is a Visa—which is more widely accepted than the American Express (one of the other Aeroplan credit cards).
  • It offers a much bigger sign-up bonus than CIBC (the other Aeroplan Visa offering).
  • This card is churnable—that means you can re-apply for the card and receive the sign-up bonus again.
  • First year free, $120 thereafter
  • The current sign-up bonus is for 25,000 Aeroplan miles—which are worth about $0.012 CAD per mile for flight redemptions. That’s a $300 value.
  • There’s currently no annual fee for the first year—so you net $300 if you meet the minimum spend of $1,000.
  • You earn 1 mile per dollar spent, so your $1,000 minimum spend would earn you an additional $12 in points.
  • NET REWARD: $312

Note: Links to the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for recommending this card.

  • We live on the West Coast, and have a good selection of flight options with Alaska Airlines.
  • You not only earn sign-up bonus miles, but also a discounted companion flight.
  • This card is churnable—that means you can re-apply for the card and receive the sign-up bonus again.
  • $99 (no first year free offer)
  • The current sign-up bonus is for 30,000 miles—which are worth about $0.01 CAD. That’s a $300 value.
  • There’s a $99 annual fee—so you net $201 if you meet the minimum spend of $1,000.
  • You earn 1 mile per dollar spent, so your $1,000 minimum spend would earn you an additional $10 in points.
  • You also receive a discounted companion fare, which at minimum saves you $50.
  • NET ANNUAL REWARD: $261

Note: Links to the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard are NOT referral links—I receive no commission for recommending this card.

Why I use a USD Visa

One of my readers recently asked why I use a USD Visa instead of putting all my USD transactions on my Rogers World Elite Mastercard. (Great question Jonathan!) Here’s why:

  • My husband earns USD through selling his company stock options. This means we don’t pay anything to buy USD and our USD account is regularly replenished throughout the year.
  • Our USD Visa is free for us to use since we also hold the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite. 
  • Another bonus is we can give free supplementary USD Visa cards to family members so they can also use it for their USD transactions. 
  • Using our USD Visa is cheaper and more predictable than using a CAD credit card—even one without a foreign currency conversion fee. 
  • That’s because credit card companies process your foreign currency transaction at a rate that’s about 2.5% higher than the Bank of Canada or US Federal Reserve’s rates. (This is separate and in addition to the 2.5% transaction fee some cards charge. See this excellent article on Greedy Rates for more info.)
  • The Rogers World Elite Mastercard charges a 2.5% foreign currency transaction fee, but rebates 4% in cashback for those purchases. That’s a net reward of 1.5%. However, if you minus the 2.5% spread they charge on their base currency conversion rate, you end up paying 1%. 
  • This is better than the 5% you’ll end up paying with credit cards that charge a foreign currency conversion fee—but we’d still lose with this card versus using our USD Visa.
  • If you don’t have a regular source of USD, I think you’re better off using the Rogers World Elite Mastercard since most currency exchange places charge 1–2% to buy USD.

Summary

We keep a handful of long-term, everyday cards in our wallets, and supplement them with 2–3 short-term cards each year. 

Using this simple system, we earn over $1,000 in credit card rewards per year! (With no hacking or time-consuming tactics required!) Read my step-by-step guide to learn how we do this.

My favourite long-term cards:

  1. Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite
  2. Rogers World Elite Mastercard
  3. Scotiabank US Dollar VISA

My favourite short-term cards:

  1. Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express
  2. BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
  3. TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite
  4. MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Any questions?

For those new to the credit card rewards game, I know it can be overwhelming! If you’re not sure where to start or have questions, feel free to ask in the comments below or via my contact page.

For more on travel hacking…

If you’d like to go deeper and up your travel hacking game, check out:

Visit my How to Easily Earn $1K/Year in Credit Card Rewards article and scroll to Appendix C for a list of my favourite Canadian credit card rewards resources.

Want to travel the world for free or cheap? You can with travel hacking! Learn how to get started with this lucrative hobby.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Money Mechanic
    June 17, 2019 at 11:15 am

    I definitely need to get the Rogers MC to pair it with PayTM! Good review of the cards.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 19, 2019 at 8:36 am

      Yeah you do! Totally worth doing.

  • Reply
    GYM
    June 17, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I’m surprised you don’t have the World Elite PC Financial! It’s such a good card for points.

    The TD Aeroplan is actually free if you have a minimum balance.

    I have yet to apply for the Marriott Bonvoy, I loathe to pay for annual fees, but we might do it to get Marriott points.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 19, 2019 at 8:35 am

      Hey GYM, thanks for taking the time to stop by (even though life’s become a whole lot busier for you!) Congrats again on the new addition!

      I’ve actually held the PC card forever and still have it in my desk drawer. We used to use it all the time, especially since we shop at Superstore a lot.

      But the Scotia Momentum Visa earns us 4% at Superstore vs. the 3% the PC card earned us. (Even after subtracting the annual fee of the Momentum Visa, it’s still worth it). Still, I keep the PC card because it’s an excellent card, it’s free, and it’s an old card for meβ€”which helps my credit score!

      I know you loathe annual fees, but Marriott points are great since they’re so flexible! For us, it was worth it. πŸ™‚

      • GYM
        June 20, 2019 at 11:31 am

        @Chrissy- ahh that makes sense 4% vs 3% πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    GYM
    June 17, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Minimum balance for banking with TD, not for the credit card, I should clarify!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 19, 2019 at 8:36 am

      You’d mentioned this before in one of your posts. I’m considering moving my banking to TD for various reasons, and this is just another one!

  • Reply
    Tristan Elliott
    June 19, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Good one Chrissy. Always love reading your blog – both because it is good and because you are a fellow Vancouverite.
    What do you think of making it so links auto open in a new browser (especially for the CC ones). I am going to get the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Reply
      Tristan Elliott
      June 19, 2019 at 8:19 am

      Nevermind the second part of my comment – they started auto opening in separate window now! 😐 πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 19, 2019 at 8:30 am

      Aw, thanks for the kind words Tristan. Comments like yours make it all worth it (blogging is A LOT of work!) I’m glad the separate windows are working as I consciously try to make sure all external links do that! Thanks for your support. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Shaidah
    June 21, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Great post! We have been trying to find a way to bring down foreign transaction fees when shopping in the US. Well laid out, thank you for sharing your findings!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 24, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for the comment Shaidah. Many people aren’t aware of foreign transaction fees, so I’m just doin’ my part to help spread awareness!

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