- Annual fee: $0
- Welcome bonus: $25 when you make your first purchase within your first 3 months
- Earn rate: 3% on purchases in U.S. currency (0.5% after foreign transaction fees); and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
- Income requirement: $80,000 individual; $150,000 household
- Additional benefits: Travel emergency medical insurance for 10 days; rental car insurance; trip interruption and cancellation coverage
Canada’s best credit cards
How do credit cards work?
It’s important to understand exactly what credit cards do, so you can use them to maximum advantage without falling into financial trouble. There are lots of benefits that come along with having a credit card. For example, they offer credit that can be used when you make a purchase, for balance transfers and/or cash advances. Essentially, your credit is like a short-term loan with a balance that comes due every month. As you pay down your balance, the credit available to you the following month starts to go back up to the maximum credit limit on your card.
A credit card’s strongest advantage is convenience. Simply pay for your purchase with your credit card and you will be billed for the outstanding balance the following month—no cash in your wallet required. Other benefits include the ability to accrue rewards and points—such as cash back or travel points—based on a percentage of your purchases each month, usually between 1% to 4%, depending on which credit card you choose. You can then redeem those points for gift cards, travel or other items offered through the credit card company’s online rewards catalogue.
Credit cards can also help you build credit. If you always pay on time, that will help you achieve a high credit score (650+points), allowing you to borrow for a mortgage or a car loan in the future at a reasonable interest rate from your local financial institution.
Of course, credit cards need to be used responsibly, and they work best when you are a disciplined spender. Have only one or two cards in your wallet and make sure they match your spending habits. And of course, make sure you can pay off the balance in full (or at the very least make the minimum payment) every month so you don’t have to pay hefty interest on your unpaid balance. This can result in costly fees as well as getting points knocked off your credit score—a real no-no. But with a bit of diligent oversight and self-control, credit cards become helpful and convenient financial tools that can make everyday purchases easy.
Types of credit cards
Rewards credit cards
When it comes to rewards credit cards, the name says it all. These are cards that give you something back when you spend with them, whether it’s points, miles or cash. The more you spend, the more rewards you get. For those who pay off their balance in full every month, these cards can really add value. There are four main types of rewards cards:
Cash-back credit cards
These cards offer a rebate credited to your balance, usually calculated as a percentage of the dollar value of your purchases. Though most cash-back cards have accelerated earn rates in certain categories (groceries and gas, for example), they all also have a minimum base rate for spends outside those categories. Your cash back rewards can help you save on anything you can buy with your card.
Travel credit cards
These cards offer points or miles to be redeemed towards travel-related purchases such as flights, hotels, cruises or vacation packages. Rewards might not be as straightforward as cash back, but travel points cards can help you save big on upcoming trips, with many offering perks including sign-up bonuses, comprehensive travel insurance, and even airport lounge access.