Credit cards can be intimidating to the uninitiated. There’s a prevailing mythology that credit cards are too complicated, not worth it for the rewards, or bad for your financial well-being.
As a result, a lot of the public discussion on credit cards revolves around how and why not to use them. How you can benefit from credit cards is a mere afterthought.
You may have noticed that we do things a little differently here at Prince of Travel. There are immense gains to be had by leveraging the power of the best credit cards. We’ve identified how to do so, and we’re here to share our approach with you.
We don’t rank credit cards by calculating points earned from your monthly budget for each spending category, because that’s not an efficient way to maximize your rewards quickly. Those amounts are too inconsistent to make a meaningful difference, and you’ll earn way more rewards by focusing on the big picture instead.
We don’t rank credit cards by their interest rates, because you should never be carrying a balance from month to month. Compound interest rates on debt will annihilate your rewards faster than you can earn them. If you can’t pay your balance in full every month, you’d be better off forgoing rewards entirely and using a debit card instead.
We don’t rank credit cards by how easy it is to get approved, because there are so many unknown variables that make up each bank’s individual algorithm. Besides, the credit score you can see isn’t the one that the bank uses – it’s more of a general guide to indicate that you’re on track with a healthy credit file.
Instead, we’ve broken down the best credit cards in Canada and organized them by the features we use to determine if the rewards are worthwhile.
First and foremost, we look at the net value you can expect to earn when you apply for the card. The cards with the most valuable bonuses will help you earn rewards fastest. Our calculation includes the welcome bonus points, their value, the regular points you’ll earn on spending as you satisfy the conditions to meet the welcome bonus, and any annual fees or credits.
We only consider what you’d pay and earn in your first year with the card. This is where the strongest value proposition lies, as the bulk of your rewards will come from the signup bonus more often than not. A year down the road, you can determine if the card is continuing to give you enough value to justify the cost of keeping it.
The only subjective element here is how we value each rewards currency. As actual redemption values may vary, these aren’t an average, but rather a baseline. Based on our experience with each rewards program, we recommend that you always try to redeem your rewards at a “cents per point” rate higher than our valuations, and we consider those rates to be very achievable in the vast majority of situations.
You’ll also notice that some credit cards offer “up to” a certain amount of points. Those cards have a welcome bonus that comes in two or more parts upon meeting different conditions, but we consider part of it to be unrealistic or inadvisable for most people to try to earn. Any mention of “up to” indicates the maximum achievable bonus, but our sorting and filtering options only measure what you’d earn by reaching our recommended spend threshold, which may be lower. You can read more details on each credit card’s page.
If you’re less concerned about speed, and more concerned about keeping your upfront costs down, you can sort and filter by the first-year annual fee. Many good cards have an annual fee waiver for the first year, so you can still earn a solid bonus at no cost. However, even many cards with an annual fee are worth it – our first-year values do incorporate the costs of having the card, and you may be surprised to find that many of the cards with the highest annual fees actually have the highest value for you!
If you’re a low spender, you can sort and filter by the spending requirement. Many good cards have a minimum spending requirement that you must meet in order to earn the welcome bonus. If you won’t be able to reach that threshold, you should instead consider cards with more achievable targets for your cashflow.
We’ve also added options to filter by bank and by rewards program, so that you can tailor the list of credit cards to your goals. You can read more about each loyalty program to see how they might meet your needs.
Because we know that you, like us, are value-hunters and dream-chasers, we strive to always provide the best available offer to you. Our affiliate partnerships have no bearing on our rankings, reviews, and valuations, all of which we update on a regular basis.
If you want to learn more about overall credit card strategy, feel free to browse our Best Credit Cards lists. These aren’t definitive rankings, rather a broad collection of ideas as you consider the finer details that separate one card from another.
Whether you’re looking for travel points or cash back, flights or hotels, domestic economy or round-the-world in First Class, we hope that you’ll find ways to put your credit cards to work to reach your goals faster than you thought possible, and perhaps even set the bar higher than you’d ever imagined!