Canada’s Best Credit Cards for 5x Rewards

In recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of several credit cards in Canada that offer 5 points per dollar spent on groceries and restaurants. For many sectors of the population, ranging from students to families, these categories make up a large portion of monthly spending, and rewards can stack up very quickly.

However, not all credit cards are created equal. Depending on your goals, the limitations of each points program, and other benefits for cardholders, you’re likely to find some 5x cards more appealing than others.

Here’s a generalized ranking of Canada’s best 5x credit cards for groceries and dining, bearing in mind that the right choice for you may be situational. All of these cards have mid-tier perks and annual fees in the range of $120–155, so let’s break down the features that set them apart.

In This Post

1. American Express Cobalt Card

First up on this list is the American Express Cobalt Card. It’s received plenty of press since its debut in 2017 as one of Canada’s best credit cards, and for good reason.

The 5x multiplier applies to purchases made at grocery stores and restaurants. The latter includes anything classified as “dining” – bars, food delivery services, takeout, etc.

Earn 5x rewards on food and drinks with the American Express Cobalt Card

Even if you don’t tend to dine out or frequent your local watering holes, many grocery stores accept American Express. And keep in mind that groceries aren’t the only items sold at grocery stores – for example, you can buy many household products and gift cards at a grocery store, earning 5x rewards.

You’ll earn American Express Membership Rewards with the Cobalt card, which is arguably Canada’s best transferrable rewards program. There are a number of great loyalty programs that you can access, including Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, and more.

These programs give you access to partner redemptions in each of the three major airline alliances, and earning 5 points per dollar spent can fast track your way to many aspirational experiences. If you’ve had your eye on a flight in ANA First Class, Lufthansa First Class, Qatar Airways Qsuites, Air France business class, or other world-leading products, the Cobalt card can help to get you there.

Use points earned on your American Express Cobalt Card to book ANA First Class

We value MR points at 2.2 cents per point, which means that you’re essentially getting an unprecedented 11% return on your spending at grocery stores, restaurants, and bars with the American Express Cobalt Card.

Worst case scenario, you can always redeem points for statement credit against any travel expense, for 1 cent per point. That puts the floor value of MR points at the ceiling of the points programs of the other cards on this list, as we’ll soon see.

Aside from great transfer partners, you’ll also have access to the lucrative Amex Offers that frequently are available to cardholders. Amex Offers add even more value to your card by giving you a statement credit or extra points on eligible purchases, which can sometimes be worth hundreds of dollars.

The card also has a monthly fee of $12.99. This monthly billing structure is somewhat novel, and it certainly helps with cashflow and taking the sting out of paying credit card fees – in fact, you may barely even notice it!

If this card hasn’t yet crossed your mind, be sure to make some room for it in your wallet. You won’t regret it.

2. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Next up is the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, which has been getting a lot more attention recently with the demise of Air Miles and the emergence of Scene+ in its place.

Similar to the Cobalt card, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent at all grocery stores; however, you’ll get an extra point per dollar spent at Empire-affiliated grocery stores, for a total of 6 points per dollar spent.

The supercharged 6x earning rate is available at many different stores that fall under the Empire brand, including Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Thrifty Foods, FreshCo, and more. With solid coverage across Canada, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a store nearby.

Earn 6 Scene+ points per dollar at Sobeys-affiliated grocery stores with the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card comes with a higher category spending cap than the Cobalt card, at $50,000 per year versus $30,000, before you stop earning bonus points at an accelerated rate. Sure, that’s a lot of money to spend over the course of the year, but it opens the doors for an incredible 5–6% return on a large swath of your household expenses.

You’ll also earn 5 points per dollar spent on dining, food delivery, and entertainment, which includes movies, theatres, and ticket agencies. The latter category is a throwback to Scene+’s origins, but the program has been quickly establishing itself as one of the more attractive fixed-value points programs in Canada.

Scene+ points are worth a fixed value of 1 cent per point when redeemed against travel purchases, purchases made at an Empire-affiliated grocery store, or some entertainment purchases.

The most attractive feature of Scene+ is that you can redeem your points against any travel purchase made on the credit card. Having a stash of Scene+ points can be very helpful for offsetting the cost of expenses that are otherwise hard to redeem points for, such as independent hotels, car rentals, cruises, and so forth.

Use Scene+ points to offset travel expenses that can’t otherwise be booked with points, such as the Four Seasons Toronto

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card often comes with an annual fee waiver for the first year. There’s no better way to test drive a souped-up credit card for a year than for free! You can also get the $120 fee waived on an ongoing basis if you have a premium chequing account with Scotiabank.

Furthermore, this card has no foreign exchange fees, which can be valuable if you take the card abroad. While you’ll save the standard 2.5% foreign transaction fee charged on most other cards, be aware that the 5x category multiplier only applies to purchases in Canadian dollars. But even so, this is still yet another unique perk that adds to the card’s versatility.

Lastly, as an American Express product, you also have access to the valuable Amex Offers. If you happen to have a number of supplementary cards on your account, the value can really add up quickly.

If you’re looking for a way to earn points that aren’t tied to any specific program or airline, look no further than the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card.

3. National Bank World Elite Mastercard

The first non-American Express card on this list is the National Bank World Elite Mastercard.

The National Bank World Elite Mastercard has created a lot of buzz lately, offering all-time high welcome bonuses in 2023. In fact, it’s been giving many other top-end Mastercard products a run for their money with competitive welcome offers, unique features, and a 5x earning rate at grocery stores and restaurants.

What sets this credit card apart from the other cards on this list is its industry-leading travel insurance, including coverage for award tickets

As long as you pay for the taxes and fees on your award booking with the National Bank World Elite Mastercard, you’ll enjoy its vast insurance coverage, including for trip cancellation/interruption, flight delays, delayed and lost baggage, travel accidents, car rentals, and more.

Furthermore, simply by being an active cardholder, you’ll enjoy very generous coverage for out-of-province medical and hospital insurance:

  • Up to $5,000,000 per person for up to 60 days for cardholders aged 54 and younger
  • Up to $5,000,000 per person for up to 30 days for cardholders aged 54–64
  • Up to $5,000,000 per person for up to 15 days for cardholders aged 65–75

The duration of coverage is what sets the National Bank World Elite Mastercard apart from its competitors, as the industry standard is just 15 days. Only a select few credit cards provide any medical emergency insurance for cardholders over the age of 65, so if you’re in your golden years and still want to travel, consider adding this card to your portfolio.

The National Bank World Elite Mastercard also comes with a $150 annual travel credit, which resets each year on January 1. You can use the credit for airport parking fees, baggage fees, seat selection fees, airport lounge access, and ticket upgrades, which essentially offsets the card’s $150 annual fee after the first year’s fee waiver.

Use the $150 annual travel credit from the National Bank World Elite Mastercard to pay for lounge access

The record-high welcome bonus is offering up to 70,000 À la carte Rewards, which is National Bank’s proprietary loyalty program. This offer is only available until June 30, 2023.

When redeemed through the National Bank travel portal, you can score 1 cent per point worth of value. This is a weaker option than MR or Scene+, since you’re tied to what’s available and prices through the portal, but it can still be quite valuable if you find what you’re looking for in the portal.

You have the option to redeem À la carte Rewards against any travel purchase charged to the card, but you’ll net a lower value of 0.83–0.91 cents per point, depending on how many points you redeem.

For what it’s worth, Mastercard also has wider acceptance than American Express, which could be an important factor if your spending is tied to specific retailers and vendors, such as Mastercard-only Loblaws brands.

This card is right for you if you value great insurance at a low cost, and aren’t as concerned about parlaying points into aspirational travel opportunities.

4. MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard

The second non-American Express card on this list is the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard.

One of the main draws of this card is that the 5x category multiplier has a wider range than other cards. You’ll get the standard 5 points per dollar spent on groceries and at restaurants, but you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar spent on digital media, household utilities, and membership subscriptions.

Earn 5 MBNA Rewards points per dollar spent on utility bills with the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard

What’s more, this card gives you a $50,000 annual spending cap per category, which is fantastic news for anyone who has a significant amount of spend in each of the above categories.

Another interesting feature of this credit card is that you’ll get a birthday bonus of 10% of the points earned on the card in the previous year, up to 15,000 MBNA Rewards points. As long as you can manage to earn 150,000 points over the course of 12 months, you’ll be maximizing this benefit year after year.

MBNA Rewards are worth up to 1 cent per point; however, in order to redeem them at this rate for travel purchases, you must go through the MBNA Rewards travel portal.

Similar to the National Bank World Elite Mastercard, this means that the points aren’t as flexible as MR or Scene+, which can be used against any travel purchase. However, if you’re able to find your desired itinerary through the portal, you’ll get the most value out of the program.

If travel isn’t your thing, you can still get a decent return for your points with gift cards or cash back. You can come close to a value of 1 cent per point on some gift cards, but if cash is what you’re after, then you’ll get a flat 0.83 cents per point.

Unlike most programs, you can arrange to have your points converted directly into cash as a deposit into your bank account or a cheque sent by mail. Most programs require you to redeem your points as a statement credit, and there’s nothing more flexible than cold hard cash.

This card is right for you if you have high spending in each of the 5x categories and aren’t looking for the most flexible way to redeem your points.

5. BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card

Last up is the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card, the lone Visa product on this list. It’s worth noting that the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card also technically falls in the 5x category, but unlike the rest of the cards on this list, it commands a premium annual fee – better to compare apples to apples here.

Similar to all other cards on this list, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card earns 5 points per dollar spent at grocery stores and restaurants, including bars and food delivery services.

The 5x earning rate also applies to gas and transit, which also encompasses ride sharing. These categories tend to be limited to 2–3x on most other credit cards, making the BMO eclipse unique in this regard.

Earn 5 BMO Rewards per dollar spent at gas stations with the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card

If you add a supplementary cardholder to your account for $50, you’ll enjoy a 10% increase to your earning rates. This boosts the 5x to 5.5x on the aforementioned categories, and can be meaningful if you work your way towards the $50,000 category spending cap each year.

While this card belongs on this list as a 5x-earning credit card, in reality, you won’t be getting a full return on your spending. That’s because BMO Rewards are worth, at most, 0.67 cents per point. This results in a 3.33% return on your spending (or 3.67% with the 10% boost), which pales in comparison to the 11% return you could get with the Cobalt.

Therefore, I wouldn’t call this card a true “5x” card, as the inferior value of BMO Rewards is misleading, with your best possible points redemptions coming in under 5%.

Thankfully, you don’t have to book through a specific travel portal in order to get the full 0.67 cents per point value. Simply pay for travel with your credit card, and then use your points to offset the cost.

There’s also a $50 annual lifestyle credit that comes as a perk, which can be used against any purchase made to the card. You can essentially use this as a way to offset the card’s $120 annual fee after the first year, which is typically free.

The only compelling reason to use this card as a daily driver is if you spend a lot of money on gas and transit, since you’ll be getting a good return for your money with the “5x” earning rate. Otherwise, you’re likely better off considering one of the other excellent products on this list.

Conclusion

One of the most attractive features on credit cards is the coveted 5x earning rate, which is offered on a handful of Canadian products. Some cards deliver outsized earning and redeeming opportunities, while others have supplementary features that make them shine.

As you look to boost your earning rate, be sure to consider each card’s standout features that make it unique when compared to its competitors. If you’re looking for high-value transferrable rewards, look no further than the American Express Cobalt Card, while if you’re seeking a card with more flexible rewards, consider the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card.

Both the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard and the National Bank World Elite Mastercard have distinctive benefits that could be right in specific circumstances, but you could also consider them in addition to one of the two Amex products. However, these cards are tied to specific portals for maximum value, which may not be the most attractive way to redeem points.

A card with a high category multiplier for everyday spending is a must-have for Canadian points collectors, so if you haven’t yet taken advantage of elevated earning rates, be sure to add one or more to your portfolio sooner than later.

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