What are the major differences between US and Canadian credit cards?

US credit cards tend to have higher signup bonuses and better perks (albeit with higher minimum spending requirements). There's also a wider range of travel rewards credit cards in the US that have compelling perks and bonuses.

On the other hand, the signup bonuses on US credit cards are generally subject to stricter eligibility rules, such as Amex's once-in-a-lifetime rule and Chase's 5/24 rule.

If you’re on the fence as to whether or not to get started with US credit cards, here are a few things to consider.

Compared to Canadian credit cards, the signup bonuses on US credit cards tend to be much higher. For example, while the SPG Card and Business SPG Card here in Canada offer 50,000 Marriott points, their US counterparts have seen bonuses as high as 100,000 points.

Furthermore, the perks and benefits on US credit cards tend to be stronger as well. There’s more competition among financial institutions in the US, so issuers are incentivized to offer very compelling benefits on their cards in order to keep customers around. These include annual travel credits, airline fee reimbursements, elite nights to help you achieve status with a certain loyalty program, dining and ride-sharing credits, free in-flight wifi credits, etc.

The sheer range of US credit cards is much wider than what we have in Canada as well, which in turn allows you to easily earn points in a wider range of frequent flyer programs. For example, American AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, ANA Mileage Club, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are all programs that are easily unlocked through US credit cards.

On the other hand, US credit card issuers are much stricter when it comes to repeat signup bonuses. Amex in the US enforces a strict once-in-a-lifetime rule on all their cards’ bonuses, and Chase has the notorious “5/24” rule, meaning that you won’t receive a bonus if you’ve applied for more than five credit cards in the past 24 months. Here in Canada you can easily “churn” credit cards, but doing so in the US is a much tougher proposition.


Last updated 17 November 2018. Any questions?
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