My Journey to the Best Canadian Rewards Credit Card

When people think of credit cards the often think of convenient to use but also a potential burden due to high interest rates if you don’t pay your bill on time.  Sometimes people will think of point reward systems where you can redeem your points for goods at a store or redeem air miles to take a trip.  But what if I told you there is a reward credit card that sends you MONEY (in form of a cheque) which you can use on whatever your heart desires? I think you might consider it the best Canadian rewards credit card for most people.

best Canadian rewards credit card

Let’s take a look at my journey of credit card use.

In the mid 90s I didn’t know how to use my credit card properly.  I took cash advances and maxed out a card.  I then moved and forgot to change my address with VISA.  Big mistake as I was sent to a collections agency.  I managed to pay the bill off and at this time I decided credit cards weren’t for me, I would pay with cash.

Fast forward to about 8 years ago.  I was (finally) done with my post secondary schooling and had secured a good job.  So I decided the time was right to get a credit card so I went to my bank and got them to issue me the plainest ho-hum card possible as I was still wary of credit cards and I didn’t want to learn anything about rewards.  This card was used but always paid off the balance each month.

Move ahead 3 years and I was looking to buy my first house.  As an apartment renter I knew I was going to need a LOT of household items.  I also liked to shop at Canadian Tire as there are always great sales at this store.  When shopping one day a credit card representative in the store approached me with the Canadian Tire Mastercard which would earn me reward points that I could use to buy more stuff (tools especially).  So I signed up for a card and started to gain points.  I was now addicted to Reward Credit Cards.  Why use a card that gets you nothing (except interest!) when you can get rewards? However, I was yet to find the best Canadian rewards credit card.

After some time I found I didn’t need too many things for the house but I was still accumulating Canadian Tire points.  It was time to re-think my rewards card.  At this time I finally got around to starting a new banking relationship with PC Financial as I was attracted to their policy of free cheques and no service fees.  The PC rep also signed us up for a PC Mastercard.  We always need groceries!  My wife and I used this card for a few years but after a while felt restricted by the card as we had to redeem the points in a store that sells Presidents Choice products.  Lastly, we weren’t convinced that the 1% reward was the best we could do – it couldn’t be the best Canadian rewards credit card.

Discovering the best Canadian rewards credit card

Last year we started to get really interested in our personal finances.  Yes, we should have been more interested well before this point but as the saying goes, the best time to start was 10 years ago – the 2nd best time to start is now.  I discovered redflagdeals.com when I was researching our new car purchase.  This is how I found the Personal Finance sub-forum on RFD.  It was here I found a thread on the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard® Credit Card. A quick search will help you find this thread – check out the opening post for information and the link to sign up.

I was immediately intrigued by the fact MBNA sends cheques to people once they have accumulated a certain number of points – 5000 to be precise will mean you are issued a $50 cheque.  No more restrictions on where we spend our “points” – I had to learn more.

The MBNA Smart Cash Platinum credit card has a number of attractive features that make it the best Canadian rewards credit card.  First, the  card has NO ANNUAL FEE.  Perfect – they send me money, I pay the bill on time (to avoid interest) and I come out ahead.  Since we wanted to maximize our rewards it is also handy that MBNA issues supplementary cards for free.

This Smart Cash MasterCard® Credit Card also has some remarkable insurance features including extended warranty up to one year on purchases, 90 day purchase protections, travel accident protection of $1,000,000, $2000 trip cancellation protection and a suite of car rental protection features.

All of these features are very nice, however, the reason the MBNA Smart Cash Platinum credit card is king is the cash back feature and this is what makes it the best Canadian rewards credit card.  The way the cash back works is that you make a purchase and MBNA converts the purchase into points (which you can think of as money).  For gasoline and food purchases you receive 3% 2% cash back, up to $600 you spend each month/period.  For every other purchase you get 1% cash back.  Additionally, for your first 6 months using the card you get 5% cash back on gas/groceries.

Once you reach $50 worth of point MBNA mails you a cheque – cold hard cash.  You may think 1% is small, but it adds up quickly.   We used our card to pay for our home renos last spring and we got $35 cash back.  We also used the card to pay for our HST (taxes) on our new car purchase which earned us $37.87. To get to Mrs. SPF’s parents place for the holiday we spent about $180 on gasoline which turns into $5.40 cash back.

We truly enjoy this card and will continue to use it for gas and groceries until there is a better offering out there, and we’ll use the card on other purchases until we get around to applying for a travel miles card in the near future.  Whenever the topic of credit cards is brought up I always pipe up about this fantastic Smart Cash MasterCard® Credit Card.  For many it is the best Canadian rewards credit card available. We pay the bill on time, have not accumulated any interest and to date MBNA has paid us $250 $300 (update: well over $600 since writing this article).  Talk about “earning” passive income!

Disclosure: If you sign up for the Smart Cash Mastercard via a link in this article we receive an affiliation commission.

15 thoughts on “My Journey to the Best Canadian Rewards Credit Card

  1. Sounds pretty good. I’ve been using a PC Mastercard for ages as my primary credit card. Being that we at least always do some of our shopping at RCSS, I’ve never been concerned about how I am going to spend the points.. they can be redeemed $20 at a time for groceries (or whatever else they sell).. but nothing beats cold hard cash. I may have to look in to this one after your rave reviews.

  2. Great personal story about how you ended up with one of the best credit cards in Canada. I would agree that it is the best cash back credit card in Canada that is available to the general public. However, if you consider travel and loyalty rewards credit cards there are some that offer returns up to 12% on your spending if you play your cards right and have a use for the type of reward that they offer.

    I also have to plug my in depth analysis of the best credit cards in Canada backed up with numbers and direct comparisons:

    The Best Credit Cards In Canada

    As you can see, the Smart Cash comes wins the number 1 spot for cash back credit cards!

    1. Thanks SavingsMentor, as you know we love using your site. While we didn’t use your content verbatim it was a major source of information for us. Glad to have your link in your comment as it is a great resource for all of our readers!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences SPF! I absolutely agree with you – so many people pay all of these annual fees for travel credit cards, and I just don’t get it. I prefer hard cold cash back!

    Personally, I like use the Chase Freedom Credit Card. It has no annual fee, and pays 3% cash back in rotation categories throughout the year! Sounds like you found yourself a great deal here though!

  7. I subscribed to your blog after seeing a link to it on this site: My Own Advisor (http://www.myownadvisor.ca). And I’m glad I subscribed. You’re exploring some of the same things that I’ve explored recently and over the last couple of years. I recently researched rewards credit cards and just happened upon this blog post while browsing around your site. I applied for MBNA Smart Cash Platinum just last week after evaluating other options and reading other reviews. I was pleasantly surprised, but not that surprised to see that you also recommended this card. I’m looking forward to earning some cash without paying an annual credit card fee. Thanks again.

    1. No problem Dave! We really like the MBNA card. We have been considering the Capital One Air Miles card too. It gives 2 miles for each dollar but you can then convert the miles to money and I think the rate is better than the 1% MBNA gives. So we’d use the MBNA for gas and groceries and the Air Miles one for everything else.

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  9. Well I too spend some time looking for the ideal credit cards for my wife and I. We made very different choices. (I have to say there are way better choices for Americans.) We picked the CIBC Drivers Edge Platinum MasterCard which gets us 2% back on everything. There is a bit of a catch in that the money has to be used to buy a car, but as it can be new or used, this offers great flexibility. (This card used to be offered by Citibank, and in that iteration we used it a few times for car purchases.) For our Visa we selected the Momentum Infinite from Scotiabank which gets us 4% in cash back for all purchases at grocery stores and gas stations – it has other % for other items, but we use the MasterCard for all else. This year we will get $1,000 towards our next car and about $750 in cash back – not bad for just making the right choice of cards for us.

  10. MBNA has the worst customer service I have ever encountered. I have been trying to cancel my card for weeks. You can never get through on the phone, and when you get to a place to leave a voicemail, the mailbox is full. Also, there is no apparent option for email contact.

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