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Building a Cash Back Credit Card Portfolio

There have been a slew of credit cards being discontinued in Canada. The trend seems to be co-branded credit cards. So now I am wondering if it would make sense to shift towards a cash back credit card portfolio rather than focusing so much on earning miles and points.

Personally, I will be continuing to earn miles and points so long as the sign up bonuses remain generous. But let’s say you prefer to build a cash back portfolio. I would consider several steps first. I will show an example below.

First of all, I suggest identifying spending habits. Let’s say the most common expenses are gas, groceriesbill paymentsrestaurants, travel, and other. Secondly, I will identify which credit cards to use for each category.

Gas, groceries and bill payments

The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card is hands down my favourite cash back credit card to hang onto long term.

  • $99 annual fee (waived the first year if you apply before October 31, 2015)
  • $30 for supplementary cardholders
  • Earn 4% cash back for every $1 spent on gas and grocery purchases
  • Earn 2% cash back for every $1 spent on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments

I would note that the annual fee pays off if you can spend at least $500 per month on gas and groceries. The math works as follows:

MBNA SmartCash MasterCard – 2% cash back on gas and groceries

  • $500 x 12 = $6,000 per year
  • $6,000 x 2% cash back = $120
  • $144 – $0 annual fee = Net $120

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card 4% cash back on gas and groceries

  • $500 x 12 = $7,200 per year
  • $7,200 x 4% cash back = $240
  • $240 – $99 annual fee = Net $141

As you can see, you come out ahead with the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card. But if you spend below $500 per month on gas and groceries, the MBNA Smart Cash Platinum Plus MasterCard is still a good choice:

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5% cash back (on the first 6 months, 2% thereafter) on gas and grocery purchases (to a maximum of $400 worth of calendar month purchases)


The Capital One Platinum MasterCard is probably my number one choice, so long as you are a Costco member. If not, you can consider some of the options in the “Other” category.

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 6% cash back in the first 3 months on restaurant purchases (earn 3% thereafter)


The Chase Amazon.ca Rewards Visa Card waives the foreign transaction fees, which makes it an ideal credit card to use in foreign countries.

  • No annual fee
  • Earn $20 Amazon.ca bonus sign up gift certificate
  • Earn 2% cash back on Amazon.ca purchases
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases

Other Purchases

If you are a Rogers customer, you can get a decent return on the Rogers Bank Platinum MasterCard:

  • $29 annual fee (waived the first year or waived so long as you have pre-authorized Rogers payments set up)
  • Earn $35 cash back sign up bonus
  • Earn 1.75% cash back on all purchases
  • No foreign exchange fees

Otherwise, the SimplyCash Card from American Express is good for 1.25% cash back for all other purchases.

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5% cash back on all eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (up to $250 cash back) for the first 6 months
  • Earn 1.25% cash back on all other purchases after all 6 months

Other Options

Credit cards with a fixed return can also be useful to have as they result in similar to cash back, but for the most part, the rewards can only be used to redeem for travel purchases, such as the: Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, National Bank World Elite MasterCard, Bank of Montreal World Elite MasterCard, and MBNA World Elite MasterCard. These are all great credit cards to use on travel purchases whenever you want some travel insurance coverage. The main catch is that you have to use the points on travel purchases.


Please note that the portfolio I built above is just an example of what can be put together. For sure there are many other combinations as well. Just need to build a portfolio that works for you on a case by case basis.


  1. Scotia Gold Amex is my go to with 4% cash back on Gas, Groceries, Restaurants AND Entertainment. Surprised it didnt make your list…

    1. You are correct Anshul! That is a great card. I have added it to the “other” list. It should definitely be there. It didn’t make the main list because the rewards can only be redeem for travel purposes rather than pure cash back.

  2. MBNA Rewards points can be redeemed for straight cash back. 5000 points = $50. Essentially, the MBNA Rewards World Elite is card offering a 2% casback rebate on all purchases, with a $89 annual fee (waived for the first year)

        1. Exactly. I was a little on the fence about that one too. Thing is you wouldn’t have the card to begin with without a Costco membership. So the Costco voucher is pretty straightforward to use.

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