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Ranking the Credit Card Portfolios of Each Canadian Financial Institutions (updated April 1, 2020)

It has been almost a year since we last updated this post, so no question this was due for an update. The reason why I waited so long is because there are very few changes to the rankings since then. However, there was a sufficient amount of changes to the industry to warrant an update. Most of the ranking movement occurred in the bottom third of the list. Furthermore, another common theme on this list is that the gap widen between some of the positions.

Every time I update the rankings, I have an overall theme throughout the post. For today’s post, the focus was on internal changes made by each financial institution which justify their position in the rankings.

Below are my personal rankings of each company, along with a commentary, last time’s ranking in brackets and a mention of some of my top credit card picks.

1) American Express (AMEX) (no change)

The addition of the AMEX Business Edge Card, to an already impressive line of cards really solidifies their position as number one. American Express has been lacking (more like nonexistent) first year fee waived promotions in the past year or more. But this post is more about the overall value of the cards and not so much about ranking temporary offers. So what makes American Express cards so valuable is their strong Membership Rewards program that has so many different rewards options. Most of the cards listed below offer Membership Rewards.

  • AMEX Platinum Card
  • AMEX Platinum Business Card
  • AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Card
  • AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Business Card
  • AMEX Cobalt Card
  • AMEX Gold Rewards Card
  • AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card
  • AMEX Business Edge Card

2) Toronto Dominion (TD) / MBNA (no change)

MBNA added the Amazon.ca co-branded card which really strengthens TD in second place. TD is really only in this position because of its line of MBNA cards. TD made a smart move acquiring MBNA and keeping their name separate. So for those who are not familiar, will not realize that they have a TD owned card through MBNA.

Either way, TD has a significant gap between first place American Express and Scotiabank in third place. It will take a lot of movement in the industry for TD to move from its current position.

  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
  • TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card
  • MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite MasterCard
  • MBNA Amazon.ca Rewards MasterCard
  • MBNA Best Western Rewards MasterCard
  • MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard

3) Scotiabank / Tangerine (no change)

Scotiabank made a few minor modifications to their Gold American Express Card and Momentum Infinite Visa in the past year, but not enough to move their position. Personally I think that they were neutral changes, some can argue that they were minor positive changes. Either way, it was not enough to change their position. They have a wide gap from TD in second place, but relatively closer to RBC in fourth place. If they do not keep up and RBC wants to crank things up, the gap can close quickly.

  • Scotiabank GM Infinite Visa Card
  • Scotiabank Momentum Infinite Visa
  • Scotiabank Scene Visa Card
  • Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
  • Scotiabank American Express Platinum Credit Card
  • Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
  • Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

4) Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) (no change)

Royal Bank has been at a standstill in terms of their permanent offers. We did see a few temporary promotions with their Visa Infinite Avion card and WestJet World Elite MasterCard this past year, but aside from that, it is business as usual here.

  • RBC British Airways Visa Infinite
  • RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard
  • RBC Visa Infinite Avion
  • RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum
  • RBC Cash Back Preferred World Elite MasterCard

5) Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce / Simplii Financial (CIBC) (no change)

CIBC added the Simplii Financial’s Cash Back Visa Card last time and the partnered all its cards with Journie Rewards to offer a 3 cents off per litre when filling up gas. I think the Journie Rewards partnership was a smart move, which increases its gap from all the companies below. This move really sets the top 5 credit card companies from the rest below.

  • CIBC Aerogold Visa Card for Your Business
  • CIBC Aerogold Infinite Visa Card
  • CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card
  • Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card

6) HSBC (no change)

Outside of the top 5, HSBC is the leader of the pack. The main reason is because of their transferable points program, which partners with Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer) and British Airways (Executive Club). Those are some impressive partners, which became even more valuable when Asia Miles improved their expiry policy.

Furthermore, HSBC added a new +Rewards MasterCard. Even though it was not an impressive card, it was still improves the diversification of their portfolio, which increased its gap from 7th place below. That’s why I said HSBC is at the top of the pack (outside the top 5). 

  • HSBC World Elite MasterCard
  • HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard
  • HSBC Jade World Elite MasterCard

7) Bank of Montreal (BMO) (no change)

BMO is probably the most disappointing company on this list. They are one of the major 5 banks in Canada (BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank, RBC and TD). So it is sad to see them in 7th place. It does not help their position considering that they discontinued its partnership with SPC from last time. As a result, they really trimmed down their line of credit cards. Maybe they are going for a leaner business model, which might not be a bad idea business wise. But for the purposes of this ranking, they cannot move up.

I was really hoping that BMO would make some bold moves to have more partnerships, but they did the reverse. To be fair, BMO offers some very generous sign up bonus offers with their 3 World Elite MasterCards, but they are still just temporary offers.

  • BMO World Elite MasterCard
  • BMO World Elite CashBack MasterCard
  • BMO World Elite Air Miles MasterCard

8) President’s Choice Financial (PC Financial) (last time tied in 8)

PC Financial stands alone in third place, primarily because of Rogers Bank’s devaluation, which I will discuss in the next section. Otherwise, business as usual here. The PC Financial’s World Elite MasterCard is very competitive card considering it is a no annual fee World Elite card. The 45 points per dollar on Shoppers Drug Mart purchases is highly competitive too.

It is possible that I ranked PC Financial higher than they deserve to be. I was a little torn here. But looking at the rest of the companies below, I’m not sure who I would put above them. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below on this one! 

  • PC Financial’s World Elite MasterCard
  • PC Financial’s World MasterCard

9) Rogers Bank (last time tied in 8)

Unfortunately, Rogers Bank has some devaluations coming into effect on June 2, 2020. Basically, they are reducing their multiplier bonus on spending. I am hoping that they change their mind before June 2, 2020. I currently hold their card, but completely stopped using it after my last cash back payout. I want to see what happens really happens on June 2 before deciding what to do with the card. If nothing changes, I will most likely cancel this card.

For now, I will not move Rogers Bank much lower, other than breaking the tie with PC Financial as a symbolic move, since nothing changed with the card presently. I will revisit ranking next time around when we have a clearer picture of what they do. As you can see, I am still hopeful that they will reverse the negative changes, but highly unlikely as it was probably unsustainable.

  • Rogers World Elite MasterCard
  • Fido MasterCard

=10) National Bank (no change)

National Bank is one of 3 major Quebec focused banks, the other two being Desjardins and Laurentien Bank. National Bank does have some presence throughout the rest of the country, but they are heavily focused on Quebec. I just hope that National Bank will partner up with a major airline or hotel chain. If not a co-branded card, at the very least, offer a transferable points program similar to what HSBC is offering.

  • National Bank World MasterCard
  • National Bank Echo MasterCard
  • National Bank Ultramar MasterCard
  • National Bank World Elite MasterCard

=10) Meridian (no change)

One major change from last time for Meridian is that their cards are now available to more than just Ontario residents. Quebec residents still do not have access to their cards. But these changes are not enough to change to move them up the ranks because their credit card portfolio has not changed.

  • Meridian Visa Infinite Cash Back Card
  • Meridian Visa Infinite Travel Rewards Card

=10) Brim Financial (no change)

Brim had some glitch challenges during their launch, but they seem to be moving along now. Personally, I think it’s fairly impressive that they started in 10th place right away, primarily to their foreign transaction fees waived and free global WiFi. They really want to positive themselves as the go-to travel cards. It is refreshing to see a new credit card company launched so strong. My hope is that they stay in business long enough to really compete with the others.

  • Brim World Elite MasterCard
  • Brim World MasterCard

13) Canadian Tire Bank (no change)

Just like the large gap between CIBC (5th place) and HSBC (6th place), the same goes from this bank onward. It will take a major move for Candian Tire Bank and rest below to move into the top 12.

The reason I put Canadian Tire as the best of the rest is because they offer a World Elite card with no annual fee. Triangle Rewards does have a fair number of partners to earn and redeem rewards with, but not strong enough. This goes back to why I debated whether PC Financial merits the position that they are in as both companies are fairly similar. I just found PC Optimum more mainstream as more people would have their loyalty card, which Canadian Tire is more of a niche market.

  • Canadian Tire Triangle World Elite MasterCard

14) Desjardins (no change)

As I mentioned above, just like National Bank and Laurentian Bank (i.e. Quebec dominate banks), I would really like to see them team up with a more mainstream loyalty program to offer a co-branded credit card. That would really expand their business cross country. Otherwise, they are really depending heavily on the Quebec market to keep them going. At the same time, I guess they keep their costs lower by focusing their business and expanding only when it is warranted. It may be a smart business move, but it does not help them with their ranking on this list.

  • Desjardins Odyssey Gold Visa Card
  • Desjardins Visa Prestige Platinum
  • Odyssey World Elite MasterCard
  • Odyssey Visa Infinite Privilege

15) Capital One (no change)

Looks to me that Capital One is going with the lean portfolio. Some of their former popular credit cards are still being grandfathered, but they cannot be included in this ranking as they are not publically available. I just hope that they left the door open to introduce new credit cards. The Costco card should be popular these days and if they may some improvements to that card, it could go a long way.

  • Capital One Platinum MasterCard

16) Laurentian Bank (last time 17)

This closes the loop on the three Quebec-centric banks (additionally National Bank and Desjardins). I really hope to see a co-branded credit card with some of the more mainstream loyalty programs, rather than only focusing on their internal programs. The first of the 3 Quebec banks to make such a move will really set themselves apart. Though it does have to be the right partnership, not just for the sake of having one.

  • Laurentian Bank Visa Explorer
  • Laurentian Bank Visa Dollars
  • Laurentian Bank Visa Infinite

17) Alterna Savings (last time 19)

Alterna Savings has several credit cards to choose from, but not one of their cards really stand out. They will need to make a significant move to have at least one credit card stand out from the rest.

  • Alterna Savings Visa Infinite Card

18) Walmart Financial (last time 20)

I cannot believe it, but Walmart moved up the ranks due to Home Trust’s downfall. At some point, I really do hope that they increase the multiplier bonus cash back on Walmart purchases. I’m surprised that their credit card lasted all this time without any changes. I guess business is going well for them.

  • Walmart Rewards MasterCard

19) Home Trust (last time 16)

A major devaluation to Home Trust’s most competitive card definitely warrants the biggest change in ranking on this list. Cardholders no longer earn 1% cash back on foreign purchases, even though the fees are waived. The 1% may not seem like a huge difference, but that was their competitive advantage. If it was not for ICICI Bank, Home Trust would probably be at the bottom.

  • Home Trust Preferred Visa

20) ICICI Bank (last time 21)

Even though Home Trust is very close to the bottom now, ICICI did not improve their credit card portfolio. They are still worse than Home Trust, so no change to their ranking aside from Cuets discontinuing.

  • ICICI Bank Rubyx Visa Platinum

None) Cuets (last time 17)

Cuets was added to the list last time, but now they are taken off as they no longer exist.

Do you agree with the rankings above? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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