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

It has been 8 months since our last update. Can you believe it, 8 months ago we were already dealing with lockdowns.

Suffice to say, there has been some major changes to the industry since then, namely, Capital One slowly shutting things down, along with Aeroplan’s launch of new co-branded cards. Even so, you will notice most of the ranking changes from the middle to the end of the list.

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

1) American Express (AMEX) (no change)

AMEX continues to stay in first place. The newly improved AMEX co-branded cards have really solidified their position in first place.

The one thing working against AMEX these days is the closure of existing accounts. Basically they are shutting down cardholders that they do not wish to keep as a client and American Express Membership Reward points are wiped out in an instant. So I would recommend being careful with AMEX cards.

That being said, they still offer a strong collections of cards to choose from with a wide variety of options. The American Express Membership Rewards program really puts them over the top.

  • AMEX Aeroplan Card
  • AMEX Aeroplan Reserve Card
  • AMEX Aeroplan Business Reserve Card
  • 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)

TD replaced its old co-branded Aeroplan cards with a new series of cards including several upgrades to their cards. But the main reason that TD is holding up at second place is mainly because of combining with its MBNA portfolio. I thought that when TD bought MBNA back in 2011, that they would would eventually lose the MBNA brand and merge everything to TD. Nine years later, it seems like it is working more in their favour by keeping their MBNA brand.

  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Business 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)

Like the TD and MBNA combo, Scotiabank also owns Tangerine, which is why I put them together. Tangerine added a no annual fee World version of their Money-Back card. Not to mention that it is a no annual fee version of a World card. I really like this move by Tangerine, which puts more distance between them and the companies below them.

  • 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
  • Tangerine World MasterCard

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

Royal Bank has been offering some competitive WestJet World Elite MasterCard higher sign up bonus offers. But aside from that, there have been no permanent changes to its portfolio since the last time. Because there have been no improvement, their position is not as solid since CIBC has been making improvements (read more below). For now, what sets RBC apart from CIBC is it’s transferable Avion points program, which still offers good value (even though there has not been any transfer bonuses in a while).

  • RBC British Airways Visa Infinite
  • RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard
  • RBC Visa Infinite Avion
  • RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business
  • RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege
  • RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum

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

With CIBC being the third company (AMEX and TD) to offer the newly improved co-branded Aeroplan cards, along with the previous addition of Simplii, the gap has closed with RBC above them.

Now if only CIBC can close the gap on RBC is by improving their Aventura program. I would really like to see them offer a transferable options to other loyalty programs. It would really take them another level.

  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business Card
  • CIBC Aventura Infinite Visa
  • CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card
  • Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card

6) HSBC (no change)

HSBC has been offering some competitive sign up bonuses with its credit cards. What keeps HSBC so highly ranked is the transferable rewards option to 3 valuable frequent flyer programs (British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines). Often times, I would like to see credit card companies offer a wider variety of products. But in HSBC’s case, it would be better if they can expand their rewards program to increase its value, instead of diversifying. I would really like to see more transfer partners.

The other part that they can work on is making their cards more easily accessible, as they have stricter rules of qualifying and picking up (e.g. need to go in person, in branch) credit cards.

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

7) Bank of Montreal (BMO) (no change)

BMO has finally stepped up to offer 2 new interesting products (eclipse Visa Infinite card and eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege card). BMO previously only offered MasterCards, so this is a big move adding essentially Visa versions of their BMO Rewards cards. Now it gives customers more options. I like this move by BMO, but it’s not enough to move up the rankings as their points program is not even as valuable as HSBC’s transferable option. But they do solidify their position in 7th place for the time being.

  • BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card
  • BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card
  • BMO World Elite MasterCard
  • BMO World Elite CashBack MasterCard
  • BMO World Elite Air Miles MasterCard

From the 8th position onward, there is a major drop-off in the competition. Basically, it would take a lot more effort from these companies to catch up to any of the top 7. That being said, HSBC was once much further down the list and they managed to make a big jump. For reference, HSBC started in 13th place in our first ever rankings and they’ve climbed their way up over time, so it is possible and definitely hoping someone else makes a leap!

8) President’s Choice Financial (PC Financial) (no change)

I ranked PC Financial highest of the remaining companies because of it’s loyalty program. PC Optimum is a highly valuable points program if you can leverage the bonus offers. Furthermore, PC Financial offers no annual fee version of their World and World Elite cards.

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

9) Canadian Tire Bank (last time 13)

Canadian Tire is very close to PC Financial in terms of rankings. Some might even rank Canadian Tire higher. But I give PC Optimum points program the edge.

However, Canadian Tire cards are probably some of the most underrated cards in Canada. I probably should have ranked them higher in the past, so I am also guilty of overlooking its value.

That being said, if you do shop at Canadian Tire even only a few times a year, this card is definitely worth a closer look. It also allows you to pay for taxes and utilities with no fee. Also being a no annual fee World Elite MasterCard.

  • Canadian Tire Triangle World Elite MasterCard
  • Canadian Tire Triangle World MasterCard

10) Rogers Bank (last time 9)

Rogers Bank may drop further if they continue to devalue their credit cards. They do offer secured credit cards to help people build or repair their credit scores. Either way, because their cards do not have any annual fees, they will currently be in 10th place.

  • Rogers World Elite MasterCard
  • Rogers Platinum MasterCard
  • Fido MasterCard

11) Brim Financial (last time tied for 10)

It may feel like Brim dropped rankings from last time. But in fact, they were tied in 10th place, and Canadian Tire made a leap. However, this time around, Brim breaks its tie with National Bank and Meridian Bank.

The tie was broken in part because of Rogers Bank’s devaluation, which makes Brim Financial’s waived foreign transaction fees more valuable. The reason I still rank Rogers higher is because none of their cards have an annual fee, while Brim cards comes with some hefty annual fees.

  • Brim World Elite MasterCard
  • Brim World MasterCard

=12) National Bank (last time tied for 10)

National Bank offers a competitive World Elite MasterCard, which has some value. But I would only look into that card further if you are already a National Bank client (i.e. to see if you can get a fee rebate), along with being a frequent international terminal visitor at the Montréal–Trudeau International Airport (YUL) to take full advantage of the lounge access.

Otherwise, National Bank might be the current most disappointing company. Supposedly being one of the top 6 banks in Canada, but only ranked 12th on this list. They really need to step up their game to move up the rankings.

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

=12) Desjardins (last time 14)

After putting more thought into this, I feel that Desjardins is tied with National Bank in terms of its credit card portfolio. They also have a credit card that offers lounge access. Furthermore, nothing between the two companies really set them apart from the other.

Similar to National Bank, Desjardins’ cards may make sense for people who are already their banking client as well, to get them to help you save some money on annual fees.

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

14) Walmart Financial (last time 18)

I cannot believe it, but Walmart finally introduced a new credit card. For $100,000 or more household income earners, they can now qualify for the World MasterCard. This includes a 3% cash back on online purchases and an upgraded 1.25% cash back on gas purchases.

As a result, Walmart gets its long awaited bump in the rankings!

  • Walmart Rewards MasterCard
  • Walmart World Rewards MasterCard

=15) Manulife Bank (NEW)

Manulife is the newest company to our list. The are currently trying to compete in the cash back game with 10% promotions. The reason they are currently ranked so low is because of its high annual fee.

  • ManulifeMONEY+ Visa Infinite
  • ManulifeMONEY+ Visa Platinum

=15) Meridian (last time tied for 10)

For such a low profile bank, I am surprised that Meridian Bank has been hanging around for as long as it has. I’m not sure how popular their cards are, as I am not really hearing much activity.

Either way, I had to drop them down a few spots, because I probably ranked them too high in the first place. They do offer ongoing first year fee promotion.

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

17) Capital One (last time 15)

It has been announced that Capital One is shutting down even more in Canada. Part of me is disappointed to see this happen, but I am more sad to see Capital One fall so much. Compounded with the devaluation (from August 2020) of its grandfathered Capital One World Elite Travel Aspire MasterCard.

They have the opposite story of HSBC (mentioned above). There was a time when they were ranked as high as 6th place. And that ranking was AFTER they closed their IHG and Delta SkyMiles co-branded cards too.

  • Capital One Platinum MasterCard

18) Laurentian Bank (last time 16)

Not much happening over at Laurentian Bank, aside from most of their banking business shifting more online. Hopefully once they settle things down, they can focus on introducing new products to the market. I believe that they have some untapped potential with their ownership of B2B Bank.

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

19) Alterna Savings (last time 17)

Alterna Savings offers a slew of credit cards, but nothing really special to write about. Furthermore, there have been no chances to their portfolio. they only moved down a couple of place because of Manulife being introduced to the market and Walmart moving up.

  • Alterna Savings Visa Infinite Card

=20) Home Trust (last time 19)

Even though foreign transaction fees are waived, cardholders do not earn any cash back on those purchases. They only have 1 card worth mentioning, and even though does not have any annual fee, there is little rewards to be had.

  • Home Trust Preferred Visa

=20) ICICI Bank (last time alone at 20)

ICICI has added a no annual fee cash back credit card. An argument can be made that Home Trust is ranked higher than ICICI Bank, but since they have 2 credit cards to choose from, I give them more points for having diversity. So for now, they are both tied in last place.

  • ICICI Bank Rubyx Visa Platinum
  • Coral Visa Credit Card

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

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