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Top No Annual Fee Credit Cards (other than cash back)

I previously wrote about the top “cash” back no annual fee credit cards in Canada. Below are the top other types of no annual fee credit cards. Keep in mind that these credit cards are specific to a loyalty program. So unless you use these programs, you’re better off getting a cash back credit card instead.

MBNA Best Western MasterCard

  • Earn 20,000 bonus Best Western Rewards points after your first qualifying purchase
  • Earn 1.5 Best Western Rewards points for every $1 on all purchases
  • Earn 50 Best Western Rewards points for every cash advance transaction over $50
  • Receive a one tier elite status upgrade within the Best Western Rewards program when you spend $6,000 on your card within one year

This credit card to me is a hidden gem to me for Canadian travelers. I waited until the 50,000 sign up bonus to get the card. There was also a 60,000 sign up bonus over the summer. If you are not in a rush, I would wait for the next promotion to sign up. A free night can start as low as 8,000 points, but you will not find too many hotels at that rate, 12,000 minimum is more in line with the market. I feel that Best Western is a very underrated program. Their points never expire if you are a North American member. The hotel rooms are not very expensive, so even if you pay for the hotel rooms they are very affordable.

Sears Financial MasterCard

  • Earn $30 Sears Club welcome bonus
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent at each respective stores
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spend on all other purchases
  • No foreign exchange fees

You’ll notice as you read more of my blogs that I am going to squeeze in some Chase cards because of the no foreign exchange fees. No foreign exchange fees to me is essentially a 2.5% savings (which is what other credit card companies generally change). Chase Canada is still the only current financial institution that does not have foreign exchange fees on all of its credit cards, which I find very valuable for frequent international travelers. Take advantage while it lasts and hopefully other companies catch on or else Chase should actually be getting more customers.

BEWARE: The Chase Best Buy Reward Zone Visa is the only Chase Canada credit card that actually has a 2.5% foreign transaction fee.

Aspire Travel Platinum MasterCard

  • Get a 5,000 bonus points on your first purchase
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all purchases
  • Earn an extra 25% bonus points on your anniversary year of having the credit card
  • 1 point is worth 1 cent
  • Points can be used to redeem for travel related expenses, but it does have a complicated tier-ing system to redeem the points

For people who enjoy traveling and do not want to pay an annual fee for a credit card, this is a fairly good choice because of the travel insurance coverage. Of course it’s not as good as the annual fee credit cards insurance coverage, but It’s one of the best non annual cards. This card would be much better if they can do away with the tiers because that can be quite frustrating to deal with.

Scotiabank Scene Visa Card

  • Earn 2,000 sign up bonus Scene points on your first purchase, though they frequently have a 4,000 bonus SCENE points sign up bonus promotion
  • Earn 5 Scene points for every $1 spent at participating Cineplex Entertainment theatre or online
  • Earn 1 Scene point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Redeem points for free movies at Cineplex Entertainment theaters, music and other entertainment rewards

I previously wrote about the here and here. For movie goers, this is a no-brainer credit card to have. SCENE points should be worth around 1 cent per point. For sure do not use the redemption on cheap Tuesday. Anything under a $10 movie ticket (for 1,000 points), you’re better of paying it with this card. The higher you go above $10 for 1,000 points, the higher the rate of return you get. Using these points on 3-D movies during prime time (over $15 per ticket) gives you the most value hands down for the points. Just a few warnings on this card. Scotiabank is a very outdated bank, so be patient with that. Furthermore, watch out for the inactivity fees on this credit card. If you do not use this card for 12 months straight, you actually get charged a fee.

RBC Esso VISA Classic Card

  • Earn 4,500 bonus Esso Extra points on your first purchase
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent at participating Esso branded retail stations
  • Earn 1 Esso Extra point for every $1 spend on all other purchases
  • Esso Extra has a variety of redemption options

One warning I have with this card is the word “participating”. Apparently some stations are not considering participating, which is very frustrating, so you only end up with 1 Esso Extra point per $1 spent.

AMEX Blue Sky Credit Card

  • Earn 10,000 Blue Sky points after you spent $500 in the first 3 months of having this card, keep in mind that the 3 months starts upon approval of having the credit card and not on activation
  • Earn 1.25 Blue Sky points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • 1 point is worth 1 cent, so basically you are getting a 1.25% return on your purchases
  • Points can only be redeemed on travel purchases
  • Point are redeemed with a minimum requirement of 10,000 points, with increments of 5,000 points

I have seen a 12,000 sign up bonus in the past, so be on the lookout for that. I generally prefer this card over the Aspire Travel Platinum MasterCard. They both have the same rate of return and have similar travel insurance coverage, but the Blue Sky points you get the extra 0.25% much sooner, rather than waiting for the anniversary year to get the points. Furthermore, the less complicated tier-ing system is virtually the deal breaker to me. If you spend $400 on a plane ticket and you only have $100 worth of points, you can use the $100 on the $400 plane ticket. The only downside to this card is that it is an AMEX, so it is not taken everywhere. But if you can find enough places to use this card, I think it’s worth it to have.

RBC Shoppers Optimum MasterCard 

  • Earn 15,000 Shoppers Optimum Points after your first purchase
  • Earn 15 Shoppers Optimum Points for every $1 spent on in-store purchases made at Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Earn 5 Shoppers Optimum Points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Redeem your Shoppers Optimum Points instantly when checking out at Shoppers Drug Mart, they also have a tier-ing system where if you redeem more points at once, you get a better return.

There’s a lot of value to be had with this credit card if you shop at Shoppers Drug Mart. Remember to take advantage of the in-store 20x Shoppers Optimum promotions when available. Furthermore, there are times when they have a double-dipping promotion where you can redeem the same number of points but for more dollars. For example, there was a recent promotion where you can redeem 25,000 points for $50 (an extra $16), 50,000 points for $110 (an extra $25) or 95,000 points for $220 (and extra $50). These types of promotions really sweeten the pot. The triple dipping would be to always try to buy items that are on sale, because the regular prices at Shoppers Drug Marts are generally fairly high compared to other stores. So it’s only worth it when items are are sale.

Honourable mentions go to:

President’s Choice Financial World MasterCard – If you shop at Atlantic Superstore, Extra Foods, Fortinos, Loblaws, Maxi, Maxi & cie, no frills, Provigo, Real Canadian Superstore, SaveEasy, SuperValu, valu-mart, Your Independent Grocer, Zehrs, Joe Fresh (in Canada only), and Dominion (in Newfoundland and Labrador only).

Priority Club Platinum MasterCard – Priority Club has been changed to IHG Rewards, but for some reason the name of the credit card has not yet been updated.

CAA Rewards MasterCard – If you value CAA Rewards, this card can be valuable.

CIBC Petro-Points MasterCard – If you collect Petro-Points, you can look into this credit card, but I would only use it when you fill up at Petro-Canada and use another credit card in combination with this card for other purchases.

MBNA Choice Privileges MasterCard – They have a 8,000 sign up bonus, but I have seen up to 24,000 sign up bonus.

I’m sure people may wonder why I did not include any of the Air Miles credit cards. I’ve written about Air Miles here. The recent devaluations to their points program, such as more points required for the same product and the expiry policies, I find Air Miles fairly useless now. I suspect the devaluations will only get worse, because I notice them getting worse every year and the spend to earn ratios have not been improving on their credit cards.

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