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Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards In Canada For Salaries Under $60,000

Canadians love rewards programs. From the most popular ones like Aeroplan and Air Miles, to the amazing value of American Express Membership rewards, to the numerous bank-run programs, there’s almost too many to keep track of. How can you figure out which one is the best?

Which program is the best for you largely depends on your level of spending, since every rewards program gives you different amounts of points for different spending categories. Gas is a popular bonus category, for example, but if you don’t own a car it’s not going to help you much.

Since many of travel rewards programs in Canada are linked to a certain line of credit cards with fixed spending rewards, it’s most important to get the one that aligns with your spending the best, rather than which one has the best points value. In most cases, the exact value of a point doesn’t matter as much as how quickly you can earn them. The faster you earn points, the more effective they are.

With that being said, there are still cards that are better than others. The most obvious examples are the super-premium cards with hefty annual fees and high income requirements. These cards blow their lower-income counterparts out of the water when it comes to rewards earning potential, but have the downside of needing to earn (and spend) a lot of money before you see any benefit.

So we broke down the best cards into two categories: the best rewards credit cards for people that make $60,000 or less, and the best travel rewards credit cards for people that make more than $60,000. That way, no matter your income, you’ll actually get some advice that’s useful. Most websites that compare cards only care about the hardest cards to get, which only a handful of people would actually qualify for in the first place.

We’re also excluding some certain ultra-elite credit cards like the American Express platinum card with its $699 annual fee. Basically, any credit card that costs for than $150 we don’t count, as the amount of money you have to spend every year for that to be worth it is so high that only dedicated churners and the incredibly wealthy would see any benefit – and they can figure out the best cards for themselves.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada for 2019! Effective cash back is based on the following spending:

Category

Spending

Gas

$300

Groceries

$500

Drug store

$100

Travel

$200

Other spending

$400

Total

$1,500

 

 

Best Travel Cards For Salaries Under $60,000

 

American Express Cobalt

 

The American Express Cobalt has one of the highest potential real cashback rewards of any travel card in Canada thanks to its 5 points per dollar on food and drink. If you were you to only use this card for buying groceries and eating/drinking out, you would earn an incredible 5% effective cashback (which would be taken down a little bit by your annual fee).

Effective Cash Back:

Based on our spending profile, the average effective cash back for the American Express Cobalt is 2.89%, which is incredible! That includes the annual (in this case, monthly) fee as well, so if you spend roughly $1,500 a month in those categories, you’ll earn roughly $43.35 a month in travel rewards, or $520 a year.

The max effective cash back for this profile is an astounding 4.80% when redeeming for flights to Montreal from Toronto.

Other perks:

The card includes a full suite of travel insurance benefits, including travel emergency medical ($5,000,000 for 15 days) and travel accident insurance ($250,000), flight delay ($500) and baggage loss / delay ($500 per trip). The Cobalt’s car rental insurance covers collision, loss and damage for vehicles with an MSRP of up to $85,000 (that’s pretty much every car except luxury supercars).

All American Express cardholders get access to special offers including ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movies and other events through American Express Invites, as well as a 24/7 concierge service. I receive these special invites in my email, and while I personally haven’t found one that’s exactly my taste, they are a good deal for some.

 

Scotiabank Gold American Express

 

Yes, both of the best credit cards for salaries under $60,000 are American Express cards. Amex gets a (undeserved, in my opinion) bad reputation for not being accepted at most stores and restaurants in Canada. While its true that you can’t use them in as many places as you can with Visa or Mastercard, nearly all large retailers and restaurant chains will accept them. Through the course of my normal spending habits, only a handful of retailers don’t accept Amex.

The Scotiabank Gold Amex earns 4 Scotia reward points (not American Express rewards) for every dollar spent on gas, groceries, restaurants and entertainment, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

IMPORTANT: Scotiabank is making a few changes to the Gold Amex in August of 2019, mainly increasing most bonus categories to 5 points per dollar instead of 4. You can read the full changes here.

Effective Cash Back:

The Scotia Rewards program is simple to understand. 1 point is worth 1 cent, or $0.01.

However, the effective cash back you earn depends on how efficient you are with spending your money to earn those points. Based on our earlier spending profile, the average effective cash back is a surprisingly consistent 2.62%. Not quite as high as the Amex Cobalt, but still very good, especially when compared to other cards on the market.

 

Other Perks:

The upcoming changes to the Scotiabank Gold Amex include the removal of the foreign exchange fee, which will make all purchases made in a foreign currency, including online purchases made in USD, not cost an additional 2.5%. Pretty sweet!

There’s also a litany of travel insurance, including travel accident insurance of $500,000, rental car damage and collision insurance, hotel burglary coverage and baggage delay insurance of $1,000 per trip.

 

Which should I choose?

Which card is better for you depends on your exact spending. Before you decide to apply for a card, be sure to check out our online credit card comparison tool to be sure that you’re getting the one that aligns with your spending the best.


Chris Chris 06/07/2019
Canadian personal finance buff and all-around writing enthusiast, Chris loves breaking down complicated money ideas to show that they're really not so complex. 
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