I truly adore this time of year. There is a grounding element to routine that comes of particular comfort in our current, ailing climate. Department stores continue to play that troublesome benefit single made to combat famine in Ethiopia; ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ Hordes of families and sickeningly cute couples stumble about trying to strap a full-grown tree to the roof of their car. The Grinch never seems to get old whilst The Year Without a Santa Claus remains religiously underappreciated. And, every single year, without fail, I proclaim my dire financial straits while simultaneously crucifying my credit card on holiday shopping.

If you’re anything like me and play this quirky little game called ‘I’m broke so let’s go buy everything in the vicinity’, these are the best credit cards to use to perpetuate the cycle:

1. American Express Cobalt Card: For the social butterfly

Best overall and travel
This is the caviar of credit cards. The Amex Cobalt Card basically rewards you for eating out and travelling around.

  • Annual Fee: $120 ($10 monthly)
  • Rewards/Features:
    -5 points/$1 on ‘eats and drinks’ (yes, you get points for drinking)
    -2 point/$1 on travel, gas and transit
    -1 point/$1 for everything else.

Credit card points have always felt as intangible as Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual art piece One and Three Chairs. They habitually seem to evaporate into the ether.  The money spent on my TD Rewards Visa card for the past 5 years (an exorbitant amount, may I add) has resulted in a mere $250 on Amazon. This is the literal antonym for the term, ‘bang for your buck’.

To put it in context,
1 TD point = $0.005, meaning, 50,000 points = $250
1 Amex points = $0.01, meaning 50,000 points = $500
Then include the fact that TD only offers 2 points/$1 on ‘eats and drinks’ versus Amex’s 5 points/$1 making it harder to rack up points with TD…
You get the picture.

If it is any assurance of the confidence in my research, I applied for this card today. I even took a photo of myself next to my computer screen for proof. Then immediately realized I could never expose my haggard writing appearance online (for whatever earthly reason, far too many of you read these little articles). This card has been rated best in Canada on every legitimate and illegitimate site on the Internet, making the monthly $10 fee more than worth it.

*To note: AMEX, as the superior woman she is, charges retail partners a higher fee than companies like Visa or MasterCard. This makes it so certain vendors will not accept the card. It is a good idea to hold on to a no-fee credit card for these cases.

2. Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite: For the fancy

Best cash-back card
This card is for those of you who love an indulgence.

  • Annual fee $120
  • Rewards/Features:
    -4% cash back on groceries and recurring bills
    -2% on gas and daily transit
    -1% on everything else

Aside from having the best cash-back rate (meaning, quite literally, a refund of a percentage of your purchases either as credit or cash in your bank account), the Visa Infinite card offers a myriad of charming perks that are sure to make you feel like a modern day Daisy Buchanan. Things like VIP guest status at hotels and wine tastings at a reduced cost are just a few of the many goodies this premium card will get you.
As an added bonus, the first year is free so you can test-drive it before making a full commitment.

3. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card: For the thrifty

Best no-fee cash back card
On a tight budget? This one’s for you.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards/Features:
    -2% cash back in up to 3 spending categories
    -0.5% on everything else

I’ve always been unnecessarily judgy of Tangerine. It sort of looks like a credit card that would be found in a Monopoly game if Monopoly had credit cards? Nevertheless, don’t let the orange fool you. This money-back CC is listed on pretty much every ‘best cards’ listicle my research could find.
The unfortunate part is that Tangerine doesn’t really have a physical presence (it’s kinda their gimmick), but none of us are leaving our houses anyway! It’s the best time to test their online platforms.

4. MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard: For the backpacker

Best no-fee travel rewards card
A young Donna Sheridan from Mamma Mia 2 anyone?

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards/Feautures:
    -2 points/$1 on groceries, gas and dining
    -1 point/$1 on everything else
    -1 point = 1% in travel rewards

This card is essential for all of you 20-somethings planning your post-pandemic trip to Southeast Asia. When you book travel with your MBNA points, you can book with any airline you want. Additionally, you can get discounted car rentals with both Avis and Budget.

5. BMO CashBack Mastercard: For the student

Best student card
If you’re a scholar on a budget, this is the card for you.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards/Features:
    -3% cash back on groceries
    -1% on recurring bills
    -0.5% on everything else

When I think back to my university experience (ugh I sound ancient), I recall only a few things: overpriced textbooks, a breakdown during the course ‘Existentialism, Art and Culture’, living in a 1 bedroom and den with two, yes, two roommates, and an overlying sentiment of utter chaos. If your higher education experience resembles mine, you haven’t the time to decode a complex point system or tiered earning rate for your credit card. You simply need (and will get) cash back on your purchase of non-organic veggies and ramen noodles at the grocery store. This card also offers a funky 3-month bonus period that gets cardholders 5% cash back on purchases (great for all those gifties you’re about to buy and can’t afford).

Happy Shopping!

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Written By:

Madelyn Grace

Maddy has graciously allowed the Equity.Guru audience to take a look into her investor education journey - and is here to ask all your questions, with a heavy dose of millennial cynicism and good humour (swear it's not oxymoronic). With an EngLit degree from Ryerson University, and a pedigree that includes having been killed on CW series Supernatural twice, she fits right in with the rest of the Equity.Guru team, making even the most dull financial topic approachable. Talk to her about feminism, the acting world in Vancouver and all your financial woes. Don't talk to her about pineapple on pizza, NFTs, or how cheesecake is really a pie.

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