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Ranking the Credit Card Portfolios of Each Canadian Financial Institutions (updated December 1, 2016)

A few changes to the credit card industry, as well as a new addition to the list warrants an update. But first, as usual, I will explain each grouping. Note that as the companies shift around, the explanation of each grouping will vary from one update to the next.

  • Group 1: Leaders of the industry that have a significant separation from the rest of the pack. They each provide several great products to choose from and a lot of infrastructure in place to keep their overall business model staying strong.
  • Group 2A: Bubble companies that have enough infrastructure (i.e. a diverse business model with multiple revenue streams to keep the overall company afloat) to eventually be part of Group 1. All they need to do is offer more competitive credit cards.
  • Group 2B: Companies that have a big gap from Group 3, but not enough resources to ever be able to bump into Group 1. They would need a drastic move, like a merger with another company to move up.
  • Group 3: These are typically companies that only really intend of offering 1 or 2 competitive products. They are also companies that I believe have no desire on becoming more competitive anyway. But I am more than happy to be proven wrong!

Personally, I have found this ranking system very useful for my personal research on building my credit card, as well as my miles and points portfolio. This help me keep track of the top credit cards of each company on one page.

Note that a few companies are ranked higher, but in a lower grouping. This is because their credit card portfolio ranking is separate from the type of grouping they fall under.


GROUP 1

Please refer above for the description of this grouping.

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

In case you were wondering, the credit cards that pushes TD to the top are: TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard, MBNA Best Western Platinum Plus MasterCard, MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard and MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard.

I must admit, it was actually a pretty smart move by TD to keep MBNA separate. Though I suspect that eventually we may be seeing a full integration.

2) American Express (AMEX) (no change)

American Express is very impressive, as they do not offer any of the conventional banking services. They are pretty much purely credit card based, along with a strong rewards program (Membership Rewards). If you really dig through all the features and benefits offered by American Express, you can find a lot of value. I just hope that they keep up the good work. Granted they still have room for improvement. *Cough cough add more frequent flyer transfer partners with Membership Rewards and improve the transfer ratios.

3) Scotiabank / Tangerine (no change)

I must admit, I actually feel that Scotiabank has the more stable credit card portfolio within the top 3. There seems to be so much more volatility with TD and American Express. Also, Scotiabank has been recording some high profits, so I hope that they will invest some of that money to keep their portfolio strong. They have a chance at taking down the top 2.

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

But RBC is even more stable than Scotiabank. RBC has really stuck to its portfolio. I am actually hoping for a shake up somewhere. They rarely offer any first year fee waived promotions. They are actually weakest in Group 1 for this factor, which keeps them at the bottom of the Group.


GROUP 2A

Please refer to the explanation above for the discrepancies in the rankings, as well as the description of this grouping.

5) Bank of Montreal (BMO) (last time tied at 5)

BMO and CIBC were really neck and neck. The slightest move would have shifted their positions, which is exactly what happened wth CIBC (see below). As a result, BMO is now souly ranked in 5th place.

6) Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) (last time tied at 5)

CIBC offers a better business credit card portfolio, but BMO offers a better personal credit card choices. However, just the fact that they discontinued co-branded retail credit cards CIBC Petro-Points MasterCard Card and CIBC TELUS Rewards Visa Card lately, I can’t justify keeping them tied with BMO.

9) National Bank (no change)

Even though National Bank cut 600 jobs as part of their digital shift, I see this move as a cost cutting move to refocus their business model in a positive sense. Rather than a company cutting jobs because of a high debt load. Sometimes it’s frustrating for me to see National Bank’s credit card portfolio. I see so much potential for growth if the would just team up with more loyalty companies to offer some competitive co-branded credit cards. They obviously have the instracture for it, they just have to make that bold move. But I can see it pay off, if marketed strategically.


GROUP 2B

Please refer to the explanation above for the discrepancies in the rankings, as well as the description of this grouping.

7) Chase (no change)

The merger between Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest is starting to look like a good move. For this reason, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Card has become even more valuable, which solidifies Chase’s position here. If you had a chance to see Chase Canada’s website lately, it looks extremely lean with only 2 credit cards in their portfolio. It would be really nice to see some additions to their portfolio. For now, I just hope that Chase Canada survives the long term. I really like seeing them provide diversity in Canada.

8) Capital One (no change)

Capital One has come a long way from the days when they had the decent Capital One Aspire Cash World MasterCard, as well as the co-branded Delta SkyMiles and IHG Rewards credit cards. For now, they continue to offer a competitive portfolio, because of 3 competitive credit cards. That being said, I still have hope that they will eventually introduce something new and exciting with all the cost savings that should have after triming down. They did an amazing job locking in the partnership with Costco. Let’s hope they keep up the momentum!

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

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the Shoppers Optimum program. All signs seem to indicate that they will terminate at some point, regardless of what the official statement has been. That being said, PC Financial does also diverse business model with the banking side (chequing, savings, etc.), along with credit cards. So they have the potential to offer more products. However, they are still ways away from National Bank’s business model, and they don’t have as competitive the credit cards as Capital One or Chase Canada, that is why they are currently ranked 10th and not higher.

For starters, my hope is that they will somehow retain the popular Shoppers Optimum program, by introducing their own co-branded credit card, rather than absorbing them into the PC Plus program.

12) Desjardins (no change)

I would only get a Desjardins credit card if I was already a customer with them. Otherwise, they do not currently offer enough credit cards that are worthwhile to have or hold long term compared to the other companies. I say this, because you have a higher chance of getting the annual fee waived with their credit cards, which would make it more worthwhile.


GROUP 3

Please refer to the explanation above for the discrepancies in the rankings, as well as the description of this grouping.

11) Rogers Bank (no change)

Both credit cards in their portfolio no longer waive the foreign transaction fees, but they do offer 4% cash back (to be used at Rogers or Fido, respectively) on foreign purchases, which is still very competitive (probably even the best for foreign purchases, along with the Chase Amazon.ca Rewards Visa Card) and keeps them at the top of this grouping. The main reason is because these two credit cards are better than anything offered in the entire grouping.

13) Laurentian Bank (no change)

I would only get a Laurentian credit card if I was already a customer with them. Otherwise, they do not currently offer enough credit cards that are worthwhile to have or hold long term compared to the other companies. I say this, because you have a higher chance of getting the annual fee waived with their credit cards, which would make it more worthwhile.

14) ICICI Bank (new)

The new kid on the block, starting out at 14th place. Unfortunately, they only current have 1 competitive credit card, but there is a $49 annual fee. It can be lucrative, because you do get to choose 2% cash back on 3 categories of your choice. That being said, if I am going to pay an annual fee to get 2% cash back, I would prefer the fixed rewards credit cards instead.

15) HSBC (last time 14)

I would only get a HSBC credit card if I was already a customer with them. Otherwise, they do not currently offer enough credit cards that are worthwhile to have or hold long term compared to the other companies. I say this, because you have a higher chance of getting the annual fee waived with their credit cards, which would make it more worthwhile.

16) Canadian Tire (last time 15)

I still rather Canadian Tire team up with one a financial institution to offer their co-branded credit card to access their resources. I guess they rather have more control over their product. The problem is that we probably won’t be seeing any expansion to their portfolio. That being said, they do offer a decent rewards system that gives up to 4% worth of cash back on Canadian Tire purchases. This is a lucrative return, but all purchases and redemption need to be made at Canadian Tire only to get the higher cash back. Otherwise, you are looking at a 0.4% return on all other purchases.

17) Walmart Financial (last time 16)

Their move to discontinue accepting Visa credit cards at their stores may actually help increase the number of people signing up for their only credit card. I just hope that they would use their money to offer a more competitive card. However, if people sign up for this credit card regardless, then they really won’t need to sweeten the pot. For this reason, they remain at the bottom.

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