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Ranking the Credit Card Portfolios of Each Canadian Financial Institutions (updated November 1, 2018)

It has been 6 months since my last update, so I think it was due. Since last time, I started a new ranking system where I just flat our ranked the credit card companies, rather than grouping them. Note that promotions are factored into the rankings, but because they are only temporary offers, more weight is put into their regular offers.

Below are my personal rankings of each company, along with a commentary and a list of some of my top credit card picks for each financial institution.

1) American Express (AMEX) (no change)

AMEX managed to keep the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card which has made several changes to its features and benefits (some good, some devaluations). Either way, the fact that they are the only co-branded card that allows you the earn valuable Marriott points, in addition to their already strong portfolio, keeps AMEX firmly at the top of this list.

The weakness at the moment with AMEX is that they are lacking first year fee promotions. Churning may have got to them. As a result, I hope that they continue to offer more incentives to help justify paying the annual fees year after year. They did a good job with the Starwood card, offering a free night as of the second year to help offset the annual fee.

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

TD continues to remain in second place, mostly due to its MBNA portfolio, namely the Alsaka co-branded card.

3) Scotiabank / Tangerine (no change)

The reason Scotiabank is ranked so high are for two main reasons. They continually offer competitive promotions, along with a diversified portfolio. However, they are still missing a key airline or hotel partner. They are too large of a bank to not even have one partner. My sources tell me that they are working on it, but it does not seem that simple. The weak Canadian dollar is not helping matters when it comes to negotiating a deal with a foreign based company, especially from the United States.

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

I am still not over the American Airlines devaluation (over a year ago) on the conversion ratios from 1:1 to 10:7. They had a temporary promotion where the conversion was 1:8.4. They could not even offer a 1:1 conversion bonus promotional period.

I find that RBC’s Avion rewards program has a lot of potential, being a transferable points program and all. They could the Chase Ultimate Rewards of Canada if they continue to grow their transfer partners (hint: add hotel partners) and stick with a minimum of a 1:1 conversion ratios for major airline partners (maybe better for hotel partners). I am stubborn about the 1:1 conversion ratio because RBC Avion cards only offer a 1 or 1.25 earning ratio for every $1 spent. So unless they increase that earning ratio, they really need to offer a minimum of 1:1 transfers to major airlines.

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

It is time to move CIBC solely into 4th place. CIBC has been continuing to climb, ever so slowly. They started in 8th place when I started this ranking system. Sometimes they moved up because of the downfall of other companies (i.e. Chase, Capital One). In today’s case, it is because they upgraded the value of its Aventura Infinite card.  I think the Aventura cards were overdue for a overhaul anyway.

Furthermore, since it seems like Aeroplan is going to stick with Air Canada, it means that CIBC may likely continue to offers its valuable co-branded cards.

6) HSBC (last time 7)

Last time, we recognized how HSBC has been the company that climbed the most rankings since the beginning when they were ranked 13th. They continue their climb this time around as they opened up the availability of their valuable credit cards to more people. I managed to sign up for the HSBC World Elite MasterCard during their promotional period.

What makes HSBC’s rewards program valuable is the ability to transfer to three major airlines (Cathay Pacific/Asia Miles, Singapore/KrisFlyer and British Airways/Executive Club). Furthermore, all of their premium cards waived foreign transaction fees. If they had a more diversified portfolio, I would actually put them above CIBC (but both companies are very close in rankings at the moment).

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

Ever since Air Miles announced that they were no longer going to implement an expiry policy they have almost gone silent on the news. I think most people who were unhappy with the program already jumped ship, so there are much less complainers. And the ones who stuck around still find value in the program.

That being said, I do not find Air Miles as one of the most rewarding loyalty companies, which BMO is heavily invested in. CIBC and HSBC have been improving their products a fair amount, while BMO has remained stagnant. Just like Scotiabank, they really need to team up with an airline or hotel rewards program to boost their portfolio. Unlike Scotiabank, BMO does not have a very diversified credit card portfolio. If they are not careful, Rogers Bank has soon past them as well.

=8) Rogers Bank (last time alone at 8)

Last time I mentioned that Rogers Bank was coming out with its new World Elite version and they did. What makes it competitive is its high earning ratios (4% on foreign purchases; 2% on Rogers products and services; 1.75% on all other purchases). This is also a no annual fee card where you can get a cash back credit once a year. You do not even have to own or use any Rogers products or services to take advantage of the cash back. I am very happy to see this upgrade to their credit card portfolio as this card is also in my wallet!

=8) President’s Choice Financial (PC Financial) (last time 9)

The no annaul fee PC Financial World Elite MasterCard has quietly become a highly valuable card in card. This is due to the fact that PC Optimum has done a great job merging the former Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus programs to offer competitive value. PC Optimum is one of my favourite rewards program in Canada.

Furthermore, the World Elite card quietly increased is earning ratios at Shoppers Drug Mart from 30 points per dollar to 45 points per dollar, which is why I put them tied with Rogers bank now.

 10) National Bank (no change)

It is quite sad to me that National Bank, being the 6th largest bank in Canada is being beat out by 4 other credit card companies (American Express, HSBC, Rogers Bank, PC Financial) listed above.

It is frustrating for me to see because I see a lot of potential with National Bank, but they really need to expand more outside of the province of Quebec. Their only highly competitive credit card (World Elite MasterCard) is only really valuable to people who frequently travel through the Montreal Airport (YUL) because of its valuable lounge access.

Just like CIBC and Scotiabank, I would really like to see them team up with a major airline or hotel loyalty program.

11) Meridian (no change)

The additional of the Meridan bank credit card portfolio has been a breath of fresh air. However, they really need to make their products more widely acceptable (i.e. expand outside of Ontario). Even if they expanded outside of Ontario, it may not move them up the rankings, but the best thing they are doing is increasing the competition in the market.

12) Canadian Tire Bank (no change)

Canadian Tire also has a no annual fee World Elite MasterCard, just like Rogers Bank and PC Financial above. However, I find that their stores are less day-to-day than PC Optimum’s grocery and drug stores. While Rogers Bank offers a statement credit of their cash back.

So due to the restrictiveness of the Triangle Rewards program, I had to drop Canadian Tire Bank lower on the ranking system. That being said, if you do shop frequently at Canadian Tire or its partners (Sport Chek, Mark’s & L’Équipeur, Atmosphere), it would be a no-brainer to have their top credit card (World Elite version) in your wallet.

13) Desjardins (last time 12)

Desjardins is pretty much at a standstill as they have not done anything to change their portfolio. If they continue with this trend, they will continue to get passed over by other companies.

That being said, they do offer a diversified portfolio, what’s lacking is improving their cards to be more competitive. Desjardins is known to have strong car insurance on their cards, but it currently still only makes sense to have their cards if you are a banking client of theirs.

14) Capital One (last time 7)

How the mighty have fallen. Capital One was once my favourite credit card companies. Yes, even more than American Express. Back in the days when they were still partnered with IHG Rewards and Delta SkyMiles. Since then, new customers have extremely limited options to choose from.

That being said, if you are a Costco member, there is no reason why you should haven’t their credit card in your portfolio. I suggest signing up in person when they have better in-store sign up bonus offers.

15) Home Trust (no change)

It was nice to add Home Trust to our list last time around. Their main value is waiving foreign transaction fees. However, the competition has really heated up since then. Furthermore, I have been hearing credit card applicants having trouble receiving or qualifying for the card. For now, Home Trust remains where they are.

16) Alterna Savings (no change)

Alterna Savings has many credit cards to choose from for people of different income and situation qualifications, but their rewards are only cash back or fixed rewards. I would like to see more diversify in their reward options, as well as benefits and perks to its credit cards before moving them higher in the rankings.

17) Laurentian Bank (no change)

Along the same lines as National Bank and Desjardins, Laurentian Bank continue to offer products that may only make sense for existing banking clients. The Explorer and Dollars cards are worth a second look for recurring bill payments. Even so, their portfolio is very limited and they got beat out by the two new companies above. I hope to see them expand their portfolio soon!

18) Walmart Financial (no change)

Still waiting for Walmart to increase its earning ratios for Walmart purchases. Enough said!

19) ICICI Bank (no change)

Still no change to their credit card portfolio, so no change to their ranking. I am excited that they are trying to step into the credit card industry, but it would be best if they improve their products.

Unranked) Brim Financial

Still a work in process, so I am unable to rank them at the moment. If they do not go live by the next round, I will probably take them off the list for the time being.

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

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