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Published May 23, 2022

9 Best No-Fee Credit Cards in Canada for 2022

Compare Canada's best no-fee credit cards across categories like travel perks, cash back, welcome bonuses, and more.

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

According to J.D. Power’s Canada Credit Card Satisfaction study, 22% of credit card holders made the switch to a no-fee card in 2021. The study also found that no-fee cardholders were more satisfied with their card issuer than those still paying an annual fee.

No-fee credit cards have lots to offer, including valuable rewards, impressive perks, low interest rates, and more — all without the burden of a yearly fee.

Our list of the best no-fee credit cards in Canada includes cards across numerous categories so you can choose the best one for your lifestyle and financial goals.

Best no-fee credit cards in Canada

Our pick for a no-fee bonus category card with a low introductory APR on purchases

Simplii Financial™ Cash Back Visa Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-10%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $500
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The $0-annual-fee Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card earns bonus cash-back on the purchases you make almost every day.

    Pros
    • New cardmembers can earn a 9.99% introductory annual interest on purchases for the first six months.


    Cons
    • The 0.5% base rate isn’t exactly impressive, but it only applies after you hit the annual spending limits of bonus categories.
    • It only includes purchase security and extended protection insurance.
  • Product Details
    • 4% on restaurant, bar and coffee shops, up to $5,000 per year.
    • 1.5% on gas, groceries, drugstores and pre-authorized payments, up to $15,000 per year.
    • 0.5% on everything else.
    • Plus, for your first 4 months, enjoy 10% bonus cash back at restaurants and bars up to $500 spend. Get 4% cash back after that.
    • Redeem cash back as a statement credit in December.
    • No annual fee.
    • Cash back when you send money abroad with a Simplii Financial Global Money Transfer. No transaction fees and no interest charges.
    • Purchase security and extended protection insurance provided.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, a $15,000 (individual) annual income is required. Also, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident (excluding Quebec) that is the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee card rewards card with flexible redemption options, including travel

American Express® Green Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    20.99% / 21.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1x-2x Points
  • Intro Offer
    10,000 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The American Express Green Card has a simple rewards program with an accelerated earn rate on hotel and rental car bookings, and it’s easy to transfer your points to other loyalty programs for maximum redemption value. Oh, and the card itself is made from 99% recycled plastic.

    Pros
    • No limits on rewards spending, and more ways to redeem your points than other no-fee rewards credit cards on this list.
    • Cardholders who enjoy VIP treatment will enjoy access to a multitude of perks through American Express Experiences.


    Cons
    • Reward earn rates are lower than some other no-fee credit cards.
    • Lacks some of the travel perks and insurance options offered by other cards.
  • Product Details
    • Get the Card that lets you live in the moment while getting ready for the future. The American Express® Green Card lets you go for it with every swipe or tap of your Card.
    • As a new American Express® Green Cardmember, you can earn a Welcome Bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards® points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your Card in the first 3 months of Cardmembership.
    • Earn 1x the points on Card purchases.
    • Charge an eligible purchase to your Card and redeem your Membership Rewards points for a statement credit (All eligible purchases: 1,000 points = $10 statement credit).
    • With American Express Experiences and Front Of The Line®, American Express Cardmembers get access to amazing events in Canada.
    • Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs.
    • American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
Our pick for a flat-rate no-fee cash back card

SimplyCash™ Card from American Express

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 21.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.25%-4%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $200
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    A flat rewards rate of 1.25% makes it easy to earn cash back on every purchase — no need to keep track of bonus categories, spending limits or tiered and rotating structures.

    Pros
    • An easy-to-understand 1.25% flat rate on every purchase.
    • Cardholders enjoy exclusive access, special offers and events, and more through American Express Experiences and Front of the Line Reserved tickets and presales.


    Cons
    • Cash-back rate than other cards with specific spending categories and tiered rewards structures.
  • Product Details
    • New SimplyCash™ from American Express Cardmembers can earn 4% cash back on purchases (up to $200 cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership.
    • Earn 1.25% cash back on purchases when your Welcome Rate ends.
    • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn after your Welcome Rate ends.
    • Access virtual events and special offers curated for Cardmembers with American Express® Experiences.
    • Insurance coverage and 24/7 Customer Service.
    • American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
Our pick for bonus categories tailored to your spending

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.95%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-10%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $100
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    You can earn unlimited cash back at a 2% rate in up to three categories of your choice — all while earning 0.50% back on everything else.

    Pros
    • You can tailor the 2% rewards to your spending by choosing up to three categories from Tangerine’s list of 10, which includes basics like gas and groceries as well as unusual picks like furniture and home improvement.
    • Transfer balances within your first 30 days and pay only 1.95% interest on the transferred balance for the first six months (19.95% after that).


    Cons
    • 2% cash back is a competitive rate, but many cards offer double the rewards on specific categories.
    • Tangerine is a virtual bank with no physical bank branches.
  • Product Details
    • 2% on two categories of your choice: grocery, furniture, restaurants, hotel-motel, gas, recurring bill payments, drug store, home improvement, entertainment, or public transportation and parking.
    • Get a third cash-back category by choosing to have your rewards deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account.
    • 0.50% on everything else.
    • Redeem cash back monthly as a statement credit or deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account.
    • No annual fee.
    • Transfer balances within your first 30 days and pay only 1.95% interest on the transferred balance for the first six months (19.95% after that).
    • Get free cards for any authorized users on your account.
    • It only includes purchase assurance and extended protection insurance. For more insurance, consider the Tangerine World Mastercard which requires a minimum personal income of $60,000. If you meet this requirement, you will automatically be considered for the World card if you apply for the Money-Back card.
    • Preferred rates: 19.95% for purchases and cash advances.
    • To be eligible, a $12,000 (individual) annual income is required. Also, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee card with bonus rewards on grocery purchases

BMO CashBack® Mastercard®

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-3%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $125
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The BMO CashBack Mastercard offers attractive earn rates on everyday purchases like groceries and utility bills, making it easy to quickly rack up rewards that you can turn into cold hard cash.

    Pros
    • Attractive introductory offer, especially if you’re interested in a balance transfer.
    • No minimum threshold for redeeming your cash-back rewards. Redeem as little as $1 if you want.


    Cons
    • Accelerated earn rates for groceries and recurring bills are capped at $500 per billing cycle, a ceiling that might be easy to hit if you have a family or higher monthly balances.
    • Offers fewer travel perks and types of insurance than some other cards.
  • Product Details
    • Earn 3% in cash back on grocery purchases, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.
    • Earn 1% in cash back on recurring bill payments, such as streaming services, subscriptions or monthly utilities, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.
    • Earn 0.5% in cash back on all other purchases, including grocery purchases and bill payments that exceed the $500 threshold.
    • Cash-back rewards earned can be redeemed as statement credits, or placed in a BMO chequing, savings or InvestorLine account. BMO CashBack Mastercard holders can also use the Pay with Points option to redeem points to cover transactions made in the last 30 days. $1 minimum redemption and points do not expire.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • No charge to add additional cardholders.
    • Get 15% off admission to Cirque du Soleil shows touring Canada, and 20% off resident shows in Las Vegas.
    • Save up to 25% off rentals at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car locations.
    • Security features like transaction monitoring and alerts, zero liability for unauthorized use and Mastercard Identity Check.
    • Two types of insurance provided: extended warranty and purchase protection.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee reward card with a digital-first experience

Brim Mastercard

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    Rates vary by card member
  • Rewards Rate
    1x-30x Points
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $200
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The standard Brim Mastercard is a tech-savvy, no-fee rewards card. It offers an impressive mobile app with budget tracking, an eShop with hundreds of retailers, partnerships with five mobile wallets, free global Wi-Fi and no foreign transaction fees — even when shopping online.

    Pros
    • Rewards are easy to understand — each point is worth $0.01 — and you can earn up to 30x at select retail partners, including small local businesses and big brands.
    • There’s no fee for additional cardholders or a family card.


    Cons
    • Included insurance types are more limited than the Brim World or World Elite Mastercards.
    • Brim is a virtual bank with no physical bank branches, so you must be comfortable with a digital-first experience.
  • Product Details
    • 1x points per dollar on everyday purchases, with no annual spend limit.
    • Up to 30x points per dollar on retail partners in the eShop.
    • Points have a straightforward value of $0.01 and can be redeemed on transactions or as cash back. $1 minimum redemption required. Points do not expire.
    • No annual fee.
    • Brim’s Family Card option lets you add additional card members, set and adjust their spending limits, block types of transactions and track spending — perfect for teaching teens smart budgeting.
    • Enhanced security features allow you to lock your card and block online or foreign transactions instantly.
    • Stay connected with access to over 1 million Boingo Global Wi-Fi hotspots around the world.
    • Access to the Brim Installment plan.
    • Five types of insurance provided: common carrier accident insurance, mobile device insurance, event ticket protection, extended warranty and purchase security insurance.
    • Preferred rates vary by card member.
    • No foreign exchange fees.
    • To be eligible, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee travel rewards card

CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    20.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.67x-1x Points
  • Intro Offer
    10,000 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    Most cards make you choose between low fees or valuable travel rewards, but the CIBC Aeroplan Visa offers both.

    Pros
    • An attractive intro offer that could be enough for a one-way economy class flight in North America.
    • Your Aeroplan membership will help you earn points twice as fast at Aeroplan partners and retailers in the Aeroplan eStore when you pay with your Aeroplan credit card.


    Cons
    • To get the best value, you’ll have to be loyal to Air Canada and the Aeroplan rewards program.
    • Earn rate on included categories is lower than some other no-fee cards.
  • Product Details
    • 1x Aeroplan points per dollar on gas, groceries and Air Canada travel purchases, up to $40,000 annual spend.
    • 1x Aeroplan points per $1.50 spent on all other purchases, including gas, groceries and Air Canada travel purchases that exceed the $40,000 threshold.
    • Earn points twice at over 150 Aeroplan partners and 170+ online retailers through the Aeroplan eStore.
    • Aeroplan Points never expire and can be redeemed for a variety of travel, merchandise, gift card, and other rewards offered by Aeroplan’s participating partners and suppliers.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Primary Aeroplan credit cardholders may get access to preferred pricing, which means you can book flight rewards for even fewer points.
    • Get three free months of Uber Pass for discounts on rides, meals and more.
    • Earn 1 Aeroplan point for every $6 spent on CIBC Global Money Transfer, with no transaction fees or interest as long as you pay your balance on time.
    • Use the CIBC Pace It feature to make installment payments on large purchases.
    • Four types of insurance are provided: car rental collision and loss damage insurance, purchase security and extended protection insurance, and common carrier travel accident insurance.
    • Preferred rates: 20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, $15,000 (household) annual income is required. Also, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee card with bonus rewards on everyday spending

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 24.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1x-4x Points
  • Intro Offer
    10,000 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard offers bonus rewards on common spending categories, along with flexible options for redemption.

    Pros
    • Flexible redemption options, including cash back, brand-name merchandise, gift cards, charitable donations and travel, and points never expire.
    • You can receive up to 10,000 Birthday Bonus Points every year.


    Cons
    • Accelerated earn rate drops to 2x after the first 90 days, and 1x after $10,000 in spending. Considering how many categories fit into the cap, hitting the limit will be easy for families and big spenders.
    • Lack of travel insurance may disappoint some cardholders.
  • Product Details
    • 4x MBNA Rewards Points per dollar on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership and household utility purchases during the first 90 days. Then, 2x for every $1 spent on eligible purchases in those categories thereafter. Both earn rates apply until $10,000 is spent annually. After that, earn 1x for every $1 spent.
    • 1x MBNA Rewards Points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
    • Redeem points for cash back, brand-name merchandise, gift cards from participating retailers, charitable donations, and travel.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Receive Birthday Bonus Points equal to 10% of the total number of points earned in the 12 months before the month of the primary cardholder’s birthday, up to a max of 10,000 points.
    • Use your MBNA card to save 10% off Avis and Budget rental car base rates in Canada and the U.S., and 5% of base rates internationally.
    • Access to the MBNA installment payment plan.
    • Three types of insurance provided: extended warranty, mobile device and purchase assurance.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 24.99% for cash advances, and 22.99% for balance transfers and access cheques.
    • To be eligible, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee cash-back card with travel perks

Rogers™ World Elite® Mastercard®

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.5%-3%
  • Intro Offer
    $25
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The Rogers World Elite Mastercard is a no-fee card with an easy-to-understand cash-back rewards program with an accelerated earn rate on U.S. dollar purchases. And unlike some no-fee cards, it still offers valuable perks for those who like to travel.

    Pros
    • Rewards are easy to understand, $1 in cash-back rewards = $1 toward an eligible purchase or bill credit, and you can redeem rewards instantly using the Rogers Bank app.
    • Attractive travel benefits are included, like access to over 1,000 LoungeKey airport lounges, free Boingo Wi-Fi at over 1 million hotspots worldwide, and several types of travel insurance.


    Cons
    • A more modest intro offer than some cards, at just $25 in cash-back rewards when you make your first purchase.
    • You must spend at least $15,000 each year to maintain the card.
  • Product Details
    • 1.5% in unlimited cash-back rewards for eligible regular purchases.
    • 3.5% in unlimited cash-back rewards for eligible U.S. dollar purchases.
    • Cash-back rewards can be redeemed for purchases or applied directly to your Rogers, Fido, or chatr mobile phone bill. Cash-back rewards can be redeemed using the Rogers Bank app or Pay with Rewards app. You must accrue at least $10 in cash-back rewards before you can redeem them on a purchase, and redemptions do not count toward minimum payment amounts.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Earn unlimited cash-back rewards anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
    • Free Boingo Wi-Fi for Mastercard® Cardholders at over 1 million hotspots worldwide.
    • Access to over 1,000 LoungeKey airport lounges in over 100 countries with Mastercard Airport Experiences.
    • No charge to add additional cardholders.
    • Security features like transaction monitoring and alerts, zero liability for unauthorized use and balance protection.
    • Eight types of insurance provided, including 10-day travel medical benefits for those up to age 64 — up to $1 million in coverage. Three days of medical benefits are provided for those age 65 to 75.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, $80,000 (individual) or $150,000 (household) annual income is required. Also, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
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Methodology to identify the best no-fee credit cards

NerdWallet Canada selects the best no-fee credit cards based on their overall consumer value. Our evaluation is weighted by factors: 50% rewards value, 25% intro offer, and 25% fees and interest.
  • Rewards value considers earning rates, rewards structure, promotional rates and spending categories.
  • The intro offer considers the welcome bonus value, promotional interest rates, and any waived fees.
  • Fees and interest consider interest rates for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances, and additional costs such as foreign transaction fees.
Other noteworthy features, such as insurance, special perks and extra benefits, earn unofficial bonus points. Only cards without an annual fee were considered.

Summary of the best no-fee credit cards

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How no-fee credit cards work in Canada

By Barry Choi and Shannon Terrell

What is a no-fee credit card?

A no-fee credit card doesn’t have an annual fee: the lump sum amount charged by card issuers to help cover the cost of card rewards and programs. Most Canadian credit cards carry annual fees over $100.

Now, this isn’t to say you won’t ever pay any fees while holding a no-free credit card — you’ll likely still need to deal with interest charges, inactivity fees and the like. But annual fees? No-fee cards don’t have any, which could help you trim down on unnecessary costs.

The only downside? No-fee cards may not offer the same premium perks that often accompany cards with steep annual fees. That said, no-fee cards still have some perks, including cash-back reward programs, travel points and more.

Is a no-fee credit card a free credit card?

A no-fee card isn’t exactly the same as a free credit card. While no-fee credit cards don’t charge you an annual fee, there will likely be other costs associated with using a no-fee card, including:

All of these additional fees should be clearly outlined in the terms and conditions that come with your card. Depending on howAs long as you use your no-fee credit card responsibly, it may be possible to avoid fees completely.

Common features of a no-fee credit card

Every no-fee credit card is unique, so the included features will differ. That said, here are some of the common features you may get:

  • Interest-free grace period.
  • Fraud protection.
  • Increased earn rate on some merchant categories.
  • Rewards (cash back, travel, store, etc).
  • Purchase protection.
  • Extended warranty.

Admittedly, no-fee credit cards often have fewer benefits compared to credit cards that come with an annual fee. But some no-fee credit cards may still include helpful perks, such as mobile device protection or travel insurance.

Do no-fee credit cards still earn rewards?

Yes, there are many no-fee credit cards that earn rewards. The type of rewards you’ll receive depends on what card you choose. The typical rewards categories are as follows:

  • Cash back: You’ll get a percentage back in cash on all of your purchases.
  • Travel: You can earn airline, hotel or even general travel rewards points.
  • Store or retail: The rewards you earn with store or retail credit cards can be redeemed at participating stores for groceries, merchandise and more.

When is an annual fee worth paying?

Annual fees for Canadian credit cards can range from $6.95 to $699, and the cost may be worthwhile — it really all depends on your financial situation, lifestyle and spending habits.

For example: a travel credit card with an annual fee may be a practical fit if you’re often on the road and frequently purchase travel insurance — a perk offered by numerous travel rewards cards.

Or maybe it’s a cash-back credit card with an annual fee that offers bonus rewards for something you spend a lot of money on, like gas or groceries.

Essentially, a credit card’s annual fee is worth it if the amount of value (savings or rewards) you can squeeze from the card each year is higher than the amount of the fee.

Types of no-fee credit cards in Canada

There are many types of no-fee credit cards available, with the best offering the ability to earn valuable rewards, cash back and more, all without having to pay an annual fee.

No-fee cash back credit cards

Cash-back credit cards are fairly simple as far as perks are concerned: spend money; get a percentage of what you’ve spent back in cash. Now, as for the type of purchases that earn rewards and how much cash back you get for them, that’s what separates different types of cash-back cards.

Take the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card: it’s a no-fee cash back card that offers 4% cash back each time you swipe your card at a restaurant, bar or coffee shop, up to $5,000 per year.

In comparison, the BMO CashBack Mastercard offers 3% in cash back on grocery purchases, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.

No-fee travel credit cards

Travel cards offer travel-related rewards when you use your card. Some travel cards charge large annual fees in exchange for premium perks, like comprehensive travel insurance packages.

But the rewards offered by no-fee travel credit cards are nothing to sneeze at. The CIBC Aeroplan Visa doesn’t carry an annual fee and earns Aeroplan points every time you spend on gas, groceries and Air Canada travel purchases, for example.

And the Rogers World Elite Mastercard, another no-fee card, comes with travel insurance offerings and access to over 1,000 LoungeKey airport lounges.

No-fee rewards cards

Rewards cards allow you to earn points for making eligible purchases. And these points can be redeemed for all types of perks, from travel vouchers to electronic gift cards.

For example, the American Express Green Card lets you earn rewards points across a variety of spending categories and points can be put towards purchases, travel spending, gift cards; you name it. Plus, you can transfer points to other loyalty programs, like Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy.

No-fee Mastercards

Credit cards branded with the Mastercard name or logo belong to the Mastercard network. Mastercard is not a card issuer, it simply processes credit card payments. And because Mastercard is one of the most popular card processors in the world, there are plenty of cards to pick from — including cards without annual fees.

One example of a no-fee Mastercard with generous perks is the Brim Mastercard. It earns rewards points on everyday purchases, offers free global WiFi access and comes with travel, event ticket and mobile device insurance coverage.

Who should get a no-fee credit card?

A no-fee card may not be suitable for everyone, depending on their spending habits and financial goals, but there are some circumstances in which this type of card is a practical fit:

  • You’re building your credit history. When you begin building your credit history, a card with a high annual fee may not be helpful. No-fee cards are free to carry, so they can help you focus on building your credit without having to worry about whether you’re using your card often enough to justify the annual cost.
  • You don’t use your card that often. Getting a card with an annual fee makes sense if you’re able to earn more than you pay — but this tends to require more frequent use and thousands of dollars in spending. If you only anticipate using your credit card for the odd infrequent purchase, a no-fee card may be more practical.
  • You’re seeking a secondary card. Maybe you’ve already got a credit card, but you want a secondary card to double down on the points-earning process. A no-fee card might be the way to go. Or, maybe you’d like a Visa to compliment your Mastercard — or vice versa. Not all merchants accept both.

Advantages of no-fee credit cards

  • No annual fee. As long as you’re paying your balance in full and on time each month, it doesn’t cost you anything to have the card.
  • You can keep your account open for a long time. Since it doesn’t cost anything to keep the card active, your total available credit will grow, which has a positive effect on your credit utilization — one of the biggest factors in your credit score.
  • Good for emergencies. No-fee credit cards are low-cost and low-maintenance, so they make for an excellent backup credit card.
  • Helps you build credit. Using your credit card responsibly will build your credit history and credit score.
  • Earn rewards. You can earn points or miles that can later be redeemed for travel or merchandise.

Disadvantages of no-fee credit cards

  • Limited benefits. Credit cards that charge an annual fee often have better benefits and higher reward earn rates.
  • Smaller welcome bonus. No-fee cards usually have a less generous sign-up offer compared to cards with a fee.
  • Can create high-interest debt. As with all credit cards, you could go into debt if you don’t manage your spending.

How to choose a no-fee credit card

When comparing credit cards it’s typically important to assess the annual fee they charge. Of course, with no-fee cards, this isn’t a concern. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all the same. Here are some other things to consider when deciding between no-fee credit cards in Canada.

Interest rate

All credit cards — even no-fee cards — charge interest and those interest rates should factor into the card you choose. The no-fee cards on our list carry an average purchase interest rate of 20.2%, which is pretty standard. The average interest rate for a Canadian credit card in any category is 19.4%, but cards with lower rates exist, some under 10%. They’re rare, but they’re out there.

If you tend to carry a balance on your card, keep your eyes peeled for no-fee cards with lower interest rates — anything under 20% is a competitive rate in this category.

Welcome bonus or intro offer

Introductory offers often come in the form of special cash-back offers or extra rewards points. They’re designed to help incentivize new card applications and could be a factor worth considering as you narrow down your no-fee credit card options.

The caveat to welcome bonuses? You don’t always get the points or cash just for signing up. To nab the intro offer, you may have to spend a minimum amount within a certain time frame after opening the card, for example. The thing to note about welcome bonuses or intro offers is that they’re typically temporary, often ending after a few months.

Ongoing rewards rate

When comparing no-fee card options, take a look at what type of rewards the card will earn even after the intro offer expires — more specifically, how they’re earned and ways they can be redeemed.

Whether you earn points from affiliated travel programs or cold hard cash back on eligible purchases, you’ll want a rewards program that will encourage you to make the most of your spending.

Perhaps even more important, however, is how points are earned. One card may offer triple the points on your weekly grocery bill, while another may let you double down on your travel miles each time you book a flight with a qualifying carrier.

Credit card insurance

Some no-fee credit cards come with insurance coverage, but not all. Insurance coverage offerings may include travel insurance, event ticket protection, extended warranty and purchase security protection and more.

Insurance coverage through your no-fee credit card may not be a strict necessity if you have coverage through an independent insurer or through your employer. But it can offer added protection and peace of mind, depending on the coverage available.

How to apply for a no-fee credit card

To apply for a no-fee credit card in Canada, you’ll first need to ensure that you meet the issuer’s eligibility requirements, and then follow the typical steps to submit an application.

Eligibility requirements for a no-fee credit card

Eligibility criteria may vary, but the baseline requirements for a no-fee credit card tend to be fairly standard.

Age and residency status

You must be a Canadian resident, and you must be the age of majority in the province or territory you live in.

Credit score

All of the no-fee cards on our list require applicants to have a Canadian credit file, so if this is your first credit card, you may need to explore other options, like getting a secured credit card, instead.

Minimum credit score thresholds may also come into play, depending on the card you choose.

Personal or household income requirements

Income requirements tend to be more common among high-tier credit cards, like the HSBC World Elite Mastercard which requires a personal income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000.

No-fee credit card income requirements tend to be much lower (if they’re required at all), like the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card that requires a personal income of $15,000.

Steps to apply for a no-fee credit card

When you apply for a no-fee credit card, there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved. The credit card provider needs to assess your financial profile to determine if you’re creditworthy. The application process will typically look something like this:

  1. Fill out an application. This can be done online or at your financial institution. The application will ask for some basic information, such as your name, date of birth, address, social insurance number, employer and income.
  2. Your information is checked. The credit card issuer will make an inquiry on your credit report and verify the information that you provided.
  3. A decision is made. If you apply online, instant approval (or disapproval) is possible, but there’s also a chance the credit card issuer will ask you to contact them to provide additional information.
  4. Your card is mailed out. Your credit card will immediately be mailed out and will typically arrive within 14 business days.
  5. Activate your card. Once your card arrives, you’ll need to activate it by logging into your account or calling the number on your card. Once activated, you can use your card to make purchases.

Can you get a no annual fee credit card with bad credit?

It depends on your situation.

For example, if you’re a student, some financial institutions will approve you for a no-fee student credit card even if you don’t have much credit history.

On the other hand, if you have a bad credit score due to previous financial difficulties, you may not be approved for a traditional no-fee credit card. However, you may still get another type of credit card.

You would likely still qualify for a no-fee secured credit card. These types of credit cards are similar to regular credit cards, but you need to deposit security funds. These funds act as your credit limit, but you can’t use them to pay your card balance.

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  • FAQs for Canada's no-fee credit cards

    • Who should get a no-fee credit card?

      A no-fee credit card is suitable for many people. Those who don’t plan to spend much on their card, those who just want a backup credit card that earns decent rewards, and those who just don’t want to pay an additional fee will find no-fee cards attractive.

    • How are no-fee credit cards different from debit cards?

      No-fee credit cards are similar to other unsecured credit cards and operate like a short-term loan. You borrow money from your credit card issuer and those funds must eventually be paid back. With your debit card, you can only spend money from your bank account. Since you aren’t borrowing money with a debit card, you won’t be charged interest.

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