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The Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card Portfolio Posted on: July 25, 2019
Last updated on May 12, 2021

 

In this feature of Rewards Canada' Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate one for earning cash back. We have always recommended that you should carry a Visa, a Mastercard and an American Express card in your wallet and that's what these portfolios encompass. The reason why is that there are benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We won't go into detail here as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but in this feature we outline one card from each brand that will help you build up those cash back returns faster than ever. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for a cash back portfolio but we look at one card from each issuing family that won't totally break the bank on annual fees but will provide strong cash back earning along with very strong insurance benefits.

What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card Wallet? It is the following three cards

American Express - SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express

Mastercard - BMO CashBack® World Elite®* MasterCard®*

Visa - CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card

We've had a major shake up in this list as there have been a lot of changes to cash back market since we originally posted this Ultimate Portfolio in 2019. In fact two of the three cards we originally had in this portfolio have been knocked out due to negative changes (The Rogers World Elite Mastercard) or due to other cards getting better. Such is the case the with CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card, on February 1st it was enhanced with better earn rates but more importantly they moved to on demand cash back rewards instead of once per year. These changes knocked out The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card which continues to retain its once per year payment of your cash back rewards. In fact the CIBC and Scotia cards are neck and neck when you compare them, it's just that one topic of contention on when you get your cash back rewards that makes the difference! And the Rogers World Elite Mastercard went from earning 1.75% cash back to 1.5% thus making it's earn lower than the new earn rates that will be coming to the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard in May 2021. Now you know the cards that fill the Visa and Mastercard spots so the final card filling in the American Express spot is the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express. This card fills the need of having an Amex card in your wallet and should be used for your initial spending to reach its bonus levels and for all your possible spending that does not fall under the CIBC or BMO bonus categories as the card has a nice easy flat 2% cash back on all spending.

Recommended reading: Canada's Top Cash Back Credit Cards 2021

How to maximize your cash back earning with this portfolio:

First let's look at earn rates and category bonuses:

  SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express BMO CashBack® World Elite®* MasterCard®* CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card
Groceries 2% 5%^ 4%^
Gas 2% 3%^ 4%^
Dining 2% 1% 2%^
Transit 2% 4%^ 2%^
Recurring Bills 2% 2%^ 2%^
All other spending 2% 1% 1%
^ = Annual spending cap in place for these categories - see below for details


Here is how you will want to break down your spending to maximize your cash back earning with this portfolio:

Initial spending for welcome bonuses: At time of posting this updated portfolio all three cards had welcome bonus offers in play that have minimum spending requirements. To maximum those bonuses you need spend $8,000 combined between the three cards so ideally you'll want to space your applications and use of the cards so you are not overwhelmed in reaching those requirements. I would recommend going for the SimplyCash Card from American Express first since it requires the most spending but provides the biggest bonus. That welcome bonus is 10% cash back on all spending up to $4,000 in the first four months of having the card. That means you would earn $400 cash back once you hit that $4,000 level. Next iI'd go with the CIBC Dividend Visa Infinte card and get in on it's 10% cash back offer on all spending. You'll earn that 10% on all spending up to $2,000 in the first four statement cycles. Once you do that you have another $200 cash back ready to go. Finally you can grab the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard. It's offers the same 10% cash back on spending of up to $2,000 in the first three months.

Now that the welcome bonuses are out of the way here's how you'll want to use your cards for your everyday spending:

Grocery Purchases: Start with the BMO CashBack World Elite card since it earns the most here - 5% back on groceries but only up to $500 per statement cycle. Once you hit that $500 move to the CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card to earn 4% back until you hit the annual $20,000 category limit. Between the BMO card and CIBC card you have up to $26,000 in annual spending to earn those higher rates. If and when you do hit those limits move your spend to the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express to earn a straight 2% back on all purchases instead of the 1% on the other cards.

Gas Station Purchases: For this category start with the CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card as it is the best earner here. 4% cash back on all gas purchases until you reach that $20,000 cap that is combined with the grocery category. Once you hit that $20,000 combined move your gas station purchases to the BMO card to earn 3% cash back on the first $300 you spend in each statement cycle. Again, if and when you do hit those limits move your spend to the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express to earn a straight 2% back on all purchases instead of the 1% on the other cards. Remember gas station purchases don't have to only be gas - they can be anything you buy at the station like drinks, food and lottery tickets!

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Dining Purchases: The CIBC Dividend Visa Infinite Card has an increased earn rate of 2% for dining purchases so this matches the SimplyCash's standard 2% rate. I would use the CIBC card first since it has on demand cash back versus the Amex card's once per year reward. These dining purchases however count towards that $20,000 annual limit on the CIBC card so once you hit that put all your dining spend on the SimplyCash card.

Transit Purchases:The best card to start with here is the BMO CashBack World Elite Card. It offers 4% back on ride sharing, taxis and public transit up to $300 per statement cycle. Hit that $300 and move to the CIBC card as it offers 2% so long as you still have room in that $20,000 annual limit. Again use the SimplyCash card here once you meet those spending caps on the other cards.

Recurring bills: Both of the CIBC and BMO cards offer 2% here which matches the SimplyCash card. I would probably start with the BMO CashBack World Elite Card as you can earn 2% up to $500 per statement cycle and then you could choose to move to the CIBC card as long as you still have room in that $20,000 annual limit. Really for this category I probably would not use the CIBC card to leave that annual spend limit open to the 4% spending and just use the SimplyCash card after you spend that $500 on the BMO card.

Costco purchases: Costco only accepts Mastercard when shopping in their physical locations so you have to use your BMO CashBack World Elite card here. Shop via Instacart use the SimplyCash card to earn that 2% and if you shop online direct from Costco.ca you can use either the Mastercard or Visa card

All the other spending you have will be at non-category bonus retailers so those purchases should be put on the SimplyCash Card so that you are earning 2%. If you are shopping at retailers that don't accept American Express you can use either the Mastercard or Visa card.

The Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card Portfolio:



SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express
SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express

Card Type: Credit   
Annual Fee: $99 Additional Card Fee: $0
Annual interest rate 19.99% on purchases and 21.99% on funds advances; Missed payment applicable rates, 23.99% and/or 26.99%

New SimplyCash™ Preferred Card from American Express Cardmembers can earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 cash back) for the first 4 months of Cardmembership 
• Earn 2.0% cash back when your Welcome Rate ends
• No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn after your Welcome Rate ends
• Access to memorable experiences with American Express Invites®
• Extensive 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

Apply Now


BMO CashBack® World Elite®* MasterCard®*
BMO CashBack® World Elite®* MasterCard®*

· Welcome offer: Get up to 10% cash back in your first 3 months and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year*
· Now earn the highest cash back on groceries in Canada!†
Earn more cash back on the categories that mean the most:
· 5% on groceries*
· 4% on transit including ride sharing, taxis and public transportation*
· 3% on gas and electric vehicle charging*
· 2% on recurring bill payments like your monthly phone bill or favourite streaming service*
· 1% unlimited cashback on all other purchases*
· Get valuable benefits and offers for digital everyday services from a variety of on-demand apps and subscription services
· Complimentary Roadside Assistance Program*
· Complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey.
· Access over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world - all at no added cost, and no added fees or roaming charges*
· BMO CashBack World Elite Travel and Medical Protection*
· Extended Warranty Plus*
· Purchase Protection Plus*
· BMO Concierge Service*
Unlock Mastercard Travel Rewards cashback offers when you travel and shop outside of Canada
· Interest Rate: Purchases 20.99% Cash Advances 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)
· $120 annual fee


Apply Now

*Terms and conditions apply
†Statement based on a comparison of the non-promotional grocery rewards earn rate on Canadian cash back credit cards as of January 1, 2021.


CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card

CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card

Annual Fee $120 Additional Cards (Up to 3): $30
Annual interest rate 19.99%† on purchases and 22.99%† on cash advances and 22.99% † on balance transfers
$60,000 personal or $100,000 household annual income †

Welcome Offer: Get 10% cash back (up to $200)* Plus, a first-year annual fee rebate!†
After that, get cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases.†

• 4% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases†
• 2% cash back on eligible transportation, dining purchases and recurring payments†
• 1% cash back on all other purchases†
• Get cash back on demand - redeem your cash back at any time when you have a minimum of $25 through CIBC Online and Mobile Banking®

Apply Now

†Conditions Apply

Other Card Options:

There are quite a few other card options that you could consider so we only look at a few of them here. On the Mastercard side I was really close to having several other cards in the main position. In fact I did plan on another card until BMO announced the changes to their CashBack World Elite Mastercard. Had they not done that the Mastercard position woudl have gone to the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard or the Desjardins Cash Back World Elite®Mastercard®. The Desjardin cards has strong category earn rates that match or come close to those listed above but the card has no welcome bonus to give you that initial boost like those listed. While the MBNA card is a travel card by nature that earns 2 points per dollar on all spending. However when you choose to redeem for cash back instead of travel you redeem 120 points for a $1 credit which equates to a 1.67% return. So you can see that for non-category bonus spending this card offers more than the BMO or even the CIBC card. Another Mastercard you could look at is the MBNA Smart Cash Platinum Plus® Mastercard® as it also doesn't have any annual fees and gives you 5% back on eligible gas and grocery purchases for the first 6 months then 2% back after that in those categories however all other purchases only earn 0.5%. For American Express there are a couple of options you could save some money on annual fees by downgrading your SimplyCash Preferred Card to the SimplyCash Card as it has no annual fee and earns a flat 1.25% on all spending. You could also look at the American Express Cobalt Card, while primarily a travel rewards card when you redeem the points earned for statement credits it runs from a 1% to 3.5% return. On the Visa side you have two excellent options in the Scotia Momentum® VISA* Infinite card which has great category earn bonuses and high annual caps on spending but you are limited to receiving your cash back once per year or you could look at the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card which also has pretty good category bonuses (not as high as most) along with annual caps that almost match Scotia and you can redeem anytime your cash back rewards balance hits $25.


Talk to us!

What do you find works best for you for earning the most Cash Back? Do you use these three cards exactly as laid out above or do you use a different combination? ell us in the comments section below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!


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