For most Canadians (and people), groceries are one of their largest purchase categories. Everyone has to put food on the table. Unfortunately, healthier food options are expensive and not getting any cheaper with the current inflationary economic environment.
Credit cards are one of many ways to save money on food and groceries in Canada, and they should not be overlooked by anyone (except perhaps by those not financially responsible enough to wield them). The reality is that if you pay with a debit card you’re effectively leaving 4-6% in cash on every transaction, on the table.
But which credit card should you use to buy groceries? Let’s look at the best credit cards for grocery purchases in Canada.
The Best Credit Cards to Buy Groceries in Canada
We’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and below we will go over our top 6 credit cards for grocery shopping, as summarized in the table below.
|Card||Earn Rate at Grocery Stores||Other Earning Rates||Spending Cap||Other Notable Benefits||Annual Fee|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express Card||6X at Empire stores (Safeway, Sobeys, etc)|
5X at dining, other grocery stores, and entertainment purchases
|3X on transportation and streaming||$50,000 per year||No foreign transaction fees!||$120|
|American Express Cobalt Card||5X on eats and drinks||3X on streaming, 2X on travel and transit||$30,000 per year||None||$12.99 monthly fee|
|BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard||5% cashback on groceries||4% on transit, 3% on gas, 2% on recurring bills||$500 per month (groceries, recurring bills)|
$300 per month (transit, gas)
|Free roadside assistance, 2 year extended warranty||$120|
|National Bank World Elite Mastercard||5X at grocery stores and restaurants||2X on gas and recurring bill payments||$2,500 per month||$150 travel credit, lounge access, 2 year extended warranty||$150|
|MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard||5x at grocery stores, restaurants, digital media, memberships, and household utility purchases||N/A||$50,000 per year (per category)||Birthday bonus of up to 15,000 MBNA Rewards points||$120|
|Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite||4% cashback at grocery stores and recurring payments||2% cashback on gas and daily transit||$25,000 per year||None||$120|
1. The (Potentially Disputed) King: Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
The Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns Scene+ Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Scene+ points on grocery, restaurant, and entertainment purchases. This card charges no foreign exchange fees.
For 2023, we selected this card as the Best Credit Card for Grocery Purchases.
Check out our Scotiabank Gold American Express card review for more details.
Jul 1, 2024
The Scotiabank Gold Amex card now earns 6 Scene+ points per dollar spent at eligible grocery stores including Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Voilà by Sobeys, Voilà by IGA, Voilà by Safeway, Chalo! FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA West, Les Marchés Tradition, Rachelle Béry and Co-Op.
You can think of the Scotiabank Gold Amex as earning effectively 6% cashback if you shop at the above stores for your groceries.
In addition, the card earns 5 Scene+ points per dollar spent at
- Restaurants (including food delivery)
- Other grocery Stores
- Entertainment (movies, theatres, ticketing agencies)
Scene+ points can be redeemed for travel rewards easily and flexibly via “Apply Points to Travel”, which garners a value of 1 cent per point. The refundable hotel trick works with this method as well.
Furthermore, this card is one of the few credit cards in Canada with no foreign transaction fees, and although issued by Scotiabank, is eligible for Amex Offers, and has strong insurance coverage including mobile device insurance and car rental insurance.
Sign up and be approved through FlyerFunds Rebates and get a cash back rebate on top of the current welcome bonus!
2. A Close Contender: The American Express Cobalt Card
The American Express Cobalt card earns Membership Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Membership Rewards on eligible restaurant, food delivery, and grocery store purchases.
Check out our American Express Cobalt card review for more details.
15,000 Membership Rewards
The American Express Cobalt credit card, until now, was considered the best credit card for grocery spending in Canada. At an earning rate of 5 Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on grocery stores, food delivery, restaurants, bars, and convenience stores, it should be considered at least a 5% return on spending.
Of course, many would still argue that the Amex Cobalt card is #1 because Amex MR points can be transferred to many other points programs like Aeroplan, Marriott Bonvoy, or Hilton Honors. When redeemed via these programs, you can certainly get better value than 1 cent per point, Aeroplan has a value of 2 cents per point when redeemed wisely.
One drawback of the Amex Cobalt card is its annual fee and welcome bonus structure. The annual fee is charged monthly at $12.99, giving the card an approximate yearly cost of $155.88.
Now, you might be thinking, “but I shop at Loblaws stores which don’t accept American Express!” Fret not, as there are workarounds to use Amex stores at Superstore and Loblaws ;).
3. BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
The BMO Cashback World Elite Mastercard earns cash back and offers cardholders the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back on all grocery purchases. As a result, for 2023 we selected this card for the award for Best Cashback Credit Card for Grocery Purchases.
Check out our BMO Cashback World Elite Mastercard review for more details.
250 Cash back
May 31, 2024
If you’re looking for a credit card with higher merchant acceptance than American Express, or looking for a simple cashback rewards structure instead of points like Scene+ or Amex Membership Rewards, then the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard should be a strong consideration.
The BMO CashBack World Elite earns 5% cash back on grocery purchases. Do beware of the monthly spending cap of $500. This means if you spend $1000 on groceries per month, you would get 5% on the first $500 ($25), and then 1% on the second $500 ($5), which does handicap the card a bit for those who spend a lot on groceries.
The card also earns strong rates in several other spending categories:
- 4% on transit (on the first $300 you spend monthly)
- 3% on gas and electric vehicle charging (on the first $300 you spend monthly)
- 2% on recurring bill payments (on the first $500 you spend monthly)
Receiving your cashback earned each billing cycle is easy and flexible. You can either have your cashback applied as a statement credit or deposit it into a BMO bank account or Investorline account.
The BMO CashBack World Elite comes with two additional notable benefits: an extended manufacturer’s warranty of 2 additional years for eligible purchases, and free roadside assistance (provided by Dominion Automobile Association and the benefits of their BMO Roadside Assistance Program – Basic Coverage).
4. National Bank World Elite Mastercard
The National Bank World Elite Mastercard earns À la Carte Rewards points and offers cardholders benefits such as $150 in annual travel credits and access to the National Bank VIP lounge in the YUL International terminal. Due to its stellar travel insurance and purchase protection benefits, we deemed this card the Best Overall Insurance Credit Card of 2023.
Check out our National Bank World Elite Mastercard review for more details.
40,000 À la carte Rewards
Jan 31, 2024
The National Bank World Elite Mastercard is one of our favorite credit cards for several reasons, one of which is its exceptional earning potential. The card earns
- 5 À la Carte Rewards points per dollar on grocery and restaurant purchases
- 2 À la Carte Rewards points per dollar on gas, electric vehicle charging, and recurring bills
- 1 À la Carte Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
There is a spending cap on the 5X earn rate of $2,500 monthly. This means once you spend $2,500 in a monthly billing cycle (on any purchase category), you will earn only 2X on grocery and restaurant purchases thereafter.
The National Bank World Elite has several tangible benefits:
- Exceedingly strong extended warranty coverage which triples the manufacturer’s warranty, up to 2 additional years, on eligible purchases.
- Travel credit of $150 per calendar year, redeemable towards airport parking, baggage fees, seat selection, airport lounge access, and airline ticket upgrades.
- Complimentary lounge access to the National Bank Lounge at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Sign up and be approved through FlyerFunds Rebates and get a cash rebate on top of the current welcome bonus for the card! Please note that in order to take advantage of this welcome offer, you must not currently hold a personal National Bank Mastercard credit card or have held one in the last 24 months.
5. MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard
The MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard earns MBNA Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x MBNA Rewards on restaurant, grocery, digital media purchases, and more.
Check out our MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard review for more details.
30,000 MBNA Rewards
The MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard earns 5x MBNA Rewards points on all grocery purchases and since it is a Mastercard, is widely accepted at many Canadian grocers.
This card has a high annual category spend limit of $50,000 per category. This means you can not only earn 5x MBNA Rewards points on up to $50,000 in grocery purchases, but also 5x on up to $50,000 in restaurant, digital media, memberships, and household utility purchases. This can add up to a ton of MBNA Rewards points if you are strategic with your purchases.
Cardholders will also receive “birthday bonus points” when holding this card, which can be up to 15,000 MBNA Rewards points (calculated as 10% of the total amount of points earned in the last 12 months leading up to the cardholder’s birthday).
The real value in using this card for grocery spend is that MBNA Rewards points will be transferrable to the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at a ratio of 1:1 within the next year. Alaska Miles are hard to come by for Canadians and are highly coveted as they present some fantastic business and first class flight redemptions.
Alternatively, if you do not meet the income requirements or are looking for a no annual fee option, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard offers 4x MBNA Rewards on grocery purchases up to $10,000 per calendar year.
6. Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite
The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card earns cash back and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 4% cash back on grocery purchases, eligible recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases.
200 Cash back
Oct 31, 2024
The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card is another strong cash back earning credit card which earns 4% on groceries, but also on recurring bill payments and subscription services, such as:
- Insurance premiums, utilities, gym memberships, etc.
- Meal kits
- Netflix and other streaming services
Furthermore, the card earns 2% on gas and daily transit purchases, including Uber and rideshare. It earns 1% on everything else.
The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite has only an annual cap on spending before the earn rate drops to 1% across the board: $25,000. This means, depending on your spending habits, you might choose it over the BMO CashBack World Elite even though the latter technically earns 5% on groceries.
Sign up and be approved through FlyerFunds Rebates and get a cash back rebate on top of the current welcome bonus!
Best Low-fee Card: RBC ION+ Visa Card
The RBC ION+ Visa card earns Avion points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 3x Avion on groceries, restaurants, food delivery, transportation purchases, digital purchases, and more.
If you don’t like annual fees, an honorable mention among the best credit cards for grocery purchases is the new RBC Ion+ Visa card.
This card has a slightly lower earning rate of 3 Avion points for every dollar spent on groceries, as well as:
- Dining and food delivery
- Transportation, including gas, rideshare, daily public transit, and electric vehicle charging
- Streaming, digital gaming, and subscriptions
It earns 1 Avion point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
The Avion program (previously known as RBC Rewards) is a flexible points program and can be redeemed for a minimum of 1 cent per point (eg. hotel.com gift cards or transferring to WestJet dollars), and higher if used for travel redemptions.
Conclusion: Which Card is Right for You?
Although we have ordered the above list according to our subjective ranking of the best grocery credit cards available to Canadians, the best card for you will depend on your personal financial situation, spending habits, and preferences.
If you tend to shop at Empire stores, the Scotiabank Gold American Express card is hard to beat with its effective 6% cash back on all purchases. On the other hand, Costco shoppers are tied to Mastercard and might find the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard more attractive.
People who want to maximize return and/or rack up travel points will lean towards the Cobalt card, whose points can then be transferred to Aeroplan and redeemed for exceptional value.
Regardless of what card ends up being right for you, we hope this article has helped narrow down your decision. Check out our FAQs below for some more tips on all things groceries and credit cards, or let us know in the comments if you’ve got unanswered questions or experiences to share!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does buying groceries with a credit card build credit?
Yes, spending of any kind on a credit card helps build your credit history and improve your credit score, as long as you pay the balance off in full each month. Groceries are a spending category that tends to be consistent and significant each month, so if you’re not charging groceries to a credit card, you’re undermining your credit card earning potential.
Does No Frills accept Visa credit cards?
In the past No Frills, like Costco, only accepted Mastercard. They now accept both Mastercard and Visa in-store. You’re still out of luck with American Express, however.
Use the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard to earn 5% in cash back at No Frills or the National Bank World Elite Mastercard to earn 5 À la Carte Rewards points per dollar spent at No Frills.
What is the best credit card for groceries in 2022?
Here are the credit cards you should consider for buying groceries in 2022:
• The Scotiabank Gold American Express credit card – 6X Scene+ points at Empire stores like Safeway, Sobeys, FreshCo, etc.
• The American Express Cobalt credit card – 5X Membership Rewards on groceries and restaurants.
• The BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard – 5% cashback on groceries and restaurants.
• The National Bank World Elite Mastercard – 5X À la Carte Rewards points on groceries
• The Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite – 4% cashback on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscriptions.
What is the best credit card for purchases at Walmart?
Walmart is uniquely categorized differently on different credit card networks. For Visa and Amex, Walmart is classified as a department store. However, for Mastercard, Walmart Supercenters are classified as grocery, whereas non-supercenters are classified as department stores. This means that for Walmart Supercenters, the best credit card to use to maximize return is either the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard or the National Bank World Elite Mastercard.
What are some advanced strategies to use credit cards in grocery stores?
One trick is to buy gift cards at grocery stores for purchases you intend to make at other non-grocery retailers. For example, you can buy a Canadian Tire or Home Depot gift card at the grocery store to earn your 5X points or 5% cashback, and then use that gift card to make the purchase at Canadian Tire or Home Depot.
You will want to be careful that you don’t need purchase protection or an extended warranty when using this method, as you won’t have proof you purchased the item with your credit card.
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