Best Credit Cards for Grocery Purchases in Canada

by | Published Oct 7, 2022 | Edited Oct 31, 2022


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.    

meme she's a 10 but she pays with debit card

But which credit card should you use to spend on groceries? We’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and in this article, we go over our top 5 credit cards for grocery shopping, as summarized in the table below.

CardEarn Rate at Grocery StoresOther Earning RatesSpending CapOther Notable BenefitsWelcome BonusAnnual Fee
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card6X at Empire stores (Safeway, Sobeys, etc)

5X at dining, other grocery stores, and entertainment purchases
3X on transportation and streaming$50,000 per yearNo foreign transaction fees!40,000 points and $200 in FlyerFunds$120 (waived in the first year)
American Express Cobalt Card5X on eats and drinks3X on streaming, 2X on travel and transit$30,000 per yearNoneUp to 30,000 points$12.99 monthly fee
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard5% cashback on groceries4% 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 warranty10% cash back in first three months and $50 in FlyerFunds$120 (waived in the first year)
National Bank World Elite Mastercard5X at grocery stores and restaurants2X on gas and recurring bill payments$2,500 per month$150 travel credit, lounge access, 2 year extended warrantyUp to 70,000 points and $125 in FlyerFunds$150 (waived in the first year)
Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite4% cashback at grocery stores and recurring payments2% cashback on gas and daily transit$25,000 per yearNone10% cash back in first three months and $150 in FlyerFunds$120 (waived in the first year)

1. The (Potentially Disputed) King: Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank Gold American Express

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.

In 2022, we selected this card as the Best Credit Card for Grocery Purchases.

Check out our Scotiabank Gold American Express review for full details about this card.

BONUS
45,000 Scene+
MINSPEND
$7,500
NET VALUE
$450+
ANNUAL FEE
$120 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
No

In our opinion, the Scotia Gold American Express credit card is the best card for grocery purchases in Canada, and this is a result of the new Scene+ Rewards partnership with Empire. 

The Scotia 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 Scotia 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)
Scotia Gold Amex earning categories and rates

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.

The card currently has a welcome bonus of 40,000 Scene+ points and no first-year annual fee. The bonus points are structured as follows:

  • 20,000 points upon spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 20,000 points upon spending $7,500 in the first 12 months

Sign up and be approved through Frugal Flyer rebates and get a $200 cash back rebate on top of all the above! 

2. A Close Contender: The American Express Cobalt Card

American Express Cobalt

The American Express Cobalt card earns Membership Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Membership Rewards on all restaurant, food delivery services, and grocery store purchases.

BONUS
30,000 Membership Rewards
MINSPEND
$6,000
NET VALUE
$504+
ANNUAL FEE
$156
FOREX FEES
Yes

The Amex 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. 

The welcome bonus points are distributed monthly: 2,500 MR points per billing period in which you spend a minimum of $500 on the card. This makes the bonus effectively 30,000 MR for $6,000 in total spending, which isn’t stellar. 

Fortunately, there is a special offer available through Credit Karma of 52,000 MR points instead of the usual 30,000.  

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

BMO Cashback World Elite

The BMO Cashback World Elite card earns cash back and offers cardholders the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back on all grocery purchases. As a result, in 2022 we selected this card for the award for Best Cashback Credit Card for Grocery Purchases.

Check out our BMO Cashback World Elite review for full details about this card.

BONUS
250 Cash back
MINSPEND
$2,500
NET VALUE
$250+
ANNUAL FEE
$120 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
Yes

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).   

The card currently has a welcome offer of 10% cash back in the first 3 months (maximum of $260 cash back) and the annual fee is waived in the first year. 

Sign up and be approved through Frugal Flyer rebates and get a $50 cash back rebate on top of all the above!  

4. National Bank World Elite Mastercard

National Bank World Elite

The National Bank World Elite card 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 it’s stellar travel insurance and purchase protection benefits, we deemed this card the Best Overall Insurance Credit Card of 2022.

Check out our National Bank World Elite review for full details about this card.

BONUS
70,000 À la carte Rewards
MINSPEND
$12,000
NET VALUE
$700+
ANNUAL FEE
$150 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
Yes

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

Related: National Bank À la Carte Rewards: Complete Guide

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)
National Bank World Elite triple the manufacturers warranty

Frugal Flyer is offering an exclusive offer on the card, with a welcome bonus of up to 70,000 À la Carte Rewards points and the first-year annual fee is waived for the primary cardholder. The welcome bonus points are structured as follows:

  • 30,000 À la carte Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership.
  • 10,000 À la carte Rewards after signing up for credit card payment insurance for at least 3 months.
  • 30,000 À la carte Rewards after spending $12,000 in the first 12 months (awarded after the card anniversary and second annual fee).

Sign up and be approved through Frugal Flyer rebates and get a $125 cash rebate on top of all the above!  

5. Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite

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.

BONUS
200 Cash back
MINSPEND
$2,000
NET VALUE
$200+
ANNUAL FEE
$120 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
Yes

The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite 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 Scotia 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. 

This card currently has a welcome offer of 10% cash back on all purchases in the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases or $200 cash back) and the annual fee is waived in the first year. 

Sign up and be approved through Frugal Flyer rebates and get a $150 cash back rebate on top of the above!  

Best Low-fee Card: RBC ION+ Visa Card 

RBC ION+ Visa

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.

BONUS
12,000 Avion
MINSPEND
$0
NET VALUE
$180+
ANNUAL FEE
$48
FOREX FEES
Yes

If you don’t like annual fees, an honorable mention among the best credit cards for grocery purchases is the new ION+ Visa Credit Card from RBC. 

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. 

Related: RBC Rewards Program: Definitive Guide

The card comes with a welcome bonus of 12,000 Avion points on approval (no minimum spend), and right now you can get an additional rebate of $100 from Frugal Flyer rebates!

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 Scotia Gold Amex 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 extended warranty when using this method, as you won’t have proof you purchased the item with your credit card.

What are the best credit cards for groceries in Canada – by grocery store?

Grocery StoreBest Credit CardEarn Rate
CostcoBrim World Elite Mastercard 
Rogers World Elite Mastercard (no AF)
2% cash back
1.5% cash back
Empire Stores (Safeway, Sobeys, FreshCo, et al.)Scotiabank Gold American Express6X Scene+ points per dollar
Loblaws, including SuperstoreBMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard5% cash back 
Save-On-FoodsAmerican Express Cobalt Card5X MR points per dollar
Shoppers Drug MartPC Financial World Elite Mastercard45 PC Financial points per dollar
Walmart SupercenterBMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard5% cash back 
Reed Sutton

Reed Sutton

Founder at Frugal Flyer
Reed is addicted to the science (and art) of earning and redeeming travel points, and frequently pairs his trips with his other hobby: photography. Through Frugal Flyer, Reed aims to distill some of the complex and esoteric points strategies into digestible information. Furthermore, he hopes to use his technical expertise to develop invaluable applications and tools for the travel community.

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2 comments on “Best Credit Cards for Grocery Purchases in Canada

  1. the FAQ should be updated. No Frills does accept Visa. I haven’t encountered any No Frills where my Visa was not accepted. I believe them not accepting Visa was before….

    Reply