There are quite a few good Mastercards out there, but some stand out above the rest for their impressive welcome bonuses, promotional cash back rates, and excellent rewards. I constantly keep up with the latest promotional rates and policy changes and make my recommendations below based on my years of experience.
I recommend the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard as the #1 Mastercard in Canada due to its low monthly fees, very high earn rate on gas, groceries, and transit, and access to exclusive Mastercard services. It has low annual fees for a Mastercard and offers generous travel benefits like insurance and triples the miles earn rate at select partner stores.
What Is A Mastercard?
Mastercards are a type of credit card that uses the Mastercard network – one of the world's largest electronic payments networks – to provide consumers and businesses with an easy way to pay and get paid. The Mastercard network is accepted worldwide, and there are millions of ATMs worldwide available to cardholders.
To provide credit cards, Mastercard partners with banks and other financial institutions that issue credit cards in Canada; these institutions set the requirements and benefits of their credit cards and Mastercard provides the framework through which transactions can be completed. Currently, Mastercard is partnered with 19 of the largest financial institutions in Canada, including the Bank of Montreal (BMO), Canadian Tire Bank, MBNA, and the National Bank of Canada.
The Best Mastercards In Canada
- BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard: Best for earning 3x Miles at partner stores
- BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard: Best for generous welcome bonus
- BMO CashBack Mastercard: Best for no annual fee
- BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard: Best for promotional cash back rate for the first 3 months
- Brim Financial Mastercard: Best for no foreign transaction fees
- MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard: Best for bonus points every year on the anniversary of your account
- MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard: Best for car rental & mobile device insurance
- MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard: Best for low-interest rates on purchases and balance transfers
- President’s Choice Financial World Elite Mastercard: Best for access to Mastercard Global Services
- Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card: Best for customizable cash back categories
- Tangerine World Mastercard: Best for earning unlimited cash back every year
How Do Mastercard Credit Cards Work In Canada?
Mastercard is one of the largest credit card networks in Canada, and it is accepted in businesses in more than 210 countries and over 1 million ATMs worldwide. Mastercard itself doesn’t issue or distribute cards; instead, it partners with financial institutions and provides access to the Visa payment network.
Credit card issuers (financial institutions like banks) set their terms and conditions for their cards, including all the perks and benefits. Mastercard earns a small commission from the merchant every time a customer uses the Mastercard network.
All Mastercards include a unique 16-digit card number, a magnetic strip, a PIN code, and a CVC. Mastercards are usually made from plastic and can be used everywhere the Mastercard network is supported.
Pros & Cons Of A Mastercard Credit Card
Pros: Why a Visa credit card may be worth it
- Access to exclusive Mastercard services like Priceless Experiences and World Elite Concierge Services
- Withdraw from 1 million ATMs worldwide
- Supported in over 210 countries and territories
- Generous welcome bonus on all their cards
- Partnered with 19 of the biggest banks and financial institutions in Canada
- Comprehensive travel and medical insurance on their premium cards
- Choose from no-fee credit cards or premium cards with annual fees and better perks
Cons: Why a Visa credit card may not be worth it
- Most Mastercard credit cards require good-to-very good credit scores (660+)
How To Choose A Mastercard In Canada
The most important thing you should consider when shopping for a Mastercard is the type. Based on your spending and your long-term goals you may want to go for a cash back or a travel Mastercard. In general cash back credit cards have lower annual fees, but if you travel often it might be worth it to pay the higher annual fee of a travel credit card for the additional perks and travel benefits.
Another important fact to consider is the annual fees. There are many Mastercards that don’t charge any annual fee, and the more premium cards can have fees ranging from $120-$150; this may seem high compared to a card with no fees, but if you’re a frequent traveller or spend a lot of money at eligible stores, you will easily make up for this fee with all additional perks like higher cash back rates and exclusive travel benefits.
Welcome Bonus And Promotional Rates
Most Mastercards come with a generous welcome bonus like promotional grace periods of higher points or cash back yield. Additionally, some Mastercard offers to waive the first year’s fee completely.
Exclusive Mastercard Benefits
Most Mastercards come with exclusive access to some of their services. These are particularly relevant if you’re looking for a travel credit card with extensive coverage:
- Priceless Experiences
- Priceless Cities
- Priceless Golf
- World Elite Concierge Services
- Global Emergency Services
- Mastercard Luxury Hotel And Resorts portfolio
- Mastercard Zero Liability Protection
- Mastercard ID Theft Protection
Credit Card Insurance & Purchase Warranties
Some Mastercards include comprehensive travel and medical insurance. These cards usually have the highest annual fees but are a must if you travel often, especially if you travel with your family. Here are some of the most common insured categories you can expect:
- Baggage delay insurance
- Baggage loss insurance
- Car rental insurance
- Mobile Device Insurance
- Flight delay insurance
- Travel emergency and accident insurance
- Trip interruption
- Trip cancellation
What Financial Institutions Offer Mastercard Credit Cards?
In Canada, there are three tiers of Mastercard credit cards for consumers. These are accepted in over 200 countries and millions of ATMs worldwide. Here’s a list of all the financial institutions in Canada that have partnered with Visa to offer one of their five tiers of credit cards:
- ATB Financial
- Bank of China (Canada)
- BMO Bank of Montreal
- Brim Financial
- Canadian Tire Bank
- Capital One
- Collabria Financial Services Inc.
- HSBC Bank Canada
- National Bank of Canada
- President’s Choice Financial
- RBC Royal Bank
- Rogers Bank
- Servus Credit Union
- Walmart Canada Bank
What Are The Mastercard Credit Card Tiers
Mastercard offers three main credit card tiers for individuals. The higher the tier, the higher the benefits you can expect, and the higher the annual fee and overall requirements:
- Standard Mastercard
- World Mastercard
- World Elite Mastercard
How To Apply For A Mastercard In Canada
In Canada, the minimum age to request a credit card is the age of the majority. Teens under that age can’t get approved for credit cards but can be added as authorized users to one of their parent’s credit cards. For reference, the age of the majority in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan is 18 years old. In all other provinces, the age of the majority is 19.
Canadian credit cards are available to residents and non-permanent residents. However, some premium credit cards may require you to have Canadian citizenship. For other card types like a prepaid, store, and secured credit cards, you don’t even need a credit history. At the end of the day, residency requirements will depend on the specific credit card issuer.
Based on the tier of your Mastercard, credit scores can vary: World and World Elite tiers usually require a very good-to-excellent ranging from 725 to 760. Keep in mind that the higher your credit score, the more likely your application will be accepted, and the cards with the higher requirements usually have the best intro bonuses, rewards, and general benefits.
Related: If you don't meet the credit score requirements for a good Mastercard, you may still be approved for the even better American Express Cobalt Card, one of the best cards in Canada.
Personal Or Household Income Requirements
Some premium Mastercards come with an income requirement, usually ranging from an individual income of $60,000-$80,000 or a household income of $100,000-$150,000. These cards tend to require a higher credit score and come with the best benefits. However, this is not the norm: most Mastercards have no income requirements.
Are Mastercards Worth It?
Mastercards might be worth it for you:
- If you want to access exclusive Mastercard services like
- If you travel abroad often and want to apply for a card that has worldwide support
- If you have a high credit score and want to access the credit cards with the best perks and benefits
What Is The Best Free Mastercard In Canada?
The best free Mastercard in Canada is the BMO CashBack Mastercard. It offers a 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for up to 9 months, and very generous cash back rates. For the first 3 months you'll enjoy 5% on all purchases, then 3% cash back on groceries,
Which One Is Better Visa Or Mastercard
There is no clear winner; both networks have wide acceptance in Canada and offer similar benefits. If you’re looking for a credit card, it’s more important that you check what the card issuer is offering in terms of perks and benefits – that’s where the real difference is.
Which Canadian Banks Use Mastercard?
Mastercard is partnered with 19 of the biggest financial institutions and banks in Canada, including four out of the big five banks: BMO, CIBC, RBC, and Scotiabank. Currently, TD is the only bank of the big five that doesn’t offer a Mastercard.
What Is A Perfect Credit Score In Canada?
Credit score numbers in Canada range from 300 to 900; the higher the number the more trustworthy you are to financial institutions. A perfect credit score would be 900, but the highest recorded score is around 850. If you have a credit score over 760 it is not worth worrying about reaching a higher score – at that point, you can already access all the possible benefits.
For reference, here is the credit score breakdown:
- Excellent credit score: Between 760-900
- Very Good credit score: Between 725-759
- Good credit score: Between 660-724
- Fair credit score: Between 560-659
- Bad credit score: Between 300-559