Looking for a new rewards credit card

With the new changes to the MBNA Smart Cash Platinum MasterCard, I’m on the hunt for a different credit card.

I use my credit card for as many purchases as I can, and pay off the balance at the end of every week. This is the only way that rewards credit cards work – because if you keep a balance, obviously that negates any bonus you would earn that month. :)

When I got the MBNA MasterCard, I used to get:

  • 5% cash back on gas and grocery purchases up to $600/month for the first 6 months
  • 3% cash back on gas and grocery purchases up to $600/month afterwards
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
This was the perfect card for me because most of my monthly spending came from groceries and gas. However, as of December 1st, the benefits have changed drastically.
  • 5% cash back on gas and grocery purchases up to $400/month for the first 6 months
  • 2% cash back on gas and grocery purchases up to $400/month afterwards
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases up to $1,250/month – which includes groceries and gas

As you can see, that drastically cuts down on the rewards I would be earning. But the thing is, there aren’t that many great travel or cash back credit cards available in Canada that don’t have ridiculous fees. I’m sure by now, you’ve all read Bridget’s post on her American Express card with the $699 annual fee.

While perhaps that might be a cost she’s willing to stomach because of the rewards, I could never pay that kind of fee – no matter how much I earn. In fact, I’ve never been able to get over paying any amount for an annual fee. Until now.

The Capital One Aspire World Travel MasterCard costs $120/year and seems to be a pretty good alternative to the MBNA MasterCard. It requires a minimum personal income of $60,000, or a household income of $100,000.

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As for my spending habits, I typically charge anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on travel and business expenses.

And while that $120 annual fee bothered me at first, the benefits seem to be pretty solid:

  • Earn 2 reward miles for every $1 – on all purchases
  • 35,000 bonus reward miles with your first purchase
  • 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year (worth $100)
  • The 10,000 bonus reward miles (equal to $100) means that the annual fee will only cost me $20.

    I also like that their rewards system makes it easy to redeem. You don’t need to book through them, and there are no blackout dates. You book your own trip, and then redeem your miles to pay for your travel – and because I travel often, I like travel rewards cards better than cash back cards. It lets me save for a specific thing, which I will always use.

    Aside from this Capital One card, I even contemplated going back to my American Express Blue Sky card because it didn’t have an annual fee, and the rewards were pretty good. However, all of the problems I’ve had in the past with them (and the countless fraud charges) means I will never use Amex Blue Sky again.

    If you are an MBNA Smart Cash Platinum card holder – will you be sticking with the card, or switching over to something else?

    About Krystal Yee

    I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

    13 comments

    1. As an MBNA Smart Cash Platinum card holder, I was eligible to switch my account to the MBNA Smart Cash World card. This gives 2% on gas and groceries (up to $400) and 1% on all other net purchases (no limit). For me, this is still worth it.

    2. I still have the Smart Cash World card but I just applied for the Cap One Aspire Cash card and I’m looking at the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card to use for groceries and gas (4% back) and recurring bill payments (2% back).

      Just a small correction – the six month bonus period gives you 5% back, but only up to $400 a month, not $600 like before.

    3. Jordan and I are currently looking at our cards and which program works best for us. We used to stick with Airmiles – but their program is worse and worse and Aeroplan is getting better and better.

      If the credit card companies make us play a game, I want to win.

    4. That’s annoying your card cut back on the rewards. The new card sounds great, and with what you are typically charging each month it’ll be great for the rewards. I think it’s worth it!

    5. i am looking to switch my visa to a rewards type visa because right now its just a regular visa with no perks really. So i am looking forward to seeing everyones suggestions.

    6. I switched to the Aspire Travel as soon as I saw that the Smart Cash benefits were getting cut… it had already been slightly better for my spending but the changes made the difference significant.

      Bought enough gift cards at a grocery store to earn another cash back cheque then took the MBNA card out of my wallet for good.

    7. is the 1% on everything else after the grocery? Ie 1250 (everything) + 400 (grocery and gas) = 1650$ on which you do get a % back but nothing above that?

      Can you please forward the link that highlight the limit? I only found something that said “eligible” expenses. But I could not (at least not easily) find the limit on their site.

      Thanks

    8. I have the Marriott Visa card (I stay here on the road) and I have the Alaska Airlines card because of the $110 companion fare and the great redemption on partner airlines like American Airlines (40K roundtrip to Europe with free stopover in US).

    9. @Anonymous – the 1% limit on the Smart Cash Platinum card includes the $400 on groceries. So the maximum you can earn in one month is:

      $400 x 2% = $8
      $850 x 1% = $8.50
      Total = $16.50

      If you upgrade to the Smart Cash World card there’s no cap on earnings. Check the “Rewards” tab when you login to check your statement and look for the option to upgrade. You’ll also get another six months of 5% back on groceries and gas.

    10. Robb thanks for the precision. Could you please send a link with this information? I checked the paperwork I got with the card as well as their website and this limit is not clearly stated anywhere that I could find….

    11. I had just read your previous MBNA post and was ready to get one a few weeks ago until the change-over happened. I even wrote a post this week about looking for a new rewards credit card! Unfortunately I don’t make the income minimum for quite a few of the good ones so my search continues. http://househippo.org/2012/12/10/credit-card-crazy-trying-to-pick-my-new-rewards-card/

    12. I’m doing exactly what Rob is. I use 3 card primarily:
      Scotia Visa Momentum Infinite for Gas/Groceries/Recurring Bill Payments *a trick is to purchase gift cards at the grocery store and use those gift cards for other purchases (we do this quite a bit with lcbo/beer store)
      Amazon.ca Visa for Foreign purchases
      Capital One Aspire World Cash for everything else

      This combo works very well for me. :)

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