The Best Credit Cards to Keep Forever

A lot of the credit cards recommended on this blog provide amazing sign up bonuses for the first year, but not necessarily on an ongoing basis. I'm talking about the Amex Platinum, Marriott Bonvoy Amex, RBC Avion, BMO World Elite and so on. Sometimes, these cards may not be worth keeping after the first year - hence the term "churning", which is cancelling a card after the first year to get the welcome bonus and signing up for the next best credit card.

However, churning credit cards isn't for everyone. Even if it is, it is always recommended to have at least one card that you've kept open to maintain your credit history.

Whether you're tired of trying out credit cards or if you're looking for the one credit card to keep, I've got several recommendations to consider! All of these have no or low annual fees relative to the rewards being offered, which means they are free or low cost to renew year after year.

Last Updated: April 16, 2022

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are referral links, which means I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This post is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. All opinions are my own.

Rogers World Elite MasterCard
Best for: Cash back, USD transactions, shopping

Annual Fee: $0
Minimum Welcome Bonus: $25 statement credit after first purchase
Minimum Income Requirement: $80,000 personal / $150,000 household
Pros: Minimum of 1.5% cash back on purchases, net 0.5% cash back on USD transactions, travel insurance, shopping coverage
Cons: $15,000 annual minimum spend requirement, 2.5% fee on non-USD foreign currency transactions
Application Link(s): Rogers Bank

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? The Rogers World Elite is a fantastic card for every day purchases as you get a minimum of 1.5% cash back, which is higher than most cash back cards (typically 1-1.25%). The drawback is that you need to spend at least $15,000 annually to avoid getting downgraded to the Rogers Platinum MasterCard.

This card used to offer 4% cash back on all FX transactions, but starting in 2020 they only provide 3% cash back on USD transactions less the 2.5% FX transaction fee. Note that if you get a refund in USD, you get charged the 2.5% transaction fee AND the cash back is clawed back.

This card also comes with many perks that American Express and premium travel cards offer, including:
  • Emergency Medical & Trip Cancellation/Interruption/Delay Protection Coverage
  • Rental Car Collision/Damage Insurance
  • Purchase Protection
  • Extended Warranty
  • LoungeKey membership (no lounge passes)
The main downsides of the card are 1) the high income requirement, 2) $15,000 annual spend requirement and 3) you can't redeem cash back against all purchases. If the income requirement or annual spend requirement is a little high for you, there is a Rogers Platinum Card, although the cash back rewards are lower and it doesn't come with the benefits listed above. Cash back redemption is limited to previous purchases on Rogers products/services, gas, grocery, restaurants, flights, gifts, and unspecified "big ticket items". While it sounds somewhat limiting, I've personally found that most of my purchases are eligible for cash back redemption, so it hasn't been an issue for me.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Best for: Cash back

Annual Fee: $0
Minimum Welcome Bonus: None
Minimum Income Requirement: $12,000 personal
Pros: 2% cash back in three (3) categories of your choice, 0.50% cash back in all others
Cons: Less insurance and fewer benefits than some other options on this list
Application Link(s): Tangerine

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? Another solid cash back rewards option is the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, which is great if you spend in any of the ten categories that offer 2% cash back (e.g. grocery, gas or recurring bill payments). With the low income requirement and being a MasterCard, this card is probably the easiest to get on this list and the easiest to use.

While this card doesn't come with all the travel insurance on a typical premium travel credit card, it does have Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty, which is essentially the same shopping coverage as the Rogers World Elite MasterCard.

If you make $60,000 or more, consider applying to the Tangerine World Mastercard instead. It has all the benefits of the Money-Back but with the extra benefits of rental car collision/loss damange insurance, mobile device insurance, and MasterCard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey (almost exactly the same as Priority Pass lounge access).

Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa
Best for: Cash back

Annual Fee: $0
Minimum Welcome Bonus: Earn up to 10% cash back at a restaurants and bars up to $500 spend
Minimum Income Requirement: $15,000
Pros: 4% cash back on restaurants and bars up to $5,000 annual spend, 1.5% on gas, grocery, drugstore and pre-authorized payments up to $15,000 annual spend, 0.5% cash back on everything else
Cons: Less insurance and fewer benefits than some of the cards on this list

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? Simplii Financial's cash back card is very similar to Tangerine, except you get a boost on the first $5,000 you spend on restaurants and bars. It comes with Purchase Security and Extended Protection Insurance, which is the same as the insurance coverage provided by the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card.

If most of your credit card spend is on restaurants, bars and coffee shops and you don't spend that much per year in general, Simplii would give you more cash back. If you tend to spend more, and in other categories, Tangerine would be a better card.

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard
Best for: Travel rewards

Annual Fee: $0
Minimum Welcome Bonus: Equivalent to $100 travel credit
Minimum Income Requirement: None
Pros: Equivalent to 2% "travel credit" on grocery, gas and restaurants (up to $5,000 in each category), 1% on everything else
Cons: No cash back
Application Link(s): MBNA

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? If you spend on grocery, gas and restaurants specifically and prefer to redeem for travel, the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard might be a good choice for you. This card is fairly similar to the Tangerine card above, although the default "travel credit" % is 1% instead of 0.50% cash back on the Tangerine card.

My preference would be the Simplii or Tangerine card simply because cash (back) is king. However, if you tend not to spend in any of the high % cash back categories above (i.e. restaurants, grocery, gas, etc.), you may end up with more cash back on the MBNA Rewards Platinum card since the default rate is 1% vs 0.5% for Tangerine/Simplii.

American Express Cobalt Card
Best for: Marriott points, American Express points

Annual Fee: $156 ($13 per month)
Minimum Welcome Bonus: 30,000 MR if you spend $500 per month in the first 12 months
Minimum Income Requirement: None
Pros: Earns Membership Rewards (MR) points for flexible travel, lots of travel insurance and purchase protection, mobile device insurance
Cons: $13 monthly fee, not all places take Amex
Application Link(s): American Express, Great Canadian Rebates ($100 cash back)

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? This is the only Amex card with an annual fee I would recommend to keep, and it's mainly because of the insanely good earn rate on food and beverage - you basically get 5% cash back up to $30,000 annual spend. If you dine out frequently or buy coffee at places that take Amex, this card is a no brainer even with the annual fee.

While the other cards above focus on cash back rewards, MR is a flexible rewards program. You can redeem points for cash back at a rate of 100:1, but you can also convert these points into Marriott points which are arguably worth more. Example: 30,000 MR points converts to $300 cash back, but it converts to 36,000 Marriott points. That's enough for a Standard night at a Category 5 hotel in Manhattan, which will definitely cost upwards of $300 USD. Marriott points also convert to many airline programs, such as Aeroplan, Alaska Mileage Plan, British Airways Avios, and more.

MR points can also be used towards the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program, which is great for trips such as Toronto-New York City, Toronto-Montreal, and Calgary-Vancouver.

I would recommend keeping this card after the first year only if the majority of your credit card spend is on food, beverage and travel. Otherwise, stick to the cash back rewards above.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Best for: Travel credit, lounge access, foreign currency transactions

Annual Fee: $139, reduced by $100 cash back from Great Canadian Rebates
Minimum Welcome Bonus: 26,000 SCENE+ points = $260 travel statement credit on travel until November 21, 2021
Income Requirements: $60,000 individual income or $100,000 household income
Pros: No 2.5% foreign transaction fee, Priority Pass lounge membership + 6 passes per year, travel insurance and purchase protection
Cons: $139 annual fee
Application Link(s): ScotiabankGreat Canadian Rebates ($100 cash back)

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT? While the Scotia Passport comes with annual fee, it is my preferred choice when it comes to a non-Amex daily card. It covers all of my needs, with the equivalent of a 1-2% travel credit on spending, no 2.5% fee on foreign transactions, and comes with six (6) lounge passes. Not to mention it comes with all sorts of travel insurance and other perks.

The travel credit is also really easy to redeem - you have to wait until you accumulate 5,000 points which is the equivalent of $50, but transit purchases counts towards travel spend.

When you travel to places outside of Canada, a credit card that doesn't charge the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions can result in a lot of savings. Not to mention Visa is more widely accepted than American Express all over the world.

While there are many other cards out there that don't have an annual fee or earn cash back, these are the ones that I feel offer the most value and rewards. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!