In the past, Canadians who’ve wanted to avoid annual fees on their credit cards had to accept a stripped-down, perk-less card—but those days are over. Nowadays, consumers with different spending habits and financial goals have strong options in the no fee category, particularly when it comes to cash back rewards. The Tangerine Money-Back rewards credit card is a popular choice, but is it the best? We break down the online bank’s offerings and see how it stacks up against its competitors.
Tangerine Money-Back credit card quick facts
- Annual fee: $0
- Rewards: 2% cash back in up to three spending categories of your choice; 0.5% on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: New cardholders can transfer balances at a low promotional interest rate of 1.95% for the first six months (Note: You will be charged a fee of 1% of the value of your balance transfer, and the interest rate on any remaining or new balance increases to 19.95% once the promotional period ends.)
- Income requirement: $15,000 minimum for an individual, or $100,000 minimum for the household
- Purchase interest rate: 19.95%
- Best feature: The ability to choose your own bonus categories means you can customize the credit card to suit your spending habits and maximize your rewards
- Who it’s good for: Cash back enthusiasts who aren’t interested in collecting points or pay an annual fee; anyone who wants to supplement credit card rewards with a second card to maximize earnings; cardholders who might not qualify for premium cards with higher income requirements
- Accolades: Tangerine ranked first in the J.D. Power 2019 Canada Credit Card Satisfaction Study. The Tangerine credit card was also named best no fee cash back card in MoneySense’s Best Credit Card rankings
What does the Tangerine card offer?
By offering cardholders an above-average 2% cash back rate in two out of 10 spending categories (or three, when you also open a Tangerine savings account), the Tangerine Money-Back credit card is an attractive option right off the bat. Most other no-fee rewards credit cards either earn fewer rewards per $1 spent or offer less bonus categories.
But what really sets the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard apart from the rest is that it’s the only credit card in Canada that lets you pick your own bonus categories. You can use this to your advantage and maximize your rewards by choosing bonus categories based on where you do the bulk of your spending. Other cards will lock you into pre-chosen bonus categories, which may not align with your particular spending habits.
How to get the most out of your Tangerine credit card categories
Aside from being a good everyday credit card option for Canadians, it’s also extremely flexible, meaning that you can swap categories as many times as you like. Swaps take effect only once per billing cycle. This is where the Tangerine card really shines. Let’s say you have a big renovation coming up. If you’ve selected the home improvement category, you’ll get 2% back on those purchases. Booking a trip? Travellers will do well with the hotel-motel option. Those looking to buy new furniture stand to earn back a healthy percentage. The 10 Tangerine categories offer a lot of variety:
- Recurring bills
- Drug store
- Home improvement
- Parking/public transit
With a bit of planning and selecting the right categories for you, you can stow away some extra money with cash rewards.
There’s also another way to maximize your credit card rewards: Try pairing the Tangerine card with a second credit card to get the most cash back possible on every purchase. For example, say you chose gas, restaurants and groceries as your three 2% cash back categories on your Tangerine card, but you want to buy a new couch. If you use another credit card for that sofa purchase, such as the SimplyCash American Express card* which has a cash back rate of 1.25%, it beats Tangerine’s earn rate of 0.5% for the “other purchases” category.
The Tangerine Money-Back’s side perks
No fee credit cards like the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard don’t tend to offer much in the way of perks. You get basic credit card insurance, like purchase protection and extended warranty, but that’s pretty much it. However, if you earn a personal annual income of $60,000 or more (or household income of at least $100,000), you could qualify for the higher-tier Tangerine World Mastercard. The Tangerine World Mastercard is virtually identical to the Tangerine Money-Back credit card, offering the same in cash back rewards while also charging no annual fee. But it also includes the following additional perks:
- Up to 31 days of collision, loss and damage insurance on rental cars, which can save you a bundle on road trips.
- Up to $1,000 in mobile device insurance on new cell phones, smartphones or tablets, protecting you against loss, theft, damage and mechanical failure.
- A Boingo membership, giving you free access to wifi with no roaming charges at more than 1 million hotspots on up to four devices.
- Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey membership which gets you exclusive dining, spa and retail offers at more than 400 airports globally, and it entitles you to access over 1,000 lounges; though you’ll still need to pay $40 (US$32) per visit.
If you’re a new applicant who meets the minimum annual income requirement, you’ll automatically be considered for the Triangle World Mastercard.
The Tangerine Money-Back welcome offer
Currently, neither the Tangerine Money-Back card nor the Tangerine World World Mastercard offer a sign-up bonus in the form of accelerated cash back. But new cardholders receive a 1.95% balance transfer promotion for six months. Simply complete the balance transfer request within 30 days of opening your account, and then move your debt over to your Tangerine account. For the following six months, your transferred balance will accumulate a low 1.95% interest, climbing back to the regular 19.95% rate once the six-month promotional period ends. Note that there is a flat balance transfer fee of 1%, meaning that, for example, if you transferred $1,000 in debt, you’d pay a fee of $10. If you’ve got an accumulated balance on another credit card, this promotion can help you consolidate your debt and pay it down at a fraction of the interest rate.
How much can you earn with the Tangerine Money-Back Card?
The amount you can earn with the Tangerine Money-Back card varies, depending on your spending habits. To give you some idea of the earning potential, we chose three common bonus categories—groceries, recurring bills and dining—while assuming a monthly budget of $2,000 is spent on the following:
|Spending category||Earn rate||Monthly spend||Annual reward|
Based on this scenario, you’d earn $300 in cash back annually, which is a nice bonus especially since the card carries no annual fee.
The Tangerine unique rewards structure gives you the ability to choose your own bonus categories, which makes it ideal for pairing with another credit card to maximize your rewards as part of a two-card strategy. For example, you can net higher returns by using the Tangerine Money-Back in tandem with the SimplyCash from American Express*. The latter also has no annual fee but earns a flat 1.25% on everything you buy. With this strategy, you’d use the Tangerine card for purchases in accelerated categories and the SimplyCash from American Express for everything else in order to collect more cash back.
|Spending category||Credit card and earn rate||Monthly spend||Annual reward|
|Groceries||Tangerine Money-Back 2%||$500||$120|
|Recurring bills||Tangerine Money-Back 2%||$200||$48|
|Dining||Tangerine Money-Back 2%||$300||$72|
|Everything else||SimplyCash from American Express 1.25%||$1,000||$150|
By simply using these cards together, you can bump up your annual earnings by $90—all without any annual fees.
Are there any drawbacks to the Tangerine Money-Back credit card?
The regular cash back rate on the Tangerine card is only 0.5%, which is better than nothing but it’s not going to make headlines. Also, there’s not much on offer by way of extras with this card (for instance, it lacks travel insurance benefits) though the standard purchase protection and extended warranty apply.
What about the competition?
Truth be told, there aren’t many products that compare to the Tangerine Money-Back card since no other card lets you pick your own bonus categories, but these four cards deserve a mention.
Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card
Though less flexible than the Tangerine card, this credit card from Simplii offers a huge 4% back on purchases at restaurants, coffee shops and bars up to $5,000 annually, and 1.5% back on gas, groceries, drug store purchases and pre-authorized payments up to $15,000 per year. Once a cardholder reaches those limits, they earn at the default 0.5%. For those who dine out frequently, this can be an excellent choice.
The SimplyCash Card from American Express offers a flat and competitive cash back rate of 1.25% on all purchases, which will appeal to anyone looking to earn simply without a strategy for spending categories. American Express adds a boost with $100,000 in travel accident insurance. Plus, the welcome bonus allows you to earn 2.5% cash back on the first three months of purchases (up to $150 cash back).
Rogers Platinum Mastercard
The Rogers Platinum Mastercard has a 1.0% standard cash back rate, with unlimited earning on qualified purchases. In addition, you’ll get Mastercard offers 3% cash back on purchases in U.S. currency.
Rogers World Elite Mastercard
Applicants for this World Elite Mastercard need to have an income of at least $80,000 annually as an individual, or $150,000 per household. But for those who qualify, the rewards are considerable. All spends in U.S. currency receive 3% back, and there’s a standard rate of 1.5% on all other purchases. (Not that other foreign currencies are subject to the usual foreign transaction fees, usually 2.5%, but only receive the standard 1.5% cash back.) Additionally, cardholders are covered with a range of travel, car rental and purchase insurance and enjoy airport lounge access and other perks from Mastercard Airport Experiences.
How can I tell if the Tangerine card is the best option for me?
Every card on this list carries valuable perks and earnings. These questions will help you determine the best product for your situation. Here are some questions to help you figure that out.
- Are you hands-on when it comes to managing your finances? Are you comfortable setting and changing your spending categories? With its high 2% rate and flexible spending categories, Tangerine offers a great deal for those willing spend strategically.
- Do you spend a significant amount on restaurants, coffee shops and bars? At 4% back on these purchases, the cash back credit card from Simplii cannot be beat. Keep in mind, though, the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card will only give you 4% on your initial $5,000 in purchases, after which it defaults to 0.5%.
- Do you want a good regular cash back rate with a few extras? Loyal Rogers customers should consider its Platinum Mastercard for solid savings. Those wanting to carry an Amex (or looking for travel accident insurance) should check out the SimplyCash Card from American Express.
- Do you cross-border shop and/or travel frequently? Are you a high earner? The Rogers World Elite Mastercard provides plenty of opportunity for healthy rebates to folks in these categories, but note that the regular rate is 1.5%—that’s 0.5% less than the Tangerine card (in select spending categories).
MORE ON CANADA’S BEST CREDIT CARDS:
- Best No Fee Credit Cards
- Best Travel Credit Cards
- Best Travel Insurance Credit Cards
- Best Air Miles Credit Cards
- Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards
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