I’m on holidays for the next two weeks. Globe and Mail personal finance reporters Erica Alini and Salmaan Farooqui will be writing this newsletter in my absence. Talk to you in February!
A reader got in touch recently about what he thinks is a candidate for best reward credit card.
“Take a look at the Scotiabank Gold American Express card,” he wrote by e-mail. “I can’t find any other card where you get those kind of earn rates.”
There are actually a couple of things to like about this card, one of them being that it does not charge the usual 2.5 per cent fee on transaction in foreign currencies. The other is, yes, the earn rate. You get six points for every $1 you spend at grocery stores in the Sobey’s, Safeway, FreshCo and Foodland chains, five points per $1 on restaurant meals, takeout and entertainment, three points per $1 for gas and transportation expenses as well as some streaming services, and one point per $1 for other purchases. The best I’ve seen from other cards is a maximum of five points per dollar spent in certain categories.
How does Scotiabank Gold American Express compare overall, though? For some thoughts, I reached out to my go-to card expert, Patrick Sojka of Rewards Canada. “Yes, the Scotia Gold American Express Card is a points-earning machine,” Mr. Sojka said by e-mail. In fact, he slotted it in at No. 1 among travel points cards with an annual fee in a recent ranking. According to Mr. Sojka, the Scotia card’s six points per dollar earn rate is the highest of any card in Canada.
The card didn’t rank as the top travel reward card overall, though. The reason why highlights the need to study the reward scheme for any credit card before signing up. Mr. Sojka explains that when you redeem points for travel, dining, movies and groceries with Scotiabank American Express Gold, you get a better reward rate than if you redeem for cashback or statement credits.
The travel rewards card Mr. Sojka considers the best in Canada, Amex Cobalt, offers a maximum five points per dollar spent. But the value you get from those points is the same, whether you use them for travel or cashback. Mr. Sojka said Cobalt can also offer strong value if you convert points to airline reward programs such as Aeroplan, or book travel through Amex using the Fixed Points Travel Program. This program offers flights for a pre-set number of points.
Mr. Sojka said it’s a toss-up between Cobalt and Scotiabank Gold American Express for someone who won’t use the Amex fixed points program or convert to Aeroplan. If you shop at Sobey’s regularly, then the Scotia card is the way to go.
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Rob’s personal finance reading list
The year in charts
People in the financial industry highlight the charts and data they think will be crucial in 2023. A must-read if you’re curious about what’s coming for inflation, interest rates, wage increases and more.
Best budgeting apps for 2023
A helpful and thorough list of apps to help you track and manage your spending.
Seven totally sad Toronto rentals
Affordable rentals? Yup, Toronto has ‘em. How about $495 per month for a 134-square-foot room that is “perfect for someone who wants to avoid direct sunlight.”
A surefire way to cut car costs
The public transit systems in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto rank among the Top 10 in North America.
Q: Our son is planning a visit to Australia and New Zealand in March. We would like to give him some extra spending money for the trip. What would be the most cost-efficient way to do this? Are traveller cheques still an option or should we just pay into his credit card account?
A: I’m going to suggest prepaid cards. Prepaid travel cards offered by Visa and Mastercard are one option, while another is a travel card from a company called Wise that specializes in international money transfers. The Wise card can hold multiple currencies, including Australian and New Zealand dollars.
Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.
Today’s financial tool
Year by year returns for U.S. stocks from 1872 to 2022. A timely reminder that stocks go up a lot more than they fall in price.
The Money-Free Zone
Here’s a typically terrific song from the English post-punk band Shame – Fingers of Steel, which will be on an upcoming album.
Listen to this
NPR’s Planet Money podcast looks at the economic lessons in books for kids.
From the Twitterverse
A thread that started with a tweet about a Dutch grocery chain with a “slow” checkout lane for seniors who want to take time to chat.
More Rob Carrick and money coverage
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