Credit card comparison sites can be useful for finding and sorting through dozens of credit cards to determine which ones might be right for you. Sites like RateSupermarket, RateHub, and GreedyRates rank cards using factors such as whether you want to pay an annual fee or not, if you prefer cash back or travel rewards, whether you pay your balance in full or not, and whether your card is for business or personal use (to name a few).
GreedyRates digs a bit deeper and asks you to estimate your monthly credit card spending in key categories such as groceries, gas, dining, and travel. It also asks how long you plan to keep the card, an interesting variable since many rewards cards pay juicy sign-up bonuses in year one but then fail to deliver meaningful rewards in subsequent years.
Unfortunately, these sites’ rankings can be biased – often displaying cards which pay them the highest referral fee ahead of other cards which may be a better fit for you.
Our own partners at creditcardGenius use a comprehensive and unbiased algorithm to rank a growing database of 159 Canadian credit cards, tracking 50+ features for each. They list cards from every major financial institution, even if they don’t pay a referral fee, so you know you’re getting an objective look at all your options.
What Credit Card Comparison Sites Are Missing
By using a credit card comparison site you’ll get a decent look at the best cards on the market as well as any current sign-up bonuses available. You might even get a slightly tailored recommendation based on your rewards preferences and spending inputs.
However, what these comparison sites lack is a truly personalized credit card recommendation. That’s because they’re all missing these factors:
1.) The Costco Effect
Ok, so you spend $800 per month on groceries for your family of four. But if most of that spending occurs at Costco or No Frills, for example, then any Visa or American Express recommendations are completely useless to you as an everyday rewards card.
That’s right, the Costco effect is real. So if you’re like me and do the bulk of your household grocery shopping at the warehouse giant, then you’ll have to ignore good cash back credit cards like the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card, or the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express. They’re no good to you at Costco, which only takes MasterCard.
2.) No foreign exchange fees
Most credit card issuers charge an insidious 2.5% conversion fee on your foreign purchases. If you’re the type of person that travels regularly across the border or abroad, or shops online in foreign currency, you’re going to want a card that avoids those fees.
Credit card comparison sites won’t factor in your foreign currency spending and therefore won’t show you when a card like the Rogers Fido MasterCard, which charges the typical foreign transaction fee but also pays 4% cash back on purchases made in foreign currency, actually outperforms a top cash back or travel rewards card.
3.) Additional perks that add value
How do you measure the other value-added perks that credit cards offer, such as a robust and comprehensive insurance package, or strong purchase protection and extended warranty coverage?
And what about other perks that can be measured, such as VIP airport lounge access and a free Priority Pass membership, offered by BMO World Elite MasterCard? Or the annual round-trip companion flight for $99, offered by the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard?
WestJet, along with some Aeroplan cards, offer a complimentary checked bag on flights booked with your card. Other credit cards offer priority check-in and boarding.
The WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard and BMO World Elite MasterCard typically rank poorly when compared with other, more straight-forward, travel rewards cards. But for some, that companion voucher, or VIP airport lounge access, might be worthwhile.
I love to use credit card comparison sites to find and sort through the plethora of rewards cards in Canada. The key is that I use these sites as preliminary research and then, when I zero-in on a couple of cards that I like, I do my own research to see how they’d fit with my lifestyle and spending patterns.
The rewards credit card landscape is constantly changing and so it’s important to shop around and do your research to see whether your current credit card is still meeting your needs, or if something else in the market has emerged and is worth exploring. Take recommendations from credit card comparison sites with a grain of salt and make sure they match up with how you like to spend and earn rewards.