PC Financial PC Points At Loblaws – Worth It For Rewards Alone?

by Mike Holman

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Most people who are interested in personal finance tend to be better at some areas than others.

In my case, I love reading about investing strategies, which include rebalancing methods – but I will often not bother rebalancing my own accounts for years at a time, which sometimes can be a drag on performance.

On the other hand, I’m pretty good at making contributions to said investment accounts.

If you have to choose between making larger contributions to an investment account or being an efficient rebalancer – I can tell you that larger contributions will make a far bigger positive difference than any rebalancing method.

I tend to focus more on items that make more of a difference, rather than somewhat mundane decisions about which rewards credit card pays out the highest return on gas purchases at a particular service station.

That said, sometimes you have to look at some personal finance basics and see if there is room for improvement. Making an extra $40 per year by switching credit cards doesn’t sound like a great deal to me – but over five to ten years, that difference will add up.

Our bunch of bank accounts

Right now, we have too many bank accounts and credit cards. Part of this is from a desire from my wife to have some of her own accounts in order to maintain a credit history. Fair enough.

I’m not interested in having five different rewards cards for different situations. Yes, you can certainly maximize your rewards by having multiple cards, but I just don’t have the time or the interest.

What I want is one rewards card/system and that is it. I want the single best card for our spending habits and I don’t care if it’s not the best card for any given spending category.

I just want one card.

Right now we do most of our spending on a CIBC Dividend VISA card which seems to have decent rewards of up to 1% cash back. I’m going to be looking at that card in more detail as well as for better alternatives, but that’s our card for now.

Our other “rewards card” is a PC Financial account that pays us grocery money (literally) for using the card at Loblaws.

What I want to do is analyze the PC Financial “grocery” rewards card and determine if it offers up enough rewards to justify having a separate account which needs to be topped up monthly.

Just to clarify – the PC Financial is an excellent no-fee bank account and the PC points are a nice bonus. In our case, we only have this account for the points, so I want to make sure the cash value of the points is high enough to make the separate account and card worthwhile.

PC Financial reward card Fees

There are no fees – easy enough.

How does the PC Financial reward card work?

It’s basically a no-fee bank account. If you use the PC bank card at stores that sell President’s Choice products, you can earn PC points which can be redeemed for groceries.

We do a lot of shopping at Loblaws, so we use this card a lot.  PC points are worth one tenth of a cent each. So if you use the minimum allowable amount of PC points of 20,000, you will get $20.00 worth of groceries.

How do you get PC points?

There are a number of different ways to get PC points, but the only one relevant to me is the points you get from making purchases with the card.

You get five PC points for every dollar you spend on your bank card at participating stores where President’s Choice products are sold.

This is a bit disappointing as I can do the math in my head and determine that the PC points rewards are only worth 0.5% of your purchase amount. I had expected at least 1% to compete with the top reward credit cards.

In case you are wondering, we’ve been using this card for at least five years and this is the first time I’ve sat down to analyze the rewards benefit. :)  Oh well, this “mistake” has probably only cost us about $50 per year.  Not exactly noticeable.

Conclusion

Ok, so this bank account is not very worthwhile for us and we will stop using it. I know the CIBC dividend card has better rewards and we can remove one bank account from our pile.

As mentioned, the PC Financial bank account is a great product if you are looking for a no-fee bank account.  I’ve had a separate no-fee PC account for several years which was my unofficial “business” account and it has been great.

In our case, we were only using (or mis-using) it for the rewards, which by themselves are not good enough to justify having the extra account.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chzplz

Regarding your credit card… It is time to look at it as well. MBNA SmartCash (or even the World version if you qualify) is MUCH better than the CIBC dividend card, or at least it was when I made the same switch.

2 Chris

I also have a PC financial bank account and shop at Loblaws. I now have a PC MC that returns at 2% at Loblaws and 1% on all other purchases…

3 Mike Holman

@Chzplz – Thanks, I’ll take a look at that card.

@Chris – Thanks for letting me know about the Mastercard. I noticed that card when I was researching this article, but I didn’t realize it had rewards. 2% at Lobs and 1% elsewhere could work out very well for us.

4 Echo

@Mike – stop what you’re doing, head over to Great Canadian Rebates and click on the MBNA Smart Cash banner. The promotion gives you $60 just for completing the application. This card gives you the following benefits:

- no annual fee
- up to 5% cash back on qualifying net retail gas and grocery purchases for the first 6 months *
- up to 3% cash back on qualifying net retail gas and grocery purchases thereafter
- up to 1% cash back for all other qualifying net retail purchases

5 Steve

I’ve always been happy with my Canadian Tire Options MC. Seems like there is always something from Canadian Tire I need. That said, your article made me think about it. Did a web search and came across another gentlemen’s blog.
http://michael.lesauvage.name/canadian-tire-options-mastercard-rewards-rate-is-not-1/

This kind of stuff is pretty frustrating. I’ll be interested in seeing what you have to say when you read up on the other cards mentioned above.

6 Mr. Cheap

I love my MBNA card. I’d third the recommendation.

7 Norman

@Chris – Regular silver PC MC no longer returns at 2% at Loblaws. Return is now 1% on all purchases including Loblaws.

You need the black PC MC with extra PC rewards to get the 2% on Loblaws purchases and 1% elsewhere. This black card is obtained by invitation only. I did not get an invitation so I am switching cards. I am taking Echo’s advice and getting the MNBA Smart Cash MC with the $60 promotion from Great Canadin Rebates.

8 Mike Holman

@Echo – Thanks, I’ll check it out.

@Steve – That’s unbelievable if it’s true. I can understand rounding down to the nearest dollar, but that is ridiculous. Have you verified your rewards to see if the rounding error is as bad as that guy says?

@Mr. Cheap – Do you really “love” it? ;)

@Norman – Thanks for the update. I don’t recall getting my black PC MC invite either.

9 Potato

On the one hand, I was going to gripe about how it wasn’t fair to compare a chequing account/debit card to a Visa — of course the rewards weren’t going to match up. On the other hand, you said right there that you only had the account for the points, and AFAIK a chequing account doesn’t even help with the secondary goal of building credit score.

10 Chris

I did get the invite for the Black PC card @ 2%.
I may look into the MBNA Smart Cash.
Thanks

11 Steve

Interesting – I’m a loyal PCF user and have been for over a decade. And I didn’t get the black card invite. Any idea on who criteria is required to get the invite?

Also – to the conversation above – while there may better values out there like this is MBNA SmartCash card that a lot of the PF bloggers have mentioned lately – there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of the PC Points program and there’s also the regular ‘X the points’ and other promotions they offer in their newsletter which help increase the value above the stated 1% noted here.

12 Krystal Yee

I’m chiming in to say that I have the MBNA MC too. I got it a few months ago through Great Canadian Rebates ($60 rebate), and the card is amazing. My only concern is that since MBNA got bought by TD, I’m wondering if the card benefits/program will change.

13 Paul N

MBNA card.

I converted my friend who runs all his monthly work expenses through the card as well as his personal purchases. He of course takes the time to phone me almost once a month when he receives another $100.00 check back in the mail. Now I’m almost sorry I told him…. ;)

14 Canadian Capitalist

Like you I can’t be bothered with changing credit cards. I have a TD Visa cashback (1%) and an Amex Costco (1%, I think).

15 Michelle

I did get an invite to the black PC mastercard (totally unexpected) but it took running about $100k through my card over the last year doing a major reno so it seems to be a pretty exclusive club. I love my PC mastercard. Have had it for years and with 3 kids the points for groceries and other products (Joe Fresh) always get used. Have always had great customer service/security as well.

16 Mike Holman

Thanks for all the comments. Looks like I’ll be checking out MNBA soon.

17 My Own Advisor
18 Mr. Cheap

Mike – I do! And true love lasts forever! ;-)

19 SavingMentor

I’m kind of laughing at this recent string of posts about credit cards because your own site has a post on the MBNA Smart Cash card calling it one of the best credit cards out there.

I know you didn’t write it, but still seems funny that you seem oblivious to it. You even linked to it in this post :)

20 Mike Holman

@SM – Yes, I’m aware of that card. However, this post was about PC points. :)

21 SavingMentor

Ok, that’s good. Just know that if you don’t mention it in any article about credit cards then somebody, much like myself, will pipe up about it extolling its greatness. You might as well just cut them off at the pass because it’s inevitable =)

22 SPBrunner

I have a President Choice Master Card and over the past year I have had $310 in free groceries. I also got a new black card, but since I just got it I haven’t noticed any differences yet between this one and my old one.

I have a Canadian Tire Option Card which I got so I would no longer have to deal with their paper money. I am not surprised that it does not pay 1%. I suspected as much but I do not use it much, so I never bother to check into how they do their cash back stuff.

I have an Air Miles card and use it when I can. Mostly I get enough for a Starbucks card once a year.

23 Helpful_advice

You have a basic factual error in your post. I’ve had a PC Mastercard for around 9 years. It’s always been 10 PC points for every dollar spent. Not 5 PC points per dollar. Thus, 1% on *all* purchases are redeemable. As some point out, they do offer black MC’s for select individuals, usually when their card expires; I got mine about a month ago, and it offers 2% on purchases in PC stores and 1% everywhere else. However, the normal PC MC remains 1% on all purchases.

The bottom line is that PC Mastercard has been a no-frills 1% rewards card since it came out, not a 0.5% card. It is considered by most to be a baseline card; not bad, there are better, but you can definitely do a lot worse and is the minimum you should expect.

24 Bank card not MC

The article says that they have a PC bank card not a PC MC. So, it is 0.5%

25 Andrew F

PC Points are as good as cash to me, so I would not bother with the 1% cash back card.

26 Michael

I also jumped on the MBNA mastercard bandwagon and love it. I dropped my PCF credit card as a result as well as dropping other points programs to simplify – Air Miles (donated excess miles) and HBC (did not have many anyway). Though I still think PC points are great option for people as they are good as cash and you can accumulate quickly with 1% cash back and there is lots of opportunity for bonus points in store or for little things like bonus points for using cloth bags (in Toronto).

27 RBT

Caveat: MBNA will call you minimum once weekly themselves, “affiliates” another once every month.
I switched to Scotia’s 2%+1% card for that reason alone. The phone calls were aggravatingly annoying.

28 Ben

I have PC MC and a TD Visa cashback card. Both offer 1% reward.

The PC MC allows you to redeem at every $20 earned. The TD card returns the dividend only annually (up to a year after I’ve earned it). So if (repeat if) you are a Loblaw grocery customer, the PC MC is a better value from the perspective of time value of money.

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