Revamped in 2021 for the better – The MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard® triumphantly made its way back into Rewards Canada’s Top Travel Credit Card rankings in 2022. This one time leader of the pack started falling down the ranks a few years ago, due to some small changes to card but mostly in part due to the fact that the competition around it was getting better. So unlike some other banks who have sat on their laurels or even made their offerings worse in the face of this competition, MBNA stepped and made this card a real contender in the Travel Points Credit Card with Annual Fee category.
The MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard® is one of only three cards in Canada that can be considered a true 5x points card. It has that strong earn rate in select spend categories and if you are redeeming for travel or select gift cards the base earn rate stays competitive with other cards. It has a fairly flexible travel redemption including no requirement to have the full amount of points towards a travel purchase, it also has cash back redemption options and also one of, if not, the best redemption rate for gift cards.
Costs & Sign up Features
The MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard® is one of the few remaining premium cards charging an annual fee of only $120. Many of this card’s competitors have been bumping that fee up into the range of $139 to $150. For additional/supplementary cards you are looking at $50 per year for the first card and $0 for any more cards after that.
Right now the MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard® has a welcome bonus offering up to 30,000 MBNA Rewards points. The 30,000 point bonus is broken down as follows:
- 20,000 bonus points†† (approximately $165 in cash back value) after you make $2,000 or more in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening.
- 10,000 bonus points†† (approximately $80 in cash back value) once enrolled for paperless e-statements within the first 90 days of account opening.
This is one of the easier or more achievable welcome bonus offers in the market as reaching $2,000 in spend over the course of three months should be no problem for those who can get this card. The additional 10,000 points is super easy – a couple of clicks in your account to enroll for paperless e-statements and those points are yours. You really should do that on day one of having the card!
The interest rate on the card is 19.99% on purchases. 24.99% on cash advances and 22.99% on balance transfers.
Like all World Elite Mastercards in Canada the minimum annual income requirements are $80,000 personal or $150,000 household.
The card earns MBNA Rewards points and the changes it saw in 2021 were primarily in this category. The card moved from a flat 2 points per dollar earn rate earn one accelerated category earn rate of 5x points (plus a base earn rate as follows:
- 5 points‡ for every $1 spent on eligible restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership, and household utility purchases until $50,000 is spent annually in the applicable category* (that is $50,000 per category)
- 1 point‡ for every $1 on all other eligible purchases.
On top of this the card features Birthday Bonus Points‡ that are equal to 10% of the total number of Points the Account earned in the 12 months before the month of your birthday, up to a maximum of 15,000 Points. That essentially makes your 5 points per dollar worth 5.5 points and the 1 point worth 1.1 points.
Point Valuation Chart
|Spending Category||Points earned per dollar spent||Rate of return when booking travel with MBNA Rewards||Rate of return Cash Back|
|Restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership, and household utility||5||5%||4.15%|
|All other spending||1||1%||0.83%|
With the birthday bonus:
|Spending Category||Points earned per dollar spent||Rate of return when booking travel with MBNA Rewards||Rate of return Cash Back|
|Restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership, and household utility||5.5||5.5%||~4.57%|
|All other spending||1.1||1.1%||0.88%|
There are multiple redemption options in the MBNA Rewards program and like most proprietary credit card programs these include travel, cash back, merchandise, gift cards and more. The big difference in MBNA is the value they give for gift cards – they are actually some of the best redemptions in the program and some will actually provide a better rate of return than seen on travel and much better than cash back!
Redeeming for travel is extremely straightforward with the MBNA Rewards program. To get the best value out of your points for travel redemptions you must book your travel via MBNA which operates as its own travel agency. Basically you book travel through them as if you were booking travel anywhere else and then you redeem points against the charge during the payment process for your travel. You can choose to redeem any amount of points against the charge so it makes it quite flexible. The redemption rate published by MBNA is 10,000 points = $100 however you can choose to redeem less than that or more than that.
For example, if you are purchasing $1,200 in flights and have 45,000 points you can redeem those points and end up only paying $750 out of pocket for those flights. If you have 120,000 points (or more) you could redeem that exact amount so those flights are free!
With that 10,000 points to $100 ratio you are earning a 1% to 5.5% return for your spending on this card (see the point valuation chart above).
Back in the day this card’s travel and cash back redemption rate were one in the same but that changed about 4 or 5 years ago when MBNA dropped the cash back value from being the same as travel at 100 points to $1 to 120 points for $1. This redemption comes in the form of a statement credit or you can even choose to have MBNA direct deposit the funds to your chequing or savings account or send you a cheque- a feature that is rarely seen from proprietary reward programs. Most only provide a statement credit or if they do have the true cash back option it is only for those that hold bank accounts with the same bank as the card issuer.
At 120 points to $1 ratio you are earning a 0.83% to ~4.57% return for your spending on this card if you choose the cash back option. (see the point valuation chart above).
Unlike many of the competing programs where you lose even more value for your points when redeeming for non-travel or non-cash back options there is one category outside of those where MBNA does shine and that is for gift cards. More specifically, e-Gift cards, that is, the ones that are delivered to you electronically via email and are not a physical gift card. Depending on which e-Gift cards you redeem your points for you may actually get an even better rate of return than travel and will almost always get a better return than the cash back option. The MBNA Rewards catalog has a lot of e Gift Card options from Amazon to Starbucks to Uber and more ranging from $25 to $200 in value. The best redemption options are for the Banana Republic and The Gap with many more not too far behind.
Here are just a few examples and the value you get from them:
- Amazon.ca $100 e-Gift Card is 10,355 points which works out to a value of 0.97 cents per point making the rate of return on your spending 0.97% to ~5.34%.
- HBC and Saks off 5th e-Gift Cards are 9,750 points for $100 which puts the value of each point at 1.02 cents making the rate of return on your spending 1.02% to 5.61%.
- Banana Republic and The Gap run 9,250 points $100 which puts the value of each point at 1.08 cents making the rate of return on your spending 1.08% to 5.94%.
- You can also redeem for a $200 Walmart card for 20,105 points. That puts the value of each point at 0.99 cents making the rate of return on your spending 0.99% to 5.45%.
- The other cards where you can get a better rate of return than travel are the Ultimate Dining $100, Indigo $100, Bass Pro $100, Service Inspired Restaurants $100, American Eagle $100, and Xbox $100 & $50,
As you can see the e-gift card option from MBNA is actually a really good redemption avenue. You’ll do better than the cash back option and even do better than the travel redemption option with a few select retailers like Banana Republic, The Gap, HBC and Saks off 5th.
The rest of the redemption options from MBNA include physical gift cards which lose some value over the e-gift cards as they account for having to mail the cards out and then there is merchandise is always an option that can be utilized if the other redemption options don’t work for you.
Features and Benefits
MBNA does not provide any additional benefits seen on some other cards like annual travel credits and the such however since it is a World Elite Mastercard it does come with the standard Mastercard Canada benefits of free Global Wi-FI benefit via Boingo that also provides Wi-Fi on select airlines, namely for us Canadians, WestJet as well as free business class lounge access membership from Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass.
Recommended reading: Big News! Mastercard Canada switching lounge access from LoungeKey to DragonPass (which means access to Plaza Premium lounges!)
Outside of the earn rates the other big change that came to this card in 2021 was on the insurance side of things. MBNA had always been quite weak in this department and they realized they need to up their game here as well. The card now comes with 21 day Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country) for those under 65, Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance, Lost or Delayed Baggage Insurance, Flight & Trip Delay Insurance, Mobile Device Insurance and one type of coverage not seen very frequently, Price Protection. This is where if you buy something on the card and then find the same product advertised at a lower price within 60 days of purchases MBNA will refund you the difference up to a maximum of $500 per item and $1,000 in total claims in a calendar year. There are conditions and exclusions that do apply. Food, drinks, vehicles, computers, phones are some examples of what is excluded.
What is good about this card
The full time earn rate of five points per dollar spend in those select categories make this card one of the strongest points earning cards in Canada. Add in the birthday bonus and you are receiving a 5.5% return for your spending in those categories. That’s actually the highest return in Canada if you don’t include cards that have set airline charts (well, only American Express can exceed that 5.5%) or don’t include cards that you allow you to convert to airline programs such as Air Canada Aeroplan.
The high spend limits per category are amazing! Most other card’s limit the total across all categories in the neighbourhood of $20,000 to $50,000 whereas this card is $50,000 per category!
The excellent redemption value when redeeming for certain e-gift cards!
The ease of earning the sign up bonus is another strong point, the 30,000 points for only $2,000 in spending and signing up for paperless e-statements? Easy peesy!
The additional insurance coverage added in 2021 have helped this card catch up to some competitors. We’d place somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of coverage.
What is not so good about this card
When it comes to travel redemptions the card is a little less flexible than other cards in this category including the two other true 5x points cards. Those others allow you to book travel with whomever you want and still get the full value of your points when you redeem against the charge. This lets the holders of those cards shop around for the best deals in travel.
That leads into not being able to redeem points after the fact for travel purchases like this card’s competitors. Well, technically you can with the MBNA card but then it would be a cash back redemption not a travel redemption so you would lose value. An example of this buying tickets to take the train from Tokyo to Nagasaki when you are already in Japan on vacation, with other cards you can just buy the tickets and then redeem points against that charge when you get home from vacation and still get the full value of those points.
The 1x base points earn rate, while not the lowest in the market and equal to most other card’s base earn rate actually ends up being lower than some others since those other cards have mid-level accelerators on other categories (for example 2x points on gas and transit for example)
If you make a lot of purchases outside of the 5x points categories you might be better off with cards that have returns that are higher than 1%. Some examples are the HSBC World Elite Mastercard (1.5% base earn rate) or the TD First Class Visa Infinite Card (1.2% to 1.5%) but do be sure you do your math and average out what you think you would earn between the 5x points and 1x points spend as you may still come out ahead of those other cards.
No transfer options that we see with competitors. American Express, RBC, HSBC all have transfer options to other loyalty programs. MBNA is partnered with Alaska Airlines and Best Western and if they provided an option to convert MBNA Rewards points to those partners this card would move even higher up the ranks!
Who should get this card
- Consumers who spend a lot, well not even a lot, but just want to earn the most points possible on their Restaurant, grocery, digital media, membership, and household utility purchases
- Consumer who want to make sure they are getting the highest possible return on select category spending
- Consumers who want to supplement their high earning American Express cards with high earning Mastercard
- Consumers who are OK to redeem for travel via a single travel agency to get the most value out of their points
- Consumers who shop a lot at the high value e-gift card options that MBNA Rewards provides (IE a Banana Republic fanatic!)
Ever since the American Express Cobalt Card was introduced back in 2017 other cards in Canada have been inching their way up to offering higher category earn rates and this MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastecard is no exception. It has become the third true 5x points earning card in Canada and actually trumps the other two in terms of annual spending caps! If you are like many Canadians who don’t need the option to convert points to an airline or hotel program or you aren’t really looking for a cash back option and are totally fine in making your travel bookings with MBNA Rewards then there is absolutely no reason why this card should not be in your wallet since you can earn those 5x points on the most popular spend categories and not to mention the additional 10% as your birthday bonus!
Click here to learn more about and to apply for the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard
If you are wondering what we mean by true 5x points, please read this loyalty lesson of ours: When earning 5x points isn’t the same as earning 5x points – a loyalty lesson