I have owned my tangerine money back credit card ever since they first introduced it back in early 2016. The reason why I like it so much is because it gives you 2% cash back on your choice of two of 10 categories (you get an additional 3rd category if you open up a savings account and have your cash back go into that account). Oh, and it’s free.

Benefits of the tangerine money back credit card

  • 2% cash back on up to 3 of their 10 different categories
  • Completely free to own (no annual fee)
  • Interest rate at 19.95%, but we know better than to leave a balance so this doesn’t matter to us
  • No minimum income required
  • No sign up bonus, but we can manufacture one ourselves
  • Also, if you ever notice your spending habits changing, and that you’d be better off with a different category, you can switch it online (you can only change 90 days since your last change request)
  • You get your cash back monthly (no minimum required)

How to create your own sign up bonus for Tangerine

There are some credit cards that will give you some sort of bonus for signing up. Tangerine is not one of them, but we can create our own sign up bonus.

And it only takes two steps:

  1. Sign up for Great Canadian Rebates – they give you cash back for buying stuff online, and also give you cash back for signing up for specific credit cards (Tangerine being one of them)
  2. Sign up for the Tangerine credit card through Great Canadian Rebates – you will get $40 for doing so

Note: If you’re thinking of signing up for more credit cards through Great Canadian Rebates, I suggest you check out ratesupermarket first as they give you much better bonuses.

The recent change in Tangerine’s money back credit card

Tangerine has recently announced that they will be changing their cash back numbers. You will still get 2% on up to 3 different categories, but they have changed the 1% on everything else to 0.5%.

They have also changed their foreign currency exchange rate from 1.5% to 2.5%.

But that’s okay, I still think this is a credit card everyone should own. Those changes doesn’t really affect us if we know what we’re doing. We’ll get to that later. First, let’s fully understand the main benefits of owning this credit card: access to 10 different categories.

Tangerine’s 10 different categories for cash back

It’s great to know that you have the option of 10 different categories. For the most part, this is pretty straightforward, but there are a few oddities that you might want to know about before committing to that category. Firstly, Tangerine will classify the merchant based off something called the Merchant Category Codes (MCC). If you’re interested in learning the technicals, you can visit Tangerine’s terms and conditions.

If however, you just want to know what the categories are and how specific merchants are categorized, here you go:

1. Tangerine’s grocery category

These are merchants who classify themselves as grocery stores and supermarkets. For those wondering if Costco would count – they do not. Costco is classified as a wholesale club and is not a part of the grocery category.

Walmart, on the other hand, will count as a grocery store so long as the Walmart you’re visiting is called Walmart Supercentre.

2. Tangerine’s furniture category

There are merchants who classify themselves as home furnishing stores or furniture reupholstery.

3. Tangerine’s restaurant category

A nice list of places for this one. These are merchants who classify themselves as eating places, restaurants, fast food restaurants, bars, lounges, discos and nightclub taverns.

4. Tangerine’s hotel / motel category

These are merchants who classify themselves as a lodging, hotel, motel, resort, or any of the big chains (Marriott, Holiday Inn, Fairmont, etc.).

And for those wondering, Airbnb should count!

5. Tangerine’s gas category

These are merchants who classify themselves as service stations. If you were to go to Costco’s gas pump, it is still a service station which means 2%.

6. Tangerine’s drug store category

These are merchants who classify themselves as pharmacies / drug stores.

7. Tangerine’s home improvement category

This is a long list. The merchants who classify themselves as hardware stores, home supply warehouse stores, lawn and garden supply stores, glass / paint / wallpaper stores, florist supplies nursery stock & flowers, floor coverings, drapery and window coverings will be considered under home improvement.

8. Tangerine’s entertainment category

These are merchants who classify themselves under sports venues, theatres, amusement parks, carnivals, circus, tourist attractions and exhibits, movie theatres, zoos, bands, orchestras, aquariums

9. Tangerine’s Public transportation / parking category

These are merchants who classify themselves under automobile parking lots and garages, public transportation (including buses, trains, ferries), taxis, road tolls.

For those in Ontario: your TTC passes or tokens might not count as transit, but presto will.

For those in BC: your compass card auto-reload is under transportation / parking. So are BC ferries.

And for everyone: Uber / Lyft should fall under this category.

10. Tangerine’s recurring bill payment

And the one I’m most interested in. I thought that any recurring payments would count (phone bills, utility bills, online subscriptions etc). However, it turns out that that’s not actually the case (with online subscriptions).

Recurring payments will work for the majoirty of the utility, phone, internet, insurance companies. People have also mentioned that UBEReats will count and so will the 407ETR.

There’s no way for us to confirm every single possibility, but a quick google search will help clarify.

What about Amazon


I don’t know about you, but I probably spend close to $1000 on Amazon each year and would love to spend more if it qualifies for one of Tangerine’s categories. So I looked it up and unfortunately, it doesn’t. According to people on the web, Amazon is categorized as a bookstore.

How to choose your categories to maximize cash back

So now that we have an idea as to what the categories are, which ones should you choose?

Instead of saying I want a, b, and c, I would recommend that you look at your last few months of spending and see the most money is spent as you will probably save more that way. For example, when I wrote about Amazon, and hoping that I would be able to choose a category for it, I realized that $1000 isn’t actually a lot compared to my other spending habits.

The easiest way to categorize your last few months of expenses is to use mint as it can quickly consolidate your purchases and give you a total.

Once you have your purchases consolidated, choose the 2 – 3 largest categories as you’ll be able to save the most that way. One thing to note: if you are okay with having another credit card, I would suggest the MBNA card as it will give you 2% cash back on gas and groceries (similar to Tangerine’s gas and groceries categories). Then you can choose the next 3 largest expenses.

For me, I have restaurants, recurring bills and entertainment.

But before you commit to your 3 categories, ask yourself if you have any big spending coming up that might be in another category.

For example, I had my home reno project from Oct 2016 to Feb 2017. During that time, I spent close to $10,000 buying material from Home Depot, Rona and Lowes. However, if I planned it out properly, I would’ve had one of my categories to be home improvement so I would be able to take advantage of the 2% cash back (which would have amounted to over $200). Instead, I only got 1%.

Changing categories

Another bonus with Tangerine is the ability for you to change your categories. When you first request a change, the change will take effect on the next monthly statement date. Any changes thereafter will take place after at least 90 days have passed on the category that you’re swapping out.

So for example, if I had restaurants, recurring bills, and entertainment at the beginning, and wanted to change my entertainment to home reno (since it was the middle of winter, I wasn’t going anywhere), I could have requested it and have it work the next month after a new statement was being started. However, if I wanted to switch my home reno back to entertainment again, I wouldn’t be able to do so until I had my home reno category for at least 90 days.

Final words

So is Tangerine worth signing up for? I would say yes. It’s a card that is completely free to own, does not require any minimum income, and has the ability to be customized based off your needs. There is no sign up bonus, but if you know what you’re doing, you could create your own sign up bonus.

Is it the best credit card out there? I don’t know. I don’t know all the other credit cards, and I don’t know what your spending habits are. However, I do use my MBNA and Tangerine as my primary and am quite satisfied with it.

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