PC Financial Review: Groceries, Banking, Rewards and More

A girl is in the supermarket with a Kroger shopper in hand.
Share with FacebookShare with FacebookShare with TwitterShare with TwitterShare with Twitter
Table of Contents

    PC Financial might be the next big thing in banking for Canada. Three years after they ended their relationship with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), PC Financial is back on the banking circuit. Our grocery store behemoth is starting to look more like a fintech.

    Sure, banks offer you a choice of credit cards to fit your lifestyle, and PC Financial has two Mastercards that offer rewards points. But PC Financial just flexed its banking biceps with its cash accounts and comparison tools. Let’s take a look at what PC Financial has to offer so you can level up your PC Optimum points for even more free stuff.

    Did PC Financial change to Simplii?

    No, no they did not. PC Financial and CIBC used to be a banking power couple. Through a partnership with CIBC, PC Financial was able to deliver a suite of essential banking services to Canadians.  But in a classic case of irreconcilable differences, PC Financial called it quits on the banking biz.

    In the split, CIBC kept PC Financial’s daily banking clients, while PC Financial kept the credit card customers. But in the world of online banking, the competition is fierce. So, CIBC launched Simplii Financial, which offers chequing and savings accounts, and credit cards

    After the break-up, the PC Financial customers who enjoyed free online banking through PC Financial still enjoy those same features, just with different branding. Simplii Financial customers did lose PC Optimum Points earning banking services. For many, losing access to Canada’s most popular loyalty program was a major deal-breaker. Currently, Simplii Financial ranks #3 on the list of Canada’s most popular digital banks.

    Who owns PC Financial?

    In 2020, PC Financial came back on the market. Loblaws always owned PC Financial, but they needed CIBC’s help to deliver full-service banking. PC Financial is positioned to offer no-strings-attached banking services that also earn customers those coveted PC Optimum points; a loyalty program that helps Canadians save money on all their essential spending. 

    However, PC Financial also offers its own branded Mastercards. Like any good bank, the cards help keep you spending in and benefitting its ecosystem. The cards help you earn PC Optimum points faster. Of course, you can still pay for your purchases with another credit card that offers cash back or other rewards. Hardbacon’s credit card comparison tool can help you find the card that fits you best.

    Does PC Financial have bank accounts?

    Last year PC Financial launched the new PC Money Account. It comes with a complimentary debit Mastercard. While PC Financial is limited in the range of banking services it offers right now, the growth potential has no-limit written all over it.

    The PC Financial Money Account

    The PC Financial Money Account is a digital bank account that automatically offers the PC Financial debit Mastercard. The account is completely free to use and offers unlimited free transactions. You can open the account quickly and easily either online or through the PC Financial mobile app. You can load your account by sending an eTransfer from another Canadian bank account, or by linking an external bank account to your PC Financial Money account.

    Alternatively, you can fund your PC Financial Money Account by adding your PC debit Mastercard as a “bill payment payee” to your other Canadian bank account(s). To add a new payee, search “PC Financial Mastercard” and enter the 16 digit number on your debit Mastercard. When you make a bill payment to your PC Financial debit Mastercard, the funds will go into your PC Financial Money Account. Then you can spend the funds in your account simply by using your PC Financial debit Mastercard.

    Once your PC Money Account is set up, you’ll automatically be issued the PC Financial debit Mastercard. It’s not an actual credit card, so you don’t have to worry about the impact of a credit check, nor will you go into debt using it. You can only spend the money that you deposit into your PC Financial Money Account.

    The card is accepted everywhere Mastercard is accepted allowing you to shop cross-border, online, and book services just like you can with a traditional credit card. Let’s take a quick look at all the juicy features of the PC Financial Money Account: 

    • Sign up for payroll direct deposit and earn a one time bonus of 25,000 PC Optimum points 
    • No monthly fee
    • Unlimited free transactions online and instore 
    • Free eTransfers to and from the account 
    • Early Payday allows you to access your paycheque up to 2 days sooner 
    • Optional overdraft protection
    • Earn PC Optimum points on all of your purchases online or instore 
    • You set budgets and track you spending 
    • You can use the tap feature for purchase up to $250
    • You make bill payments from the cash account 
    • You can earn extra 1,000 bonus PC Optimum points for every bill payment of $50 or more, with a total of 5 bill payments per month
    • 24/7 Customer support 
    • Can add to Apple Pay or Google Pay

    PC Optimum Points and the story behind your savings

    The PC Optimum points program is one of the most popular loyalty programs in Canada and for good reason. In 1959 Loblaws launched its very first loyalty program, Lucky Green Stamps, in hopes of attracting and retaining new customers. Loblaws shoppers could earn stamps on their grocery purchases then redeem them for novelty goods in the Loblaw Lucky Green Stamp Gift Guide. Akin to the Sears Wishbook, the Luck Green Stamp Gift Guide became an essential part of shopping in Canada.

    PC Financial was established in 1998, and since its inception, it has helped usher the Loblaws loyalty program through a series of evolutionary leaps. Loblaws launched the PC Plus points program in 2013, which was a digital loyalty program that collected user data to provide customized offers to shoppers. By 2014, Loblaws had acquired Shoppers Drug Mart, a pharmacy giant in its own right.

    Fast forward to now, and the marriage between two of Canada’s largest consumer brands has produced our beloved PC Optimum points program. With the line of PC Financial Mastercards, you can earn even more points on all your day-to-day spending. Canadians have enjoyed access to one of the most generous loyalty programs in the country.

    According to the PC Financial website, they’ve helped over 3 million Canadians earn trillions of dollars in free groceries. I love free food, and I’m willing to bet you do too. What was originally a small points program designed to build brand loyalty is now a juggernaut in the consumer goods space.

    From PC Plus points to PC Optimum points

    Out with the old and in with the new. The PC Plus points program launched in 2013 and planted itself firmly in the hearts of penny-pinching Canadians like myself. But if it ain’t broke, why fix it? In 2014 Loblaws purchased Shoppers Drug Mart, which touted its own robust points program; Shoppers Optimum points. 

    Under the old PC Plus points program, you could earn 10 points for every $1 spent at Loblaws banner grocery stores. But this plan was restricted to grocery store purchases. You needed to accumulate a minimum of 20,000 points before you could redeem them; a $20 value. And you could only redeem them in-store as well. 

    Before the Loblaws-Shoppers Drug Mart merger, Shoppers had their own Optimum points program. Shoppers Drug Mart patrons could earn 10 Optimum points per $1 spent on in-store purchases. You needed to accumulate a minimum of 8,000 points before you could redeem them for $10 worth of Shoppers Drug Mart goods.

    Today, the PC Optimum points program is a match made in heaven;  helping your dollar bills stretch even further. Now you can collect points on a wider variety of goods at various types of retailers, as long as they are owned by Loblaws. You are no longer restricted to just grocery store or pharmacy purchases and redemptions.

    The minimum redemption threshold has been lowered under the new PC Optimum program, making it even easier to cash in your points. You can redeem a maximum of 500,000 points in a single transaction; a $500 value. And you can only redeem them in increments of 10,000 points.

    If you want to use your points towards a $15 dollar purchase, 10,000 points will cover $10 and you will either need to cover the remaining $5 in cash, or bump up your purchase to $20 and use 20,000 points. Let’s review how to earn points with your PC Optimum card:  

     Shopper’s Drug MartLoblaw’s Owned Grocery StoresEsso / Mobil Gas Stations
    $1 spent 15 pts010 pts per Liter

    Wait a second, is that a 0 for points earned on grocery store purchases when you have a PC Optimum card? Yes, you read that right. There is a catch to this points parade.

    If all you have is the PC Optimum card, you won’t’ earn points on every purchase at participating grocery stores. You will only earn points on the weekly offers generated by your PC Optimum app. You can also earn them on promotional items that specifically advertise PC Optimum points earned for purchasing said item.

    How and where to earn more PC Optimum points

    Basically, just live your life and you’ll earn points but only if you have a PC Financial Mastercard. According to the Loblaws website there are 2,400 participating grocery stores and Shoppers Drugmart locations in Canada. Also, according to them, most Canadians live within 10 km of a Loblaws-owned retailer. You have to eat, and hopefully, you also practice good hygiene and other healthful habits; so it’s time to cash in on all your essential spending by opening an account and creating a PC™ id either online, or by downloading the app. 

    The easiest way to start earning points today is with the PC Optimum app, available in both the Apple App store and Google Play. You’ll get a digital PC Optimum card that can be scanned on your phone at any PC Optimum participating retailer. If you’re not especially tech-savvy and prefer a physical card, you’ll need to visit a brick-and-mortar store to have a card issued directly to you.

    You can do this at any Shoppers Drug Mart location, Loblaw’s owned grocery store. Wait! You can get them as well at Esso and Mobil gas stations. Now that your account is set up and you have your digital and/or physical card, you can start earning points when you shop at the following merchants: 

    Grocery StoresPharmacies Gas StationsClothing Stores
    Real Canadian Superstore
    Atlantic Superstore
    Wholesale Club
    No Frills
    The Independent Grocer
    Shopper’s Drug Mart
    Joe Fresh

    Remember, if all you have is the PC Optimum card, you won’t earn points on all your grocery store purchases. You’ll need a PC Financial Mastercard product. If you have a PC Financial Mastercard it automatically acts as your PC Optimum card too.

    But if you already had a PC Optimum account before getting your Mastercard, you’ll want to link your PC Financial Mastercard to your Optimum account. Simply open your app, select “link cards” and follow the prompts. If you share your PC Financial Mastercard account with an authorized user, you can pool your Optimum points by linking their card to your PC Optimum account too.

    How to maximize your PC Optimum points

    It doesn’t matter if you have a bad credit score or no credit history at all, like immigrants and students. Anyone can start earning PC Optimum points on all their daily purchases.  And the more points you earn, the more free stuff you get. Are you ready to roundhouse kick inflation and keep more of your hard-earned bacon in this crazy economy? Let’s take a look at how to hack the system to get the most out of your PC Optimum points.

    Take advantage of bonus point offers

    PC Financial welcome offers are few and far between, so if you’re thinking of getting one of their Mastercard products keep an eye out for special sign-up offers. They will advertise them. You will have to read the fine print to see if you qualify.

    If you don’t qualify for a PC Financial Mastercard, you can compare and choose from other credit cards, but you can still get up to 280,000 bonus points when you open a PC Financial Money Account. Once you open your account and start using the PC Financial debit Mastercard, you’ll earn 10% back in PC Optimum points on purchases up to $1000 at PC Optimum participating stores; 100,000 points are worth $100. But this is a limited-time offer so act now. 

    Then, you can get up to 150,000 points when you refer 3 friends who each open and use their PC Financial Money Account. You can make another one-time bonus of 25,000 PC Optimum points when you set up a payroll direct deposit into your PC Financial Money Account and receive 3 payroll deposits. Finally, you can earn up to another 5,000 bonus points when you make 5 bill payments of $50 each or more per month through your PC Financial Money Account.

    All of these offers come with terms, conditions and deadlines in order to qualify for the bonus points. Make sure you check out the PC Financial website to make sure you get the most points possible. Don’t leave free money on the table because you missed a deadline or your referral didn’t make a qualifying purchase in time. 

    Use a PC Financial (Debit) Mastercard

    Quick recap in case you weren’t paying attention this whole time, you get points on all your purchases, and more of them, when you have a PC Financial Mastercard product. If all you have is the PC Optimum card you are not earning points on all your purchases. That’s free money you’re leaving on the table.

    As long as you use your PC Financial Mastercard or debit Mastercard, you’ll get points on all your purchases. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points when you shop at Loblaw’s banner stores. Let’s review: 

     PC Optimum cardPC Financial Debit MastercardPC Financial MastercardPC Financial World MastercardPC Financial World Elite Mastercard 
    Loblaw’s banner grocer stores Specific offers only, pts vary 10 pts per $1
    More with personalized offers
    10 pts per $120 pts per $130 pts per $1
    Shopper’s Drug Mart15 pts per $1Up to 25 pts per $125 pts per $135 pts per $145 pts per $1
    Esso / Mobile gas stations 10 pts per liter10 pts per $130 pts per liter30 pts per liter30 pts per liter
    PC Travel 010 pts per $120 pts per $120 pts per $130 pts per $1
    All other purchases010 pts per $110 pts per $110 pts per $110 pts per $1

    Follow the weekly deals in your email and in the app

    When you join the PC Optimum points program you’ll get weekly offers in your email and through your app. The promo email typically comes out every Thursday and offers bonus points on specific items. For example, you might get an offer for 250 bonus points per $1 spent on President’s Choice pasta or frozen peas. Or you might get bonus points on Cover Girl items purchased at Shoppers Drug Mart or a Loblaws banner store beauty counter. Plan your shopping trip around the weekly offers so you can earn even more PC Optimum points.

    Train the algorithm to learn your shopping habits

    The PC Optimum points program and your PC Financial cards learn your shopping habits every time you use them. So hack the system to target the products you want, need, and love. When you get the weekly emails, only download the offers that you plan to use. If you ignore the offers that don’t appeal to you, you’ll get less of them and more of the stuff you are interested in. Simply hit “don’t show again” on the offers you want less of.

     Most weekly offers must be redeemed that week. But sometimes you’ll get an offer that will let you “save for later.” It’ll extend the offer for another week so you have more time to grab the stuff you need without losing out on the points. 

    When you’re out shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart, for example, don’t use your points card for everything. The algorithm pushes offers for high-profit margin items like big brand names, but if you don’t buy that stuff often then don’t use your points card. It sounds counterintuitive, but you probably don’t buy expensive name brands, or big-ticket items often. 

    If you forgo the points and buy that item at a cheaper store, the algorithm won’t get that data. Instead, use your points card on no-name brands and your day-to-day essentials so the AI learns your preferences and pushes points offers for the things you need to buy regularly. You’ll actually earn more points in the long run, which means more free stuff. 

    The algorithm also wants to get you to shop as often as possible and will tailor offers to get you in the door. If you have a spouse or significant other, you should each get your own PC Optimum account. Instead of one account doing a ton of shopping, two accounts will be doing less shopping. You’ll each get juicer targeted offers to get you in the store more often which means you’ll end up getting even more points.

    Double dip your points offers

    Shoppers Drug Mart runs incredible “redemption day” deals. On redemption days, your points are worth more when you redeem them on in-store purchases. For example, if you have 20,000 PC Optimum points, that’s normally worth $20 worth of goods. But on redemption days, you might be able to redeem your 20,000 points for $35 worth of goods. Your points stretch a lot further which means more free stuff, and more savings. 

    Shoppers Drug Mart also runs bonus point days, during which you earn extra points on in-store purchases, so you can accumulate even more points a heck of a lot faster. Remember, those points are redeemable at Loblaws owned grocery stores too. So you can horde points from Shoppers Drug Mart promotions and use them to get free food when you shop for groceries.

    Alternatively, you can horde your points whenever the opportunity presents itself, then cash them in on redemption days for something like Christmas shopping. You get free stocking stuffers? It’s the best Christmas ever!

    Subscribe to the PC Optimum Insiders program

    This is basically the Amazon Prime for PC Optimum lovers. As an almost exclusive PC Shopper myself, this subscription service warms the cockles of my heart. For just under $10 a month, you’ll earn 200 points per $1 spent at PC Optimum participating stores, on a wide variety of goods. 

    Calling all parents! You get 200 points per $1 on any brand of baby formula and diapers. You’ll also get those points on all President Choice brand goods and Joe Fresh items.

    The PC Optimum Insiders program unlocks access to premium services. Stuff like free PC Express grocery pick-ups with priority time slots, and free shipping on things like Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart orders. You’ll also get a $99 travel credit with PC Travel and 5% back in points on PC Travel bookings

    PC Insurance tools

    This grocery store company turned bank turned Fintech company is stepping up to meet the needs of Canadians in a rapidly changing financial environment. Since the launch of the PC Financial Money Account, now you can bank where you buy your bread. It’s a bizarre twist of events, but also a sign of the times and good things to come for Canadian consumers. PC Financial has endless potential, nesting within its own sprawling financial ecosystem. 

    That financial ecosystem is thriving and now includes a PC Financial insurance comparison website. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to get milk, a mortgage and life insurance all in one place. On the website, PC Financial offers insurance brokerage services to help you find the right coverage for your needs.

    You can get quick car insurance quotes complete with a price breakdown and a clear explanation of your coverage and exclusions. You can also get quotes for home and tenant insurance. PC Financial is getting bigger and better.

    FAQs About PC Financial

    Who owns PC Financial? 

    PC Financial is owned by, well, PC Financial. It used to be partnered with CIBC. It has been independent since 2020.

    Is PC Financial now Simplii?

    No. After PC Financial and CIBC ended their partnership, CIBC launched a digital bank called Simplii. Simplii customers lost the ability to earn PC Optimum points with their banking.

    Does PC Financial have bank accounts?

    Not at this time. PC Financial does offer a cash account with a linked debit Mastercard.

    What is the PC Financial Money Account?

    The PC Financial Money Account is a digital bank account that automatically offers the PC Financial debit Mastercard. The account is completely free to use and offers unlimited free transactions. You can load your account by sending an eTransfer from another Canadian bank account, or by linking an external bank account to your PC Financial Money account. You can fund your PC Financial Money Account by adding your PC debit Mastercard as a “bill payment payee” to your other Canadian bank account

    How many PC Financial Mastercards are there?

    Right now there are three PC Financial Mastercards available. You can read our review of them.

    Share with FacebookShare with FacebookShare with TwitterShare with TwitterShare with Twitter
    Heidi Unrau is a senior finance journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she kicked-off her financial career in retail banking as a teller. She quickly progressed to become a Credit Analyst and then Private Lender. This hands-on industry experience uniquely positions her to provide expert insight on loans, credit scores, credit cards, debt, and banking services. She has been featured in publications such as WealthRocket, Scary Mommy, Credello, and Plooto. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to the Freakonomics podcast, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a bowl of ice cream. Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada and her blood type is coffee.