Are you looking to apply for your first credit card in Canada? This guide covers some of the best first credit cards for beginners, credit card requirements and types in Canada, and how to apply for a credit card.
A credit card can be a great addition to your wallet. They facilitate convenient payments, help you earn rewards, and offer one of the easiest ways to build a credit history.
On the flip side, credit cards can amplify bad money management skills and get you into debt.
Read on to learn about some of the best entry-level credit cards in 2023.
Best First Credit Cards in Canada
|Credit Card||Best For||Annual Fee||APR|
|Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card||Cash back rewards (no-annual-fee and balance transfer)||$0||19.95%|
|Neo Financial Mastercard||Cash back rewards||$0||19.99%-26.99% for purchases; 22.99%-28.99% for cash advances|
|SimplyCash Card from Amex||Flat-rate cash back rewards||$0||20.99% for purchases, 21.99% for cash advances|
|Tangerine World Mastercard||Cash back rewards + some premium perks||$0||19.95%|
|Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card||Student credit card||$0||19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
|KOHO Mastercard||Best prepaid card + savings account||$0||0%|
|Scene+ Visa Card||Student credit card||$0||19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
|PC Financial Mastercard||Grocery rewards||$0||20.97% for purchases, 22.97% for cash advances|
|NBC mycredit Mastercard||Cash back rewards||$0||20.99% for purchases, 24.49% for cash advances|
|BMO Cash Back Mastercard||Student credit card||$0||19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
|MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard||No-fee travel credit card||$0||19.99% for purchases, 24.99% for cash advances|
|Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite||Best cash back card + premium perks||$120||20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
|American Express Cobalt Card||Premium travel card||$155.58||20.99% for purchases, 21.99% for cash advances|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express||Premium travel card + No FX fees||$120||20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
|TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card||Travel card||$120||20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances|
Credit Card Requirements in Canada
The following factors will determine whether your application for a credit card is approved.
Age: You must be at least the age of the majority in your province or territory. That is at least 18 years of age in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.
The age of the majority is 19 in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Yukon, and Nunavut.
Credit Score: Your credit score is a reflection of your credit history and how you have managed debt so far. It is a 3-digit number ranging from 300 to 900.
Most credit card companies require a 660+ credit score, and some premium cards are in the 760+ credit score range.
If you are applying for your first credit product, it may be easier to qualify for an entry-level credit card like the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, which accepts credit scores as low as 600. You could also consider getting a secured credit card like the Neo Secured Mastercard.
Income: Some credit cards have no income requirement (including most American Express Cards), while others have a minimum income threshold you must meet.
Residency: To qualify for a credit card in Canada, you will need to show you are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. There are also credit cards for foreign workers and international students.
Social insurance number: You will need to provide your social insurance number during the application process.
Bankruptcy: If you have an undischarged bankruptcy on your credit report, your application for an unsecured credit card will be denied.
Other negative information that can impact your application includes court judgements, liens, consumer proposals, collections, etc.
Best Credit Cards For Beginners in Canada
There are some of the best credit cards for first-timers. We have divided them into two categories: no-annual-fee credit cards and premium cards with an annual fee.
1. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is one of the best cash back credit cards in Canada. It doubles as a great first credit card for young adults and students.
With a 600+ credit score requirement and an income threshold of just $12,000, this card is super easy to qualify for.
It is also competitive on the cash back front, with unlimited 2% cash back on purchases in two categories of spending (or three if you deposit your rewards in a free Tangerine savings account) and 0.50% unlimited cash back on everything else.
If you have a balance on other credit cards, you can transfer them over and get a low 1.95% balance transfer rate for 6 months (a 1% balance transfer fee applies).
This card also offers purchase protection and extended warranty coverage on your purchases.
Learn more about it in this review, or take advantage of the welcome offer below.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Rewards: Earn up to 2% unlimited cash back in up to 3 spending categories and 0.50% on all other purchases.
Welcome offer: Get an extra 10% cash back on up to $1,000 in spending in the first 2 months ($100 value); 1.95% balance transfer rate for 6 months.
Interest rates: 19.95% for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
2. Neo Financial Mastercard
The Neo Mastercard (Neo Card) is a top rewards credit card without the annual fee.
When you apply for the standard card, you earn up to 5% instant cash back when you shop at more than 10,000 partner brands and retailers.
New cardholders also get a 15% cash back welcome bonus when they make their first purchase at most partners.
If you are a newcomer or seeking a first-time credit card with no credit history, you can opt for the Neo Secured Card.
The one downside of this card is that it does not offer purchase security or extended warranty insurance.
Learn more in this review or sign up below.
Neo Credit Mastercard (Standard)
Rewards: Average of 5% cash back at 10,000+ partners and a minimum of 0.50% cash back across all purchases
Welcome offer: Get 15% cash back on your first purchases, plus a $25 welcome cash bonus.
Interest rates: 19.99% – 29.99% on purchases; 22.99% – 31.99% for cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
3. SimplyCash Card From American Express
The SimplyCash Card from Amex simplifies cash back rewards like no other.
You earn 1.25% to 2.00% cash back on purchases and don’t have to worry much about spending categories.
This card has no annual fee, and there is no minimum income requirement. That said, you will need a very good to excellent credit score to qualify (725+).
Cardholders also enjoy travel accident insurance with coverage up to $100,000, purchase protection, and extended warranty insurance.
Learn more in this review or get the welcome bonus below.
SimplyCash Card from American Express
Rewards and benefits: Earn up to 2% cash back on gas and groceries; 1.25% cash back on all other purchases; travel accident insurance.
Welcome offer: Earn a $10 statement credit each month you spend $300 in purchases on your Card in the first 10 months (up to $100 value).
Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases and 21.99% on cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
4. Tangerine World Mastercard
If you have an annual income of $60,000 or higher (or $100,000 in household income), you will get more out of the Tangerine World Mastercard.
This no-annual-fee credit card also offers unlimited 2% cash back in 2-3 categories of spending and 0.50% cash back on all other purchases.
In addition, cardholders enjoy access to car rental, mobile device, purchase protection, and extended warranty insurance coverage.
You also get complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey with access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide (costs $32 USD per visit).
Learn more in this review or take advantage of the welcome offer below.
Tangerine World Mastercard
Rewards: Earn up to 2% unlimited cash back in up to 3 spending categories and 0.50% on all other purchases; VIP perks.
Welcome offer: Get an extra 10% cash back on up to $1,000 in spending in the first 2 months ($100 value).
Interest rates: 19.95% for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
5. KOHO Prepaid Mastercard
The KOHO Mastercard prepaid card is not a credit card.
That said, it offers many of the same benefits, including cash back rewards and an easy way to build or rebuild credit history if you subscribe to its credit building service.
This free card offers 1% cash back on grocery purchases and bill payments and up to 10% cash back at select partners.
KOHO users get unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers®.
When you set up a direct deposit to your account, you earn a high interest savings rate on your balance.
KOHO offers many other benefits and is one of Canada’s best virtual cards.
Get a $20 cash bonus when you sign up here, use our referral code CASHBACK, and make your first purchase.
KOHO Prepaid Mastercard
Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on groceries and transportation; Up to 5% cashback at select partners; Earn interest on your balance*.
Welcome offer: Get a $20 bonus when you load and make your first purchase (use promo code CASHBACK during sign-up).
Interest rate fee: 0%
Annual fee: $0
6. Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card
This card has no annual fee and offers:
- 4% cash back on restaurant, bar, and coffee shop purchases (on up to $5,000 spent/year)
- 1.50% cash back on gas, groceries, drugstore, and recurring bill payments (on up to $15,000 spent/year)
- 0.50% unlimited cash back on all other purchases
Cardholders also get purchase security and extended protection insurance.
Learn more about the Simplii Financial credit card in this review or take advantage of the welcome offer below.
Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card
Rewards: Earn 4% cash back at restaurants; 1.5% on gas & groceries, and 0.5% elsewhere.
Welcome offer: Enjoy 20% cash back on eligible gas, groceries, drugstore purchases and pre-authorized payments for your first 3 months (valued at $100).
Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.
Annual fee: $0
7. Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card
The Scene+ Visa Card is one of Scotiabank’s student credit cards. It also works well for beginners.
This card offers 2 Scene+ points per $1 spent on purchases at Cineplex theatres or Cineplex.com and specific grocery retailers; 1 Scene+ point per $1 spent on everything else.
You can redeem Scene+ points for travel, food, entertainment, banking, and other rewards.
8. PC Financial Mastercard
If you are a regular shopper at the Real Canadian Superstore, Shoppers Drug Mart, and other Loblaw stores, this card may be for you.
The PC Financial Mastercard has no annual fee, and it offers:
- 25 PC Optimum points per $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart
- 30 points per 1 litre of gas purchased at Esso/Mobil stations
- 20 points per $1 spent on purchases at PC Travel
- 10 points per $1 spent elsewhere
9. National Bank mycredit Mastercard
The NBC mycredit Mastercard is a no-fee cash back credit card that pays unlimited 1% cash back on restaurant purchases and pre-authorized payments and 0.50% cash back on all other purchases.
This card also includes mobile device, purchase protection, and extended warranty insurance coverages.
It has a 20.99% purchase interest rate, and for cash advances, the interest rate is 24.49%.
Here are other National Bank credit cards.
10. BMO CashBack Mastercard
The BMO Cash Back Mastercard is another well-suited credit card for students.
This card has no annual fee and offers:
- 3% cash back on groceries (on up to $500 spend/month)
- 1% cash back on recurring bills (on up to $500 spend/month)
- 0.50% cash back on all other purchases
Cardholders can also access purchase security and extended warranty coverage.
This card has a 19.99% purchase interest rate and 22.99% for cash advances. Learn more in this review.
11. MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard
The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard is a good travel credit card without an annual fee.
Cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on grocery, digital media, restaurant, utilities, and membership purchases ($10,000 annual spend limit per category).
And on all other purchases, the cash back rate is 1 point per dollar spent.
You can redeem MBNA points for cash back, gift cards, travel, and merchandise.
This card has a 19.99% purchase interest rate and 24.99% interest rate for cash advances. Learn more in this MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard review.
Premium First Credit Cards in Canada
The following credit cards have an annual fee in exchange for higher cash back rewards and VIP perks.
12. Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card
The Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card is the best cash back credit card in Canada.
It has a $120 annual fee, and you will need a minimum annual income of $60,000 or $100,000 for a household to qualify.
Its cash back benefits include 4% cash back on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases; 2% cash back on gas and daily transit; and 1% cash back on everything else.
This card provides comprehensive travel insurance coverage with travel emergency medical, rental car, travel accident, delayed baggage, and flight delay insurance, to name a few.
Cardholders also get access to Visa Infinite exclusive benefits.
For a limited time, you also get a 10% cash back welcome bonus ($200 value).
13. American Express Cobalt Card
The American Express Cobalt Card is an exceptional credit card with top-tier rewards spanning cash back, travel, and more.
This card has a $155.58 annual fee (paid as $12.99 per month) and has no minimum income requirement.
You earn 5 points per dollar spent on restaurants and food delivery; 3 points per $1 spent on streaming subscriptions; 2 points per $1 spent on travel and daily transit; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
On the insurance front, cardholders are covered with comprehensive travel coverage, including a $5 million emergency medical insurance.
There is also mobile device insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.
14. Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada. It is also one of a few cards that waive the 2.5% to 3% foreign transaction fees you pay when you shop abroad.
This card has a $120 annual fee, but you can apply with an annual income of $15,000.
Cardholders get 5 points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, food delivery, fast food, and entertainment purchases.
On gas, daily transit, and streaming services, you earn 3 points per $1 and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
The Scotiabank Gold Amex offers a complimentary Priority Pass membership with access to more than 1,200 VIP airport lounges.
You also get comprehensive travel insurance coverage (9 types) and access to other exclusive perks.
15. TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card
The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card is great for earning TD Points you can redeem for travel purchases via ExpediaForTD.com.
It has a $120 annual fee and requires a minimum personal income of $60,000.
This card offers 9 TD Points per $1 spent on travel booked through Expedia For TD and 3 TD Points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Cardholders can access travel insurance coverage benefits, a discounted Priority Pass membership, and discounts when renting a car at participating Avis Rent A Car and Budget Rent A Car locations.
It has a 19.99% purchase interest rate and a 22.99% rate for cash advances.
Learn more about the card in this detailed review.
We have used several factors to determine the best first credit cards in Canada, including annual income requirements, annual fees, rewards, interest rates, how easy they are to apply for and to use to build credit, and more. We’ve also made sure we have included a range of cards, including premium cards, to provide a wide range of options depending on your circumstances.
What to Look For in a Beginner Credit Card
When looking for your first credit card, there are a few factors to consider.
Many cards have an annual fee, but some don’t. So you might want to find a card that’s free to use. However, if you intend to use your card a lot, it may make sense to choose a premium card.
For example, it could be a good deal if you can earn more in cash back than you spend on the fee.
Many premium credit cards in Canada have high income requirements. $60,000 a year or more is fairly common.
If you are getting your first card and don’t have a high income, look for a card with a low or no income requirement.
If you don’t pay off your balance in full, you will have to pay interest. A high interest rate makes paying off your credit card more expensive.
You may want to earn cash back, or there may be a rewards scheme that you are interested in, like Scene+ points. Check out the rewards and choose a card that makes the most sense.
But don’t just be tempted by rewards and perks. Instead, focus on your goals.
What do you need a credit card for? A secured credit card with less-appealing rewards may be a better option if you’re simply interested in building a stronger credit score.
How To Get a Credit Card in Canada
After deciding on the credit card that meets your needs, you can proceed to the bank’s website to apply.
You will also need to meet their requirements which may include income and credit score minimum thresholds.
Complete the online application form with your details and submit it.
After reviewing your application, the bank will let you know if you are approved. In some cases, the decision is instant.
Your physical credit card is sent to you by postal mail and can take 5-10 business days.
How to Get a Credit Card with No Credit
If you have no credit history or bad credit, getting your first credit card in Canada can be trickier. But it’s not impossible.
Student Credit Cards
Students are not expected to have long credit histories, so card issuers are more lenient. So if you are a student, these can be a great option for your first credit card.
Secured Credit Cards
These cards involve paying a security deposit, and you can then borrow up to the amount of the deposit. Requirements are more lenient, and you don’t normally require a good credit score.
You may be able to become an authorized user of a card, like a card belonging to a family member. You won’t build your credit score this way, but it is one of the easiest ways to get access to a credit card.
How to Build Credit from Scratch
It can be difficult to build credit from scratch when starting out, but everyone has to start somewhere.
Secured Credit Cards
As mentioned previously, a secured credit card is a good option. Requirements are a lot more lenient with these cards, and you don’t need a good credit score to apply for one.
You can then make a security deposit and start making purchases on your credit card. Pay it off every month in full, and you’ll start to improve your credit score.
Store Credit Cards
Store credit cards often have more lenient requirements. You may only be able to use them in a certain store or group of stores, but you can use your card to build your credit score.
Credit Builder Service
Another option is to use a credit builder service. These tend to be paid services, like that offered by Koho.
The general idea is that you borrow a small amount of money and pay it back every month on time. Your payments are then reported to the credit bureaus.
If you pay rent on a property, services like Borrowell and Billi can report your rent payments to the credit bureaus. Using such a service, you can build your credit score without borrowing money.
Types of Credit Cards in Canada
The common types of credit cards in Canada include:
Cash back credit cards: These credit cards offer cash back rewards when you spend. For example, a 1% cash back rate would mean that you get $1 back when you make a purchase for $100.
Rewards credit card: Many Canadian credit cards fall into this category (including cash back cards). The rewards you earn may be in the form of loyalty points, cash, or miles.
Secured credit cards: These credit cards are designed for people with bad or poor credit rating. You will need to provide security funds or collateral to qualify. Regular credit cards don’t require a security deposit and are also known as unsecured credit cards.
Balance transfer credit card: You can use these cards to consolidate your credit card debt at a lower interest rate. This can save you money if you pay off the debt at a lower rate.
Low-interest credit card: These credit cards have a purchase interest rate that is significantly lower than the 20% charged by most credit cards.
Student credit cards: There are entry-level credit cards with low or no minimum income requirements and no annual fees. These credit cards also have limited perks.
Premium credit cards: Premium credit cards charge annual fees and offer premium perks in return. They are best for people who spend large amounts per month or who need access to exclusive benefits.
Should You Get a Credit Card?
Whether you should get a credit card or not is a personal decision, but there are several benefits:
- A credit card helps build your credit history if you pay it back on time every month. This can help when you want to get a car loan or another type of loan in the future.
- If you want to earn rewards like cash back, a credit card can be a good way to do this. But don’t forget that other options, like prepaid cards, often provide cash back rewards too.
- Credit cards may come with premium perks, including discounts and travel insurance coverage.
- Credit cards often have protections like fraud protection, so you are not liable for unauthorized charges.
Credit Card Alternatives
If you want to use a credit card to get access to a loan, there are other options you could consider.
For example, you may be able to get a personal loan from your bank. This could be a small loan to pay for something you need, and interest rates are often lower than when you spend on a credit card.
By making your monthly payments on time, you will also help to improve your credit score.
You may consider borrowing the money from family members instead. Your parents, for example, might be able to loan you a small amount.
If you just want the convenience of using a card, a prepaid card may be a better option. Prepaid cards often allow you to earn rewards like cash back, and you can use them anywhere credit cards are accepted.
How to Avoid Starter Credit Card Pitfalls
- Always try to pay your balance in full. Using a credit card can quickly become expensive if you only make the minimum payment.
- Don’t make your card payment late. This can have an impact on your credit score and also lead to fees.
- If you choose a premium card, use it enough to take full advantage of the rewards. Otherwise, you might be better off with a no-fee card.
- Avoid applying for lots of cards, and stick to applying for one to start with.
Credit Card Terminology You Should Know as a First-Time User
- APR (Annual Percentage Rate) – The interest you will pay on the money you spend using your card. This is often different for purchases and cash advances.
- Grace Period – The period that you do not have to pay interest on credit card purchases as long as you pay your balance in full.
- Credit Limit – The maximum amount you can borrow on your credit card.
- Cash Back – Where you earn money back when you spend on your credit card. It is usually expressed as a percentage, like 1% or 2%.
- Annual Fee – The amount you must pay each year to use the card.
- Secured Credit Card – A credit card where you pay a security deposit. These are suitable for people without good credit scores.
- Balance Transfer – Where you transfer your balance from one credit card to another, usually to take advantage of a lower interest rate.
- Cash Advance – Where you withdraw cash from an ATM using a credit card.
- Minimum Payment – This appears on your statement and is the minimum amount you must pay by the payment date.
This depends on what you are looking for. The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card and SimplyCash Card from Amex are great options if you want a credit card for earning cash back. They are also easy to qualify for.
You must be the age of majority in your province or territory to apply for a credit card in Canada, which is 18 or 19 years old. However, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card from a younger age, depending on the issuer.
Yes, several credit cards do not have minimum income requirements.
It depends on what you need, but a secured credit card, a credit card with low-income requirements, or a credit card with no annual fee can all be good options.
There are several good starter credit cards for students, but we recommend the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card and the Neo Financial Mastercard.
Yes, there is no problem with having more than one credit card, but avoid applying for several cards at the same time.
Using a credit card and making monthly payments on time is good for your credit. However, if you fail to make your payments on time, it can hurt your credit.
Yes, using a secured credit card and making your monthly payments on time is a good way to improve your credit.