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Can International Students Get a Credit Card in Canada?

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Fact Checked

International students can get a credit card in Canada through one of the banks, like RBC or TD, or financial technology companies like Neo Financial.

Generally, because international students lack a credit history in Canada, it can be challenging to qualify for credit.

However, Canada’s big 5 banks have specific programs catering to international students, so they can access no-fee banking accounts and credit cards even with no prior credit history in Canada.

How International Students Can Get a Credit Card in Canada

Yes, you can get a credit card in Canada as a newcomer or international student. Your options include the following:

Student Credit Cards

These cards are specifically designed for students or those getting their first credit cards. You start off with a small credit limit, usually in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, and can graduate to a premium card after improving your credit score.

Examples include the RBC ION Visa and Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card.

RBC ION Visa

Rewards: Earn 1.5x Avion points per $1 spent on groceries, rides, gas, streaming, subscriptions, digital gaming, and EV charging; 1 Avion point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Welcome offer: Get 3,500 bonus Avion points following approval.

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.

Annual fee: $0

Scene+ Visa Card

Rewards: Earn 2x Scene+ points /$1 at participating grocery stores and Cineplex; 1x points/$1 for everything else.

Welcome offer: Get up to 5,000 points ($50 value).

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases; 22.99% on cash advances.

Annual fee: $0

Secured Credit Cards

Some banks will only approve your application for a credit card if you provide a security deposit.

Unlike a regular or ‘secured’ credit card, a secured credit card is backed by your cash deposit, which is also your credit limit.

For example, if you provide a $1,000 security deposit, your secured card will have a $1,000 credit limit.

Banks may require this deposit to safeguard their interests since you are new to credit and are a temporary resident.

When you close your credit card account or graduate to an unsecured card, your deposit is refunded, assuming your account is in good standing.

Apart from your initial deposit, secured cards offer the same benefits as regular credit cards and can be used to improve your credit score.

An example of a secured credit card for international students is the Neo Secured Card.

Neo Secured Credit

Rewards: Get an average of 5% cash back at 10,000+ locations.

Welcome offer: Up to 15% welcome bonus cash back on your first-time purchases; $25 cash bonus.

Interest rates: 19.99% – 29.99% for purchases; 22.99% – 31.99% for cash advances.

Annual fee: $0

Prepaid Credit Cards

You can apply for a prepaid credit card that is loaded with funds from your bank account.

They are useful for making payments online or at a point of sale. You also enjoy the Zero Liability protection offered by Visa and Mastercard against unauthorized transactions.

The best prepaid card in Canada for international students is the Neo Money Prepaid Mastercard.

Neo Money Account

neo logo

Unlimited 5% average cash back

No monthly fees + $20 bonus

2.25% non-promo interest rate paid on balance

Unlimited free transactions

Get a Mastercard for payments online and ATMs

Access to a no-annual-fee credit card

Best Credit Cards for International Students

The easiest way to obtain a normal credit card as an international student is through one of the largest five banks.

Check out their international student banking programs and get a credit card along with a chequing and savings account.

Here is a summary of what they offer:

RBC International Student Credit Cards

International students can apply for an RBC credit card with no prior credit history.

Credit limit: Get approved for up to $2,000.

RBC student cards include:

RBC ION Visa

Entry-level RBC rewards credit card

Annual fee: $0

Welcome offer: Get 3,500 bonus Avion points following approval.

Rewards: Earn 1.5x Avion points per $1 spent on groceries, rides, gas, streaming, subscriptions, digital gaming, and EV charging; 1 Avion point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: None

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good or better

rbc ion visacard-img

On RBC’s website

  • Earn 1.5 Avion points for every dollar you spend on groceries, rideshare, daily public transit, gas, streaming, subscriptions, and digital gaming.
  • Earn 1 Avion point for every dollar you spend on all other qualifying purchases.
  • Save 3¢/L on fuel purchased at Petro-Canada when you link your credit card to your Petro-Canada Card.
  • Redeem your points for air travel, gift cards, merchandise, statement credits, dining, etc. The minimum redemption is only $10.
  • Get a 3-month complimentary DashPass subscription, valued at almost $30.
  • Includes Purchase Security and Extended Warranty Insurance.

Competitive purchase APR at 19.99%

Attractive point redemption options

No minimum income threshold

Limited insurance benefits

The conversion rate for points is not as enticing

The RBC ION Visa is an excellent choice if you are a student or newcomer looking to get approved for a credit card with little to no credit history. It has no annual fees, and the Avion points you earn are easy to redeem.

RBC ION+ Visa

Entry-level RBC credit card

Annual fee: $48

Welcome offer: Get 3,500 bonus Avion points following approval, and earn 3,500 bonus points when you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

Rewards: Earn 3x Avion points per $1 spent on groceries, rides, gas, streaming, subscriptions, digital gaming, and EV charging; 1 Avion point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: None

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good or better

rbc ionplusvisacc-img

On RBC’s website

  • Earn 3 Avion points for every dollar you spend on groceries, rideshare, daily public transit, gas, streaming, subscriptions, and digital gaming.
  • Earn 1 Avion point for every dollar you spend on all other qualifying purchases.
  • Save 3¢/L on fuel purchased at Petro-Canada when you link your credit card to your Petro-Canada Card.
  • Redeem your points for air travel, gift cards, merchandise, statement credits, dining, etc. The minimum redemption is only $10.
  • Get a 3-month complimentary DashPass subscription, valued at almost $30.
  • Offers mobile device insurance and optional travel insurance coverage.
  • Includes Purchase Security and Extended Warranty Insurance.

Competitive purchase APR at 19.99%

Attractive point redemption options

No minimum income threshold

Limited insurance benefits

The conversion rate for points is not as enticing

The RBC ION+ Visa is a step up from the RBC ION Visa, with double the points on specific purchases. It is an excellent choice for students or newcomers looking to get approved for their first credit card in Canada.

RBC Cash Back Mastercard

Entry-level RBC cash back card

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn up to 2% cash back on high-spend categories.

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: $0

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good

On RBC’s website

  • Earn up to 2% cash back on grocery store purchases.
  • Earn up to 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases, including recurring payments.
  • Save 3 cents per litre on fuel and earn 20% more Petro-Points at Petro-Canada.
  • Earn extra Be Well points at Rexall when you link your card with your Be Well card.
  • Save on delivery fees through Doordash with a complimentary three-month DashPass subscription.
  • Access purchase security and extended warranty insurance for up to 90 days after making a purchase.

No annual fee

Unlimited cash back

Competitive purchase APR at 19.99%

Limited travel benefits

Limited insurance benefits

The RBC Cash Back Mastercard offers competitive rates and a strong cash back program. With no annual fee, it’s a great card for those just starting out or those looking to build their credit score.

Scotiabank International Student Credit Cards

Scotiabank’s StartRight program gives new immigrants, and students access to a free chequing account with no monthly fees, international money transfers, and an unsecured credit card. No Canadian credit history is required.

Credit limit: Get approved for up to $5,000.

The Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card offers Scene+ points on every purchase, and you can redeem them for free movies, groceries, travel, gift cards, etc.

Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card

Excellent entry-level credit card for students

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn up to 2X Scene+ points on everyday purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 5,000 bonus Scene+ points with $750 spend in the first 3 months.

Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: $12,000

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good

scotiabank scene visa-img2

On Scotiabank’s website

  • Earn 2 Scene+ points on every $1 spent at eligible grocery stores.
  • Earn 2 Scene+ points on every $1 spent at Cineplex theatres or on cineplex.com.
  • Earn 1 Scene+ point on every $1 spent on all other eligible everyday purchases.
  • Save up to 25% on car rentals at participating AVIS and Budget locations in Canada and the U.S.
  • The minimum credit limit is $500.

No annual fee

Competitive purchase APR at 19.99%

Scene+ points are unlimited

Does not include insurance benefits

2X rewards categories are relatively limited

The Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card has no annual fee and a competitive purchase APR. It is an excellent entry-level credit card for students and newcomers.

TD International Student Credit Cards

Eligible international students can apply for the TD Rewards Visa* Card. If you do not qualify for an unsecured TD credit card, you can apply for a secured TD credit card.

TD’s international student banking package also includes a chequing and savings account.

TD Rewards Visa Credit Card

Good entry-level credit card

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn TD Rewards Points on every purchase you make with the card.

Interest rates: 19.99% for purchases and 22.99% for advances.

Minimum income requirement: None

Recommended credit score:
600
900

Fair to Good

TD Rewards Visa Credit Card

On TD’s website

  • No Annual Fee or supplemental card fees.
  • Earn 4 TD Reward Points for every $1.00 spent at Expedia.
  • Earn 3 TD Reward Points for every $1.00 spent at groceries and restaurants.
  • Earn 2 TD Reward Points for every $1.00 spent on recurring bill payments.
  • Earn 1 TD Reward Point for every $1.00 spent on any other purchases.
  • Use TD Reward Points for travel, rewards, or to pay down your credit card balance.
  • Receive 10% at Avis Rent-a-Car and Budget Rent-a-Car.
  • Use TD Payment Plans to break down your bill payments.
  • Earn 50% more TD Rewards Points and Starts at participating Starbucks locations.
  • Mobile Device Insurance.
  • Purchase Security and Extended Warranty Protection.
  • Redeem your TD Rewards Points on Amazon.ca.

No Annual Fees

Earn TD Rewards Points on every purchase

Lots of participating partners

No travel insurance or coverage

There are higher-earning no-fee cards

Higher interest rates

The TD Rewards Visa Credit Card is as basic as it gets with the versatile TD Rewards Points system. It lacks extra features like travel insurance which is to be expected with an entry-level, no-fee card. A nice, simple rewards card for those who don’t want all of the frills.

CIBC International Student Credit Cards

CIBC’s newcomer offers extend to international students as well.

When meeting one of the reps at a CIBC branch to open a student chequing account, you can apply for the CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students.

Here are some other CIBC student credit cards.

CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students

Good student credit card

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn cash back on all of your purchases made with this card.

Interest rates: 20.99% for purchases and 22.99% for advances for non-Quebec residents, and 21.99% for Quebec residents.

Minimum income requirement: None

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good to Excellent

CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students

On CIBC’s website

  • No Annual Fees.
  • Earn 2% cash back on groceries.
  • Earn 1% cash back on gas, transportation, dining, and recurring payments.
  • Earn 0.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back anytime you want.
  • Receive a free SPC+ membership with this card.
  • $100,000 common carrier accident insurance.
  • Purchase Security and Extended Protection Insurance.
  • CIBC Payment Protector Insurance.

No Annual Fees

Earn cash back on every purchase

Free SPC+ Membership

Limited travel coverage

High-interest rates

No vehicle or travel insurance

The CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students serves a very specific need for students: cash back on every purchase. With no annual fees, it isn’t surprising that some of the extra coverages are limited. A solid free credit card which helps students cut down on some of their everyday costs.

BMO International Student Credit Cards

You can apply for a BMO credit card by visiting one of their branches. Your options include:

  • Student BMO Cash Back Mastercard
  • Student BMO AIR MILES Mastercard

BMO Cash Back Mastercard

Good entry-level card for students

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn up to 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on subscriptions and utilities, and 0.5% on all other purchases.

Interest rates: 20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: $15,000

Recommended credit score:
660
900

Good

BMO Cashback Mastercard

On BMO’s website

  • Earn 3% cash back on groceries ($500 monthly spend cap).
  • Earn 1% cash back on subscriptions and utilities ($500 monthly spend cap).
  • Earn 0.5% cash back on other purchases.
  • Redeem cashback at any time and set an automatic deposit.
  • Get extra cashback for additional cardholders.
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection included.
  • Get up to 25% off car rentals at Alamo and National Car Rental.
  • Save 15% on Cirque du Soleil shows in Canada.

Earn up to 3% cashback

Redeem cashback at any time

Includes extended warranty and purchase protection

No annual fee

Few extra perks included beyond cashback

Cashback rate of 0.5% for most purchases is on low end

$500 monthly spend cap on 1% and 4% cash back categories

The BMO CashBack Mastercard is a good way to earn up to 3% cashback without paying an annual fee. The ability to cash out your cashback at any time and set automatic deposits means no more waiting for your money.

Secured Credit Card for International Students

The best secured credit card for international students is the Neo Secured Card.

This card offers guaranteed approval and has no monthly fees. Security deposits start at a low $50, and you earn up to 5% cash back on purchases.

Given the high purchase APR charged by this card, you should aim to pay off your balance within the 21-day grace period.

Neo Secured Credit

Best secured credit card for bad credit

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: Earn up to 15% cashback on first purchases at eligible partners, 5% cash back at partner stores, and 0.5% unlimited cashback on everything else.

Welcome offer: $25 bonus

Interest rates: 19.99%-22.99% for purchases, 22.99%-28.99% for cash advances.

Minimum income requirement: None

Recommended credit score:
N/A

None

neosecuredwithbanner

On Neo Financial’s website

  • Earn up to 15% cashback on first purchase at eligible partners.
  • Earn 5% unlimited cashback at partner stores.
  • Earn 0.5% unlimited cashback on everything else.
  • Create Subscription Bundles to get extra cashback, insurance, or subscriptions.
  • Choose your own credit limit.
  • Minimum security fund requirement of $50.
  • No overlimit fees.
  • Use auto-pay to avoid missing payments.
  • Guaranteed approval and no hard credit checks.

Earn up to 15% cashback

Good rewards for a secured card

No annual fee or overlimit fees

Guaranteed approval

High-interest rate

Few additional perks

If you have a bad credit score or no credit history, the Neo Secured Mastercard gives you a way to start improving your score while earning up to 15% cashback. We also like that it has no annual or monthly fees and offers guaranteed approval.

Other secured card options include the Home Trust Secured Visa.

Best Prepaid Card for International Students

The best prepaid credit card for international students is the Neo Money card. It offers cash back on purchases and pays interest on your balance.

Neo Money Account

Monthly fee: $0

Free transactions: Unlimited debits, Interac e-Transfers, bill payments, and deposits.

Sign-up bonus: $20 welcome bonus (after funding and making your first purchase), up to 15% cash back on your first purchases at partner stores.

Interest earned on deposit: 2.25% for spending account. Earn average of 5% cash back on purchases using the Neo Money card.

neologotransparent-img

On Neo Financial’s website

  • Earn 2.25% interest on your balance.
  • Earn an average of 5% cash back at thousands of Neo partners and up to 15% cash back on your first purchases.
  • Interest is calculated daily and paid monthly.
  • Transactions, including purchases, bill payments, transfers, and direct deposits, are free and unlimited.
  • No minimum deposit or balance is required.
  • Easily set up automatic bill payments.
  • Fund your account in 3 ways: Interac e-Transfer, link your existing accounts, or set up direct deposit.
  • Neo Money now comes with a Mastercard that gives you access to your balance for POS and online purchases.
  • Available throughout Canada, except Quebec.

Earn 2.25% interest on your balance

Up to 5% cash back on purchases

Easily fund your account in one of 3 ways

No minimum deposit or balance required

No free ATM withdrawals

A hybrid spending and savings account, Neo Money pays 2.25% interest on your balance with no monthly fees or balance requirements. It includes unlimited, free transactions, bill payments, payroll deposits, transfers, and more. You can easily request a Neo Money card to earn cash back.

How To Apply For a Credit Card as an International Student

You will need to present specific documentation at your meeting with a bank representative.

Typically, these include documents verifying your identity and status in Canada:

  • Government-issued photo ID, such as a passport or Canadian driver’s license.
  • Proof of enrollment at an accredited university or college. E.g. Student ID Card.
  • Study permit.
  • Quebec Acceptance Certificate (if studying in Quebec)

If you are a permanent resident, you can provide a copy of your Permanent Resident Card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence.

If applying for a credit card at an online bank or Fintech, you may need to upload these documents.

How To Choose an International Student Credit Card

The main benefit of getting a credit card while in school is to start building credit.

Your credit history is used to compute your credit score. Lenders use this metric when evaluating your applications for credit products, e.g. credit cards, car loans, personal loans, student loans, or mortgages.

In my experience, the easiest way to get a credit card when you have no credit history in Canada is to apply for one at the bank where you open your chequing account.

You may be asked to provide a security deposit if you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card.

There are various credit card types you can choose from, depending on your needs:

  • Cash back credit cards: earn cash rewards when you make a payment. For instance, they could offer 1% cash back on all purchases, which means you get $10 per $1,000 spent.
  • Travel credit cards: Earn travel-related rewards or points you can redeem for various purchases.

Others include balance transfer, prepaid, secured, and low-interest rate credit cards.

Watch out for annual fees. If paying a fee, ensure the rewards are worthwhile.

While a credit card can help your finances, there are downsides if used carelessly. Don’t miss payment deadlines, and limit your credit usage to 35% of your limit to avoid damaging your credit score.

Best Credit Offers in April 2024

Get the top savings and spending account and stop paying costly bank fees ($20 Bonus)

Save on fees and access unlimited transactions, eTransfers & bill payments.

Get a $20 instant bonus after completing your first purchase.

Earn up to 5% unlimited cash back and up to 5% interest on your balance.

Guaranteed instant approval with any credit score + free budgeting app.

Get this guaranteed approval credit card for any credit score ($25 bonus)

Get an instant $25 welcome bonus.

Earn 5% unlimited average cash back at thousands of locations.

Guaranteed approval for poor and bad credit scores. Takes 3 minutes.

No monthly fees and up to 15% cashback on your first-time purchases.

Earn an average 5% cashback while growing your balance + $20 bonus

Best free prepaid reloadable Mastercard with $20 bonus (after adding $50+).

Earn an average 5% unlimited cash back at over 12,000 stores.

No credit check and free budgeting app with automatic savings features.

Earn 2.25% interest on your entire balance.*

Author

Gravatar for Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)
Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

Enoch Omololu, personal finance expert, author, and founder of Savvy New Canadians, has written about money matters for over 10 years. Enoch has an MSc (Econ) degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School and has completed the Canadian Securities Course. His expertise has been highlighted in major publications like Forbes, Globe and Mail, Business Insider, CBC News, Toronto Star, Financial Post, CTV News, TD Direct Investing, Canadian Securities Exchange, and many others. Enoch is passionate about helping others win with their finances and recently created a practical investing course for beginners. You can read his full author bio.

About Savvy New Canadians

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