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Published May 5, 2022

9 Best Student Credit Cards in Canada for 2022

The best student credit cards in Canada have low fees and interest rates while still providing some perks and strengthening your credit profile.

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

As a post-secondary student, you may not have the mature credit file or annual income of older Canadians, but it’s still possible to get a credit card specifically designed for your financial needs.

With many student credit cards to choose from in Canada, finding one with the right combination of features for your lifestyle can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time choosing a card. But spending a few minutes with the information below — consider it a mini cram session — should have you ready to compare the best student credit cards and confident that you can make decision about which one is right for your needs.

Best student credit cards in Canada

Our pick for a no-fee, low-interest starter card

American Express Essential™ Credit Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    12.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    N/A
  • Intro Offer
    N/A
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    No annual fee and a 12.99% interest rate make the American Express Essential™ Credit Card a solid option if you might carry a balance.

    Pros
    • The 12.99% interest rate also applies to cash advances. Plus, it’s permanent, provided you make a minimum payment every month.
    • Up to $100,000 of travel accident insurance.


    Cons
    • You won’t earn cash back or points on purchases, since this is not a rewards card.
    • There’s no intro offer.
  • Product Details
    • Enjoy an annual rate of 12.99% interest rate on purchases.
    • With an annual interest rate of 12.99%, you can save on interest payment if you choose to carry a balance and make your minimum monthly payments on time If you take advantage of this offer and do not repay your entire balance (including the balance transfer amount) in full by the payment due date then interest will be charged on your Card purchases at the applicable rate for purchases and not this special Optional Balance Transfer Offer rate • Optional Balance Transfer Offer – Enjoy a 1.99% interest in first 6 months of Cardmembership if you choose to transfer your other credit card balances to this American Express card.*
    • Balance Transfer option is only available at time of online application. There is no balance transfer fee at time of application.*
    • Access to memorable experiences with American Express Invites™.
    • Cover your shopping purchases with Purchase Protection® Plan and Buyer’s Assurance® Protection Plan.
    • 24/7 Customer Services *American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details, current product information and Terms and Conditions, click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
Our pick for a flat-rate no-fee cash back card

SimplyCash™ Card from American Express

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 21.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.25%-4%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $200
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    A flat rewards rate of 1.25% makes it easy to earn cash back on every purchase — no need to keep track of bonus categories, spending limits or tiered and rotating structures.

    Pros
    • An easy-to-understand 1.25% flat rate on every purchase.
    • Cardholders enjoy exclusive access, special offers and events, and more through American Express Experiences and Front of the Line Reserved tickets and presales.


    Cons
    • Cash-back rate than other cards with specific spending categories and tiered rewards structures.
  • Product Details
    • New SimplyCash™ from American Express Cardmembers can earn 4% cash back on purchases (up to $200 cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership.
    • Earn 1.25% cash back on purchases when your Welcome Rate ends.
    • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn after your Welcome Rate ends.
    • Access virtual events and special offers curated for Cardmembers with American Express® Experiences.
    • Insurance coverage and 24/7 Customer Service.
    • American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
Our pick for bonus categories tailored to your spending

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.95%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-10%
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $100
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    You can earn unlimited cash back at a 2% rate in up to three categories of your choice — all while earning 0.50% back on everything else.

    Pros
    • You can tailor the 2% rewards to your spending by choosing up to three categories from Tangerine’s list of 10, which includes basics like gas and groceries as well as unusual picks like furniture and home improvement.
    • Transfer balances within your first 30 days and pay only 1.95% interest on the transferred balance for the first six months (19.95% after that).


    Cons
    • 2% cash back is a competitive rate, but many cards offer double the rewards on specific categories.
    • Tangerine is a virtual bank with no physical bank branches.
  • Product Details
    • 2% on two categories of your choice: grocery, furniture, restaurants, hotel-motel, gas, recurring bill payments, drug store, home improvement, entertainment, or public transportation and parking.
    • Get a third cash-back category by choosing to have your rewards deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account.
    • 0.50% on everything else.
    • Redeem cash back monthly as a statement credit or deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account.
    • No annual fee.
    • Transfer balances within your first 30 days and pay only 1.95% interest on the transferred balance for the first six months (19.95% after that).
    • Get free cards for any authorized users on your account.
    • It only includes purchase assurance and extended protection insurance. For more insurance, consider the Tangerine World Mastercard which requires a minimum personal income of $60,000. If you meet this requirement, you will automatically be considered for the World card if you apply for the Money-Back card.
    • Preferred rates: 19.95% for purchases and cash advances.
    • To be eligible, a $12,000 (individual) annual income is required. Also, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee reward card with a digital-first experience

Brim Mastercard

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    Rates vary by card member
  • Rewards Rate
    1x-30x Points
  • Intro Offer
    Up to $200
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The standard Brim Mastercard is a tech-savvy, no-fee rewards card. It offers an impressive mobile app with budget tracking, an eShop with hundreds of retailers, partnerships with five mobile wallets, free global Wi-Fi and no foreign transaction fees — even when shopping online.

    Pros
    • Rewards are easy to understand — each point is worth $0.01 — and you can earn up to 30x at select retail partners, including small local businesses and big brands.
    • There’s no fee for additional cardholders or a family card.


    Cons
    • Included insurance types are more limited than the Brim World or World Elite Mastercards.
    • Brim is a virtual bank with no physical bank branches, so you must be comfortable with a digital-first experience.
  • Product Details
    • 1x points per dollar on everyday purchases, with no annual spend limit.
    • Up to 30x points per dollar on retail partners in the eShop.
    • Points have a straightforward value of $0.01 and can be redeemed on transactions or as cash back. $1 minimum redemption required. Points do not expire.
    • No annual fee.
    • Brim’s Family Card option lets you add additional card members, set and adjust their spending limits, block types of transactions and track spending — perfect for teaching teens smart budgeting.
    • Enhanced security features allow you to lock your card and block online or foreign transactions instantly.
    • Stay connected with access to over 1 million Boingo Global Wi-Fi hotspots around the world.
    • Access to the Brim Installment plan.
    • Five types of insurance provided: common carrier accident insurance, mobile device insurance, event ticket protection, extended warranty and purchase security insurance.
    • Preferred rates vary by card member.
    • No foreign exchange fees.
    • To be eligible, you must have a Canadian credit file and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a no-fee Aeroplan student card with flexible travel rewards

CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Card for Students

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    20.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.67x-1x Points
  • Intro Offer
    10,000 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    Credit card beginners can use the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card for Students to accumulate travel rewards thanks to a solid earn rate and a generous welcome bonus.

    Pros
    • The welcome bonus has no strings attached or hoops to jump through — simply make a purchase a receive 10,000 Aeroplan points.
    • Your Aeroplan membership will help you earn points twice as fast at Aeroplan partners and retailers in the Aeroplan eStore when you pay with your Aeroplan credit card.


    Cons
    • The higher 20.99% interest rate could be a problem for students learning how to use their first credit card.
    • To get the best value, you’ll have to be loyal to Air Canada and the Aeroplan rewards program.
  • Product Details
    • 1x Aeroplan points per dollar on gas, groceries and Air Canada travel purchases, up to $40,000 annual spend.
    • 1x Aeroplan points per $1.50 spent on all other purchases, including gas, groceries and Air Canada travel purchases that exceed the $40,000 threshold.
    • Earn points twice at over 150 Aeroplan partners and 170+ online retailers through the Aeroplan eStore.
    • Aeroplan Points never expire and can be redeemed for a variety of travel, merchandise, gift card, and other rewards offered by Aeroplan’s participating partners and suppliers.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Get three free months of Uber Pass for discounts on rides, meals and more. Offer ends September 8, 2022.
    • Earn 1 Aeroplan point for every $6 spent on CIBC Global Money Transfer, with no transaction fees or interest as long as you pay your balance on time. Offer ends June 30, 2022.
    • Maximize your points by adding up to three additional cards and giving them to your spouse or other family members. Points can be shared with other Aeroplan members in your household.
    • Earn points by using your CIBC Aeroplan Visa to automatically make recurring bill payments.
    • Receive preferred pricing when paying for flights with your Aeroplan points.
    • Save up to 25% on car rentals at participating Budget and Avis locations worldwide when paying with your card.
    • Save up to 10 cents per litre at participating Chevron, Ultramar and Pioneer gas stations if you link your card with Journie Rewards.
    • Use the CIBC Pace It feature to make installment payments on large purchases.
    • Four types of insurance are provided: auto rental collision and loss damage insurance, purchase security, extended protection insurance, and $100,000 in common carrier accident insurance.
    • Preferred rates: 20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, you must have full-time status in a college or university.
Our pick for a no-fee student card with flexible travel rewards

CIBC Aventura® Visa Card for Students

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    20.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5x-1x Points
  • Intro Offer
    Up to 2,500 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The CIBC Aventura Visa Card for Students is a smart no-fee option that earns flexible travel rewards on everyday purchases.

    Pros
    • Earn points on every purchase.
    • Access to personalized travel booking and trip planning through Aventura Travel Assistant.


    Cons
    • The earn rate for gas station, grocery store and drugstore purchases is limited to a $6,000 annual spend.
    • The higher 20.99% interest rate could be a problem for students learning how to use their first credit card.
  • Product Details
    • 1 Aventura point for every $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores, up to $6,000 annual spend.
    • 1 Aventura point for every $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre.
    • 1 Aventura point for every $2 spent on everything else.
    • Redeem Aventura points to cover full airfare including taxes and fees, to pay down your balance, or for travel rewards from the CIBC Rewards Centre, such as hotel stays, vacation packages, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and one-of-a-kind activities. Aventura points do not expire as long as your account is in good standing.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Save up to 10 cents per litre on gas at Chevron, Ultramar and Pioneer gas stations by linking your card with Journie Rewards.
    • Enter the Student Life Network Full Ride Contest by December 31, 2022 for a chance to win $35,000 for tuition.
    • Qualify for a free SPC membership and get exclusive access to SPC+ for discounts and over 450 deals, special experiences and more.
    • Use the CIBC Pace It feature to make installment payments on large purchases.
    • Four types of insurance are provided: auto rental collision and loss damage insurance, purchase security, extended protection insurance, and $100,000 in common carrier accident insurance.
    • Preferred rates: 20.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, you must have full-time status in a college or university.
Our pick for a no-fee rewards card for students who love movies

SCENE® Visa Card for Students

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1x-5x Points
  • Intro Offer
    1,250 Points
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The SCENE Visa Card-Student is a great no-fee starter-card for students who want to earn rewards for movies, meals and entertainment.

    Pros
    • Use your Scene+ points for travel, shopping, dining and more.
    • Intro offer is equal to a free General Admission or 3D movie ticket in a regular auditorium.


    Cons
    • Cinema-lovers will get the most from this card. If you don’t enjoy going to movies, or are nervous about frequenting the theatre during COVID-19, this card won’t be worthwhile.
  • Product Details
    • 5 Scene+ points per dollar spent at Cineplex and at cineplex.com, up to 300 points per transaction and a maximum of 600 points per day.
    • 1 Scene+ point per dollar spent on everyday credit card purchases.
    • Scene+ points can be redeemed for points for travel, shopping, dining, statement credits, Cineplex entertainment, and more.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • A SCENE Visa Card grants the ability to enter the Scotia Funds Your Future Contest for a chance to win $30,000 towards tuition. Closing date of entry is January 31st, 2022. See the full contest details online.
    • Save up to 25% off base rates at participating AVIS locations and at participating Budget locations in Canada and the U.S. No insurance included.
    • No insurance included.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, you must be a resident of Canada and the age of majority in the province or territory where you live. Credit history is not required and international students can apply.
Our pick for a no-fee student card that earns Air Miles

Student BMO AIR MILES® Mastercard®

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.04x-0.12x Miles
  • Intro Offer
    800 Miles
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    Students can start earning AIR MILES rewards on everyday purchases with this no-fee and easy-entry Air Miles card.

    Pros
    • Better-than-usual intro offer for a student card, plus the ability to earn rewards on everyday purchases.
    • Your AIR MILES membership will help you earn miles twice as fast at AIR MILES Partners when you pay with your BMO AIR MILES credit card.


    Cons
    • The 19.99% interest rate may be an industry standard, but it could feel high for first-time cardholders. If a lower rate is important to you, consider the nearly-identical BMO Air Miles Mastercard, which comes with a 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for nine months.
  • Product Details
    • Earn 1 Mile for every $25 spent on credit card purchases.
    • Earn 3 Miles for every $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Enjoy extended warranty and purchase protection.
    • Save up to 25% on rentals at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car locations.
    • Grab a show with 15% off admission to Cirque du Soleil shows touring Canada48, and 20% off resident shows in Las Vegas.
    • Add another cardholder at no extra cost.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances (21.99% for Quebec residents).
    • To be eligible, you must be a student between the ages of 18 and 24 at a recognized post-secondary school, earn annual income from employment, scholarship/grant, student loan or family allowance, and have reached the age of majority in the province in which you live. International students can apply for a BMO credit card by visiting a branch.
Our pick for a no-fee student card that earns cash back on groceries

Student BMO CashBack® Mastercard®

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99% / 22.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%–3%
  • Intro Offer
    N/A
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The Student BMO CashBack Mastercard has impressive earn rates — including 3% on groceries — and valuable perks, all without an annual fee.

    Pros
    • Earn flexible and easy-to-redeem cash rewards on everyday purchases.
    • There’s no minimum threshold for redeeming your cash-back rewards. Redeem as little as $1 if you want.


    Cons
    • Accelerated earn rates for groceries and recurring bills are capped at $500 per billing cycle.
    • Insurance is limited to extended warranty and purchase protection.
  • Product Details
    • Earn 3% in cash back on grocery purchases, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.
    • Earn 1% in cash back on recurring bill payments, such as streaming services, subscriptions or monthly utilities, up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.
    • Earn 0.5% in cash back on all other purchases, including grocery purchases and bill payments that exceed the $500 threshold.
    • Cash-back rewards earned can be redeemed as statement credits, or placed in a BMO chequing, savings or InvestorLine account. Student BMO CashBack Mastercard holders can also use the Pay with Points option to redeem points to cover transactions made in the last 30 days. $1 minimum redemption and points do not expire.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Save up to 25% on rentals at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car locations.
    • Get 15% off admission to Cirque du Soleil shows touring Canada, and 20% off resident shows in Las Vegas.
    • Helpful security features include transaction monitoring and alerts, zero liability for unauthorized use and Mastercard Identity Check.
    • Two types of insurance are provided: extended warranty and purchase protection.
    • Preferred rates: 19.99% for purchases, 22.99% for cash advances.
    • To be eligible, you must be a student between the ages of 18 and 24 at a recognized post-secondary school, earn annual income from employment, scholarship/grant, student loan or family allowance, and have reached the age of majority in the province in which you live. International students can apply for a BMO credit card by visiting a branch.
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Student credit card alternatives

If you aren’t ready for an unsecured student credit card, consider these options.

Our pick for a the best overall secured credit card

Neo Card with Credit Builder

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    19.99%-24.99%
  • Minimum Deposit
    $50
  • Maximum Deposit
    $10,000
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    The Neo Card with Credit Builder is a no-fee secured credit card that earns cash back rewards, builds credit, and offers access to high-interest savings.

    Pros
    • A small $50 minimum deposit makes this card accessible to consumers of all budgets.
    • Earn up to 15% cash back on purchases with select Neo partners.


    Cons
    • Interest rates could be as high as 24.99% for some users.
    • Neo Financial only reports to TransUnion, so you won’t build credit history with both credit bureaus.
  • Product Details
    • Earn a 1% minimum, and a 4% cash back average, on purchases with Neo partners through the Standard rewards plan. Upgrade to Plus ($2.99/month) or Ultra ($8.99/month) rewards plans to increase your earn rate.
    • No annual fee for the Standard rewards plan.
    • $50 minimum security fund deposit required.
    • $10,000 maximum security fund deposit.
    • To apply, visit member.neofinancial.com and create an account. Select “Credit”, pick either the Neo Card or the Hudson’s Bay Mastercard, and then choose “Credit Builder” as the type of credit you are looking for.
    • To apply, visit member.neofinancial.com and create an account. Select “Credit”, pick either the Neo Card or the Hudson’s Bay Mastercard, and then choose “Credit Builder” as the type of credit you are looking for.
    • Hard credit checks are/are not made on Neo Credit Builder applications.
    • Credit activity is reported to TransUnion, one of the two major consumer credit bureaus in Canada.
    • Guaranteed approval, as long as you meet eligibility requirements.
    • Ability to upgrade to an unsecured rewards credit card.
    • Link your Credit Builder account to a Neo Money account and earn 1.45% interest on savings — one of the highest rates in Canada.
    • Purchase rates range from 19.99%-24.99%. The standard rate on purchases and cash advances is dependent on Neo Financial’s assessment of your credit application, credit profile, and your province.
    • To be eligible, you must be able to provide security funds and be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a reloadable prepaid Visa card that earns interest and builds credit

KOHO Standard Prepaid Visa Card

  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Interest Rates
    N/A
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-10%
  • Intro Offer
    N/A
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    KOHO offers two tiers of prepaid cards: a standard card and a premium card. Both combine the benefits of a debit card and a credit card with cash back rewards, limited fees and the ability to build credit. Plus, KOHO doesn’t charge interest — instead, they let you earn interest on every dollar you save in your KOHO account.

    Pros
    • An app that tracks your spending, helps with budgeting, offers free financial coaching, and the ability to earn 1.2% interest on your entire account.
    • Access to a credit building service that reports your payments for only $7 per month — a rare feature for a prepaid card.


    Cons
    • KOHO is a tech-focused company, so if you’re uncomfortable with digital banking, it may not be the right choice.
    • KOHO isn’t a credit card, which means you can’t borrow any money. You can only access the funds already in your account.
  • Product Details
    • Up to 10% cash back at select KOHO Partners.
    • 0.5% cash back on all purchases.
    • Cash back is instantly added to your KOHO Savings account.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • Choose from one of four card colours.
    • Receive both a physical and virtual card. For new users, you can start adding funds and shopping online while you wait for your physical card to arrive in the mail. No need to budge from your couch to make online Purchases! Just use your virtual card instead of getting up to find your wallet. Plus, it uses a different card number to help protect your physical card number when you’re shopping or booking services online.
    • Add your KOHO card to Apple, Samsung or Google Pay.
    • Access your payroll up to 3 days early with the Early Payroll feature.
    • Automate your savings with Goals and RoundUps. Rounding up every Purchase lets you stash away some savings, while Goals make it easier to save for whatever it is that makes you happy.
    • Lock in savings with Vault that keeps the funds you don’t want to spend separate from your spendable balance.
    • Create custom budgets and track your spending habits. Know where you're at in real time with instant notifications every time you spend.
    • To be eligible, you must be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.
Our pick for a reloadable prepaid Visa card that earns interest and builds credit

KOHO Premium Reloadable Prepaid Visa Card

  • Annual Fee
    $84
  • Interest Rates
    N/A
  • Rewards Rate
    0.5%-10%
  • Intro Offer
    N/A
  • Our Take
    Why we like it

    KOHO offers two tiers of prepaid cards: a standard card and a premium card. Both combine the benefits of a debit card and a credit card with cash back rewards, limited fees and the ability to build credit. Plus, KOHO doesn’t charge interest — instead, they let you earn interest on every dollar you save in your KOHO account.

    Pros
    • An app that tracks your spending, helps with budgeting, offers free financial coaching, and the ability to earn 1.2% interest on your entire account.
    • Access to a credit building service that reports your payments for only $7 per month — a rare feature for a prepaid card.


    Cons
    • KOHO is a tech-focused company, so if you’re uncomfortable with digital banking, it may not be the right choice.
    • KOHO isn’t a credit card, which means you can’t borrow any money. You can only access the funds already in your account.
  • Product Details
    • Up to 10% cash back at select KOHO partners.
    • 2% cash back on transportation, groceries and restaurants.
    • 0.5% cash back on everything else.
    • Cash back is instantly added to your KOHO Savings account.
    • $9 monthly fee/$84 annual fee, + a 30-day free trial.
    • No foreign exchange fees.
    • 1 free international ATM withdrawal per month.
    • Subscribe to Credit Building for $7/month in-app.
    • Earn 1.2% interest on every dollar you save in your KOHO account.
    • A new look. Get an optional snappy new vertical Premium card! Accepted everywhere Visa is.
    • Price match. We offer in-app price protection to get the absolute lowest possible price on your Purchases
    • Priority customer support. Premium users always skip the line
    • Personalized financial coaching on demand. Ask our in house certified financial coach any money question you have.
    • To be eligible, you must be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.

Methodology

NerdWallet Canada selects the best credit cards for university students based on overall value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of students. Factors in our evaluation include annual fees, rewards programs (both earning rates and redemption options), promotional and ongoing APRs, bonus offers for new cardholders, incentives for responsible behaviour, free credit scores and other credit education, availability to applicants with thin or no credit history, and other noteworthy features such as a path to upgrade to a different product later on.

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Summary of the best student credit cards

Beginner’s guide to student credit cards in Canada

By Barry Choi and Clay Jarvis

How do student credit cards work?

Student credit cards aren’t much different from regular credit cards. You charge purchases to your card and you don’t have to pay for them until your statement due date. Generally speaking, student credit cards are easier to qualify for than premium credit cards. They’ll also help you build your credit score.

Although some financial institutions have official student-branded credit cards, most offer general entry-level cards that are suitable for students. In other words, even if a card isn’t called a student credit card, you may still have a chance at approval.

However, if you have negative marks in your credit history or no credit history at all, make sure to check the eligibility requirements. If a credit history is required, consider a secured credit card or a prepaid card instead.

Types of student credit cards

Cash-back student credit cards

A particularly attractive option for students who might want a “discount” on their credit card bill every now and then, cash-back credit cards reward your spending with points that can be redeemed for cash. These cash rewards are most often provided in the form of a statement credit, but in some cases, can also be transferred to a savings account.

Low-interest student credit cards

Most credit cards in Canada carry a purchase interest rate around 20%, and student credit cards are no exception. Credit card interest rates on balance transfers or cash advances may be even higher. However, certain credit cards offer low interest rates as a way to attract cardholders who may not be as experienced with revolving credit products.

No-fee student credit cards

Many Canadian credit cards charge an annual fee that must be paid regardless of how much you spend or how often you use the card — it’s just the cost of being a cardholder. Students who are working with a tight budget will be pleased to learn that there are exceptions to this rule, however. No-fee credit cards waive the annual fee, allowing students to reap all the benefits of having a credit card — including bonuses and rewards — without an extra charge piled on top.

Student travel credit cards

Among the best options for students are travel credit cards, which allow cardholders to earn travel rewards — points or miles that can be redeemed for discounted fares, merchandise, gift cards, and other perks.

Student reward credit cards

Armed with a rewards credit card, students in Canada can earn valuable points by using their card to pay for everyday expenses, like gas, groceries and even furniture. Some student rewards credit cards even come with perks like purchase assurance or extended protection insurance on eligible purchases.

Who should apply for a student credit card?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian citizen or an international student studying in the country; both can apply for most student credit cards. Even if you already have a joint credit card with your parents, it may still be worth it to get your own student credit card. As mentioned, it’ll help you build your credit score. Plus, a credit card can be a vital part of managing your expenses.

How old do you have to be to apply for a student credit card?

In most cases, you must be the age of majority in the province where you live in order to apply for a credit card. In addition to meeting minimum age requirements — typically 18 or 19 years of age — student credit cards often may have age limits, meaning you can be too old to qualify.

Student credit cards vs regular credit cards

The main difference between student credit cards and all other credit cards can be found in the qualification requirements.

  • With a regular credit card, a good credit score and verifiable income is a must, so students might be out of luck.
  • With a student credit card, income and credit score requirements are much more relaxed, or in some cases, non-existent.

And despite the name, very few student credit cards are limited to those who are enrolled in post-secondary education — the name simply acknowledges that the eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, and benefits are aimed at consumers of a certain financial profile.

Can I apply for student credit cards with a low credit score?

Yes. Even if you have a low credit score, or have not yet had the chance to build a robust credit history in Canada, it may be possible for you to get approved for a student credit card. You will still need to meet the issuer’s minimum eligibility requirements, which may include proof of some type of income and the existence of a Canadian credit profile.

Can I pay tuition with my student credit card in Canada?

Not all colleges and universities in Canada will accept credit cards as a form of payment for tuition. Even if your school does accept credit cards, you may not be able to use your student credit card to cover the cost. Why? Because student credit cards tend to come with much lower spending limits than traditional credit cards.

Post-secondary institutions may also charge significant fees in exchange for the convenience of paying with a credit card, sometimes as much as 3% of the total transaction. If you needed to pay $5,000 in tuition, the fee would add an extra $150 to your bill. Before attempting to pay tuition with a student credit card, make sure you’re clear on what credit card fees you’ll be charged, and investigate alternative forms of payment, such as direct deposit or a cheque.

Student credit card pros and cons

Benefits of a student credit card

Build credit as a student

As you use your student credit card, you’ll build a strong credit history and that will impact your credit score. Your credit score is a number between 300 – 900. The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you are to creditors. If you ever want to get a loan in the future, lenders will often look at your credit score first.

Your credit score doesn’t become excellent overnight. The credit bureaus want to see an established history of responsible credit use, which is why a credit card under your own name can help. Then, as you make purchases and pay off your bills, your credit history will grow. Over time, you can expect your credit score to increase.

Earn rewards

Earning valuable rewards is another  benefit of having a student credit card that can make life a little less expensive.

Not all student credit cards offer rewards, but those that do allow you to collect points or miles that can be put toward purchases, including flights and hotels, or redeemed in the form of cash-back rewards that help whittle down your credit card balance.

The SimplyCash Card from American Express, for example, allows users to earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases after the first six months. The Brim MasterCard offers an eye-popping 30 times the points when shopping at certain retailers in the Brim eShop.

Track spending

If you’re living on your own for the first time, money management skills may not be something you’ve mastered yet. That’s okay. You have a lot on your plate.

While not a perfect substitute for a thorough and thoughtful budget, some student credit cards, like the Brim Mastercard, offer budget tracking services that keep a tally of your spending and notify you if you’re at risk of exceeding your monthly spending limits.

Gain financial flexibility

Dealing with an unexpected expense when you don’t have much cash can be extremely stressful

A student credit card can help fill in those gaps by giving you the financial flexibility to pay for necessities, like groceries and clothing, or sudden costs, such as car repairs or a flight home to tend to a family emergency, even if you don’t have all of the cash in your bank account.

Even though student credit cards provide flexibility, it’s important to use them responsibly. Interest rates don’t get any lower just because your card’s being used for essentials and emergencies.

Student credit card drawbacks

High interest rates

All credit cards come with specific interest rates, usually around 19.99%,  that are charged on top of your balance assuming you don’t pay it off within the allotted grace period, usually about a month. It’s not hard to see how this can cause your debt to expand quickly if you don’t stay on top of payments.

Some cards, like the American Express Essential card, offer much lower interest rates, which can be helpful if you’re not confident that you’ll be able to pay in full each month. Low spending limits

Student credit cards often come with lower spending limits than other credit cards. A low spending limit can prevent you from racking up a big credit card bill you can’t pay, but it can also leave you in the lurch if a major purchase becomes necessary and you’re already up against your maximum spending amount.

Credit card debt

A maxed-out credit card can take years to pay off if you’re only making minimum payments, and can damage your credit score in the process. Thinking more long-term, if a situation arises where you need to take out a loan, lenders aren’t likely to give you the best interest rates or friendliest terms if you have a lot of credit card debt in comparison to your income.

How to compare student credit cards

Before you apply for one of the best student credit cards in Canada, you should compare everything available. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

  • Eligibility requirements. Consider any requirements imposed, such as income, age, credit score or student status.
  • Annual fee. Many credit credits don’t have an annual fee, which is great for students on a fixed income. That said, credit cards with a yearly fee often come with better benefits.
  • Rewards. Cash back, travel, movie, grocery and store rewards are just some of the perks you can earn with your credit card.
  • Additional benefits. Some credit cards give you extra benefits, such as extended warranty, travel insurance, price protection and more.
  • Where you bank. You can apply for a credit card at any financial institution, but it can be easier to be approved if you go with an issuer you already bank with.

How to get a student credit card

Like other cards, student credit cards come with certain eligibility requirements you’ll be expected to meet.

Age

Many student credit cards are limited to those aged 18-24. You must also be the age of majority in the province where you live. The age of majority is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. It’s 19 everywhere else in Canada.

Credit score

Because student credit cards are designed for users who may not have a credit history, some do not have a minimum credit score requirement. If you’re applying for a card that does take your credit score into consideration, know that they may required a credit score of 660 or higher.

Income

Some cards come with specific income requirements, like the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card which requires proof of $12,000 annual income. Those that don’t will still require proof that you have money coming in — via student loans, grants, scholarships, or family allowances — to ensure you’ll be able to pay off your balance every month.

Residency/student status

To be eligible for a student credit card in Canada, you’ll have to be a Canadian resident and/or provide evidence that you are enrolled in a post-secondary education program. There are certain exceptions to the residency rules for international students.

Steps for getting a student credit card

The process of acquiring a student credit card is similar to that of other cards. There are generally four steps you’ll have to take:

  1. Compare options. Explore the pros and cons of several cards and decide which one is the best fit for your finances.
  2. Check eligibility requirements. Make sure you meet whatever eligibility criteria have been laid out by the card provider.
  3. Apply. Provide the personal and financial information required by the credit card company you’d like to apply to. This can usually be done online or in person.
  4. Activate. Once you’ve received your student credit card, you’ll need to activate it. You can generally do this online or by calling your credit card provider.

Can international students get a credit card in Canada?

Yes, international students can get credit cards in Canada. And with school being so expensive for international students, getting access to a little credit can go a long way. But getting a student credit card as an international student requires you to do a little extra work.

You’ll have to apply for a Social Insurance Number first, and you’ll only receive one if your study permit allows you to work while in the country studying. You may also have to provide government issued identification, like a passport or a Canadian-issued driver’s license, as well as some form of proof that you’re actually enrolled at a post-secondary institution.

How to make the most of your student credit card

Once you have your student credit card in hand, there are many things you can do with it. Use the following tips to ensure you’re making the most of your card.

  • Always pay your bills in full and on time, so you don’t incur any interest charges.
  • Use your card whenever you can to earn rewards and build a credit history.
  • Read your credit card statement and pay attention to your purchases, so you know where your money is going. Some credit cards suitable for students even have an app that analyzes your spending for you.
  • Take advantage of any perks that come with your card (like free extended warranty or rental car discounts), as they could save you some money.
  • Make sure you select a PIN that’s not easy to guess. The last thing you want is to be a victim of credit card fraud.

Understand minimum payment requirements

When you receive your monthly statement for your student credit card, you’ll see that there’s a minimum payment requirement. As long as you pay that amount, your account will be in good standing. If you pay less than the entire balance, know that you’ll pay even more in interest on the remainder, which will increase your debt.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can pay your bill whenever you want. Most people will wait for their bill to arrive and then pay it off all at once. Others will pay off their charges as they accumulate to help prevent overspending.

Watch out for missed payment policies

Besides accumulating debt and being charged interest, not much will happen if you miss a single payment. If you miss two or more payments in a row, your financial institution could increase your interest rate or consider your account delinquent. That would instantly have a negative effect on your credit score.

If missing one payment was an honest mistake, make your payment as soon as you can. It’s also worth calling your financial institution to ask if they can waive the interest charges. To avoid missing a payment again, set up account reminders or auto payments.

Why your student credit card application was denied

Even though credit card companies love to welcome new users, there’s no guarantee that your application for a student credit card will be approved. If you find yourself being denied by a credit card provider, it could be because:

  • You’re too young or too old to meet the age criteria.
  • You don’t reside in Canada.
  • You are unable to prove that you earn or receive some form of income.
  • The income you do earn is too low.
  • As an international student, you haven’t been given permission to work in Canada, which prevents you from obtaining a Social Insurance Number.
  • Your previous credit history has left you with a low credit score.
  • You failed to provide evidence of your enrollment status.

If you can’t get a student credit card, try these options

There’s always a chance that you may not qualify for a student credit card. Don’t worry, as there are other solutions available. One option is one of the best secured credit cards. These cards work like a regular credit card, but you need to provide a security deposit. That security deposit typically acts as your credit limit.

For example, if you deposited $500 onto your secured credit card, you’d have a $500 spending limit. You can’t use that deposit to pay your credit card bill, but you’d get it back if you ever closed your account in good standing.

Secured credit cards are a good option since they allow you to build credit history. Once you have a good credit score, you can try applying for a student credit card.

Another option is a prepaid card that helps you build credit, so that you might be able to qualify for a student credit card in the future. Prepaid cards provide the flexibility of cashless payment, but because you’re not borrowing money, there’s no interest or credit card debt to worry about. Some prepaid cards, like the KOHO Standard Prepaid Visa and the KOHO Premium Reloadable Prepaid Visa even earn interest and report to the credit bureaus.

What to do with a student credit card after graduation

Many people hang onto their student credit card until they secure a full-time job. Once you have stable employment lined up, you could apply for a credit card with a higher minimum income requirement. Doing so could mean getting better perks, such as increased earn rates, travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees and more.

With that new card in hand, you could cancel your student credit card since you won’t need it anymore. However, there are other steps you should consider before cancelling your card.

  • Update your information with your credit card provider. If your income has increased, or housing has changed, or you have new contact information, share these changes with your provider. They may ask your permission to approve an increase to your credit limit.
  • Request a product change or credit card upgrade. You may be able to ask your provider to switch to a higher-tier credit card if you meet new eligibility requirements. If you have a secured credit card, you may be automatically approved for an upgrade to an unsecured card. If you have a student-branded credit card, your provider might switch you to the non-student version.

Overall, it’s a good idea to hang onto the card since having a credit account open for a long time is good for your credit score. It can also serve as a backup credit card in case your new credit card is not accepted at a merchant for some reason.
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  • FAQs for Canada's student credit cards

    • How old do I have to be to get a student credit card?

      The minimum age to get a credit card depends on the age of majority in your province or territory. In Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, and Manitoba, it’s 18. For all other provinces and territories, the minimum age is 19.

    • Do I need a job to get a student credit card?

      Some student credit cards don’t require that you have an annual income to be approved. Obviously, you would need some kind of income to pay your bills. However, already having a bank account with the financial institution where you’re applying for a credit card can improve your chances of getting approved because as they’ll be able to see your assets.

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