When you apply for a credit card, the issuer will run a credit check to assess your credit score. Generally, Canadian credit card issuers prefer a credit score of 660 or above, but exact score requirements vary by card type.
How your credit score affects your odds of approval
Your credit score is one of the key factors credit card providers use to determine whether or not they’ll approve your card application. That three-digit number, which can range from 300 to 900, holds so much power because potential lenders see it as a reflection of creditworthiness and money management skills.
A credit score condenses all the details from your credit report, which contains information about things like your spending habits, how much credit you have and how responsible you are about paying off balances.
Credit card providers use your credit score to determine whether or not you’re likely to handle your credit card responsibly. The higher your score, the more likely you’ll be seen as creditworthy — thus increasing your credit card approval odds.
» MORE: How to check your credit score
What credit score is needed for a credit card?
There is no one-size-fits-all credit score that will guarantee you’ll get approved for a credit card without fail, and every credit card provider has its own credit score standards. That said, credit scores aren’t the only consideration when determining credit card eligibility, and factors like income and overall debt may also be important, depending on the issuer.
In general, if you have a score of 660 (which is considered “good,” according to Equifax) or more, you’ll be seen as a low-risk borrower and have a solid chance of qualifying for most credit cards.
» MORE: How to improve your credit
Credit score ranges for different types of cards
It’s possible to get a fairly good idea of what credit cards you might be eligible for based on your credit score. This breakdown is just a guideline, though. Each card issuer has specific requirements for each card and will consider other factors when deciding whether or not to approve your application, such as income and whether you have a pre-existing relationship with the issuer.
» MORE: How to apply for a credit card
Good to excellent credit (660 and above)
If your credit score lands anywhere in the good to excellent credit score range, you have a solid chance of successfully applying for most types of credit cards, such as high-earning rewards cards.
Premium credit cards, like those in the Visa Infinity and Mastercard World or World Elite credit card programs, may require a very good (725-759) or excellent (760-900) credit. These cards often come with generous welcome bonuses, high earning rates, and many extras like travel insurance and concierge service.
» See our picks: The best credit cards in Canada
Fair credit (560 to 659)
While you’ll have fewer credit cards to choose from if your credit score is in this range, there are still many worthwhile options. Credit cards for people with fair credit often have fewer free benefits, smaller welcome bonuses and lower earn rates.
That said, many of these cards have no annual fees and still feature attractive extras like extended warranty and purchase protection. Some even come with attractive balance transfer options.
» See our picks: The best no-fee credit cards in Canada
No credit or poor credit (300 to 559)
If you have a limited credit history, no credit history, or a poor credit score, your selection of possible credit cards is quite limited — but you’re not out of luck. Your best bet is to apply for one of the best secured credit cards.
It’s easier to get approved for secured credit cards because the cardholder guarantees payment by providing a deposit. Some are even specifically geared towards people with no credit history or poor credit history.
Keep in mind that because they are designed for people with shaky credit, these cards don’t usually earn rewards or have many perks. They may also have more fees and may be cancelled even if you miss just one payment.
Students, who may have poor credit or limited credit history, can also consider credit cards designed with them in mind.
» See our picks: The best student credit cards in Canada
How to estimate what credit score you need
It can be hard to gauge exactly what credit score is needed when applying for a card. While credit card application websites often note what income you need to qualify, they rarely indicate the required credit score.
A general guideline is that the more premium the card, the higher the credit score you’ll need to qualify.
If you’re concerned, contact the credit card provider directly before applying to ask what credit score they require.