Your credit score, the three-digit number that lenders use to assess your ability to pay back loans, is easy enough to find out. You can check your credit score by reaching out directly to one of Canada’s credit bureaus.
The score credit card issuers want before they’ll approve you for one of their products is a little more mysterious.
Generally, Canadian credit card companies prefer a credit score of 660 or above, but exact score requirements vary by card type and applicant, and card companies rarely make them public.
Credit score ranges in Canada
In Canada, two main credit bureaus keep track of consumers’ credit scores, Equifax and TransUnion. (Equifax scores are also accessible through a company called Borrowell.) The bureaus work with the same range of possible scores, 300 to 900, and sort those into five smaller categories that range from “poor” to “excellent.”
Here’s how Equifax Canada categorizes different credit scores:
- Excellent credit: 760-900.
- Very good credit: 725-759.
- Good credit: 660-724.
- Fair credit: 600-659.
- Poor credit: 300-599.
TransUnion Canada does not publish a breakdown of their current credit ranges and characterizations.
Credit scores required for different types of credit cards
Even though card issuers consider additional factors, like income, when mulling over your application, it’s possible to get a fairly good idea of what credit cards you might be eligible for based on your credit score.
Consider the following breakdown a general guideline. Each card issuer has specific requirements for each card, and they don’t always share them with the general public. If you’re concerned about your odds of approval, contact the credit card provider directly before applying to ask what credit score they require.
» MORE: How to apply for a credit card
Credit cards for people with excellent credit (760 and up)
If you have excellent credit, you should be able to apply for any credit card in Canada and feel confident about getting approved.
In addition to everyday credit cards and basic rewards cards, exclusive cards with exciting bonus offers and premium travel rewards cards should be available to you. You may also be offered promotional interest rates other customers don’t have access to.
You may still be required to meet certain income requirements before your application is approved, and the annual fees charged by some of these upper-echelon cards can be relatively high.
Credit cards for people with very good credit (725 to 759)
In the eyes of credit card companies, there’s not a lot of difference between borrowers with very good credit and those with excellent credit. Both groups have proven themselves to be responsible borrowers, based on the factors evaluated by the bureaus.
With a score in the 725-759 range, you’re still likely to be approved for many of the same credit cards as you would if your credit score was somewhat higher, including travel credit cards that offer Canadians some of the best rewards available. But you may not be offered the same exclusive perks, and your credit limit may be somewhat lower.
Credit cards for people with good credit (660 to 724)
If your credit score lands in this range, you have a solid chance of successfully applying for most types of credit cards, including some high-earning rewards cards. You may still get approved for a premium credit card, but with a lower credit limit or higher interest rate.
Credit cards for people with fair credit (600-659)
The fair credit category is where your credit card options start getting a little limited.
A score below 660 tells credit card issuers that you may have had some difficulty paying off your debts in the past. This may make it harder to qualify for cards that offer premium rewards, generous welcome bonuses or exclusive perks.
But you’ll still be able to apply for some worthwhile credit cards. The Scotiabank Value Visa Card, for example, offers low-interest rates on purchases and balance transfers, which can help you better manage your current debt load — and bring your credit score up. No-fee or student credit cards provide many of the same benefits.
Credit cards for people with 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 dwindles significantly. The cards available won’t earn you many rewards and they may charge more fees; a secured credit card may be your best bet. It’s easier to get approved for secured credit cards because you guarantee payment by providing a deposit, and some report payments to credit bureaus which can help build your credit score over time.
How your credit score affects credit card approval
Your credit score is a key factor credit card providers use to determine whether or not they’ll approve your card application. 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.
Lenders see higher scores as a reflection of creditworthiness and money management skills, while lower scores might make them question how much credit they should grant you.
Behaviours that can significantly lower your credit score and decrease your chances of credit card approval typically include:
- A history of not paying your debts on time. The later your payments, the more negative the impact they’ll have on your credit score.
- Using too much of your available credit. Lenders typically prefer dealing with borrowers who have a credit utilization ratio of less than 35%.
- Applying for too much credit in a short period of time. Applying for several loans or credit cards sends a warning sign to lenders that your credit needs may be problematic. Each hard inquiry you make will knock a few points off your credit score, too.
- Limited credit history. Without evidence that proves you’re a consistent, reliable user of credit, lenders may not be comfortable giving you access to their best products.
Other factors that can impact credit card approval are your age, where you reside and your annual income. If you’ve gone through serious credit events like foreclosure, repossession or bankruptcy, it could take time and effort to get a better credit score before lenders are confident in your ability to pay back your debts.
Frequently asked questions about credit scores for credit cards
It’s possible to be approved for some credit cards if you have a credit score below 560, but they may be secured credit cards with limited benefits and higher fees. A credit score of 660 is often considered the point where consumers begin gaining access to a wider range of rewards and cash-back credit cards.
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