As weird as it sounds, one of the first things you should do when you go to college or university is to apply for one of the best student credit cards in Canada. This is important because it’ll allow you to build your credit score which is vital if you ever need a loan in the future.
Some of you may be thinking you don’t need a credit card since you already share a credit card with your parents, but the odds are, you’re just an authorized user on their account so you’re not actually building your credit history.
Picking the best student credit card can be tricky. You need to consider the rewards, benefits and any insurance that come with the card. What you want to avoid is the first offer you get. In other words, don’t apply for a credit card just for a free t-shirt or a bag of cookies. Here are the best student credit cards in Canada.
|Credit card||Best for|
|American Express Cobalt Card||Overall|
|BMO CashBack Mastercard||Cash back|
|CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card||Aeroplan|
|Tangerine Money-Back Card||No fee|
|PC Financial Mastercard||Groceries|
|Scotiabank Scene Visa Card||General rewards|
|Wealthsimple Cash Card||No foreign exchange fees|
|KOHO Prepaid Visa||KOHO Prepaid Visa|
|Refresh Financial||Credit building|
|MBNA True Line Mastercard||Low interest|
American Express Cobalt Card
- $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
- 2,500 monthly Membership Rewards points after charging $500 in purchases each month for a year (30,000 points total)
- Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks
- Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Although the American Express Cobalt Card isn’t marketed as a student credit card, it can definitely be a good fit. American Express doesn’t have a minimum income requirement for their cards, so you could be approved if you have a good credit score. Additionally, the earn rate is incredible. You’ll get 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks, 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services, 2 points per $1 spent on travel, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Like really, those are all categories that students typically spend a lot on.
If you noticed in my chart, I state that this card is best for overall rewards. That’s because you’ll earn American Express Membership Rewards points which is easily the best bank travel program in Canada. Not only can your points be used on any travel purchase, but you can also transfer them to Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy. This is a great long-term card that’s worth getting as soon as you can.
BMO CashBack® Mastercard®*
- No annual fee
- 5% cash back (up to $100) on all purchases made in the first 3 months
- 3% cash back on grocery purchases
- 1% cash back on recurring bill payments
- 0.5% cash back on all other purchases
The best student credit card in Canada for cash back is the BMO CashBack Mastercard. You’ll earn 5% cash back (up to $100) on all purchases made in the first three months. If you happen to have a big expense coming up, this credit card could be handy. Once the promotion period ends, you get 3% back for groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on everything else.
Your cash back is paid out as long as you’ve accumulated at least $50 in rewards. Another bonus with this card is that you get an extended warranty on your purchases. Although I list this as the best student credit card for cash back, the Tangerine Money-Back Card (featured below) gives it a serious run for its money.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
- No annual fee
- 15% cash back up to $1,000 in spending ($150 cash back) for the first 2 months. Must apply by Sept. 30, 2022
- 2% cash back on up to 3 categories
- 0.5% cash back on all other purchases
The Tangerine Money-Back Card is arguably the best student credit card in Canada since you can earn 2% cash back on up to 3 categories, but you need to have an annual income of $12,000 to qualify for the card. Not many students earn that kind of money, but if you do, this is the card to get.
What people love about the Tangerine Money-Back Card is that you get to choose the categories where you earn extra cash back. All other categories earn you 0.5% cash back. Another popular feature is that you can redeem your cash back monthly without any minimum balance required. As you can imagine, this card is also on the list of the best cash back credit cards in Canada and the best credit cards with no annual fee in Canada.
PC Financial Mastercard
- No annual fee
- Earn 25 PC Optimum Points per $1 dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart
- Earn 20 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent at PC Travel
- Earn 30 PC Optimum Points per litre at Esso/Mobil locations
- Earn 10 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on all other purchases
My list of the best student credit cards includes the PC Financial Mastercard which is the best card for groceries and/or makeup. With this card, you earn 25 PC Optimum Points per $1 dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart, 20 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent at PC Travel, and 10 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on all other purchases.
If you do a lot of shopping at Loblaws owned grocery stores or Shopper Drug Mart, you can earn even more points through in-store promotions and targeted offers. Additionally, Shoppers Drug Mart often has bonus redemption promotions where you can get even more value for your points. E.g. Instead of getting $100 off for 100,000 points, you’d get $140 off when redeeming 100,000 points. In case you didn’t know, PC Optimum is the largest retail loyalty program in Canada so these points are easy to use.
Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card
- No annual fee
- 5,000 Scene+ points when you spend $750 in the first 3 months
- Earn 5 Scene+ points for every $1 you spend on credit card purchases at Cineplex™ theatres or at cineplex.com
- Earn 1 Scene+ point for every $1 you spend on your everyday credit card purchases
Many students love movies which is why the Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card is likely a good choice. What’s interesting is that as of December 31, 2021, SCENE merged with Scotia Rewards to become Scene+. This is great news as your points are now more valuable. Not only can you use your points for movies, but you can also use them for things such as travel, gift cards, and merchandise.
These changes make the Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card arguably THE BEST student credit card in Canada. Plus, there’s no fee, so getting this card just makes sense.
Wealthsimple Cash Card
- No annual fee
- 1% cash back on all purchases
- No foreign transaction fees on purchases
- No foreign transaction fees on ATM Withdrawals
- CDIC insurance protection
The Wealthsimple Cash Card is a prepaid credit card, but it has one huge advantage: no foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge a 2.5% fee when you make a purchase in any currency that’s not in Canadian dollars. With the Wealthsimple Cash Card, that fee is waived. That’s why it’s one of the best student credit cards in Canada. Plus, you also don’t get charged fees when you use foreign ATMs (the ATM provider may charge you a one-time fee).
I personally use my Wealthsimple Cash Card whenever I travel to cut down on my fees. I’ve used it in multiple countries and have never had an issue with it. Get $10 for free when using my referral link
One of the best student credit cards is also one of the best prepaid cards in Canada. KOHO has become popular in recent years since it helps people manage their money. As a prepaid credit card, you can only spend up to the amount you’ve loaded on your card. You also have the option to round up every purchase to the nearest $1, $5, or $10 which goes into a savings account for you.
The normal earn rate is 0.5% cash back on all purchases which is impressive for a prepaid credit card. There is one major downside to KOHO, since this is a prepaid credit card, your credit history does not get reported to the credit bureaus which means your credit score won’t increase with this card. That said, this is a good student credit card for those who are worried about their spending. You also get $20 for free when you sign up with my referral link.
What is a student credit card?
Student credit cards aren’t any different from traditional credit cards. You still have a credit limit and you’re still required to make regular payments. What sets them apart is that some credit card providers have cards that are designed for students. As in, they typically have no annual fee, no or low annual income requirement, and benefits that appeal to students.
While some credit cards are literally called student credit cards, students aren’t restricted to just those cards. Most financial institutions have multiple credit cards that would be suitable for students. If you apply for a credit card through your financial institution, there’s a greater chance for you to be approved since you’ll already have an established relationship with them.
Why get a student credit card?
The main reason you want to get one of the best student credit cards is that it’ll allow you to build your credit score. Your credit score is a number between 300 – 900. Having a high credit score is vital since lenders use it as one of their main criteria when deciding if they should lend you or not. Generally speaking, the higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you are. Basically, if you ever want to get a mortgage or loan, you’ll want a high credit score. Not sure what you’re credit score is? Check your credit score for free now with Borrowell.
How old do you have to be to get a student credit card?
The minimum age requirement to get a credit card depends on the province or territory that you reside in. For those who live in The minimum age to get a credit card depends on the province you live in. In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and PEI, the minimum age is 18. All other provinces and territories have a minimum age of 19.
Do I need to have an income to get a credit card?
Yes and no. There are many credit cards available that have no formal income requirement to be approved. That said, you’ll obviously need some kind of income as you’ll need to be able to pay your credit card bills every month.
How to pick a student credit card
Although I’ve listed five of the best student credit cards in Canada, it can still be difficult to decide on which one is right for you. Consider the following before you sign up.
- Annual fee – Many credit cards come with an annual fee (although the ones I listed do not). Take a look at what the fee is and what benefits/rewards you get. If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough out of a credit card with an annual fee, go with a no fee option.
- Rewards earned – Generally speaking, credit card rewards fall into two categories: travel and cash back. Travel rewards can be very lucrative but it may take some time before you can make a redemption. Cash back is easy to understand but they’re usually worth less than travel rewards. Pick the type of rewards that you prefer.
- Shopping habits – If you happen to shop at the same merchants or go to the movies a lot, it’s probably worth getting a co-branded credit card so you can earn more points with their loyalty program. This will allow you to make redemptions more frequently.
Getting one of the best student credit cards in Canada is one of the first steps to becoming an adult. When used responsibly, they can be a great tool to help you manage your money and an easy way to earn rewards. Always pay your bills in full and on time so you can maintain a high credit score.
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