Canada's Best Student Credit Cards for 2022

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Last updated on June 29, 2022

It might seem intimidating to apply for a credit card as a student, but it’s never too early to start building good credit and cushion the future of your finances. Even as a student with limited or no income, there are student-specific options available with perks like student discounts and even cash back.

If you’re buying your own course books, spending money on groceries, or buying a monthly public transit pass, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be earning rewards on each purchase with a credit card. A student card can help you build credit and practice financial responsibility. And trust me, post-graduate you will thank yourself when tackling things like car leases, mortgages, rental housing and retail financing is made easier by the credit you built using your student credit card.

Why Get a Student Credit Card?

Despite the many warnings, we believe student credit cards play an important role in helping you establish credit history and a good credit score by the time you graduate (essential for car leases, mortgages, retail financing and more).

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Credit Scores in Canada 

Credit cards are essential for many online transactions and reservations (hotel, car rental) and offer richer rewards than using a debit card.

Is Opening a Student Credit Card a Good Idea?

Yes, in many cases opening a student credit card can be a great idea and will build your credit rating for important future purchases—if you use it responsibly. Both overspending and not paying your bills on time can have a longstanding and potentially devastating impact on your credit rating and will prevent you from building credit that benefits you. Plus, you do not want to spend your first year as a student in credit card debt.

To help you choose the right student credit card for you, we’ve put together a list of our top-rated Canadian student credit cards, based on fees, rewards and ease of approval.

Top Student Credit Cards Compared

Credit CardRewardsBonusCard Review
BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for Students3% cash back on groceries*; 1% back on recurring bills*; 0.5% back on all other purchases*5% cash back on all eligible purchases for the first 3 months*Read More
CIBC Dividend® Visa* Card for StudentsGet 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases and up to 1% on everyday purchases like books, movies, food and more, 1% Cash Back on eligible gas, transportation, and dining (also recurring payments),
0.5% cash back on all other purchases
Get $60 cash back after you make your first purchase within the first 4 monthsRead More
KOHO0.5% cash back on all purchases
2% cash back with an upgrade to KOHO Premium on groceries, transportation, and food and drink
Sign up and get a $20 instant cash bonus (once you load your account and make your no minimum first purchase within 30 days) right to your KOHO account with GREEDYRATES referral code.Read More
Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card1 Scene+ pt per $1Earn 5,000 bonus Scene+ reward points with your first $750 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months (terms and conditions apply) = 4 free moviesRead More
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card0.5%-2% cash back rewardsApply by July 31, 2022 and earn 10% back (up to $100) when you spend up to $1,000 in everyday purchases within your first 2 months.*Read More
American Express® Green CardEarn 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases 10,000 Membership Rewards® points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your Card in the first 3 months of CardmembershipRead More

† Conditions apply

BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for Students

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $15,000
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

The BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for Students‘ lack of annual fee is a great catch for broke students who can’t add another expense into their budget. That, plus its generous welcome bonus points and easy-to-meet eligibility requirements make it a great starter credit card.

It offers some fun and more practical discounts, too, like purchase protection and entertainment offerings, so there really is something for every student with this card.

Key Features:

  • Welcome bonus: 5% cash back on all eligible purchases for the first 3 months*
  • Rewards structure: 3% cash back on grocery purchases*, 1% cash back on recurring bill payments and 0.5% unlimited cash back on all other purchases*
  • Additional perks: purchase protection, extended warranties, discount on National and Alamo car rentals*, and Cirque du Soleil shows in Canada and Las Vegas*
  • Annual fee: $0

Apply for the BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for Students.

*Terms and conditions apply

CIBC Dividend® Visa* Card for Students

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $0
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

The CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students is, as the name says, created for students. Naturally, it functions well for student lifestyles. With no minimum income requirement, no annual fee, and a credit limit of just $1,000, students can learn financial responsibility without building up too much debt.

You get 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases and up to 1% on everyday purchases like books, movies, food and more, 1% on eligible gas, transportation, dining and recurring payments, and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases. This will help you earn a little back on necessities you already need to spend on!

Key Features:

  • Welcome bonus: Get $60 cash back after you make your first purchase within the first 4 months.
  • Rewards structure: Get 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases and up to 1% on everyday purchases like books, movies, food and more, 1% on eligible gas, transportation, dining, as well as recurring payments, 0.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Additional perks: Extended warranties, purchase protection, free SPC membership.
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Interest Rates: 20.99% Purchase Annual Interest Rate, 22.99% (for non-Quebec residents only) Cash Advance Annual Interest Rate, and 22.99% (for non-Quebec residents only) Balance Transfer Annual Interest Rate

Apply for the CIBC Dividend® Visa* Card for Students.

† Conditions apply

This is a digital-exclusive offer. To be eligible for this offer, you must apply for a new eligible card using the “Apply Now” link available on this webpage.

Quebec Residents – Learn more about this CIBC product here

Résidents du Québec : Pour en savoir plus sur ce produit CIBC, suivez ce lien

KOHO

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $0
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

KOHO is more than just a prepaid card. It’s made up of multiple products that help you get a good overview of your finances, manage your money, and save more.

Your KOHO Prepaid Mastercard® connects to a digital account that can be accessed via the KOHO app. The app breaks down your spending by showing you where your money is going so you can stay on top of your financial health.

Not only that, but when you use KOHO you earn cash back. You earn 0.5% cash back on all your purchases, and a 1.2% interest rate on funds when you set up a direct deposit payment to your account. By upgrading to KOHO Premium for an annual fee, $84 (or $9/month), you can earn up to 2% cash back on select categories, like transportation, groceries, and food and drinks, which has the potential to earn you a lot more each year.

KOHO’s RoundUp feature is particularly helpful if you’re trying to save money on a student budget. If you choose to use this feature, every time you swipe your KOHO card and make a purchase, it will round up your bill to the nearest 1$, 5$, or 10$ and put the difference into your savings account. It’s a really easy way to save money without having to monitor funds going in and out or transferring between accounts.

Key Features:

  • Welcome Bonus: Sign up and get a $20 instant cash bonus (once you load your account and make your no minimum first purchase within 30 days) right to your KOHO account with GREEDYRATES referral code.
  • Rewards Structure: 0.5% cash back on all your purchases or 2% cash back on transportation, groceries, and eating and drinking when you upgrade to KOHO Premium.
  • Additional Perks: Early Payroll feature, personal financial advice from KOHO experts, additional cash back for when you refer a friend.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Apply here or learn more by reading our complete KOHO review.

Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $0
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

If you’re a movie buff who enjoys spending time at theatres and want to earn and redeem rewards fast, the Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card just might be the one for you. Its low income requirement and lack of annual fee make it great for students so long as you know you’d make use of what the reward points offer. You’ll earn points to redeem at Cineplex and get free movie tickets and concessions, and get a discount at AVIS car rental locations worldwide.

Key Features:

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 5,000 bonus Scene+ points with your first $750 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months (terms and conditions apply).
  • Rewards structure: Earns you 5 points per dollar spent at Cineplex Odeon theatres (Cineplex, Scotiabank theatres, Famous Players, SilverCity, Galaxy, Cinema City, etc..)  and 1 point everywhere else.
  • Additional perks: Earn free movies, restaurant discounts, car rental discounts.
  • Annual fee: $0

Apply here or learn more by reading our complete Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card review.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: $12,000
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

With no annual fee and a high earn rate on 3 categories of your choosing, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card allows students to spend and save on essentials. With the choice you’ll have of spending categories, you’ll be sure to earn on what you’re spending most and also have the chance to change your categories to reflect the changes in your spending style.

It’s a great choice for students with a part-time job and decent credit history who are ready to build credit and save some money. With this card, you can even set up auto-deposit for savings.

Spending categories you can choose to earn 2% cash back on include:

  • Recurring bill payments
  • Gas
  • Public transportation
  • Furniture

  • Restaurants
  • Drug stores
  • Hotel
  • Entertainment

Key Features:

  • Rewards structure: 2% cash back on purchases made in 3 spending categories of your choice and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Additional perks: Unlimited cash back, track and categorize your spending with the Tangerine app, extended warranties, purchase protection.
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome Offer: Special 10% cash back rate on the first $1,000 spent with the card ($100 cash back) in the first two months*, apply by July 31, 2022.

Apply here or learn more by reading our complete Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card review.

*Terms and Conditions apply

American Express® Green Card

Apply Now
Who’s Eligible?
– Minimum Credit Score: Fair-Good
– Minimum Income: N/A
– Age: You must be the age of majority in your home province
– Residency: Canadian

 

The American Express® Green Card is great for personal finance beginners as it lets you earn points fast with its simple point-to-cash conversion rate and minimal eligibility requirements. Plus, American Express boasts helpful and accessible customer service if you have any questions or require assistance.

Though it’s true that AMEX isn’t accepted everywhere, the points you do earn can be redeemed toward eligible Card purchases, at Amazon.ca, and even to get gift cards and merchandise.

Key Features:

  • Welcome bonus: New cardholders can get 10,000 Membership Rewards® points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your Card in the first 3 months of Cardmembership.
  • Rewards structure: Earn one point for every $1 spent and 1 additional point on eligible hotel or car rental bookings from AMEX Travel Online.
  • Additional perks: Transfer points to travel rewards programs like Aeroplan and Avios; redeem 100 points for $1 credit against your card statement.
  • Annual fee: $0

Apply for the American Express® Green Card.

What Should You Consider When Choosing Your Card?

Choosing the right credit card for you is extremely important. If you don’t take a close look at the fine print and main features of your credit card, you risk choosing one that doesn’t suit you and your financial habits and needs. You want your student credit card to do more than just help you spend money.

Here are some things you should consider before applying for a credit card:

Minimum Income Requirement

As a student, you may not have the capacity to work a job while studying. Student credit card issuers are generally aware of this, though often still require proof of income. Whether you work part-time, full-time or not at all, it’s important to take note of the minimum income requirement for a credit card to determine if you are eligible or potentially need a co-signer.

Credit Score Requirement

Depending on the credit card issuer, you may need to provide any credit history you already have. Some options don’t require a credit history for students, considering they are likely just getting started with building their credit.

Read: How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

Minimum Funds Needed in Your Account

Similarly to the minimum income requirement, you may need to have a minimum amount of funds already in your account. It’s important to note this beforehand to make sure you have the base you need before applying for your credit card.

Perks & Rewards

One of the best things about credit cards is the perks and rewards that come along with them. These perks could be anything from student discounts at certain retailers to rewards points or cash back on purchases you make. It is important to make sure the rewards and perks your credit card offers suit your spending style as closely as possible.

For example, if you don’t go to the movies often, then a card with points toward movie tickets might not be your best choice. On the other hand, if you use transit to get to school and a card offers cash back on transportation, you may want to lock in that perk and ultimately earn yourself some extra cash!

Annual Fee

Some credit cards require you to pay an annual fee. These fees usually range from $100-$150. Often, credit cards with many rewards and perks are more likely to charge an annual fee as the rewards typically outweigh the cost of the fee in the long run. However, there are credit cards with no annual fees available as well that are likely better suited for a student’s lifestyle.

Read: Why Pay for a Credit Card with an Annual Fee?

Bank Reputation & Reviews

Be sure to look into a bank’s reputation and customer reviews before applying for a credit card with them. You want to ensure you’re getting the best service possible, especially if this is your first credit card in your personal finance journey. If the customer service isn’t reputable, you may not want to get a credit card from that company.

Read: Best Banks in Canada

Recommendations from Friends

If you’re not sure what student credit card to apply for, ask around! Chances are you’ve got some friends who have been in the same life phase as you. They’ll have advice on what’s worked for their finances and what might be best for you. This also allows you to get honest opinions from people you know and trust.

Your Spending Habits

Reflect on your spending habits and the prospect of taking on the responsibility of having a credit card. Track your past spending habits and create a budget to ensure you use your credit card wisely.

Pros & Cons

While we’re hyping the positives of student credit cards, it’s important to note the potential cons as well so you’re as prepared as you can be before you get your first credit card.

Pros

  • You have the chance to build credit, which in turn will help you with future financial endeavours like renting housing
  • You can earn rewards and cash back
  • Purchase protection
  • They are useful if you’re in a financial pinch and need to purchase a necessity
  • You can track your spending

Cons

  • You might be tempted to overspend
  • Low credit limits
  • Paying your credit card or risk developing bad credit
  • Fees can sneak up on you

How to Apply for a Student Credit Card

Applying for a student credit card is simple. As long as you have what you need ready to go, this process should run smoothly. Here’s a step by step look at how to apply for a student credit card:

  1. Do your research. First things first, research student credit cards to decide which is best for you and your spending habits based on its eligibility requirements, perks, discounts, rewards and reviews.
  2. Ensure you meet eligibility requirements. Typically, this means you must be a Canadian resident of the age of majority in your province, be a post-secondary student, have not declared bankruptcy in the past 7 years, and overall have a clean financial history.
  3. Gather your paperwork. Make sure you have proof that you meet the eligibility requirements listed in the second step.
  4. Fill out an application form. Once you’ve determined which card you’d like to apply for, you can submit an application either in person at your bank or online. Your credit card applications shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to submit.
  5. Wait for approval. If you’ve been approved, your credit card provider should reach out to you shortly (3-5 days) to confirm your approval before sending you your new student credit card in the mail.

Can You Apply for a Credit Card Without a Job?

In short, yes, you can apply for a student credit card without a job. Some credit card providers may require proof of income along with your application (which will be verified with the credit bureau), but if you don’t have full- or part-time work, you can provide them with an alternate form of income to prove you’d be able to pay off any accumulated expenses. This may come from a student loan, personal savings, or help from a parent or guardian.

Can international students get credit cards in Canada?

Yes! There are currently five financial institutions that offer up to $1,000 of credit to newly arrived international students: BMO, Scotiabank, CIBC, RBC and HSBC. And while TD Canada does offer credit to international students, they will only offer secured credit cards (credit cards with a security deposit) to students who have just arrived in Canada.

What is the easiest student credit card to get?

The Scotiabank SCENE®* Visa* Card, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, and the BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for Students are the easiest cards to get approved for as a student. Plus, none of these cards have an annual fee.

Tips for Getting Approved

Since your student credit card is likely your first credit card, you may be intimidated by the prospect of getting approved or denied. But don’t worry. If you’re just getting started with credit-building and have zero to limited credit, there’s likely not much standing in the way between you and your credit card. But to be safe, here are some tips to help you get approved and make the whole process as simple as it can be:

  • Consider getting a co-signer
  • Ensure you meet eligibility requirements
  • Be thorough in your application and ensure you don’t make mistakes regarding your personal information or financial documents
  • Consider getting a part-time job as an income source
  • Maintain good financial habits

Credit Card Tips for Students

So, you’ve got your student credit card, now what? It’s important to use the card properly in order to help build your credit score successfully:

  • Pay your bill in full and on time, or at least make the minimum payments.
  • Charge regular bill payments like your phone bill automatically to your credit card
  • Try not to use more than 30% of your credit limit
  • Build a budget and include your credit card bill payments in it
  • Track your spending to make sure no mistakes or surprise fees are being charged to your card

FAQs About Student Credit Cards

How many credit cards should a student have?

While you can have more than one, it is recommended that you only have one credit card as a student to prevent the risk of accumulating debt or losing track of any expenses.

What is the average credit limit for a college student?

The average credit limit for a college/university student ranges from $500-$1,000.

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

You must be of the age of majority in your province.

What should I use a student credit card for?

You can use your student credit card for most expenses. This might include things like textbooks, groceries, transportation or your phone bill. Be sure to use your student credit card at retailers that offer points or cash rewards.

What’s the difference between a student credit card and a student line of credit?

A student line of credit allots you a certain amount of available credit and you must pay back whatever amount you end up borrowing. Typically, a line of credit offers a higher credit limit and a more flexible repayment schedule, though it doesn’t offer any rewards, perks or cash back.

Final Word

Being a student means you’re already busy enough with things like academics, extracurriculars and networking. Worrying about your finances is a stress you don’t need to add to the list. By choosing a credit card that suits your lifestyle and personal finances you can reap some great rewards and discounts, save yourself some money and focus on hitting the books!

You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that you don’t need to worry about switching your credit card until after you’re done with school—and even then, you have options for your student credit card after you graduate.

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.

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Author Bio

Emily Norton - Greedyrates.ca author
Emily Norton is a Toronto based writer and editor. Her personal finance work focuses on themes of career building, lifestyle, wealth inequality, relationships, and budgeting. She is a staff writer for Money After Graduation Inc. and has also been published by IN Magazine, MTV News, and Vagabond City Lit. She is currently finishing her final year of her Professional Writing degree at York University. When she's not writing, she's probably reading. Read more from Emily on her LinkedIn profile.

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