The best student credit cards in Canada for 2023
Searching for the perfect credit card? In under 60 seconds, CardFinder narrows down your top matches without impacting your credit score, no SIN required.
You will be leaving MoneySense. Just close the tab to return.
Why trust us
MoneySense is an award-winning magazine, helping Canadians navigate money matters since 1999. Our editorial team of trained journalists works closely with leading personal finance experts in Canada. To help you find the best financial products, we compare the offerings from over 12 major institutions, including banks, credit unions and card issuers. Learn more about our advertising and trusted partners.
Canada’s best student credit cards
Presented by Embark Student Corp.
Researching credit cards as you plan for going back to school? While a student ID has its perks (like meal plans and discounts at local stores), the right student credit card can get you even better perks (like a free tank of gas or dinner out at the end of the semester)—all while you’re building a credit history. By the time you graduate and get your first big gig, paying off your student credit card every month could help you eventually buy a home or car more easily. Now’s the time to get a good card, so you can reap the rewards during the school year—when money is tight for students. That’s what having a history with a credit card and a good credit score can do. Now, let’s look at your options.
Best credit cards for young adults in Canada
Best student credit card for cash back
At a glance: This credit card gives you lots of opportunity to earn cash back, especially for buying groceries, paying bills and other purchases. And unlike other cash back cards for students, the rates on these categories are impressive. Plus, you can redeem your cash back when you truly need it—yes, even before holiday shopping on winter break.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: 3% cash back on groceries (up to $500 per month), 1% on recurring bills (up to $500 per month) and unlimited 0.5% cash back on everything else.
- Interest rate: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances
- Welcome bonus: You can earn 5% cash back in your first 3 months.
- It offers a healthy 3% cash back rate on groceries up to a maximum of $500 a month. No other no-fee cash back credit card earns this rate.
- The minimum redemption requirement is only $1, so you can redeem your cash back when you truly need it (pretty sweet when you don’t want your next meal to be KD or ramen noodles).
- Items you purchase using the card receive double the manufacturer’s original warranty protection, up to one year.
- Get up to 25% off base rates at eligible National and Alamo car rental locations.
- There are no travel insurance or related perks with this card. But it’s not atypical of other no-fee cards.
- There are caps on the bonus spend categories: 3% on the first $500 you spend on groceries per month, with everything over that earning the base 0.5% earn rate. That said, it’s a monthly cap, so you start again the first of the month.
- No boosted =earn rate for transportation or gas, as it’s in the “everything else” pile at 0.05%. That means Ubers, too.
CIBC Dividend Visa for Students
At a glance: Earn 2% on groceries, then 1% dining, gas, transportation and recurring bill payments, and then earn 0.5% cash back on everything else. But a cool bonus is free access to SPC+, which is a student discount program, with deals from Apple products to fashion.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Earn 2% on groceries; 1% on gas, EV charging, transportation, dining and recurring payments; and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases.
- Interest rate: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: You can Earn $60 in cash back after you make your first purchase within the first 4 months. Offer not available to QC residents. Terms and conditions apply.
- Cardholders are eligible for an SPC membership and get free access to SPC+, which offers bigger discounts and special experiences.
- The spending category caps are high: $80,000 in net purchases or $20,000 on grocery, gas, transportation, dining and recurring payments in one calendar year.
- On top of earning points, you can also save $0.10 per litre at select Pioneer, Fas Gas, Ultramar and Chevron gas stations when you link your card with the Journee rewards program from CIBC.
- At a maximum of 2% cash back, the earn rates for all spend categories are modest compared to other cash back credit card programs.
- So is the 0.05% cash back rate for anything else.
Best student credit card for Air Miles
At a glance: Not living at home? Studying abroad? Why not use your credit card rewards on a trip back home by earning Air Miles when you use your card. Plus, get perks like discounts on rental cars for road trips, and the ability to redeem your points to buy luggage and other merchandise.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Earn three times the miles at participating Air Miles partner stores for every $25 spent (including Metro, Shell, Dollarama and more), and two times the miles for every $25 spent at eligible grocery stores.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: You can earn 800 Air Miles Bonus Miles worth $80 towards purchases with Air Miles Cash.
- Earn three times the miles when spending at participating Air Miles partners.
- Plus, you can earn Air Miles twice: Once when you use your BMO Air Miles Mastercard, and a second time when you use your Air Miles loyalty card.
For flexibility, redeem your rewards for gift cards and discounts at Air Miles partners, as well as at the airmilesshops.ca store for deals and bonus rewards from hundreds of retailers.
- Get up to 25% off base rates at eligible National and Alamo rental car locations if you’re taking a trip with friends.
- Air Miles can be less flexible than cash back, as you will have to redeem through Air Miles partners. So if you don’t regularly shop at Metro, Shell, etc., it may be inconvenient to earn rewards.
- Travel redemptions are less straightforward, too. For example, you can’t redeem for any airline and you must use the Air Miles travel portal when booking.
- Despite being a travel card, there is no travel insurance attached to this card. So if you do need some, you will have to pay for the insurance yourself or forgo it and pay out of pocket for things like lost luggage or missed flights, etc.
Best student credit card for grocery shopping
At a glance: Cooking at home is a good financial play if you’re living away from the fam while at school. This card allows you to earn points on every purchase, but you can earn bonus points when you shop for groceries at Loblaw banner stores (including Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Fortinos and Valu-mart).
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Earn 25 Optimum points for every $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart, 10 points per $1 at Loblaw banner stores, and everywhere else. Get at least 30 points per litre when you gas up at Esso or Mobil. Redeem your PC Optimum points at the check-out of these places. Redemptions start at 10,000 points for $10 value.
- Interest rate: 21.99% on purchases, 22.97% on cash advances, 22.97% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: You can earn 20,000 PC Optimum points
- You are earning 25 points per $1 at Shoppers Drug Mart and 30 points per litre of gas at Esso. That’s equal to a 2.5% and 3% return, respectively. These are impressive returns for a student card.
- You can redeem PC Optimum points at Loblaw-affiliated stores, which means you can put a major dent in your everyday bills. Yes, that includes groceries at the corner Shoppers Drug Mart. You can redeem points at Canada’s largest pharmacy and grocery chain, as well as Joe Fresh, for a total of over 4,500 locations across Canada. You are not restricted to a small number of niche locations like most other retail cards or loyalty cards.
- There’s no cap on the number of PC Optimum points you can earn.
- Not as flexible as a cash back program, as you can only redeem your rewards at certain retailers.
- There’s a minimum redemption requirement of $10.
Best student credit card for money management
At a glance: Koho’s prepaid Mastercard works like a debit or gift card, meaning you don’t have to worry about getting approved. Plus, it’s made to help beginner credit card holders keep within their budget while building a credit score with handy app tools, such as spending insights. When you open a Koho account, you’ll be automatically enrolled into Easy, Koho’s free entry-level subscription plan, and receive a virtual prepaid Mastercard. Koho Easy already comes with a ton of great features, such as “rounding up” your transactions so you can save faster. But if you want more, you can upgrade to Koho’s Essential or Extra paid plans for better earn rates and additional perks.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: 1% cash back on groceries and transportation (including transit, transit card top-ups, gas and Ubers or Lyft)
- Interest rate: N/A
- Welcome offer: You can earn This card does not have a welcome bonus at this time..
- Additional benefits: Access to budgeting tools, RoundUp, financial coaching and credit building for a fee ($10 per month); earn 0.5% interest on your account; access to joint accounts
- Annual income requirement: None
- As a prepaid credit card, you don’t pay interest since you don’t actually carry a balance. You put money in your account before you can spend it. This is great for anyone looking to stick to a budget while building a credit score.
- It also offers a “round up” feature, which tallies up purchases to the closest amount of your choosing ($1, $2, $5 or $10) and puts that money into your savings.
- If you need to build up your credit rating, you can enrol for Credit Building with Koho for an additional $10 per month; it will report your spending habits to the credit bureaus.
- It features spending insights to help you keep track of your finances. And, for those who need a bit more hands-on help, Koho offers financial coaching (for $10 a month with the credit building plan).
- You can sign up for a 30-day free trial to see if a paid plan is worth it. Plus, you can get a $25 cash bonus once approved for the Extra plan.
- To take advantage of Koho’s credit building tool, you have to spend $10 per month. For a student on a limited budget, that can really add up.
- If you want to access Koho’s best perks and features, you have to subscribe to Koho Essential or Extra, which come with monthly fees of $4 per month (or $48 per year) and $9 per month (or $84 per year), respectively.
Best student credit card for credit building
At a glance: If you’re new to credit cards and want the chance to build up your credit score, a secured card is a smart choice. Home Trust reports your payment history and other info to the credit bureaus (like Equifax and TransUnion, who determine your credit score) each month. With no annual fee, the Home Trust Secured Visa is a solid option. You set your own spending limit, anywhere from $500 to $10,000—so you won’t risk spending beyond your means. You can also choose between two interest rates: 19.99% with no annual fee or 14.90% with a $59 annual fee.
- Annual fee: $0
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 19.99% on cash advances
- Earn rates: None
- Welcome offer: This card does not have a welcome bonus at this time.
- You set your credit limit and can choose either a 14.90% interest rate (with the $59 annual fee) or a 19.99% interest rate (with no annual fee). Having a lower interest rate can help you save on interest charges if you carry a balance.
- The Visa card is accepted online and in over 200 countries.
- Cardholders are protected from fraud with the Zero Liability Policy (if your card is stolen, you won’t pay for fraudulent purchases.)
- If you don’t choose the lower interest rate of 14.90% for an annual fee of $59, the interest rate is relatively high at 19.99%.
- The card doesn’t offer any perks like cash back or rewards.
- Students in Quebec are not eligible for the card.
Best secured card for students
At a glance: The Neo Secured Credit Mastercard gives access to benefits like unlimited cash back and boosted rewards while you’re building a credit history. Plus, with opt-in perks and bundles, you can tailor the card to your specific needs.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: A minimum of 0.5% minimum cash back and an average of 5% cash back on purchases at partners
- Interest rate: 19.99% on purchases (19.99% to 25.49% for Quebec residents), 24.99% on cash advances
- Welcome bonus: You can earn $25 cash back.
- You can use a Neo card even if you have no credit history, with just a low $50 minimum deposit—which is great for students who are just starting out.
- Although you get a physical card in the mail, you can use the Neo app to make purchases using your phone.
- Optional perks and bundles allow you to purchase upgrades on a subscription basis to accelerate your earn rates and access benefits on an as-needed basis. For example, if you’re heading home for the holidays, you can spring for the “travel bundle” and earn boosted cash back on your travel spends, but—and this is good—you can also chill out in the airport lounge.
- Neo Insights has loads of tools to help you budget, track your spending, and keep tabs on your cash back.
- If you don’t shop at Neo partners, you’ll be earning a noncompetitive 0.5% base rate.
- The Neo card doesn’t come with included insurance.
- You can only use the card for the amount of money that you put on the card, so for those needing extra credit (with money, not the academic kind), a secured card isn’t for them.
Best student credit card for entertainment perks
At a glance: If your safe place is a movie theatre to get away from dorm drama or to get some headspace away from reading, consider this card. What you spend at the cinema can turn into some nice perks.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: 2 Scene+ Points per $1 spent on groceries at stores owned by Sobeys, 2 points per $1 spent at Cineplex theatres or cineplex.com; 1 point per $1 spent on everything else;
- Interest rate: 19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: You can earn 5,000 bonus Scene+ points within your first year. Must apply by February 29, 2024.
- Scene+ is a pretty versatile points program. For example, you can book flights with any airline without having to rely on a specific travel agency or portal. Plus, you can redeem for other travel items, such as Airbnbs. It’s one of the best points programs available to Canadians.
- Another bonus, the rewards are great for things outside of a typical student budget. Treat yourself for managing the stresses of school by using the rewards on things like movies, takeout, gift cards from retailers, flights, hotels and more.
- You can save 25% off base rates for car rentals at participating Avis and Budget rental locations in Canada and the U.S.
- There are no bonus points for other common spending categories, like gas or dining, meaning fewer ways to maximize your returns. So, you would have to go to the movies regularly to really take advantage of the bonus earn rate.
- Not as flexible as a cash back program, but redeeming is straightforward for travel items.
Best student mastercard
At a glance: Looking to buy a new iPhone? Need a credit card? The Rogers Mastercard can be an excellent choice for Canadian students, with no minimum income requirement and no annual fee. Plus, Rogers recently launched its Equal Payment Plan—a no-interest payment plan when you buy a new device using the Rogers Mastercard. Instead of paying the full price upfront (up to $2,000 for a new phone btw) or using the typical monthly payment plans, you can save up to 50% off your monthly bill payments for the device when you opt to extend the payment schedule to three or four years. You could also get unlimited cash back rewards with this card, and rewards can be redeemed at any time, including to cover your purchases. Keep in mind, though, that this card is best for Rogers customers—your cash back rate is double if you have at least two Rogers plans (mobile and home internet or TV services) and you use your Rogers credit card to pay for them. Cash back rewards on this card are also worth 30% more than the regular value when you use them for eligible Rogers purchases, like new phones, accessories and bill payments. So, consider this card if you’re already a Rogers client or are planning to switch.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, or 2% cash back on purchases made in USD. You’ll get 2% unlimited cash back if you have two Rogers mobile or home services.
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Welcome bonus: You can earn 10% cash back for the first 3 months up to $100.
- Cash back rewards are unlimited and fairly flexible, you can redeem them at any time towards purchases through the Rogers Bank app or annually as a statement credit.
- Plus, if you are a Rogers mobile and home customer, you earn double the rewards.
- With the Equal Payment Plan, you’re only saving 50% on monthly phone payments when you extend the plan to three years—which is a long time to pay off one device.
- While you get rewarded for U.S. currency purchases and slightly offset foreign transaction fees, because you earn 2% cash back on these purchases, Mastercard charges a 2.5% foreign transaction fee on top of the exchange rate. So you are still paying a bit more for cross-border purchases.
- If you are not a Rogers customer, earn rates are less impressive at just 1% cash back.
Our methodology: How we determine the best cards
The MoneySense editorial team selects the best credit cards by assessing the value they provide to young adult Canadians across various categories. Our best student credit cards ranking is based on an extensive list of card details and features—with a focus on those that matter to students—including annual fees, interest rates, welcome offers, rewards earn rates, annual income requirements, and perks such as insurance coverage, rebates and discounts. We have also considered the pros and cons of each card to help you determine which ones best suit your financial needs. Our rankings are an unbiased source of information for Canadians. The addition of links from affiliate partners has no bearing on the results. Read more about how MoneySense makes money.
Frequently asked questions
Unlike for a summer job, applying for a student credit card is pretty straightforward, although there are a few eligibility requirements to keep in mind.
- You’ll need to be the age of majority in your province. That’s either 18 (in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan) or 19 (in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Yukon).
- If you don’t earn an income, you may need to provide proof that you receive some form of financial support, such as allowances from your family or a scholarship.
As a new credit card holder, it’s a smart idea to review your options before you apply. Check out what different banks are offering and choose a card that best matches your lifestyle and spending habits. Each application does affect your credit score, so you’ll want to avoid applying for multiple credit cards needlessly. Stick with one card as you learn the ropes and start building your credit history.
The short answer is yes, provided you use your credit card responsibly. Your credit card use is one of the things that determines your credit score. Your credit score is like a report card for your finances—the higher your score, the better—and it can affect your ability to get a loan or a mortgage, or even to rent an apartment. You’ll want to start building your credit rating as early as possible. Being a secondary cardholder on your parents’ card doesn’t count toward it, which is one reason you might want to get your own student credit card. Responsible credit card use is one of the most efficient ways to establish your credit history, build your credit score and prove you can be trusted to manage borrowed money. Beware of overspending, though. Late or unpaid bills can devastate your rating.
Yes, they can. Banks, credit card companies and financial institutions recognize the power of your business, so they’ve created “beginner” credit cards for young adults and students in Canada. These tend to be stripped down versions of credit cards loaded with perks. But, as you can see above, there are still rewards to be had with secured and unsecured credit cards for students. Actually, having a credit card is how you build a credit history, which is part of how a credit score is calculated. Here’s how:
- Credit history: A longer history shows lenders you are able to repay debt, and finance experts recommend to apply for a card as a young adult, and use it responsibly.
- Debt load: This is the total amount of money you owe creditors—including credit cards, loans and mortgages, But mortgages are not often an issue for students, so your low debt load can work in your favour.
- Payment history: This is about how you well you pay your bills, meaning in full and on time, as well as if you missed any payments and how for long you carried any debt. At this point in your life, keep your bills low and pay them off on time.
- Types of credit you carry: The more creditors you owe money to, the higher risk you could pose to lenders. Stick with one credit card to avoid looking risky to lenders
Can a high school student apply for a credit card?
Credit cards have an age restriction and, often, income requirements that high school students may not be able to meet. However, that doesn’t put all credit cards entirely out of reach. If a high school student is the age of majority (18 or 19 years old, depending on their province or territory) there are some options.
Credit card applicants in high school should look for cards that don’t require a credit history and have low or no income requirements. They can consider starting with a secured card, where they apply a deposit that they can spend, as these help build a credit history. A solid option is the Neo Secured Mastercard or another secured credit card.
What does a high school student need to apply for a credit card? In general, applicants will need a piece of government ID, a social insurance number, mailing address, employment status, and income information to apply for a credit card.
I was declined for a student credit card—what can I do?
If you were declined for a card, it may have to do with your credit history or your income. Consider a secured card or a credit card that’s aimed at people with bad credit, as their requirements will be more modest. While you won’t get the perks and benefits attached to other cards, responsible use can help you build up your credit score so you can access better products in the future.
Credit card tips for students
You know you need to be responsible in how you use your credit card—but what, exactly, does that mean? Read on for tips on using your credit card to improve your credit score and avoiding any problems.
- Check your payment due dates
You probably know that credit card bills arrive every month, but that doesn’t mean the due date for your payment is on the first day. The date that begins your billing cycle depends on when you are approved for the account, and it could be any day of the month. Make note of the due date and make sure you pay on time. Why not add these dates to your school calendar, too.
- Pay off your balance in full
If you’re going to be responsible with your credit card, you won’t use it to spend money you don’t have. Do not go into debt. It’s best practice to pay off your bill in full, on time, every month. Not only will this boost your credit score, but it will also help you avoid costly interest charges.
- Heed the minimum balance
If you do overspend, you will still need to pay off some of your balance. Your bill will show a total balance and a minimum payment. You must pay at least the minimum payment, on time and every month, no matter what. Missing payments is one of the worst things you can do for your credit score. Paying only the minimum means that you’re accumulating interest on the unpaid balance. At an average of around 20%, this can add up quickly.
- Don’t overspend
In case it’s not clear: Don’t overspend! Credit is borrowed money, and a credit card isn’t a debit card. All the money you charge to your card must be paid back. If you don’t or can’t, you’ll find yourself racking up interest charges in addition to wrecking your credit rating.
- Don’t max out your credit card
Your credit card will have a credit limit; that’s the amount of money you can technically borrow on it. But spending all the way up to your limit—that is, maxing out your card—is reckless. It will be harder to pay off your balance. Use your card selectively for smaller purchases, at least initially, and consider using debit for almost everything else.
This article is presented by an advertising partner.
This is an editorially driven article or content package, presented with financial support from an advertiser. The advertiser has no influence on the creation of the content.