The best credit cards for newcomers to Canada for 2023
As a newcomer, you’ll want a credit card that offers you the best value without having a long Canadian credit history. Here’s a list of our favourite cash back, rewards, low-interest cards and more.
Canada’s best credit cards for newcomers
In Canada, having a good credit score can help you secure a rental and get a loan or a mortgage, but it’s hard to know where to start when you don’t have a Canadian credit history or a credit card. One of the fastest ways to start building your Canadian credit score is to use a credit card responsibly, because banks and financial institutions report back to the credit bureaus that determine your score. For this reason, it’s important for newcomers to get a credit card, even without an established history.
On this list, we’ve broken down the best credit cards for newcomers depending on your spending habits and requirements. Want cash back? We’ve got a card for that—and for travelers and those who eat in restaurants, too. There are even a few cards you can get through banking bundles for newcomers that offer valuable extras, so dive in and find the best card for you.
Our picks for the best credit cards for newcomers to Canada
|Best cash back card for newcomers||BMO CashBack Mastercard*|
|Best no-fee rewards credit card for newcomers||Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa|
|Best low-interest credit card for newcomers||MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard*|
|Best credit building secured credit card for newcomers||Home Trust Secured Visa*|
|Best rewards secured credit card for newcomers||Neo Secured Credit*|
|Best travel rewards card for newcomers||Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite*|
|Best credit card with a newcomer bank account bundle offer||RBC Cash Back Mastercard|
|Runner up best credit card with a newcomer bank account bundle offer||National Bank mycredit Mastercard*|
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.
Best cash back card for newcomers
The BMO CashBack Mastercard is a no-fee card that lets you earn cash back on your grocery purchases. New applicants get a boosted 5% cash back rate for the first three months, after which time it reverts to the regular 3% for groceries, the highest rate for a no-fee card. Even better, you can use your rewards whenever you want. When you apply for the BMO NewStart Program, you’ll receive cash back bonuses on other products, like a chequing account, investments and even a mortgage, and you can open the BMO CashBack Mastercard without a credit check. The 20.99% purchase interest rate is fairly standard, but if you start accumulating a balance, interest costs can really add up. Plus, if there’s a chance you won’t be able to make the minimum payment in time for the next statement twice in one year, your purchase interest rate will rise to 24.99%. If you think this could apply to you, consider a low-interest or secured card from this list, instead.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: 3% cash back on groceries; 1% cash back on recurring bill payments; 0.5% back on everything else
- Welcome offer: You can earn up to 5% cash back in your first 3 months. Conditions apply.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances (21.99% for Quebec residents), 22.99% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: $15,000
- Credit score/ credit history required: None, if applicant is part of the BMO NewStart Program
- Perks: Some travel insurance including 8 days of out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical coverage up to $5 million; collision damage waiver on rental cars; BMO Concierge service
Best no-fee rewards credit card for newcomers
Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa
When you sign up to the Simplii Financial New to Canada Banking Program, you can apply for the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa without any Canadian credit history. You can apply for the program up to one year before you arrive in Canada, or up to five years after you arrive. When you use this card you’ll earn a generous 4% cash back on spends in restaurants and bars up to $5,000 annually, plus 1.5% back on gas, grocery, drugstore and pre-authorized payments up to the first $15,000 annually. There’s a base rate of 0.5% cash back on any other purchases, and you’ll still earn 0.5% once you’ve hit the annual limit on restaurants and the everyday purchase categories. New customers get an eye-catching 20% cash back on gas, groceries, drugstore and pre-authorized payments for the first three months, up to a $500 spend. You’ll also benefit from a lower purchase interest rate of 9.99% for the first three months of having the account, but keep in mind that after this, the rate goes back to a moderately high 19.99%. If you pay off your card in full each month, however, you won’t pay any interest charges. If you also sign up for the Simplii Financial no-fee chequing account, you can earn a $450 cash bonus. Note that you must be a Canadian resident to qualify for the newcomer program.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: 4% cash back on restaurants and bars; 5% back on gas, grocery and drugstore and pre-authorized payments; 0.5% on everything else
- Welcome offer: You can earn 20% cash back on gas, groceries, drugstore and pre-authorized payments for the first 3 months (up to $500)
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, and 22.99% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: $15,000
- Credit score/ credit history required: No Canadian credit history required if you are part of the New to Canada Banking Program
- Perks: Fee-free Global Money Transfers; extended protection and purchase security
Best low-interest card for newcomers
The MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard has a super low purchase interest rate, which can help you save a lot of money on interest charges if you can’t pay off your balance in full each month. Plus, although it doesn’t offer any rewards and few perks, the ability to save on interest charges with this card easily outweighs the value of rewards you’d earn if you can’t pay off your balance. MBNA does say, though, that your credit history will factor into your ability to get the card, and you must be a Canadian resident to be eligible. If that doesn’t apply to you, consider one of the other cards on this list.
- Annual fee: $39
- Welcome offer: N/A
- Interest rates: 8.99% on purchases, 24.99% on cash advances, 8.99% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: N/A
- Credit score/ credit history required: Not specified
- Perks: Savings on car rentals with Avis and Budget, lost luggage insurance
Best credit building secured credit card for newcomers
For those who have no Canadian credit history, the Home Trust Secured Visa Card offers the ability to build up a credit score, for no annual fee. Alternatively, you can get a lower 14.90% purchase interest rate if you pay a $59 annual fee. You set your own spending limit by making a minimum deposit of $500 to $10,000. The card is easy to obtain—you must be a permanent Canadian resident with a source of income and not in bankruptcy—but it’s not available to international students, foreign workers, or residents of Quebec. The card is accepted anywhere you can use Visa (in over 200 countries around the world, in-store and online) and you can use it to set up bill payments as with any other credit card. There are not many perks available with this card, and their newcomer offers are fairly limited in terms of bundles, banking discounts, support or financial advice, but if you are focussed on building your credit score and living within your means, this may be a solid option for you.
- Annual fee: $59
- Earn rate: N/A
- Welcome offer: This card does not have a welcome bonus at this time.
- Interest rates: 14.9% on purchases
- Annual income requirement: N/A ($500 minimum deposit)
- Credit score/ credit history required: Must have a source of income and not be in bankruptcy
- Perks: Visa Zero Liability; digital wallet ready
Best rewards secured credit card for newcomers
The Neo Secured Credit Card is a no-annual-fee secured card that will let you build a credit history while earning cash back. You’re guaranteed approval as long as you’re a Canadian resident, of the age of majority in your province, and you provide a security deposit. There are no credit score requirements, and you don’t have to pay an annual fee. This, along with the ability to earn unlimited cash rewards with Neo Partners, makes Neo a strong card for those starting out. The ability to earn rewards on secured credit cards is fairly rare, although you are only eligible for cash back with Neo-affiliated stores and services. Do keep in mind, though, that the interest rate is moderately high compared to other cards on this list, so if you carry a balance, the cost could add up.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: An average of 5% back at Neo partner stores, up to 15% back on your first purchase at some stores, and a guaranteed 0.5% base rate
- Welcome offer: You can earn $25 cash back.
- Interest rates: 19.99% on purchases (19.99% to 25.49% for Quebec residents), 24.99% on cash advances
- Annual income requirement: N/A
- Credit score/ credit history required: None
- Perks: Ability to earn cash back; Insights tools to help you budget; access to Perks to tailor your rewards
Best travel rewards card for newcomers
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite lets you earn valuable Scene+ Rewards points you can redeem for travel and more, and includes perks for wanderlusters like travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees for purchases made in other currencies, savings on car rentals, and six complimentary airport lounge visits per year. If you are planning to visit friends or family back home, or love to travel in general, this card has some promising rewards options. Though it has a higher income requirement and annual fee than others on this list, you can qualify without a Canadian credit history if you’re part of the StartRight program for newcomers. If this card isn’t right for you, consider another Scotiabank credit card available through the StartRight program, like the Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa or the Scene+ Visa.
- Annual fee: $150
- Earn rate: 3 Scene+ points per $1 spent at Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland and participating Co-ops; 2 Scene+ points per $1 on dining and at other eligible grocery stores; 2 Scene+ points on eligible entertainment purchases and daily transit options including rideshare, buses, taxis and subway.
- Welcome offer: You can earn up to $1,100+ in value in the first 12 months, including up to 35,000 bonus Scene+ points. Offer ends January 3, 2024.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, 22.99% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: Personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000
- Credit score/ credit history required: Not required for newcomers in the StartRight program
- Perks: Travel insurance including travel emergency medical, trip interruption/cancellation, flight delay, delayed or lost baggage, and travel accident coverage; hotel/motel burglary insurance; rental car collision loss/damage insurance; no foreign exchange fees; sic complimentary airport lounge passes; Visa Infinite privileges
Best credit card with a newcomer bank account bundle offer
RBC Cash Back Mastercard
When you join the RBC Newcomer Advantage program, you can qualify for a credit card without a Canadian credit history, receive a generous welcome offer, save on banking fees on the RBC Advantage Banking account for one year, and even qualify for a mortgage. Under the newcomer advantage program, you can be eligible for the RBC Cash Back Mastercard, which is available to eligible permanent residents and international students who arrived in Canada in the last 12 months before applying, as well as temporary resident workers who arrived in the last two years. With this card you’ll also earn unlimited cash back on your purchases and receive discounts on fuel when you use a Petro Points card at Petro-Canada—great perks for a no-fee card. Just keep in mind that the purchase interest rate is fairly high, so if you carry a balance or can’t pay off your card in full every month, the costs can add up.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Up to 2% cash back on grocery purchases and up to 1% cash back on everything else
- Welcome offer: You can get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on cash advances and balance transfers for the first 10 months if you apply by December 6th 2023.
- Interest rates: 20.99% on purchases, 22.99% on cash advances, and 22.99% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: None
- Credit score/ credit history required: None for newcomers in the StartRight program
- Perks: 3 cents per litre fuel savings at Petro-Canada; RBC Offers; free DoorDash deliveries for three months
Runner up best credit card with a newcomer bank account bundle offer
While National Bank offers some excellent support and bundling options for newcomers, the cash back rate is slightly lower than other cards considering the purchase interest rate is decently high—although the cash back earnings are unlimited. You can be approved for the credit card without a Canadian credit history. To apply for the program, all you need is a valid passport from your country of origin or a Canadian permanent resident card and a Canadian phone number. You’ll get access to a team of specialists seven days a week to help with immigration questions, specialized advice on housing, jobs, healthcare and more for one year. Plus, you can receive additional financing support. With the newcomer banking offer, you get to use a chequing account with no monthly fee for up to three years, with additional banking discounts in years two and three of the program. What’s more, the offer is valid for your first five years in Canada, which is generous compared to other newcomer cards on this list.
- Annual fee: $0
- Earn rate: Up to 1% cash back at restaurants and on recurring pre-authorized bill payments, 0.5% cash back on everything else
- Welcome offer: You could earn up to $135 cash back, if you make at least $400 in purchases in the first 3 months after opening the account, and also sign up for the Credit Card Payment Protection Plan.
- Interest rate: 20.99% on purchases, 22.49% on cash advances, 22.49% on balance transfers
- Annual income requirement: None
- Credit score/ credit history required: None if you are part of National Bank’s newcomer program
- Perks: Mobile theft/ damage protection; extended warranty; purchase protection; contactless payments and fraud protection.
Frequently asked questions
The best credit card for you is going to depend on your personal needs. If you’re hoping to earn cash back on your purchases, you might go with a card like the BMO CashBack Mastercard or the RBC Cash Back Mastercard. If you’re hoping to earn travel rewards, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card is a good option, and if you’re a restaurant enthusiast, you should check out the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa.
When you’re ready to apply for a credit card, make sure you meet any of the requirements for approval, such as an annual minimum income or a credit score. Some banks, like Scotiabank and RBC, offer specialized programs for newcomers that allow access to credit cards without a Canadian credit history. You’ll have to provide personal information on your application like your name, address, date of birth, employment status, annual income and residency status. You can apply for most credit cards online, or you can make an appointment at a bank.
You can compare credit cards on the basis of annual fees, interest rates, whether they offer cash or rewards, and any perks and extras. Check whether you need a Canadian credit history to apply and whether you can get the card through a newcomer program. If you enrol in a program, look for what other services are offered, like access to financial advice and discounted banking fees.
Our methodology: How we determined the best credit cards
The MoneySense editorial team selects the best credit cards by assessing the value they provide to newcomers across various categories. Our best credit cards for newcomers ranking is based on an extensive list of features, including credit history requirements, interest rates, welcome offers, and perks like cash back or rewards. 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.