The Best Student Credit Cards in Canada 2021

Getting approved for credit cards in Canada as a student can be tricky since you don’t have a full-time job, and your housing expenses will be relatively high.

That said, it’s a smart idea to have a credit card as a student because they help you start building credit, let you make online purchases, and can be a good source of short-term emergency cash.

Fortunately, most financial institutions are sympathetic to the economic hardships of being a student, which is why they created student credit cards, which are designed specifically for students who aren’t able to work full-time while studying. Here are our top picks for the best student credit cards in Canada.

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The Credit Cards for Students in Canada in 2021

When used properly, a student credit card can open a world of cashback advantages that can provide a bit of extra wiggle room in for your spending and savings targets.

Here are the best student credit cards in Canada, at a glance.

Credit Card
Welcome Offer
Rewards
Annual Fee
 

Tangerine
Money-Back

1.95% interest
on balances transferred
in the first 30 days
2% cash back in up to two
categories of your choice,
0.5% cash back on everything else
$0

BMO CashBack
Mastercard

Earn 5% cash
back in your
first three months
3% cashback on groceries,
1% cash back on recurring bills,
0.5% cash back on everything else
$0

HSBC +Rewards
Mastercard

N/A
Earn 2 points for every $1 spent
on dining or entertainment,
1 point per dollar spent on everything else
$25

CIBC Dividends
Visa Card

Get $30 cash back
after first purchase
Earn 2% cash back on groceries,
1% cash back on everything else
$0

BMO Air Miles
Mastercard

Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
Earn 3 AIR MILES for every $25 spent at partners,
1 AIR MILE for every $25 spent on
everything else
$0

1. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

Welcome bonus: 1.95% interest for six months on balances transferred in the first 30 days

  • Rewards: 2% cash back in up to three categories of your choice, 0.5% cash back on everything else
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Interest rate: 19.95%
  • Minimum income: $12,000

  • One of our favorite credit cards for students is the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. Although this credit card wasn’t explicitly designed for students, it’s an excellent first credit card, as it has a low minimum income to qualify at just $12,000.

    If you maintain a full-time job during the summer and a part-time job while you’re a student, you should be able to qualify. There is no annual fee for this credit card, but you earn rewards if you use it responsibly for your everyday purchases.

    With the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, you’ll earn 2% cashback rewards in two spending categories of your choice and 0.5% cashback on everything else.

    The spending categories to choose from include: groceries, furniture, restaurants, hotel-motel, gas, recurring bill payments, drug store, home improvement, entertainment, and public transportation.

    Plus, if you designate your cashback into a Tangerine savings account, you can choose a third spending category to earn 2% rewards.

    To learn more, check out:

    2. BMO CashBack Mastercard

  • Welcome bonus: 5% cash back on all spending up to $2,500
  • Rewards: 3% cashback on groceries, 1% cash back on recurring bills, 0.5% cash back on everything else
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Interest rate: 19.99%
  • Minimum income: $15,000

  • Possibly the best student card in Canada, the BMO Cashback Mastercard has an excellent welcome bonus.

    With this credit card, you’ll earn 5% cashback on all spending, up to a maximum spend limit of $2,500 in the first three months. That welcome bonus is worth up to $125. After that, you’ll earn 3% cashback on groceries, 1% cashback on recurring bills, and 0.5% cashback on everything else.

    There is no annual fee to use the BMO CashBack Mastercard, and the minimum income to apply is $15,000, which is accessible for most students.

    3. HSBC + Rewards Mastercard

  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Rewards: 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
  • Annual fee: $25
  • Interest rate: 11.9%
  • Minimum Income: $0

  • Sometimes, as a student, you need to carry a credit card balance. Maybe your student loans haven’t come in yet, or you need to purchase textbooks that were more expensive than expected.

    In these cases, carrying these purchases on a credit card could result in hefty interest charges. The HSBC +Rewards Mastercard has a low-interest rate of just 11.9%, which can help keep those interest charges as low as possible.

    This credit card is one of the few on this list with an annual fee, but it is low at $25. There is no minimum income to qualify for this credit card, and you’ll also earn rewards points for your spending.

    4. CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students

  • Welcome bonus: Get $30 cash back after you make your first purchase
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on groceries, 1% cash back on everything else
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 19.99%
  • Minimum Income: $0
  • The CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students is an excellent choice for those earning less during the school year since there is no minimum income or annual fees. This card can help you establish your credit history while helping you earn cashback for your responsible spending.

    With this credit card, you’ll earn 2% cashback on grocery spending and 1% cashback on everything else.

    The CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students also has some additional perks and benefits, including doubling the manufacturer’s warranty up to one year on most purchases and a free SPC membership that gives you access to over 450 deals in-store and online.

    5. BMO Air Miles Mastercard for Students

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
  • Rewards: Earn 3 AIR MILES for every $25 spent at participating partners, and 1 AIR MILE for every $25 spent everywhere else
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 19.99%
  • Minimum Income: $15,000

  • If you’re looking for a rewards credit card that helps you earn AIR MILES, the BMO Air Miles Mastercard for Students is a good place to start.

    This credit card has no annual fee and a low-income requirement of $15,000.

    When you start using this card, you’ll earn 800 AIR MILES right away, which is worth about $80.

    After that, you’ll earn 3 AIR MILES for every $25 spent at approved partners and 1 AIR MILE for every $25 spent elsewhere.

    How Do Student Credit Cards Work?

    Student credit cards work like any other credit card. However, credit cards for students typically have more incentives and perks geared towards college and university students. These perks can range from lax sign-up requirements to cashback bonuses to rewards or other freebies.

    Nevertheless, a credit card and a student card work the same. When using a credit card, the cardholder is borrowing money to make purchases. In some ways, a credit card works a lot like a loan.

    Credit card holders who use their credit cards to make purchases have a grace period of 21 days to pay back the money they've borrowed. If the payment isn't made in time or in full, the cardholder will have to pay interest. It can also affect their credit score.

    If you choose to use a credit card, try making it a habit to pay your credit card on time. Revolving debt, such as credit card debt, can be a major cause of stress and inhibit you from doing things you'd like to.

    How to Choose a Student Credit Card

    Chances are, you've already noticed that there are many, many credit card options available. Whether it's Visa or Mastercard, or the less common American Express, there seems to be a virtually limitless selection of credit cards to choose from. Student credit cards are no different.

    Below, we'll provide a few things to consider when shopping around for a credit card, whether it's one for students or one for regular people.

    1. Before Applying

    Before applying for a credit card, make sure that you meet the eligibility requirements. When applying for a credit card, a credit inquiry is made. If you do not qualify for the card, the credit check may negatively impact your score.

    Some eligibility requirements include a minimum yearly income or minimum credit score, among others.

    2. Consider Fees and Annual Percentage Rates (APR)

    Some credit cards come with an annual fee, while others do not. An annual fee is a fee charged by the credit card company each year. Typically, an annual fee on a credit card means more perks come with the card, but this is not always the case.

    If you choose a credit card with an annual fee, make sure that the annual fee is worth the amount that it's used.

    3. Cashback vs. Rewards

    Credit cards tend to offer either cashback or rewards.

  • Cashback offers a percentage of cash per purchase
  • Rewards are offered by the credit card provider which can be used towards rewards, including travel, groceries, and more
  • Consider which you would prefer between the two. Cashback is more flexible and can be spent on anything, but rewards typically help you remain focused on specific rewards.

    4. Use Your Credit Card Wisely

    Of course, responsibly using your credit card is a major component of owning a credit card. A few tips for using your credit card wisely include:

  • Paying your bill off on time
  • Keeping your balance below one-third of your total limit, also known as a low utilization ratio
  • Understand how your card works
  • Avoid cash advances
  • Our Final Thoughts

    A student credit card can be an excellent resource when it comes to building credit and purchasing necessities. That said, it can equally cause many financial issues.

    Be sure to use a credit card wisely if you decide to get one, and be sure to pay it off in time, spend it within your means, and use it only when necessary.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    One of the best ways to build credit is to have multiple credit types and make your monthly payments on those credit types faithfully.

    If you’re a student, you may already have student loans, but a credit card will help you diversify your credit types. It’s crucial to make your monthly payments on time. Otherwise, a credit card will do more harm to your credit score than good.

    A credit card can be a useful tool for a student. You may need to make online purchases, such as booking flights home to visit family, which you can’t do with a debit card.

    Credit cards also make a good source of short-term emergency cash. If you live on your own for the first time and need access to money quickly, a credit card can be an excellent first line of defense and even tide you over while you access the funds to cover the emergency.

    If you’re a graduate student looking for a credit card, then the Tangerine Money-Back Card is a good choice for you.

    This no annual fee credit card encourages saving money. Once you graduate and begin full-time employment, you can easily convert the card to the Tangerine World Mastercard, which offers even greater rewards for the same $0 annual fee.

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