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Best credit cards for seniors and retirees in Canada

Navigating the world of credit cards in retirement can be a challenging endeavor, especially when you or your loved ones are on a fixed income. As I set out to help find the perfect credit card for my mom, who's enjoying her well-deserved retirement with a pension, we encountered a common hurdle: the minimum annual income requirements many credit card issuers impose. 

It's a predicament many seniors face, leaving them with limited choices that often include basic, no-frills cards or secured credit cards. But there’s no reason you should have to miss out on great features and credit card rewards just because you’re retired.

What credit cards did we find that worked for my retired mom and offered the features she wanted? Let’s take a look.

How can seniors boost the odds of credit card approval?

Increasing your income in retirement isn’t always an option. There can be big tax consequences to taking out more money from your RRSP than you need. 

Fortunately, there are other ways to increase your chances of being approved for a credit card. Consider the following when you don’t meet the minimum income threshold for the cards you want.

  • Apply before you retire. If you haven’t retired yet, take advantage of your current income stream to apply for the credit card you want. This is also the time to increase your credit limit on your existing cards if you think you’ll need it.
  • Keep your credit score in good shape. The better your credit score is, the more credit cards you’ll have access to. Pay all your bills on time and try to maintain a score of 680 or higher.
  • Qualify based on your assets. If you’re lucky enough to have significant retirement savings, you may be able to qualify based on those assets. You can qualify for many of the best credit cards in Canada if you have savings or investments worth $250,000 or more, even if you don’t have any income.
  • Qualify based on household income. If you live with a family member (or your family member lives with you), you can apply based on household income. For example, premium credit cards with the Visa Infinite badge require an individual income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.
  • Meet the minimum spending requirement. Some credit cards will waive their minimum income requirement if you’re getting good use out of your existing cards and keeping up with your payments. One example is the BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite Card, which requires income of at least $60,000 or annual credit card spending of $15,000 or $1,250 per month.
  • Be an authorized cardholder. If you don’t qualify for a card on your own, ask someone you trust if they’ll apply for the card and make you an authorized cardholder. The card will be approved based on the applicant’s income and credit score, and you’ll get a card to use it as if it were your own.

Best credit cards for seniors - by category

Best cash back credit card for seniors

featured

4.5 Ratehub rated

Best for Everyday spending

First year reward
$432/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $0 annual fee

Earn rewards

1.25pts – 2pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

100 bonus points (a $100 value)

The best cash back credit card for seniors we found is the American Express SimplyCash card. This card has no minimum income requirement, and my mom was happy that it has no annual fee.

This card offers good cash back rewards including 2% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on groceries, and 1.25% cash back on everything else. A downside is that you can only earn a maximum of $300 cash back per year in the grocery category, but I can’t see my mom spending enough on groceries to reach the limit.

Best seniors credit card for grocery store rewards

featured

Best for Groceries & bills

First year reward
$642/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $120 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 4pts / dollar earn rate

My mom isn’t filling a cart every time she goes to the grocery store, but some seniors definitely love to cook. For them, I recommend the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card. 

This card pays 4% cash back on groceries and recurring payments, 2% on gas and transit, and 1% on everything else. There’s also a welcome bonus - earn 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases). No annual fee in the first year, including on additional cards. Offer ends October 31, 2024.. An added benefit is included travel insurance coverage for your next holiday, but be aware that you’ll only qualify for its travel emergency medical insurance coverage if you’re under age 65.

This card has an annual fee of $120 and requires an income of at least $60,000 or assets of at least $250,000. If any of those are dealbreakers, take a look at the Scotia Momentum Visa and Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa cards as alternatives.

Best seniors credit card for travel insurance

featured

First year reward
$263/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $150 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 5pts / dollar earn rate

Having unlimited time to travel is one of the reasons why I can’t wait to retire, and the National Bank World Elite Mastercard is the best choice for seniors who want to see the world. This card has some of the best travel insurance coverage of any credit card in Canada, including coverage for flight cancellation, trip interruption, lost and stolen luggage and rental vehicles. Plus, its travel emergency medical coverage extends to Canadians up to age 75 for trips of 15 days and under.

Unfortunately, the eligibility criteria aren’t the most forgiving. You’ll need household income of at least $150,000, investable assets of at least $400,000, or spend at least $25,000 per year on another National Bank credit card. 

Best seniors credit card for gas

featured

First year reward
$333/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $39 annual fee

Earn rewards

1pt – 2pts / dollar earn rate

Seniors who want to earn credit card rewards on gas purchases should take a look at the Scotia Momentum Visa Card. This card has a low annual fee of $39 and pays 2% cash back on gas, groceries, pharmacies and recurring bill payments plus 1% cash back on everything else. There’s no minimum income requirement, making this one of the more accessible cards to seniors.

Best seniors credit card for drugstores

Best for PC Points

First year reward
$289/yr

based on spending $2,200/mo after $0 annual fee

Earn rewards

10pts – 30pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

20,000 bonus points (a $20 value)

For the inevitable drugstore purchases, I recommend the PC Financial Mastercard. It pays 25 PC Optimum points per dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart (equal to 2.5% in rewards), and 10 points per dollar spent at grocery stores like Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore and NoFrills. This card has no minimum income requirement and no annual fee.

Best seniors credit card for low interest

featured

4.5 Ratehub rated
12.99%

Purchase interest rate

Pay $5/mo

Based on a credit balance of $500

Annual fee

$0

When you’re on a fixed income like my mom, sometimes you need to carry a balance on your credit card. If that’s your primary reason for wanting one, the MBNA True Line Mastercard is a good choice. This card has no annual fee and a low interest rate of 12.99% on purchases so it’s more affordable to carry a balance. This card has no annual fee and doesn’t specify a minimum income to apply. It is important to note that the balance transfer comes with a 3% transfer fee. 

FAQ - Credit cards for seniors and retirees

Should seniors get secured credit cards?


How can seniors improve credit scores?


Does age affect eligibility for credit card travel insurance?


The bottom line

My mom and I thought it would be a big challenge to find a credit card that would approve her on a fixed income, but it turns out there are lots of great options for seniors like her. Compare credit cards online to find the best card for you and make your retirement a little more rewarding.

 

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