The 6 best student credit cards in Canada for 2021

Hyder Owainati
by Hyder Owainati January 4, 2021 / No Comments

Summary (+/-)

The 6 best student credit cards in Canada for 2021

The transition from high school graduate to college or university freshman is a big leap.

From living away from home for the first time to learning how to navigate the ins and outs of campus life, wading through the complexities of getting a first credit card can quickly fall off the priority list for many students. And while some students may choose not to apply for a credit card at all, others may be swayed into a particular card by a sales representative on campus promising freebies like a complimentary t-shirt. Neither of these is the best courses of action to take, as students should understand the benefits of using credit cards and compare all their options instead of being “sold” on a single card.

Below, we shed light on the benefits of student credit cards and provide a breakdown of the best student credit cards in Canada for 2021. Note: While some of the cards on our list are not full-fledged student credit cards per se, all have no annual fees and minimal qualification requirements.


Best student credit card for cash back

BMO CashBack Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome Offer: 5% cash back on all purchases (up to $100) for first 3 months
  • 3% cash back on the first $500 spent groceries and 1% on recurring bills ($500 monthly cap on each category)
  • 0.5% cash back on everything else

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The BMO CashBack Mastercard is a no annual fee rewards credit card that offers particularly strong returns on everyday essentials from grocery stores and supermarkets. It earns 3% cash back on the first $500 you spend on groceries every month and 1% on recurring bills up to $500 every month (0.5% cash back after that). For all your other everyday purchases, you’ll net 0.5% cash back without limits.

While there are rewards caps on the card’s two bonus categories, they do reset with the start of every new 30-day billing cycle. And at $500 per month in each category, they’ll be hard to max out, especially on a student’s budget.

Why we like it:

This credit card has the trio of features that most appeals to students: 1. no annual fees 2. the ability to earn straightforward rewards, and 3. no income requirement.

Since this is a cash back credit card, students won’t have to think about the complexities or limitations of loyalty points programs, and can instead get an injection of cash. This can be particularly valuable for students who want to focus on saving on their everyday purchases rather than racking up points for discounted flights. Accessing your cash back is also extremely easy, as you can redeem for as little as $1 at any time instead of having to wait a month or even a year to access your rewards. The card’s three-month welcome offer of 5% is also strong, particularly for a no fee card geared towards students.

Additional perks:

This card offers purchase and extended warranty protection and discounts on rental cars from eligible National and Alamo agency locations.

 

 

Best student credit card for Miles

BMO Air Miles Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome Offer: Up to 800 Air Miles Bonus Miles
  • Earn 3x the Miles per dollar at Air Miles partner stores
  • Earn 0.04 Miles per dollar everywhere else
  • Earn Miles twice when shopping at Air Miles partners

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

If the aforementioned BMO CashBack Mastercard piqued your interest but you’re looking to invest in a points program and regularly shop at Air Miles partner stores (think Sobeys, Metro, Shell, Staples, among many others), the BMO Air Miles Mastercard may be more up your alley.

This card offers triple the miles at Air Miles partner stores, 0.04 miles per dollar on all other purchases, charges no annual fee, and there’s no income requirement to qualify. The card also features a welcome offer of 800 miles when you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months.

The miles earned on this card can be redeemed for either Dream Miles (which can be put towards free or discounted flights on select airlines) or Air Miles Cash (can be redeemed for e-gift cards or discounts at Air Miles partner stores in increments of 95 miles for $10).

Why we like it:

The BMO Air Miles Mastercard offers multiple opportunities to double dip your rewards, especially if Air Miles stores are located near your home, dorm, or campus. Not only will it earn three times the miles at partner stores (roughly the equivalent of 1.26% – 1.5% in rewards per dollar spent, depending on what you redeem for), you can also earn miles twice when you show your Miles Collector Card in addition to your credit card.

We also appreciate the Air Miles online shopping portal, airmilesshop.ca. This website is filled with deals that either help you rack up bonus miles or discounts when shopping online from a huge range of retailers including Apple, Walmart, Amazon, Nike, H&M, and more.

Additional perks:

This card offers the same side perks as the BMO CashBack Mastercard: purchase and extended warranty protection as well as discounts on rental cars from eligible National and Alamo agency locations.


Best store credit cards for students

For Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart

PC Financial Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 25 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart / Pharmaprix
  • Earn 10 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 30 PC Optimum Points per purchased litre of gasoline at Esso

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

With the PC Financial Mastercard, students will earn 25 PC Optimum points per dollar at all Shoppers Drug Mart locations, at least 30 points per dollar when filling up their tank at Esso and Mobil gas stations, and 10 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Cardholders can also regularly snag points bonuses when shopping at PC stores including Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Joe Fresh, and more.

PC Optimum points can be redeemed at affiliate retailers (Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws banner grocery stores) in increments of 10,000 points for $10. So, 10 points is like the equivalent of 1% in cash back store credit, 20 points is the equivalent of 2%, and so on.

This card has no income requirement, no annual fee, and as a retail credit card, the application requirements are considerably more lenient even for students with no prior credit history. That said, it’s not a full-fledged student card and therefore may require you to earn some form of income.

Why we like it:

With a minimum earn rate of 10 points per dollar (the equivalent of 1% in rewards), the PC Financial Mastercard manages to out-earn most entry-level cash back or points cards (which start offering rewards from 0.5%) on general everyday purchases.

PC Optimum points are also redeemable at over 2,500 stores associated with the PC Optimum program – from Shoppers Drug Mart and JoeFresh to popular grocery stores such as Loblaws and No Frills – so it won’t be difficult to put your card’s points to good use.

Additional perks:

Cardholders receive basic coverage in the form of free purchase assurance and free extended warranties (up to one year). PC Optimum does regularly run personalized offers and in-store promotions to help you rack up additional points when shopping at affiliated retailers like Joe Fresh and Loblaws banner grocery stores like No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore.

For Canadian Tire

Triangle Mastercard


  • No annual fee
  • Get 4% in Canadian Tire Money at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and participating Mark®/L’Équipeur and Atmosphere locations
  • 1.5% on the first $12,000 spent at eligible grocery stores each year
  • 0.5% on everything else
  • Earn 5¢ per litre back in Canadian Tire Money at Gas+ and participating Husky locations
  • Income requirement: Any amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Like the PC Financial Mastercard mentioned above, the Triangle Mastercard from Canadian Tire is a retail credit card that has minimal eligibility requirements and is quite easy to get (even for students).

The Triangle Mastercard earns a whopping 4% in Canadian Tire Money (CTM) at Canadian Tire stores and affiliates of the retail giant including Mark’s clothing store and Sport Chek. You’ll even get a boost of 1.5% in CTM when shopping at virtually any grocery store. CTM can be redeemed for discounts or free purchases from Canadian Tire.

As an added plus, the Triangle Mastercard offers no fee-financing on eligible purchases of at least $150 from Canadian Tire. So, you can make a big-ticket purchase, like an AC unit or television, and pay it off in smaller monthly installments without interest (provided you make each monthly payment, of course).

Why we like it:

The Triangle Mastercard earns quadruple the rewards on everything Canadian Tire stocks on its shelves as well as Sports Chek and Mark’s. The card’s no-fee financing option is also a great feature for students on a budget who need to space out payments over a longer period of time.

Additional perks:

As covered above, the Triangle Mastercard offers no-fee financing on eligible purchases from Canadian Tire. Cardholders can also take advantage of personalized offers to earn extra CTM on select purchases. Finally, through Canadian Tire Bank, cardholders can use their Triangle Mastercard to pay for major bills like hydro and tuition, earning more rewards in the process (though, we’d strongly caution against this as it can lead to larger balances and potentially hefty interest charges if the credit card statement isn’t paid off in full every month).


Best student credit card for travel rewards

TD Rewards Visa Card


  • No annual fee
  • Earn 3 TD Points per $1 on travel through ExpediaforTD
  • Earn 2 TD Points per $1 on gas, groceries and bills
  • Earn 1 TD Point per $1 on everything else

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

If you’re a student who travels regularly – whether it’s to fly back home during the holidays or satisfy your lust for exploring new places – the TD Rewards Visa Card could be your ideal match.

The no-fee, entry-level credit card earns TD Points which you can redeem for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, or virtually anything available on Expedia – one of the world’s largest travel search engines. Points are redeemable online from the ExpediaforTD website in flat increments of 100 points for $1 (or 1 point for 0.5 cents).

The card earns a solid 3 points (1.5% in travel rewards) per dollar on travel you book online from the ExpediaforTD website, 2 points (1%) per dollar on groceries, restaurants and fast food, and 1 point (0.5 cents) on everything else.

Why we like it:

As far as travel rewards programs go, TD Rewards is one of the easiest and most straightforward, making it the perfect fit for credit card beginners. 1 TD point is always worth 0.5 cents when used online at ExpediaforTD and can be used to book flights on virtually any airline of your choice. There are no complicated rewards charts, fluctuating points values, or high and low seasons.

The fact it earns triple the points on travel booked from ExpediaforTD also means students who do travel once or twice a year can earn a significant boost in rewards.

Additional perks:

This card offers purchase and extended warranty protection and discounts on rental cars from eligible Avis and Budget agency locations.


Best secured credit card for students

Home Trust Secured Visa Card

  • No annual fee
  • 19.99% interest rate on purchases
  • Credit limit is set by the amount of security deposit put down, between $500-$10,000
  • Not available to residents of Quebec

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

If you’re a student who’s racked up some debt or solely want to focus on building a credit history (rather than earning rewards) then the Home Trust Secured Visa could be an option worth considering. As a secured credit card, the Home Trust Secured Visa operates a little differently than the others on this list. You’ll put forward a deposit (minimum of $500) and use that as your card’s credit limit. By making purchases against your deposit and paying back what you owe on time every month, you’ll develop a good track record of paying off debt, in turn, developing a good credit history. There’s no income requirement and no annual fees.

Why we like it:

Since this card’s credit limit is tied to a deposit of the cardholder’s own money and can start as low as $500, it can help curtail bad habits related to overspending while also helping students develop a more conscious approach to using credit cards. The Home Trust Secured Visa also accept applicants with bad credit histories, including those who have been bankrupt in the past, which can be a saving grace for students who have run into trouble and racked up debts on a previous credit card or other loans (not associated with OSAP) such as car loans or payday loans.


What is a student credit card?

Student credit cards often feature low (or no) income requirements, no annual fees, and are geared to those who are applying for their first-ever credit card and looking to establish a credit history. While many student credit cards don’t provide rewards, some of the best student credit cards in Canada do, offering students the ability to rack up savings in the form of cash back or points.
 

 

Why should a student consider getting a credit card?

While the idea of a student credit card may raise concerns about debt and interest payments from apprehensive parents and students alike, the fact is a credit card is an easy and straightforward way of establishing a young adult’s credit history as he or she transitions into financial independence. By paying off a credit card bill on time every month, students can develop a positive payment history, and in turn, a good credit score.

A good credit score can have a profound impact on a person’s financial future and can make it easier to get approved for everything from rental applications to loans with favourable interest rates. And when used responsibly (as in monthly statements are paid off on time and in full), credit cards can also be an effective way to save on everyday purchases through the earning of rewards. With that being said, missing payments or carrying over a balance can result in costly interest charges and a lower credit score, so it’s critical that students understand that credit cards should be used to buy things that can be paid for in full at the end of each billing cycle.

Also Read: