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The best student credit cards in Canada for 2024

Hyder Owainati, Product Manager - Ratehub.ca

April 9, 2024 | Fact checked by: Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking

Credit cards are a fantastic way for students to begin building their credit history early, laying the groundwork to be approved for mortgages and personal loans down the road. Below, we shed light on the best student credit cards in Canada.

Canada’s best student credit cards at a glance

Our methodology: how we choose the best credit cards

How to choose the best student credit card - frequently asked questions

What is a student credit card?


Can you get a student credit card with no income?


What is the best student credit card in Canada?


Can international students get a credit card in Canada?


How old do you have to be to apply for a student credit card?


Should I get a student credit card?


Best student credit cards per category

Best student credit card for cash back

featured

Best for Groceries

First year reward
$331/yr

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

Earn rewards

0.5% – 3% earn rate

Annual fee

$0

This credit card has the trio of features that most appeal to students: 1. no annual fees 2. the ability to earn straightforward rewards, and 3. no income requirement. 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 on a student’s budget. 

Since this is a cash back credit card, students won’t have to deal with the complexities or limitations of loyalty points programs, and can instead get cash to apply to their statement credits. This can be particularly valuable for those 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. This card offers purchase and extended warranty protection and discounts on rental cars from eligible National and Alamo agency locations - which can come in handy if you’re planning a spring break or summer trip.

Best student credit card for Air Miles

featured

First year reward
$222/yr

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

Earn rewards

0.05pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

800 bonus points (a $84 value)

Annual fee

$0

If you’re looking to invest in a points program and regularly shop at Air Miles partner stores (Metro, Shell, HelloFresh, among others), then the BMO Air Miles Mastercard may be up your alley.

This card offers triple the miles for every $25 spent at Air Miles partner stores, double the miles for every $25 spent at any eligible grocery store, charges no annual fee, and there’s no income requirement to qualify. The one caveat to this is that while there are bonus points offerings for certain spending categories, the overall earn rate is still low compared to other rewards credit cards on this list. 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). Cardholders will 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), and 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. 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 student credit card for groceries

Best for PC Points

First year reward
$375,760/yr

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

Earn rewards

10pts – 45pts / dollar earn rate

Welcome bonus

100,000 bonus points (a $100,000 value)

Annual fee

$0

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 at Loblaws-owned grocery stores and for all other purchases.

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. 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 Joe Fresh 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.

Best student credit card for travel

featured

3.0 Ratehub rated

Best for Travel

First year reward
$0/yr

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

Earn rewards

1pt – 4pts / dollar earn rate

Annual fee

$0

If you’re a student who travels regularly – whether it’s to fly back home during the holidays or take spring break and summer trips – the TD Rewards Visa Card could be your ideal match. The no-fee 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 4 points per dollar on travel you book online from the Expedia for TD website, 3 points per dollar on groceries, restaurants and fast food, 2 points per dollar on regularly recurring bill payments and 1 point on everything else. 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 Expedia for TD 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 four times the points on travel booked from Expedia for TD also means students who do travel once or twice a year can earn a significant boost in rewards. This card offers purchase and extended warranty protection and discounts on rental cars from eligible Avis and Budget agency locations - but there is no travel or trip insurance included with the card, so this will cost you extra.

Best student credit card for entertainment

featured

Best for Free movies

First year reward
$0/yr

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

Earn rewards

1pt – 5pts / dollar earn rate

Annual fee

$0

If you and your friends are the type to spend a Saturday night seeing a double-bill at your local cinema, the Scotiabank Scene+ Visa is worth checking out.

The card offers five Scene+ points for every dollar spent at Cineplex theatres or at cineplex.com, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Plus, while you can spend your Scene+ points on future trips to the cinema, you certainly don't have to - the card's flexible redemption model allows you to redeem your rewards for dining, travel, banking and more. Plus, new users can earn up to 7500 bonus Scene+ points within your first 3 months. Must apply by July 1, 2024. The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, and you can add users to your account with their own cards at no additional cost. You’ll also be able to save up to 25% off base rates at participating AVIS locations and at participating Budget locations in Canada and the U.S. when you pay with your SCENE+ Visa card.

Best student card for mobile phone and internet bills

featured

First year reward
$628/yr

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

Earn rewards

2% earn rate

Welcome bonus

$100

Annual fee

$0

If you’re paying for your phone or wifi every month, you might as well get rewarded for it. The Rogers Mastercard is a great cash-back card for students who are Rogers, Fido or Shaw customers. Rogers, Fido or Shaw customers get a high rate of 2% unlimited cash back on everything. Plus, if you regularly shop or travel in the U.S., you’ll get 2% cash back, which is about enough to offset foreign transaction fees.

Guide to student credit cards in Canada

How to apply for a student credit card:

Thankfully, banks make the application process for a student credit card quite easy, but there are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • Make sure you're currently the age of majority in the province or territory where you live. If you're a resident of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec or Saskatchewan, you'll need to be at least 18. For those living anywhere else, 19 is the minimum age of majority.
  • You'll usually need to prove some sort of income, even if it's a part-time job. If you're not currently working outside of school, proof of any other financial support (such as a regular allowance from your parents or a scholarship) will do.

Once you know you're able to apply for a credit card, don't make a hasty decision. There are a lot of options available, so do your research and choose wisely. Think about your lifestyle, needs and spending habits, then select a card that best fits those requirements. It's important to remember that with every credit card you apply for, a hard credit check is done by the provider. One of these won't hurt you too badly, but too many at once will have a negative effect on your credit score. Knowing this, avoid applying for multiple credit cards at one time.

Types of credit cards for students

  1. Student rewards credit cards: Everyone wants a credit card that gives them something in return, and that includes students who are just starting their credit journey. While most student and entry-level credit cards may not offer luxurious rewards like higher-tier cards, there are still options available, such as the Scotiabank Scene+ Visa as mentioned above, that allow the ability to earn rewards and save on future purchases. For students interested in earning points for travel, cards like the TD Rewards Visa offer the ability to use points for travel purchases like flights and hotel rooms.
  2. Student cash back cards: While reward points are great, you may be looking for a card that puts money back into your pocket as you spend. If that's the case, a student cash back card, like the BMO CashBack Mastercard - Student, can earn you a percentage of your total spending in cash back. You can use this money to help pay off your monthly statement, put it into a savings account, or purchase merchandise and gift cards, depending on the card and provider.
  3. No-fee student credit cards: Life as a student can be expensive so opting for a no-fee student credit card can be a wise choice for those on a fixed budget. While some banks charge an annual fee for their more advanced cards, many also offer no-fee alternatives. These cards waive the annual fee, allowing users to spend and build credit without the added stress of a yearly charge.
  4. Low-interest student credit cards: Many students may not have much experience with credit when they activate their first credit card, and understanding interest rates can be unfamiliar territory. It is always recommended to pay off credit card bills in full, but if that's not possible, a low-interest student credit card can help you avoid accumulating compounding interest that can affect both your day-to-day life and your overall credit score. Fortunately, there are options available that offer interest rates below the standard 19-20% of most credit cards.

Tips for using student credit cards

  1. Do your research

If you're in college or university, you will come across many credit card providers eager to sign you up using incentives like welcome bonuses and free gifts. While these can be enticing, they are also temporary. That's why it's important to consider a card's standard features when shopping around. These features will tell you what the card actually offers once the promotional period ends. Here's a short list of things to look for in a good credit card for students:

          • No annual fee - As a student, you likely have a fixed income. The last thing you want are extra fees and charges on top of your monthly bill. Look for student cards with no annual fee - there's plenty available.
          • Low interest - When you're learning how to use credit, you may not immediately develop the habit of paying off your bill in full every month. If that's the case, you don't want a card with high-interest rates. Seek out cards with lower interest rates that give you some flexibility if you happen to carry a balance.
          • Low credit limit - While a card with a high credit limit may seem tempting, it's not a good idea if you're new to using credit. Overspending can quickly lead to debt before you've even graduated. Start with a low-limit card that sets boundaries and prevents you from getting in over your head.
          • Rewards - Many student credit cards offer rewards, but it's important to consider how you plan to use the card and what purchases you'll make. For example, if you frequently eat out with friends, a card that offers high earning potential for take out and restaurants may be a good choice. If you intend to use the card for everyday purchases like gas and groceries, look for one that offers good points or cashback value in those areas. Matching a card's rewards with your own spending habits is the best way to maximize your savings.

2. Pay bills in full and on time

One of the biggest advantages to owning a credit card early in life is the head start it gives you on developing a healthy credit score. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring your monthly statements are paid on time and in full. Set spending limits within your means and use automatic reminders to keep track of bill due dates. This way, you'll never find yourself struggling to pay off a bill and you won't forget to pay your statement on time. 

3. Avoid overspending

Spending more than you can afford to pay off each month can quickly lead to compounded interest and debt, which can be difficult to overcome. Stick to a budget and maintain spending limits. This way, you can steadily build your credit without unnecessary stress. 

Student credit card pros and cons

Pros

  1. Excellent tool for building credit: Establishing a strong credit history and score early on is crucial for major life events such as getting a mortgage or small business loan. Landlords and even some employers may also review your credit report. Developing good credit habits from the beginning is essential.  Credit card providers report your usage and payment history to credit bureaus, which determines your credit score (ranging from 300 to 900). Using your card responsibly and paying off your bills in full and on time boosts your score. Credit bureaus also consider your credit history, including the number and length of your credit card accounts. Getting a credit card early, using it, and maintaining a good standing greatly contributed to your credit development. 
  2. Easy monitoring of spending: Owning a credit card as a student helps you track your monthly expenses and spending patterns. While you can review your transactions on your monthly statement, certain student-branded credit cards offer budget tracking features. These services keep you informed about your spending and send notifications when you approach your credit limit, promoting healthy financial habits.
  3. Earning rewards (point collection or cash back): One huge benefit of using a credit card is the opportunity to earn rewards. While not all credit cards provide rewards, have a rewards card allows you to collect points or cash back on your purchases. Some cards offer a consistent earn rate for all purchases, while others offer higher rewards for specific spending categories such as gas, groceries, or travel. You can redeem these rewards for future purchases, including travel expenses and merchandise, or apply them towards your next statement balance, effectively saving you money.
  4. Being prepared for emergencies: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can lead to unforeseen expenses that exceed your available cash. Thankfully, having a credit card gives you the ability to cover emergency expenses even if you don't have the immediate funds in your bank account. It is important to note that credit card interest and its corresponding debt will accrue regardless of the reason for using your card in an emergency. To avoid harming your credit score, make sure you have a repayment plan in place once your statement arrives. 

Cons

  1. Interest can pile up: One major drawback of owning a credit card is the potential for accruing interest. If you fail to pay your statement on time, an additional percentage is added to your principal balance. Most credit cards carry a purchase interest of around 19.99% (although certain cards offer lower rates). While this may not appear significant initially, it can quickly escalate if left unchecked. Allowing interest to compound over time is a common cause of debt, so it's crucial to remain vigilant and monitor closely.
  2. Risk of overspending: Getting your first credit card is a significant milestone. The freedom and purchasing power it provides can be exhilarating, leading inexperienced users to overspend and treat the card as if it were free money. While that may be enjoyable in the moment, eventually, you will need to repay what you've spend. Credit cards inherently carry the risk of overspending, particularly for impulsive individuals. If this resonates with you, it may be a good idea to start with a secured credit card. Secured cards function like regular credit cards but require an initial cash deposit (usually equal to your credit limit) which can be used by the provider if your bill goes unpaid. 

Can you pay for your student tuition with a credit card?

While certain colleges and universities in Canada accept credit card payments for tuition, it is not a common practice. This is because schools incur merchant processing fees for each credit card transaction, which could amount to millions of dollars if all students opted to pay with credit. To cover these costs, schools that do accept credit cards often charge a processing fee to the student.

In some cases, you may be able to use a third-party payment site, such as Plastiq, to make a credit card payment on behalf of your school. However, using these services comes with additional fees. Typically, third-party sites charge a transaction fee of 2 to 3%. Although it may not seem significant at first, when applied to large tuition payments in the tens of thousands, these fees can add up. Additionally the processing time for these payments is usually around seven days, which can cause unnecessary stress at the beginning of each semester.

Instead of relying on credit cards to tuition payments, consider alternative options such as:

  • Direct deposit (the most common method of online tuition payment in Canada)
  • Cheque
  • Cash
  • Money order

If your school accepts credit card payments without charging fees, and you are confident in your ability to pay off the tuition within a few months, it might be worth considering. However, it is important to note that most Canadian colleges and universities do not accept credit cards as a form of payment, and if they do, they are likely to pass on the associated costs to the student. 

Visit our student personal finance guide.

Financial literacy early in life will pay dividends in your future. Learn more with Ratehub's guide to managing your money as a student.

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