Best Newcomer Credit Cards In Canada

Best Newcomer Credit Cards In Canada

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated September 15, 2021

Moving to Canada comes with a laundry list of to-do’s, and perhaps one of the most important things to take care of is your finances. In addition to opening a bank account, new immigrants to Canada might also want to look into applying for a credit card.

Having a credit card is great for making convenient purchases, but more importantly, it’s an excellent tool to help you build good credit. 

Banks and lenders use your credit score to measure your financial responsibility. With a good credit score, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for various financial products, including a mortgage to buy a house. And having a credit card — and using it responsibly — is a great way to start building solid credit. 

Credit cards also allow cardholders to accumulate points that can be redeemed for free goods and services. And in an emergency situation, having a credit card can provide access to emergency funds needed to cover an urgent expense. 

Certain credit cards are better suited for newcomers than others, especially when it comes to annual fees and approval requirements. Read on to find out some of the best credit cards for immigrants to Canada.

What Should You Look For In A Credit Card As A Newcomer?

Before you set out to get yourself a credit card after immigrating to Canada, consider the following features in a financial product:

  • Annual fee. As a newcomer to Canada, you’re most likely looking to keep all your expenses to a minimum, and one way to do that is to look for a credit card that comes with a $0 annual fee, or at least a very low fee. If the card comes with a yearly fee, assess the rewards that it offers and make sure they’re worth the fee you have to pay each year. 
  • Rewards. Many credit cards offer some type of rewards system that allows you to earn points with every expenditure you make. Look for a card that offers high cash back rewards for the types of purchases you spend the most on.
  • Perks. Some credit cards offer other perks besides rewards points, including travel insurance, VIP airport lounge access, and purchase protection.
  • Eligibility requirements. Find out what you need to qualify for the credit card you’re interested in and make sure you meet these criteria before applying. 

Best Newcomer Credit Cards In Canada

The following are the top-rated credit cards for newcomers to Canada.

Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card

One of the best cash-back credit cards available is the Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card. As the name suggests, there’s no annual fee to pay, which is a huge perk for those looking to keep costs to a minimum. 

You’ll earn 5% cash-back on all purchases up to $2,000 for the first 3 months. Then, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all eligible gas, grocery, and pharmacy purchases, as well as recurring payments. 

There’s also a super-low introductory rate of 1.99% on balance transfers, so if you’re currently carrying a high-rate balance on another card, you can transfer it over to the Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card and pay it down faster with a near-zero rate.

Annual fee: $0

Purchase interest rate: 19.99% 

Cash advance interest rate: 22.99%

Welcome offer: Earn 5% cash-back on all purchases for the first 3 months; 1.99% introductory rate 

Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on all eligible gas, grocery, and pharmacy purchases, and recurring payments 

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

Another great no-free credit card that offers cash back rewards is the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. This card allows you to earn unlimited Money-Back Rewards on purchases.

You’ll earn 2% cash back on everyday purchases in 2 different categories of your choice, and 0.50% cashback on all other eligible purchases. And if you open a Tangerine Savings Account, you can get a 3rd category added.

For the first 30 days, you can take advantage of a 1.95% transfer balance rate for the first 6 months. 

Annual fee: $0

Interest rate: 19.95% 

Welcome offer: Earn up to 10% cash back on purchases over the first 2 months; 1.95% introductory rate 

Rewards: Earn up to 2% cash back in 2 categories, including groceries, pharmacies, home improvement stores, and more. 

BMO CashBack MasterCard

The BMO CashBack MasterCard comes with no annual fee and allows you to earn cash back on everyday purchases. For the first 3 months, you can earn as much as 5% cash back rewards, then between 0.5% to 3% afterwards, depending on the purchase category.

You can also take advantage of an introductory interest rate of 1.99% on transfer balances for 9 months, which gives you plenty of time to pay down any high-rate balances you might currently be carrying on other credit cards. 

Annual fee: $0

Purchase interest rate: 19.99% 

Cash advance interest rate: 22.99%

Welcome offer: Earn 5% cash back in the first 3 months; 1.99% introductory rate

Rewards: Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% cash back on regular bill payments, and 0.5% cash back on all other purchases

Refresh Financial Secured Card

Designed specifically with credit building in mind, the Refresh Financial Secured Card works a little differently than a typical unsecured credit card. Since this particular card is secured, you’ll need to front the money before you can spend it. As such, you’re not actually spending on credit, but are rather spending your own money that you’ve already deposited into the account. 

With every purchase you make using your Refresh Financial Secured Card, you gradually build up your credit. Eventually, you’ll be able to get approved for a conventional credit card to continue building good credit. 

Annual fee: $12.95

Maintenance fee: $3/month

Interest rate: 17.99%

Credit limit: $200 – $10,000

Home Trust Secured Visa

Another secured credit card option is the Home Trust Secured Visa, which also requires that you make an initial deposit before you can start spending. The great thing is that securing these types of cards is pretty much guaranteed as long as you make the required minimum deposit. After that, you can spend up to your deposit limit before you need to top up your account again.

The card comes with no annual fee and 19.99% in interest, though you have the option to reduce your interest rate to 14.90% by paying a $59 annual fee.  

The card also comes with insurance on eligible items against damage or theft for 90 days from the date of purchase.

Interest rate options: 14.90% interest and $59 annually, or 19.99% interest and $0 annually

Perks: Purchase insurance

Best Newcomer Credit Cards Canada Overview

The following chart provides a brief overview of the best newcomer credit cards in Canada:

CardAnnual FeeInterest RateRewards
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card$0Purchase interest rate: 19.99% Cash advance interest rate: 22.99%Earn 5% cash-back on all purchases for the first 3 months; afterwards, earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card$019.95%Earn up to 10% cash back on purchases over the first 2 months; afterwards, earn up to 2% cash back on eligible purchases
BMO CashBack MasterCard$0Purchase interest rate: 19.99% Cash advance interest rate: 22.99%Earn 5% cash back in the first 3 months; afterwards, earn 3% cash back on eligible purchases
Refresh Financial Secured Card$12.9517.99%N/A
Home Trust Secured Visa-$0 with rate of 19.99%-$59 with rate of 14.90%-19.99% interest and $0 annually-14.90% interest and $59 annuallyN/A

How To Qualify For A Credit Card As A Newcomer

In order to qualify for a credit card as an immigrant to Canada, you’ll first need to open a bank account. All big banks in Canada offer products specifically for newcomers and can help streamline the process of opening an account. At the same time, you may also be able to open a credit card account with the same financial institution, which might be the easier route to take. 

If you’re unable to get approved for an unsecured credit card, there are a few things you can do:

Apply For A Secured Credit Card

An unsecured credit card is a lot more difficult to get approved for and typically requires more stringent approval criteria. In this case, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card, which is much easier to get access to. And by using the card regularly and responsibly, you can build good credit to the point where you may eventually get approved for an unsecured card. 

Apply For A Prepaid Card

Another option available is a prepaid card. These types of financial products let you load money onto them and then use them for making purchases. Keep in mind, however, that a prepaid credit card will not help you build credit.

Get In Touch With Your Bank

If you have a bank account and other financial products with a bank in your home country, give them a call and ask if they offer credit cards in Canada. 

What You Need To Apply For A Credit Card In Canada

As a newcomer to Canada, you’ll need the following to apply for a credit card:

  • Residency status. You’ll need to provide information related to your residency status, including your visa details. 
  • Home address. You’ll probably require a residential address in Canada to secure a credit card.
  • Employment. Having a stable income and job is a requirement for credit card approval. 
  • Financial information. Different financial requirements may exist for newcomers to Canada compared to Canadian citizens. As such, you might need a certain amount of savings in your Canadian bank account for credit card approval.

FAQs About Credit Cards For Newcomers to Canada

What should I do if I can’t qualify for a credit card as a new immigrant?

If you can’t get approved for a traditional unsecured credit card, consider applying for a secured one. These cards are much easier to get approved for and can still be used much like a regular credit card, including to build credit.

Do I need a SIN card to apply for a credit card?

Most credit card issuers will require a SIN when you apply for a card. This will allow them to check your credit to help them determine whether or not you’re eligible to get approved. Having said that, some banks offer products that are geared specifically towards immigrants, which often do not require a SIN.

Do I need a bank account to get a credit card? 

Not necessarily. Having a bank account is often not a requirement. However, a bank account might make it easier to get approved for a credit card.

Final Thoughts

There are so many loose ends to tie up when immigrating to Canada, and dealing with your finances is a big one. Having a credit card in your wallet can afford you many perks, but some are better suited for newcomers than others. Look into each of the cards mentioned here and choose one that best suits your needs. 

Rating of 5/5 based on 1 vote.

Lisa has been working as a writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same. She's used a variety of financial tools over the years and is currently growing her money with Wealthsimple, while stashing some capital in a liquid high-interest savings account so that she always has a financial cushion to fall back on. She's also been avidly using her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect as many Aeroplan points as possible to put towards her travels!

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