Best credit cards for newcomers to Canada

Fernando Figueiredo

First things first: welcome to Canada! Here’s hoping your time here will work out well.

Secondly: how’s the financial planning going? Because new immigrants to Canada, just like everyone else, benefit from building up credit.

Credit cards for newcomers to Canada are plentiful, and there are options for everyone, whether or not you have money in reserve. So here are a few of the best options out there – not all of them – and hopefully one of them might sound right for you.

You’ll also learn how Wise and its card can help you if you’re moving to or just arrived in Canada.

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Credit cards for new immigrants to Canada

Before the rundown, here are a few things to bear in mind.

First of all, remember that you’ll need to get a bank account sorted as well. A lot of Canadian banks offer a complete package for newcomers, so you can get a current account and not just a credit card. Here are some of those:

  • BMO NewStart
  • CIBC for newcomers
  • HSBC Canada Newcomers
  • RBC Newcomer Advantage
  • Scotiabank StartRight
  • TD New to Canada

But of course credit cards are their own thing, and you may want to go with a different credit card provider, or simply prioritize getting a decent credit card deal so that you can best capitalize on rewards, cash back, and so on.

Additionally, if you’re coming to Canada to study, you might want to consider international student credit cards specifically, to make the most of some specially tailored offers.

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If you’ve just moved to Canada, you should know about the Wise card - it’s not a credit card, but it will allow you to save when converting your money. In fact, using Wise is 4x cheaper than banks for spending abroad.

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Scotia Momentum Visa

If you’re new to Canada, Scotiabank offers a lot of credit cards that you might want to consider, but a particularly good option is the range of Scotia Momentum Visa credit cards.

There are several of them you can consider: there’s the Momentum No-Fee Visa¹, there’s the standard one which costs $39 a year², and there’s Visa Infinite, which is $120 a year (first year fee waived)³. They all offer cash back: 1% or 0.5% on everything eligible for the No-Fee card, rising to 4% off groceries and recurring payments with the Infinite card.

The No-Fee card might be particularly good for newcomers as a way to build up credit; it has a minimum credit limit of just $500. The Infinite card, meanwhile, is a quality credit card designed for those with a high annual income.

Scotiabank Scene

Another credit card from Scotiabank that newcomers might like is the Scene Visa Card⁴. This is aimed at entertainment lovers, with as many as 5 points per dollar spent at Cineplex. There’s no annual fee to pay, so lovers of the silver screen, especially those on a budget, might be tempted.

Scotiabank have quite a few other possibilities too. There’s the Value Visa, which costs $29 a year and has a low interest rate of 12.99%⁵. There’s the Passport, with extra points for frequent travelers⁶. And there’s an American Express credit card on offer as well, also designed with travelers in mind⁷.

BMO CashBack

Newcomers to Canada looking for a straightforward no-fee credit card that helps them out with daily purchases may want to consider the BMO CashBack Mastercard. It offers at least 0.5% cash back on everything, and 3% on groceries, which for a no-annual-fee card is considerable⁸.

You’ll need to check your eligibility carefully. While it’s certainly possible to get this card as a new immigrant via BMO’s NewStart program, the website notes that for the credit card you need to be a permanent resident, as well as meeting minimum income requirements⁸. A secured credit card from BMO might be an option if you don’t qualify for the unsecured CashBack credit card⁹.

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

Another good option if you’re already a permanent resident of Canada but not necessarily on a high salary is the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard. With no annual fee and an offer of 2% or 0.5% cashback on all purchases¹⁰, the Money-Back Credit Card is open to those with a gross annual income of at least $12,000¹¹.

Probably the most tempting thing about this card is that its 2% cash back offer includes a wide range of categories including groceries, gas, entertainment, recurring bills, and restaurants¹⁰. Also, if you’re earning at least $60,000 – or your household brings in $100,000 overall – the Tangerine World Mastercard offers a few additional features, still with no annual fee¹¹.

RBC Rewards+

RBC’s Newcomer Advantage program offers people new to Canada a package that could include a credit card with a limit of up to $15,000 – and personal banking clients with RBC don’t need to go through a credit history check. So if you’re looking for a whole deal rather than just a card, this could be worth a look.

There’s no annual fee for the Rewards+ Visa card, and you don’t need permanent residency status to apply¹².

TD Cash Back or Rewards Visa

TD offers a range of credit card options for Canadian newcomers via its specially designed New to Canada package, but they particularly mention the Cash Back and Rewards Visa cards¹³.

For both of these, you just need to be a resident, not a permanent resident, and they don’t charge an annual fee. The credit limit can be as low as $500¹⁴ ¹⁵. The difference is in the name: the Cash Back card gives you 0.5% cash back on all purchases and 1% on eligible groceries and gas¹⁴, while the Rewards card lets you earn points – 1 per dollar most of the time; 2 on groceries, restaurants, and bills; and 3 via a special deal with Expedia – that you can redeem on Amazon.ca¹⁵.

It’s possible to get both of those TD credit cards, plus a number of others, as secured cards. That way, for an initial deposit, you can raise your credit limit and build your credit history in Canada even further.1³

Home Trust Secured

Talking of secured credit cards, a couple more are worth a look for newcomers to Canada. The first is the Home Trust Secured Visa. You pay a deposit of between $500 and $10,000, and that amount then becomes your credit limit. There’s no annual fee if you’re OK with a 19.99% interest rate, or you can pay $59 annually for a reduced interest rate of 14.9%. It’s not available in Quebec¹⁶.

The whole thing is designed so that you can build your credit rating up, so it’s a better option if that’s likely a particular concern for you. You don’t get bagfuls of points or cash back, but once your credit rating’s improved, maybe you’ll be able to do that in the future.

Refresh Financial Secured

Another secured credit card designed to help you build your credit rating is offered by Refresh Financial. With this Visa, your credit limit can be as low as $200 (or as high as $10,000), for an annual fee of $12.95 and a maintenance fee of $3 a month¹⁷.

There’s no credit check at all, so as long as you can pay the deposit, you’ll be able to get hold of one¹⁷. Although of course you should make sure you’re able to cover the fees as well.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of variety in the list above, and that’s inevitable: newcomers to Canada take many different forms. If you’re arriving in Canada with a well-paying job already sorted and no concerns about residency status, you’ll want one sort of credit card. If you lack savings or are on a temporary visa, you’ll probably need another.

This article has just looked at credit cards, which are often the financial product you interact with the most on a daily basis. But remember that the card is only part of a bigger picture too. Especially given that so many Canadian banks offer package deals to new immigrants in the country, do consider whether there are advantages to using the same provider for both personal banking and your credit card.

Do you need a credit card at all? Prepaid cards are another option that reduce the risk of running up debt. But of course, if you want to build up a good credit rating, prepaid cards generally don’t help with that.

And remember: if you’re looking for a low-cost, secure and convenient option, then Wise might be just the right one for you. No annual fees, transparent low cost on foreign currency conversion, and free access to local bank details.

Sources:

  1. Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card
  2. Scotia Momentum Visa Card
  3. Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card
  4. Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card
  5. Scotiabank Value Visa Card
  6. Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
  7. Scotiabank American Express Card
  8. BMO CashBack Mastercard
  9. BMO Offers for Newcomers to Canada
  10. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
  11. Tangerine Credit Cards
  12. RBC Royal Bank Newcomer Advantage
  13. TD Banking products for newcomers to Canada
  14. TD Cash Back Visa Card
  15. TD Rewards Visa Credit Card
  16. Home Trust Secured Visa
  17. Refresh Financial Secured Card

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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