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2021's Best Student Credit Cards for Canadians

Compare the best student credit cards to find the one that matches your needs.

Student credit cards 101

If you’re a post-secondary student, you may be eligible for a student credit card. Student credit cards help you build your Canadian credit history, which is necessary to become eligible for a car lease, mortgage and much more down the line. Student credit cards not only help you complete day-to-day financial transactions, but they also allow you to enjoy certain student advantages such as sign-up bonuses, low-to-no annual fee, and great rewards programs.

When applying for a student credit card, ask the following questions to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck:

  • What is the interest rate on the card? - Some students use credit as a way to live above their means during what can be a financially stressful time. As a student, it’s important to note that no rewards are worth the interest charges you will see on your credit card statement. Also, carrying a large unpaid balance is not the type of credit history you want to build.
  • Is there an annual fee? – Most student credit cards have a zero annual fee – for good reason, as fees are usually associated with cards that offer luxury rewards or insurance, features that not many students would benefit as much from as a young professional might (you will get there though!)
  • How beneficial is the rewards program? – Student credit cards generally don’t carry the best rewards programs, but remember these cards are more about the flexibility to pay with “plastic” and building your credit history, rewards and perks are an added bonus! However, some student credit cards like the Scotiabank SCENE® Visa Card-Student allow you to earn free movies throughout the year, saving you money as a student.

The Best of Finance Winners for 2021: Best Student Credit Card

Students are often overloaded with expenses and costly fees throughout their post-secondary education — tuition, expensive; student housing, expensive; textbooks, expensive. Not to mention the mile-long list of program requirements like laptops and any newfangled technology that is all the rage that year.

The list only continues with cost-of-living expenses like groceries or transportation. Fortunately, students have a few options to score some extra cash and save money. Many grocery stores and retailers provide student discounts, typically around 10% for groceries and possibly more at events.

Students can also get cash back or points with the right rewards credit card. Student credit cards usually have no fee and few eligibility requirements. Some cards require proof of enrollment in a post-secondary institution, but typically do not require a credit check and have high approval rates.

We compared the leading student credit cards using our Best of Finance methodology and ranked the cards that provided the highest value.

  First year value* Annual fee Top features
$364 $0 Earn cash back
$484 $0 Earn Aventura Points + Get a free SPC membership
$343 $0 Earn AIR MILES
Earn cash back
Earn Aventura Points + Get a free SPC membership
Earn AIR MILES

Winner: BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for students


The BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for students rewards scholars at an accelerated rate for essential purchases like groceries and provides a straightforward introduction to credit. There is no need to decipher the value of rewards; you will get a percentage of each purchase back and have more money in your wallet.

Get up to 5% cash back for the first three months. Conditions apply. After your first three months, earn 3% cash back on your first $500 in grocery purchases and 1% cash back on your first $500 in recurring bill payments each month. Earn 0.5% unlimited cash back on everything else.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $364 cash back in the first year.

First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$76
Annual rewards
$288
Annual fee
$0
Total first year value
$364
BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* for students

card image
Welcome bonus
$76
BMO Cash Back Rewards
Annual rewards
$288
BMO Cash Back Rewards
Annual fee
$0

2021 Winner – Best Student Credit Card 
No fee card that offering an attractive sign-up bonus
Details at a glance Collapse details
First Year Value is the estimated dollar amount of benefits you will accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
Welcome bonus
$76
Annual rewards
$288
annualFee
$0
Total first year value
$364
Welcome bonus
$76
Annual rewards
$288
2021 Winner – Best Student Credit Card 
No fee card that offering an attractive sign-up bonus
Details at a glance Collapse details

Runners-up: Best Student Credit Card

CIBC Aventura® Visa * Card for Students

The CIBC Aventura® Visa* Card for Students offers slightly more rewards than our 2021 winner; however, this value is based on travel redemption. If students redeem their rewards for statement credits (i.e. cash value), they will see around $132 in rewards instead. Additionally, the CIBC Rewards program is not as straightforward for new credit card users, although it provides excellent flexibility.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $484 in points in the first year.

Annual fee:

$0

Limited time offer/bonus:

Earn up to 2,500 bonus Aventura Points, 500 points for completing each of the following activities within 60 days:

  • Share your email address with CIBC
  • Sign up for eStatements
  • Add an authorized user to the account
  • Hold any eligible CIBC Chequing Account
  • Add your card to Apple Pay® or Samsung Pay or Android Pay™

Offer expiry date: N/A subject to change without notice

Rewards:

  • Earn one point for every $1 spent on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases.
  • Earn one point for every $1 spent on travel through the CIBC Rewards Centre.
  • Earn one point for every $2 spent on all other purchases.

BMO AIR MILES Mastercard* for Students

The BMO AIR MILES Mastercard* for Students offers flat-rate rewards. Get one Mile for every $25 spent on all purchases. Plus, earn additional Reward Miles at participating AIR MILES Partners, like Metro and Sobeys.

While AIR MILES offers one of the best redemption values for travel rewards, cardholders must spend more to start seeing their reward balance grow. Again, programs like these are not as straightforward as cash back, which is why this card ranks third on our list of starter credit cards.

According to our Best of Finance methodology, the average Canadian could earn around $343 in Miles in the first year.

Annual fee:

$0

Limited time offer/bonus:

  • Get 800 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,000 in the first three months of opening the account.

Offer expiry date: October 31, 2021

Rewards:

  • Earn three Miles for every $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners.
  • Earn one Mile for every $25 spent on all other purchases.

*Rates, product information, and reward estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice. This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely those of RATESDOTCA. Information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting, May 18, 2021. Read our full disclaimer.

The benefits of having a student credit card

A student credit card is a must have for post-secondary students. Here are the reasons why you need a student card:

  • Student credit cards come with no annual fee, student-friendly rewards programs, and additional ways to help you save money as a student.
  • Student rewards programs can come with great perks like free movie tickets and retail discounts. What’s not to like?
  • Credit card lenders also provide you with protection from any unauthorized purchases and fraud.

Frequently asked questions about student credit cards

Looking for a student credit card? Here’s what you might be wondering.

What do I need to be eligible for a student credit card?

To be eligible for a student credit card, you must have the following:

  • Proof of enrollment in a full-time college or university program
  • Student visa (if you’re an international student)

What are credit scores?

Your credit score is a three-digit score that reflects your Canadian payment history and the amount of debt you currently have. Credit scores can range from 300 to 900. If your credit score is anywhere between 660 to 900, you will be seen as having good credit. A higher credit score shows the lender that you are more likely to repay your debts.

As a post-secondary student who is applying for their first credit card, you don’t have to worry about having a comprehensive credit history prior to applying for your card. For many people, student credit cards are actually the first step to building your credit history and thus your credit score. Once your credit card is issued, ensure you pay the balances on your credit card on time so you can maintain a good credit standing. A credit score over 780 is a good target to have. Learn more about credit scores.

What is the best way to use a student credit card?

Your student credit card should be used responsibly to help you build your credit history. In order to build and maintain a good credit score, make sure you pay off your credit card balance before the due date. Also, be aware of your credit limit and never spend more than your limit. For most student credit cards, the limit is usually around $500-$1000. See the best five tips on using your student credit card.

What is the best student credit card?

The best student credit card is the one that meets all your student needs while also helping you save money through great rewards like discounts and freebies. As most student credit cards offer no annual fee, look for a credit card that offers you features that you’ll actually use. Some student credit cards also come with sign-up bonuses like free movie tickets. These sign-up bonuses can help you kick-start your benefits.

Ready to apply for student credit card?

At RATESDOTCA, you can compare all the best student credit cards and see which one matches your student needs the most. See the best Canadian student credit cards today.

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