icon

2021's Best Student Credit Cards for Canadians

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

Select your priority

Select your rewards preference

Select your annual fees

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* Credit score required Top features
$364 Good Earn cash back
$484 Good Earn Aventura Points + Get a free SPC membership
$343 Good 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.

The estimated dollar amount of benefits you’ll 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 fees:
$0
Interest rates:
19.99% on purchases • 22.99% on cash advances
2021 Winner – Best Student Credit Card 
No fee card that offering an attractive sign-up bonus
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$76
Annual rewards
$288
The estimated dollar amount of benefits you’ll accumulate based on your monthly spending and rewards preference
+ Welcome bonus
$76
+ Annual rewards
$288
- Annual fee
$0
Total first year value
$364
Annual fees:
$0
Interest rates:
19.99% on purchases
22.99% on cash advances
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

Interest rate:

  • Purchase – 20.99%
  • Cash Advance – 22.99% (21.99% for QC residents)
  • Balance Transfer – 22.99

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: December 6, 2022

Rewards:

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

Pros and cons of student credit cards

As a student, having a credit card comes with a lot of great perks and benefits. But there are also some cons that you should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about having a student credit card.

Pros of using a student credit card

  1. Building credit history: When you use your student credit card responsibly, you get the benefit of building your credit history, bit by bit. Once you graduate, a positive credit history will help you finance a car, rent an apartment, or buy a house. A strong credit history that shows timely bill payments increases your creditworthiness and helps you secure a loan in the future.
  2. Student perks: Unlike other credit cards, student credit cards come with perks that are specific to campus life, entertainment and dining rewards in the form of movie tickets, dining discounts, and more. Plus, many student credit cards don’t carry an annual fee. As a student, not only do these perks come in handy, but they’ll also allow you to save money throughout the semester.
  3. Emergency funds: Being a student involves lots of new costs, such as necessary books and device purchases, items which can be quite expensive for a typical student. When you have a student credit card, you can easily pay for such costs and not compromise on your necessities and then responsibly pay off the credit card bill on time. Please remember, when you rely on your credit card for emergency purchases, make sure you can afford to pay off the credit card balance. If not, you’ll face heavy interest charges for any missed payments.
  4. Track your student spending: When you make payments using your student credit card, you can conveniently track your spending through your credit card statements. This will help you analyze your student budget and see if you should make any changes to it.
  5. Secure and convenient: Paying with a credit card gives you the flexibility of going cashless. Best of all, any transaction you make through your student credit card is secured through your payment network. This means you are protected against credit card fraud if your card is misused by someone else. This makes paying through a credit card safer than using cash.
  6. Eligibility: As a starter credit card, student credit cards don’t require a high credit score like other rewards credit cards. If you have no credit history at all, you can still quality for one as long as you are a student.

Cons of using a student credit card

  1. Interest charges: If you carry a balance from month-to-month, you’ll be hit with heavy interest charges on your credit card statement. Interest rates can be as high as 20% on most student credit cards. To avoid paying any interest charges on your student credit card, just ensure that you are signed up for bill alerts, so you never miss any credit card payments.
  2. Temptation to spend: When you get a credit card for the first time, it can be quite easy to go overboard with your spending because of easy credit access. Don’t max out your credit card and, as much as possible, pay the entire balance each month. Check your credit card statement regularly to see what you’ve spent your money on and your credit utilization rate. The rule of thumb is to not use more than 30% of your credit allowance.
  3. Negative effects on your credit history: Any missed payments can negatively affect your overall credit rating. If you don’t think your credit card spending through, you can easily fall into debt and face heavy interest charges. If you think you can’t responsibly handle a credit card as a student, then maybe a student credit card isn’t the right option for you.
  4. Lower limit than regular credit cards: While looking at student credit cards, you’ll notice that they have a lower spending limit compared to other credit cards because they are seen as “starter” credit cards. With time, if you continue to make responsible credit card payments, you can request for a spending limit increase by contacting your credit card provider. If you don’t want to wait for that to happen, you can try opting for a higher limit credit card if you’re eligible.
  5. Lesser perks as compared to other rewards credit card: Most student credit cards come with no annual fee and as a result they have far lesser rewards that are mostly aimed at students. On the other hand, popular rewards credit cards may come with an annual fees but also have far more lucrative rewards such as travel rewards, gas rewards, cash back, and more. If you’re looking to earn more rewards, a student credit card may not appeal to you.
  6. May require a co-signer: If you are under the minimum age requirement, the credit card provider may require you to have a co-signer on your credit card application. The minimum age requirement for a credit card depends on the province you live in. In provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and PEI, the minimum age is 18. In all other provinces and territories, the minimum age for a credit card application is 19.

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.

RATESDOTCA may receive compensation when you click on links to those products or services. however, our content and calculations are objective and free from bias. The opinions expressed are purely those of RATESDOTCA; thus, partners are not responsible for any editorials or reviews that may appear. For current term and conditions on any advertiser or partner’s product, please visit their website.

Latest credit card articles

3 Ways to Protect Your Wallet This Black Friday
Travelling south for the spending frenzy? Ensure you have the right auto and credit card coverage.
Learn More
3 mins read
Tangerine Mastercard Review
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card and the Tangerine World Mastercard offer flexible reward categories to match cardholders’ spending habits.
Learn More
6 mins read
What To Do When Your Credit Card Expires
Whether it’s travel points, cash back, or even a low interest rate, many credit cards have additional perks that can suit your lifestyle.
Learn More
3 mins read