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The 10 Best Student Credit Cards and Credit-Building Products in Canada in 2023

best student credit cards and credit-building products in Canada

    Getting a high-grade point average (GPA) is good, but getting a high credit score is great and has more impact on your future. Getting a student credit card while in school is an important first step to building credit and earning a high score.

    For many young Canadians, a student credit card is their first experience with financing. There are quite a few to choose from, and taking the time to choose a credit card that fits your spending habits is the best way to make sure you’re reaping all the benefits a student credit card offers.

    How do you choose the right card? Use a comparison tool

    But how do you choose the right credit card? Hardbacon provides a credit card comparison tool to help you calculate how much cash back or rewards each card will give you based on your spending. For this example, we used a base of $1,600 in monthly spending. Here is the breakdown:

    We compiled this list of the best credit cards for Canadians, focussing on students. You’ll see that some prepaid and secured credit cards also made the list. Why?

    The lesson: credit is for building a good credit history

    A credit card is a loan. Sometimes it’s called revolving credit. The credit card issuer, like a bank, lends you money that you can use each month. The maximum they will lend you is your credit card’s credit limit. You build your credit history and credit score by how well you borrow and pay back what you spend on your credit card.

    If you want to build a credit score but don’t want to apply for a traditional credit card or you are a foreign student who cannot get a Canadian credit card, secured credit cards can help. Just note that they also report every month how much you borrow, and how much you pay back if you are late or unable to pay back what you owe.

    Prepaid cards do not build your credit history, but they are easy to get and use. One prepaid card in particular, the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard, has a credit-building feature. With prepaid cards and secured credit cards, you can practice managing debt.

    So without further adieu, here are our picks for the best student credit cards in Canada, plus secured and prepaid cards that can help you build your credit.

    1. BMO CashBack Mastercard for Students – Best Overall Student Credit Card

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5fad727ccee903123293938a”]

    The BMO CashBack Mastercard for Students turns your purchases into cash. The cash back rate is 3% for grocery store purchases, 1% on monthly bills such as streaming services or phone payments, and 0.5% on all other purchases.

    Thanks to the welcome offer, the cash back rate for the BMO CashBack Mastercard for Students can be up to 5% during the first 3 months after joining, up to a maximum of $2,500. You could receive up to $125 cash back just for spending money on things you need anyway.

    These rewards do not expire and can be redeemed once you accumulate as little as $1. Rewards are deposited into your BMO checking or savings account, an InvestorLine Self-Directed account or used to pay down your monthly statement. You can even set up an automatic deposit once a certain amount is reached, with a minimum of $25.

    Eligibility RequirementsBMO CashBack Mastercard for Students
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    600
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority
    Enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary institution

    2. RBC ION Visa – Best Student Credit Card for Shopping and Discounts

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    The RBC ION Visa allows you to earn 1.5X Avion points for every $1 spent on:

    • Ridesharing
    • Groceries
    • Public transit
    • Gas
    • Electric vehicle charging.

    You’ll earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other qualifying purchases. Plus, cardholders will earn bonus points when they make purchases at select partner retailers. Points can be converted to a wide range of reward options, such as travel or merchandise in the Avion store. You’ll also get access to exclusive offers at partner retailers like Indigo and restaurants like The Keg.

    On top of in-store discounts at partner retailers, the RBC ION Visa Card also offers a $0.03 discount on every litre of fuel at Petro-Canada and 20% more points, as well as the 3-month DoorDash DashPass subscription. With a DashPass, you can enjoy unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees on qualifying orders of $15 or more when you pay with your eligible RBC credit card.

    Eligibility RequirementsRBC ION Visa Card
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    660
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority

    3. BMO AIRMILES Mastercard for Students – Best Student Credit Card for AIRMILES Rewards

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f3158de92ec22115033b2b5″]

    After AIR MILES filed for bankruptcy in March 2023, the program was quickly bought up by BMO. Since then, the point value has gone through a turbulent year, but the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students is still a great option for BMO users who want a flexible point system that can be used to redeem travel and/or merchandise rewards.

    The card is free for students and cardholders will get 3x the miles for every $25 spent at partner stores, 2x the miles for every $25 spent at eligible grocery stores, and 1 mile for every $25 spent everywhere else. Dream Miles can be used to pay for flights through the AIR MILES website, and Cash Miles can be used to pay for merchandise in the AIR MILES store. You can choose to redeem your points for Cash Miles, Dream Miles, or a combination of both.

    While the AIR MILES program is admittedly not what it once was, BMO has plans to expand the program with an improved travel booking portal, so who knows how much those Miles will be worth in the future? If you’ve already accumulated a nice stockpile of AIR MILES, the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students is an easy way to keep adding to your account.

    Eligibility RequirementsBMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    630
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority
    Enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary institution

    4. NEO Credit Card – Best Student Credit Card for Flexible Rewards

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    With innovative perks like an in-app map that leads you to offers and rewards and a whopping 15% cash back on your first purchase, the NEO Credit Card is made for the next generation of credit card users. Users will earn an average of 5% cash back at over 10,000 retail partners, and there are no limits to how much you can earn.

    Exclusive offers are great, but where the Neo Credit Card really shines is in how it can help you grow your money. Cash back rewards can be deposited right into a Neo Money account, which has an astonishingly high interest rate of 2.25% and doesn’t charge monthly fees, and you can set up regular investment contributions from your Neo Money account with Neo’s Auto-Invest feature.

    If you want to learn more about your finances and earn cash back for shopping, there’s a lot to like about a Neo Credit Card. The Neo credit card also stands out for the way you can customize your perks. Since the card is free, you can opt to add benefits for a monthly fee if you want. These perks take the form of Travel or Health packages, for instance.

    Eligibility RequirementsNeo Credit Card
    Credit Score 600
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalBe a resident of Canada and have a Canadian photo ID
    Provincial age of majority

    5. Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card for Students – Best Student Credit Card for Entertainment

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    The Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card for Students earns Scene+ points at a rate of 2 for every $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, Home Hardware and Cineplex Theatres, and 1 for every $1 spent on everything else. Scene+ points are extremely flexible and can be cashed in for entertainment, shopping, dining, travel rewards, or Scotiabank banking products.

    The Scene+ program has grown rapidly in the last couple of years, replacing AIR MILES at major grocery retailers Safeway and Sobey’s, and their list of partners keeps growing. If you value a point-reward system over cash back, the Scene+ Visa Card for Students is a great one to have in your wallet.

    Eligibility RequirementsThe Scotiabank Scene+ Visa Card – Students
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    600
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority
    Enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary institution

    6. Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa – Best Credit Card for Students Sending Money Abroad

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    The Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card is not a card made specifically for students, but it has no annual fee and earns cash back on places where students spend the most, like coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. In fact, cardholders will earn 4% cash back on purchases in these categories, plus 1.5% on eligible purchases made at grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations and pre-authorized bill payments like car insurance. Note that there are spending limits to these cash back rates, but they are high – $5,000 for 4% and $15,000 for 1.5% – and you will continue to earn 0.5% after you’ve reached the limit.

    If you need to send money abroad, the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa card will also earn you cash back on global money transfers, and you won’t pay transaction fees either. This is a great option for international students not only for that reason but also because users who apply for the card through Simplii’s New To Canada Program can get a credit limit of up to $10,000. Recent or upcoming grads should take an extra close look at this card.

    Eligibility RequirementsThe Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card
    Credit Score 660
    Annual Incomes$15,000
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority

    7. Neo Financial Secured Credit Card – Best Student Credit Card to Avoid a Credit Check

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    The Neo Secured Credit Card is great for students. It is free, and all you need is security funds of a minimum of $50. With this card, you can earn an average of 5% cash back with thousands of Neo partners, and a guarantee of at least 0.5% on all your purchases. What’s better, some participating partners give you up to 15% cash back on your first purchase just for paying with a Neo Secured Credit Card. This card should be your top choice if you are not eligible for the regular Neo Credit Card.

    Eligibility RequirementsNeo Financial Secured Credit Card
    Credit Score N/A
    Annual IncomeN/A
    AdditionalBe a resident of Canada and have a Canadian photo ID.
    Provincial age of majority

    8. KOHO Prepaid Mastercard – The Prepaid Card that Works Just Like a Student Credit Card

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    The KOHO Prepaid Mastercard belongs in every category on this list except it’s not a credit card. It is a prepaid card with a credit-building option. This credit-building option costs $10 a month with a free account, and between $5 and $7 a month with one of the paid plans. There is no interest rate.

    The way it works is that KOHO reports your on-time payments to the credit bureaus, just like with a regular credit card. Voilà! You are building your credit score with money you already have.

    Eligibility RequirementsKOHO Prepaid Mastercard
    Credit Score N/A
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority

    9. The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card for Students – Best Student Credit Card for Earning Aeroplan Points

    Annual Fee: $0

    Welcome Offer: 10,000 Aeroplan points

    Rewards: Up to 1 point per $1 spent

    The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card for Students allows you to earn Aeroplan points while shopping. For every dollar you spend on gas, groceries, or Air Canada, you’ll earn one point per $1. All your other purchases earn one point for every $1.50 spent. In addition, you can earn twice the points at 150 Aeroplan partner brands and 170 retailers in the Aeroplan online retailers.

    The CIBC Visa Aeroplan for Students credit card also offers a six-month subscription to UberPass. This includes free delivery on Uber Eats orders and 5% discounts on purchases over $15.

    Eligibility RequirementsCIBC Aeroplan Visa Card for Students
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    660
    Annual IncomesN/A
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority
    Enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary institution
    Minimum credit limit of $1,000
    *Card available for international students (you must apply in person at a CIBC branch).

    10. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card – Best Student Credit Card for Customizable Rewards

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    Last up on our list of the best student credit cards is the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. You can customize it to suit your spending habits because you can choose 2 categories for earning rewards. Options include grocery and furniture stores, restaurants, hotels and motels, gas stations, recurring bill payments, drugstores, home improvement retailers, entertainment, public transportation and parking. You’ll earn 2% cash back on spending in any 2 of those categories, plus 0.5% cash back on everything else.

    Cash back rewards earned with the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card can be deposited right into a high-interest Tangerine Savings Account, so you can start building your nest egg before you’ve even graduated.

    Eligibility RequirementsTangerine Money-Back Credit Card
    Credit Score
    (estimate)
    660
    Annual Incomes$12,000
    AdditionalResident of Canada
    Provincial age of majority
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    Meagen Seatter is a freelance journalist for Hardbacon. She's been using credit cards to travel-hack her way around the world since 2019. In addition to freelance work, she writes for Investing News Network, a global publication reporting on the latest investment news, developments, and trends. She studies online at Athabasca University and currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.