How to Apply For a Credit Card in Canada?

Credit card applications can be daunting. On the one hand, you need to consider the eligibility requirements for the card. On the other hand, you have to gather all the necessary information you’ll need. Oh, and if you want to maintain a good credit score, don’t forget to consider your application’s impact on your score.

Despite all the things you have to think about, you don’t need to fret. Once you gain a basic understanding of credit card applications, choosing your credit card and applying to get it can be a straightforward process.  

This article will guide you through the process of applying for a credit card. Let’s get started! 

Credit card eligibility

To be eligible for any credit card in Canada, you must fulfil a number of criteria. First, you have to be a Canadian resident (that is, having citizenship, permanent residency, or refugee status in Canada) and have attained the age of majority in your province or territory of residence.

Then, you must have a Canadian credit report. Credit card issuers will consider your credit score when you apply for a card. To avoid surprises (i.e., getting rejected), check your credit score for free. Some financial institutions may also require that you have not declared bankruptcy in the last seven years.

If you went “check,” “check,” and “check” when going through that list, that’s awesome. You are now ready to pick the right credit card for your needs.

Things to consider before your credit card application

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of credit cards on the Canadian market. Make an educated decision on which one to apply for. This way, you can avoid getting one that doesn’t fully suit your needs or, even worse, getting rejected. 

Before starting a credit card application, I recommend you consider things such as: 

  • The card’s interest rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers 
  • The annual and/or monthly fee
  • Rewards, cash-back and discount perks
  • Required income for eligibility 
  • The grace period
  • Insurance included (travel, car rental, and other) 
  • The fees for foreign exchange (FX), over-limit, automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals, etc.
  • Cost for additional cards/authorized users 
  • User experience, company values and customer service 

If you don’t know where to start in the plethora of available options, a credit card comparison tool might be just what you need!

You found the right credit card? The next steps are proving that you meet the requirements, providing government-issued identification and consenting to a hard credit check

What you’ll need to apply for a credit card

It is time to gather the necessary documents to complete your application. The required documents for your credit card application may include employment letters, salary slips, a list of the other credit cards you have, and a summary of your assets and liabilities.

Each card issuer may have slightly different application processes based on risk profiles and internal procedures. To apply for a Scotiabank credit card or loan, for instance, you need to provide the following. 

Scotiabank Checklist to Apply for a Credit Card

Please also note that this is just a guide. I recommend reading up on the requirements for the specific credit card you’re applying for beforehand in order to avoid any mishaps. 

[Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f32a25c92ec22115033b2cf” id=”145744″]

How to apply for a credit card?

Depending on your chosen financial institution, there may be several different ways you can apply for a credit card. Let’s briefly go over each option. 

In-person (branch) applications

In-person applications are usually available with Canada’s traditional, big-five banks (TD, RBC, BMO, CIBC and Scotiabank) and credit unions. This is primarily because these institutions have branches for in-person banking, whereas digital-only banks and less traditional lenders may not. 

If you are applying for your new credit card in person, do your research before walking into the branch. If you don’t have the required documents or information, you may have to return at a later date. 

In-person applications may be a convenient way to apply for those who don’t consider themselves very tech-savvy or have questions about the application process. This way, the teller will be able to walk you through the process, answer your questions and submit the application for you. 

Over-the-phone applications

You may also have the option to apply for your credit card over the phone. In such applications, the teller will walk you through the process and confirm your identity before starting the application. They will then ask for your personal details, including your address, social insurance number (SIN) and employment status. 

When you apply for a credit card over the phone, you may have to send certain documents later on, either physically or electronically, such as copies of your driver’s license or an employment letter. 

Online applications

Applying for a credit card online is usually quick and easy, taking somewhere between 15 to 60 minutes in total. Some credit card providers, such as American Express, also make it a point to give you a decision on your application in a matter of minutes, simplifying and speeding up the process even further (see below!) 

online application

Online credit card applications require you to input all of your details on your own. If you have questions or are stuck, you can hop on a call with a customer service representative for clarification. 

What to do after your credit card application 

Hearing back on your credit card application may take anywhere from just a few minutes to 30 days. On average, however, most applications take about one week to finalize. 

If your credit card application has been approved

If your credit card application has been approved, congratulations! The next steps are to wait a few days to receive your new credit card in the mail. The last thing to do is to activate it. 

You can activate your new credit card by calling the toll-free number on its back or logging onto your digital banking. Once you do this, you’re ready to go! 

Don’t forget that most institutions will require you to insert the card into a point-of-sale (POS) machine the first two times you use it. If the card has contactless payment capability, it will usually activate after the third transaction. 

If your credit card application has been denied 

But what happens if your application is denied? First, don’t fret. While there may be several different reasons as to why this happened, it is likely that you still have other options. 

If the financial institution hasn’t already given you a reason for their rejection, you can contact them to learn more. If the issue was your credit score, I recommend that you explore credit card options for rebuilding your credit score. Otherwise, consider credit cards that are easy to get, such as the ones that accommodate lower annual incomes or more limited credit histories. 

Final thoughts on credit card applications 

There are approximately four steps to a credit card application: choosing the appropriate card, gathering your documents, completing the application and then taking the necessary post-application steps based on the issuer’s decision. 

Once you become familiar with how credit card applications work and the different types of credit cards available to you as a consumer, this is a relatively straightforward process. We just recommend that you carefully minimize the effect on your credit score, as each hard credit check that results from an application can lower your credit score by a few points. 

Selin is a writer with a special interest in all things financial literacy and sustainable banking. When she is not supporting others to make more informed financial decisions, she is either travelling, meditating or reading old classics on her couch.