What is a Student Credit Card?

James James updated on 21 October 2022

Are you a student in Canada and looking for a way to build credit while still in school? Are you an international student in Canada looking for banking solutions? If you fit into one of those categories, you may be wondering if a student credit card is a solution for you.

As a student, you likely have little to no credit built up. This makes it difficult to be eligible for a traditional credit card. Fortunately, student credit cards are easier to obtain as there are fewer requirements.

Continue reading to learn about what a student credit card is, how they work and which are the best student credit cards.

What are student credit cards?

Student credit cards are designed to help you start building credit. They function like regular credit cards with the exception that they may offer lower credit limits and little to no reward perks.

Even if you are a student with limited or no income, some banks have student-specific options available with perks like student discounts and even cashback.

If you need to buy your books for your courses, buy groceries or a monthly public transit pass, there is no reason you should not be earning rewards on each purchase with a credit card. A student card can help you build credit and practice financial responsibility.

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How do student credit cards work?

Student credit cards work essentially just like any other credit card. The main differences are the credit limits may not be as high and there may be fewer, if any, reward perks. They do, however, help students to build credit.

If a student credit card is used responsibly over the lifetime of the account - meaning a low balance is maintained and all payments are timely - once you have graduated you will have established credit and may be eligible for a traditional credit card.

What are the pros and cons of student credit cards?

There are some benefits of student credit cards, as well as disadvantages. Arguably one of the biggest benefits of a student credit card is the ability to start building credit while still in school.

Pros:

  • Build credit
  • Peace of mind in the event of emergencies
  • Ability to earn rewards and points
  • Builds money management skills

Cons:

  • High-interest rates compared to traditional credit cards or lines of credit
  • Low credit limits
  • Not all banks offer rewards or perks

Which is the best student credit card for me?

As with any type of credit card, what card is best varies from individual to individual. When it comes to student credit cards, some cardholders are looking for low rates while others may want cashback or rewards on their grocery shopping.

The “big five” banks in Canada: RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD Canada Trust, and Scotiabank have some of the best offers on the market for students.

By using our credit card comparison tool you will be able to quickly compare student credit cards and find the one that works best for you.

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How do I apply for a student credit card?

Applying for a student credit card with the majority of banks is straightforward. To be eligible to apply, you must be a permanent resident of Canada, meet the age of majority, and be able to provide a valid email address. Most banks even allow you to apply online. With banks like TD, the application usually only takes a few minutes and can be approved right away.

How old do I need to be to apply for a student credit card?

If you are a student in Canada and also a Canadian resident, you will need to have reached the age of majority in your province to be able to apply for a student credit card.

The age of majority is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. The age of majority is 19 in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Yukon.

Province or TerritoryAge of Majority
Alberta
18
British Columbia
19
Manitoba
18
New Brunswick
19
Newfoundland and Labrador
19
North West Territories
19
Nova Scotia
19
Nunavut
19
Ontario
18
Prince Edward Island
18
Quebec
18
Saskatchewan
18
Yukon Territories
19
Age of Majority by Canadian Province or Territory

What to consider when getting a student credit card?

Taking out a credit card in any sense can be a big decision and you may be wondering what to consider before taking out a student credit card. It is important you understand how to use a credit card responsibly. If you are unable to manage your student credit card, it could have serious negative consequences for your financial future. Evaluate annual fees, interest rates and rewards.

You should also weigh what banks will require of you when taking out a student credit card:

  • Your income
  • Employment status and whether you are a part-time or full-time employee.
  • Your credit history (if already existing)

Finally, do not forget to read the fine print.

Can I get a student credit card without a credit history?

If you do not have a credit history, it does not automatically mean you will not be eligible for a student credit card. However, it may be more difficult to obtain a credit card.

If you do not already have a credit history, your best bet is to check the requirements of the card you are applying for.

If a credit history is a requirement for the specific card you're interested in, you may consider a different credit card or issuer.

Good to know

Both secured credit cards and prepaid cards make good alternatives for new borrowers who do not yet qualify for an unsecured credit card.

Can International students apply for a student credit card in Canada?

Yes. Student credit cards for international students are available. However, the credit cards that Canadian banks issue to international students may have some limitations.

There are five major banks in Canada: RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD Canada Trust, and Scotiabank. Each of the big five banks has credit card packages designed for international students.

If you want to apply for a student credit card, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Your valid study permit
  • A government-issued ID (passport or Canadian driver’s license)
  • Enrollment letter or student ID or course schedule (depends on the bank’s requirement)
  • SIN number (depends on the bank’s requirement)

Each bank will have different cards and offers available to you. You can contact the banks for further information.

Why was I denied a student credit card?

While student credit cards are usually relatively easier to get approved for than a traditional credit card, they are not always guaranteed. Some reasons why you may have been turned down for a student credit card are:

  • Poor existing credit
  • Lack of income
  • A high number of credit inquiries
  • Insufficient proof of enrollment
  • Identity theft

If you were denied for any of the above reasons, there are a few steps you can take to try to rectify the situation or at the very least be able to take the appropriate steps to fix the reasons for the denial.

  • Review the denial notice
  • Check your credit reports
  • Explore other credit options such as a secured card

Good to know

If you are denied for poor existing credit, you have options to begin rebuilding. You can do so by taking out a secured credit card. See our secured credit card guide.

What happens to my student credit card after I graduate?

Once you graduate you may be wondering what happens next for your student credit card. Many people think they should cancel their card but before you do that, it may not be in your best interest to do so. Cancelling or closing a credit card always has the potential to negatively affect your credit score.

Depending on the bank that issued your card, you may be able to continue using your card as before as long as it's in good standing. It would be a good idea to contact your bank once you graduate. They may choose to reclassify your card or even offer an upgrade.

What’s the difference between a student credit card and a student line of credit?

A student credit card and a student line of credit may seem similar as they are both a form of credit. They both target student borrowers and help them pay for expenses, while also building credit at the same time. Some of the major differences between a credit card and a line of credit are a credit card you can swipe as needed. A line of credit you have to actively borrow against.

Type of creditStudent Line of CreditStudent Credit Card
Pros
Low-interest rates
Interest-only payments during school and the grace period following graduation
Boosts your credit score so long as payments are made on time
Repayment plans that can be tailored to your budget and timeline
You could get more money than a student loan
You only owe what you use
Opportunity to build your credit score
Some cards offer rewards on select or all purchases
Some cards may offer discounts
Cons
You will probably need a cosigner if you do not have a stable income
You have to make interest payments while in school
Usually a lower limit
Very high-interest rates
Student credit card vs student line of credit

When deciding which is best for you, do not forget to weigh the pros and cons of each for your own financial circumstances. You can shop and quickly compare student credit card offers using our comparison tool.

Compare dozens of Canada's top credit cards now

Find your best credit card
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