Best credit cards for newcomers in Canada 2024

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Updated: May 10, 2024

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For newcomers in Canada, itā€™s important to start building healthy credit as soon as you land. Credit shows banks how well you can handle money. With a good credit score, banks are more likely to lend you money for purchasing a car or a house. Getting a credit card and paying off the balance each month is a simple way to boost your credit score.

Credit cards also let you shop online, access emergency funds and earn rewards. While it's tough for newcomers without credit history to get a credit card, Canada offers special opportunities to make it easier. Here are the best credit cards for newcomers in Canada.

The best credit cards for new immigrants in Canada

Card name Card details Get started
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card ā—¦ $0 annual fee
ā—¦ 1% cash back at gas stations, grocery stores, drugs stores, and on recurring payments.
ā—¦ 0.5% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
Apply Now
Scotiabank American Express ā—¦ No annual fee
ā—¦ 3x Scene+ points at Sobeys, Safeway, Freshco and more
ā—¦ 2x Scene+ pointsĀ¹ on dining; eligible entertainment purchases; eligible gas and daily transit; eligible select streaming services
ā—¦ 1x Scene+ point on all other eligible everyday purchases.
Apply Now
ScotiabankĀ® Scene+ā„¢ Visa* ā—¦ $0 annual fee
ā—¦ 2x Scene+ points at Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland & Participating Co-ops, FreshCo and more; home hardware; Cineplex.
ā—¦ 1x on all other eligible everyday purchases
Apply Now
BMO CashBackĀ® MasterCardĀ®* review ā—¦ No annual fee
ā—¦ 3% cash back on groceries (up to a monthly max of $500)
ā—¦ 1% on any recurring bill payments* (up to $500 per month)
ā—¦ 0.5% on all other eligible purchases*
Apply Now
RBC Cash Back Mastercard ā—¦ $0 annual fee
ā—¦ 2% unlimited cash back on groceries
ā—¦ 1% unlimited cash back on everything else
Apply Now
Home Trust Secured Visa ā—¦ No annual fee
ā—¦ No required annual income
Apply Now
KOHO Prepaid Mastercard ā—¦ No annual fee
ā—¦ No required annual income
ā—¦ 1% cash back on groceries and transportation
ā—¦ 3% interest earned on your account balance
ā—¦ Free ATM withdrawals and e-transfers
Apply Now

How can newcomers get a credit card with no Canadian credit history?

You can easily get a credit card as a newcomer in Canada as banks have special offers for all newcomers. Banks offer two main types of credit cards: secured cards, which require an initial deposit to cover any unpaid balance, and unsecured cards, which can be obtained without any deposit requirements. Canadaā€™s top banks offer special programs specifically designed for the needs of immigrants, including providing them with access to unsecured credit cards. Access to unsecured credit cards is a privilege that other Canadians without credit history typically do not have.

If a new immigrant is only interested in obtaining a credit card and does not wish to join a bankā€™s complete banking program for new immigrants, they can obtain a secured card instead.

Unsecured credit cards via special Canadian bank programs for newcomers

Becoming familiar with the Canadian banking system, choosing the right credit products, and setting up a solid financial plan can be intimidating tasks for a new immigrant. Thankfully, Canadaā€™s top banks offer special bank programs specifically designed for the needs of immigrants, including providing them with unsecured credit cards.

Scotiabank's best credit cards for newcomers

Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card

Apply now

5% cash back

Fair

Earn 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases); Plus, get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months (22.99% after that; annual fee $0)

Expires

Nov 1, 2024

Cash back at gas stations, grocery stores, drugs stores, and on recurring payments.

1%

Cash back on all other eligible purchases.

0.5%

Off base rates at Avid and Budget locations in North America.

25%

Purchase APR

19.99%

Balance Transfer Rate

22.99%

Cash Advance APR

22.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

2.50%

Recommended Credit Score

Fair

Pros

  • Earn up to 7,000 welcome bonus rewards points.

  • Earn up to three Scene+ points on everyday spending.

  • Earn points across five different categories, including food, travel, entertainment and streaming.

  • No annual fee.

Cons

  • The welcome bonus is lower compared to other rewards cards.

  • American Express isnā€™t accepted everywhere.

  • Limited insurance coverage.

As its name would suggest, the Scotia MomentumĀ® No-Fee Visa* Card is inexpensive because it does not come with an annual fee. Itā€™s unsecured, meaning you wonā€™t need to give the bank a cash deposit in exchange for a credit limit. The card also comes with a welcome bonus. With this card, you can earn points on essentials like gas, groceries, drugstore purchases, and recurring bills

Earn a solid 1% cash back rate on these categories, catering to your routine shopping needs. Plus, enjoy a welcome bonus offering 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases within the first three months. And for those looking to manage existing debt, take advantage of the promotional balance transfer offer of 0% on transfers made within the first six months, albeit with a 2% transfer fee. This offer is valid from November 1, 2023, to October 31, 2024.

However, the Scotia MomentumĀ® No-Fee Visa* Card has its limitations. Non-essential spending rewards are lower at 0.5%, and the redemption process is somewhat inflexible, allowing redemption only once a year in November. Additionally, the card lacks comprehensive insurance coverage, although optional insurance can be purchased, and a 2.5% foreign transaction fee may not be ideal for travelers or those making purchases in foreign currencies.

Who should consider this card? If you appreciate maximizing your dollar's value and seek a practical credit card that aligns with your budget, the Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card could be the right choice. It's especially beneficial if your regular expenses primarily consist of groceries, gas, and recurring bills. This card is also suitable for newcomers to credit cards, offering a simple way to build credit and earn rewards, as well as students looking for a cash-back card without an annual fee and with a low introductory rate on balance transfers.

Scotiabank American Express

Apply now

up to 7K pts

Good

about new welcome offers by email

Scene+ points on every $1 you spend at Sobeys, Safeway, Freshco and more

3x

Scene+ pointsĀ¹ for every $1 you spend on restaurants, fast food, drinking establishments and other eligible grocery stores. Includes popular food delivery and food subscriptions.

2x

Scene+ pointsĀ¹ for every $1 you spend on eligible entertainment purchases. Includes movies, theatre and ticket agencies stores.

2x

Scene+ pointsĀ¹ for every $1 you spend on eligible gas and daily transit. Includes ride shares, buses, subway, taxis and more

2x

Scene+ pointsĀ¹ for every $1 you spend on eligible select streaming services

2x

Scene+ point for every $1 spent on all other eligible everyday purchases.

1x

Purchase APR

19.99%

Balance Transfer Rate

22.99%

Cash Advance APR

22.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

2.50%

Recommended Credit Score

Good

Pros

  • Earn 7,000 welcome bonus rewards points.

  • Earn up to three Scene+ points on everyday spending.

  • Earn points across five different categories, including food, travel, entertainment and streaming.

  • No annual fee.

Cons

  • The welcome bonus is lower compared to other rewards cards.

  • American Express isnā€™t accepted everywhere.

  • Limited insurance coverage.

Looking for a rewarding credit card option as a new immigrant in Canada? Consider the Scotiabank American Express Card, tailored for those who want to earn Scene+ rewards without dealing with annual fees. Despite being fee-free, this card boasts an impressive rewards structure that rivals pricier options. Earn three points for every dollar spent at select grocery stores like Foodland, Sobeys, and FreshCo, and two points for every dollar spent on dining, entertainment, gas, ridesharing, and streaming services. This card also offers mobile device insurance, typically reserved for premium cards, along with car rental discounts and a welcome bonus of 7,000 Scene+ points.

Who's this card for? It's ideal for newcomers to the credit card world, especially young adults who've been building credit with basic offerings from their banks. If you're keen on exploring credit card rewards without committing to an annual fee, this card is for you. While its welcome bonus might not be the highest, the focus here is on starting your rewards journey affordably.

Key benefits:

ā—¦ Up to three points per dollar spent.

ā—¦ Mobile device insurance.

ā—¦ Extended warranty protection and purchase security.

Insurance coverage:

In addition to mobile device insurance, enjoy purchase security, and extended warranty protection. Optional insurance packages are available for additional coverage.

If you're seeking a no-fee card with solid rewards and essential insurance coverage, this card offers a practical option. However, if you prioritize premium features like travel insurance and lounge access, you might consider other options.

Ā¹ Conditions Apply. Visit here for the Scotiabank American ExpressĀ® Card to learn more.

ScotiabankĀ® Scene+ā„¢ Visa*

Apply now

up to 5K pts

Good

about new welcome offers by email

Scene+ points on every $1 you spend at Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland & Participating Co-ops, FreshCo and more.

2x

Scene+ points4 for every $1 you spend at Home Hardware, Home Building Centre, Home Hardware Building Centre, Home Furniture locations in Canada and online at homehardware.ca.

2x

Scene+ points for every $1 you spend at Cineplexā—Š theatres or at cineplex.com.

2x

Scene+ point for every $1 spent on all other eligible everyday purchases

1x

Save up to 25% off base rates at participating Avis locations and participating Budget locations in North America.

25%

Purchase APR

20.99%

Balance Transfer Rate

22.99%

Cash Advance APR

22.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

2.50%

Recommended Credit Score

Good

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Generous rewards with 2X points at Cineplex and grocery stores

  • Low redemption thresholds for various rewards

  • 5,000 bonus Scene+ points as a sign-up bonus

  • Points don't expire

  • Car rental savings up to 25%

Cons

  • Limited earning potential for high spenders

  • Limited travel-related benefits compared to travel cards

  • Focus on entertainment and dining rewards may not suit all users

  • Limited sign-up bonus compared to cards with annual fees

  • Car rental savings limited to specific locations

New immigrants interested in these cards should contact Scotiabank about joining their Scotiabank StartRightĀ® program. It is created for Canadian Permanent residents from 0ā€“3 years in Canada, International Students and Foreign Workers.

Ā¹ Conditions Apply. Visit here for the ScotiabankĀ® Scene+ā„¢ Visa* Card to learn more.

BMO's best credit card for new immigrants

BMO CashBackĀ® MasterCardĀ®

Apply now

5% cash back

Good

Get 5% cash back in your first 3 months*

Expires

Jun 1, 2024

Cardholders earn 3% (up to a monthly max of $500) cash back on groceries

3%

Cardholders can earn 1% (up to $500 per month) on any recurring bill payments*

1%

Cardholders can earn 0.5% (no monthly max) on all other eligible purchases*

0.5%

Purchase APR

20.99%

Cash Advance APR

22.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Recommended Credit Score

Good

Required Annual Personal Income

$15,000

Pros

  • No Annual Fee: A rare find in Canada for a cash back card

  • A generous 3% cash back on groceries (up to $500 monthly)

  • Easily redeem from $1, set up automatic redemptions, or use as a statement credit

  • Additional perks include discounts on rentals, free supplementary cards and show discounts

Cons

  • Outside of groceries and recurring payments, the standard earn rate drops to 0.5%

  • Monthly caps on top earn rates for groceries and recurring payments

  • A 2% balance transfer fee applies

  • The interest rate on the remaining balance transfer amount increases after the introductory period

New immigrants interested in the BMO CashBackĀ® MasterCardĀ®* should contact BMO about its Newcomers to Canada program, which is designed for foreign workers, new immigrants and international students residing in Canada. People who plan on moving to Canada soon can also create bank accounts and execute wire transfers in advance of their arrival. This BMO newcomer credit card is worth checking out!

BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information

*Terms and conditions apply

ā€ Based on a comparison of the non-promotional grocery rewards earn rate on cash back credit cards with no annual fee as of January 4, 2023.

RBC's best credit card for newcomers

RBC offers new immigrants both a cash back and rewards card.

RBC Cash Back Mastercard

Apply now

0.99% intro

Good

about new welcome offers by email

Up to 2% unlimited cash back on groceries

2%

Up to 1% unlimited cash back on everything else

1%

Link your card and instantly save 3Ā¢/L on fuel and 20% more Petro-Points at Petro Canada

$0.03

Get 50 Be Well points for every $1 spent on eligible products at Rexall

50

Purchase APR

20.99%

Balance Transfer Rate

22.99%

Cash Advance APR

22.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Recommended Credit Score

Good

Pros

  • No annual fee, no fee for additional cardholders

  • Up to 2% cash back on groceriesĀ², up to 1% cash back on everything elseĀ²

  • No limit on cash back earnedĀ¹

  • Save money on gas at Petro-Canadaāµ

  • Easy approval requirements

Cons

  • Cash back rewards on groceries drop to 1% after you accumulate $6,000 in grocery charges

  • No travel insurance or other perks

  • No welcome bonus

  • 0.5% applies to the cash back on everything else up to $6,000 but what is impressive is that for all non-grocery spend the cash back rate actually goes up from the 0.5% to 1% on spend over $6,000, rewarding as your spend more instead of diminishing

  • No travel insurance or other perks

  • No welcome bonus

The above card may be available to Permanent or Temporary Residents, international students, refugees and those who plan on moving to Canada soon via the RBC Newcomer Advantage Plan.

Refer to RBC Page for up to date offer terms and conditions.

KOHO's best prepaid card for newcomers

Koho Mastercard

Apply now

Poor

about new welcome offers by email

cash back on groceries and transportation

1%

interest earned on your account balance

3%

Purchase APR

0.00%

Cash Advance APR

0.00%

Annual Fee

$0

Recommended Credit Score

Poor

Required Annual Personal Income

$0

Required Annual Household Income

$0

Pros

  • A no-fee account option

  • Earn up to 5% cash back on your purchases

  • Accepted worldwide, wherever Mastercard is accepted

  • Four account tiers, so thereā€™s something for everyone

  • Earn interest on your account

  • RoundUps feature helps you save

  • Financial coaching is available

  • Features like Credit Building (to help you build your credit history) and Cover (to protect you from overdrawing your account)

  • Compatible with Apple Pay

  • Joint account option for families and couples

Cons

  • No physical branches or tellers

  • No RRSP, TFSA or RESP accounts

  • Customer service not on par with the big banks

  • Missing some banking features, like wire transfers, currency exchanges and multiple lines of business like financial planning, mortgages and insurance

Prepaid credit cards are simple to use: you load your own money onto the card before spending. With no debt incurred and no interest charges, it's a hassle-free way to shop. Plus, you earn points and can build credit history while enjoying unique card benefits. 

Theā€ÆKOHO Prepaid MastercardĀ®ā€Æallows you to earn cash back rewards and interest while you shop, which are rare perks for a prepaid card. You can earn 1% cash back on groceries and transportation and 3% interest on your total account balance. This reloadable card also comes with an integrated app that gives real-time insights into your daily spending. 

Secured credit cards for new immigrants

If youā€™re not interested in signing up for a complete immigrant banking program, but still wish to improve your credit score, we recommend getting a secured credit card. A secured credit card is an easy way to get access to credit without a credit history, or with bad credit. Banks simply ask applicants to match their desired credit limit (the maximum amount of money you can spend with the credit card) with a cash deposit beforehand.

Secured cards are great for improving your credit score, because their card issuers frequently report repayment performance to Equifax and TransUnion, the two Canadian credit bureaus that track Canadiansā€™ credit histories. However, secured credit cards do have some drawbacks: they rarely offer the same level of rewards or cash back as unsecured cards, and they donā€™t have high credit limits unless you have a lot of spare cash to offer as the deposit. Some of the best secured credit cards in Canada are listed below:

Home Trust Secured Visa

Apply now

Good

No annual fee

Purchase APR

19.99%

Cash Advance APR

21.99%

Annual Fee

$0

Recommended Credit Score

Good

Required Annual Personal Income

$0

Required Annual Household Income

$0

Pros

  • Reports to credit bureaus every month, helping to quickly build your credit rating.

  • Requires a $500 minimum deposit, with the credit limit scaling on a 1:1 basis all the way up to $10,000.

  • High approval rate

  • Monthly credit reporting to major credit agencies every month, expediting the credit repair or improvement process

  • Low foreign transaction fee

  • Cardholders get a 21-day no-interest grace period

  • Low monthly minimum payment options; pay either the greater of $10 or 3% of the monthly balance.

Cons

  • Standard interest rate although, if you opt for the annual fee version of the card, it comes down

  • No rewards or perks

  • Charges a monthly inactivity fee of $12 if the card is not used for a period of 12 months.

  • Despite a high approval rate, there are still chances of being denied based on deal-breaking factors

  • No welcome bonus offer as it is designed for credit building

Home Trust offers multiple versions of their secured card with differing fee and rate options depending on your budget and spending habits. We recommend the Home Trust Secured Visa with an annual fee of $0 and a Purchase APR of 19.99%. A higher interest rate isnā€™t detrimental as long as applicants are serious about paying off their card balances in full each month.

Welcome to Canada!

Canada is one of the most friendly and welcoming places in the world, and this characteristic extends to its treatment of new immigrants. Any of the above credit cards and banking programs will help you establish a healthy financial future in this country.

Interested in additional personal finance tips for new immigrants? Weā€™ve set up a page that provides an overview of all the major financial concerns for new immigrants. Check it out and let us know if you have any other questions that we didnā€™t cover.

BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information.

FAQs about credit cards for new immigrants in Canada

  • Can newcomers get a credit card in Canada?

    +

    Yes, newcomers to Canada benefit from establishing a credit history. They can easily apply for credit cards, earning rewards for everyday purchases and online shopping while building credit.

  • How to get a credit card for the first time in Canada?

    +

    1- Ensure you're of legal age in your province (typically 18 to 19). 2- Hold permanent residence or citizenship in Canada. 3- Obtain a social insurance number. 4- Confirm no association with an undischarged bankruptcy.

  • Why is it difficult for newcomers in Canada to get credit?

    +

    As a newcomer to Canada, building credit poses challenges since your credit history doesn't transfer. You'll need to start anew by purchasing a cell phone, applying for a credit card, managing expenses diligently, and utilizing credit-building tools to establish a solid financial footing from scratch.

  • What is the credit score of a newcomer in Canada?

    +

    New immigrants in Canada begin with a blank credit slate. Upon arrival, they possess no credit, meaning their score isn't low but non-existent. It's crucial to note that Canada lacks a universal credit reporting system, emphasizing the need to establish credit from scratch.

  • Which Canadian banks allow non-residents?

    +

    Multiple Canadian banks accommodate non-residents, such as Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto Dominion Bank (TD), Bank of Montreal (BMO), and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

  • Can a non-resident get a credit card in Canada?

    +

    Non-residents and newcomers can obtain Canadian credit cards. Despite lacking a credit history, you can apply for various options such as store cards, prepaid cards, and secured credit cards, facilitating access to financial services in Canada.

  • What is considered a good credit score in Canada?

    +

    In Canada, Equifax typically considers a credit score of 660 to 724 as good. Scores from 725 to 759 are deemed very good, while 760 and above are excellent. The credit score range spans from 300 to 900.

Lubna Umar Content Strategist

Lubna Umar has worked in the field of personal finance for over 5 years. She has produced a wide variety of content including personal finance guides and insurance reports for brands like RATESDOTCA and the Financial Post. In her free time, she can be found writing fiction or exploring the cafƩ culture in Toronto or any other major city.

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