Can International Students Get a Credit Card in Canada?

According to a recent study, around 900,000 international students will choose Canada in 2023 for their higher education, making it one of the most popular study destinations globally. While the academic experience is enriching, the financial landscape can be a maze, especially regarding credit cards. If you’re an international student wondering how to get a credit card in Canada, this article is your roadmap. We’ll walk you through the eligibility requirements, the types of cards available, and tips for building a credit history.

Can International Students Get a Credit Card in Canada
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Understanding the credit card system in Canada for international students

Applying for a credit card as an international student in Canada can be a bit more complex compared to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Eligibility: International students are generally eligible to apply for a credit card in Canada. However, they may be required to meet certain criteria, such as having a valid study permit or a Canadian bank account.

2.Credit history: One challenge for international students is Canada’s lack of an established credit history. This can make it difficult to obtain a traditional credit card. However, there are alternatives available, such as secured credit cards or student credit cards specifically designed for students with limited credit history.

3.Income requirements: Some credit card issuers may have minimum income requirements. International students may need to demonstrate sufficient income or provide proof of funding to meet these requirements.

4.Banking relationship: Building a relationship with a Canadian bank can be advantageous when seeking a credit card. Opening a bank account and handling finances responsibly can help establish trust and improve the chances of being approved for a credit card.

It is important for international students to research and compare credit card options from different issuers. They should carefully review the terms and conditions, fees, and benefits offered by each card to make an informed decision.

Requirements for International Students to Get a Credit Card

International students studying in Canada may wonder if they are eligible to apply for a credit card. While the process may vary depending on the financial institution, certain requirements are commonly required. Here are the key qualifications and documentation needed to apply for a credit card as an international student in Canada.

Proof of Identity

To apply for a credit card in Canada, international students will need to provide proof of identity. This is typically done by presenting a valid passport or any other government-issued identification document. The identification document should contain a photograph, full name, date of birth, and signature.

Proof of Enrollment

Financial institutions in Canada often require proof of enrollment from international students. This can be in the form of an acceptance letter from a Canadian educational institution or a valid student ID card. This proof of enrollment verifies that the applicant is a registered student in Canada.

Proof of Canadian Address

To apply for a credit card in Canada, international students will need to provide proof of a Canadian address. This can be done by providing a rental agreement, utility bill, or any official document that shows the student’s address in Canada.

Related: What Is A Civic Number?

Credit History and Income

Some financial institutions may require international students to have a credit history or show proof of income. However, for students who do not have a credit history or a regular income, there are options such as secured credit cards or credit cards with a limited credit line.

How to Apply for a Credit Card as an International Student

Step-by-step guide on the credit card application process for international students

If you are an international student studying in Canada, you may be wondering if you can apply for a credit card. The good news is that international students can apply for a credit card in Canada. However, it is important to understand the process and requirements to increase your chances of approval.

  1. Build your credit history: Before you apply for a credit card, it is essential to have a good credit history. This can be challenging for international students who have just arrived in the country. However, you can start by using a bank account responsibly. Paying your bills on time and keeping your account in good standing will help establish your creditworthiness.
  2. Research credit card options: There are various credit card options available for international students in Canada. Researching and comparing different cards is important to find the one that suits your needs. Some options may require a co-signer, while others may have higher interest rates or annual fees. Consider factors such as rewards, benefits, and credit limits before making a decision.
  3. Prepare necessary documents: When applying for a credit card, you will need to provide certain documents, including proof of identity, proof of enrollment, and proof of income. Make sure to gather all the necessary documentation to streamline the application process.
  4. Apply for the credit card: Once you have chosen the credit card that suits you best and gathered all the required documents, you can proceed with the application. You can typically apply online or by visiting a bank branch. Fill out the application form accurately and provide all the requested information.
  5. Wait for a decision: After submitting your application, it may take some time for the bank to review and make a decision. Be patient and wait for their response. If approved, your credit card will be sent to you, and you can start using it responsibly to build your credit history.

Different Types of Credit Cards Available for International Students

Most major Canadian banks offer credit cards for international students. These cards typically have lower credit limits and may require a co-signer, such as a parent or guardian, who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Secured credit cards are another option for international students. These cards require a security deposit, usually equal to the credit limit, which acts as collateral. Secured cards can be a great way to establish credit and demonstrate responsible financial behaviour.

Some financial institutions offer student-specific credit cards that come with additional perks, such as rewards programs or cashback options. These cards often have lower credit limits and may be easier to obtain for international students.

It is important to note that getting a credit card as an international student may not be as simple as it is for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Each bank and financial institution has its own eligibility criteria and requirements that international students must meet. Researching and comparing different credit card options is recommended to find the one that suits your needs and circumstances best.

Building Credit History as an International Student

When it comes to financial matters, international students studying in Canada may find themselves facing unique challenges. One such challenge is building a credit history, which is essential for various reasons, including renting an apartment, applying for loans, or even getting a credit card.

Understanding Credit History

Credit history is a record of an individual’s borrowing and repayment activities. It plays a crucial role in determining a person’s creditworthiness in Canada. However, as an international student, you may not have a credit history in the country, making it difficult to obtain credit cards from traditional lenders.

Overcoming Credit Challenges

To overcome this obstacle, here are some strategies and tips for international students looking to establish a credit history in Canada:

  1. Open a bank account: Start by opening a bank account in Canada. This will demonstrate financial stability and provide a foundation for building your credit history.
  2. Secured credit cards: Consider applying for secured credit cards, which require a deposit and can help you build credit over time. These cards generally have low credit limits but can be a stepping stone toward obtaining unsecured credit cards in the future.
  3. Apply for a credit card with a cosigner: If possible, find a trusted family member or friend in Canada who is willing to cosign your credit card application. This person will be equally responsible for any debt you incur but can significantly improve your chances of getting approved.
  4. Utility and phone bills: Ensure that your name is associated with utility bills and phone contracts. Paying these bills on time can help establish a positive credit history over time.
  5. Credit builder loans: Some financial institutions offer credit builder loans specifically designed for individuals with limited or no credit history. These loans typically have low borrowing amounts and help you establish credit as you make timely repayments.

Building a credit history as an international student in Canada may take time and patience, but with careful planning and responsible financial management, you can lay the foundation for a strong credit profile.

Best Credit Cards for International Students in Canada

While many students may not have an established credit history in the country, credit card options are specifically designed for international students. These cards offer benefits and features tailored to meet the unique needs of students studying abroad.

One popular credit card option for international students is the Scotiabank Student Visa. This card offers rewards and benefits tailored to students, such as cashback on daily purchases and access to exclusive discounts. It is an excellent option for building a credit history while enjoying additional perks.

Another option worth considering is the BMO SPC CashBack Mastercard. This card provides cashback rewards on purchases, making it a great choice for students looking to earn money back while managing their expenses. Additionally, it offers the Student Price Card (SPC), which provides discounts at various retailers across Canada.

The Desjardins Classic Visa is also a noteworthy credit card option for international students. It offers low annual fees, cashback rewards, and the ability to increase credit limits over time. Students can benefit from these features while building a credit history in Canada.

It is important to note that most credit cards for international students require proof of enrollment, valid identification, and proof of income or financial support. Responsible credit card usage is also key to maintaining a positive credit score and managing expenses effectively.

Dos and Don’ts of Using Credit Cards as an International Student

Studying abroad as an international student can be an exciting and enriching experience. However, managing your finances in a foreign country can be challenging. One aspect that requires careful attention is the use of credit cards. To navigate this financial landscape effectively, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


  1. Research and Compare: Before applying for a credit card, research different options and compare their benefits, fees, and interest rates. Look for cards with favourable terms, such as low or no foreign transaction fees.
  2. Set a Budget: Establish a realistic budget and stick to it. Determine how much you can afford to spend on your credit card each month and avoid exceeding that limit. This will help you avoid accumulating unnecessary debt.
  3. Pay on Time: Make timely payments to avoid late fees and penalties. Consider setting up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you never miss a payment deadline.
  4. Monitor Your Statements: Regularly review your credit card statements for any discrepancies or fraudulent charges. Report any suspicious activity to your credit card provider immediately.


  1. Overspend: While it can be tempting to take advantage of the convenience of a credit card, avoid overspending beyond your means. Remember that you will eventually have to pay off any balance you accumulate, and excessive debt can be burdensome.
  2. Ignore Interest Rates: Pay attention to the interest rates associated with your credit card. High interest rates can quickly accumulate debt if you carry a balance. Look for cards with lower rates or consider paying off your balance in full each month to avoid accruing interest.
  3. Share Your Credit Card Details: Keep your credit card information confidential and avoid sharing it with others. Only make transactions on secure websites and be cautious of phishing scams.

Frequently Asked Questions about Credit Cards for International Students in Canada

Do international students qualify for credit cards in Canada?

Yes, international students can qualify for credit cards in Canada. However, the eligibility criteria may vary depending on the bank or credit card issuer. Most banks require international students to have a valid study permit, proof of enrollment in a Canadian educational institution, and a Canadian bank account. Some credit card issuers may also require a minimum annual income or a co-signer.

Can international students build credit in Canada?

Yes, international students can build credit in Canada by responsibly using a credit card. Building credit is important as it can help when applying for loans, renting an apartment, or getting a cell phone plan. It is recommended to use a credit card for small purchases and pay the bill in full and on time each month. This demonstrates financial responsibility and helps establish a positive credit history.

What are the benefits of having a credit card as an international student?

Having a credit card can provide international students with convenience and financial security. It allows them to make online purchases, pay for groceries, and pay bills without carrying large amounts of cash. Having a credit card and building a good credit history can also help in future endeavours, such as applying for a car loan or a mortgage.

What should international students consider when choosing a credit card?

When choosing a credit card, international students should consider annual fees, interest rates, rewards programs, and credit limits. It is important to compare different options and choose a credit card that aligns with their spending habits and financial goals.


It is common for international students to face challenges when it comes to obtaining credit cards in Canada. Limited credit history, lack of employment, and being a temporary resident can make it more difficult to secure a credit card. However, with careful planning and research, international students can build credit and establish a good financial reputation.

Here are some key takeaways for international students seeking a credit card in Canada:

  1. Start with a student credit card: Many Canadian banks offer credit cards specifically designed for students. These cards often have lower credit limits and are easier to qualify for, making them a good option for international students.
  2. Build credit gradually: International students can start by using a student credit card responsibly and making timely payments to build a positive credit history. Over time, this can help them qualify for better credit cards with higher credit limits.
  3. Explore alternative options: If obtaining a traditional credit card proves difficult, international students can consider alternative options such as secured credit cards or becoming an authorized user on a Canadian resident’s credit card.
  4. Seek guidance from a financial advisor: It can be beneficial for international students to consult with a financial advisor who specializes in working with international students. They can provide advice and guidance on the best credit card options and help navigate the process.

By understanding the requirements, exploring available options, and taking proactive steps to build credit, international students can increase their chances of securing a credit card in Canada and establish a strong financial foundation during their studies.

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