Can International Students Get Credit Cards in Canada?

The short answer is, yes, and it’s very common that international students get credit cards. However, credit cards Canadian banks issues to international students have some limitations. In this blog, we will explore the process, and the types of credit international students can apply for and what are the benefits of credit cards in Canada.

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How International Students Get Credit Cards in Canada?

There are 5 major banks in Canada, RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD Canada Trust, and Scotiabank. Each of the big 5s has credit card packages designed for international students. Here are some offers by big5 to help international students get credit cards ( RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD Canada Trust, and Scotiabank).

To apply for a credit card, you need to provide the following documents:

  1. Your valid Study Permit
  2. A government-issued ID (passport or Canadian driver’s license)
  3. Enrolment letter or student ID or course schedule (depends on the bank’s requirement)
  4. SIN number (depends on the bank’s requirement)

You may need to schedule an appointment with a banker from the bank of your choice, and the banker will help you to apply for a credit card. 

What kind of credit card can international students apply for? 

When we visit the big 5’s website, there are dozens of credit card options with different rewards options available. Some offer air miles, others offer cash backs. As individuals, we will choose the reward option that best suits our personal needs. However, as an international student applying for a credit card, our choices are limited. Generally, the big 5s offers either a secured credit card or a normal credit card with some limitations. 

What is a secured credit card? 

According to Segal & Catalano (2020), “A secured credit card is a type of credit card that is backed by a cash deposit, which serves as collateral should you default on payments. The deposit aside, secured credit cards function like any credit card. Consumers typically obtain secured credit cards to improve their credit scores or establish a credit history”.

For example student A got a secured credit card, A deposited 2000CAD into his/her bank account, therefore A’s secured credit card has a 2000CAD credit limit. On the other hand, student B also has a secured credit card, and B deposited 500CAD into his/her bank account, as a result, B will only have a 500CAD credit limit. 

Can I increase my credit limit over time as an international student? 

Under a secured credit card, you can increase your credit limit by depositing more funds into your bank account associated with the credit card. In contrast, generally, a normal credit card that is issued to international students in Canada can’t increase its credit limit over time, unless the card holder’s immigration status changed from student to PR. 

Why should I apply for a Canadian credit card? 

If you are planning to stay in Canada after graduation to find work or planning to set root in Canada. Having a good standing credit history is paramount because renting an apartment, getting a good job, getting a loan from the bank, etc. all depends on your credit history. 

Your first credit card is critical in establishing a credit history, therefore, it’s important to pay your bills on time and keep the account active to build your credit score.

Learn what factors influence credit score here