This post has been updated on January 21st, 2018 to reflect recent developments in the Canadian financial and credit markets.
Accessing credit is never easy if you have anything but pristine credit score. The most common form of borrowing of course is a credit card, and there are many Canadian financial institutions that offer variety of cards targeted at different market segments. The bad credit credit card market in Canada is really under-served with many of the big players withdrawing their financial products including Peoples Trust who stopped offering their secured credit card, and Affirm financial who also no longer offer their credit cards for bad credit. Home Trust still offer a secured credit card, but they are very picky and getting one from them is not an easy task. Still there is hope for Canadian consumers with bad credit, as a new player called Refresh Financial has entered the secured/bad credit card marketplace. Refresh offer credit cards for borrowers with bad credit, and the good news is they do not do a credit check. The card is relatively easy to qualify for, however keep in mind that this is a secured card, and you will have to come up with the deposit to get one. As the credit conditions get tighter in Canada it will get harder to get a credit card if you have a poor credit, however don’t get discouraged – just check our list of card below and use it as a starting point in your quest for credit card.
There are different options for customers with poor credit, from payday loans and cash advances to secured lines and credit cards for bad credit.
Do You Need a Credit Card if You Already Have Bad Credit?
This depends on your lifestyle, financial literacy, and spending habits but a credit card can actually help build a healthy score. Timely payments allow users to rebuild credit. If you often make financial blunders and are knee-deep in debt, you may want to learn more about credit first.
Can You Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit?
Some lenders offer cards to borrowers with poor and average credit. They often offer cards with a lower limit and higher interest rates because they are considered to be high risk.
Does a Credit Card Help You Rebuild Bad Credit? Secured Credit Cards Explained
A credit card is a useful tool to reestablish credit unless you make late payments. Missed payments also affect your score. Avoid prepaid cards because payments are not reported to the major bureaus. Other cards, including secured and department store cards, help build credit. To get a secured card, clients are asked to make a deposit which is higher or equal to the card’s limit.
Types of Credit Cards for Bad Credit
Secured Credit Cards
Secured cards offer many benefits, and one is that it is easier to get approved compared to standard credit cards and unsecured loans. The reason is that financial establishments take no risk. Cardholders use their own money (the deposit made) to make purchases. Lenders will not return the deposit in case of default. They refund the deposit made when the customer decides to close the account. The payments are usually reflected in the borrower’s credit report. The limit normally varies from $200 – $500 to $5,000. Many issuers advertise low annual fees in the range of $10 – $30.
Low Interest Credit Cards
Low interest cards are offered by major unions, banks, finance companies, and online lending services. The main benefit for users is that they save on interest charges. Some issuers offer low interest cards to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and feature perks such as gas rewards, cash back, payment alerts, and others. The credit line is usually lower, for example, $500 – $1,000, but some companies advertise opportunities for line increases provided that cardholders make timely payments. It is important to ask whether payments are reported to TransUnion or Equifax on a regular basis.
Guaranteed Credit Cards
Guaranteed approval cards by MasterCard and Visa are also offered to borrowers with less than perfect and tarnished credit. While some issuers advertise guaranteed or instant approval, they offer secured versions whereby the deposit serves as a guarantee of timely payments. They are available to consumers who need credit improvement and feature standard benefits such as price protection, travel assistance, baggage delay coverage, and others. Basically, issuers that offer guaranteed cards have more lenient or minimum requirements for approval. They may advertise no employment or credit checks and no application or processing fees.
Prepaid Credit Cards
Prepaid cards allow users to make purchases and payments but are not the best solution for rebuilding credit. Payments are usually not reported. Still this is one option for customers with bad credit and a history of consumer proposals, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and seriously delinquent accounts. There are different reload options, including in person, online, and through direct deposit. Some issuers advertise no-fee cash withdrawals. Prepaid cards also feature online bill pay options, balance alerts, free ATM withdrawals, business and payroll programs, refer-a-friend bonuses, and other benefits. Many issuers advertise no activation or application fees, free online banking, online statements, and free direct deposits.
Store Credit Cards
A department store card is yet another option for borrowers with bad credit and offers plenty of added benefits. Cardholders benefit from perks such as promos and discounts, sales, savings on major or one-time purchases, coupons, and other benefits. Some department stores even advertise interest-free financing. Holders enjoy a zero introductory rate for a certain period, for example, six months. However, department store cards usually go with higher charges than secured and standard credit cards. While the rate is slightly higher, this is one option for applicants with a thin credit file and borrowers who need a credit boost.
Where Can You Find Credit Card Lenders for People with Bad Credit?
Major financial establishments such as RBC, BMO, and other big banks offer cards for bad credit.
This card is no longer available.
Affirm Financial Services specializes in providing credit solutions for Canadians who may have difficulty obtaining a credit card or loan from traditional financial institutions. Here are the most important Affirm MasterCard® features:
- True credit – no security deposit required
- Credit limit up to $3,000
- Use it anywhere MasterCard® cards are accepted
- Fixed interest rate – 29.99% for homeowners and 34.99% for non-homeowners
- Reports to credit bureaus every month
This card is issued by Peoples Trust Company pursuant to license by MasterCard® International Incorporated. MasterCard® and MasterCard® Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard® International Incorporated.
No-Fee Scotiabank Value® Visa Card
The Bank of Nova Scotia features the No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa Card which is available to debt-ridden borrowers with credit problems. The bank offers benefits such as card protection, an introductory rate of 3.99 percent, and car rental discounts. Additional benefits include itemized transactions and supplementary cards. The introductory rate applies to balance transfers and cash advances, which makes it a great choice if you plan to transfer high-interest balances to a low-interest card. The low introductory rate helps borrowers to pay down existing balances faster and get rid of debt.
• Interest rate: 16.99 percent
• Annual fee: zero
• Credit limit: $500 or more
This secured card is a new product from Refresh Financial targeted at customers with low credit score or no credit. The card can be used to re-build credit score, and as it doesn’t require a credit check, it may be your best chance for getting a credit card. Here are the main Refresh secured credit card features.
- Credit limit: $200 to $10,000
- Purchase Interest rate: 17.99 percent
- Annual fee: CAD $12.95
Peoples Trust Secured MasterCard®
Peoples Trust Secured MasterCard is ideal for those who are new to credit, consumers with credit problems, new immigrants, and students. Holders can use it just like a regular card to make hotel bookings and everyday purchases, car rentals, online purchases, and anything else. This card also allows consumers to make cash advances and build credit over time. Peoples Trust advertises almost guaranteed approval, regardless of credit profile.
- Minimum deposit: $500
- Interest rate: 12.99 percent
- Monthly fee: CAD $5.80
- Monthly fee (additional cards): CAD $2.95
Home Trust Secured Visa Card
The Home Trust Secured Visa Card is another option that requires a security deposit of at least $500. The limit is based on the deposit made and ranges from $500 to $10,000. There is a low-rate option that goes with an interest rate of 14.9 percent. The standard rate is 19.99 percent and there is no annual fee. The low-rate option goes with a fee of $59. This card is offered to consumers with bad credit and everyone gets approved. If you have less than perfect or poor credit, this card will help you to build or reestablish your credit history. You can use it to book a hotel room, make purchases online and by phone, pay bills, pay for gas, and more.
BMO® Preferred Rate MasterCard®
The BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard is a card advertised with no annual fee and an interest rate of 17.5 percent. The card also features a long interest-free period of 21 days. While applicants with bad credit get approved, those with a history of bankruptcies do not qualify. If you have filed for bankruptcy over the last 7 years, your application will be declined. BMO also requires employment and income information. Customers are offered perks and benefits such as:
• Low-rate options (11.9 percent)
• Travel benefits
• Purchase protection
• Extended warranty
• Roadside assistance
• Medical protection
• Trip cancellation coverage
Capital One® Guaranteed Secured MasterCard®
The Capital One Guaranteed Secured MasterCard, for example, features guaranteed approval and a limit of $300 or higher. It is a good choice for customers with no credit and tarnished credit. The good thing about this card is that you can use it like a standard card – to make bookings, for car rentals, online purchases, in-store purchases, and more. Capital One features standard benefits such as emergency cash advances and card replacement and zero liability.
• Interest rate: 19.8 percent
• Annual fee: $59
TD Emerald Visa Card
The TD Emerald Visa Card is also a good choice for bad credit borrowers and goes with benefits such as:
• Low annual fee of $25
• Security and purchasing convenience
• Automotive benefits
• Travel benefits
• Medical insurance
Applicants are allowed to add up to three cardholders. The card goes with a competitive variable rate of 12.75 percent and is a great option for borrowers with bad credit, students, and newcomers to Canada. Cardholders are offered trip interruption coverage, trip cancellation insurance, car rental discounts, and other perks. TD Emerald Visa is also advertised as a balance transfer card for debt consolidation.
RBC Visa Classic Low Rate
The RBC Visa Classic Low Rate is yet another card with a low interest rate of 11.99 percent and an annual fee of $20. Additional cards are available at no added cost. This option is a great choice for those considering debt consolidation. Major benefits include free travelers checks, worldwide acceptance, easy application, and others. Optional travel insurance is also available to protect customers in case of loss of job or illness. Customers benefit from autopayment options, cash advances, and quick application processing. This card is also an excellent choice for debt consolidation. You can use it to make one-time or larger purchases.
What to Do Next?
Once you have been approved for a low rate, department store, or secured card, it is time to learn how to manage credit responsibly. This means timely and regular payments to avoid penalty fees and charges. Late and missing payments also affect your score and chances to get approved for low-cost unsecured loans, LOCs, and premium credit cards. Avoid using multiple cards because it is more difficult to keep track of due dates, payments, and other details. Check your financial statements regularly to track your spending and payments. Using online banking is a great way to view your statements, payment history, and transactions. Make sure you check your credit report for mistakes and omissions. Consumers are entitled to receive a free report once a year.
If you have other balances, try to pay down your auto, consumer, and other loan balances to boost your score. The goal is to maintain a debt to income ratio of 30 percent or lower. Paying down small balances on different cards helps improve your score. Pick one or two cards with affordable rates and use them for payments and purchases.
Keep in mind that credit cards are intended for regular, small purchases and unexpected expenses, for example, utility and medical bills, auto insurance, plumbing and electrical problems, car repairs, and others. You can use your card for grocery shopping, bill payment, trips to the ER, car maintenance, vehicle registration fees, and other small expenses. It makes no sense to buy big-ticket items on a credit card. It is better to use a low-cost unsecured loan instead. Otherwise, you will end up paying a huge balance, and your score may suffer as a result.
If you have poor credit and find it difficult to manage your finances, you may want to contact a credit counseling service. They offer financial education to teach borrowers how to manage debt responsibly. The goal is to gain financial stability and control and make sound credit and borrowing decisions. Specialists negotiate with creditors, help customers to calculate their debt to income ratio, sort out their finances, and more.