Young Canadians usually have a more limited exposure to credit, which makes it more difficult to get approved for unsecured loans and specialty credit cards. The good news is that issuers offer student cards that are specially designed for young people enrolled in college.
Options Available to Young People
Young Canadians have several options to look into, including department store, secured, prepaid, and student credit cards. Secured cards require that customers first make a deposit and then use the money to pay bills and make payments. This is one option if you want to build credit. A department store card is another option that gives you access to exclusive promos and deals but the rate is often higher compared to standard cards. A prepaid card is a third option that works much like a standard debit card and payments are not reported. A student credit card is also an alternative, and there are perks such as cash back incentives, no annual fee, and discounts on school-related items and purchases.
What Are the Benefits of Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards offer a number of benefits, among which additional protection in the form of zero fraud liability, miles, cashback points and other incentives, and lower credit limits. Many issuers also offer convenient tools to save users valuable time, help them stay current on their payments, and avoid penalty interest and negative impact on their credit score. Such tools are, for example, automatic bill payment, spend analyzer, and others.
How to Apply
It is easy to apply for a student card if you meet the requirements. Many issuers offer online applications and ask customers to provide employment, personal, and financial details such as your social insurance number, mother’s maiden name, whether you are a landed immigrant or Canadian citizen, and whether you are a domestic or foreign student. You may be asked to provide information such as your expected graduation date, program start date, whether you apply on your own or together with a co-signer, etc.
Fees to Watch for
Like other credit cards, student cards come with fees such as penalty interest, annual fee, cash advance fees, foreign currency conversion fees, and others. If you find good deals with no annual fee, this is a great way to save on charges. There are other fees to check for with your issuer, including late payment and over-the-limit fees, replacement, lost, or emergency issue card charges, and additional cardholder fees. The latter is usually $0 on no annual fee, low fee, and low rate credit cards. Fees and charges vary from one bank to another and can be different for business and individual cards. Some issuers charge fees for urgent card delivery as well as balance transfer fees, overdraft fees, surcharges, and so on. Make sure you check with your provider to ensure there are no hidden charges and penalties.
Top 5 Student Credit Cards
Many credit unions, banks, and online services offer student cards, including CIBC, Laurentian Bank, Desjardins, and others. If you are a regular customer and have a savings or checking account or an outstanding balance, it pays to check with your bank first.
Scotiabank features a handy student card with card protection and introductory rate of only 3.99 percent. The introductory rate is for both cash advances and balance transfers, and makes it a good choice if you need to consolidate high-interest credit card balances. The card also offers car rental discounts, itemized transactions, and free supplementary cards. All in one this is a great student credit card choice.
• Annual fee: none
• Interest rate: 16.99 percent
• Credit limit: $500 (min)
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is a great choice for students, as it doesn’t have annual fee, and is actually one of the top cashback credit cards in Canada. The card offers 2% money back in many categories, and 1% on everything else. However for a limited time you can get 4% cashback in the 2% categories for the first 3 months. The card has no limit on the amount of cashback rewards you can earn.
• Annual fee: none
• Interest rate: 19.95 percent
Also a great choice to start building credit, VISA for Students Only comes with handy features such as free-of-charge access to credit reports, travel insurance covering the first 3 days of each trip, mobile device insurance, and more. Cardholders benefit from additional perks such as flexible financing, no annual fee on additional cards, payment reminders, and the option to manage their account from their tablet, mobile device, or computer. There are additional features such as generous Hertz discounts, mobile payments, and no transaction fees.
• Interest rate: 12.9 percent
• Annual fee: $30
• Interest rate: 19.9 percent
• No annual fee
Laurentian Bank also features a student VISA card with perks such as exclusive discounts, free additional cards, and more. In addition to virtual mail statements, customers also benefit from convenient payments at bank branches, online, by phone, and by mail. This product is a great choice to build credit if you are studying aboard and are a full-time student. You can use it to make payments in emergency situations or pay daily and small expenses. If you usually maintain a balance, you may want to look into other options.
• Interest rate on purchases: 19.99 percent
• Monthly fee: none
CIBC Aventura is another student card that offers the option to collect rewards points and features benefits such as accident coverage, travel medical insurance, mobile and online banking, authorized spending limits, and a lot more. Customers are free to use the online banking system to request additional cards, increase their limit, and make payments. The first purchase earns 5,000 rewards points. Cardholders also earn 2x bonus points on travel purchases at the CIBC Rewards Centre and 1 bonus point on regular purchases.
• Interest rate on purchases: 19. 99 percent
• Annual fee: $39
• Up to 3 free additional cards
This student credit card is yet another option if you are new to credit and offers immediate cash access, online account access, and unlimited rewards. Each dollar spent brings 1 rewards point. You can redeem points for charitable donations, money back, gift cards, travel purchases, and brand-name merchandise. To apply online, college students are asked to provide information such as date of birth, SIN (optional), monthly payment and housing status, employment status (unemployed, self-employed, retired, homemaker, employed, etc), and other financial and personal information.
• Interest rate: 19.99 percent
• Grace period: 21 days
• No annual fee
As you can see, big banks and other major issuers offer plenty of choice to help you build a solid credit history and stay current on utility and other payments. A student credit card is a handy tool if you make payments by the end of the grace period. Just make sure you check for transaction fees such as cash equivalents, over-the-counter cash, and ATM fees, account fees, and other charges. Ask about the default rate in case you are late on your payments because penalty charges can be considerably higher. If you have a credit card with high interest charges, there are student cards with a balance transfer option to benefit from a lower interest rate. Ask about the promotional rate as well and the amount you can request if you choose to make a balance transfer.