How to apply for your first credit card

Your first credit card can be the gateway to building your credit score – and will expand your financial options in the future.

Credit cards are needed for simple transactions like reserving a hotel room, buying concert tickets or booking a flight. But more importantly, you need a credit card to begin establishing a credit history. You’ll need to use your credit card responsibly to start building a strong credit history, as your credit score plays a big role when you’re seeking approval for important financial products in the future – like personal loans and mortgages.

Our pick for your first card

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

19.99 % p.a.

Purchase interest rate

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

Apply today and receive 2,500 bonus points when you spend your first $500 in the first 3 months of card membership.

  • Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
  • Cash advance rate: 22.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Credit rating: Good
  • Minimum income: $12,000
  • Minimum age: Age of majority in province/territory of residence
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Tips for applying for your first credit card

Will you be using your credit card to make everyday purchases? Will your financial habits affect if you make timely payments or not? Do you need a credit card with a rewards program? Once you figure out what you’re looking for, you can apply for your first credit card.

Credit cards are a big responsibility. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Job stability. Banks and financial institutions screen your qualifications before granting you a credit card, including your job’s stability, how long you’ve worked there and your salary.
  • Credit history. If you have a previous credit history, banks will check on your standing in order to determine your credit limit and confirm that you’ll be able to handle repayments.
  • Personal and financial information. Banks and financial institutions also require you to submit specific documents for your application. Unfortunately for people with no credit history, this can be somewhat challenging as many banks will not want to take a chance on a newcomer. If this is the case, consider starting off with a secured credit card to get your credit history rolling.

first credit card applcation

What are the options for my first credit card?

  • I’m a student.

    Many credit card companies offer student credit cards. These cards usually come with low or no annual fees and have low credit limits to ensure you don’t overspend.

  • I don’t want to change banks.

    Although it’s advisable to compare a range of credit cards, you won’t necessarily have to change banks, as your current bank may have a credit card that meets your needs and requirements. Plus, your bank already knows your financial picture, so they may be more likely to approve you for a credit card – even with no credit history.

  • I want to earn rewards.

    If you frequently spend on gas, groceries and dining out, you could potentially apply for a rewards credit card. Earning points or cash back could help pay back any small annual fee you have to pay for the card. Keep in mind rewards cards tend to have stricter eligibility requirements, so you may not be approved for one if it’s your first credit card.

Should I get a credit card from my bank or a different one?

Types of credit cards

Choose from different types of credit cards based on your financial needs and spending habits. These are some of the main types of credit cards you may want to consider as a first credit card:

Keep in mind that the features and fees of a specific type of credit card will differ between card providers.

Compare credit cards

Name Product Welcome Offer Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee
Receive 60,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $1,500 in the first 3 months (valid for new cardmembers only).
19.99%
22.99%
$120
Receive 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties/stores, plus 2 points per dollar spent on other card purchases.
Offers a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months when your new credit card account is opened by June 30, 2019.
12.99%
12.99%
$29
Save on interest by consolidating your higher-rate balances and enjoy a low 12.99% purchase interest rate.
Earn up to 2,500 points when you spend $500 within each billing period. Up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year.
7.99% intro APR for the first 6 months, 19.99% thereafter
22.99%
$120
Earn up to 5 points for every dollar you spend at eligible restaurants, cafés, bars and food delivery.
Receive 15,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of membership (valid for new accounts opened by June 30, 2019).
19.99%
22.99%
$99
Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, grocery stores, dining and entertainment, including access to exclusive travel privileges.
Offers a 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
8.99%
8.99%
$0
Enjoy an ongoing low fixed interest rate including a range of insurance related benefits and exclusive entertainment deals.
Receive 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you spend your first $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in the first 3 months of membership (offer ends June 30, 2019).
19.99%
22.99%
$139
Earn 2x Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases. Plus, an extra 10,000 points when you spend a min. of $40,000 annually on your card.
Earn up to 5% or $300 cashback in your first six months.
19.99%
22.99%
$99
Offers 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
Receive 10% cash back on purchases up to $2,000 within the first three months, plus a waived annual fee for your first year (account must be opened by April 30, 2019).

19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 4% cash back on gas & groceries, 2% cash back on drug stores and recurring bills and 1% cash back on all other spend.
Receive 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,500 within the first three months of membership.
N/A
N/A
$150
Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on eligible travel and purchases and 1 point for every dollar you spend elsewhere.
Enjoy a 7.99% introductory interest rate on all spend for the first six months when your new credit card account is opened by June 30, 2019.
7.99% intro APR for the first 6 months, 19.99% thereafter
22.99%
$0
Receive 1% cash back on payments made at gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies, including recurring payments. Plus, 0.5% cashback on all other eligible purchases.
Earn up to 2.5% or $150 cashback in your first 3 months.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Offers 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
Receive 2,500 bonus SCENE points when you spend your first $500 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of membership (valid for new accounts opened by June 30, 2019).
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Earn 1 SCENE point per $1 spent on all purchases, plus 5 SCENE points for every $1 spent at Cineplex Entertainment theatres or cineplex.com.
Receive 500 AIR MILES Reward Miles when you spend $500 within your first three months of membership.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Offers 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
Offers a 7.99% introductory interest rate on all spend for the first 6 months when your new credit card account is opened by June 30, 2019.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Receive 1% cash back on payments made at gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies, including recurring payments. Plus, 0.5% cashback on all other eligible purchases.
Receive 2,000 bonus AIR MILES Reward miles when you spend $1,500 within the first three months of membership.
19.99%
22.99%
$65
Offers 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
Enjoy a 2.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months when your new credit card account is opened by June 30, 2019.
19.99%
22.99%
$39
2% cash back on all eligible gas station, grocery store, drug store purchases and recurring payments.
Offers 2,000 bonus AIR MILES Reward miles when you spend $5,000 within the first three months of membership.
N/A
N/A
$180
Earn 1 mile for every $10 spent at eligible sponsors and 1 mile for every $15 spent anywhere else.
Receive 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points upon first eligible purchase within 2 months of membership. Valid for new accounts opened by June 30, 2019.
19.99%
22.99%
$399
Earn 4x Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent at grocery stores, gas stations, dining and entertainment purchases. Enjoy complimentary membership to global priority pass airport lounges.
Receive 2,400 Air Miles Reward Miles when you spend $3,000 within first three months of membership.
19.99%
22.99%
$299
Offers 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
Receive 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of membership.
N/A
N/A
$699
Get up to $200 bonus travel credit every year.

Compare up to 4 providers

Maintain your credit standing with your first credit card

Most first credit cards often establish your credit history – so it’s important to pay attention to a few things.

  • Avoid overspending and always pay all of your credit card bills on time.
  • Having a credit card for a long period of time is good for your credit history.
  • Try to keep your spending low in relation to your credit limit.
  • Banks often give newcomers higher interest rates, so be aware of this and the long-term cost of carrying a balance. Once you have established a good credit history, see if you’re eligible for an interest rate reduction – or shop around for a new card.

Bottom line

When it comes to personal finance, getting a credit card is often the biggest step toward financial independence. If you ever want to be able to apply for a personal loan, mortgage or a line of credit, you can do so much easier by applying for a credit card as your initial step. But remember, being responsible with it is the key to your future credit rating.

If you’re application is declined for your first credit card, don’t lose hope because you can identify why your credit card application was rejected and apply for a different card in a few months time.

Frequently asked questions

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