How to choose the best student credit card

Build your credit while you study and earn rewards to redeem for travel, merchandise, statement credit and more.

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Student credit cards typically come with no annual fee and some offer low interest rates for students struggling to pay down their balance on time every month. Plus, many cards offer either cash back or rewards points which you can redeem for statement credit, gift cards, merchandise, travel and more.

How we chose the best student cards

We’ve chosen the cards on this page based on the providers available through Finder. These cards are not representative of the entire market. We’ve narrowed down our top picks by considering the value of rewards points or cash back, annual fees, interest rates, introductory offers and additional card benefits.

No single student credit card will be the best choice for everyone, so compare your options before picking your new card.

Best for students with no credit history: Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

If you’ve got no credit history and are looking for a no annual fee credit card that earns you rewards, the Scotiabank SCENE Visa is worth taking a look at – especially if you’re a big movie buff. For every $1 spent on eligible purchases, you’ll earn 1 Scene point, while spending at Cineplex locations (or via their online website) will earn you 5x the points.

Redeem your SCENE points for movies or take advantage of discounts at participating restaurants.

Best for earning cash back: Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card offers unlimited cash back on two spending categories of your choice. Choose from groceries, furniture, restaurants, hotel/motel, gas, recurring bill payments, drug store, home improvement, entertainment and public transportation/parking.

Get cash back rewards in three spending categories by depositing your cash back rewards directly into your Tangerine Savings account.

Best for earning rewards points: TD Rewards Visa Card

If you’re looking to rack up rewards points to use toward travel, merchandise, gift cards or statement credit, the TD Rewards Visa Card can help you do just that. With no annual fee, you can order supplementary cards to share with your family and build up your rewards points balance faster.

What’s more, all TD credit card holders get a discount toward a Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to over 1,200 VIP airport lounges worldwide – a handy perk if you plan on flying back to your home country often.

Best for signup bonus: BMO CashBack MasterCard

With this basic no annual fee cash back card, you’ll earn a flat rate of 1% on all eligible purchases. Plus, take advantage of an optional balance transfer offer and earn an accelerated 5% cash back in the first three months.

What is a student card?

Student credit cards are low-cost cards designed to help students begin to build a credit history. These cards often come with no annual fee, a lower credit limit and fewer rewards than a typical credit card. Features between cards will vary, with some student cards offering a low interest rate on unpaid balances while others provide discounts for movies, dining or shopping. Most come with basic insurance like purchase protection and extended warranty, but won’t offer added benefits like travel insurance.

Rewards across student cards vary, which means you can often choose between earning cash back, rewards points or even SCENE points. You can redeem SCENE points at Cineplex locations, while rewards points can typically be redeemed for statement credit, travel, merchandise, gift cards and more.

Features of student credit cards

  • No annual fee. You won’t usually pay an annual fee for a student card. If the card comes with an annual fee, it will typically be $39 or less.
  • Low credit limit. Credit limits are usually much lower than with a typical card.
  • Fewer rewards. Many student cards offer only a fraction of the points or cash back on purchases, while others offer zero rewards.
  • Lower interest. Some cards offer a low purchase and cash advance interest rate – a helpful benefit if you’re struggling to pay off your balance in full each month.
  • Basic benefits. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a student card that offers anything more than purchase protection and extended warranty coverage.

How to choose the best student card for you

  • Compare your options. Compare top brands and look for a card that gives the right combination of benefits for the lowest fee.
  • Aim for no annual fee and low interest. Search for a card that charges no annual fee and, if possible, an interest rate below the standard 18–20% APR.
  • Search for a decent return on rewards. Some cards offer more points or cash back per $1 spent than others. You’ll also eat to take a look at the rewards program conversion rate – not all programs are created equally and some points are more valuable than others.
  • Ask about student incentives. Find out if you’ll receive any benefits specifically geared towards students like shopping, entertainment or dining discounts.

Tips for earning reward points

  • Pay an annual fee. You’ll typically get a much higher return on your rewards points if you pay an annual fee. A mid-range fee is around $40 to $99 per year.
  • Search for a signup bonus. Some cards offer a signup bonus when you apply for the card, which entitles you to bonus points or a higher rate of cash back. You’ll usually need to spend over a certain amount in your first few months to receive the signup bonus.
  • Take advantage of referral programs. You might be able to lock in extra rewards by pointing other students towards your credit card.
  • Look for accelerated rewards. Earn more points or cash back when you sign up for a card that offers you a higher return on certain categories of purchases (like gas, groceries, dining or entertainment).
  • Pay your tuition on your credit card. If you’re one of the lucky ones and your institution allows it, you can earn extra points by paying your tuition on your card. Just be sure to pay the balance off immediately with savings or your student loan.

What to watch out for

  • No rewards. Don’t settle for a student card that offers zero rewards when you should be able to get at least a 1% return.
  • Expiration dates. Keep an eye on the expiration dates for rewards because they’re often no longer valid after a certain time period.
  • Caps on rewards. Watch out for caps on rewards and avoid providers that try to limit how much you can earn.
  • Excluded purchases. Some providers don’t offer rewards on certain purchases, like bill payments and cash advance transactions, so it pays to look into what’s covered and what isn’t.

Compare student credit cards

Compare the features and earn rates of student credit cards below.

Name Product Welcome Offer Reward Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee
Get 2,500 bonus SCENE points with min. spend of $500 in the first three months. Ends 31 October 2019.
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.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Save with no annual fee and earn 1 SCENE point for every $1 spent on all purchases.
Offers up to 20,000 BMO Rewards welcome points upon minimum spend of $1,000 in the first three months. Ends 31 October 2019.
Earn 1 BMO Rewards point for every $1 spent.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Offers a 1.99% balance transfer intro rate for the first nine months to new cardmembers.
Get 5% cash back with minimum spend of $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. Ends 30 November 2019.
Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. No caps, no limit.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Offers a 1.99% balance transfer intro rate for nine months to new cardmembers.
Get 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months. Valid within the first 30 days of account opening.
Earn 4% Money-Back Rewards in three categories of your choice such as groceries, dining, petrol and more. Ends 31 October 2019.
19.95%
19.95%
$0
Earn 4% Money-Back Rewards in three categories of your choice such as groceries, dining, petrol and more. Ends 31 October 2019.
Get 2x TD Rewards Points on all purchases up to a total of 10,000 TD Rewards Points when your account is active and in good standing for 90 days after account opening (excluding Quebec residents). Ends 1 December 2019.
Earn 3 TD Rewards Points per $1 spent on travel booking via ExpediaForTD.com, 2 points when you book via phone, 2 points on grocery dining and bill payments and 1 point on all other spend.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Get 2x TD Rewards Points on all purchases up to a total of 10,000 TD Rewards Points when your account is active and in good standing for 90 days after account opening (excluding Quebec residents). Ends 1 December 2019.

Compare up to 4 providers

Students looking for a solid way to earn rewards and build up their credit history are most likely to benefit from a student credit card. These cards tend to be pretty basic and usually come with low or no annual fees and basic rewards programs. Your best bet is to search for a low-cost card with a signup offer, a decent return on rewards and basic insurance coverage.

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