Compare credit builder cards and rebuild your credit history

Having bad or limited credit history doesn't necessarily mean credit cards are off the table.

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Man checking his credit card balance on smart phone

Your credit score and history are the main factors that determine whether you get approved for credit or financing products and they can dictate the terms you’re offered. Having bad credit or no credit history can reduce your chances of getting approved for things like a mortgage, car financing or a credit card.

The good news is that there’s a growing niche of credit cards designed for people with these issues. They can help you build or restore your credit history while you spend. You can expect lower opening credit limits, nominal interest rates, fewer, if any, reward programs in exchange for more lenient eligibility criteria.

Scotiabank Value Visa Card

Scotiabank Value Visa Card

12.99 % APR

Purchase interest rate

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

Scotiabank Value Visa Card

Apply today and enjoy a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months when your new credit card account is opened by July 1, 2020.

  • Purchase interest rate: 12.99%
  • Cash advance rate: 12.99%
  • Intro balance transfer rate: 0.99% for the first 6 months
  • Standard balance transfer rate: 12.99%
  • Annual fee: $29
  • Minimum income: $12,000
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Compare the best credit builder cards

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
12.99%
12.99%
$29
$12,000
Save on interest for 6 months by consolidating your higher-rate balances with the balance transfer offer, and get an on-going 12.99% interest rate on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2020.
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card
7.99% intro APR for the first 6 months, 19.99% thereafter
22.99%
$0
$12,000
Get 1% cash back on all eligible gas station, grocery store and drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and get 0.5% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
Get a 7.99% introductory interest rate on all eligible purchases for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2020.
Refresh Financial Secured Credit Card
17.99%
N/A
$12.95
N/A
Take advantage of a low annual fee, with no credit check and guaranteed approval once you secure your credit card with some funds.
Take advantage of a low annual fee, with guaranteed approval and no credit check.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
12.99%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
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What is a credit builder card?

A credit builder card is a credit card that’s specifically designed for people who have low credit scores or no credit history and who might struggle to get approval for financing through mainstream channels. These cards are also seen as entry-level credit products and a stepping stone to credit products with better rates.

If you’ve never borrowed or taken out a loan (perhaps if you’re a student or new to the country), your credit record is likely to be non-existent and it can be difficult to get approval on a card or loan application. If you don’t have any credit history for lenders to analyze they don’t know if they can take the risk in issuing you credit. In this situation, a credit builder credit card will help you build a credit history from scratch.

How are credit builders different to other cards?

Along with offering an APR between 12.99% and 19.99%, the features of a credit builder credit card will be similar to that of a standard credit card, but with some key differences:

  • Lower credit limits. Your card’s credit limit is the maximum balance amount you’re allowed to be in debt on your credit card at any one time. This limit will be offered by the card issuer and will be dependent on factors like your income and credit score. For secured credit cards that don’t require a credit check, the credit limit may be based on the amount of your security deposit. This can range between $300 – $10,000. The good news is that it’s often possible to have your credit limit reviewed within a few months of responsible card use (staying within your limit and making repayments on time).
  • Low or no annual fees. Credit builder cards usually offer a low, flat annual fee ranging from $12.95 – $79. Some cards even offer a $0 annual fee.
  • Fewer frills. Typically, a credit builder card won’t come with much in the way of rewards or perks. Since the main purpose of these cards is to build up your credit score, they aren’t complicated products. Some providers do offer rewards like 1% cash back on certain purchases or a basic rewards point scheme, but this isn’t always the case.
  • Tools to help you build your credit. Card issuers want you to make your payments on time and if they offer a range of cards they might expect you to move across to a different card as your credit score improves. To help you along this journey, your credit builder card might come with features like access to your credit record, text or email alerts when a payment is due or when you’re close to your limit, an app to manage your account while on the go and/or specialized information and advice.

What is the easiest credit card to get with poor credit?

There are a few credit builder cards that advertise guaranteed approval. This means that the providers don’t require a credit check and if you meet basic criteria your chances of approval are high regardless of your credit standing. The basic criteria can include you (the applicant) being the age of majority in the province you reside, you don’t have a pre-existing application with the provider, and you didn’t have an account in bad standing with the provider within the past year.

It’s still worth noting that not everyone gets approved even with “guaranteed approval”. Most providers offer secured versions of their cards (which require a deposit) as an alternative if you get denied for their unsecured version. All cards are subject to terms and conditions set by the provider.

How should I compare credit builder credit cards?

Using a credit builder credit card to improve your credit score is a serious decision. To make sure you are choosing the right option for you, there are a few aspects to consider.

  • How much is it going to cost you? If you pay off your balance in full each month and use your card responsibly (stay within your limit, don’t use the card to withdraw cash), you should be able to avoid paying any interest thanks to the grace period on purchases that almost all cards offer. Otherwise, you would only pay your card’s annual fee if it has one. Learn all about how credit card interest works here.
  • Are you eligible? Check the card’s eligibility requirements before you apply. The last thing you want to do is to keep applying for cards and keep getting rejected. This will damage your credit score further and will make it even more difficult to get credit in the future. Thankfully, most issuers offer an “eligibility checker” that you can use to get an indication of how likely you are to get approved before applying. Using this checker won’t affect your credit score and can help you compare credit cards by eliminating options that you’re not eligible for.
  • Will it help you stay on top of your finances? A good credit builder card should make it easy for you to track and manage your account and manage repayments. That might mean a decent mobile app, text alerts or even visibility of your credit record.
  • Are there any perks? Rewards on credit builder credit cards aren’t common, but in some instances the issuer might include basic benefits such as 1% cashback on purchases. Just be wary of building up debt through chasing rewards – you’ll almost certainly end up paying more in interest than you earn in rewards.

Are credit builder credit cards a good idea?

Pros

  • Build your credit score. The main benefit of this type of card is the ability to get access to credit despite your credit history and to help you restore or build your credit score while making responsible purchases.
  • Enjoy other standard benefits of credit card ownership. Having a credit card when travelling is much safer than carrying around cash and is often required for certain services like renting a car. It also provides protection when lost or stolen as you can easily cancel it to prevent fraudulent transactions.
Cons

  • Lower credit limits. If you’re approved for a credit builder, you’re likely to start off with a lower credit limit. These limits are sometimes tailored to the individual, but can be reviewed with the issuer periodically.
  • Limited rewards. Although some providers do offer 0% purchase periods or 1% cash back rewards, you are unlikely to get more lucrative rewards like air miles or perks like complimentary travel insurance.

What should I watch out for?

  • Never miss your minimum repayments. This will result in additional fees and charges and damage your credit score even further. It’s always better to repay the full amount every month to prove to lenders you can effectively manage your debt.
  • Avoid withdrawing cash. Cash withdrawals – also known as cash advances – on any credit card are expensive. The rates on credit builder credit cards are likely to be even higher. If you regularly withdraw cash from your credit card it might signal to card providers that you are cash strapped and they could refuse you credit going forward.
  • If you are rejected, wait before applying for another card. Every time you get rejected for a credit card application, your credit score is impacted. It’s best to take a step back and find out why you were rejected before continuing.

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