Can a non-resident get a credit card in Canada? Yes, there are Canadian credit cards for work permit holders, non-residents and new immigrants, including unsecured, secured and prepaid credit cards.
Compare options to find the best credit card for temporary residents in Canada. Learn how to get a credit card for work permit holders in Canada, a credit card for non-residents in Canada and a credit card for non-permanent residents in Canada.
What is a temporary resident or work permit holder in Canada?
A temporary resident is a non-citizen or non-permanent resident of Canada who is legally authorized to enter the country for work, study or tourism purposes. Most temporary residents have a work permit, visa or residency permit allowing them to stay in Canada for a specific time period ranging from one day to three years.
3 ways to get a credit card for temporary residents in Canada
Immigrating to Canada or planning to visit the country soon? Here are your options for Canadian credit cards for work permit holders and non-permanent residents.
1. Sign up for a newcomer to Canada credit card for temporary residents
Many big banks and some smaller financial institutions might allow you to sign up for a newcomer credit card for temporary residents as part of a “welcome to Canada” banking package. These credit cards are unsecured and can help you build credit.
2. Purchase a prepaid credit card for non-residents in Canada
You need to load money onto a prepaid credit card for temporary residents to use it. Buy these cards from grocery stores, or apply at your bank or financial institution. Prepaid cards come with a 0% interest rate and don’t affect your credit score.
3. Sign up for a secured credit card for temporary residents
Secured credit cards for temporary residents require you to put money down in advance as collateral to secure the money you borrow. This deposit can be used by your provider to pay off your balance if you default on your payments. You’ll pay interest on any money you borrow with a secured card and your credit score can go up or down depending on how often you make regular payments.
Examples: Capital One Secured Credit Card
Use a Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard
If you need a credit card to shop online or pay bills, you may be able to get by with a Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard. These are debit cards that are affiliated with a credit card but only allow you to spend money out of your bank account.
How foreign workers and work permit holders can apply for a credit card as a non-permanent resident in Canada
The eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet to get a credit card for non-residents in Canada depends on the type of card you get.
Newcomer to Canada credit card. You’ll usually need to provide proof of residency and a Canadian bank account to qualify for these cards. You’ll also need to be the age of majority in your province of residence.
Prepaid credit card. Prepaid cards don’t typically have eligibility requirements, since cardholders must provide a deposit that becomes your credit limit (you don’t use borrowed funds). If you need a credit card for work permit holders in Canada, this can be a great option.
Secured credit card. You typically need to show proof of residency and have a Canadian bank account to qualify. You also need enough money to secure your credit limit (usually between $500 and $10,000).
Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard. Most Canadian banks issue a Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard when you open a bank account. So, you need to be eligible for a Canadian bank account to qualify for this type of card.
You may need some or all of the following documents to qualify for credit cards for temporary residents:
Visa or residency permit. Provide a copy of your valid temporary, student or work visa.
Passport. Supply your passport number and/or a digital copy of your passport photo page.
Address. You must have a valid Canadian address to apply for a credit card for temporary residents in Canada.
School or employment details. You may need to provide information about your employment or school, including your expected income.
Bank account information. Provide details of your Canadian bank account such as the transit (branch) number, institution number and account number.
Using a credit card to build your credit score in Canada
Using a credit card for temporary residents in Canada can help you build your credit score as an immigrant. This makes it easier to get approved for low interest rates on future loans and mortgages. Building your Canadian credit history is important since banks will only look at this score—not your credit score in your home country—to determine your eligibility for financing in Canada.
If you have bad credit in your home country, this means you get a fresh start in Canada. But it can be a bad thing if you had good credit before coming to Canada, since you’ll have to reestablish your credit score. If you have good credit at home, you may want to provide proof of this to your credit card issuer in case it increases your odds of approval.
4 easy ways new Canadians can build credit fast
If you don’t have permanent ties to Canada, you’ll likely be seen by credit card issuers as a high-risk borrower. Before you apply for credit cards for temporary residents, consider the following:
You may be asked to provide reference checks. For some applications, you’ll be asked to supply names and contact information for Canadian residents who can confirm the details you provide on your application. This could include your landlord, employer or anyone else you have a financial relationship with.
Your first Canadian card will likely have a low credit limit. As a temporary resident, you’ll probably be granted a much lower credit card limit than you might expect. Use the card regularly and make repayments on time to apply for a credit limit increase in the future.
Pay your bills on time. Your payment history with Canadian phone, internet and electric companies might be reviewed for signs of late payments or defaults. If you want to qualify for other credit products in Canada as a temporary resident, aim to have excellent credit while you’re here.
You might not find out why your application was denied. Card issuers might not explain why your application was rejected if you’re a temporary resident applying for a credit card. This can also be true for applicants who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Pros and cons of getting a card as a temporary resident, work permit holder or foreign worker in Canada
Build your credit. If you plan to become a permanent resident of Canada, getting a credit card as a temporary resident will help you build your Canadian credit history.
Flexible payments. Credit cards for temporary residents allow you to make purchases in local stores using credit, which you can then pay off as you please.
Increased borrowing power. It may be easier to get approval for loans or a mortgage if you already have a credit card issued by a Canadian bank and maintain a good credit history.
Make bill payments. Getting a Canadian credit card for non-residents might make it easier for you to set up a mobile phone or utilities contract as you get settled in the country.
Limited availability. Not all financial institutions offer credit cards to temporary residents, and those that do might only offer a limited selection of cards.
Higher income requirements. You might need to meet high income requirements, since you don’t have a credit score to prove your creditworthiness.
Credit history. Your credit score in Canada could go down if you apply for a credit card and you’re declined (since applying typically requires a hard credit check).
If you’re looking to get a credit card as a temporary resident in Canada, you have several options. These include signing up for a newcomer to Canada banking program credit card or using your Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard instead of a credit card.
Credit cards for temporary residents in Canada FAQs
Yes. Non-residents can get a credit card in Canada if they sign up for a newcomers banking package or put money down to get a secured or prepaid card.
A US citizen can get a Canadian credit card if they are living temporarily in Canada and can show proof of a Canadian address. They won't typically be eligible to apply if they're trying to get a Canadian credit card while living in the US.
That depends on whether you want access to credit or you would prefer to prepay your card. If you want to keep your interest rates down, you might like to choose the Scotiabank Value Visa Card. To earn rewards, you could sign up for the TD Rewards Visa Card.
If you would prefer a prepaid or secured credit card for international students in Canada, you may want to look into the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard or the Home Trust Secured Card.
Similar to international students, the top credit card for work permit holders in Canada depends on the type of credit card you want. Your best bet is to compare credit cards and newcomer to Canada banking programs to find the best fit for you.
You can also explore secured or prepaid credit cards if you're having trouble qualifying for an unsecured card. The market in Canada for prepaid cards is expanding and there are now great pre-paid cards that come with rewards perks like credit cards.
Collections proceedings will begin against you and will continue if you ever decide to return to Canada.
Claire Horwood is a writer at Finder, specializing in credit cards, loans and other financial products. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies from the University of Victoria, and an Associate’s Degree in Science from Camosun College. Much of Claire’s coursework has focused on writing and statistics, with a healthy dose of social and cultural analysis mixed in for good measure. In her spare time, Claire enjoys rock climbing, travelling and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee.
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