Several major banks in Canada allow you to apply for a credit card when you’re a temporary resident. However, the types of cards available and the requirements you need to meet before you can apply may vary based on your income and other personal details.
Compare credit cards for temporary residents in Canada
You may be able to apply for the following cards if you’re on a temporary visa, landed immigrant, foreign worker or student visa and you have a Canadian address.
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If you’re a new immigrant to Canada, it’s important to start building your credit history. Down the line, if you want to take out a loan or buy a house, your credit score will have a huge impact on your chances of approval – as well as the rate and terms you’re offered. Once you move to Canada, banks will only look at your Canadian credit score – not the credit you built up before you moved here. One of the quickest and easiest ways to build a credit history in Canada is by actively using a credit card.
There are several Canadian banks offering secured and unsecured credit cards to new immigrants and temporary residents. Secured cards require an upfront deposit and are typically easier to qualify for, but usually come with high annual or monthly fees. Unsecured cards have no deposit requirements and typically come with enticing rewards like points and cash back, but have stricter eligibility requirements.
What about my existing credit history?
Banks and credit card providers in Canada will only consider your Canadian credit history. This means if you have an excellent credit rating overseas – or a bad credit rating for that matter – it won’t impact your application for a credit card in Canada.
That said, it’s important that you provide as many details as possible on your credit card application since you likely won’t have much to show on your Canadian credit file. Providing accurate additional information will help to improve your chances of being approved for a credit card.
Which banks offer credit cards to temporary residents?
The following are some of the big banks and credit card providers that offer credit cards to temporary residents in Canada. Some of these cards are offered through welcome to Canada banking packages, which means you’ll likely have to participate in the banking package program in order to be approved.
Have been a permanent resident or a temporary resident of Canada for two years or less.
Are at least 18 years of age, or the age of majority in your province or territory.
Provide proof of permanent residency or temporary residency.
Have never opened or held a TD chequing account.
TD offer a selection of credit cards to newcomers, with a credit limit up to $5,000. Contact a branch to find out more.
What you’ll need to apply
Although the eligibility requirements vary between different banks and credit card providers, the following criteria will likely apply:
Age. You must be at least 18 years of age or the age of majority in the province or territory where you reside.
Proof of temporary residency. You’ll need to prove that you’re a temporary resident of Canada, whether you are a student, worker or visitor.
Visa status. You must have a valid, eligible visa as a temporary resident in Canada. Most credit cards for temporary residents are designed for newcomers to Canada, meaning you will need to have recently moved to Canada (usually within the last three to five years). The length of time left on your visa that allows you to qualify for a credit card will differ between banks.
Canadian bank account. You will need a Canadian bank account in order to apply for a credit card. Some banks also require that you have another banking product with them in order to be eligible for a credit card.
You’ll likely need the following to apply for a credit card as a temporary resident:
Visa. You’ll need to provide a copy of your valid temporary, student or work visa.
Passport. You will have to supply your passport number and/or a certified copy of your passport for the application.
Address. You must have a valid Canadian address in order to apply for a credit card.
Employment details. If you’re employed in Canada, you’ll need to provide details of your employment.
What else do I need to know before I apply?
If you don’t have permanent ties to Canada, you’ll likely be seen by credit card issuers as a higher risk borrower. Before you apply for a credit card, make sure you 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 the person from whom you rent your home, your employer or any other individual that you have financial obligations with.
Your first Canadian card will likely have a low credit limit. As a temporary resident, you’ll likely be granted a much lower credit card limit than you would normally expect as a Canadian citizen. If you use the card regularly and make your repayments on time, you’ll be able to apply for a credit limit increase at a later date.
Pay your bills on time. Your Canadian payment history with phone, Internet and electricity companies may also be reviewed to check for late payments or defaults. If you want to qualify for other credit products in Canada as a temporary resident, you should aim to have excellent credit while you’re here.
You might not find out why your application was denied. You may not be notified as to why your application was rejected if you’re a temporary resident applying for a credit card.
Pros and cons of getting a card as a temporary resident
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. A Canadian credit card will 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 personal loans, including car loans and student loans if you already have a credit card issued by a Canadian bank.
Other types of credit. Once you have a Canadian credit card, it could be easier to enter into other financial contracts, such as getting a cell phone contract or finding an electricity provider.
Limited availability. Not all financial institutions offer credit cards to temporary residents, and those that do will likely offer a limited number of products to you.
High rates and fees. To compensate for your residency status as a temporary resident, which is seen as a higher risk, you may find that you have to pay higher interest rates or fees for your credit card.
Income requirements. With no credit file to refer to, many banks have strict income requirements to help offset the risk of lending to you. If you’re a student, you may be able to provide other sources of income as proof of your ability to make your repayments.
Credit history. If your application for a Canadian credit card is declined, it will likely slightly negatively affect your credit history here. This will stay on your Canadian credit report for around two to three years.
If you’re looking to apply for a credit card as a temporary resident in Canada, remember that the application requirements and eligibility could be different from what’s listed for permanent residents and Canadian citizens. Before applying for a credit card, be sure to compare different cards based on their features and fees so that you can find one that suits your budget and needs while you’re living in Canada. As mentioned above, the credit card application requirements differ between different banks and providers, so it’s a good idea to discuss your individual circumstances with your chosen provider before you apply for a card.
New to Canada in the last three to five years? You can also consider applying for a “welcome to Canada” banking package, which is typically offered by the big banks in Canada. This will give you access to more financial products including bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, safety deposit boxes and much more.
Frequently asked questions
Banks look at the length of time remaining on your visa to ensure that you will be in Canada long enough to repay any debt accrued on the credit card.
No. Balance transfer offers are only valid on balances held by another Canadian financial institution.
Collections proceedings will begin against you and will remain in place if you ever decide to return to Canada.
It’s possible to do a balance transfer to another Canadian credit card, provided the bank allows the switch with your temporary visa. Contact the bank directly to find out if it’s possible considering your circumstances.
Emma Balmforth is a Producer at Finder. She is passionate about cryptocurrency, credit cards and loans, and enjoys helping people understand the often confusing world of finance. Emma has a degree in business and psychology from the University of Waterloo. She wants to help people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future.
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