Credit cards for temporary residents

Are you a temporary resident in Canada who wants to get a credit card? Compare your options and learn how to apply.

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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.

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
BMO World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases (up to $50,000 spend annually), and get 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases (and once you reach the $50,000 annual spend).
Earn a bonus of up to 35,000 BMO Rewards points with a minimum spend of $3,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership ($250 travel value to be used towards a flight booked through bmorewards.com). Plus, get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year.
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.
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
Earn up to 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles.
Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$99
$60,000
Earn 1.25 AIR MILES reward miles at Shell stations in Canada and 1 mile per $15 spent for all other purchases.
Earn 1.25x Miles on card purchases at participating Shell stations in Canada and 1 mile per $15 spent for all other purchases.
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Earn 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Get up to 5% cash back on all eligible purchases made within the first 3 months (up to a maximum spend of $4,000). Plus, get the first year annual fee of $120 waived.
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Credit card options for temporary residents

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.

ProviderEligibility requirements might include:Available cards may include:
BMO
  • Be a permanent resident or a foreign worker.
  • Must have arrived in Canada within the last five years.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
CIBC
  • Must have received permanent resident status within the last five years.
CIBC offer a selection of credit cards to newcomers. Contact a branch to find out more.
HSBC
  • You’re not yet a Canadian citizen and you’ve been a resident for less than five years.
  • Have not had an HSBC account in the past.
HSBC Mastercard
NBC
  • Be a temporary worker, international student or a permanent resident.
  • Have reached 17 years of age regardless of your province of residence.
  • Apply to open an account during three months before you arrive or up to five years after arriving in Canada.
Travel or cash back Mastercard
RBC
  • Must have arrived to Canada within the last five years to take advantage of the Newcomer Advantage.
  • Time limits for car loan and credit card offerings range from less than one year in Canada to less than three years.
RBC Cash Back Mastercard

RBC Rewards+ Visa

and others

Refresh FinancialNot listedRefresh Financial Secured Credit Card
Scotiabank
  • Must be a Canadian permanent resident in Canada from 0-3 years, international student or a foreign worker.
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card

Scotiabank American Express Card

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

and others

TD
  • 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

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

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Bottom line

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.

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