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Credit cards for temporary residents in Canada

Find out how you can get a credit card as a temporary resident, work permit holder or immigrant to Canada.

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.

Example: RBC Cash Back Mastercard

Compare newcomer banking programs and eligible credit cards for temporary residents.

Eligibility requirementsCredit card examples
BMO logo
  • Must have arrived in Canada within the last 5 years
  • Deposit required (for a secured credit card) if you have no credit history
  • Proof of your status like your Canadian Permanent Resident Card, confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292 or IMM 5688), or your work or study permit (IMM 1442)
  • 2 pieces of ID
  • SIN number

Learn more: BMO NewStart® Program

CIBC logo
  • Must live in Canada
  • Valid (non-expired) Canadian work permit (IMM 1442) for at least a 12-month term
  • Government-issued photo ID
  • Must be the age of majority in your province or territory

Learn more: CIBC newcomer banking offers

National Bank
  • Available to permanent residents, temporary workers and international students
  • Be 18+ years old
  • Can open an account from 90 days before arrival up to 5 years after arrival in Canada

Learn more: National Bank’s newcomer offers

RBC Royal Bank
  • Proof of your status
  • Must have arrived in Canada within the past 12 months (for permanent residents and international students) or 48 months (for temporary resident workers)
  • If you don’t qualify for an unsecured credit card, you might still qualify for a secured credit card (requires a deposit)

Learn more: RBC Newcomer Advantage

Scotiabank
  • Proof of your status. Must be an international student, foreign worker or permanent resident from 0–5 years in Canada
  • Other government-issued photo ID
  • Foreign worker must provide a letter from their Canadian employer stating their annual income
  • Must reside in Canada
  • Be the age of majority in your province or territory

Learn more: Scotiabank Newcomers Banking Package

TD Canada Trust bank
  • Be a permanent or temporary resident of Canada for 5 years or less
  • Proof of your status
  • Other government-issued ID
  • Be the age of majority in your province or territory
  • Have never had a TD chequing account

Learn more: TD’s newcomer banking options

Compare credit cards for temporary residents

1 - 5 of 5
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
RBC Cash Back Mastercard
N/A
Up to 2% cash back
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
0% on balance transfers for 6 months
N/A
12.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($29 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 670
Get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months. Plus, pay no annual fee in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2024.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
10% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until October 31, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,500). Plus, get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 2% fee applies to transferred balances.
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card
Up to 5% cash back
1% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Earn 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 spend). Plus, get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months with no balance transfer fee. Apply by October 31, 2024.
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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.

Example: Mogo Visa Platinum Prepaid Card

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.

Examples: ScotiaCard Visa Debit (earn Scene+ rewards points on your purchases) and the BMO Debit Mastercard

How foreign workers and work permit holders can apply for a credit card as a non-permanent resident in Canada

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.

Does your credit score follow you to another country?

Banks and credit card issuers in Canada only consider your Canadian credit history. Having an excellent (or bad) credit score overseas won’t impact your application for a credit card in Canada.

But if you don’t have many details on your Canadian credit file as a temporary resident, providing accurate details and additional documents will help support your application and your chance of approval. Learn more about the credit score you need to get a credit card.

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

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. 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.

Cons

  • 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).

Bottom line

If you’re looking to find the best credit card for temporary residents 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.

You might also be eligible for a secured or prepaid credit card. Compare Canadian credit cards for non-residents to find the best fit for your needs and budget.

Credit cards for temporary residents in Canada FAQs

Written by

Claire Horwood

Claire Horwood was 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. See full profile

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