18 Best First Credit Cards To Get In Canada (2022)

Are you on the market for your first-ever credit card in Canada and don’t know where to start?

Whether you’re a student, a newcomer, or just haven’t had the chance to apply for one yet; you’re at the right place.

In this post, I’m going to go over how you can choose your first credit card and list which ones might prove as the best one for you through the extensive market research that I’ve conducted.

Keep reading and you’ll be a part of the 82% of Canadians who have a credit card in no time.

Best Overall
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
  • Up to 2% cash-back
  • Purchase assurance and extended warranty
  • Unlimited cash-back rewards
  • Personalized cash-back categories to maximize rewards
  • 19.95% purchase interest rate
  • No annual fee 
Best User Experience
Neo Credit Card
Neo Credit Card
  • Average 5% cash-back at more than 7000 retailers (up to 15% possible)
  • Fantastic user experience and mobile application
  • Tap to freeze feature and financial insights
  • Mastercard Zero Liability
  • 19.99%-24.99% purchase interest rate
  • Secured option available
  • No annual fee 
Best Paid
American Express Cobalt Card
American Express Cobalt Card
  • Up to five times more Amex Membership Rewards
  • No fee for any additional cards
  • Extensive travel and mobile device insurance
  • Application response within 60 seconds
  • 20.99% interest rate on purchases
  • No set income requirement
  • $12.99 per month ($156 per year)

Features To Consider Before Getting Your First Credit Card

Although many people have experience with debit cards from a relatively young age, credit cards are a whole different ball game.

I would recommend taking the following features into consideration before getting your first credit card, especially if you feel relatively inexperienced when it comes to this topic.

Features to consider:

  • Annual fees
  • Interest rate on purchases as well as cash advances
  • The length of your grace period and minimum payment amount
  • Eligibility requirements (such as minimum personal or household income)
  • Rewards and cash-back perks
  • Insurance (travel, mobile device, zero liability, car rental, and other) 
  • Security features
  • ATM withdrawal, over-limit and foreign exchange fees, as well as any other fees that are listed on your credit card contract
  • Ability to have additional cards and associated fees
  • User experience, customer service and financial technology

The Best First Credit Cards in Canada

Here are some of the best credit cards in Canada that can serve you well as a first credit card.

1. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card: Best Overall

Tangerine logo

Standout Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Up to 2% cash-back
  • Purchase assurance and extended warranty
  • Annual personal income of $12,000 required only
  • Unlimited cash-back rewards
  • Personalized cash-back categories to maximize rewards
  • 19.95% purchase interest rate

If you’re on the hunt for your first credit card, I’d highly recommend that you check out this Money-Back Credit Card by Tangerine. With no annual fee, unlimited cash-back rewards, purchase assurance and an extended warranty, it’s a really great option as your first card.

Besides being a Canadian resident and fulfilling the age of majority in your province/territory, you must have a minimum $12,000 annual personal income and be free of bankruptcies in the last seven years to be eligible for this card.

You can learn more about this great card and sign-up on Tangerine’s website.

2. Neo Credit Card: Best User Experience

Neo Cashback Credit Card Logo

Standout Features:

  • No annual fee
  • 0.5% – 5% cash-back at more than 7000 retailers (up to 15% possible)
  • Fantastic user experience and mobile application
  • Tap to freeze feature and financial insights
  • Mastercard Zero Liability
  • 19.99%-24.99% purchase interest rate
  • Secured option available (more on this card later)

Neo is a financial technology company based in the prairies. As they are centred around technology, the user experience of Neo is one of the best you can get in Canada.

That’s why their credit card is a fantastic option as a first credit card; you can easily track your spending, make your payments easily and automatically on the app, and have access to great security features such as tap to freeze while you get acquainted with using a credit card.

This card has a 20-24% interest charge on purchases and offers great cash-back (up to 15% on eligible purchases.) You also have access to Mastercard’s Zero Liability in case of any misuse of your card.

You can learn more about the Neo Credit Card and sign-up on Neo’s website.

3. Koho Mastercard: Best Prepaid

KOHO Logo

Standout Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Prepaid; no interest or effect on your credit score
  • 0.5% cash-back on all purchases
  • No income requirement and no hard credit check
  • Early payday and credit building features
  • No hidden fees
  • Great mobile application

If you want a “soft” entry point into the world of credit cards, this prepaid Koho Mastercard is your best bet.

It can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted without the fuss of trying to make monthly balance payments or negatively affecting your credit score while you get the hang of things.

You also have to pay no monthly or annual fees while getting cash-back on all of your daily purchases and bill payments.

As Koho is a fintech company, they also have a fantastic mobile application that streamlines the user experience to a great degree.

If prepaid sounds more like what you are looking for at this time, then definitely check out and sign up for Koho here.

4. American Express Cobalt Card: Best Paid

American Express Logo

Standout Features:

  • Up to five times more Amex Membership Rewards
  • No fee for additional cards
  • Extensive travel and mobile device insurance
  • Get a response on your application within 60 seconds
  • 20.99% interest rate on purchases
  • No set income requirement

If you’re okay with paying a fee for your first credit card, I would definitely recommend that you check out this American Express Cobalt Card.

At a monthly fee of $12.99 (around $156 per year), you get fantastic travel and mobile device insurance and great point perks. More specifically, the point system on this card works like this:

  • Get five times the Amex Membership Rewards points on eligible food and drink purchases in Canada
  • Get three times the points on eligible streaming subscriptions
  • Get twice the points on eligible transit, gas and travel purchases
  • Get one point per $1 spent on everything else

You can redeem your collected Amex Membership Rewards for pretty much anything you like, including travel, Amazon.ca purchases and merchandise.

Learn more about and sign up for this American Express Cobalt Card here.

5. President’s Choice Financial Mastercard

PC Financial Logo

Standout Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Up to four free supplementary cards for more points
  • Extra Optimum Point perks at Shopper’s Drug Mart, Esso, Mobil and PC Travel
  • Mastercard Global Service
  • No set income requirement for eligibility (credit check required)
  • 20.97% interest rate on purchases

Optimum Points can add up really quickly even with a regular PC Optimum Card, but this President’s Choice Financial Mastercard can really help you rack up points quickly to redeem towards your grocery and drugstore purchases.

More specifically, here’s how the Optimum point system with this Mastercard works.

  • 25 points per $1 spent at Shopper’s Drug Mart
  • At least 30 points per litre at Esso and Mobil
  • 20 points per $1 spent at PC Travel
  • 10 points per $1 spent anywhere else, including at Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore and other President’s Choice stores

This card is the lowest tier of the three credit cards PC Financial offers. Although the other cards have higher annual income requirements, this card does not have a set income requirement, making it a great first option as a credit card.

6. Scotia Momentum No-Fee Credit Card

Scotiabank logo

Features:

  • 0.5%-1% cash-back on your purchases
  • No annual fee
  • $0 fee for supplementary cards
  • Available for newcomers with no credit history through the Scotiabank Startright program
  • $12,000 annual income required
  • 19.99% interest on purchases
  • Minimum $500 credit limit

If you’re looking for a big bank option for your first credit card, I’d highly recommend this Scotiabank Momentum No-Fee Credit Card. With no annual fee, good cash-back on your everyday purchases, and free supplementary cards, you really can’t go wrong.

If you’re also a branch banker – that is, you like to regularly go into a physical branch to conduct your banking affairs such as bill payments – this card can also support that as Scotiabank has thousands of branches across the country.

Check out this no-annual-fee credit card here.

7. Mogo Prepaid Visa 

Mogo

Features:

  • Supports budgeting
  • Prepaid; no hard credit check or set income requirement
  • Bitcoin Rewards
  • Tree planting, strong environmental initiatives and carbon neutrality
  • Free identity protection
  • Free credit monitoring
  • 2.50% foreign exchange fees (FX)
  • Good user experience

Mogo’s primary goal is to help people gain financial freedom while doing good by the planet. If you are hunting for a prepaid card for your first card, this is another great option, especially if climate action is important to you.

“Buy now, pay now” is one of Mogo’s slogans. A prepaid card can help you avoid overspending and debt while helping you make smart financial decisions for the future. With the MogoCard, every tap or transaction also means a tree has been planted, which can help you lower your environmental impact.

I highly recommend checking this card out. You can learn more and sign up for the Mogo Card here.

8. SimplyCash Card from American Express

American Express logo 2

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • No fee for additional cards (up to nine)
  • 1.25% flat cash-back rate on all your purchases (no limit)
  • $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance, Buyer’s Assurance, and Purchase Protection
  • 19.99% interest rate on purchases and 21.99% on cash advances
  • Get a response on your application in 60 seconds
  • No set income requirement

The Amex SimplyCash is a fantastic card option for your first credit card. You truly get a lot for no annual fee, including good travel and shopping insurance, 1.25% cash-back with no reward limits and free additional cards for extra cash-back opportunities.

As this card also has no set income requirement, it can be a good option for students or borrowers with part-time jobs. Just make sure that you are both a Canadian resident and fulfil the age of majority in the province or territory in which you live.

Do also remember that the 19.99% interest on purchases will go up by quite a bit if you miss any payments with this card. So, ensure that you stay on top of your payments to avoid high-interest charges and any negative effects on your credit score.

Learn more about this American Express SimplyCash card here.

9. BMO AIR MILES Mastercard

BMO

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • First supplementary card is free
  • Up to three times the Air Miles
  • Save on car rentals at National Car Rental and Alamo Rent-a-Car
  • Get discounts at Cirque du Soleil (in Canada) and resident shows in Las Vegas
  • 20.99% interest rate on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances
  • Extended warranty, purchase protection and zero liability protection

Already an Air Miles collector, or want to start? Check out this no-annual fee BMO Air Miles Mastercard as your first credit card. Here is how the Air Miles collection on this card works:

  • Get three miles for every $25 spent at Air Miles Partners
  • Get two miles for eligible grocery store purchases
  • Get twice the miles when you show your Air Miles card at Air Miles Partners

If you are not interested in Air Miles, BMO also has several other no-annual-fee credit cards that provide decent cash-back and other rewards. These can prove equally good as a first credit card.

10. Koho Premium

Features:

  • 2% on three cash-back categories of your choice
  • No FX (foreign exchange) fees
  • One free international ATM withdrawal each month
  • Great user experience
  • Priority customer service and financial coaching
  • Prepaid; no income requirement or hard credit check required (soft only)
  • $9/month or $84 per year

Koho is a favourite among us because they give their users the ability to reap the benefits of a prepaid card while also building their credit score. Although this credit building program comes at a small monthly cost, it’s definitely worth it if you want to avoid debt, overspending and interest charges.

Koho Premium gives better cash-back than its “regular,” free counterpart that I wrote about earlier in this list. It also offers no FX fees, one free international ATM withdrawal per month, priority customer support and financial coaching.

So, the annual fee of $84 can be worth it if you use the card for most of your everyday purchases.

I definitely recommend Koho Premium if you are okay with the fee. You can learn more about the premium features and sign up for this card here.

11. Simplii Financial Cash-Back Visa Card

simplii financial logo

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Three supplementary cards at no fee (with the possibility to set spending limits)
  • Up to 4% cash-back
  • Purchase security and extended protection insurance (option to add travel insurance)
  • $50 refer-a-friend program (no limits!)
  • Option to send money abroad using your credit card
  • $15,000 minimum household annual income
  • 19.99% purchase interest rate
  • 2.50% foreign exchange (FX) fee

This Cash-Back Visa Card by Simplii has one of the best cash-back rates on a credit card in Canada. Here’s how the reward program works.

  • 4% cash-back on eligible restaurant, coffee shop and bar purchases (up to $5,000 per year)
  • 1.5% cash-back on eligible groceries, gas and drugstore purchases and pre-authorized payments (up to $15,000 per annum)
  • 0.5% on everything else with no limits

If you didn’t already know, Simplii Financial is the digital-only arm of a big-five bank in Canada, CIBC. See how Simplii compares with Tangerine in this post.

12. Stack Prepaid Mastercard

Stack Logo

Features:

  • No monthly or annual fees
  • Instant cash-back at Stack partners
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Prepaid; no hard credit check or income requirements
  • Great user experience and mobile app
  • Innovative features such as early payday and spend tracking
  • Mastercard Zero Liability

STACK is a company that offers a prepaid Mastercard with no fees (including on foreign exchange.) I’d recommend them to you if your goal is to travel quite often with your first credit card.

If cash-back or rewards are quite important to you, however, I’d recommend going with another card on this list as STACK’s reward program is quite limited.

13. Scotiabank Scene Visa Card

Scotiabank logo

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Free supplementary cards
  • Five times the Scene points at Cineplex and one point per $1 spent on everyday purchases
  • No set income requirement
  • Minimum $500 monthly credit limit
  • Discounts up to 25% on car rentals
  • Optional insurance coverage (at a cost)
  • 19.99% interest on purchases

Scene Plus is a loyalty program that was established in 2007 in Canada. The company is jointly owned by Cineplex, Scotiabank, and the Empire Company.

This credit card by Scotia has no annual fees and can help you build points through the Scene + program. If Scene+ and movie rewards are attractive to you, I’d definitely recommend checking out this card as your first credit card.

You can learn more and sign up for this Scene Visa Card here

14. RBC Virtual Debit Visa

rbc logo

Features:

  • No annual or monthly fee
  • Linked to your RBC chequing account
  • Instant access
  • 24/7 fraud controls and zero liability

If you’re one of RBC’s 17 million clients and are simply looking for a card to shop with online and in-store safely, this card is a great option for you.

This virtual debit visa is accepted everywhere Visa is and can help you avoid using your debit card details for any online purchases.

With the zero liability policy especially, this card is much safer than using your regular debit.

Also, don’t let the name of this card fool you. Although you will have instant access to the virtual version of this card, you can have a physical version mailed to your home for any in-person purchases or ATM use.

You must already bank with RBC to qualify for this card.

15. Neo Secured Card

Neo Cashback Credit Card Logo

Features:

  • Guaranteed approval
  • No hard credit check
  • No monthly or annual fees
  • Average 5% cash-back
  • Amazing user experience and mobile application
  • Minimum $50 security deposit/limit
  • Financial insights and tracking

I understand that sometimes it’s quite difficult to get a regular credit card if you have a low or no credit score. This might specifically be the case if you’ve never taken out credit before or are new in a country.

A secured card can be a really good option in this case. All you have to do is put down a “security” or deposit that is equal to the credit limit of your new secured card, and you will have access to a credit card and the chance to slowly build up your credit score by making your monthly minimum payments.

If this sounds like a good option to you, the Neo Secured Card is probably your best bet. It’s one of the only secured cards on the Canadian market that has no annual fees while also offering great cash-back and a fantastic user experience.

Learn more about the Neo Card here.

Dive deeper into secured cards in Canada here.

16. TD Cash-Back Visa Card

TD Logo

Features:

  • No annual fee + up to three additional cards at no cost
  • 0.5%-1% cash back to use towards your card balance
  • 50% more “Stars” at Starbucks stores
  • Discounts at Avis Rent-A-Car and Budget Rent-A-Car locations
  • No set income requirement
  • Visa Zero Liability
  • Purchase security and extended warranty insurance

Another good big-bank option for a first credit card is this TD Cash-Bank Visa Card. You can earn good cash-back at no annual fee to put towards your account balance while taking advantage of perks at Starbucks and car rental locations.

Here is how the cash-back system on this card works.

  • Get 1% cash-back on eligible grocery and gas purchases and on regularly recurring bill payments
  • Get 0.5% cash-back on all other purchases on your card
  • Redeem your cash-back towards your account balance once it hits $25 (cash-back does not expire)

17. CIBC Dividend Visa Card for Students

cibc investor’s edge

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Up to three additional cards free
  • Up to 2% cash-back
  • Free SPC membership
  • $100,000 Common Carrier Accident Insurance
  • 20.99% purchase interest rate
  • No minimum income requirement
  • $1,000 minimum credit limit
  • No cash-back limit
  • Purchase security and extended protection insurance

CIBC is one of the big five in Canada. If you’re a student on the hunt for your first credit card, I’d recommend this one to you.

With this card, you earn 2% on groceries, 1% on transportation, gas, dining and recurring payments and 0.5% on everything else. Your free SPC membership also gets you discounts at hundreds of retailers across Canada.

18. Meridian Visa Cash-Back Card

Meridian: Best Overall

Features:

  • No annual fee
  • Get 1% cash-back on gas, grocery and pharmacy store purchases and utility bill payments
  • Get 0.5% cash-back on everything else
  • Free supplementary cards
  • Mobile device insurance and $100,000 Common Carrier Accident Protection
  • 19.50% purchase interest rate
  • No set income requirement

Meridian is a credit union based in Ontario. Wholly owned by its members, it offers a wide range of financial products that are on par with Canada’s big banks.

If you’re an Ontario resident, I’d definitely recommend this card to you as your first credit card (or second or third!) It has great cash-back and insurance at no annual cost.

You can learn more about Meridian, and other Canadian credit unions, in this best credit unions in Canada post.

Conclusion

Best First Credit Cards To Get In Canada

Many options on the Canadian market may serve you well as your first credit card.

Whether you go for high cash-back rewards, no annual fee options, or a paid card with more insurance and perks, I’m confident that something in today’s post will be the right card for you.

If you plan on carrying a balance month-to-month, a low-interest credit card may also be a good option for you. Check out this post on the best low-interest credit cards in Canada to learn more.

Photo of author
Selin is a seasoned personal finance and sustainable banking expert with several years of experience working in Canadian credit unions, both in the branch networks as well as the head office. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, she's also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers youth community and is either working with kids or travelling when she is away from her computer.

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