The Best Credit Cards for Students 2019/2020

Young adult purchasing textbook with credit card in school library

The 2019/2020 school year is just around the corner and back to school prep has already begun. College and university students can expect to purchase textbooks and tools within the first week and support themselves on a limited budget throughout the year.

This is where a good rewards credit card can have added benefit. Not only can you earn rewards on groceries and purchases you’d already be making, but you can also start to build your credit. If used responsibly, your credit card can help build your credit score. Chances are you will need some credit history after graduation, even to score your first apartment and eventually your mortgage.

During the school year, you are bound to make purchases on food, entertainment, books, and transportation. A good rewards card can help you earn different amounts of points, or cash-back for particular spending categories, but ultimately reward you for your spending. Whether it’s cashing in on entertainment (everyone needs a break from studying), or cash-back to in your account, a rewards card can help you save.

As a student, you are most likely looking for a card with little-to-no annual fee because every penny counts. With many credit card options tailored to students, it can be hard to know which card will benefit you the most.

Making an educated decision can be easier with the card comparison tool. We have adjusted and tailored our Best of Finance methodology towards students, while considering sign-up bonuses, earning rates, and annual fees to rank the cards that provided the most cash value.

These are the best credit cards for students this school year:

BMO CashBack Mastercard

BMO® CashBack® Mastercard®

Why it’s an awesome card

With no annual fee, the BMO®* CashBack Mastercard®* offers those with a limited budget a decent amount of cash-back if used to its full potential. The card offers five percent cash-back in the first three months of cardmembership (up to $2,000 in spending), with no restrictions on where you can earn. This can equate to $100 cash-back in just a few months. Eligibility requirements are also fairly low, which makes this card appealing for students with little-to-no income. After you’ve reached the $2,000 spending cap or after three months, you only receive one percent cash-back on your purchases, which is standard for a no-fee card.

Cash-back is applied to your account annually, and while it is detailed on your statement monthly, you’ll receive your cash-back in the form of a credit to your account in January of the following year. If you use it wisely, it can help you prepare for the next school year!

Earning rate*

  • Other: One percent cash-back on all purchases.

Earning potential**

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: Five percent cash-back in the first three months of cardmembership (up to $2,000 in spending).
  • Rewards earned over a 24-month period: $272

President’s Choice Financial®Mastercard®

Why it’s an awesome card

For those students living away from home, it’s time to start doing your own grocery shopping and this card can help you earn free food. We can’t tell you what to buy (you may want to throw a few vegetables in your cart), but if you frequently shop at a Loblaws-owned grocery store (Loblaws, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Fortinos, Real Canadian Superstore, etc.), you may benefit from the President’s Choice Financial®Mastercard®.

There is no annual fee, and it’s great for earning PC Optimum points on your everyday shopping. You can use your points wherever President’s Choice products are sold including Shopper’s Drug Mart and Esso gas stations.

Note: Keep in mind, though, this card carries a 19.97% interest rate – in line with those aimed at customers with credit history. And speaking of which, all of these cards require you to have some credit history, but some issuers often skip the “no credit, no card” rule. It’s always best to check with the issuer before signing on the dotted line.

Use your President’s Choice Financial® Mastercard® for your everyday purchases and you’ll earn PC® Points towards free groceries and more. Plus, for a limited time, when you apply through and activate your card, you’ll get a free 1 year subscription to PC Insiders. That’s a $99 value! Score extra points, skip fees, and much more. Redeem PC points at participating grocery stores where President’s Choice®products are sold.

Earning rate*

  • Loblaw banner stores: 10 PC Optimum points for every $1 spent in store.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart: 25 PC Optimum points for every $1 spent.
  • Esso Mobil: 30 PC Optimum points per litre, using Esso Mobil at the gas station.
  • PC Travel: 20 PC Optimum points for every $1 spent on travel with PC.

Earning potential**

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards earned over a 24-month period: 252,340
  • Monetary value: $252.34***

***Assumes all food spend is on groceries, all pharmacy spend is at shoppers, all gas is at Esso Mobil, and all travel is through PC Travel.

Tangerine Money Back Card

Tangerine Money Back Credit Card

Why it’s an awesome card

Tangerine’s feature credit card is one of the most flexible options out there when it comes to earning cash-back. With the card, you’re entitled to earn cash-back from 2 of 10 Money-Back categories, including restaurants, groceries, gas, entertainment, and public transportation. You can basically earn cash-back on just about everything with the Tangerine Money-Back credit card, and you can change your preferred categories to suit your spending.

For a limited time, when you apply for a Tangerine Money Back credit card you can select two Money-Back categories and earn four percent cash-back on eligible purchases for three months. And if you set up your cash-back to automatically deposited into a Tangerine savings account, you become eligible to select a third category. After the sign-up bonus has ended, you can earn two percent cash-back from your Money-Back categories. All other purchases earn you 0.50 percent cash-back. The best part is that there is no limit to the amount of Money-Back rewards you can earn.

Earning rate*

  • Money-Back Rewards: Two percent on purchases made within your Money-Back categories.
  • Other: 50 percent earned on all other purchases.

Earning potential**

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn four percent Money-Back Rewards on purchases in two Money-Back Rewards categories of your choice, and 0.50 percent Money-Back Rewards on all other purchases for the first three months.
  • Rewards earned over a 24-month period: $245.22

Scotiabank SCENE Visa card

SCENE® Visa* Card

Why it’s an awesome card

If movies are your way to relax, this credit card may be right for you. Earn SCENE points for purchases and redeem them for free movie tickets, discounted concessions, or discounts at participating Canadian RECIPE Unlimited restaurants (Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Milestones, and East Side Mario’s, to name a few). And since SCENE points are applied to your account automatically, you can use them anytime – great for those Friday night hangouts.

Not only does the SCENE® Visa* Card reward you for your pastimes, but it helps build your credit score and you don’t have to pay an annual fee. It was also the Best Card for Students award winner in the past.

Earning rate*

  • Entertainment: Five SCENE points per dollar spent at participating Cineplex Entertainment theatres or online at
  • Other: One SCENE point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Earning potential**

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: 2,500 SCENE points (if you charge $500 to the account within the first three months of cardmembership).
  • Rewards earned over a 24-month period: 26,500 SCENE points
  • Monetary worth: $265***

***Assumes individual is a movie goer and spends $50/month at Cineplex. If the individual never goes to Cineplex, earnings = $217 after two years.

Home Trust Secured Visa

No Fee Home Trust Secured Visa Card

Why it’s an awesome card

A good option is the Home Trust Secured Visa Card. Since this card is guaranteed, you don’t need any credit history to apply for it. Although, you do need a minimum deposit of $500. This money does not work as a prepaid credit card, you will still need to make monthly payments. But it allows you to establish your credit rating, make purchases online and by phone and access cash from any ATM around the world displaying the Visa or Plus logo (which can be useful if you decide to study abroad). Keep in mind that there is a $59 annual fee.


*Earning rate up to card’s annual spending cap, if applicable.

**Assuming $800 is spent on the card monthly at eligible retailers, in the following categories:

  • Pharmacy: $27.67
  • Food: $355.29
  • Gas**: $67.16
  • Travel: $75.61
  • Other: $274.27

The average Canadian credit card spend is $1,600 per month. These numbers have been adjusted for students.

Related Topics

Credit Cards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>