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Published August 18, 2023

How to Apply for a Credit Card in Canada: A Complete Guide

When applying for a credit card, issuers typically consider your age, income and credit score. Check out our guide on how to get a credit card before you start the process.

Applying for a credit card is a fairly straightforward process, but that doesn’t mean approval is guaranteed. In this guide, NerdWallet will walk you through the online application process and answer some important questions about credit checks, eligibility and first-time applicants. 

How to get a credit card online

Most credit card issuers allow you to apply for a card online, with approval taking a matter of minutes. Here are the basic steps for getting a credit card through the internet:

  1. Visit the issuer’s website and click on the card you’re interested in. 
  2. Read through the card’s details to ensure it suits your needs and makes sense for your finances.
  3. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements before you start the application process. 
  4. Click “apply now,” or the equivalent button, and you’ll be taken to a step-by-step application form. These forms typically ask for a mix of personal and financial details, such as:
    1. Your full name. 
    2. Your date of birth.
    3. Your current and previous employment details, such as job title, employer and income.
    4. Your home address and other contact information, such as your email.
    5. Your Social Insurance Number (SIN), if applicable.
  5. Submit all applicable information to the issuer. This may include uploading digital versions of documents, such as bank statements. 
  6. Review your application details carefully to ensure all the information is represented and accurate. 
  7. Click “submit” or the equivalent button.

Applying for a credit card in person or over the phone

You can also apply for a credit card in person — at a bank, for example — or over the phone. If applying in person, you’ll likely need to provide physical copies of documents. 

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Do credit card applications require credit checks? 

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer reviews your credit report. This is called a hard inquiry or hard hit. The issuer can see a range of financial details, such as mortgage repayments and bankruptcy filings. 

Will applying for a credit card affect my credit score?

Hard credit inquiries can temporarily decrease your score, but won’t cause permanent damage if you pay your bills on time. 

However, applying for multiple credit cards simultaneously isn’t advised, as your credit report will show numerous credit inquiries. Some lenders might see this activity as worrisome, and assume that you’re living beyond your means. Ideally, you should wait a few months between credit card applications

Did you know?

Closed accounts with positive data stay on your credit report from 10 to 20 years. This may include an old credit card that you paid off in full. Negative data, however, typically stays on your report for only up to seven years. This can include missed payments, late payments and bankruptcy filings. If you declare bankruptcy more than once, it can stay on your report for 14 years. 

    How long does it take to get a credit card?

    Depending on your application, the issuer and the type of credit card you’re applying for, approval can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. The physical card, meanwhile, can take weeks to reach you. Some issuers allow you to make purchases online before the physical card arrives, however. 

    If your application is declined, you can contact the financial institution to find out what happened. There are various reasons you might have been denied, such as having too low of a score or too many hard hits to your credit in a short period of time. In some cases, the issuer may not have been able to verify your information, and confirming a few details could help you get approved.

    When your card arrives, activate and sign it right away. The activation process usually involves setting up security info, such as your PIN and login details.

    How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

    You have to be at least the age of majority in your province to get a credit card in Canada. The age of majority in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan is 18. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Yukon, it’s 19. 

    How to get a credit card with bad credit

    Getting a credit card with no or bad credit is possible. There are specifically designed credit cards for bad credit, such as secured cards. Secured cards require a deposit as collateral for the credit. For example, if you provide a $2,000 cash deposit, your card will have a $2,000 credit limit. Some secured cards also offer rewards like cash back on purchases, helping you get the most out of your money. 

    Note that if you fail to pay your credit card bill, the issuer uses the deposit to cover the debt. Your account may also be at risk of being closed.

    How to get a business credit card

    If you own a small, mid-sized or large business in Canada, you may qualify for a business credit card. Eligibility requirements vary based on the card and the issuer. In general, you must be the age of majority in your province, be a Canadian resident and have a credit file to apply.   

    You may also be required to provide documentation, such as a business license, partnership agreement or notice of assessment to prove you have a registered business.

    How to get a credit card for the first time

    The process of getting a credit card for the first time will differ depending on which of the categories below you fit into:


    Credit histories from other countries cannot be transferred to Canada, which means newcomers start out with no credit. The good news is that some financial institutions have credit cards specifically designed for newcomers. These cards do not require Canadian credit to apply. Instead, they consider other factors, like income, to determine eligibility.


    Student credit cards are available to eligible applicants in Canada. These cards typically have no annual fee and don’t require a minimum income. However, students might have to submit proof of post-secondary school enrollment and be between a certain age range, such as 18 to 24, to apply.  

    First-time applicants

    If you’ve never owned a credit card before and have little to no credit, getting your first card may be tricky, but it isn’t impossible. You may want to consider a secured card to get your foot in the door and build credit. Alternatively, you can apply for a credit card with the help of a guarantor, like a parent. Credit card guarantors are also responsible for debt, and therefore reduce the risk to the issuer. 

    About the Authors

    Georgia Rose

    Georgia Rose is a lead writer on the international team at NerdWallet. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Independent and The Associated…

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    Barry Choi

    Barry Choi is a freelance personal finance and travel expert. His website is one of Canada's most trusted sites when it comes to all things related to money and…

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