The world of credit cards can be an incredibly intimidating place. Many choices are out there, and many of the best cards can remain stubbornly out of reach.
Consider everything you must analyze to get the best bang for your buck. You must consider your income and credit score since many cards have strict entry requirements. Then you must figure out what kind of card you want, whether rewards or cashback is preferred.
Interest rates, annual fees, and signup bonuses also matter. Some won't want an American Express card since it can't be used in as many places as Visa or Mastercard, while others won't have any problem with that. Some may like the convenience of having a credit card from the same place as their bank account. Some won't care about that at all.
And that's not even touching several other variables, either.
After looking at all this, many Canadians will throw up their hands and simply apply for the first credit card their bank offers. This might be the simple solution, but you could leave hundreds of dollars a year on the table by not maximizing your credit card rewards. You might end up paying thousands of dollars in extra interest as well.
We can help. Let's look at Canada's top instant approval credit cards, which offer approval just seconds after you apply.
Such cards can help with post-application jitters and, more importantly, be in your wallet much faster than other cards. Because who applies for a credit card without wanting to use it soon?
What's an instant approval credit card?
As the name says, instant approval credit cards will tell a potential cardholder if they're approved or denied in just a few seconds. There's no need to go through a lengthy application process.
How does the application process work for an instant approval credit card?
Typically, here's what happens. You apply for one of these credit cards online through the bank's website. Once you hit that submit button, the card issuer's bank end takes over. Your info is quickly fed through an algorithm powered by ultra-fast computers.
It analyzes your application, pulls up your credit report from Equifax or Transunion, looks at your credit score, and runs it through various computer algorithms. This all takes but a few seconds.
The software then makes a decision based on the information provided, and the applicant is either approved or denied and is then assigned a credit limit based on the strength of their application.
Lets compare this to the traditional credit card application system
Potential cardholders would have to go down to a bank branch or apply in person another way. Their application then went to a head office somewhere where it would be analyzed by someone who just looked at credit card applications all day long.
At best, the application would be approved or denied on the spot. Still, sometimes the underwriter would have follow-up questions. If approved, the customer would get notice, and the physical card would follow in the mail a few weeks later.
In a world where customers can trade stocks instantly or transfer money to friends with a few clicks on their phone, nobody wants to wait weeks for all that. They want their new credit card now.
Information you need to apply for an instant approval credit card
The application process for any credit card is a bit of an arduous process, but it isn't all that bad. You can blame the card issuer; they potentially lend customers $10,000 (or often more) with absolutely zero collateral. It's only natural they will want to ask a few questions first.
The application process could cover any or all of the following, depending on which financial institution is issuing the card:
- The borrower's identity (social insurance numbers are typically optional)
- Proof of employment
- Salary and total household income
- Permanent resident or Canadian citizenship status
- Any additional credit cards the borrower may have
- Mortgage or rent info
- Net worth or details of any investments
As mentioned, this is an intimidating list to many people, especially those who have never applied for a credit card. But it isn't all that bad.
Most applicants can complete an application form in 10 or 15 minutes. After all, the credit card issuer knows people will give up halfway through an application if it's too tough. It's a fine line between getting as much information as possible and overloading the applicant; credit card companies are pretty good at not crossing.
Don't confuse instant approval credit cards with guaranteed approval credit cards
This is an excellent time to note the difference between instant and guaranteed approval credit cards. Despite what the name may imply, not everyone who applies for an instant approval credit card is approved.
Many are denied, and some will get approved, but at terms so arduous they aren't necessarily interested in accepting. Sometimes, even very qualified people are denied for no good reason. It's just a quirk in the software.
Guaranteed approval cards, meanwhile, approve everyone who applies, even those with bad credit. These cards are secured cards, with the borrower simply spending the money they've given to the credit card issuer as a security deposit. Once that money runs out, the card won't work.
Guaranteed approval cards are more commonly known as secured credit cards. They're useful for helping folks with bruised credit -- or no credit -- improve their credit score and show banks they're stable enough for an unsecured card. They're handy for Canadians who have recently declared bankruptcy.
Here's a list of some of the best instant approval credit cards, cards that offer their cardholders all sorts of exciting perks, rewards, or cash back and that are provided by most of Canada's top banks and credit card issuers.
What are the best instant approval credit cards in Canada?
- American Express Cobalt Card
- American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card
- Neo Credit
- BMO Cashback World Elite Mastercard
- Tangerine World Mastercard
- Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard
- MBNA True Line Mastercard
- RBC Ion Visa
- TD Aeroplan Infinite Visa
- Scotia Momentum Infinite Visa
American Express Cobalt Card
At first glance, many potential applicants might balk at the American Express Cobalt card's high $156 per year annual fee. Still, cardholders get some pretty serious perks in exchange for that fee. American Express has some of the best rewards in the entire market.
One of the main rewards of this card is Price protection. This will refund the difference if something goes on sale immediately after you buy it.
In addition, it offers various types of insurance, including travel emergency insurance, baggage insurance, car rental insurance, and purchase assurance. If you buy something that ends up being lost, stolen, or damaged, the issuer will cover up to $1,000 per incident.
The Amex Cobalt card also comes with a welcome bonus of 30,000 points, translating into a $300 value. That's enough to cover the annual fee for almost two years, or you can use those points against any eligible purchase charged to the card. Note that the welcome bonus is earned gradually over a year, provided you spend at least $500 monthly on the card.
The points rewards system works like this. You get 5 points for every dollar spent on groceries and restaurants, 2 points for every dollar spent on gasoline and travel (including flights, hotels, taxis, and even public transit), and 1 point for every dollar spent on everything else. You can extend your points further by using them for travel via Amex's Fixed Points Rewards chart, where points have a 75% higher value than applying them through the Flexible Points program.
This card comes with a purchase interest rate of 20.99% and a balance transfer interest rate of 21.99%. Amex also recommends you have a credit score of 660 or higher before applying.
American Express SimplyCash Preferred Card
The Amex SimplyCash Preferred card offers fewer rewards than the Cobalt card. Still, it also comes with a lower annual fee -- $120 compared to $156. Some of its perks include baggage loss insurance, extended warranty on selected items purchased with the card, and car rental insurance. The welcome bonus is one area where it does win compared to its peer.
The SimplyCash card offers a $40 statement credit for the first ten months as a cardholder, providing you spend at least $750 monthly. This perk is for the first ten months, so that can add up to a $400 welcome reward.
Rather than reward points, this Amex card is strictly cash back. You'll earn 4% cash back on all eligible purchases from gas stations and grocery stores, up to $1,200 annually. All other purchases get 2% cash back.
This card charges 20.99% interest on purchases and 21.99% on balance transfers. The minimum income requirement is zero, but you'll need a good credit score before applying. The minimum recommended credit score is 660, just like with the Amex Cobalt card.
Neo is a relatively new Canadian fintech name that has burst onto the scene in recent years, disrupting the market with excellent perks for its members, great products, and a unique rewards program.
The Neo Credit Mastercard is a no-fee credit card that offers a quick 3-minute application process.
Once approved, the company issues you a virtual card number immediately.
This instant card number can be used immediately by adding the number to your phone, either via Apple Pay or Google Pay. No more waiting for that piece of plastic to come through the mail, although a cardholder has that option if they don't need to use it immediately.
Another advantage of Neo's credit card is that you don't have to have an excellent credit score to be approved. The minimum credit score needed is just 600, much lower than many comparable cards on this list.
Here's how the Neo rewards system works. Neo has partnered with hundreds of Canadian retailers, restaurants, airlines, websites, and much more to offer exclusive deals to Neo members. When you pay via Neo's credit card, these rewards are instantly applied to your account. It's easy to use, and the points are flexible. You can cash them out to pay your card balance or spend them at the Neo store. And, as a welcome bonus, you can earn up to 15% cash back on your first purchase at participating partners.
On average, Neo's cardmembers report they get a cashback rate of about 5%, much higher than even cards with a high annual fee. Even if a cardholder doesn't take advantage of the many partnerships, Neo will still guarantee them a rate of 0.5% cash back, comparable to many other no-fee cashback credit cards on the market.
Finally, let's talk about another useful feature Neo offers. It easily allows you to set up auto-pay, which will automatically pay your credit card statement monthly, allowing you to avoid accidental interest charges.
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
Many of Canada's top banks now offer credit cards with instant approval. These banks invest billions in new technology each year and one of the ways these benefit consumers is by cutting down application times significantly.
Let's focus on one of BMO's top credit cards, the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard.
This card is marketed towards Canadians with a good credit history, upper-class household incomes, and much higher than average spending.
This card comes with a $120 per year annual fee, but that's waived for the first 12 months. You'll also have to pay $50 annually for an additional card. Other perks offered by this instant approval card include travel insurance (including trip cancellation and 15 days of emergency medical care insurance), 180 days of purchase protection, rental car insurance. It will even pay up to $500 for certain flight delays.
This credit card gives excellent cashback rewards, too, including 5% back on groceries (up to $500 in monthly spending), 4% cash back on transit (up to $300 per month in spending), 3% cash back on gas (up to $300 spent per month), 2% cash back on recurring bills (spending up to $500 per month) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Combine all that with this credit card's generous signup reward -- which is 10% cash back on up to $2,600 in purchases in the first three months -- and big spenders can start to see some pretty serious cash back.
Tangerine World Mastercard
Tangerine has been part of the Scotiabank family for a decade now. However, the Canadian online banking pioneer still maintains much of its independence. This shines through with things like much higher interest rates on deposits, very competitive mortgage rates, and, most importantly to us today, compelling credit card offers that, of course, come with instant approval.
The Tangerine World Mastercard's cashback rewards are a little different than most. Cardholders can pick up to three categories to earn 2% cash back on purchases. All other categories get 0.5% cash back. There's a total of 10 categories, including:
- Drug stores/pharmacies
- Recurring bills
- Home improvement
- Public transportation/parking
Note that cardholders default to getting bonus cashback on two categories, upgraded to three if the cardholder has a Tangerine bank account. You'll also get a signup bonus of an extra 10% cash back for the first two months, up to $1,000 spent.
Tangerine credit cards offer decent options for folks looking to transfer a balance over. This one will charge a low 1.95% interest rate for the first six months, then default to the 20%+ regular interest rate. This can help someone who can pay off their balance quickly or plans to be out of work for a few months.
The other interesting perk the Tangerine World Mastercard offers is mobile device protection. If you charge the full price of buying a new phone to the card and break your phone within a two-year window, Tangerine will cover up to $1,000 towards the cost of a new device. Certain conditions do apply, but it's an excellent perk, especially for a card without an annual fee.
Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard
The Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard has quietly emerged as one of the best no-fee credit cards on the market. It has no strict minimum household income requirements and will often approve those with even a bit of bruised credit.
This card offers an excellent 4% cash back on all purchases made at Canadian Tire stores. This also includes other banners
owned by the retailer, like Mark's, SportChek, and Part Source -- 1.5% cash back on groceries, and 0.5% cash back everywhere else.
It's a compelling card for those who seem to end up at Canadian Tire almost every weekend. Note the 1.5% cash back on groceries is limited to the first $12,000 per year in spending and doesn't include purchases at Costco or Walmart.
This credit card also offers no-fee financing options on qualifying items that cost more than $150 that are being sold at the various chains owned by Canadian Tire.
This instant approval credit card will also give borrowers an instant credit card number if their online application is approved. This card number can then be added to your digital wallet on your phone and can be used immediately. You won't have to wait to get your card in the mail. A similar application process exists for those who apply inside a Canadian Tire store.
MBNA True Line Mastercard
Suppose you're someone who regularly carries a balance on your credit card. In that case, rewards aren't nearly as important as a low-interest rate. It makes no sense to collect 2% rewards and pay 20% interest.
MBNA has a few instant approval credit cards with much lower rates than competing cards.
This card charges an interest rate of just 12.99%, which is about half of many of its competitors.
It also offers a 0% promotional rate on balance transfers for up to 12 months, as long as they're completed within 90 days of first opening the card.
This card also has no income requirements for applicants, which is great news for those looking to save on interest costs because they're in between jobs. Remember that the interest rate is still quite high on cash advances, though. Those will cost 25% per year.
Besides the low-interest rate, this card doesn't offer a whole lot. There isn't any cashback or any other rewards. It doesn't offer any insurance. It's a bare-bones card that is great for a certain segment of people and a pretty poor choice for everyone else.
RBC Ion Visa
Like with BMO, fellow Canadian banking giant Royal Bank offers instant approval on a bunch of their credit cards. We'll look at one of the more compelling choices today, the RBC ION Visa.
This card has two tiers, the ION Visa and the ION+ Visa. The former is a no-fee points card that offers a $35 welcome bonus and points that translate into approximately 1-2% rewards, depending on what they're redeemed for.
The ION+ Visa, meanwhile, has a $48 annual fee but has rewards that work out to approximately 2-3% of spending, and it has a $70 welcome bonus. Both cards will give you a little extra oomph on your reward dollars by transferring them as Westjet points, a nice perk stemming from the two companies' close connection.
Both ION cards offer bonus rewards on categories most other card issuers ignore. Cardholders get extra points on categories like groceries, restaurants, and transit, just like many other cards. But this card also offers bonus points on food delivery, rideshares, EV charging, streaming, digital gaming, and certain subscriptions. Smart spenders can see rewards of up to 3% on the no-fee version of this card and close to 5% on the paid version, but typically the range is closer to the amounts listed above.
Certain other RBC advantages come standard with both versions of this card, including savings at Petro-Canada gas stations, bonus points at Rexall, and certain Westjet perks.
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card
RBC has a close connection with Westjet, so TD has responded by partnering with Air Canada with its Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card. This card is excellent for those with excellent credit and a high household income.
Let's start with the welcome bonus, which currently is 70,000 Aeroplan points. That translates into approximately $1,400 worth of travel dollars, providing you hit all the rules.
The first tier of the bonus is a welcome bonus of 10,000 points. You'll then earn an additional 40,000 points if you spend $5,000 within the first six months of having the card. Finally, the last 20,000 points are earned if you spend more than $7,500 in the first year.
This card has a $139 annual fee, but many additional perks are also offered. It will rebate one NEXUS application fee per 48 months. You'll get free checked bags on Air Canada flights to share with travelling companions. It also includes travel medical insurance. You can supercharge points by getting an extra card for your spouse to use, but that'll cost an additional $75 per year. This card also offers other advantages that should interest travellers, such as compensation for trip cancellation, trip interruption, or insurance if your hotel room is broken into.
Two major downfalls of this card are its high income and credit score requirements. Applicants with a household income below six figures or a credit score below 700 aren't likely to be approved.
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card
ScotiaBank isn't just offering good instant approval credit cards via its Tangerine subsidiary. It also offers instant approval on many of its top credit cards, including the Momentum Visa Infinite Card.
This card is designed for the big spender, so it does come with restrictive income and credit score hurdles. You'll need a credit score in the 700 range to be approved for this card, although some folks may be successful with lower scores.
After all, credit scores are just one part of the algorithm. Single applicants will need an income of $60,000, with household income required to be $100,000. One applicant must be a Canadian citizen who has reached the age of majority, too. The annual fee is $120, and $50 for an extra card, although the first year's fee is waived.
The rewards are solid. Cardholders earn 4% back on groceries and regularly occurring bills, 2% on gasoline or transit purchases, and 1% on everything else. Both categories have an annual spending limit of $25,000.
You'll get a welcome bonus of up to 10% of the first $2,000 in spending. It also offers additional perks, including up to $500,000 of travel accident insurance, 15 days of emergency medical insurance, 90-day purchase protection, and one year extended warranty on all card purchases. And, unlike many of its peer cards, this credit card also offers mobile device coverage. This unique feature could be very valuable if your phone has an unfortunate accident.