The Top Credit Cards for Bad Credit in Canada for September 2022

Posted on September 20, 2022 by Jack Hauen

It’s a cruel twist of fate that one of the best ways to rebuild bad credit — paying off a credit card in full and on time — is impossible when your credit score is so bad that you can’t get approved for cards in the first place.

Fortunately, there are a number of credit cards explicitly marketed toward people with bad credit or no credit. If used responsibly, they can be a great way to build that score back up. Soon you’ll be living the good life, sipping champagne and sucking down caviar with the rest of the 800+ club.

Okay, maybe having a good credit history isn’t that sexy. But it’ll make getting a mortgage easier.

Here are the best credit cards for Canadians with bad credit or no credit.

What Counts as “Bad Credit”?

Let’s defer to credit bureau Transunion on this one, since they’re the experts. Here’s their ranking:

  • 300 to 600: Very poor
  • 601 to 658: Poor
  • 658 to 720: Fair
  • 720 to 781: Good
  • 781 to 850: Excellent

Of course, these are guidelines. What counts as “poor” vs. “fair” will vary slightly depending on who you ask. 

Heck, even the other credit bureau, Equifax, thinks a 580 qualifies as “fair,” which would be in Transunion’s “very poor” category.

Why Do I Need a Credit Card if I Have Bad Credit?

If you have bad credit, it’s a good idea to start building it back up — or building it up for the first time. Having a bad credit score can make your future financial life a lot harder. 

Though it might seem far away now, you may want to buy a house, or a car, or take out a loan to start a business. Many landlords also ask for credit scores before they’ll rent to you. 

By working your way up from a low limit secured credit card to an unsecured one, you can get way more perks. Expert credit card churners with great credit get free flights and hotel stays all the time — just from opening new credit card accounts. 

Even if you don’t want to churn, baby, churn, being able to collect a higher rate of Aeroplan points or cash back can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars every year. 

Plus, high-limit credit cards always look cooler, don’t they? All matte black and whatnot.

The Different Types of Credit Cards

Secured cards

Secured credit cards require you to put down a security deposit before you can use them. That amount becomes your credit limit. It's usually a couple hundred bucks, but can go up to $10,000 depending on the card. The collateral gives the card issuer peace of mind if you default on your line of credit. 

Secured cards are usually marketed toward people with poor credit. On-time payments will help you build your credit score up over time.

Once you use a secured card for a while and build your credit score up, some banks offer you the chance to move up automatically to an unsecured card. And if they don’t, you can always check in with other lenders to see what kind of goodies you qualify for with your shiny new score.

Unsecured cards

Unsecured credit cards are what you might think of as “normal” cards. The only difference between these and secured cards is that unsecured cards don’t require a deposit, so their credit lines are "unsecured."

Prepaid cards

Prepaid cards function like debit cards. You load a certain amount onto them, and once you spend that amount, you can’t spend any more. They don’t affect your credit in any way, since you’re not actually borrowing any money.

Best Secured Credit Cards for Canadians With Bad Credit

Home Trust Secured Visa

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Deposit: $500 to $10,000
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 19.99%

The Home Trust Secured Visa card promises that “almost everyone who applies and puts down a deposit will be approved.” It’s an attractive card due to its lack of an annual fee — if a bit barebones.

There are no points and few perks to speak of (unless you count standard fraud protection as a perk). But with a flexible security deposit range and no fees, it’s perfect for building up your credit rating. 

Home Trust Secured Visa (Low Interest Rate)

  • Annual Fee: $59
  • Deposit: $500 to $10,000
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 14.90%
  • Perks: Lower interest rate in exchange for an annual fee

This version is identical to the free Home Trust Secured Visa, except that it charges an annual fee. In return, users get a lower interest rate, so if you carry a balance, you won’t get dinged as hard.

But if you’re trying to rebuild your credit, you’ll want to be careful to pay off your full bill at the end of each cycle anyway.

Plastk Secured Visa

  • Annual Fee: $120 ($48 yearly plus $6 monthly)
  • Deposit: $300 to $10,000
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 17.99%
  • Perks: Points on purchases; 0% APR for 3 months; 5,000 welcome points

Most secured cards don’t let you earn points on purchases. That’s usually an unsecured credit card thing. Plastk is the exception.

In exchange for a higher annual fee than other cards on this list, you can earn points on all your purchases. The exchange rate is 250 points to $1, but it’s not clear how many points you earn on purchases. The points can be redeemed for statement credit, events, and other perks like travel.

Plastk gives its users free credit scores every month. It also runs a free credit education program for cardholders, giving them tips to rebuild their credit with podcasts, videos, and other insights.

It also waives the $120 first-year fees in a back to school deal for students.

And you can pay your balance instantly via e-Transfer.

Capital One Guaranteed Secured Mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $59
  • Minimum Deposit: Between $75 and $300
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 19.8%
  • Perks: Travel benefits like accident and car rental insurance

Capital One guarantees that everyone will be approved who: 

  • Is in the age of majority in their province
  • Hasn’t applied for a Capital One account more than once in the last 30 days
  • Doesn’t have an existing Capital One account or a pending application
  • Hasn’t held a Capital One account that hasn’t been in good standing in the last year

That’s it. No minimum credit score. No wondering. “Guaranteed” is right in the name — even if you've been through bankruptcy.

Plus, while it doesn’t have points like the Plastk card, it has a couple of travel related benefits, including baggage delay reimbursement and 24/7 assistance for things like emergency cash transfers and medical referrals.

It has a lower annual fee than its unsecured cousin, outlined below, in exchange for a higher interest rate. But if you’re looking to repair your credit, you shouldn’t be carrying a credit card balance at all.

Refresh Financial Secured Visa

  • Annual Fee: $48.95 ($12.95 yearly plus $3 per month)
  • Deposit: Between $200 to $10,000
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 17.99%
  • Perks: No credit check, guaranteed approval

Refresh also guarantees approval after you make a deposit. It boasts that it won’t run a credit check on those who apply (which could ding your credit score by a few points).

It has a lower interest rate than other secured cards on the list, and its annual fee isn’t bad. 

Refresh will also show you how your habits are helping your credit score. It also reports to both major credit bureaus, which isn’t guaranteed by some other secured cards.

With "BLACK Tier," for $16.95 a month (after a free first month), you can get access to daily credit score updates from TransUnion; a credit simulator to see how different decisions could help or hurt your credit; educational videos; and fraud protection.

Refresh’s secured Visa doesn’t come with zero fraud liability baked in, which is a serious risk if your card is stolen or misused.

Best Unsecured Credit Cards for Canadians With Bad Credit

Capital One Low Rate Guaranteed Mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $79
  • Minimum Deposit: Between $75 and $300
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 14.9%
  • Perks: Travel benefits like accident and car rental insurance

Capital One’s unsecured low credit version comes with a low interest rate and some okay travel perks. It’s nothing fancy, but it is an unsecured card, and hey, that’s worth something.

Plus, if your credit score is too low for this card, Capital One will automatically approve you for the secured version, outlined above. 

This card does come with an annual fee of $79. But if you’re looking an unsecured card that guarantees approvals — one way or another — it might be for you. 

Neo Financial Mastercard

  • Monthly Fee: $0 (Standard plan), $2.99 (Plus), $8.99 (Ultra)
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 19.99% to 24.99%
  • Perks: Cash back — higher levels at partners and with welcome bonuses

Neo is a hybrid spending/savings account like Koho or Wealthsimple Cash. But instead of a prepaid card, you get an actual, real life Mastercard. It comes with a slick app and notifications on your spending.

The company says “a range of credit scores are accepted,” which is vague but encouraging. It’s clearly marketed toward young people, whose credit scores are often not great.

There are no fees associated with the card, unless you opt for the “Plus” or “Ultra” plans, which give you more cash back. 

Neo recommends those who spend more than $750 a month should go with Plus, and those spending over $1,000 should opt for Ultra. But you should do your own math there to figure out whether those plans are worth it for your spending levels. You can switch plans at any time.

Neo offers a pretty solid 1% guaranteed cash back on all purchases. The welcome bonus pushes that amount higher. Plus, you can earn up to 17% cash back for certain restaurants, merchandise, gas stations, and more.

National Bank MC1 Mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 20.99%
  • Perks: Extended warranties, hotel room upgrades, exclusive menus and more

The only eligibility requirements listed are that you’re the age of majority in your province or territory, and a Canadian resident.

That said, the MCI doesn’t come with any cash back perks.

But it does offer an extra year on many manufacturer’s warranties for items you buy with the card. And the Priceless Cities program gives you a ton of urban vacation (or staycation) perks.

Canadian Tire Triangle Mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 19.99%
  • Perks: Canadian Tire Money rewards

This is the lowest level of Canadian Tire’s Mastercard lineup. It’s a go-to choice for people graduating from secured cards. 

If you’re a frequent CT shopper, the card makes sense. You get 1.5% in CT Money for your first $12,000 in groceries per year; 4% in CT Money at Canadian Tire family stores like Sport Chek and Mark’s; and 5 cents per litre in CT Money at Gas+ and participating Husky stations.

PC Financial Mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate on Purchases: 20.97%
  • Perks: PC Optimum points on purchases

This is another solid choice if you’re already a patron of PC stores. The eligibility requirements are very vague, but people with low credit scores have had a lot of success with this one. 

You get 10 PC Optimum points per $1 spent anywhere — plus 25 points per $1 at Shoppers Drug Mart, 30 points per litre at Esso and Mobil stations, and 20 points per dollar spent with PC Travel. If you’re an Optimum points redeemer, you know those things can actually stack up pretty fast. 

You can also add up to four free additional cards on your account for family members. That normally carries a charge with other credit card issuers. And it comes with Mastercard Global perks for travel emergencies.

All that for no annual fee is a solid deal for an entry-level card.

Best Prepaid Credit Cards for Canadians With Bad Credit

KOHO

  • Fee: $7 per month
  • Perks: 0.5% cashback on all purchases

KOHO is a hybrid spending and savings account, similar to Wealthsimple Cash. It offers users a free KOHO prepaid card, which doesn’t build any credit on its own (since it’s prepaid). 

But an optional $7/month subscription to KOHO’s Credit Building service will do just that. Every month, as long as the $7 is paid on time, KOHO will report that you’re up to date on your payments. It promises this will help build your credit over time.

The Visa card itself doesn’t require a credit check, since you can only spend what you’ve loaded onto it.

Mogo

  • Fee: $0
  • Perks: 50 green satoshi rewards per purchase

The Mogo prepaid Visa doesn’t have any credit building services. It won’t impact your credit either way, and doesn’t require a credit check. 

But it does come with free monthly credit monitoring, so you can check your score as much as you want. Mogo provides tips to improve your score, and will give $200 to each member with the most improved score, every month.

As a green bonus, Mogo promises to plant a tree every time you make a purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Check My Credit Score?

Equifax and TransUnion are the two official bureaus to dispense credit reports in Canada. You can get a credit report from either of their websites, but their services cost $19.95 a month. 

Right now, Equifax is offering a free credit report when you sign up — just make sure to cancel before you’re charged!

There are also legit free sites, like BorrowellMogo, and Credit Karma, that will give you a credit score for free. Just note that some landlords will only accept an official Equifax- or Transunion-branded credit report — even though that’s where the free sites get their scores from. 

Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt My Credit Score?

Yes — a little bit. Every time you apply for a credit card, the lender will make what’s known as a “hard inquiry,” also known as a “hard credit check” or “hard pull.” That’ll knock your credit score down, but just by a few points. 

(Soft inquiries, if you were curious, happen when a person, not a major lender, checks your credit. Your employer might do this before they hire you).

Prepaid credit cards — like the ones you get from hybrid financial accounts like Wealthsimple Cash — won’t affect your credit score either way. That’s because they’re not really “credit” cards. The only amount you can spend is what you load them with.

How Can I Increase My Credit Score?

Paying off existing debt should be step 1. From there, any time you can show lenders that you can use credit responsibly, your score will go up. Pay off your credit cards on time, don’t carry a balance, and don’t spend more than you have.

Your credit score is based on whether your payments have been on-time, how high your credit card balances are, how many times banks have inquired about your credit, and whether you’ve had any collections or judgments against you.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, no one needs a credit card. But it makes life a whole lot easier. There are ways you can get around it — like by using a Visa debit card to make purchases online — but nothing beats the convenience of putting it on plastic.

Plus, building your credit score up to a higher level will make your future financial life much smoother. You’ll thank yourself in a few years when it comes time to buy a house or lease a car, and you can lock in much better rates because banks trust you.

And don’t forget those sweet, sweet points that you can accumulate with higher-limit cards. There are few feelings better on this green earth than paying zero dollars for a flight and a hotel. 

Victory will taste all the sweeter for having earned that free vacation through the determination and grit of building your credit up bit by bit.

Disclaimer: The writer of this article or employees of Stocktrades Ltd may have positions in securities listed in this article. Stocktrades Ltd may also be compensated via affiliate links in this post.

Jack Hauen

About the author

Jack Hauen is a journalist, freelance writer, and aspiring professional credit card churner. His reporting has appeared in Canada's top publications, including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post. When he's not lurking r/PersonalFinanceCanada he can often be found in the Algonquin backcountry, wheezing through a portage that looked smaller on the map.

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