According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Great White North welcomes a quarter million new permanent residents each year. But without an established Canadian credit history, they can't always apply online for credit cards. Since credit cards are often used as a valuable form of identification, many immigrants to Canada are at a loss when trying to set up contracts for mobile phones, rent cars or shop via the web.
Though some credit card issuers offer introductory packages specifically designed for recent immigrants, the responsibility for researching and deciding on the best credit card rests with the individual consumer. Here's a rundown of some options.
Most large Canadian financial institutions have introductory packages for new immigrants that include credit card offers.
Royal Bank's Welcome to Canada banking package offers language services in 180 languages and features the RBC Cash Back MasterCard. New citizens without a credit history can apply for this rewards card, but may be required to provide a security deposit. RBC Cash Back MasterCard charges no annual fee, and generates 2 per cent in cash back for the first $6,000 in annual grocery spending.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's Newcomers to Canada package features the CIBC Dividend Card. This no annual fee product is also subject to credit approval and may require a deposit. Immigrating applicants must present their permanent resident card or an official authorizing letter. CIBC Dividend Card pays up to 1 per cent in cash-back credit when net annual purchases exceed $3,000.
Scotiabank's StartRight Program has two credit cards, each targeting international students living in Canada. Scotiabank Scene Visa generates points towards free movies while L'Earn Visa returns up to 1 per cent in cash back for net annual purchases over $1,000. Both rewards cards are free from annual fees.
Other Canadian financial institutions allow newcomers to choose from a set of credit cards. For example, Bank of Montreal's website features a "Help Me Choose" online tool that assists new Canadians looking for a BMO MasterCard that best suits their needs. Applicants click on credit card features they want or complete a short quiz to find an appropriate card.
TD Canada Trust recommends secured credit cards for immigrants with no credit history. New Canadians can apply for any TD Canada Trust credit card, but must deposit the full account limit in order to secure the card.
Specialized credit cards for Chinese professionals
In early 2010, Bank of Montreal announced a ground-breaking affinity credit card designed specifically for members of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada (CPAC). Immigrants of Chinese descent who are association members can apply for four different variations of the BMO CPAC MasterCard, which provide either air miles or cash back rewards.
BMO CPAC MasterCard holds three distinct advantages over other credit cards for new immigrants, starting with the fact that the affinity card requires no security deposit. Second, CPAC members can apply online while most credit cards for new Canadians require that applicants visit a local bank branch.