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How to Apply for a First Credit Card


Published April 1, 2024 • 5 Min Read

There are a few ways to apply for a credit card in Canada and a few things to know before you do.

If you’ve found a credit card that matches your needs and lifestyle, you may be ready to apply! Here’s the information you need to get started.

How to qualify for a credit card in Canada

First, before you apply, there are 5 things to consider before applying for a credit card in Canada:  

  • You must be the age of majority (18 or 19 years old, depending on the province you live in)

  • You’ll need to be a Canadian citizen or resident. (Note: temporary workers and newcomers to Canada can apply for a credit card, but the application criteria may be different)

  • If you have a credit score or credit history in Canada

  • If you meet the minimum income requirements, should your credit card has one

  • The impact of any major credit event, such as  filing for bankruptcy in the past seven years 

Next, you will need to gather some information about yourself to share with the credit card company. This information includes:

  • Your name. Your full legal name that appears on your driver’s license and/or passport

  • Your address. Your current primary address

  • Your income

    • If you are not employed or are not earning an income (i.e., if you’re retired, a student or a homemaker), you can still apply, but it is best to visit a branch and speak with an advisor.

    • If you are employed, you can prove your income with a pay stub or T4 form.

    • If you’re self-employed, you’ll typically need to provide documents that show a steady income for at least the last two years. This could be a tax return, a profit and loss statement, or anything else that shows you have money coming in.  

  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN). Your SIN is no longer required on credit card applications. But by providing it, you may experience a faster review. 

How to check your credit score

Your credit score is a three-digit number that indicates the quality of your credit history. Several factors affect your credit score. These include if you carry a balance on your credit cards, how close you are to your limit, and if you pay your bills on time.

There is no magic number when it comes to applying for a credit card and it’s not the only detail providers look at. A credit history and a score of 660 or higher are helpful. If you’re new to credit – as a student or newcomer, for instance – there are other factors a credit card company may review when approving.

You can check your credit score in a few ways. If you’re an RBC client, you can easily check it for free within Online Banking. You can also check through Canada’s credit reporting agencies, Equifax or TransUnion.

If your credit score is low, there are ways to improve it. And you may still be able to apply and get a credit card. Keep reading!

Three ways to apply for a credit card

There are three main ways to apply for a credit card: online, at the branch of a financial institution’s branch, or over the phone.

Applying online: Applying for a credit card online is pretty simple. You’ll need to answer questions about yourself and submit the required information. In some cases, you may need to send proof of your income. Many credit card providers can approve a credit card application within minutes when you apply online.

Best for: People who want the quickest application experience, do not want a specific limit or have other requests, and have a straightforward income. 

Looking for a credit card?

Use our Credit Card Selector Tool to find the best credit card for you.

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Applying in the branch. You can apply for a credit card at your local bank or credit union branch. It’s best to make an appointment so the advisor can review your credit card options with you. They can help you determine which credit cards you’re eligible for and that best suit your needs. You’ll need to take physical copies of your ID and proof of your income.

Best for: People who wish to discuss their credit card options with an advisor, such as students looking for their first credit card, or individuals with a specific limit request and/or a more complex income situation. Newcomers are encouraged to visit a branch as additional information is often required.

Applying by phone. Applying by phone can be a convenient alternative to visiting a branch. The advisor will let you know how to send your ID and income requirements. And, they’ll go through any other steps you’ll need to take.

Best for: People who wish to speak with an advisor but prefer not to visit a branch.

Not sure what credit card is right for you? Review the RBC credit cards available, or use the RBC Credit Card Selector tool to learn what options are best for you.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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