Rounding it up
An instant approval credit card lets you know within just a few minutes whether or not your application is approved – just enter your personal information, verify your identity, and let the underwriting algorithms do their thing!
If you have bad credit, you may need to apply for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards usually require cash collateral, which acts as a security deposit for the card issuer and motivates you to make on-time payments (or risk losing your cash deposit).
Looking to improve your credit score and build a solid history? KOHO’s prepaid reloadable Mastercard is a credit card alternative that lets you build credit and make purchases just like any other credit card, but using money that’s already yours.
There’s no doubt that it’s harder to get approved for a credit card when your credit score isn’t exactly stellar. But having bad credit is nothing to be ashamed of – unemployment, illness, unexpected emergencies, or runaway spending can happen to anybody and may derail your ability to stay on top of your debts. The good news is that it’s totally possible to rehab your credit score, but rebuilding it is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.
In the meantime, you may still need a credit card to pay for certain bills or purchases. Read on to learn more about instant approval credit cards in Canada for people with bad credit.
What is an instant approval credit card?
With instant approval credit cards, you don’t have to cross your fingers and play the waiting game for several business days while you wait to find out whether the issuer deems you worthy. Most credit card providers in Canada offer instant approval when you apply online, and use digital underwriting technology to automatically review your application.
Just fill out your personal information (see the next section for what exactly you’ll need to provide), verify your identity, submit to a credit check, and within a few minutes you’ll know whether your credit application has been approved or denied.
How do I get an instant approval credit card?
You can usually get approved (or denied) instantly when you apply for a card directly through the provider’s website. But don’t leap into that application just yet – first, make sure you meet the following requirements to qualify for a credit card in Canada:
You must be a permanent resident or Canadian citizen (though some cards offer a longer application form if you’re not a permanent resident of Canada).
You must be the age of majority (18 or 19 years and older, depending on the province you live in).
You must not have a history of bankruptcy if you’re applying for an unsecured credit card.
When you’re ready to start filling out the credit card application, be sure to have the following personal information on hand:
Full legal name
Social Insurance Number (SIN)
To verify your identity, you’ll be asked a few questions about information from your credit file, such as employment history, addresses or other credit products or financial accounts in your name.
Most importantly, the issuer will check your credit score and credit history. Credit score is a big component of applying for a credit card, because it reveals your entire credit history, including all loans, how much debt you currently have, whether you pay your bills on time, and any bankruptcies or liens on your file. With a higher credit score and clean credit history, you’re considered less risky as a borrower and are more likely to be instantly approved for a credit card.
If you don’t know your credit score, you should check before applying for a credit card to know exactly where you stand. It depends on the provider and the exact card you’re applying for, but most issuers want to see a credit score of at least 660 (in the “good” range).
Secured vs. unsecured credit card
Unsecured credit cards are your “typical” credit card – they offer perks like rewards points or cash back, typically provide insurance coverage and don’t require you to put down any type of deposit or collateral to open the card. Once you’re approved, you’re trusted to spend money on your card and make at least the minimum payment every month.
When you apply for an unsecured credit card, the issuer looks at your personal information including your annual income, employment, credit history, and credit score to evaluate how trustworthy you are as a borrower.
Depending on how low your credit score is, you may not qualify for a traditional unsecured credit card and will need to apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card requires some kind of collateral, such as a cash deposit. Usually, the amount you deposit becomes your credit limit. For example, if you provide a $500 cash deposit, your credit limit will be $500. The cash acts as a security deposit in case you don’t pay off your card, and allows you to build credit just like a regular credit card.
Because secured credit cards are almost exclusively used to rebuild credit and practice responsible repayment, they’re pretty no-frills benefits-wise and don’t offer the same perks and extras as unsecured credit cards.
KOHO: A credit card alternative
If you’re looking to build credit, earn interest on your spending and saving accounts, and get cash back on your daily essentials, KOHO is a credit card alternative that can help you reach your goals. KOHO isn’t a credit card or a bank, but a free spending and savings account equipped with a prepaid reloadable Mastercard and mobile app.
Regardless of whether your credit score is top-notch or could use some improvement, KOHO is a good alternative to a credit card because you can only spend what you have – just deposit your money into your KOHO account, and use your KOHO card to make purchases just like you would with any debit or credit card.
Because the KOHO card draws from money that is already yours, you get all the spending power of a credit card without any fees or interest, plus the ability to build credit (as long as you make your monthly payments on time). And because KOHO runs on the Mastercard network, merchants treat your KOHO card just like any other credit card transaction.
If you’re specifically looking to build your credit history, KOHO’s Credit Building feature can help. For just $10 a month for six months ($60 total), KOHO will open a line of credit in your name. Every on-time monthly payment you make builds your credit history, which can help boost your credit score. After KOHO reports each of your monthly payments to a major credit bureau, you'll be able to see your updated credit score on the KOHO app.
Bad credit can happen to anyone for a number of reasons, but a low credit score isn’t a life sentence – slowly but surely, there’s always a way to rebuild your credit. When used responsibly, a credit card is the easiest and most accessible way to build (or re-build) your credit history and credit score.
Jane Switzer is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience producing content for major Canadian newspapers, magazines, fintech companies and banks. Jane got her start working in journalism as a reporter and copy editor before transitioning to content writing, editing and SEO.