Banks love to market credit cards at students. While most student credit cards have rewards systems that offer savings, their high-interest rates can quickly negate the rewards. Rewards cards also typically require a large amount of spending to see an immediate return. To demonstrate this, we have compiled a list of five credit cards. The first four are high-interest rewards cards marketed at students. The last card, the TD Emerald Visa, is a low-interest card with no rewards.

In this comparison, we’ve used ratehub.ca to calculate the rewards for each card, based on spending $500 a month, and $1500 a month. We have also included the cost of carrying either a $500 or $1500 balance over 12 months. To calculate the interest we are assuming only minimum payments will be made and no new purchases or cash advances will occur in the 12 month period.

Providing these two calculations side by side demonstrates that these cards can offer rewards but only if you pay off the balance every month to avoid interest charges. In most cases, the interest charges from carrying a balance over a year are more than the yearly rewards. While TD Emerald Visa offers no rewards, if you do get stuck with a balance because of an emergency, the low-interest rate will make it easier for you to get caught up.

It’s important to note that the cards we have selected are for the purposes of showing you the cost of rewards cards. We are not recommending any card or bank over another. There are many other cards you may consider outside of this list. What we do want to stress is that a low-interest rate should always be preferable to a rewards card with a high-interest rate. When deciding which credit card to apply for, explore all of your options.

Scotiabank Scene Visa Credit Card

1. Scotiabank Scene Visa

Fees and Interest:

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate 19.99%
  • Cash advance: 21.99%
  • Balance transfer: 21.99%

Rewards System

Redeem points for free movies at Cineplex Entertainment theatres. 1 point per dollar on purchases. 5 points per dollar on purchases at Cineplex Entertainment theatres.

Yearly Rewards Based on Monthly Spending

Monthly Spending Rewards(scene points converted to dollar value)
$500 $160 for 1st year. includes $64 first purchase bonus

$96 yearly thereafter

$1500 $377 for 1st year. includes $64 first purchase bonus

$288 yearly thereafter

Cost of Carrying a Balance Over 12 Months

Balance (No new purchases or cash advances after first month) Interest Charged
$500 $93.02
$1500 $279.07

BMO SPC MasterCard Credit Card

2. BMO SPC CashBack MasterCard

Fees and Interest:

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate 19.99%
  • Cash advance: 22.99%
  • Balance transfer: 22.99%

Rewards System

Free membership to Student Price Card. Earn 1% cash back on purchases.

Yearly Rewards Based on Monthly Spending

Monthly Spending Rewards
$300 $110 for 1st year. includes $50 first purchase bonus

$60 yearly thereafter

$1500 $230 for 1st year. includes $50 first purchase bonus

$180 yearly thereafter

Cost of Carrying a Balance Over 12 Months

Balance (No new purchases or cash advances after first month) Interest Charged
$500 $93.02
$1500 $279.07

Mbna Mastercard Credit Card

3. StudentAwards MBNA Rewards MasterCard

Fees and Interest:

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate 19.99%
  • Cash advance: 19.99%

Rewards System

Redeem points for cash back, charitable donations, travel, brand-name merchandise and gift cards from top retailers. Earn 1 point per dollar on purchases.

Yearly Rewards Based on Monthly Spending

Monthly Spending Rewards(rewards points converted to dollar value)
$300 $60 yearly
$1500 $180 yearly

Cost of Carrying a Balance Over 12 Months

Balance (No new purchases or cash advances after first month) Interest Charged
$500 $93.02
$1500 $279.07

Scotiabank L'earn Visa Credit Card

4. Scotiabank L’earn Visa

Fees and Interest:

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate 19.99%
  • Cash advance: 21.99%
  • Balance transfer: 21.99%

Rewards System

Earn 0.25% cash back on first $500, 0.5% on next $500 and 1% on net purchases over $1000.

Yearly Rewards Based on Monthly Spending

Monthly Spending Rewards(scene points converted to dollar value)
$300 $52 yearly
$1500 $168 yearly

Cost of Carrying a Balance Over 12 Months

Balance (No new purchases or cash advances after first month) Interest Charged
$500 $93.02
$1500 $279.07

TD Emerald Visa Credit Card

5. TD Emerald Visa Card

Fees and Interest:

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate 9.85% (Interest rate will vary depending on your credit score. Median rate provided calculated from TD Prime + 1.50% to TD Prime + 12.75%  as of January 8th, 2016)

Cost of Carrying a Balance Over 12 Months

Balance (No new purchases or cash advances after first month) Interest Charged
$500 $43.36
$1500 $130.08

The TD Emerald Visa Card is the only card we’re listing that does not have a rewards program attached to it. The advantage of this card is its low-interest rate. At 9.85%, this is a great card for students. If you’re just learning how to manage credit, or getting used to budgeting with an irregular income, you do not want to get stuck with a balance that carries over at an interest rate of 19.99%.