5 Mistakes Canadians Make When Getting Their First Credit Card, According To A Money Expert

Don't be fooled by marketing tactics!

Editorial Assistant
Stressed person holding credit cards. Right: Person paying with a credit card.

Stressed person holding credit cards. Right: Person paying with a credit card.

Trying to pick the best credit card in Canada can be tough for beginners and first-time users, especially when so many cards come with the promise of perks like Scene points for groceries and airport lounge access.

But you might want to think twice before getting sucked into getting a credit card just for the benefits, as per Canadian money expert and financial counsellor, Jessica Moorhouse.

Narcity spoke with her to find out which mistakes people need to avoid when choosing their first credit card.

From tempting sign-up bonuses to other perks, Moorhouse dished on just how companies might sell you their cards, and which ones you should take seriously if you're getting one for the first time.

So, whether you're a newcomer to Canada or a freshly independent money-maker who wants to start building credit, here's some advice to help get you started:

Missing the fine print

Moorhouse told Narcity that the number one thing most people probably don’t look at is the fine print. Instead, they look at the “big banner marketing” of the signup bonuses and benefits.

“A lot of people are like, ‘my credit card has car insurance.' Well, how much [is that] car insurance and are there any restrictions; maybe there are country restrictions, maybe it actually won't cover enough,” she says.

Trusting every 'expert'

Moorhouse pointed out that a lot of people who claim to be "credit card experts" are affiliated with financial companies. It's thus important to keep in mind if they only endorse a product to get a commission out of it.

"It's important to not jump into things. Take your time...choose the cards that are right for you instead of the ones that you know this TikToker said that they love," she expressed.

Ignoring credit score depreciation

Moorhouse also warned that you don't want to get caught in the practice of getting a card and cancelling too frequently.

This practice will have a negative impact on your credit score, which would be bad if you have plans to get a car loan or a mortgage.

Hard credit checks can also impact your score negatively, but she has also listed certain practices to improve your credit score here.

Not screening surcharges

Transaction fees, like the ones Telus announced recently (allowing businesses to add a surcharge to credit card transactions) is something Moorhouse wants you to keep an eye out for.

"If I'm earning 1.5% cashback but you're charging me 2.5% just to use my credit card that means I'm [effectively] losing money," she says. In that case, she thinks one can pivot to using debit cards and cash instead.

"Credit cards only make sense if you have a specific purpose or kind of specific strategy and you're responsible for them," explained Moorhouse.

Misinterpreting 'benefits'

Base level cards, which usually have no annual fee and income requirements, is what Moorhouse says you might have to start out with in order to build up your credit.

When it comes to benefits that require some organization and math, Moorehouse says most people probably don’t spend the time doing it. "You’ll have to see if they’re actually worth it," she says.

“People will need to figure out if there’s an annual fee, what is it, and how much you need to spend in order to get enough benefits to make that annual fee worth it,” she noted.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Sophie Chong
Editorial Assistant
Sophie Chong is an editorial assistant for Narcity Media and is based in Toronto, Ontario.
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