Banking in Canada

Upon arrival in Canada, one of the first things you may choose to do is open a bank account. This allows you to deposit your money in the bank, pay bills, send or receive bank transfers, get a debit and/or credit card, etc. Here is some basic information that will help you choose the right back and the right accounts for you.

The major banks in Canada are:

  • Scotiabank
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada (CIBC)
  • TD Bank
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)

These banks normally offer special accounts for students which include minimal or no banking fees. There are two main types of accounts: chequing and savings. A chequing account is meant for everyday spending and allows for easy access through ATMs, cheques, bill payments, etc. A savings account is meant to store your money to allow it to grow; it is not meant for everyday spending.

In order to open a student bank account, you usually have to go to the bank in person and present at least two pieces of identification along with proof that you are a student (for example, passport with study permit, letter of enrolment, student ID card, SIN, etc.). You may set up an appointment with a customer service representative by calling the bank or visiting their website.

Once the account has been set up, you will receive a debit card to access the money in your account, to make purchases and withdraw money from an ATM (take note, that some ATM machines might have additional charges).

Your bank and other vendors will also offer you a credit card. Keep in mind that a credit card allows you to spend money that isn’t actually yours and you will receive a monthly bill with your charges and expenses. While this sounds appealing, you must be careful of the interest charge, which can be around 20%. This can add up very quickly if you don’t pay off your bill in full each month.

As you become settled into your new life in Canada, you will find that you may use your debit or credit card more often than cash. This is a lot more convenient and most businesses accept debit or credit cards. Some small businesses (e.g. convenience stores) may only accept cash or charge you an additional fee for using a debit/credit card for small purchases. So, it is a good idea to carry a small amount of cash (e.g. $20 - $40) for small purchases.

For detailed information on banking in Canada, visit the Government of Canada’s banking guide for newcomers.