Compare student bank accounts

Get fee-free chequing and exclusive perks — but watch out for low spending limits.

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Young woman paying for her drink with a credit card

Every dollar matters when you’re a student, which is why so many banks offer chequing accounts with no monthly fees for students. But you’ll want to read the fine print to make sure you wouldn’t be better off with a traditional chequing account.

What are the features and benefits of a student bank account?

Benefits will vary from bank to bank, but common things to look for include:

  • No monthly fees. One of the biggest benefits of having a student bank account is that you get to avoid monthly fees, so you won’t have money trickling out of your account.
  • Student perks. Many banks offer student perks, such as signup bonuses or discounts for related financial products.
  • Linked debit card. Most student bank accounts include a free linked Visa or Mastercard debit card. Many of these cards also have a tap-to-pay feature to make paying a lot easier.
  • Mobile banking. While most banks offer mobile banking, they’re not all equal. Compare the features of each bank’s app before choosing an account. Features to look for include online bill paying, transaction history tracking, money transfer services, customer service and the ability to lock or unlock a debit card.
  • Unlimited transactions. How are you supposed to live the student life if you have restrictions on your withdrawals? Most banks will offer unlimited electronic transactions and ATM withdrawals.
  • Competitive credit card terms. If you decide to apply for a student credit card, you may be eligible for extra perks if it’s through the same bank as your chequing account.
  • Lower limits. Student debit cards often come with lower purchase limits. This can help keep you from splurging, but can also be a negative thing if you need to make a big purchase.

What fees are associated with student bank accounts?

While student accounts rarely have ongoing monthly fees, you may still have to deal with:

  • Overdraft charges. If you make a purchase that causes your account to dip below $0, you could be charged a fee. You can set your account to not cover overdrafts to prevent this.
  • International transaction fees. If you’re traveling overseas, you might be charged a fee when you make a purchase or use an ATM. These can add up, so check the fees before signing up if you plan to travel.
  • ATM fees. This includes fees for using an ATM outside of your bank’s network. Some accounts will occasionally also charge for using in-network ATMs if you make too many withdrawals per month, but that’s more common with savings accounts.

How to compare student bank accounts to use overseas

This could be a suitable account for overseas travel for those who are fee-conscious. For most of the popular student bank accounts, withdrawing money from an overseas ATM doesn’t come cheap, carrying foreign transaction fees of 2-5% and an international ATM withdrawal fee that typically starts around $2-$5. You’ll want to look for an account that waives one or both of these fees and that comes with a variety of money transfer options such as:

TD Canada Trust offers Visa Direct money transfers that lets customers send money quickly to over 170 countries. Banks like TD, BMO and Scotiabank also give customers convenient access to Western Union transfer services through online banking.

If you travel to the States frequently, you might want look into a US dollar chequing account. Though still technically a Canadian bank account, you can make US dollar transactions with preferred exchange rates with these accounts.

Best debit cards for traveling overseas

Bank accountHighlightsMonthly fee
Tangerine bank icon

Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account

  • Unlimited transactions
  • Unlimited Tangerine email money transfer (not the same as Interac e-Transfers)
  • Pays interest on your balance ranging from 0.15% to 0.65%

Motusbank Logo

Motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account

  • Unlimited debit purchases, bill payments and withdrawals
  • Unlimited Interac e-Transfers
  • Earn 0.5% interest on every dollar

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Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan

  • Unlimited debit transactions
  • Unlimited Interac e-Transfers
  • Earn SCENE points or Scotia Rewards Points with everyday debit purchases and redeem points for free movies, meals, tech, travel and more. PLUS get up to 5,000 bonus points for opening an account.

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CIBC Smart for Students

  • Unlimited transactions
  • Unlimited Interac e-Transfers
  • Free SPC membership, which gives you discounts at over 450 in-store and online partner brands (worth $10)

Simplii Financial logo

Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account

  • Unlimited debit purchases, bill payments and withdrawals
  • Unlimited Interac e-Transfers
  • Pays interest on your balance ranging from 0.05% to 0.50%

How do I apply for a student bank account?

When applying online, you need to be at least the age of majority in the province or territory in which you reside (either 18 or 19 years old) and be a resident of Canada. You’ll also need to provide a residential address and email address so the bank can send you alerts and maintain contact with you about how your application is progressing.

Most banks allow you to apply online for an account. You’ll need to compare your options, select the account you want, fill out the form with your personal information — including your Social Insurance Number (SIN), birth date and phone number — and check your application before submitting it.

Note that if you want a joint account, or an account that belongs to 2 people, you may need to apply together.

Once your application has been submitted, you may get access to the account immediately or you may need to provide further identification, including a signature or copy of your ID.

As a student, you will also have to show at least one of the following:

  • Your student ID card
  • A letter from your school on official letterhead confirming that you’re a full-time student
  • An email address (typically, your school will provide you with an email address ending in “.edu”)

What about student savings accounts?

Student chequing accounts generally don’t earn interest. If you want to set some of your money aside, you can open a linked savings account that will earn interest and let you easily transfer funds to and from your everyday chequing account.

What is the difference between a student saving account and a regular savings account?

Student savings accounts generally waive any ongoing monthly fees and can be linked to your student chequing account. But this varies from bank to bank, so you’ll want to check the fine print before signing up.

Bottom line

Being a student means you’re eligible for perks, like discounts on movie tickets, online shopping and bank account fees. While finding an account that charges little or no fees is important, it isn’t the only thing you should consider before opening an account. Compare chequing accounts based on fees, features and accessibility to find one that’s the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

Read up on the best student chequing accounts

Frequently asked questions

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