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Best bank for newcomers in Canada

Newcomers to Canada will find plenty of banking offers. Discover the best bank for newcomers to Canada based on account features and current offers.

Looking for the best bank for newcomers in Canada? We analyzed every bank account and banking package for newcomers to Canada to create a list of bank accounts that include preferred perks, such as no monthly fees, unlimited free transactions or free e-transfers.

To discover the benefits of each bank and to find the best bank in Canada for newcomers, it’s best to compare the pros and cons of bank accounts for newcomers vs. regular chequing and savings accounts. By examining the features of each banking offer, you can choose the best newcomer bank account in Canada, based on your needs.

Best bank in Canada for newcomers by category

Best overall newcomers offer: National Bank

With the National Bank Newcomer Bank Account offer, you can avoid paying any monthly fees on your chequing account for up to 3 years.

You can save over $500 over 3 years, and can make unlimited electronic transactions from your account. National Bank also supports international transfers and you’re also able to access a National Bank Mastercard credit card without any credit history.

Finally, to help you make the transition to life in Canada, you get access to 1 year’s worth of free legal assistance by phone and advice on immigrating, housing, personal finance and more.

National Bank Newcomer Bank Account

Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Must open an account up to 90 days before you arrive in Canada or within five years of your arrival in Canada. Must be 18 years of age or older and the only user of the account.
Perks: Exclusive phone support for newcomers, international transfers with Mastercard and Interac international transfers
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Exclusive phone assistance for newcomers
  • Monthly fee waived for up to three years
  • Get a Canadian credit card without credit history
  • Need to sign up for additional products or services to have monthly fee waived
  • $15.95 monthly fee once discount period ends
  • No interest on your bank balance
Min. Age N/A
Account Fee $0
Overdraft Fee $0

Best chequing account for newcomers in Canada: BMO Performance Chequing Account

If you’re simply looking for an everyday chequing account without a load of other financial products bundled in, check out the Bank of Montreal (BMO) Performance Chequing Account. This standalone newcomer bank account from BMO offers unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfers and free access to all BMO ATMs across Canada.

The monthly account fee will be waived if you maintain a minimum monthly balance of at least $4,000. You can also get an up to $40 rebate on the annual fee for eligible BMO credit cards. Check out the BMO Performance Chequing Account welcome offer: Get a $600 cash bonus when you sign up.

If you’re interested in the Performance Account, but are looking for more banking options like credit cards or a mortgage, explore the BMO NewStart Program below.

BMO Performance Chequing Account

Earn $600
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Must be 18 or older (or the age of majority), have a SIN and a Canadian address. To qualify for the NewStart Program, you must be a permanent resident or foreign worker who arrived in Canada within the last five years.
Bonus offer: Earn a $600 welcome bonus
Credit card (yes/no): No
  • Unlimited transactions
  • Monthly fee waived if you The monthly account fee will be waived if you maintain a minimum monthly balance of at least $4,000.
  • Option to sign up through the BMO NewStart Program for additional perks
  • $17.95 monthly fee (unless fee-waive conditions are met)
  • International transfer fees
  • Fee for overdraft protection
Min. Age 18
Min. Age Teen Account 13
Account Fee $17.95
Youth Account Fee $0
# of Accounts Included 20
Overdraft Fee $5
ATM Out-of-Network Fee $2
U.S. ATM Fee $5
International ATM Fee $5

Best premium chequing account for newcomers in Canada: RBC VIP Banking Account

If you’re looking for a bank account that offers premium benefits, the RBC VIP Banking Account comes with plenty of perks and allows you to get access to the RBC Newcomer Advantage program. This standalone VIP Banking Account from RBC offers an enticing signup offer, unlimited worldwide debit and Interac e-Transfers, and access to premium RBC credit cards.

The monthly account fee will be waived in the first year if you deposit at least $10,000 into your account within 20 days of opening your account. If you’re on a student Visa, you can get access to the RBC International Student GIC Program. Customers can also get a rebate on the annual fee for eligible RBC credit cards. Get an iPad when you switch to RBC & open an RBC VIP Banking Account. Valid until August 13, 2024.

RBC VIP Banking Account

Get an iPad
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Be a Canadian citizen or resident, and at least 18, or the age of the majority in your province or territory.
Bonus offer: Get an iPad when you switch to RBC & open an RBC VIP Banking Account. Valid until August 13, 2024.

Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Unlimited debit transactions worldwide
  • Earn Avion points on debit transactions
  • Free interac e-transfers
  • Free bank drafts
  • Special rebates
  • Use of a safety deposit box
  • $30 monthly account fee (but can be waived in first year)
  • Caps may apply to certain perks
Min. Age 18
Account Fee $30
ATM Out-of-Network Fee $0

Best hybrid chequing and savings account offer for newcomers in Canada: EQ Bank Personal Account

EQ Bank offers one of the best savings rates in Canada and is a good online banking choice for new Canadians. It is owned by Equitable Bank, a federally regulated Schedule I bank with more than $74.1 billion in assets under management.

And while EQ Bank might not replace your primary bank (since it offers a limited selection of products), you can use EQ Bank to hold your savings, spend money and send international money transfers.

The EQ Bank Personal Account combines the convenience of a chequing account with the interest-earning power of a savings account. It offers zero monthly account fees and lets you earn a high rate of interest on every dollar. Unlimited debits and Interac e-transfers are also available. If you link it to an EQ Bank Card, you can make free withdrawals at any ATM in Canada.

EQ Bank Personal Account

Earn 4.00% interest
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Available to anyone living in Canada who is 18 or older (or the age of majority).
Bonus offer: Get 2.50% interest on everyday banking, plus get 1.50% interest when you direct deposit your pay.
Credit card (yes/no): No
  • $0 account fee
  • Get unlimited transactions
  • $0 Interac eTransfers
  • Earn up to 4% interest on your balance
  • EQ Bank will refund withdrawal fees for using any ATM across Canada
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • 100% online bank with no bank branches
Min. Age 18
Account Fee $0

Best reward-earning chequing and savings account offer: Neo Money Account

When choosing between newcomer bank account offers in Canada, it can be easy to miss out on great accounts that are not marketed as newcomer bank accounts. While the Neo Financial Money Account is not specifically for newcomers to Canada, it is an excellent option if you’re looking for a bank account that works as a hybrid chequing and savings account.

Not only does the Neo Financial Money Account let you earn money on the savings in your account, you’ll also be able to spend, pay bills and earn cashback — all from the same account. What’s more, Neo Financial now accepts international passports as a verification method, which makes signing up much easier for those who are new to Canada.

Neo Money Account

Neo Money Account

Interest Rate
Account Fee
Transaction Fee
Eligibility: Be a Canadian citizen or resident, and at least 18 years of age, or the age of the majority in your province or territory.
Bonus offer: Earn 1% interest on your balance + get up to 6% cashback on purchases at over 10,000 partner retailers with your Neo Money card.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Comes with a free Neo Money Card for purchases
  • $0 account fee
  • $0 transactions
  • Earn cash back of up to 0.5% – 6% cash back at over 10,000 retail partners
  • Earn 1% interest rate on your entire balance
  • $0 minimum balance
  • No physical branches for in-person service
  • Not available to residents of Quebec
Min. Age 18
Account Fee $0
Transaction Fee $0
Interac e-Transfer Fee $0
NSF Fee $0
International ATM Fee $0

Best BMO newcomer bank account offer in Canada: BMO NewStart Program

BMO’s NewStart Program offers a wide range of perks with various financial products to help newcomers to Canada get their finances in order. This comprehensive financial program can help newcomers get access to a chequing account, credit card, mortgage and investment opportunities with offers valued at more than $2,100.

If you sign up for a BMO Performance Chequing Account through the NewStart Program, you won’t be charged a monthly fee for the first 12 months – and that’s in addition to all of the other perks that already come with this account.

You can also send unlimited fee-free BMO Global Money Transfers, get access to a no annual fee BMO credit card with no credit history, get financial advice tailored to your needs at your nearest branch and get access to the online financial wellness tool, BMO SmartProgress.

BMO New to Canada Performance Chequing Account

Earn $600
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Must be 18 or older (or the age of majority), have a SIN and a Canadian address. To qualify for the NewStart Program, you must be a permanent resident or foreign worker who arrived in Canada within the last five years.
Perks: Fee-free international transfers for the first year, annual fee rebates on eligible credit cards, opening cash bonus, additional cash bonus when you rent a safety deposit box.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • No monthly fee (conditions apply)
  • Unlimited fee-free BMO Global Money Transfers for 1 year
  • Rebates and cash bonuses available
  • Must have a minimum balance of $4,000 to avoid a monthly fee of $16.95 after first year
Min. Age N/A
Account Fee $16.95
Overdraft Fee $5
U.S. ATM Fee $5
International ATM Fee $5

Best Scotiabank newcomer bank account offer in Canada: Scotiabank StartRight Program

Scotiabank newcomers should check out the Preferred Package chequing account, which is part of the Scotiabank StartRight Program. Through this Scotiabank newcomer promotion you get no monthly fees on the Preferred Package for the first year. The monthly account fee will be waived if you have at least $4,000 in your account at all times.

Plus with the Scotiabank StartRight program you get unlimited, no-fee international money transfers. You can access credit cards and other products designed specifically for newcomers.

Scotiabank Preferred Package

Earn $400
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: You can apply for the Preferred Package chequing account through the StartRight program if you're a Canadian residents that has been in Canada for 0-5 years as an International Student or Foreign Worker.
Perks: Unlimited no-fee international transfers, access to credit cards with no credit history and 10 free equity trades when you invest a minimum of $1,000 in a new Scotia iTRADE account.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Unlimited transactions
  • No monthly fee (conditions apply)
  • Fee-free international transfers through the Scotiabank StartRight Program
  • Earn a welcome bonus of up to $400. Earn $350 when you complete two banking steps, earn $50 when you open a new RRSP or TFSA and set up and maintain a recurring pre-authorized contribution of at least $50 for a minimum of 3 months. Valid until July 31, 2024.
  • Maintain a $4,000 minimum balance requirement to avoid monthly fee after the first year
Min. Age 16
Account Fee $16.95
Overdraft Fee $5
ATM Out-of-Network Fee $2
U.S. ATM Fee $3
International ATM Fee $5

Best TD newcomer bank account offer in Canada: TD New to Canada Banking Package

The TD New to Canada Banking Package gives you all the features you need in a bank account for newcomers to Canada. By opening a TD Unlimited Chequing Account through this program, you get unlimited transactions and no account fee for the first year. Plus, you could get a cash bonus when you open a TD Unlimited Chequing Account and complete certain tasks from your account.

The TD newcomer account also gives you the freedom to send unlimited international transfers for up to 12 months with transfer fees rebated and the TD newcomer offer gives you access to a higher interest rate for 90 days on a TD savings account, plus get no annual fee for the first year on an eligible credit card.

TD New to Canada Banking Package

TD New to Canada Banking Package

Earn $400
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Permanent resident, international student or temporary resident (in Canada for five years or less).
Perks: Bonus interest on your savings account, $400 cash reward when you set up certain transactions, no annual fee on a TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum Credit Card for the first year, unlimited international transfers for up to 12 months.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Earn $400
  • Waived annual fee on credit card
  • Unlimited international transfers for 12 months
  • Monthly fee applies after first year unless you maintain a balance of $4,000 or more
  • Conditions required to access cash offer
Min. Age N/A
Account Fee $0
Overdraft Fee $0

Best CIBC newcomer bank account offer in Canada: CIBC Welcome Package

The CIBC newcomer account is the CIBC Smart Account. This CIBC newcomer account provides a range of features and perks to help you get settled financially in Canada. Included in the CIBC newcomer offers are no monthly fees for the first two years plus unlimited transactions and free e-transfers.

As a CIBC newcomer client, you can also send money money overseas with zero transfer fees. Better still, the CIBC newcomer account no-fee perk can be extended beyond the first two years, as long as you meet the minimum balance requirements for the newcomer bank account.

As an added perk, check out the range of CIBC credit cards for newcomers that come with their own special welcome offers. CIBC also offers mortgages for newcomers to Canada even with no credit history.

CIBC Welcome to Canada Banking Package

CIBC Welcome to Canada Banking Package

Get $400 card
Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Must have received landed immigrant or permanent resident status in the last five years or be a temporary resident worker who has a Canadian work permit issued for at least a 12-month term.
Bonus offer: Pay no monthly fees for 2 years, and get a $400 Costco Shop Card after you open a CIBC Smart Account for Newcomers as your first CIBC chequing account.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • No chequing account monthly fee for two years and fee is subsequently waived if you meet balance requirements
  • $400 Costco Shop Card offer
  • Unlimited transactions
  • Minimum balance of $4,000 to avoid account fee indefinitely
Min. Age N/A
Account Fee $0
Overdraft Fee $0

Best RBC newcomer bank account offer in Canada: RBC Newcomer Advantage

If you’re searching for the best bank in Canada for newcomers, RBC is also well worth a look. RBC offers a newcomer account through the RBC Newcomer Advantage program, with perks and access to essential financial products. For instance, when you sign up for RBC’s Advantage Banking account or the RBC VIP Banking account through this program, you’ll get unlimited debit transactions in Canada and free Interac e-transfers. Best of all, there’s no monthly fee for the first year.

Once you are set up with an RBC newcomer account, it’s time to check out credit cards. When you apply for an RBC credit card with the RBC newcomer account, you may be able to get approved without a credit history, as long as you’re an RBC customer. To sweeten the RBC new immigrants deal, you also get unlimited no-fee international money transfers and access to competitive exchange rates.

There are a range of other perks and discounts available, such as an RBC safe deposit box. Plus, RBC offers phone services in up to 200 languages if you need any help with your account.

RBC Newcomer Advantage

RBC Newcomer Advantage

Bonus Offer
Monthly Account Fee
Free Transactions
Eligibility: Newcomers to Canada and international students who arrived within the last five years for non-credit card accounts (12 months for credit cards).
Perks: Get no-fee international money transfers and competitive exchange rates, credit card cashback bonuses, free safe deposit box for 2 years and no RBC fee on out-of-network ATMs in Canada.
Credit card (yes/no): Yes
  • Unlimited transactions with an associated chequing account
  • Up to $15,000 credit limit on a credit card
  • Cash back promotional offer on a new eligible RBC credit card
  • Service available in up to 200 languages
  • Monthly banking fee applies after the first year
  • Limits on the amount of free international transfers you can send per month
Min. Age N/A
Account Fee $0
Overdraft Fee $0

Summary of language support at banks for newcomers to Canada

Having a bank you and your family members can easily communicate with can be a big relief amongst all the other stressors of moving to a new country. That’s why we’ve summarized below the languages supported by banks offering newcomer banking packages.

National Bank

ATMs service:

  • French, English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic

Newcomer details:

  • French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi, Chinese, Persian

Legal phone support for newcomers: French, English


Telephone banking:

  • English, French, Cantonese

Language support (in-branch, phone):

  • English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Spanish

Website newcomers details:

  • English, French, Simplified & Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Urdu, Persian, Russian

Phone support:

  • English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin

Website, app, virtual assistant:

  • English, French

Phone, in-branch service:

  • Up to 200 languages including Spanish, Mandarin, Punjabi, Cantonese, Vietnamese

What is a bank account for a newcomer to Canada?

There are a few differences between a bank account for newcomers to Canada and a regular bank account.

The biggest difference are the offers. Newcomers to Canada can expect really great offers from banks and financial institutions. This is partly because banks are always looking for ways to entice new customers to open an account. They know that once you set up an account, chances are you’ll open more financial products — and that’s good for the banking business.

As a result, newcomers to Canada can expect a wide range of discounts and special offers to encourage them to open bank accounts. These often include:

  • Waived monthly account fees for the first year (and up to three years with some accounts)
  • Waived fees on international transfers for the first 12 months
  • Cash rewards if you open an account and perform certain transactions within the first six months, such as setting up direct debits and having your income deposited into your account
  • Discounted or waived annual fees on credit cards, plus the ability to apply for a credit card with limited or no credit history
  • Bonus interest rates on savings accounts for an introductory period
  • Discounts on other financial products the bank offers such as car loans, business loans and safety deposit boxes

It’s important to compare a range of offers to find the best bank in Canada for newcomers. It’s also worth mentioning that in many cases, once the one- to three-year introductory period has passed, your newcomer account will revert to the standard fees, terms and conditions of a normal chequing account.

The other big difference is that to open a newcomer bank account, you need to meet a few eligibility requirements. These vary between banks, but accounts are available to permanent residents, foreign workers or international students.

How to compare the best bank accounts in Canada for newcomers in 2024

To choose the best bank for newcomers in Canada, think about your money needs. Are you looking for an everyday chequing account, a savings account to build a bigger bank balance or a credit card to help you pay for larger purchases? What types of transactions will you need to make? Will you be writing cheques, sending international transfers or need access to a large ATM network?

Once you know what you need in an account, start comparing newcomer bank account offers in Canada. Consider any fee discounts available as well as what fees will apply once the introductory promotional period ends. Also look for rewards and special offers, such as discounts on other products like credit cards for newcomers in Canada, plus the interest rate that applies to your balance.

We’ve put together a list of Canada newcomer bank accounts, with detailed reviews of each account to help you decide whether these banking offers are right for you.

What does banking look like in Canada?

In Canada, people have three banking options to choose from:

  • Traditional banks
  • Credit unions
  • Digital banking

Traditional banks

The biggest traditional banks in Canada are (in order of market capitalization) is RBC, TD Bank, BMO, Scotiabank, CIBC and National Bank. These banks serve millions of Canadians and have a full suite of banking options, including chequing accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, investments, car loans, personal loans and lines of credit.

Credit unions

A credit union (sometimes called a caisse populaire) is a financial institution in Canada that is just like a bank, with the main difference being that its customers all pay a small membership fee to be part owners of the bank and get equal say in how it operates. Credit unions typically offer all of the same products as a traditional bank.

Digital banking

Canada offers online-only banks and digital banking platforms, which operate exclusively online or through an app and offer many (but not all) of the same banking products as traditional banks. The biggest perk with these online banks is that with lower overhead costs, they can offer no-fee accounts and higher savings interest rates.

Types of personal bank accounts in Canada

Everyone in Canada has a legal right to open a bank account regardless of whether they’re a newcomer or have lived in Canada all their lives. Banks offer two types of personal accounts in Canada:

  1. Chequing accounts. These day-to-day bank accounts allow the account holder to deposit and withdraw money, pay bills, transfer funds to other people and make purchases using a debit card. Many chequing accounts support unlimited transactions.
  2. Savings accounts. When you open a savings account, you earn interest on your account balance, with high-interest savings accounts helping you maximize your savings. Some digital bank accounts operate as hybrid accounts with features of both chequing and savings accounts.

What should newcomers to Canada look for when choosing a bank?

Choosing a bank is a big decision. Getting it right can save you a lot of time, stress and money, so it’s worth taking the time to compare your options. Here’s what you need to consider when searching for the best bank for newcomers in Canada:

  • Products that suit your needs. First, look for a bank that offers products that suit your needs. This could mean an everyday chequing account with unlimited transactions, a savings account with a high interest rate, a credit card with no annual fee and a good rewards program, or all of the above.
  • No monthly fee. Most newcomer offers include a waived monthly account fee for at least the first 12 months. Check whether there are reduced fees on only other transactions such as international transfers to help you save money.
  • Credit card access. Another common feature of newcomer banking offers is access to a credit card. In many cases, you can take advantage of a waived annual fee for the first year or a fee rebate to reduce the total cost.
  • Package deals. Newcomer packages bundle a range of products and discounts into one deal. For example, you might find savings on other loans, higher interest rates on savings accounts, discounts on safety deposit boxes and even perks like an Amazon Prime membership.
  • Branch and ATM network. Check how big the bank’s national network of branches is and whether it has locations near you. The same goes for its ATM network. Remember to check what fees will apply if you use other banks’ ATMs.
  • Mobile and online banking. Read some independent customer reviews of the bank’s online banking platform and mobile banking app to make sure they’re easy to use.
  • Specialized advice for newcomers. Does the bank provide educational resources and personalized advice for new arrivals to Canada? Can you access advice for free or does it cost extra?
  • Multilingual support. If you’d prefer support in a language other than English, check whether you can access phone and in-branch support in your first or preferred language. For example, RBC offers customer support over the phone in over 200 languages.

Picture not describedNewcomer banking tip of the month

Even if you’ve only recently immigrated to Canada, consider opening a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) as soon as possible to start preparing for your retirement in Canada.

RRSPs are a specific type of savings account in Canada specifically designed to help you maximize retirement savings. While you normally have to pay tax on interest earned from your savings account, any interest earned on an RRSP account is tax exempt.

RRSP savings also lower your taxable income so you pay less income tax every year you contribute to it.

There are other considerations to look out for with RRSPs – like maximum contribution amounts, withdrawal rules and taxable events – so you should read our full guide to how RRSPs work in Canada if you’re interested in this savings tool.

How to open a bank account as a newcomer in Canada

As you’re getting yourself financially set up in Canada, it’s important to start planning for your long-term financial goals as soon as possible.

If you’re one of the over 370,000 newcomers to Canada in 2023 (according to StatsCan),(1) you’re ready to open a bank account, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Compare your options. Many banks and credit unions boast newcomer bank offers, so shop around to find the best bank in Canada for newcomers.
  2. Apply online or visit a bank branch. If you’ve already lived in Canada for a little while, and you have Canadian ID, you may be able to apply online. If you’re new to the country, you may need to visit the bank in person to open an account. Call or visit any bank you’re interested in to see what the requirements are.
  3. Submit any required documents. You’ll be asked to provide proof of ID such as a Canadian driver’s licence or valid passport. You’ll also need to prove your residency status, for example with a permanent resident card or work permit, and may be asked to provide proof of entry into Canada.
  4. Open your account. Once your account has been set up, you can deposit funds and arrange for your income to be paid directly into the account.

Who qualifies as new to Canada?

The exact criteria you’ll need to satisfy to open a newcomer account vary between banks. However, as a general rule, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Must be preparing to move to Canada or have been in Canada for five years or less
  • Must be a permanent resident, foreign worker or international student
  • Must be 18 years of age or older (or the age of majority in your province)
  • Must have a Social Insurance Number (SIN card)

Can a non-resident or foreigner open a bank account in Canada?

Non-residents can open a bank account in Canada if they plan to visit the country to live, work or study. Tourists with an address in Canada may be able to open a bank account using their foreign passport as ID. Non-residents who aren’t planning to visit Canada cannot open a bank account.

What documents do I need to open a bank account for newcomers in Canada?

To open a bank account in Canada, the bank will need to verify your identify, which means you’ll have to submit two pieces of legitimate documentation to prove your identity.

One of those documents must include your name and address, while the other must show your name and date of birth. The documents can only come from this list of options:

  • Foreign passports
  • Government of Canada ID or provincial government ID
  • Recent Government of Canada (or provincial or municipal governments) notice of tax assessments
  • Recent statements of benefits from the Government of Canada or provincial government
  • Recent Canadian public utility bills
  • Recent bank account or credit card statements

As a permanent resident, you’ll need to show your Permanent Resident Card. If you’re an international student, you’ll need to submit proof of enrollment from your school and a copy of your study visa. Similarly, if you’re a foreign worker, you’ll need to provide a copy of your work visa.

Depending on when you arrived in Canada, you may be asked to provide proof of entry into Canada, like a passport stamped by a Canadian customs border services officer. Permanent residents can submit a record of landing (IMM 1000) or confirmation of permanent residence as proof of entry.

TIP: Key banking terms for newcomers to Canada

How to compare bank accounts for newcomers in Canada

There are plenty of options available if you want to compare bank accounts for newcomers to Canada, so it’s important to consider your personal banking needs. Think about the type of transactions you expect to make, how much money you’ll have in your account and any must-have features.

To help you find the best bank account for newcomers in Canada, compare the following features:

  • Chequing vs savings. Are you looking for a chequing account you can use for everyday transactions like grocery shopping and bill payments? Do you want a savings account that allows you to earn interest on your money? Or do you need both like those offered by some digital banks in Canada?
  • Monthly fees. Most newcomer bank offers waive monthly account fees for the first 12 months or more. However, don’t forget to check the monthly fee once this intro period ends.
  • Unlimited transactions. Check whether there are any limits on the number of transactions you can perform each month without incurring any fees. If you prefer to bank in-branch, check whether branch transactions attract different fees to online transactions.
  • International transfers. If you need to send money overseas from Canada to family members back home, many newcomer accounts offer free international transfers for an introductory period. Remember to check the fee once the intro period ends as well as the exchange rate you can expect.
  • Linked debit card and ATM access. How large is the bank’s Canadian ATM network? If you use an ATM from another bank’s network, will you be charged a fee?
  • Branch network. Check how large the bank’s branch network is and whether it has locations close by.
  • Interest rate. If your account allows you to earn interest on your balance, check the interest rate. How does it compare to the rates offered by other banks? Is there a bonus rate available for newcomers?
  • Credit card. Does the bank’s newcomer program provide access to a credit card even if you don’t have any Canadian credit history? If so, what’s the maximum credit limit you can access and will the bank waive the card’s annual fee for the first year or two?
  • Cash rewards. Some banks offer cash bonuses to newcomers who open a chequing account. To access the offer, check the terms and conditions as you’ll usually have to perform a specific number of transactions before a cut-off date. Money management apps are also available to newcomers and offer rewards and other perks. For example, if you open a KOHO account you can earn a high-rate of cash back on purchases, earn savings interest on your account balance and get access to a prepaid Mastercard.
  • Discounts on other products. Finally, check whether opening an account as a newcomer entitles you to discounts on other products and services, such as a car loan or financial advice.

Benefits of opening a bank account in Canada as a newcomer

  • Immediate access to your money. Transfer money to your Canadian bank account before you leave, and you can withdraw from the account as soon as you arrive in the country. You’ll be asked to present ID when picking up your new bank card.
  • Low fees for domestic services. Transferring money to Canada from a non-Canadian account can come with high fees, especially for large amounts. Having access to funds in Canada makes it much less expensive to make purchases and pay bills.
  • Direct deposit for your Canadian income. When you open a bank account in Canada, you can provide Canadian employers with your bank account details to have your income conveniently deposited into your account without any delays.

What to watch out for with newcomer bank accounts

  • Time restrictions. You’ll likely need to be in Canada for less than 3 to 5 years in order to be eligible for a newcomers package.
  • Carefully read the terms and conditions. Any fees, stipulations and restrictions will be laid out in the terms and conditions. Carefully read these to understand how much you’ll pay monthly or annually, as well as the conditions you’ll need to meet to receive any signup bonuses.
  • Is a deposit required? You may be required to put a down payment on a car loan, mortgage or credit card. Before applying for a package, make sure you’re comfortable with the terms and conditions.
  • What do you need to do to receive any bonuses? You’ll likely need to meet a few conditions before you’ll be awarded a bonus such as setting up recurring bill payments or making an online bill payment.
  • Watch out for fees. Once your fee-free month or year is up, you’ll face monthly or annual charges. These could apply to credit cards, chequing accounts, savings accounts, investments and more.
  • Are all the products suitable for your needs? Not all banks in Canada offer the same products. Make sure the products offered meet your needs and allow you to save the most money possible within the first year.

Big banks vs online banks: A comparison for newcomers to Canada

When considering a new bank account, most people gravitate towards a well-known big bank brand such as RBC, BMO or National Bank.

One reason the big five or big six banks are so popular is that customers can find in-person branches and local ATMs easily. This makes a bank account at a big bank a great option. However, big banks aren’t known for extra perks such as higher interest rates earned on deposits or cash back on debit spending.

If you’re comfortable with not visiting a bricks-and-mortar branch, a digital bank or a money-spending account may be a better day-to-day banking option – or as a secondary spending account.

Money apps and online accounts offered by digital banks typically offer extra perks such as cash back on debit charges and unlimited debit transactions.

Turns out Canadians are getting more comfortable with online banking and online and mobile banking apps. According to survey data from the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 2023, 7.18% of respondents planned on opening a digital bank account between April and June 2023 — up from 3.59% of respondents who planned to open a digital bank account between January and March 2023.

Ultimately, it’s important to shop around to find a financial institution that offers the products, services and advice you need for a smooth transition to life in Canada.

Will you need a credit card as a newcomer to Canada?

A credit card is an important piece of the financial puzzle for many newcomers to Canada — but not just for newcomers to Canada. In a recent Finder survey, 14% of Canadians planned to open a new credit card account between April and June 2023.(3) This demand for a new credit card remained consistent, with 14% or respondents in the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1 planning to open a new credit card account between January and March 2023.(4)

As a newcomer to Canada, you may not necessarily need a credit card but having some plastic in your pocket can help you get settled in your new home. Here’s why:

  • Build credit. On-time payments towards your credit card balance will be reported to the credit bureaus, allowing you to build your Canadian credit history. Developing a good credit score will help you qualify for loans and other products in the future.
  • Pay for larger purchases. There are often big purchases to make when you move to a new country. A credit card can help you buy those big-ticket items you need, such as furniture and electronics that you might otherwise not be able to pay for upfront. You can then take advantage of interest-free days to pay off your purchases.
  • Rewards and perks. Some cards allow you to earn reward points you can redeem at a range of retailers, or include perks such as complimentary travel insurance. Many banks provide newcomer credit card offers with features such as cashback rebates or waived fees for the first 12 months.

However, remember the risks when using a credit card. If you can’t pay off your balance during the interest-free period, interest will start accruing. Your credit score will be impacted if you miss a payment and it’s worth mentioning that, as a newcomer, you won’t be able to qualify for a high credit limit.

Finally, remember that newcomer offers only last for a limited period, so make sure you’re aware of the fees and interest rates that apply once the intro period ends. To find the right credit card for your specific financial needs, read our best credit card guide.

How to find the best credit card for newcomers

Most banks in Canada include access to a credit card as part of their newcomer banking packages. To sweeten the deal, they’ll often offer a rebate on the annual fee or even waive the fee altogether for the first year. There may also be bonus reward points on offer for newcomers, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best deal. Check out our guide to credit cards for newcomers to Canada for more information.

Prepaid cards for newcomers: An alternative to credit cards

If you don’t like the idea of running up debt on a credit card, you might want to consider applying for a prepaid card. This allows you to load your own money onto a card and then use it for in-store and online purchases.

A prepaid card ensures that you don’t have to worry about interest charges, but you can still take advantage of features such as cash back and reward points. Check out our prepaid cards guide to find out more.

How much credit do newcomers to Canada need?

Another factor you’ll need to consider when applying for a credit card is that your Canadian credit history is likely limited. As a result, this could have an impact on the maximum credit limit you’re able to qualify for.

However, the good news is you don’t need a credit history in Canada to qualify for a credit card. Banks will instead assess your income and employment situation when setting your credit limit. As a general guide, you may be able to qualify for a credit limit of up to $10,000 or $15,000 depending on the bank you choose.

Bottom line

Moving to a new country can be daunting and stressful, but managing your finances doesn’t have to be. Compare the best bank accounts for newcomers in Canada and shop newcomer banking packages to find the financial products and services that you need.

Newcomer bank accounts FAQs

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