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

Foreigners and non-residents entering Canada can open a bank account with the right identification.

Many Canadian banks offer accounts designed for those who are moving to the country to live, work or study. Tourists and visitors who aren’t staying in Canada permanently may still be able to open an account with their foreign passport and 1 other piece of ID. If you don’t plan to visit the country at all, you can’t open a bank account in Canada.

How do I open a bank account in Canada?

You can open an account online before arriving in Canada, on the phone or in person at a branch when you arrive. If you decide to open an account at a branch, remember to bring valid forms of ID with you.

This includes your passport or driver’s license and another piece of ID such as an overseas credit card, student ID, Canada-issued immigration documents, work or travel Visa, or a rental or mortgage agreement showing where you’re living in Canada.

What if I don’t have proof of address?

You can open an account online with digital banks, which operate solely online. Digital banks normally require ID but don’t usually ask for proof of residency on top of this. It usually takes just a few minutes to open a bank account in Canada when you go with a digital bank.

EQ Bank, Simplii Financial, Neo Financial and Koho (not a bank, but offers prepaid spending cards) will all help you set up a Canadian account without requiring proof of residency.

Exact requirements for opening an account vary between banks. But you’ll generally need to provide your name, contact information, employment status and reason for opening an account (spending, saving, investing etc.) and a copy of ID like your driver’s license, immigration papers or passport photo and signature pages.

You’ll need a Canadian address, so your card can reach you in the mail.

Do Canadian banks have foreign-language services?

Most major Canadian banks have staff who can speak a range of languages, making it a lot easier to open a bank account and avoid miscommunications. Some of these banks include TD Canada Trust, CIBC, HSBC and RBC.

Which kinds of accounts are available to foreigners arriving in Canada?

In Canada, the 2 main types of bank accounts are chequing accounts and savings accounts. Most accounts come with a monthly fee and limits on the number and types of transactions you can make. Big Banks typically offer discounts and extra perks for people in certain groups like students, seniors and newcomers to Canada.

Chequing accounts

Chequing accounts are used for making purchases, paying bills and transferring money to and from other banks and people. The monthly fee for chequing accounts in Canada generally ranges from $0 to $30.

Accounts with cheaper monthly fees will only come with a few free transactions, then you’ll have to pay around $1 to $2.50 for each additional transaction. More expensive accounts often come with perks like unlimited free transactions, free personal cheques, waived credit card fees and waived safety deposit box fees.

BMO New to Canada Performance Chequing Account

BMO New to Canada Performance Chequing Account

  • $0 unlimited transactions
  • No fee for one year. $0 monthly fee with min. $4,000 balance.
  • Unlimited fee-free BMO Global Money Transfers for 1 year
Scotiabank Preferred Package

Scotiabank Preferred Package

  • $0 unlimited transactions
  • $16.95 monthly fee waived with $4,000+ balance
  • Choice of SCENE or Scotia Rewards points programs

Savings account

Savings accounts pay interest, usually ranging from less than 1% to 2.5% or more. The more money in your account, the more interest you earn. Because savings accounts are made for holding (not spending) funds, you usually only have access to a few free transactions per month. In Canada, most savings accounts come with a $0 monthly fee to encourage people to deposit their funds in the banking system.

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

  • High 2.5% interest rate
  • No minimum balance
  • $0 transaction fee

Benefits of opening a bank account in Canada

While there are lots of online money transfer services available for foreigners and non-residents of Canada to send and receive funds around the world, you get some unique benefits when you open a bank account in Canada.

  • 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 should foreigners and expats look for in a bank account?

Here are a few points to consider if you want to open a bank account in Canada:

  • Fees. Keep more money in your pocket by looking for accounts with low monthly fees, free transactions and free transfers.
  • Branch access. Some transactions, like depositing foreign funds or cheques, need to be done in person at a local bank branch. Avoid opening an account with a digital (or online-only) bank if you need to conduct these types of transactions.
  • International money transfers. You may need to send money to, or receive money from, home from time to time, so check the fees and exchange rates for transferring money internationally.
  • Hold multiple currencies. Some bank accounts let you hold several foreign currencies in one account. This could be really handy if you’re going back home regularly and need access to that country’s local currency.

Bottom line

It’s usually simple to open a bank account in Canada if you’re an expat or foreigner arriving in the country to live, work or study. Visitors and tourists may be able to open an account by visiting a local branch with their passport and another piece of ID.

Accounts you can open include chequing accounts for spending and paying bills and savings account for growing your money. Banks often offer discounts and perks for students, seniors and newcomers to Canada.

If you don’t plan to visit Canada, you’ll have a much harder time opening an account. Speak to a representative at a bank with branches in your home country and Canada to explore your options.

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