Best Banks for Newcomers to Canada


As you settle into your new life here in Canada, there are many things for you to consider.

You have immigration paperwork to do, a social insurance number (SIN) to sort out, and a new phone plan to set up – as well as many other items on a to-do list that only ever seems to grow.

Among these tasks, one of the most important is to open a new bank account because without one you’ll find it nearly impossible to earn and organize the money you need to enjoy your new life in Canada.

However, there are so many banks to choose from that the question on your mind is no doubt: which is the best bank for newcomers in Canada?

This is what we answer in this guide, sharing the different options available as well as the details you need to choose the right bank for you. Because although there is no universal best bank for newcomers to Canada, there is the best bank for you.

Let’s begin so you can clear this all-important task from your too-long list.

Why Do You Need a Newcomer Bank Account?

There are many reasons why you should sign up for a newcomer bank account as soon as you land in Canada.

For one, Canada has embraced electronic payments in everyday life. In fact, people in Canada use cash only around 10% of the time, according to Payments Canada.

Canadians pay mostly through electronic means, even for small purchases

A good bank and the right bank account is more than just a place to store your money; it’s an important tool to support your financial needs and goals, and to make it easy for you to use your money the way you want.

Canadians do most of their banking online or electronically, and the use of digital-only banks is becoming more widespread. These days, going to a bank in person is becoming less common since you can do most of your banking online.

In Canada, it’s common to use online banking to pay your bills, transfer money between accounts, receive your pay by direct deposit, and check your savings and investments.

Another popular feature of online banking is Interac e-transfers, which allow you to send money directly from your bank account to someone else, even if you don’t bank at the same institution.

Interac e-transfers are a common way to send money between family and friends and to pay for items purchased on the second-hand market.

When you arrive in Canada, it’s important to choose a bank that suits your current financial needs, with some consideration for what you might require from the bank in the future.

Most banks in Canada offer a wide array of similar products, such as chequing accounts, savings accounts, investments accounts, credit cards, and registered programs for savings, such as tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), and many of these products come with a monthly fee or other costs.

When choosing the best bank and banking product, you’ll want to not only think about the various products that will support your financial goals, but you also want to take these banking fees into consideration (especially since some can be a considerable amount of money).

What Makes a Good Bank for Newcomers?

When it comes to deciding what makes a good bank for newcomers, it ultimately comes down to personal preferences and priorities.
Since most banks have similar products, you should be able to access all types of accounts, credit cards, and investments, regardless of which bank you choose.

Depending on your priorities, you may want to choose a bank that offers the lowest bank account fees, or the one that has the best rates for your mortgage.

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A good newcomer bank account should primarily be a no-fee account

When choosing a bank, you also want to determine whether you prefer to bank with a physical bank, where you can speak to bank employees in person, or if you prefer to simply bank with a digital-only institution.

In Canada, you’re welcome to hold products at multiple banks at the same time. However, you may want to focus on a single bank with which you plan to grow your financial footprint as you add more products and services.

If you’re just looking to get the ball rolling at this time, you can focus on signing up for a basic chequing account.

Chequing accounts are the standard account used for everyday banking. They’re used to receive pay from your employer, pay bills, and make transfers between accounts and individuals.

Banks also offer savings accounts that yield interest on deposited funds; however, this type of account isn’t designed for everyday banking.

In this article, we look primarily at the best chequing accounts for newcomers since these will provide the most functionality and are the most common everyday bank account in Canada.

Best Banks for Newcomers

In the sections below, we provide details about our picks for the best banks for newcomers to Canada.

In Canada, there’s what’s known as the “big five” banks. These include Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bank of Montreal (BMO), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Toronto-Dominion (TD).

Each of these big five banks have promotional offers and packages for newcomers, providing things like welcome bonuses/gifts, discounted fees, elevated interest rates on savings, and more.

Any one of the big five banks and many of the digital-only banks would be a good choice when you first arrive in Canada, and as we mentioned earlier, selecting the best bank comes down to personal preference and priority.

That said, let’s take a look at five different banks and their newcomer initiatives and offers.

Scotiabank

The first bank we’ll highlight is Scotiabank, one of Canada’s big five banks. With over 900 branches scattered across the country, you likely have a local branch not far away.

If you’re from Latin America, you may already be familiar with the Scotiabank brand, since it has offshoots in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.

Scotiabank is a good choice if you’re new to Canada, since it’s developed a program specifically for newcomers called StartRight. The program offers incentives on bank accounts, investments, money transfers, and credit cards.

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With StartRight, you get your monthly fee waived with the Preferred Package chequing account for one year.

The Preferred Package chequing account offers the following benefits:

  • Unlimited debit card transactions and Interac e-transfers
  • Fee waived on one non-Scotiabank ATM withdrawal per month in Canada
  • First-year annual fee waiver (up to $150) on select Scotiabank credit cards
  • Send money globally for $1.99 with Scotia International Money Transfer
  • Enrolment to the Scene+ rewards program

The StartRight offer above is available for foreign workers, as well as permanent residents who’ve gained their status in the last five years. Scotiabank also has separate offers for international students.

In addition to having your monthly fees waived, you may also receive a bonus of up to $350 in cash when you open a Preferred Package account. To qualify for the bonus, you must fulfill two of the following:

  • Set up an eligible automated direct deposit, such as your payroll, that recurs for a minimum of six consecutive months
  • Set up at least two separate eligible pre-authorized transactions with a minimum value of at least $50 each that recurs monthly for a minimum of six months
  • Make an eligible online bill payment of at least $50 through the Scotiabank Mobile App or through Scotia OnLine

You can easily open a Scotiabank Preferred Package account online. Once the account is opened, you can visit a Scotiabank branch near you to have your monthly fees waived under the StartRight program.

When visiting a branch to enroll in the StartRight program or to open an account in person, be sure to bring the necessary documentation.

If you’re a new permanent resident, you need your permanent resident card (PR card) or confirmation of permanent residence (CoPR), plus one additional piece of government photo ID, such as your passport or Canadian driver’s licence.

If you’re a foreign worker, you need your work permit, plus one additional piece of government photo ID, such as your passport or Canadian driver’s licence.

Scotiabank also offers eligible individuals the opportunity to open an International Account before arriving in Canada. By opening such an account, you can transfer up to $50,000 before moving to Canada.

You can learn more about this option and find out if you’re eligible on Scotiabank’s website.

Offering both the StartRight program and the option to open an international account prior to arriving in Canada, Scotiabank is a good choice if you’re looking for a bank with all the features and products, lots of physical locations, and strong newcomer incentives.

BMO

The next bank we’ll explore is the Bank of Montreal, better known as BMO. This bank is also one of Canada’s big five banks, with around 900 branches nationwide.

BMO prides itself on being an ideal choice for newcomers and this is showcased through its NewStart program that caters to permanent residents, foreign workers, and international students.

The NewStart program aims to set up newcomers with banking products they might need.

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Through NewStart, BMO features one of its flagship products, the Performance Chequing Account. As a newcomer, your monthly fees on this account type are waived for the first year.

Additionally, when you open a Performance Chequing Account, you may earn up to $350 in cash as a welcome bonus.

To be eligible for the bonus, you must fulfill two of the following:

  • Set up a recurring direct deposit, such as your payroll
  • Make two eligible online bill payments of at least $50 to different billers
  • Set up two eligible pre-authorized debits of at least $50 to different billers

If you open a Savings Amplifier Account at the same time, you can earn a further $200 by making a deposit of $10,000 or more to the account.

Keep in mind, however, that you must maintain this minimum account balance for a certain number of months as stated in the terms and conditions.

As a pleasant addition, BMO also offers an initiative called SmartProgress, which is a series of financial education videos and tools for newcomers to learn more.

You can open a new Performance Chequing account both online and in person at a branch. If you choose to open an account online and would like to enroll in the NewStart program, you’ll need to visit the branch with the necessary documentation to complete the process.

If you’re a new permanent resident, be sure to bring your PR card or confirmation of permanent residence, plus one piece of government photo ID – such as your passport or a Canadian driver’s licence.

If you’re a foreign worker, you must bring your work permit, plus one piece of government photo ID.

BMO also allows eligible individuals to open a bank account before they arrive in the country. You can see if you are eligible on BMO’s website.

BMO is an excellent choice for newcomers to Canada, as it offers reduced fees, welcome bonuses, and educational material, among other features.

CIBC

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is also one of Canada’s big five banks. We’ve included it on this list because of its excellent programs for newcomers to Canada.

With CIBC’s Smart Arrival program, you can open a temporary bank account that you can fund before arriving in Canada.

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Then, once you’ve arrived, you can get up to 24 months of waived monthly fees with CIBC’s signature Smart Account.

The Smart Account offers the following:

  • Unlimited transactions, including Interac e-transfers
  • A Visa Debit card
  • One free non-CIBC ATM withdrawal per month in Canada
  • One-time annual fee rebate of up to $139 on eligible credit cards

Additionally, as a new chequing account holder, you have the opportunity to earn a $400 Costco Shop Card.

You can earn this $400 bonus when you set up ongoing monthly direct deposits totalling $500 or more within the first two months of opening your account, and after you complete one of the following:

  • Two ongoing pre-authorized debits
  • Two online bill payments of $50 or more each
  • Five online Visa Debit purchases

Once you’ve completed the requirements, the $400 Costco Shop Card will be awarded to you within seven months of account opening.

To qualify for the CIBC Smart Account, you must have received landed immigrant or permanent resident status in the last five years or be a foreign worker who has had a Canadian work permit issued for at least a 12-month term.

When applying for the account, you need to show proof of entry into Canada and a piece of photo identification, such as a Canadian Permanent Resident card or your passport, with a work permit, if applicable.

With its generous welcome bonus and waived monthly fees, CIBC is definitely worth considering for your new bank.

TD

The Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), also known as TD Canada Trust, has more than 1,100 branches nationwide, and is another one of Canada’s big five banks.

The bank supports newcomers by offering services in various languages, as well as resources to help you navigate financial services in Canada.

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Moreover, TD offers newcomers one year with no monthly fees with its Unlimited Chequing Account.

This account features the following:

  • Unlimited transactions, including Interac e-transfers
  • TD Access Card with Visa Debit
  • First year annual fee rebate for one of five credit cards (up to $139)
  • Linking with Starbucks Rewards

Additionally, when you open a TD Unlimited Chequing Account, you’re eligible to receive up to $350 as a cash bonus.

To earn this bonus, you need to complete two of the following:

  • Set up a recurring direct deposit from your employer, pension provider, or the government, with the transactions occurring either weekly, biweekly, monthly, or twice per month
  • Make an online bill payment through TD EasyWeb or the TD app (minimum $50)
  • Set up a recurring pre-authorized debit (minimum $50) with the transactions occurring either weekly, biweekly, monthly, or twice per month

To qualify for TD’s New to Canada banking offers, you need to be a permanent resident, international student, or temporary resident for 5 years or less (with proof of status).

When you go to sign up for your new bank account, you need to bring your Permanent Resident Card, Immigrant Visa and Record of Landing, Confirmation of Permanent Residence, Temporary Work Permit, or your Study Permit.

You also need to bring a piece of photo ID, such as a valid passport, a Canadian driver’s licence, or a Canadian government ID card.
International students will also need to provide proof of enrollment in a post-secondary program.

With its strong welcome offers for newcomers, and its multilingual services, TD is clearly a bank worth considering.

Simplii Financial

Simplii Financial, the digital banking arm of CIBC, aims to be the digital bank of choice among newcomers and international students.

To this end, the bank has launched initiatives to be top-of-mind among newcomers – like tapping Indian music and film star Diljit Dosanjh to be their brand ambassador.

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We chose to highlight Simplii Financial since its No Fee Chequing Account doesn’t charge a fee for account maintenance or transactions, and you can open a bank account as a newcomer without holding Canadian identification.

You can even apply for an account before you arrive in Canada. To do this, you need to use your port of entry letter that states your approval to come to Canada as a worker, student, or permanent resident.

Another reason the Simplii chequing account is a good choice is that it currently offers a welcome bonus of $400.

To earn this bonus, all you need to do is add an eligible direct deposit to your account that’s at least $100 per month for three straight months (for example, your paycheque from your employer).

Additionally, if you open a High Interest Savings Account (HISA) with your chequing account, your savings earn a 6% special interest rate for the first five months.

Simplii Financial is a great bank to choose for someone who would like to open a bank account before arriving in Canada or for someone who hasn’t yet acquired a Canadian ID. With its easy-to-earn welcome bonus and its backing by CIBC, Simplii is an excellent digital bank for newcomers.

Conclusion

As a newcomer to Canada, one of the first things on your to-do list is opening a bank account.

However, with so many banks available in Canada, it can certainly be daunting to choose where to open your first account.

We hope this article and the information on the five banks we’ve listed above help you feel more confident in choosing the right bank account for your needs.





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