As an international student, you will need a bank account. This will be very important over your first few years in Canada and you should be sure to choose one that suits your needs. Here, our Ottawa and Orleans immigration physicians talk about the different banking options for international students in Canada and what to consider when making your choice.
What You Should Know About Student Bank Accounts in Canada
Most of the banks in Canada offer a student-specific bank account which allows for stress-free banking with no monthly fees and other benefits to help make student life a little easier. When making your decision, it is important to consider all of your banking needs and take your time learning about what each bank has to offer.
There are both chequing and savings accounts. Chequing is what you would use for your day-to-day expenses while the savings account allows you to keep some of your money separate, and in some cases, accumulate interest.
Applying For Student Direct Stream Study Permits
When applying for your Canadian study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS), you will need to show proof of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). Even if using the standard process, a GIC is a great way to show proof of funds on your application.
Here we share some of the Canadian banks that offer student bank accounts, some with specific benefits for international students.
Student Account Options at Canada's Largest Banking Institutions
CIBC, HSBC, BMO, RBC, Scotiabank, and TD are the largest and most popular banks in Canada. Each of these banks offers banking options for students, some of which include special perks. However, It is good to know that these banks are not your only options when you are in need of a student bank account.
One thing to keep in mind with these big banks is that they usually have monthly transaction limits – costing you up to a dollar for every use over your limit. One of the benefits is that these banks make banking easy with the help of apps and online banking services.
Because many banks charge a large fee for using ATMs or bank machines belonging to competitors, our Ottawa and Orleans immigration physicians recommend choosing a bank that is close to your place of residence or school.
If you choose to open a Scotiabank student account you will not only get the ease of mind that comes with no monthly fees and unlimited debit card transactions but you are also able to make online purchases using a Virtual Visa Debit Card. Scotiabank also offers the SCENE rewards program which allows you to build up points that can be used for free movies, groceries, travel and more. All of these things combined make Scotiabank a popular option for student banking in Canada.
Like the Scotiabank student account, CIBC offers no monthly transaction limit or fees on student accounts. CIBC prides itself on being one of the most cost-effective banking options for international students in Canada. They also occasionally offer perks and bonuses for international students when signing up for a new account.
CIBC makes a point of sharing all of the information needed for international students applying for the Student Direct Stream study permit. Their team will be there to help with all of your GIC needs, ensuring that you understand the process.
HSBC has a Newcomers Program for International Students that offers specific packages for international students looking to open a new account. They will also offer a number of perks depending on the specifics of the account you choose to open. Students who have opened a new account will not have fees for the first year and will have the opportunity to apply for an HSBC Mastercard so they can begin to build credit.
While National Bank doesn't have an account that focuses specifically on international students, they do offer a special account for any student in Canada. This student account includes:
- Canadian or US dollar account
- No monthly fee
- Unlimited e-transfers
- Overdraft protection
- Platinum credit card with no annual fees for the first two years
- Vehicle and travel insurance
This student banking package also features a line of credit with preferential terms and conditions.
The BMO student bank account offers no monthly fees for the duration of your time at school and for the first years after graduation. There are, however, limitations on the number of free transactions per month.
BMO also works with SPC to offer special perks and rewards to students in the program.
Along with no monthly fees, RBC’s Student Bank Account for Newcomers offers a number of other benefits, including:
- Unlimited debit transactions when in Canada
- Free Interac e-Transfer transactions
- No fee from RBC if you use another bank's ATM in Canada
- The RBC Mobile Student Edition app
- Tap to pay with your mobile device
- Virtual Visa Debit allowing for online purchases
TD Canada Trust
TD offers an International Student Banking package. This bank account has no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirement, no transaction limit and no Interac e-Transfer fees. TD also offers international students the option to sign up for a number of other beneficial products and services such as no-fee overdraft protection, no-fee savings accounts and more.
Other Banking Options in Canada
While the banks listed above are the largest and most popular, they are not the only banking options in Canada. There are also online-only banks which can be safe, fast and convenient.
One of the main benefits of these online banks is that there are no monthly fees. Being a student you shouldn't need to worry about fees as most brick-and-mortar banks don't charge monthly fees to student accounts. As an international student, you may find that having a physical location where you can visit and get help with all of your banking needs is more suitable.
Tangerine is an online-only bank where account holders are able to use Scotiabank ATMs without any extra fees. While there are no student accounts, the standard chequing account offers a similar range or benefits as a student account would at a major bank.
Simplii is another online bank that has a connection to a major bank. Simplii chequing account holders can use CIBC ATMs without worrying about paying fees. Much like Tangerine, Simplii benefits have a similar set of perks as a student account at one of the larger banks.
Choosing a financial institution and setting up your first bank account will be a large step in your journey. Take your time, ask any questions that you have and choose the one that is best suited to your needs.