It can be difficult for a newcomer to navigate financial services in an entirely new banking system. Not only can the procedures be different, information can also be difficult to find. That’s one of the reasons that Hardbacon published its guide to personal finance for Canadian immigrants. Everything revolves around establishing a credit score in Canada: bank accounts, credit cards, investments, and options including currency conversion and sending money internationally. Unless you are using a prepaid credit card like KOHO or secured credit like Refresh, you’ll need a bank account to begin any credit car application process. So which bank do you use? You can compare offers with our chequing account comparison tool, but we’ve also compiled a list of the 5 best bank accounts for newcomers.
National Bank of Canada
The National Bank’s offer for new immigrants is a 3-year offer for a chequing account, access to financing products like loans and credit cards, telephone support, unlimited electronic transactions, a book of free cheques and rental of a small safety deposit box to keep your important documents in. The bank waives its account fees for the first year, saving you $15.95 for 12 months. For the second and third year, the bank waives its account fees again if you sign up for a National Bank personal credit card, online bank statements, and either online payroll deposit or two electronic bill payments per month. If you don’t want that option, the bank will charge you a reduced account fee for the remaining 2 years.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
This is the most common bank in Canada. No matter the city, RBC probably has a branch there. Thanks to RBC, most financial services like credit cards, mortgages and car loans don’t require you to have a credit history. This is an undeniable advantage when you have just arrived in the country.
With the RBC Newcomer Advantage, you get a $100 opening bonus and branch service offered in the most languages in the country. You also get up to 6000 RBC Rewards points with an RBC Rewards Visa credit card, a free security deposit box for 24 months and 2 free international transfers per month for 12 months.
To take advantage of their offer, you start by signing up for an RBC No Limit Banking account, where you pay no fees for one year, get unlimited debit transactions in Canada, and unlimited Interac e-Transfer transactions. Then you add a no-annual-fee credit card (even if you have no history) and get 2500 bonus points. You have the option to add 3500 if you go digital within 60 days of card approval.
Desjardins Credit Union or Caisse populaire
In Quebec, you will see the green hexagon of the Desjardins logo everywhere. Unlike other institutions, Desjardins is a cooperative, but it offers essentially the same services as a bank.
It, therefore, belongs to its members (a member at Desjardins is the same as a customer in a bank). When there are surpluses, they will be distributed to members in the form of a dividend. Credit unions are committed to and invest in the enrichment of their communities and their members.
Their offer for newcomers includes several products. First, a bank account including a free transaction plan and unlimited transactions for one year. You also get a credit card with no annual fee that does not require a credit history or a security deposit. For an auto insurance quote, Desjardins takes into account your years of driving experience in your home country. You get a basic safety deposit box for one year to store your documents and valuables. Lastly, you’ll get a preferential rate for non-redeemable term savings to enable you to grow your savings.
Scotiabank allows you to open an account online and transfer money to Canada before you arrive. Scotiabank’s StartRight program can help you get started on the right foot, giving you access to credit, savings, free international money transfers, and advice. Their chequing account for newcomers offers several advantages:
- No monthly fees for the chequing account for one year
- Unlimited Interac transactions and transfers
- Access to a small safety deposit box free of charge for one year
In addition, Scotiabank is enhancing its offer by giving you access to several adapted financial products. You have free unlimited international transfers and a specialized mortgage loan for newcomers. You can get a loan for your new vehicle with a 10% down payment. If you open a Scotia iTRADE account, you get 10 free transactions for one year.
BMO offers the NewStart program. You can begin by opening a chequing account with no monthly fees for one year. You also get unlimited electronic transactions, unlimited Interac e-transfers, and a free safety deposit box for one year.
BMO is complementing its offer for newcomers with several adapted financial products. For example, you can sign up for the BMO No Annual Fee Cash Back Mastercard with which you get a cash back rate of up to 5% in the first three months and an interest rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for nine months. For your savings you get an interest subsidy of 0.25% on qualifying one-year guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). If you want to buy a home, we can help you buy your new home in Canada by providing mortgages that do not require a Canadian credit history. You can make international transfers to over 200 countries and territories through the Western Union Money Transfer service, directly from BMO Online Banking.
In Canada, you have the right to open a bank account at any institution if you show identification. That is, you can open a bank account even if you have no job or no money to deposit immediately. If you wish to open an account from your home country, contact the bank or check their website to see if you can open your account entirely online.