Immigration Tips

How to Choose a Canadian Bank Account As a Newcomer

Knowing how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer is a crucial and somewhat daunting task. Navigating a new financial landscape involves understanding the diverse banking options available, considering your individual needs, and familiarizing yourself with the associated terms and fees.

This guide aims to provide you with valuable insights into the factors to consider, questions to ask, and considerations to weigh as you embark on the journey of selecting a Canadian bank account tailored to your unique circumstances. From understanding the required documentation to exploring account types and fee structures, let’s delve into the essential elements that will empower you to make informed choices and establish a solid financial foundation in Canada.

Know the Best Banking Options Available

There are several banking options available to newcomers in Canada and the best choice will largely depend on your personal needs and preferences. However there are a few banks that are considered to be the best bank account for new immigrants Canada. These banks known as the “Big Six” are the major players in Canadian banking and they operate extensive networks of branches and ATMs across the nation. They include:

  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Toronto Dominion Bank (TD)
  • Scotiabank or Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS)
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • National Bank of Canada (NA)

Although these banks are considered the best, they are not without their downsides. Below are the pros and cons of the “Big Six” banks.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)


  • Wide range of financial products and services with competitive features
  • Lowest fees for unlimited transactions of any major bank in Canada
  • Widespread network of ATMs and branches across Canada


  • Lower interest rates on savings accounts than those offered by smaller institutions
  • Fees may apply to use non-RBC ATMs
  • Free chequing account options are limited

Toronto Dominion Bank (TD)


  • Offers a range of account options with all-inclusive banking packages
  • Provides a robust online and mobile banking platform, enhancing accessibility
  • No-fee banking is available for students and discounts are available for seniors


  • Relatively higher fees compared to some other banks
  • No free chequing for seniors

Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS)


  • Present in 20+ countries across the globe
  • Chequing accounts get free Interac e-transfers and teller-assisted transactions
  • The Scotiabank Scene+ Visa card is considered one of the best no-fee credit cards available
  • Newcomer programs with features designed to assist and welcome recent immigrants


  • Most chequing accounts pay monthly fees
  • Less competitive rates after bonus offers

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)


  • Provides a variety of financial products and services to meet different customer needs.
  • Students and seniors can enjoy no-fee banking
  • Robust online and mobile banking platform as well as branches in every province


  • Monthly service charges for most chequing accounts
  • Less competitive interest rates on certain accounts
  • Relatively fewer branches compared to major competitors

National Bank of Canada (NA)


  • Competitive interest rates on savings accounts and mortgages
  • Students and seniors enjoy no-fee banking
  • Discounts available for certain professionals and healthcare workers
  • Personalized and attentive customer service, compared to competitors


  • Strong presence in Quebec, but limited in other provinces compared to competitors
  • Monthly fees apply for most chequing accounts
  • Some accounts do not include free teller-assisted transactions

Online Banking Options Available in Canada

While most people prefer an in-person banking experience, part of knowing how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer includes the online option. Several banks offer excellent online banking services in Canada. However, since they are online banking options, they have limited to no physical branches. Here are some of the best online banking options:

  1. Tangerine: Tangerine is known for its no-fee chequing and savings accounts, competitive interest rates, and user-friendly online interface. They also provide access to a network of ATMs through the Scotiabank network.
  2. EQ Bank: EQ Bank is praised for its high-interest savings account rates, no monthly fees, and straightforward online platform. They also offer a variety of GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate) options.
  3. Simplii Financial: Simplii Financial, an online subsidiary of CIBC, offers no-fee banking, competitive interest rates, and a user-friendly online platform. They provide access to CIBC ATMs.
  4. Motusbank: Motusbank offers a range of banking products, including high-interest savings accounts and mortgages. It is an online subsidiary of Meridian Credit Union.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Canadian Bank As a Newcomer


Assess the physical presence of the bank, including the number of branches and ATMs when you want to open bank account Canada newcomer. Depending on your location, having convenient access to physical branches and ATMs may be important for certain transactions. Also, evaluate the online banking platform. A user-friendly and robust online system is vital for day-to-day banking. Consider factors such as ease of navigation, account management features, and the availability of a mobile app.

Account Types and Features

Many banks offer newcomer packages designed specifically for individuals like you. These packages may include special features, reduced fees, and additional support services to assist you in settling into the Canadian banking system. You should also look into the various types of accounts offered, such as chequing accounts, savings accounts, and investment accounts. Compare Canadian bank accounts for newcomers with the most favourable features. Choose accounts that align with your needs and financial goals.

Fees and Charges

Be aware of the fees associated with different transactions, including ATM withdrawals, wire transfers, and account maintenance. Some banks offer fee waivers for specific accounts or under certain conditions. Check whether the bank charges monthly fees for maintaining an account and explore options with no or lower monthly fees, especially as a newcomer.

Interest Rates

If you plan to save money or invest, compare interest rates on savings accounts and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs). Higher interest rates can contribute to greater returns on your savings over time.

Customer Service

Consider the level of support provided to newcomers. Some banks offer resources, guides, and dedicated customer service representatives to assist newcomers in understanding the banking system and services. They may also provide educational resources to help you understand budgeting and financial planning. Similarly, ensure that the bank provides services in a language you are comfortable with, especially if English or French is not your first language.

International Services

If you have international banking needs, consider banks with a strong global presence. This can simplify transactions and support financial activities involving your home country.

Community Feedback

Seek reviews and recommendations from other newcomers or members of your community. Positive feedback can indicate a bank’s commitment to customer satisfaction, while negative reviews may highlight potential drawbacks.

Specialized Services

Check if the bank offers additional services such as credit cards, loans, or mortgage options. It is important to consider these financial services for newcomers Canada. Having a variety of financial products within the same institution may streamline your banking experience.

What Type of Bank Account Should You Choose?

Understanding how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer involves knowing the account type that is right for you. There are different types of bank accounts available in Canada, depending on your short-term and long-term financial goals.

Chequing Account

A chequing account is designed for everyday transactions. You can use it to deposit and withdraw money, write cheques, and make electronic transactions. It’s suitable for managing your day-to-day expenses, such as groceries, bills, and other regular payments. Chequing accounts often come with a debit card for easy access to funds, online banking options, and sometimes overdraft protection for emergencies. You can use your debit card to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). But, if you with the ATM of a different financial institution, you may be charged a fee.

Savings Account

A savings account is intended for saving money over time. It usually offers higher interest rates compared to chequing accounts. Use a savings account to accumulate funds for short-term goals, emergencies, or future plans. Savings accounts may have limitations on the number of transactions allowed per month, and they are ideal for keeping your money safe while earning modest interest.

High-Interest Savings Account (HISA)

This is similar to a regular savings account but with a higher interest rate, a High-Interest Savings Account is suitable for those who want to earn more interest on their savings. It’s a good option for building an emergency fund or saving for specific goals. HISAs often come with competitive interest rates and may have fewer transaction restrictions compared to traditional savings accounts.

Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

A TFSA is a tax-advantaged savings account where you can contribute money without paying taxes on the interest earned or when you withdraw funds. It’s versatile and can be used for various savings goals. TFSAs have contribution limits set by the government, and they’re a tax-efficient way to grow your savings over time.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)

An RRSP is a long-term savings plan designed to help you save for retirement. Contributions to an RRSP are tax-deductible, meaning they can reduce your taxable income, and the investment grows tax-deferred until withdrawal in retirement. RRSPs have contribution limits, and you can choose from a variety of investment options within the plan.

Chequing and Savings Bundles

Some banks offer bundled accounts that combine features of both chequing and savings accounts. These packages may include additional benefits, such as reduced fees or enhanced interest rates. Bundled accounts provide flexibility and convenience, making them suitable for individuals who want a comprehensive banking solution.

Foreign Currency Accounts

If you have international transactions or income in a foreign currency, consider a foreign currency account. It allows you to hold and manage funds in currencies other than Canadian dollars. These accounts can help you avoid currency conversion fees when dealing with foreign transactions.

Opening a Canadian Bank Account as a Newcomer: Documents Needed

To know how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer, you also need to know the documents you will need. The specific documents required for opening a bank account may vary slightly between banks. Hence, you may have to enquire about the specific documents from the bank you intend to open an account with. However, the documents you will need in general are stated below. Keep in mind that you can go to the bank physically to open your account, or you can do so online using the bank’s website.

Proof of Identification

A primary piece of government-issued identification is typically required. This can include a valid passport, a Canadian driver’s license, or a provincial/territorial identification card. Some banks may request a secondary form of ID, such as a social insurance number (SIN) card, a birth certificate, or a health card.

Proof of Immigration Status

If you are a permanent resident, you will need to provide your Permanent Resident Card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR). Also, if you are on a work or study permit, you may need to provide your work or study permit along with other identification documents.

Proof of Address

A document that verifies your residential address, such as a utility bill (e.g., hydro, gas, water), a lease agreement, or a property tax assessment. In case the primary document is not available, some banks may accept secondary proof, like a letter from your employer or educational institution confirming your address.

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

While not always mandatory, providing your Social Insurance Number (SIN) can facilitate the account opening process and is often required for certain transactions. SIN is particularly needed for interest-earning accounts. You can obtain a SIN card from Service Canada. You may need to provide your SIN card or the official letter issued by Service Canada.

Letter of Introduction or Welcome Letter

Some banks may ask for a letter of introduction or a welcome letter issued by an immigrant-serving organization or your employer. This document confirms your status as a newcomer in Canada. This requirement might be specific to certain banks or account types targeted at newcomers.

Employment or Study Documents

If you are working or studying in Canada, banks may request documents such as a job offer letter, employment contract, or enrollment confirmation from your educational institution. This is particularly relevant if you are opening an account tailored to newcomers or if you are applying for additional services like overdraft protection.

Banking Fees: What Fees Do Canadian Banks Charge?

As a newcomer in Canada, it’s essential to be aware of the various newcomer banking Canada fees. These fees can vary between different financial institutions, and understanding them will help you manage your finances more effectively. Here’s a breakdown of common fees that banks may charge:

Monthly Account Fees

The monthly account fee is one of the most important fees to consider when finding out how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer. Many banks charge a monthly fee for maintaining a chequing or savings account. The fee is often associated with the features and benefits of the account. Monthly fees can vary based on the type of account you choose. Some accounts offer fee waivers if you maintain a minimum balance or have a certain level of account activity.

Transaction Fees

Transaction fees are charges for specific actions, such as ATM withdrawals, over-the-counter transactions, or electronic transfers. The number of free transactions and the fees for additional transactions can vary. Some banks offer unlimited transactions for a fixed monthly fee.

Interac e-Transfer Fees

Interac e-transfer is a popular method for sending money electronically. Some banks charge a fee for each e-transfer transaction. Fees may apply to both sending and receiving e-transfers, but some accounts offer a certain number of free transactions.

Overdraft Fees

If you spend more money than you have in your chequing account, you may incur overdraft fees. Overdraft protection is a service that can help you avoid these fees. Overdraft fees can be significant, so it’s essential to understand the terms and fees associated with overdraft protection.

ATM Fees

If you use an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank’s network, you may be charged a fee. This includes both withdrawals and balance inquiries. Using your bank’s ATMs or those within their network is often free, but fees may apply at other ATMs.

Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfers involve moving money between banks, either domestically or internationally. Banks typically charge fees for incoming and outgoing wire transfers. Fees vary based on the destination and currency. International wire transfers generally have higher fees than domestic ones.

Cheque Fees

Some banks charge fees for ordering cheques or for processing cheques that you deposit. If you use cheques regularly, it’s essential to be aware of these fees and choose an account that offers a reasonable number of free cheques.

Account Closure Fees

Closing an account within a specific timeframe may result in account closure fees. If you need to close an account, check the terms and conditions to avoid any unexpected fees.

Credit Card Fees

Credit cards may come with annual fees, cash advance fees, balance transfer fees, and late payment fees. Read the terms of your credit card agreement to understand the specific fees associated with your card.

Wrapping it Up

Discovering how to choose a Canadian bank account as a newcomer is a significant step toward financial integration and security. By navigating the various account types, understanding the associated fees, and being aware of the necessary documentation, you can make decisions aligned with your financial goals and lifestyle. Remember to explore newcomer packages, leverage online and mobile banking services for convenience, and, most importantly, ask questions. Canadian banks are equipped to assist newcomers, offering a range of services to meet your diverse needs. Whether you are managing everyday transactions, saving for the future, or considering long-term investments, the right bank account can be a cornerstone in your journey to financial success and stability in Canada.


Elizabeth is a well-versed writer who has mastered the art of delivering complex knowledge in simple ways to help readers grasp the information they need without mental stress.

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