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If you have recently immigrated to Canada or are planning to do so soon, this post covers what you need to know about the best banks for newcomers.

Newcomers to Canada have their hands full when they first get here. There are tons of things you need to figure out…housing, jobs, education, banking, investing and more.

To help you become established in Canada and set you up for financial success, I have written a detailed financial checklist specifically for newcomers and international students.

best newcomer bank accounts canada

Best Newcomer Bank Accounts in Canada

Canada has a robust and safe financial system. For day-to-day banking needs, newcomers can choose from a variety of financial institutions including traditional banks, online banks and credit unions.

Some of the things you should consider when choosing your first bank account are:

Banking Needs

What do you need in a bank account? How many transactions will you conduct every month? Are you comfortable with online-only banking? Do you want to open other accounts (e.g. mortgage, investments, savings, credit cards etc.) in the same place? Will you be sending international money transfers?

Monthly Fees

Typically, traditional banks will offer you a promotional period (usually 1 year) when you do not pay a monthly account fee. Afterwards, a regular fee may apply. Consider whether these fees are worth your while. Some banks will continue to waive their monthly fee if you keep a minimum balance.

Digital banks offer regular no-fee chequing accounts.

Transaction Fees

In addition to the monthly account maintenance fees, you should also be aware of transactional and service fees and limitations e.g. ATM withdrawals, Interac e-Transfers, cheques, and online bill payments.

Access

How accessible is your bank? While most banking transactions can easily be completed from the comfort of your home, you should choose a bank that has branches close to where you live if you plan to conduct lots of in-branch transactions.

Online-only banks like Tangerine and Simplii Financial have little to no physical branches you can walk into. However, they have thousands of ATMs you can access for free across Canada.

Some banks allow you to open an account even before you land in Canada.

Interest Rates

You want to earn a competitive interest rate on the funds in your savings account. Compare interest rates across banks and read the fine print.

Some online banks will pay you interest on your chequing account balance.

Newcomer Bank Accounts – Big Five Banks

These are the banking packages offered to new immigrants by Canada’s five largest banks.

1. Scotiabank StartRight Program

Scotiabank is the third-largest bank in Canada by asset size. Through their StartRight program, newcomers have access to a free chequing account (for 12 months), savings, credit cards, mortgage, personal loans, free credit scores and more.

The Scotiabank StartRight program caters to newcomers who have been in Canada for 0-3 years.

You can open a Scotiabank Preferred Package Chequing account and get:

  • No monthly fees for 12 months (costs $15.95 after the first year) or it can be waived after the first year if you maintain a minimum balance of $4,000
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions
  • 1 free withdrawal/month from a non-Scotiabank ATM
  • Access to a high-interest savings account
  • Up to $139 fee waived on Scotiabank credit cards in the first year
  • Free credit scores
  • Earn rewards on every debit transactions via the SCENE or Scotia Rewards program

Get more details about Scotiabank’s chequing accounts here.

2. RBC Newcomer Advantage

The RBC Newcomer Advantage is a program offered by Canada’s largest bank to permanent residents and international students.

Under the program, you can open an RBC No Limit Banking account or RBC VIP Banking account and pay no monthly fees for 12 months.

Note that these accounts will cost you $10.95/month or $30/month respectively after your first year.

The RBC No Limit Banking comes with unlimited debits and Interac e-Transfers. You also get:

  • Two free international money transfers per month for 6 months
  • Access to credit cards, mortgage, car loans, business bank accounts, and investments

3. CIBC Welcome To Canada Banking Package

CIBC’s Welcome To Canada Banking Package is available to newcomers who obtained their permanent resident status within the past 5 years.

A CIBC Smart for Newcomers account offers:

  • No monthly fees for 1 year (up to $14.95/month after)
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions
  • Free safety deposit box for 1 year (costs $60/year after)

Newcomers can also access various credit cards, mortgage, personal loan and investment products.

4. BMO NewStart Program

This program is provided to newcomers who have arrived in Canada within the last 5 years.

The BMO NewStart Program offers 1-year of free banking under its Performance Plan. This banking package comes with:

  • No monthly account fees for 1 year ($15.95/month after); waived with a $4,000 daily balance
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions
  • 1 free non-BMO ATM withdrawal per month (in Canada)
  • Free small safety deposit box for 1 year ($55 after)

Newcomers also get access to other banking products including credit cards, international money transfers, investments, mortgage loans and more.

5. TD New To Canada Banking Package

TD’s New to Canada Banking is for permanent and temporary residents who have been in Canada for 2 years or less.

You can open a TD Unlimited Chequing Account and get:

  • No monthly fees for 6 months ($15.95/month after; waived with a $4,000 balance)
  • Unlimited transactions (debit and Interac e-Transfers)
  • No TD fee on any ATMs in Canada
  • $20 discount off select TD credit cards (first year only)
  • 1 free international money transfer per month for 6 months

TD also offers a variety of credit cards, loan products, investments and savings accounts.

best bank accounts for new immigrants to canada

Newcomer Bank Accounts – Online Banks

Online banks offer newcomers access to regular no-fee chequing accounts that pay interest and are non-promotional. 

You can use a full-fledged online bank as a primary bank (note the pros and cons of online banks) or use them as a secondary bank to complement your other accounts.

An online bank can save you hundreds of dollars in annual banking fees.

Online banks in Canada provide security similar to their traditional bank counterparts and you enjoy deposit protection through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Also, many of them are actually owned by larger and more established banks.

1. Tangerine Bank

Tangerine Bank is the online direct banking arm of Scotiabank (a Big Five bank). It is the most popular online bank in Canada.

The bank has cafes/kiosks you can walk into in some of the biggest cities in Canada. You can read my complete review of the bank here.

Tangerine’s No-Fee Daily Chequing Account offers the following:

  • No monthly account fees…ever
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions
  • Interest on your chequing account balance…up to 0.65%
  • First cheque book of 50 cheques is free
  • Free mobile cheque deposits
  • 24/7 phone support
  • Access to 3,500+ free Scotiabank ATMs across Canada

Tangerine Bank offers a full suite of financial products and newcomers can take advantage of their 2% Money-Back Credit Card which has no annual fee.

You also get access to personal loans, mortgages, investment funds, GICs, a home equity line of credit and a popular high-interest savings account.

2. Simplii Financial

Simplii Financial is the digital banking arm of CIBC. Their no-fee chequing account offers:

  • No monthly account fees…ever
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions
  • Access to 3,400 free CIBC ATMs across Canada
  • Interest on your chequing account balance…up to 0.50%
  • International money transfers

Simplii also offers credit cards, mortgages, personal loans and investment funds. Read this Simplii review for more details about their financial products.

3. EQ Bank

EQ Bank is another online banking choice for new Canadians. They are owned by Equitable Bank, a federally regulated Schedule I bank with more than $32 billion in assets under management.

EQ Bank offers one of the best savings rates you will find in Canada.

While they do not replace your primary bank (i.e. they offer a limited selection of products), you can use EQ bank to hold your savings and to send international money transfers.

The EQ Bank Savings Plus Account offers:

  • Zero monthly account fees
  • 2.00% high-interest rate
  • Hybrid account options (savings + chequing) with unlimited debits and Interac e-Transfers
  • Cheap international money transfers
  • Free mobile cheque deposits

They also offer GIC products with varying term lengths. Read my full review of the bank here.

How To Open a Bank Account as a Newcomer

To open a new bank account after you land in Canada, you will need to visit a branch and bring the following documents with you:

  • Permanent resident card or confirmation of permanent residence (IMM5292 or IMM5688)
  • Work permit if applicable (for foreign workers – IMM1422)
  • Social Insurance Number
  • 1-2 pieces of valid government-issued photo ID such as a passport or driver’s license

Some banks allow you to start the process while you are still abroad. In that case, you will need to complete an application form and send it in.

For online banks, the application process is completed online and you may have to scan in your documentation.

Conclusion

A bank account in Canada is going to be crucial for you to manage your finances. 

Carefully compare plans and offerings across different banks before choosing the package that best suits your needs.

You do not have to keep all your accounts with just one bank. In some cases, it makes sense to open your primary chequing account with one bank while you open a savings or mortgage account with another bank offering better rates.