So, you’re moving to Canada. Now the assault course begins: get your visa, find housing, buy boots, etc. The list goes on. And what about setting up a bank account? You’ll quickly find yourself in need of a Canadian bank account if you want to avoid paying fees each time you purchase something in Canada using your international card. Hopefully we’ve done the hard work for you in terms of comparing the different bank accounts available in Canada. The good news is some banks allow you to open an account remotely.

Open a bank account before you arrive

Canada is famous for its migratory policy and welcomes many foreigners each year. It’s no wonder that so many banks are trying to make your life easier by offering the facility to open your account remotely. The request is made directly online and you are usually contacted by the bank in the days that follow.

Opening an account in advance is particularly interesting because it allows you to wait for the exchange rate to be favourable for you before making a transfer. I would recommend Neomy. It is a bot that tracks the exchange rate for you and sends you alerts when rates are in your favor.

Which documents are required to open an account?

Opening an account in Canada is relatively simple and quick if you have the necessary documents with you:

  • a Passport (valid of course)
  • a A Visa justifying your status (student, work permit, work permit)

Some banks may also ask for more pieces of documentation such as your Social Insurance Number (SIN), proof of residence or proof of university enrolment for students. Check with the bank you choose before going along to open your account.

Canadian Banks

If you plan to spend more than 6 months in Canada, then it will always be more advantageous to open an on-site account. Even if the bank to which you belong in your home country offers you “free” withdrawals, you will lose out on the exchange rate and this will soon cost you dearly.

Canada has 5 major banks, or “The Big Five”. Let’s analyze what each bank offers to newcomers to the country:

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

It is one of the biggest banks in Canada. The bank has a large network of distributors across the country (more than 4,200). There are several options available to you as a newcomer to Canada, depending on your status (permanent resident, student, foreign worker).

If you have a temporary visa you can open an RBC Signature No Limit Account or a RBC VIP</ at no charge for the first six months. You will also get a free credit card.

If you are a student, the RBC Unlimited Student Account is for you. You will get a Gold Visa or MasterCard free of charge. You may also be reimbursed the monthly fee ($ 10.95) under certain conditions.

Toronto-Dominion (TD)

Newcomers or new Canadians can open a checking account free of charge for the first six months. You will also get a credit card to begin to establish your credit worthiness in Canada, which will allow you to obtain credit such as a loan thereafter.

The offer for international students allows you to obtain a checking account with no monthly fees and a free credit card.

Note that you can not open a remote account with Toronto Dominion but you can make an appointment online to open your account. Their site is rather generous with information and informs you of what vouchers to bring with you according to the offer you choose.


Scotiabank is the third largest bank in the country, with a network of more than 4,000 distributors. The bank does not provide an offer specially dedicated to newcomers to the country, but does have many types of accounts. The most basic will cost you $ 10.95 per month. You can be refunded however, if you keep your account balance above $ 3,000 at all times.

The offer dedicated to students is free and allows you to carry out an unlimited number of transactions per month without charge.

Bank of Montreal

It is the oldest bank in the country. The bank offers a package dedicated to newcomers workers or students. The offer includes a free checking account for the first 12 months as well as a free MasterCard credit card. The rental of a boot compartment will be offered to you for one year.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

Like the other major banks in the country, CIBC has offers for newcomers (for permanent and temporary residents). The CIBC Intelli Account is free for the first year and you may make an unlimited number of transactions. If you are a permanent resident you can get a $ 55 discount on a safe deposit box.

The offer dedicated to students is relatively similar to that of newcomers. The main difference is that you will pay no fees for the entire duration of your schooling.


Desjardins Bank is one of the only ones to allow newcomers to open an account up to 12 months before their arrival in the country. The request can be made online within minutes, and a counselor will call you back within 48 hours. When you arrive in Canada, you will have to go to the branch to complete the opening of your account.

Fees related to your account?

The fees obviously vary from one account to another depending on the offer you have chosen. Pay attention to the terms and conditions of your bank. Here are the main costs you will face:

Monthly fees

A common theme with bank accounts in Canada is that you will have a limited number of transactions that can be made per month for free (withdrawals and payments). Beyond this limit you will be charged about $ 1 per transaction. Some accounts offer an unlimited number of transactions per month, though account maintenance costs will be higher.

Withdrawal fees

Withdrawals are free if you withdraw from your bank but you will be charged $ 1.50 if you withdraw from another bank. What’s more, the 2 banks are both likely to charge you individually for a withdrawal, so you can pay up to $ 3 per withdrawal!

Fees on international transfers

Most banks offer a number of “free” transfers for newcomers. Beware of this type of offer because in most cases you will end up paying fees for both the sending and the receipt of the transfer. The exchange rate applied is usually lower than the actual rate, so you pay hidden fees on the exchange rate.

One thing to remember about international transfers is to avoid going through your bank if possible, so that you aren’t subjected to these expenses. The most economical method is to go through a money transfer operator. You can save up to 80% on bank charges.

Transfer funds into your Canadian account

The most economical way to feed your Canadian account from a foreign country is to use a money transfer operator. These are just as secure as banks because they are regulated by the same financial authorities. The advantage is that they are totally transparent and you know exactly how much you will receive at the time of shipment. Just make sure that you compare them to ensure that you get the best possible exchange rate. is a news site only and not a currency trading platform. is a site operated by TransferWise Inc. (“We”, “Us”), a Delaware Corporation. We do not guarantee that the website will operate in an uninterrupted or error-free manner or is free of viruses or other harmful components. The content on our site is provided for general information only and is not intended as an exhaustive treatment of its subject. We expressly disclaim any contractual or fiduciary relationship with you on the basis of the content of our site, any you may not rely thereon for any purpose. You should consult with qualified professionals or specialists before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our site. Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our site, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up to date, and DISCLAIM ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Some of the content posted on this site has been commissioned by Us, but is the work of independent contractors. These contractors are not employees, workers, agents or partners of TransferWise and they do not hold themselves out as one. The information and content posted by these independent contractors have not been verified or approved by Us. The views expressed by these independent contractors on do not represent our views.