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The best bank accounts for newcomers to Canada

Natasha-M 1
Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking

June 21, 2024

An important step in making Canada your home is getting a bank account. With the right bank account, you can have earnings directly deposited, pay bills, and send money within Canada as well as back home. Learn the benefits of getting a Canadian bank account, and find the best bank account for new immigrants to Canada.

Frequently asked questions

Which bank is the best for newcomers in Canada?


How to open a bank account as a newcomer in Canada?


What are the different types of bank accounts in Canada?


How does banking work in Canada?


Best newcomer bank accounts in Canada

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National Bank The Connected Chequing

Account

National Bank's newcomer banking offer provides a lucrative banking and support package for newcomers to Canada.

Welcome bonus: Pay no monthly fees on a chequing account for three months and access a credit card with no Canadian credit history required.
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Key Features
• No monthly fees for three years
• Free legal assistance for one year
• Unlimited debit transactions, bill payments, Interac e-transfer, ATM transactions, and global money transfers

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BMO - Performance Chequing Account

BMO’s NewStart program includes a number of incentives that make it easier to do the banking you need as a newcomer to Canada.

Welcome bonus: Earn up to $600 when you open an account and complete a specified number of transactions (conditions apply).
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Key Features
• No monthly fees for one year
• Cash bonus and gift card offered to new customers
• Unlimited debit transactions, bill payments, Interac e-transfer, ATM transactions, and global money transfers

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CIBC - Smart Account

CIBC's newcomer program offers valuable discounts and a generous welcome bonus.

Welcome bonus: Get a $400 Costco shop card when you make the specified number of transactions within the offer period.
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Key Features
• No monthly fees for two years
• Gift card offered to new customers
• Get access to a credit card and global money transfers

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TD New to Canada Banking Package

TD offers new Canadians the TD Unlimited Chequing Account with no monthly fees for one year and a generous welcome bonus.

Welcome bonus: Earn up to $400 when you open an account and complete a specified number of transactions (conditions apply).
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Key Features
• No monthly fees for one year
• Cash bonus offered to new customers
• Unlimited debit transactions, bill payments, Interac e-transfer, ATM transactions, and global money transfers

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Scotiabank StartRight Program

The Scotiabank StartRight program makes it easy to get set up for all your banking needs in Canada.

Welcome bonus: Get up to $1,800 in value in the first year of the program (conditions apply).
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Key Features
• No monthly fees for one year
• Savings of up to $150 per year on eligible credit cards.
• Earn Scene+ points with connected accounts and products

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KOHO plans

KOHO is a digital bank that makes it simple to manage your spending and saving by combining a chequing and savings account in one.

For an additional $10 per month, you can access its credit building product that helps you establish a credit history in Canada.

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Key Features
• Plans range from $0 to $19 per month
• 0.5% interest on your entire balance, and 1% cash back on grocery and transportation purchases
• Unlimited debit transactions, bill payments, Interac e-transfer, ATM transactions, and global money transfers

Our guide to newcomer bank accounts in Canada

Who are the Big 5 (or 6) Banks?

In Canada, the “Big 5 Banks” are large national banks that offer a full suite of financial products across all 13 provinces and territories. They include:

  • RBC Royal Bank. RBC is headquartered in Toronto and is not only Canada’s largest bank, but one of the biggest in the world. RBC has over 1,200 branches and a network of 4,200 automated teller machines (ATMs).
  • TD Bank. Officially called TD Canada Trust, this bank has over 1,000 branches and 2,500 ATMs.
  • BMO (Bank of Montreal). BMO operates approximately 900 branches and 2,200 ATMs.
  • Scotiabank. The Bank of Nova Scotia, nicknamed Scotiabank, has roughly 900 branches and 3,600 ATMs.
  • CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce). Despite its name, CIBC offers a full line of personal banking products. It has over 1,000 branches and close to 3,000 ATMs.
  • National Bank is the sixth of Canada’s major banks. National Bank has 350 branches and 2,800 ATMs across Canada. 

What other banks are there in Canada?

In addition to the Big Five Banks, there are many others to choose from. Many of the alternatives offer advantages like better customer service or lower fees.

Different types of banks you will find in Canada include:

  • Digital banks. Digital banks don’t have locations for in-person customer service, but allow you to do all your banking by telephone or online. Some of Canada’s largest digital banks include Tangerine, Simplii and EQ bank.
  • Regional banks. Some banks focus on certain regions rather than having a broad presence across the country. Examples include ATB Financial in Alberta and Laurentian Bank in Quebec.
  • Credit unions and caisses populaires. Credit unions, also known in French as caisses populaires, are co-operative financial services organizations that usually serve a certain community. Some of Canada’s largest credit unions include Desjardins, VanCity, Meridian and Coast Capital Savings.

What to look for in a newcomer bank account

When selecting a bank account for your life in Canada, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind such as monthly fees, transaction fees, and other features that you may or may not need.

Types of bank account/banking needs

Most Canadians have two different types of accounts: A chequing account for daily banking, and a savings account for saving.

Usually, chequing accounts pay little or no interest, but include free transactions like cash withdrawals and bill payments. Conversely, savings accounts usually do pay at least some interest, but may charge very expensive transaction fees that make them unsuitable for daily spending.

Monthly fees

Bank accounts in Canada often have a monthly fee ranging up to $30 per month. Higher fees are usually associated with more included transactions, more services, and more perks, but that’s not always the case. Several banks offer no-fee chequing accounts that include unlimited free transactions with no monthly fee.

Transaction fees

Most chequing accounts include a certain number of free transactions such as bill payments, ATM withdrawals, transfers to other accounts, and Interac e-Transfers. Over that limit, fees range from $1 to $5 per transaction depending on the bank and account. Some other transactions, such as international money transfers and bank drafts, are usually not included free regardless of the account.

Access (ATM/Digital)

It’s important to be able to bank the way you want to, and not all banks in Canada offer the same access to services. When choosing a bank account, consider whether it comes with access to:

  • Branches for in-person customer service. Many banks offer a network of branches you can go to for in-person customer service. Be aware that there may be a fee for teller assisted transactions, even if you have an account with the bank.
  • ATMs for cash withdrawals. Most banks offer free access to a network of ATMs you can use to take out money and perform certain other transactions. Some banks charge an additional fee for using an out-of-network ATM that’s on top of any fee charged by the ATM itself.
  • Telephone banking. Most banks offer free telephone banking that allows you to make transactions over the telephone. Some banks allow make it easier to speak to a human than others.
  • Online banking. In Canada, most banks offer an online banking portal that makes it easy to conduct most of your daily banking. 
  • Mobile banking. Many Canadian banks offer mobile apps that let you bank using your smartphone, and most even let you deposit a cheque by taking a picture. 

Interest Rates

Most chequing accounts don’t pay any interest, but most banks do offer interest-bearing savings accounts and other investment products like guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). Be aware that having a chequing account with a bank doesn’t usually entitle you to preferential rates for borrowing, and it’s best to shop around for the best rate when looking for a mortgage, car loan or credit card.

Credit cards

As a newcomer to Canada, you may be eligible to get a credit card without having any Canadian credit history. This is an important way to establish credit which will unlock the ability to get more and better credit cards, as well as loans for larger purchases like a car or home. There are hundreds of credit cards that offer different rewards and perks, so be sure to compare credit cards online to find the right one for you.