Banking for Newcomers

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Banking packages for newcomers plus factors to consider before making a banking decision

Landed in Canada? Unpacked your bags? Along with the excitement of being in Canada comes the more sobering aspects of uprooting yourself and family to an entirely new country and way of life; finding work, a place to live, and of course, managing your finances.  Finding the banking institution that best suits your needs and helps with the transition is not an easy task. This article provides some of the popular options available to newcomers and factors you should consider before choosing a financial institution and bank account type.

The importance of choosing the right bank account with a trustworthy financial institution cannot be over-emphasized. Thankfully, each bank in Canada has something unique to offer to newcomers and students. You are sure to find a bank with services and products that fit your needs.

Many banks offer perks that help you save some money during the first six months to one year. And you can also get a credit card with no credit history in Canada; what else can you ask for?

But before falling for the perks, let’s take a look at the options various banks offer.  

Key Factors to Consider

Photo credit: Diana Grytsku

Credit Score

Canadians use credit cards to build their credit history. If nobody has told you this yet, make sure you make the payments on time to have a higher credit score. The better your credit score, the more likely that a bank will lend you money in the form of loans. To acquire a loan without hassle, your credit score should be anywhere between 600 to 900, with 900 being the highest.

International Transfer

Lie many newcomers, you may have to send money back home to your family or to pay a vendor locally for goods or service. Whatever the reason, you may have to make international money transfer. Make sure you choose a bank that offers you the best possible scope with minimal charges for worldwide money transfers.

Interac e-transfer

Interac e-transfers are the most convenient way to transfer or receive money within Canada. Most banks offer this service as part of their mobile banking features. Ensure your bank offers this service without additional charges.

Banks With Special Account Packages for Newcomers

At the time of writing this article, the special account packages below were available to newcomers. Check with the bank to be sure the terms have not changed. This list is in no specific order and not exhaustive.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

The RBC offer is known as the RBC Newcomer Advantage.

  • Depending on when you open the RBC Advantage Banking Account, and if you fulfil all qualifying criteria within the stipulated time frame, the bank offers $100 in cash.
  • No monthly fee banking for a year.
  • Unlimited debit transactions in Canada.
  • No fee to use another bank’s ATM in Canada.
  • Free Interac e-transfer transactions.
  • A book of 50 cheques free.
  • Two free international money transfers per month for a year.
  • No credit history required to be approved for a Canadian credit card. There is also no annual fee on credit cards.
  • Use of a small safe deposit box for 2 years, without a fee.

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotia Bank)

Scotia Bank offers the StartRight program for newcomers in Canada.

  • No monthly account fees on the Preferred Package chequing account for one year.
  • Unlimited no-fee international money transfers.
  • Free small safety deposit box for a year.
  • Credit cards designed for newcomers.
  • Specialized mortgage for newcomers to Canada.

Bank of Montreal (BMO)

BMO’s NewStart program for newcomers.

  • No monthly-fee banking for one year
  • Performance Plan chequing account
  • Unlimited transactions
  • Unlimited Interac e-transfer transactions
  • Free small safety deposit box for 12 months
  • Free savings account
  • Family members in your household get no-fee daily banking with BMO Family Bundle.
  • There’s no annual fee on the credit card.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

CIBC offers a comprehensive package to newcomers.

  • CIBC offers $300 when you open a Smart Account
  • A Smart Account gives newcomers a saving of up to $203 on the monthly fee, for one year.
  • With a CIBC Dividend Platinum Visa Card get a saving of $99 on the first-year annual fee.
  • Cashback on groceries and gas when using a Dividend Platinum Visa Card – valued up to $288.
  • A$60 cashback when you rent a safety deposit box.
  • Send money abroad with no transfer fee with CIBC Global Money Transfer – a value of over $290

Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank)

Unlike other banks, TD offers only six months of no-monthly fees in your Chequing account.

However, if you fulfil two of the following three criteria in 6 months, you are eligible to earn $300.

These include: recurring direct deposit from your current employer, pension provider or the government; recurring pre-authorized debit for at least $50; and/or online bill payment of at least $50 on EasyWeb or the TD app.

  • No monthly fees for 6 months.
  • Unlimited transactions.
  • Free money transfers with Interac e-transfer.
  • No TD fees to use any ATMs in Canada
  • No annual fee on the TD Cash back or TD Rewards Visa card for newcomers
  • A $50 offer plus a bonus rate on your savings for the first 6 months when you open your account

You can open a TD bank account 75 days before arriving in Canada and transfer up to $25,000 if you are a resident of India or China.

After the first six months of no-fee banking, the monthly fee of $16.95 will be waived if you continue to maintain a minimum balance of $4,000 each day of the month.

National Bank of Canada (NBC)

As the tagline states, ‘The perfect plan to settle in your new home’, NBC provides an array of banking solutions for newcomers.

In the first year, you will have:

  • Banking package with no flat monthly fees.
  • Chequing account.
  • Unlimited online transactions.
  • Access to financing such as credit cards, mortgage, car loan and so on.

Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

If you have spent less than five years in Canada, you qualify for the HSBC’s Newcomer programme.

  • No banking fees for one year on chequing accounts.
  • A welcome bonus of up to $500 is offered to those who open an eligible HSBC Chequing Account, sign up for online banking and make a minimum deposit. (Terms & Conditions apply).
  • A $100 cash bonus if a recurring payroll is set up within 6 months of opening a chequing account.
  • A $51 cash bonus when you apply for a safety deposit box.
  • Making two bill payments through mobile or online banking within 3 months, will earn you a $50 cash bonus.
  • Two separate pre-authorised recurring transactions, also made within 3 months will earn you a $50 cash bonus.
  • A $149 annual fee rebate when you apply for an eligible credit card within 3 months.
  • A one-time bonus of $50 if you open an HSBC Investment Fund non-registered account and set up a pre-authorised contribution plan. (Terms & Conditions apply).


One of the largest financial cooperatives in Canada, let’s go through what Desjardins has to offer new customers:

  • A bank account with a free transaction plan and unlimited transactions for 1 year.
  • A free credit card with no annual fee that requires no credit history or security deposit.
  • Recognition of all your previous driving experience when getting an auto insurance quote.
  • A basic safety deposit box for your documents and valuables free for one year.
  • An enhanced rate for non-redeemable term savings to help you grow your money.

Check whether your local cooperatives offer any packages for newcomers.

Apart from the traditional banks and cooperatives offering the best benefits in town to newcomers, there are also several online banks that can be considered such as Tangerine, Simplii Financial and PC Financial, among others.

Take your passport and landing papers or permanent residency card with you to open a newcomer’s account. Do not be afraid to negotiate for better deals with the bank’s representative to be sure that you’re not leaving any dollar on the table. Also confirm if there are hidden charges or what the charges will be after the no-fee banking period ends and if there’s anything you can do when the time comes to reduce the charges.

Another useful site to learn about banking in Canada is the government of Canada website, which offers more insight on opening a bank account in Canada.


Harita Dave
Harita Dave

A newbie in Canada, who couldn’t forgo the love for writing even in a new country. A journalist at heart, who has ventured into the world of finance. I don’t wish to be #justanotherimmigrant in Canada. An ardent animal lover who would choose dogs over men any day!

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