How to Open a Bank Account in Ontario
Moving from your home country to a different one and starting to build your life can both be fun and daunting. And if your destination is Canada, you may get a few things right to be able to fit in quickly.
One of the most important things you may need to get a hold of as fast as possible has to do with your financials. This means that you’ll need to start establishing a relationship with a Canadian local bank.
Getting started with a local bank shouldn’t be difficult at all as long as you have all your immigration documents in order. This means that your visa should be valid, which is always the hardest part of the immigration process.
Once your legal residency status is deemed legal, setting up an account at a local banking institution should be quite easy. But before we look at how to open a bank account in Ontario, let’s understand how banks work in Canada.
An Overview of the Canadian Banking System
Banks in Ontario offer a wide range of products to help customers manage their finances. The choice of bank account you choose should largely be informed by your short-term and long-term financial needs; this means that if you’re looking to bank on a daily basis, you need to consider a bank that offers the most convenient banking system for regular bankers.
Similarly, if your goal is to open a savings account, then you need to go for an account that offers the best interest on your savings.
Identifying a bank and account that caters for your personal goal(s) is a great way of establishing a lasting relationship with your banker.
Banks in Canada allow clients with large transactions to make use of accounts with packages that allow bulk transactions; however, some accounts have limitations in terms of transaction levels during a certain period of time. Be sure to enquire about this prior to setting up an account with any bank.
For those who are interested in services such as money orders, overdraft protections, cheque return, or certified cheques can easily open accounts that carter for these as well.
And if you’re looking for something a bit simple, you can go for basic accounts for $4 per month; however, these accounts exempt seniors who are receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement, students, and Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) beneficiaries from the monthly account maintenance fees. Such accounts are characterized by the following:
- Cheque writing privileges
- At least 12 debit transactions each month, with a minimum of two done in-branch
- Monthly account statement issuance, authorized payments, online cheque imaging, or cheque image return
As you can see, it is vital for you to analyze everything that comes with each account; some are perfect for individuals looking to operate on a budget while others are meant for individuals with higher earnings. You want as much as possible to objectively identify what works for you.
How to Open a Bank Account in Canada
Most banks will require you to appear physically to be able to open a bank account. And as mentioned earlier, the process is always pretty simple as long as you have all your documentation in place.
So, what documents do you need to open a bank account?
For starters, ensure that you have a valid and original identification; banks will not accept photocopies in place of original ones.
You’ll have three options:
- Present two forms of an ID from list A below
- Present one ID from list A and another from B
- Present one ID from list A and have a customer of the same bank vouch for you
Here are the categories of acceptable IDs:
- A birth certificate issued in Canada
- A Permanent Resident Card
- A driver’s license issued in Canada
- A Canadian passport
- A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or Certification of Naturalization
- Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada Form IMM 1000 or IMM 1442
- A Social Insurance Number (SIN) card issued by the Government of Canada
- An Old Age Security card issued by the Government of Canada
- A Certificate of Indian Status issued by the Government of Canada
- A provincial health insurance card
- A document or card with your signature and photograph from:
- The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
- Alberta Registries
- Saskatchewan Government Insurance
- The Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
- The Department of Transportation and Public Works of the Province of Prince Edward Island
- Service New Brunswick
- The Department of Government Services and Lands of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador
- The Department of Transportation of the Northwest Territories
- The Department of Community Government and Transportation of the Territory of Nunavut
- Service Ontario
Important note: In some cases, banks may accept the Confirmation of Permanent Residence as valid identification. However, the bank is not mandated under the law to accept the document as official identification; it is entirely at the discretion of the bank whether or not to accept it.
- An employee identification card with a photograph from an employer well known in the community
- A signed automated banking machine (ABM) card or client card issued by a member of the Canadian Payments Association
- A signed credit card issued by a member of the Canadian Payments Association
- A signed Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB) client card with a photograph; or
- A foreign passport
Now that you know what is required to open a bank account in Ontario, let’s briefly look at the types of bank accounts you can open.
Types of Canadian Bank Accounts for Foreigners and Residents
Canadian banks offer three main types of account to their clients; the account you choose to open will depend on your financial requirements. Identifying a bank account that caters to your needs is quite vital. Bank accounts available to you include:
This account caters for your day-to-day banking needs (banking and withdrawing) at any time without any restrictions. It is important for anyone to have a chequing account to cater to their everyday financial transactions. Of course, this is a broad category of bank account, and there are numerous other interesting products under it.
Depending on the bank you choose, the transaction charges and the monthly maintenance fees may vary. Additionally, these accounts do not offer any interest on your account balance.
As the name suggests, this account type will allow you to save certain amounts of money for specified periods of time. Savings accounts are used to store money that is not needed on a regular basis.
Unlike chequing accounts, the biggest advantage of savings accounts is that they attract interest on your account balance. If you’re looking to save, you might need to shop around for accounts that offer some the highest interest rates while keeping the maintenance costs low.
US Dollar Account
Seeing as Canada borders the US, most banks will offer this account type for those looking to maintain a portfolio of the USD for speculative purposes, investments, or simply because they frequent the US.
Top Banks that Offer Non-Resident Bank Accounts in Canada
Research shows that the banks listed below are some of the most reliable, inexpensive, and foreigner-friendly financial institutions in the whole of Canada. Of course, the list is not limited to what we’ve highlighted; there are other great options to choose from. The most important thing to do is to go for value for your money (affordability), the convenience of service, and a customer-oriented bank.
Canada boasts of some of the best banking systems globally; so, you shouldn’t be worried when looking to open a bank account in Canada as a non-resident. There are strict laws that regulate the sector ensuring that all stakeholders participate fairly.
There is very little difference in what banks offer in terms of products; but the difference comes with things that many might consider immaterial, including withdrawal methods, deposit methods, customer support channels, and more.
Without wasting any time, below are five banks we believe are worth your while as an immigrant in Canada:
1. RBC Royal Bank
RBC is one of the biggest banking institutions in the whole of Canada. In fact, many believe that the bank is the best in terms of products as well as services.
Here’s what the bank offers its customers:
- A credit card without the need for a credit history. Also, selected cards do not attract annual fees.
- Zero transaction fees for the first nine months after opening your bank account
- An option for global money transfer
- A chance to have a mortgage without a history
- A safety deposit box with zero fees for a period of two years
- Preferred exchange rates for foreign currencies for a period of 12 months
- Favorable interest rates on Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC)
- A car loan with no credit history with a maximum limit of $3,500 on a dealership
Ensure that you carry your foreign passport and landing papers when going to open an account with RBC.
For more details about the bank, check out their website.
2. BMO Bank Of Montreal
BMO is another one of Canada’s giants in the financial space; the bank boasts some of the best newcomer products and services. Let’s verify that, shall we?
Under the non-resident account package, BMO offers:
- Credit cards for each account under this program
- A chequing account with zero fees within the first year on all transactions
- A 0.25% interest on a minimum balance of $1,000 between 1 – 5 years
- An online banking platform for sending and receiving money globally
- A safety deposit box
- If you’re migrating from China, you’re allowed to open your account from BMO’s China branch for convenience
Crucial documents to bring with you include a foreign passport or Canadian driver’s license in the case of landed immigrants and a passport, work permit, plus an employee ID for foreign workers.
You can visit BMO’s website for more details.
3. TD Bank
TD (Toronto-Dominion Bank) is among the top 10 best banks in Canada. They are one of the most organized banks with unique solutions to newcomers.
Here’s what the bank offers:
- A chequing account with zero monthly fees for a period of six months
- A savings account with a favorable interest rate for six months
- A credit card with no security conditions and no need for history
- A chance to get a mortgage without the need for a credit history
To be eligible for this account, you’ll need to bring with you to the bank Form IMM 5292, IMM 1442, IMM 1208, IMM 1202, or a PR card, Canadian driver’s license, Canadian Government ID Card, or passport.
For more details about this program, check out their website.
Scotiabank offers some of the best banking packages for immigrants; here’s what they offer:
- With every chequing accounting eligible for cashback you open, you get $300
- You stand a chance to have a mortgage with no past history
- A free safety deposit box for a period of one year
- A car loan
- No monthly fee as long as you maintain a positive balance each day
- A credit card without proof of history
- In case you open a Scotia trading account worth $1,000, you’re granted 10 free trades
Be sure to present Form IMM 5202, IMM 5688, a PR Card, a Canadian driver’s license, a valid photo ID, or valid passport.
Check out their website for more details.
Last but not least, we have CIBC Bank. This is another big player in the Canadian financial space and offers the following to newcomers:
- A chequing account with zero fees for a year
- No limits on money transfers locally and globally
- CIBC advantage debit card
- A refund on a safety deposit box of up to $55 on cash back
After setting up your bank account with one of the local banks in Ontario, your banker can educate you on how to best to operate your account to be able to build a credit reputation to allow you to qualify for better financing options in the future.
And that’s pretty much it!
Now that you have a complete guide on how to open a bank account in Ontario and the larger Canada, take your time to analyze as many banks as possible to able to set up your account with the best of them.
Welcome to Canada, and good luck!