Top Banks for Newcomers to Canada

You’re lucky to be a proud new resident of Canada. You know why? Aside from the fact that Canada is an open, prosperous democracy that thrives on its diversity, that is.

Because we have one of the world’s – if not THE world’s – best banking systems. Our system of chartered banks combines the innovative range of products you would expect from a major bank in the USA, with the solid stability that our financial institutions have built up over the years. Canadian chartered banks weathered the 2008 financial crisis better than most. Are they as big as an HSBC or a Wells Fargo? No. But they’re every bit as good, and even more trustworthy, with solid financial structures that can weather most any event.

And Canadian chartered banks would love to have your business! All the major banks have special packages aimed at people exactly like you, who have recently arrived in Canada to start a new life with your families, or on your own. Here’s what they are offering:

 

6. HSBC

HSBC branch By GTD Aquitaine at en.wikipedia (self-made Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

They offer a variety of packages, but have fairly high requirements. HBSC Advance 1, for example, offers the following:

  • Chequing and Savings accounts;
  • HBSC MasterCard;
  • Personal Line of Credit;
  • Open your Canadian bank account from abroad before arriving;
  • Transfer your HSBC credit history to Canada;
  • View all your HSBC global accounts with one log-in;
  • Transfer funds instantly between your global HSBC accounts.

Sounds good, right? But wait. Here are the requirements: within 6 months of arriving in Canada, you must have a personal deposit or investment of at least CAD$25,000 or a Personal Mortgage Balance of CAD$150,000 or more, both with HSBC Canada.

 

5. Scotiabank

Scotiabank ATMs By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

They offer the following benefits:

  • $100 when you open a chequing account eligible for the cashback.
  • Visa Credit Card.
  • Small Safety Deposit Box free for 1 year.
  • Car loan.
  • Scotia iTRADE account with $1,000 investment earns 10 free trades.

Be sure to bring the following documents to prove your:

  • PR Card or one of Form IMM 5202, IMM 5688;
  • Valid passport, or Canadian driver’s license, or other valid photo ID

 

4. CIBC

CIBC branch By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

They offer the following benefits:

  • Everyday Chequing account with no fees for 1 year.
  • $55 cash back refund on a Safety Deposit box.
  • CIBC Advantage Debit Card.

 

3. TD Bank

TD branch By Myke2020 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

They offer the following benefits:

  • A chequing account with no monthly fee for the first 6 months.
  • Savings account with a bonus interest rate.
  • Unsecured TD Credit Card with no credit history with credit limit of up to $5,000.
  • International Money Transfers by Visa Direct with 1 transfer per month free of charge for first 6 months.
  • Possibility of mortgage with no credit history.

Be sure to bring the following documentation to prove you are eligible:

  • PR Card or one of Form IMM 5292, IMM 1442, IMM 1208, IMM 1202;
  • Passport, or Canadian Driver’s License, or Canadian Government ID Card.

 

2, BMO Bank of Montreal

BMO By Myke2020 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

They offer the following benefits:

  • Your Performance Plan Chequing Account will be free with no fees for the first year.
  • BMO NewStart Program includes your choice of type of BMO MasterCard Credit Card: BMO Air Miles MasterCard, BMO CashBack MasterCard, or BMO SPC Air Miles MasterCard.
  • You can send money to your family back home several ways: By opening your online banking account you can access Western Union from your computer and send money directly back to your home country; you can wire money through your local branch; you can send an Interac e-transfer within Canada.
  • Additional 0.25% interest on your 1 – 5 year GIC’s with a minimum $1,000 investment.
  • Free small-size Safety Deposit Box, or 25% off a larger Safety Deposit Box.
  • If you are arriving from China, you may open your Canadian bank accounts through the local BMO China subsidiary’s branches in Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Beijing before you land in Canada.

Be sure to bring the following documents so that you can prove you qualify:

  • Landed Immigrants: PR Card, or one of Form IMM 1000, IMM 1442, IMM 5292, or IMM 5688. Foreign passport or Canadian driver’s license.
  • Foreign Workers: IMM 1442 (Work Permit), Passport, employee ID card with photo.

 

1. RBC Royal Bank

RBC by Henrickson at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

by Henrickson / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

They offer the following benefits:

  • Your first credit card with the bank comes with no credit history required.
  • Your first mortgage also does not require a credit history. You must still meet financial eligibility metrics in both cases.
  • If you open certain all-inclusive VIP accounts with RBC, you may be eligible for an iPad mini 2.
  • RBC International Money Transfer.
  • Your first car loan with no credit history required at specified dealerships across the country.
  • Preferred exchange rates on foreign transactions for first 12 months after signing up for an account.
  • Preferred interest rates on Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC).
  • Small-size Safety Deposit Box with fees waived for up to 2 years.
  • $50 when you open up your first business account with RBC.

Be sure to bring the following documents to prove that you are a newcomer. Your

  • Landing Papers or PR Card, and
  • Foreign Passport.

 

Other Options

Tangerine and President’s Choice Financial are online, low-cost banks where you save on fees (which add up to a lot over time). If you’re comfortable doing your banking online from your home computer, then you should take a look at these two options. They may not have all the bonuses some of the big banks will give you, but you will spend less with them over the years.

 

A Note About Debit cards

Through the Interact payments system, most Canadians use debit cards when they shop. They are accepted just about everywhere in Canada, and all major banks and credit unions offer them. They link to your bank account and are NOT like Credit Cards. You need money in your bank account for your Debit Card to function. Get used to using your debit card; it’s part of life in Canada.

 

Services in Your Language

If you require foreign language services, many bank branches have bilingual staff in large urban centres like Vancouver or Toronto. This is not a guaranteed service however, especially depending on what language you speak, so you should be prepared to do your banking in English, or French, especially if you are not settling in a neighbourhood in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver that has a lot of people who speak your language.

 

Comparing what each bank has to offer you as a client is vital. Shop around and get the best deal for your situation. While RBC has an impressive list of benefits, the flexibility of money transfer options offered by BMO might be more valuable to you. HSBC, on the other hand, is generally for higher net-worth individuals, especially ones who have previously banked with HSBC at one of its world-spanning web of subsidiaries. See what they each have to offer you as far as mortgages are concerned. DO NOT be shy! It’s your money they will be taking care of, and you have every right to ask as many questions as needed in order to feel secure you’ve made the right choice. 


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