5 Best Banks for International Students in Canada (2022)

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), more than 450,000 new international students came to Canada in 2021.

That is a substantial amount of people!

And surely, every single one of these people is thinking about which Canadian financial institution to bank at. That’s where this post can help.

Today’s article will go through some of the best banks for international students in Canada that have special offerings. From no-fee banking to unlimited international money transfers, I’m confident that something in this list will be able to fit your banking needs.

Okay, let’s get started!

Discount Perks
CIBC
CIBC
  • Free SPC membership that gets you special student discounts of up to 30% off in hundreds of Canadian stores
  • No-fee GIC Program to help you meet the requirements for your study permit (can cost up to $200 with other banks)
Money Transfers
Scotiabank
Scotiabank
  • Get unlimited no-fee international money transfers
  • Participate in the Scene rewards program with Scene debit and credit cards
Credit Cards
BMO
BMO
  • Great student credit card options with no annual fees, rewards (including cashback and Air Miles) and a standard interest rate (19%)

Features You Should Consider Before Choosing a Bank As an International Student in Canada

There are some things you should consider as an international student before opening a bank account in Canada.

These include your personal banking needs and how you will satisfy the Canadian study permit requirements, specifically your proof of financial support.

If you’re coming to Canada as a student (without dependents), you will need to show for a minimum of $10,000 per year to prove you can financially support yourself while you are in studying. This excludes your tuition costs.

There are a variety of ways you can prove your funds, such as by proof of a Canadian bank account in your name, a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution, proof of a student or education loan from a bank, a bank draft that can be converted to Canadian dollars or your bank statements for the past four months.

For more details on study permit requirements, you can head to the Government of Canada website.

You should also be asking yourself the following questions regarding your banking:

  • How many transactions will I be conducting each month? What kind of accounts will best suit my needs (i.e. chequing, savings, investments, etc.)
  • Do I need access to credit, such as a line of credit or a credit card?
  • How much will I be shopping, and would access to special student discounts be helpful to me?
  • How will I prove my funds to obtain my study permit? Will I be going the GIC route?
  • How close should my chosen bank branch be to my place of residence/campus?

These should give you a good benchmark when going through your options as an international student in Canada.

Let’s get started!

5 Best Banks in Canada for International Students

5 Best Banks for International Students in Canada

Here are some of the best international student banking packages available in Canada.

All of these banks operate country-wide and usually have branches/ATMs near busy hubs such as campuses.

As such, you don’t have to worry much about physical access, but it’s good to check regardless depending on which school you will be going to.

1. CIBC: Best for Student Discount Perks and International Student GICs 

cibc investor’s edge

Why it’s great:

  • Free SPC membership that gets you special student discounts of up to 30% off in hundreds of Canadian stores
  • No-fee GIC Program to help you meet the requirements for your study permit (can cost up to $200 with other banks)

CIBC is one of Canada’s largest banks and offers fantastic deals for international students in Canada.

If you’re going the GIC route to prove your financial status for your study permit, CIBC is a great option as they charge no handling fees for this offering.

Their partnership with SPC is also really attractive for students, as they can save substantial amounts of money throughout their study years.

As an international student, you also get access to:

  • Absolutely no banking fees + free Interac e-transfers during your studies
  • International money transfers with a $0 transfer fee to more than 120 countries with CIBC Global Money Transfer
  • A no-fee student credit card that requires no existing credit history (do note that the interest rate is quite high for this card (20.99%), so be careful not to carry a high balance month after month. Otherwise, you may have better options later on in this list)
  • A refer-a-friend program that offers you $25.

Find out more about this program here.

2. Scotiabank: Best for International Money Transfers and Movie/Cash-Back Rewards

Scotiabank logo

Why it’s great:

  • Get unlimited no-fee international money transfers
  • Participate in the Scene rewards program with Scene debit and credit cards

Also known as the Bank of Nova Scotia, Scotiabank is the third-largest Canadian bank by deposits and market capitalization.

They are a great option for international students in Canada because of their Scene rewards program as well as free international money transfer options.

If you are planning on sending money abroad to your friends and family during your studies or even to your own bank account in your home country, Scotiabank can be a really good option for you.

In general, here are all of the perks you can take advantage of as an international student at Scotiabank:

  • Free chequing account with no monthly fees
  • Free, unlimited Interac e-transfers
  • Scene rewards with debit and credit card use
  • Unsecured credit card with a limit of up to $5,000 and movie rewards (through the Scene program)
  • Scotiabank Student GIC Program is available to international students from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Peru, and Colombia

For more details, head here.

3. BMO (Bank of Montreal): Best for Student Credit Cards

BMO

Why it’s great:

  • Great student credit card options with no annual fees, rewards (including cashback and Air Miles) and a standard interest rate (19%)

Bank of Montreal is a winner when it comes to student credit cards. As an international student, you are eligible for these cards for the duration of your studies (with proof of enrollment.)

BMO also offers other special perks for international students in Canada, including:

  • Free banking during your studies + one additional year after you graduate
  • Free e-transfers
  • Free and unlimited international transfers (for one year only)
  • International student GIC program (available only for students coming from China or India)
  • Free safety deposit box for one year

Find out more here.

4. RBC (Royal Bank of Canada): Best for Free ATM Access

RBC logo

Why it’s great:

  • No RBC fee to use another bank’s ATM in Canada

If you think you will need regular access to cash and ATMs during your studies in Canada, RBC’s free ATM access can make life quite easy for you.

In addition to that, RBC has other international student perks in place, such as:

  • Free banking account during your studies
  • Free Interac e-transfers during your studies*
  • Get a credit limit of up to $2,000 (when you bank with RBC)
  • International Student GIC program is available to those coming from India, Antigua & Barbuda, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, or China. (Note: there is a handling fee of $200 for this GIC service)

*Go here for details on how to cancel your RBC e-transfer.

For more details on the RBC international student program, head here.

5. TD Canada Trust: Best for No-Fee Study Permit GICs and Student Savings Accounts

TD Logo

Why it’s great:

  • No application fees for international student GICs
  • No-fee student savings account with a bonus interest rate for six months

TD is another giant in Canadian banking. Here are some of their international student offerings:

  • No monthly fee for 25 transactions each month
  • One free e-transfer per month for six months
  • No processing fee for study permit GICs (up to $200 at other banks)
  • Credit cards available
  • Student savings account with bonus rate for six months

For more details, head here.

Should I Consider Digital Banks as an International Student in Canada?

The list above was made up purely of banks that have international student offers in place. Currently, only traditional brick-and-mortar banks offer such services.

Depending on your banking needs and habits, however, you could also go with a digital bank or supplement your traditional banking with it.

Personally, I would highly recommend that you take advantage of the great offers above during your studies in Canada, especially as they are really hard to come by if you are not a student.

If you’re looking for a risk-free way to earn good interest on your cash during your studies, you could also check out EQ Bank to supplement your traditional banking, which is an online bank that offers 1.25% on your balances.

Once you graduate, you will have to start paying high fees for the perks you were getting for free as a student.

At that time, it might be worth considering digital options to save on costs. You can check out this post for a run-down of Canadian digital banks.

In the meantime, the options in this post are a really good place to start.

How Can an International Student Open a Bank Account in Canada?

How Can an International Student Open a Bank Account in Canada?

You will need certain documents in order to open your bank account in Canada.

If you are planning on opening your account before you land (which is possible with most banks), do note that you will still have to make an in-person appointment in order to bring in some documents and prove your identity.

Making sure you have everything you need before showing up for this appointment is key in ensuring that you are set up with your banking as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Some of the documents that you may have to provide include:

  • Your study permit
  • Proof of enrolment in a post-secondary program
  • A valid passport, a Canadian Driver’s License, or a Canadian Government Identification card

There may be different sign-up requirements with each bank. Please double-check before going into your appointment.

Conclusion

Best Banks for International Students in Canada

Those were all of the best banks in Canada offering special perks for international students.

No fees, free international money transfers, and discount perks are truly hard to come by with these traditional banks if you are not a student.

That’s why I’m a big believer that you should take advantage of them while you are studying in Canada.

If you’re looking to send money overseas, do note that there are several options that may be quicker than traditional banks and significantly cheaper once you graduate, as well.

For a run-down of these options, check out this post on the Nine Best Ways To Transfer Money Internationally From Canada.

And, most importantly, welcome to Canada. I wish you the best in your new journey. 

Photo of author
Selin is a seasoned personal finance and sustainable banking expert with several years of experience working in Canadian credit unions, both in the branch networks as well as the head office. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, she's also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers youth community and is either working with kids or travelling when she is away from her computer.

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