12 Best Banks for Students in Canada 2022: Start Banking Early

A student’s banking needs are quite different from other adults who joined the workforce or are running their own businesses.

Even if they work part-time jobs or temporary gigs, most students’ primary banking needs revolve around paying rent, bills, dorm expenses, educational expenses, and managing their grants and debts.

Let’s go over the best banks for students in Canada below to help you make your pick.

Best Chequing
Royal Bank of Canada
Royal Bank of Canada
  • No-fee chequing account
  • Five credit cards dedicated for students
  • Unlimited free transactions
  • Almost unlimited Interac e-transfers
Best Savings
Neo Money
Neo Money
  • High-interest savings account.
  • No account minimums and zero monthly fees.
  • All Interac e-transfers are fee-free.
  • No monthly limit on transfers.
Best for Investing
Wealthsimple
Wealthsimple
  • Can invest on autopilot with its robo-advisor platform
  • Choose your own investments with its trading platform
  • Zero commission trading fees

Factors Determining The Best Banks For Students In Canada

To identify the best banks for students in Canada, you first need to understand what your banking needs and goals are. These needs might be significantly different from the needs of other domestic and international students.

Assess whether you need a chequing account, a savings account, or both. If you only need a bank account to move funds around or make payments, a chequing account that permits a lot of free debit transactions might be the best option for you.

But if you’re one of the relatively few students planning to start saving/investing at an early age, you might require a savings account as well.

The most important factors you need to consider before you open a bank account as a student in Canada are:

1) Fees

If you’re like most students in Canada, you might have a lower stipend or income, so you don’t want more money going out of your bank account than necessary. Thus, you should look for bank accounts with virtually no monthly maintenance fee and minimal to no bank transfer and ATM withdrawal fees.

Even shelling out $40-$50 a year on banking fees is already an unwanted strain on a student’s relatively thin wallet.

2) Necessary Features

The account you choose should have all the core banking features you need to take control of your financial life. For instance, it should have no or minimal transfer fees, should enable you to pay your college tuition and fees, and should make it easier for you to receive your grant money.

3) Transactions or Interac e-Transfers

The more monthly transactions and Interac e-transfers you’re allowed for free, the better. Ideally, you should be able to make as many online transactions as possible without triggering any banking fees.

4) Sign-Up Bonus

That’s an added bonus and not something you might find in every bank. However, many banks offer sign-up bonuses to students, usually on campuses where they try and make a new client for life. A lucrative sign-up bonus can be the cherry on top of the account’s necessary features.

5) Credit Card or Credit History

As a student, you need to remember that a decent credit card is similar to having “great power that comes with great responsibility”.

If you get into the habit of using your credit card responsibly from an early age, you’re more likely to develop good spending habits and build a good credit history. Also, look for additional features like cashback on categories you’re likely to spend the most on.

6) Interest Rates And Investment Products

If you regularly get a decent sum from your parents that you use for paying university expenses, then an account with a decent interest rate can be quite financially savvy.

But if your wages or stipend fly out of your account only days after they come in, then you might need to choose a bank account based on factors other than interest rates.

For international students, the ease of fund transfers, associated fees, and time restrictions are crucial factors when choosing the right bank.

The Best Student Chequing Accounts In Canada

A chequing account is, by far, the most common type of bank account. These accounts allow you to store and access funds. Whenever you swipe your debit card or write a personal cheque, the money will be withdrawn from your chequing account.

Once you’ve identified your banking needs, you can then browse the banks available in Canada. It’s important to note that you might not necessarily need a dedicated student account.

Some digital banks offer no-fee banking with decent features that might serve your banking needs just as well as a student account from one of the Big Five.

None of the banks listed below have a monthly fee.

1. Royal Bank Of Canada

rbc bank logo

The largest bank in the country is also one of the best banks for students in Canada. You can open a no-fee chequing account and get one of the five credit cards dedicated for students.

There are unlimited free transactions, which is a step up from the previous policy of 25 transactions only a month. And if you apply and qualify within the promotional period, you also get a $60 bonus.

The cap on free Interac e-transfers is so high that it might as well be unlimited. You also get a free chequebook for 50 cheques and access to over 4,200 ATMs nationwide.

The bank also offers one of the broadest ranges of credit cards for students. Two of five credit cards come with no annual fee, and all have the same purchase and cash advance rates at 19.99% and 22.99%, respectively. Aside from that, RBC offers a cashback and reward system.

You can also look into its savings account, but the 0.05% interest rate is usually not worth paying $1 for every Interac e-Transfer or having only one free ATM withdrawal a month.

2. Simplii

  • Cost of Account: Free
  • Monthly Transactions Allowed: Unlimited
  • Interac e-Transfers: Unlimited

Modern times call for a modern bank, and that’s exactly what Simplii provides. Unlike traditional banks, Simplii is a 100% online banking system. This means that there aren’t any physical branches. Everything related to your account will be handled through your Simplii app or from your online portal.

As the name implies, online banking tends to be a lot simpler than traditional banking. You can apply for your account online, without having to schedule an appointment at a branch office.

There are also fewer maintenance fees, as Simplii has lower overhead costs to keep up with compared to larger banks that have to maintain office buildings.

Simplii offers a number of different banking products for students, including:

  • Chequing account
  • Savings account
  • Mutual fund investment
  • The Simplii credit card

As a student, the Simplii chequing account is one of the most practical. While you won’t receive any student bonuses, you will be able to take advantage of features, such as fee-free chequing, no minimum balance requirement, and no transaction limits.

There also isn’t a cap on the number of transactions or e-transfers, so you don’t have to monitor your usage.

When you sign up for a Simplii chequing account, you’ll be sent a free cheque book along with your Simplii debit card.

The one disadvantage of Simplii (and all online-only banks) is that it can be a bit difficult to deposit cash into your account.

Simplii is partnered with locations and ATMs throughout Canada that offer free or low-cost withdrawals and deposits, but these are often out of the way and aren’t quite as efficient as the ATMs offered by big banks.

Simplii is great if you mostly receive payments online, get direct deposit paycheques from your job, and plan on using your card more than cash.

3. Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce (CIBC)

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Another bank that offers students unlimited transactions, free Interac e-transfers, and a decent number of student credit cards is CIBC. The bank isn’t currently offering a sign-up bonus across the board, but you might still get one from their local promotions.

Like most other banks, CIBC counts Interac e-transfers as a transaction, and since it offers unlimited free transactions, there isn’t even a 999-transaction cap like RBC’s.

CIBC also has an impressive footprint, with over 1,000 locations across the country. So, if face-to-face interactions with your bankers are vital to you, it’s a plus.

The bank also offers two lines of credit: one for education in general and one for students enrolled in professional programs. You can get up to $350,000 with the latter, depending on your field of study.

All its credit cards come with no annual fees, though the cashback offer is not as lucrative as RBC’s. The Aeroplan Visa card is ideal for students that require a lot of air travel.

4. Scotiabank

Scotiabank logo

Scotiabank offers two different bank accounts to students. The Getting There Savings Program for Youth is aimed at students 18 years and younger, while the Student Banking Advantage Plan is for older students.

However, both student accounts come with unlimited debit transfers and free 99 Interac e-transfers, although you can get the fees rebated in the subsequent months.

One additional benefit of Scotiabank’s Student Banking Advantage Plan is that you can get up to 5,000 Scotia or SCENE reward points and four free movies out of those points.

Another reason that makes Scotiabank one of the best banks for students in Canada is that it offers a powerful enough line of credit for students. You can get up to $375,000, with a grace period of up to 24 months.

The bank also offers two no-annual-fee credit cards to students. One comes with cashback and the other with a SCENE point-based reward system.

5. Bank Of Montreal

BMO

If you don’t mind a limited number of transactions and are looking for generous sign-up bonuses, BMO’s student accounts might be for you. The bank offers a cash bonus more generous than any of the Big Five, a cashback bonus on one of the two student credit cards, and a bonus on the line of credit.

It offers a no-fee account to students and unlimited free Interac e-transfers not exceeding $3,000 per 24 hours. Note, though, that some non-BMO ATMs may charge transaction fees.

BMO also offers other student accounts: Performance, Plus, and Premium. Premium and Performance offers unlimited transactions, but Plus offers no monthly fees for your monthly plan.

BMO also has a line of credit that allows you to borrow up to $45,000 for four years at a variable interest rate. It also offers two credit cards with no annual fees at typical interest rates (19.99% for purchases and 22.99% for a cash advance). One card offers cashback in dollars, while the other offers bonus air miles.

6. TD Bank

TD Logo

If you’re looking for a non-restrictive banking account as a student, TD might be the one for you. It comes with overdraft protection options, and you earn an interest of 0.01% for every dollar you have in your student account.

They’ve recently updated their student banking plan, removing previous restrictions on transactions and Interac e-transfers.

Now, the TD Student Chequing Account is fee-free, allows you to make unlimited debit transactions, and allows you to make unlimited (and 100% free) e-transfers.

You can also sign up for a TD Everyday Savings account, so you can start setting some money to the side. The interest rate on their savings account isn’t the best, but it’s still nice that TD offers a simple savings plan to Canadian students.

They also offer a decent line of credit to eligible students. Both full-time and part-time students can get up to $20,000 a year for a total of $80,000 in four years. On the other hand, MBA and Law students can get as much as $125,000.

TD offers four credit cards to students, with two out of the four offering no annual fees. One of these two free cards offers cashback, while the other offers TD reward points.

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The Best Student Savings Accounts In Canada

A student chequing account is great for taking care of everyday bills and expenses. However, you should also be setting some money aside in a savings account.

A good student savings account should also allow you to earn interest on your savings, which can compound over time and help you save even more.

While most of the chequing accounts we discussed above also offer savings accounts, they don’t offer the best interest rates. To get the highest interest rates, you may want to consider opening an account with a second bank specifically for savings.

Below are some of the best student savings accounts you can sign up for in Canada:

9. Neo Money by Neo Financial

Neo logo

Neo Financial is one of the latest FinTech companies in Canada and just launched during 2020. Since then, they’ve been making waves with their comprehensive financial products, which include:

  • The Neo Cashback Card
  • Neo Invest
  • Neo Mortgage

Their most popular (and practical) product, though, is Neo Money. Essentially, it’s a high-interest savings account that doesn’t come with the limitations and drawbacks of traditional bank savings accounts.

For starters, Neo Money offers 2.25% interest on your savings account, which is much higher than the 0.01% interest offered by many traditional Canadian banks.

This interest is paid on a monthly basis and is credited directly to your existing savings balance, so you can watch your balance increase as your saving pays off.

There are no account minimums and zero monthly fees, which makes it a great choice for students. You could have $10 in your account and still see it grow by 2.25% at the end of the month.

Lastly, Neo Money offers a fully integrated system that allows you to connect your Neo Financial account with all of your other banks, so you can easily transfer money to and from your account.

All Interac e-transfers are fee-free and there’s not a monthly limit on transfers, so you’ll never have to worry about your money being held up.

8. EQ Bank – Best High-Interest Savings Account

EQ BANK LOGO 2
  • Cost of Account: Free (EQ Bank Savings Plus Account)
  • Interest Rate For Savings: 2.00%
  • Monthly Transactions Allowed: Unlimited
  • Interac e-Transfers: Unlimited

If you’re comfortable with online banking and don’t need access to physical branches, EQ bank is another financial institution you might consider.

Again, it doesn’t have a student-focused account, but the Savings Plus account packs all the necessary features.

Unlike traditional savings accounts, which typically only offer 0.01% interest on your savings, EQ Bank stands apart by offering a 2.00% interest rate on savings. That’s much higher than what the big five banks offer.

EQ Bank’s Savings Plus program allows free transfers to other EQ Bank accounts, allows for unlimited (and fee-free) Interac e-transfers, and doesn’t have any monthly maintenance fees.

It’s easily one of the best savings accounts you can open in Canada.

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The Best Student Investing Accounts In Canada

Every student needs a basic chequing account, and almost all students can benefit from a high-interest savings account.

However, if you really want to start making moves and preparing for a positive financial future, then I also recommend that students start investing as well.

You don’t have to invest a lot to get started, either. Many student-friendly investing accounts allow users to invest as little as $5 at a time so they can purchase fractional shares instead of full stocks.

When properly managed, your investment account can grow even faster than a high-interest savings account. The more you know about the Canadian stock market, the more you stand to profit.

The following investment platforms are all student-friendly, intuitive, and easy to use.

10. Wealthsimple

wealthsimple canada review
  • Trading Fees: 0.5% account management fee, 1.5% currency exchange fee (CAD-USD) for trading US-based assets
  • Type of Investments Available: Stocks, ETFs, Crypto, Managed Investment

If you want to start investing but have no idea where to start, then WealthSimple makes it easy to get started. WealthSimple allows members to invest in a variety of assets, including stocks, ETF portfolios, and cryptocurrency.

They offer a full-fledged trading platform for those who want to actively trade and build their own portfolio of investments, with zero commission for trading ETFs and stocks.

However, if you’re a student, and don’t have time to actively trade, then I recommend taking advantage of the WealthSimple Invest account.

This robo-advisor is managed by WealthSimple, based on your personal investing goals.

All you have to do is deposit funds into your account, and the intuitive algorithm will invest it for you.

WealthSimple will invest your money for you and allow you to grow your portfolio on autopilot. They only ask for a 0.5% account management fee, which is very generous, given the value that they’re providing to investors.

11. QTrade

  • Trading Fees: $8.75 for ETFs, funds, and options | $25 quarterly admin fee
  • Type of Investments Available: Stocks, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Bonds, GICs, IPOs

If you’re serious about investing your money and trading on the stock market, then QTrade offers one of the best investment platforms in the game. It’s been consistently ranked among the top Canadian trading platforms and has great reviews across the board.

QTrade offers a wide variety of investments, so you can diversify your portfolio in different directions, based on your personal interests and research.

The main disadvantage of QTrade is that they don’t offer a robo advisor or automatic investment service like WealthSimple.

This is a professional trading platform that’s designed for active investors and traders. Because of this, QTrade also charges higher trading fees, and quarterly maintenance fees to maintain their trading platform.

If you want to actively learn how to invest, then QTrade is a solid option. Just keep in mind that it is a bit riskier than using a robo-advisor service, especially if you’re a new investor and still learning.

12. Questrade

Questrade is one of the fastest-growing investment platforms in Canada. They have lower monthly and overall trading fees than QTrade, which makes them a good option for beginners and passive investors.

That being said, they don’t offer as much variety when it comes to investment opportunities. You’ll only be able to invest in stocks, ETF portfolios, and options.

Questrade has an excellent robo-advisor division called Questwealth, which has the lowest fees for a robo-advisor platform in Canada.

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What Students Need To Know About Personal Finances And Banking

Banks, especially the Big Five, offer bank accounts tailored specifically for students. Once students graduate, they usually need to move on to a “paid” account.

But that trend is slowly dying as more fintech and digital banks started offering no-fee banking. The Big Five also now offer similar products to stay competitive.

If you’re researching the best banks for students in Canada, there are two more things you need to know.

First, it’s not just traditional or digital banks that can serve your digital banking needs.

Investment platforms like Wealthsimple also offer basic “spending” accounts that come with their own version of debit cards and that you can use for your routine expenses. It’s especially useful if you’re also trying to invest your money.

Second, even as a student, you can open and utilize your TFSA and RRSP accounts. It might seem too early to start saving for retirement, but the earlier you can start utilizing your TFSA account, the more you can take advantage of your investment.

Another benefit of saving and investing as a student is that you might pick up good financial habits like careful spending, budgeting, and debt management.

Conclusion

Everyone’s choices for the best banks for students in Canada might differ because of individual banking needs and requirements. But lists like this are still helpful to comprehensively compare your choices.

We hope you got the answers you were looking for and are now a few steps closer to making the right choice for your best banks as a student in Canada.

Want more options? Check out the best no-fee bank accounts here.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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