7 Best Banks in Canada For New Immigrants 2022: Resettle with Ease

Relocating to a new country is no easy feat.

So, first off, I want to start by congratulating you and wishing you the absolute best in your new journey.

Second, I want to say that I know how much of a hassle it can be to sort out your banking in a new country.

I saw this first hand when I was 11 years old, watching my parents immigrate halfway across the world to Canada with two young children.

Since then, I have grown to relocate several times myself, ending up in Europe, Asia and back to Canada many times over.

And while I can’t give the best advice about relocating to every country in the world, relocating to Canada is something that I’m familiar with.

Not only because I’ve experienced it first-hand myself, but because I’ve worked with and helped many newcomers to Canada in my experience in the banking sector, too.

So, today’s post will list some of the best banks in Canada for new immigrants (traditional and digital), along with the Canadian personal banking basics, to help you resettle with ease.

Let’s get started.

Best Overall
Royal Bank Of Canada
Royal Bank Of Canada
  • Free safety deposit box for two years
  • Free credit card options even without a credit history
  • Two free international money transfers per month for a year
  • Preferred interest rates on GICs/term deposits
  • Free chequebook
Prolonged Benefits
National Bank
National Bank
  • Prolonged benefits (up to three years)
  • Small safety deposit box for one year
  • Credit card available with no history
  • Free chequebook
Digital Bank
Tangerine
Tangerine
  • Full-line of financial products
  • Great interest in your account balances
  • Free chequebook
  • 24/7 phone support

What I Think You Should Know About Banking in Canada as a Newcomer

I first want to get a few basics about Canadian banking out of the way.

If you’re brand new in Canada, you likely have some questions about what options you have, which banks are best, what the fees are like across the board, and the major differences between Canada and your home country.

While I cannot list out the differences in personal banking between Canada and every other country on the planet, I can try to paint a simple picture for you about the basics of Canadian personal banking.

The Basics of Canadian Personal Banking

Banking in Canada has been dominated by what we call “the big five” for quite some time. These banks include TD Canada Trust, CIBC, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Scotiabank and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

They offer similar banking products across the board and charge monthly account fees ranging from $5 to $25.

Most accounts have a minimum balance rule, meaning if you hold a certain amount in your account at all times (say $1,000 or $3,000), then you may get this fee waived.

Recently, many digital banks are also making an impact in Canada.

Because they are fully digital and have no branches, most of these digital banks have lower operating costs and offer incredibly low (or no) fees as well as pretty high-interest rates on their saving accounts.

Some of the big players in this regard are EQ, Tangerine, and Simplii. You can check out the 13 Best Online Banks In Canada here.

I’m a huge fan of digital banks, but I would highly recommend getting set up with a brick-and-mortar, traditional bank to get started in Canada.

This is mostly because you will have to go into the branch to bring in certain documents that are necessary for newcomers and perhaps even deposit some cash that you may have brought over from your home country.

In addition, I believe that having access to a bank branch where a teller can walk you through some of your questions as a newcomer can prove incredibly useful.

With that said, if digital banking is already your bread and butter, Canada has some fantastic options for you to get started with. I will list two good options for digital banks in today’s post as well.

If you’re keen to know more about Canadian banking, feel free to check out the “banking” section here on Wealth Awesome.

These posts on the Nine Best Ways To Transfer Money Internationally From Canada and a comparison between TD and RBC may be good places to start.

What to Consider Before Opening Your First Bank Account in Canada

There are certain things you should keep in mind before opening your first bank account in Canada.

To start, ask yourself some of the following questions.

  • What are my banking needs? How many transactions will I be making per month on my card? 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?
  • Do I have a budget for a monthly fee? If so, how much?
  • Do I have substantial savings that I’m bringing over to Canada? If so, how can I ensure that I am making the most of this money by getting a high-interest rate on it?
  • Am I interested in investing? If so, what is my risk tolerance?
  • User experience: How comfortable am I with digital banking? Will I need help in-person to get set up on my banking app? How close do I need a bank branch/ATM from my place of residence?

All these can give you a good understanding of which bank to choose.

If you read these questions and feel overwhelmed, that’s okay, too. There are a lot of moving pieces when moving to another country, and this is completely normal.

What I will remind you is that the staff at your chosen bank branch are and should be there to help you with this process.

If you end up choosing a bank that doesn’t feel right to you, it is certainly possible to switch banks in the future, so don’t feel stuck.

Either way, this list should help you out in making a decision. Let’s get started!

Best Traditional Banks in Canada For New Immigrants: Branch Banking

Best Traditional Banks in Canada For New Immigrants: Branch Banking

Here are the best traditional banks in Canada for new immigrants to Canada.

1. Royal Bank Of Canada: Best Overall

RBC logo

Why it’s great:

  • In terms of dollar value, RBC offers the most amount of perks to newcomers in their first year of being a customer.

RBC is a huge financial force in the world of banking, with more than 17 million clients across North America and beyond.

With their physical reach, convenience, and fantastic offerings for newcomers, they take the number one spot as the best bank for new immigrants.

They offer some of the best perks in their newcome program, including:

  • No-fee banking for a year (unlimited transactions)
  • Free safety deposit box (for two years)
  • Credit card approval even without a credit history (up to $15,000 monthly credit limit depending on income/assets)
  • Two free international money transfers per month (for a year)
  • Preferred interest rates on GICs/term deposits
  • A free chequebook

You can be eligible for these newcomer perks if you are ​​new to the country within the last five years. As with all other banks, you must prove your residence status, but I will touch on this topic later on.

Better yet, due to the sheer size of RBC, there are more than 200 languages that are spoken collectively by staff members at this bank.

If language is an issue, they will likely have at least one staff member that will be able to communicate with you in your native tongue, either in a branch or over the phone.

2. BMO: Best for Specialized Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) Rates

BMO

Why it’s great:

  • 0.25% bonus interest rate on eligible BMO GICs for new immigrants

Starting to build your wealth right away in a new country can be crucial in creating a healthy financial future.

And that’s where BMO’s bonus GIC interest rates for new immigrants can come in. If you open your first Canadian bank with BMO (within five years of your arrival), you will get a 0.25% bonus interest rate on eligible BMO GICs.

That’s pretty significant, especially given that there is absolutely no risk involved. If you’re bringing money over from your country that you don’t feel comfortable investing yet, I would highly recommend BMO’s newcomer GICs to you.

The BMO new immigrants program also includes other perks that you can take advantage of, such as:

  • Free “performance” chequing plan for one year (no-fee banking)
  • Free safety deposit box for one year
  • Send unlimited BMO Global Money Transfers with no fee for one year (Western Union)
  • Credit cards available even without a credit history

3. National Bank: Prolonged Benefits

National Bank of Canada Stock

Why it’s great:

  • No fee banking for up to three years

All other banks on this list only offer free chequing accounts for one calendar year. But that’s not the case with National Bank.

With this bank, ​​you also start with completely free banking for one year. If you sign up for a credit card and payroll deposit, this offer can prolong up to three years!

Don’t want to sign up for these products? That’s okay, too. With National Bank, you still get 50% off in account fees in year 2 and 25% off in year 3 with absolutely no minimum balance. That’s significant savings.

In total, here are all of the benefits of the National Bank’s new immigrant program:

  • Up to three years of no-fee banking (unlimited transactions)
  • Small safety deposit box for one year
  • Credit card available with no history
  • The first order of a chequebook is free
  • Newcomer information is available in seven languages

Please note: international transfers will cost $5.95 per transfer.

4. TD Canada Trust: Best for International Transfer Perks

TD Logo

Why it’s great:

  • Unlimited international money transfers for up to 12 months

If you’re going to be sending money back to your home country (or other countries) while you are in Canada, I would recommend going with TD Canada Trust.

Their best feature is unlimited international money transfers with your choice of Western Union, Money TransferSM, Visa Direct or TD Global Bank Transfer.

With a combination of these services, it is likely that your country of choice will be within your reach for sending funds.

The TD newcomer program also includes other perks such as:

  • No monthly account fee for one year
  • No annual credit card fee for the first year if you qualify for their platinum credit card
  • Receive a bonus interest of 0.25% on your savings account for six months

5. Scotiabank: Best for Mortgages

Scotiabank logo

Landed in Canada and ready to purchase your first Canadian home?

Scotiabank might be the best place to go. They offer specialized mortgages for newcomers to Canada, which might be a wonderful place to start while you do your research in the Canadian real estate market.

In addition to their specialized mortgages for new immigrants, they also offer:

  • No monthly account fees on the Preferred Package chequing account for one year
  • Free small sized safety deposit box for one year
  • Unlimited no-fee international money transfers
  • Credit cards are available without a credit check
  • 0.05% interest rate boost on savings accounts

Best Digital Banks in Canada For New Immigrants: Supplement Your Banking Online

Best Digital Banks in Canada For New Immigrants: Supplement Your Banking Online

I mentioned earlier that going to a traditional bank might be a good idea if you think you might need help in person as a newcomer.

But if you’re well-versed in the world of digital banking, then Canada has some really wonderful options for that as well, and you can likely find what you’re looking for in this regard.

It’s also possible that you simply supplement your traditional banking with digital banking, especially when your “no-fee” period comes to an end with the traditional banks I listed above.

This way, you can reap the benefits of having a relationship with a traditional bank (for things such as credit cards, mortgages, and loans) while banking for free in the convenience of your own home.

Here are some of the best digital banks in Canada that I think you should check out.

Please note: Canadian digital banks do not have special perks for newcomers.

6. Tangerine: Best Overall Digital Bank

Tangerine logo

Why it’s great:

  • Offers all of your banking needs and has the ability to fully replace traditional banks

Tangerine is one of the digital banking giants in Canada. It is fully owned by Scotiabank, which I’ve already touched on briefly in the section above.

What’s so great about this option is that Tangerine offers a full-fledged line of financial products.

If you have a social insurance number (SIN), you can just go ahead and sign up with this bank without having to ever go to a physical branch, and you can likely get most of your needs met in just one place.

Here are some of the features:

  • No banking fee, ever
  • No fee credit card available with a gross annual income of $12,000 or more
  • Great interest in your account balances
  • Your first chequebook is free
  • 24/7 phone support
  • Access to 3,500 free Scotiabank ATMs and 44,000 ABMs worldwide through Scotiabank’s Global ATM Alliance
  • A reputable range of business and US accounts
  • Loan products such as mortgages, HELOCs, and Lines of Credit
  • Investment funds

Note: international transfers are not possible with Tangerine (you must use a third-party alternative such as Wise)

For a full review of Tangerine, head here.

7. EQ Bank: Best High-Interest Savings Digital Bank

EQ BANK LOGO 2

Why it’s great:

  • 1.50% interest on all your cash

EQ is the best of the best out there for offering a high-interest rate on your balance.

Despite not offerings certain things such as a debit or credit card, it can be a fantastic place to park your cash with absolutely no risk and full access. That’s why I’m a fan of EQ: it can be a great way to supplement your existing banking.

Here are some things that you can take advantage of with EQ Bank:

  • No banking fee
  • Free Interac e-transfers, EFTs, and bill payments
  • GICs (registered available)
  • A mortgage marketplace

Check out the full review of EQ Bank here.

How Do I Open a Bank Account for New Immigrants in Canada?

As a new immigrant to Canada, you will need to prove your immigration status to sign up for banking of any kind.

At the bare minimum, this means you must have a permanent residence card or confirmation, an immigrant visa + record of landing, or a work or study permit.

In addition to this, you must provide one, sometimes two, pieces of government-issued identification (this applies to non-newcomers as well.) This can be your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, or national ID.

If you already have a social insurance number, you can also open your bank account online. But you will have to go into the branch to prove your identity anyways, so this is not fully necessary.

Please note that international students can also take advantage of the accounts I listed in today’s post. If you’re a student, however, don’t forget that you will have to provide your proof of enrollment in a post-secondary program.

How Safe are Canadian Banks?

How Safe are Canadian Banks?

Canadian banks are incredibly safe as they are regulated by The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. This is a federal government agency mandated to protect financial consumers.  

In addition, your deposits in Canadian financial institutions are insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation. You can read more about CDIC and its coverage here.

Conclusion

Best Banks in Canada For New Immigrants

Depending on your needs, there are several great options in Canada for new immigrants. I hope this list was helpful in your decision-making process.

If you’re looking for a new job in the banking sector in Canada, check out this post on the best Canadian banks to work for. And, most importantly, good luck with everything!

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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