Banking in Canada.
Chequing Accounts – Guarantees – New Accounts – Online Banking
Your Canadian Bank Account
Banking in Canada is dominated by ‘The Big Five’. In order of size, these are:
Each bank offers customers a wide range of chequing and savings accounts.
The Big Five do not offer personalized accounts tailored to suit the specifics of each customer, but most people find accounts to suit their needs from the typical options.
What’s on offer?
Banking with any of The Big Five is usually not free of charge; even the most basic chequing accounts incur monthly fees.
Examples of chequing accounts are:
Each account offers incentives to waive monthly fees if you keep a minimum amount of money in the account.
The lowest daily account balance minimum in order to waive monthly fees is $1,000 with Toronto-Dominion Bank’s “Value Account”.
In contrast, the highest daily account balance minimum to waive monthly fees is with Royal Bank of Canada. Here you need to subscribe to or purchase products such as Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) or a credit card. This is generally not suitable for newcomers to Canada as foreign credit history is non-applicable to your credit status in Canada.
Online banking is a popular option offered by all Big Five banks. Upon opening an account, you will be asked if you would like to activate Internet banking.
If you agree, then you enter a private password using a computer keyboard and are given an online account number.
This number is usually the 16 digit account number on the face of the customer’s bank card.
What if I’m new to Canada?
The Big Five are empathetic towards newcomers in Canada.
The “CIBC Newcomers to Canada” plan offers people with permanent residence in Canada a free chequing account for one year, while the new resident becomes established in Canada.
Bank of Montreal assists permanent residents who aren’t yet in Canada to open a Canadian chequing account. This is done by visiting your current banker and lawyer and drafting letters of direction and certificates of identity.
These documents are then forwarded to your nearest Bank of Montreal branch allowing you to open your new Canadian account while still living overseas.
Where else could I look?
Canadian supermarkets and grocers also offer banking options.
The most popular option is the “No Fee Bank Account” offered by President’s Choice Financial through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
This product is a loyalty card for “President’s Choice” branded goods in supermarkets.
The account accumulates five points for every dollar spent, and the points can later be applied to purchases made at subsidiaries of Loblaw Companies.
As the name implies, the President’s Choice Financial “No Fee Bank Account” is free of charge and is an unlimited use chequing account.
How do I open a Canadian bank account?
New bank accounts in Canada may be opened by telephone, Internet, or in-person.
The latter option is usually the most convenient option as each bank requires proof of identification before a new account can be opened.
All accounts opened by telephone or online will be held “pending” until acceptable proof of identification is shown to an account manager.
Acceptable forms of identification vary across each of the banks, but all accept Government issued identification such as a birth certificates or passports.
Opening a bank account requires the release of personal identification and agreement to a credit check. All new bank accounts require the customer’s full name, mailing address, and a telephone number. However, hard copy proof of address and contact information is not currently (2012) required to open a bank account.
How safe is my money in Canada?
Canada is one of the safest banking countries in the world, according to Global Finance Magazine.
Royal Bank of Canada was declared as the 12th safest bank in the world in 2019, followed by Toronto-Dominion Bank in 13th place, Scotiabank in 28th place, Bank of Montreal in 33rd place, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as the 35th safest bank in the world.
Money held by Canadian banks is governed by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC).
Insurance of $100,000 is offered to defined types of accounts with registered institutions.
General purpose bank accounts are protected, but funds held within Canadian banks for the sole purpose of risky ventures for gain like stocks are not insured.
In the event of national bank failure, the CDIC would provide funds to customers. However, these events are rare with the most recent occurrence befalling customers of Security Home Mortgage Corporation in 1996.
What does all of this mean for me?
There are plenty of Canadian banking plans to choose from.
Anyone seeking cheap banking might find the “No Fee Bank Account” offered by President’s Choice to be a suitable starting point while settling in Canada.
However, the added stress of opening an account can be alleviated by selecting Bank of Montreal and opening an account from your home country.
Regardless of the selected option, residents of Canada have reasonable expectations that their money is safe and that they are in complete control of it.