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A guide to student bank accounts in Canada

Are you going to university in Canada this year? This helpful guide breaks down how to choose the best bank account for you

    Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

    Seeta Bhardwa

    Editor, THE Student
    August 18 2023
    A guide to student bank accounts in Canada


    If you’re heading to university in Canada, one of the most important things you’ll need to sort out before you arrive is a bank account. Many Canadian banks offer great deals for students and can also provide advice on money management and budgeting. 

    Whether you are an international or domestic student in Canada, check out our table below to help you find the best bank account for you. 

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    1. Choose a bank

    There are many banks in Canada, so the best way to narrow it down is to look at what the different banks offer students (see our handy table below). Most bank accounts in Canada will waive monthly fees for students and offer perks such as reward points or shopping discounts. 

    It’s important to remember that in Canada you will be charged a transaction fee every time you use an ATM from a bank that is not your own, so a good way to choose a bank is to see which ATMs are on or near your university campus. 

    The next thing to consider is what your bank is offering you. As mentioned above, banks will often throw in at least one offer or reward for signing up with them. Consider which of these are most attractive to you or will be most useful. Some banks provide specific discounts based on the degree programme you are studying so it’s worth checking if you are eligible for any of those.

    Think about whether you would like a credit card or a savings account as well. If you are considering either then looking at what banks can offer you in these areas is a good way to narrow down your choice.

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    2. Choose an account

    There are two types of bank accounts in Canada: checking accounts and savings accounts.

    Checking account: this allows you to deposit and withdraw money as often as you like. Usually when you open a checking account you receive a chequebook and a debit card. Most international students will only need to open a checking account to pay for their living costs while studying in Canada. You may also be able to obtain a credit card through your checking account if that is something you are interested in.

    Savings accounts: this is a place to collect money over a longer term. You may consider opening one of these if you are working or want to save money for travel or emergencies. 

    3. Breakdown of bank accounts

    We’ve had a look around some of the major Canadian banks to see what they are offering students.

    Bank Account name Monthly fee Extras
    BMO Student bank account Plus plan – $0
    Premium plan – discounted monthly fees
    Student budget calculator, mobile banking, BMO alerts, $70 cash bonus when opening an account, perks for medical and dental students, available for international students before arrival in Canada
    CIBC CIBC Smart for Students  $0 Receive up to $125 when opening a new account based on certain criteria, unlimited transactions, bonus perks for graduates, thousands of ATMs and branches, special bank account for medical or dental students
    RBC RBC Advantage Banking for Students $0 Free excess debit transactions, unlimited RBC Virtual Visa debit, free RBC Royal Bank ATMs in Canada, 50 free standard personalised cheques, access to RBC student banking app, RBC Royal Bank credit card, receive up to $100 when you open a new account
    Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan $0 Unlimited transactions, earn rewards on debit transactions, Scene+ rewards, Scotia rewards, online and mobile banking, $100 welcome fee when opening a new account
    TD Bank TD Student Chequing Account $0 Unlimited transactions per month, online and mobile banking, up to $125 for joining, no minimum balance
    HSBC HSBC Canada Student Programme  $0 Various cash bonuses for transferring money abroad, opening a bank account and paying bills, among others, free ATM withdrawals in Canada, up to $150 signing-up fee
    National Bank Student Bank Account $0  Discounts depending on field of study, credit cards and personal line of credit, up to $300 signing up fee

    There are also smaller or regional banks such as Canadian Western Bank and Laurentian Bank so it is always worth researching which banks are closest to the university you are attending and what they could offer you. A number of online-only banks also offer great student bank accounts, such as Tangerine and Simplii Financial.

    4. How to open a bank account

    Although it is possible to open a bank account over the phone or online, if you are an international student it might be easier to open your account in person in case there are any complications. When you go to the bank to open your account you will need two forms of ID out of the following:

    • Passport
    • Letter of acceptance
    • Study permit
    • Temporary permit (IMM Form 1442, 1208, 1102)
    • Canadian or US driver’s licence
    • Canadian government identification card
    • Travellers’ cheques

    These requirements may differ slightly between banks, so make sure you check what your bank requires before heading over. 

    Read more: Four tips for managing a student budget


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