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

August 7 2019
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 a domestic student in Canada, check out our table below to help you find the best bank account for you. 

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 points systems or discounts on savings accounts. 

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 your university campus or in your town. 

The next thing to think about is what your bank is offering you. As mentioned above, banks will usually 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 the most useful. Some banks provide specific discounts based on the degree programme that you will be studying so it’s always 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 considering 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 different 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. Some students may consider opening one of these, if they are working or want to save money for travel or emergencies. 

3. Breakdown of bank accounts

There are many banks in Canada, so it is worth doing some research into the most suitable bank account for you. Here at THE Student, we’ve had a look around some of the major 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
CIBC CIBC Smart for Students  $0 Receive $60 when opening a new account based on criteria, unlimited transactions, bonus savings for graduates, thousands of ATMs and branches, special bank account for medical or dental students
RBC RBC Student Banking $0 25 free debits per month, receive $60 when opening a new account based on criteria, receive a rebate on RBC Royal bank credit cards, no minimum balance 
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan $0 Unlimited transactions, earn rewards on debit transactions, SCENE rewards, Scotia rewards, online and mobile banking 
TD Bank TD Student Chequing Account $0 25 transactions per month, online and mobile banking
HSBC HSBC Canada Newcomers Programme  $0 $100 student joining bonus based on criteria
National Bank Student Bank Account $0  Discounts depending on field of study, credit cards and a personal line of credit

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 USA 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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