How Banking in Canada May Be Different

Banking in Canada can be a different process than what you may be used to in your home country. While banking services differ around the world, here are some characteristics of Canada’s system:

What You Need to Know:

  • All of the major banks offer extensive information on how newcomers to Canada can get started in their new country, including checklists, information, financial services and advice.
  • Getting started with a bank account is easy and there is a lot of choice: there are more than 100 consumer bank account packages to choose from, offered by more than 20 banks in Canada.
  • Comparing accounts is easy using a simple, free online Account Comparison Tool from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada at

A National System of Banking

Canada has a national system of banking where many retail banks have branches throughout the country. The benefits of this national system mean that you have access to similar products at the same price regardless of where you live in Canada.

Consumers benefit from the high degree of competition and choice in the Canadian financial services marketplace. Today there are 80 domestic and foreign banks currently operating in Canada and, of those, more than 40 offer financial products and services to consumers – including bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments.

Bank Deposits are Secure

Canadian banks are well-managed, well-capitalized and regulated and have been recognized worldwide for their soundness and stability. In the unlikely instance of a bank failure in Canada, your deposits in your Canadian dollar savings and chequing accounts (up to $100,000) are protected. The institution must be a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), and it’s important to note that all banks in Canada that take retail deposits are members of CDIC.


Fees for banking products and services can vary. There are low-fee and no-fee accounts available and higher fees may be charged on accounts that offer additional services. It’s important to understand what services you need and then to shop around for the account that best meets those needs.

It’s easy to compare bank account packages available using the online interactive Account Comparison Tool available from The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC).

Interest Rates

Interest rates for different products are set by each bank. The decision on how much interest to charge on a loan depends on how risky the loan is and the prices that banks and other lenders pay to raise funds in the broader marketplace. Canada has a very competitive banking industry, so it’s important to shop around.

Opening an Account

You can open a bank account even if:

  • you don’t have a job
  • you don’t have money to put in the account right away or
  • you have been bankrupt

To open a bank account, you must present two documents from an approved list that confirm your identity, such as:

  • a Canadian driver’s license
  • a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship
  • a Certification of Naturalization, in the form of a paper document or card but not a commemorative issue
  • a Permanent Resident card or Citizenship and Immigration Canada Form IMM 1000 or IMM 1442
  • a foreign passport.

A full list of the kinds of identification that a bank can accept is available on the Canadian Bankers Association website.

It’s also possible to present only one approved document if your identity can be confirmed by a client in good standing with the bank or by an individual of good standing in the community where the bank is located.

Starting a Business

Many newcomers to Canada want to start their own businesses and look to banks for financial advice, services and products. The majority of bank business customers are small businesses and banks work hard to meet the needs of this large and diverse group.

Banks offer financing, information, advice and many other services to help people start and manage their businesses, including educational and planning resources such as seminars and workshops, credit cards for small business, lines of credit, overdraft protection, telephone banking, online banking, venture loans, and payroll and cash management services.

To learn more, visit and search for “small business”.


If you have general questions about banking in Canada, call the Canadian Bankers Association’s Banking Information Line at 1‑800‑263‑0231 or send an email to

More Information

Bank websites for new Canadians:

The Basic Bankings section of the Canadian Bankers Association website:
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Bank resources to help with the financial transition to Canada:

BMO New to Canada — For those planning to come to Canada soon, or who have recently arrived in Canada, this information helps ensure the financial transition goes smoothly.

CIBC New to Canada — Information on living, working and studying in Canada, as well as getting identification.

HSBC New to Canada — A checklist for newcomers, advice on getting started in Canada, a Canadian immigration and banking glossary, and information on accounts for newcomers.

RBC Newcomers to Canada — Information about life in Canada, buying a home, employment and financial services that are tailored to newcomers’ needs.

Scotiabank StartRight Program for New Canadians — A banking program for newcomers to Canada.

TD Bank Financial Group New to Canada — A summary of TD Canada Trust initiatives to help newcomers better understand banking in Canada.

ICICI — Information about a Hello Canada account.

National Bank of Canada Newcomers to Canada – Information about working, studying and starting a business in Canada along with a checklist.