There are 4 major banks in Canada that provide free banking for the first year for newcomers to Canada. When choosing a bank, consider the number of branches and ATMs available across the country for easier access, their fee structure, customer service and technologies available. Opt for credit cards with no fees and good quality reward programs that suit your needs.
RBC (Royal Bank of Canada)
With your first RBC bank account, there is free banking for up to 12 months. In addition, you will receive 2,500 welcome RBC Rewards points once you are approved for a personal or student RBC Rewards+ Visa card.
If you’re a student, the RBC No Limit Banking Account For Students has no monthly fees and comes with a free Visa Gold or MasterCard credit card. New permanent residency holders have an option to apply for a car loan or a mortgage, even without any credit history.
Scotiabank is the 3rd largest bank in Canada. You can enjoy free banking for the first year. Here’s their newcomer package in more detail. Even on a basic banking plan, you can earn points to be redeemed on movies. The Student Banking Advantage Plan offers no monthly fee and unlimited transactions.
CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
Like other major Canadian banks, CIBC has a Newcomers to Canada Plan that’s available to both temporary and permanent residents. The package includes a CIBC Everyday Checking Account with no monthly fees and unlimited transactions for the first year together with a visa debit card. CIBC’s student package remains fee-free for as long as you’re enrolled as a full-time student.
BMO (Bank of Montreal)
Bank of Montreal is one of the banks in Canada with the longest history. The Starter Pack from BMO provides 1-year free banking and no annual fee credit card. However, BMO doesn’t have as many branches across Canada as the other major banks previously mentioned.
When transferring money to your account from home, consider using Transferwise. Banks are generally pretty good when it comes to in-land banking and holding money in one currency. However, when you’re transferring money across countries, they often charge unreasonable banking exchange rates and transaction fees. Unlike banks, Transferwise uses the actual Google spot exchange rate when moving money between currencies. The fees are transparent and very low compared to banks. We have been using Transferwise for over a year and saved loads on our travels. Always have a look at what other options are available before you make an international transfer through your bank. European residents have also an option to sign up for a Transferwise Borderless account which gives you access to a debit MasterCard linked to your Transferwise account. This takes convenience and access to funds to a whole new level. You’re able to hold multiple currencies and exchange between them, allowing a much cheaper way to send and receive money abroad.
***If you’re still indecisive about which bank to go with, you can use this bank account comparison tool to compare interest rates, monthly fees, transaction fees, etc.
* See also our free banking article