Canada's banking system


The Canadian banking system is convenient and reliable, although services are not always free.

Canada's largest banks

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Study, Canada is one of the top three safest banks in the world. Canada has experienced only two regional bank failures in nearly 100 years.

The Canadian banking system is developed and extensive. There are nearly 90 banks, about 6,000 bank branches and over 18,600 bank-owned ATMs — the most in the world per capita.

Canada's largest banks by total assets are Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. They are referred to as the "Big Five".

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

It is the largest bank in Canada by total assets and market capitalization. RBC helps newcomers in many ways: offers a bank account with no monthly fee for one year, two free international money transfers per month for the first six months, and car loans, credit cards and mortgages with no credit history.

Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD)

TD offers immigrants free service for 6 months, unlimited current account transactions (withdrawals, bill payments, etc.) and free money transfers through the Interac e-Transfer system.


As part of the Scotiabank StartRight® program, immigrants are not charged monthly maintenance fees on their Scotia One™ current account for one year. The bank also offers unlimited electronic transfers and transactions, a free safe deposit box for one year and a credit card with no credit history.

Bank of Montreal (BMO)

BMO is Canada's oldest bank. Its NewStart™ program offers immigrants who have arrived in the country within the last five years 12 months of free banking with no minimum balance, as well as an unlimited checking account, unlimited wire transfers through Interac e-transfers and a free safe deposit box.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

At CIBC, newly arrived immigrants will receive a bank account with no monthly fee for the first year, a credit card and auto loan with no credit history, unlimited Interac e-Transfers and up to $55 CAD in cashback when renting a safe deposit box.

All of the above banks have offices in most Canadian cities. There are also many branches of international banks such as HSBC, Citibank, J. P. Morgan Bank, Société Générale, UBS and others.

Bank accounts and payment methods in Canada

The main payment methods in Canada include debit and credit cards, cheques, cash withdrawals from ATMs, and money transfers to and from bank accounts.

Bank accounts

You can open a bank account in Canada even if you do not have a job and you are a foreigner. You usually need to go to the bank in person and show proof of your identity (for example, your passport, Canadian driver's licence, Social Insurance Number (SIN) or permanent resident card). You might also need an employee ID card with your picture on it or a debit or credit card with your name and signature on it.

Some banks offer low-cost accounts (costing about CDN$4 a month). These financial institutions include BMO, CIBC, HSBC, ICBC, KEB Hana Bank Canada, Laurentian Bank, National Bank, RBC, Scotiabank and TD. Free checking accounts are only offered at online banks (Motive Financial, Motusbank, Tangerine), and at Simplii (a branch of CIBC). Canada's major banks also offer free accounts to immigrants for the first year or six months after arrival in Canada.

Debit cards

When you open an account, banks will usually give you a debit card that you can use to pay for services and goods or to take cash out of your bank account. You may have to pay a fee when you use your debit card — it depends on the card and the bank. There may also be different limits on cash withdrawals (from C$500 to C$5,000 depending on the bank and card) as well as limits on in-store and online purchases.

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