One of your first priorities as new immigrant will be opening a Canadian banking account. Here's my experience and what I have learned from it.
Moving to a new country is a big step but the more you can do now to prepare for it, the easier it will be. Get started by opening a Canadian banking account. I'll summarize what you need to know.
Deciding Which Bank
The first big question you need to ask yourself: which bank do I go with? If you ask me, try to find out which bank has the most ATM locations to avoid fees for transacting on another bank.
If you have plans moving to another province, try to find out if that bank has the most ATM or banking locations in your potential area to make the transition easier and affordable.
To help you narrow down your choices here's a list of the "BIG FIVE" banks of Canada  (note: this is not an endorsement nor have I been paid by these banks to advertise them in this site):
That's how much immigrants goes through these banks each year. So relax, you're not alone. In fact, my financial adviser who opened my account was once a new immigrant. They're the best people to ask for honest answers about your financial needs.
Understanding the System and Fees
I'm not claiming to know everything about the banking system of Canada. But I can only speak from my own personal experience -- through that here's what I learned.
Most of these banks will offer, no fees for a certain duration or none at all with your immigrant's package. To know more, read them through their websites to find out which packages fits your needs.
You will come to find out that there are no maintaining balances for most type of accounts (ie: savings, chequing, etc...) unlike in the Philippines. So , you might be wondering where do they charge fees?
At a certain period of time, your new-comer's package will be immune to certain fees but when that ends -- fees start coming in, in the form of transaction fees.
Let me explain. Here in Canada, regardless the amount of your piggy bank or your banking needs they will encourage you to open a chequing and a savings account (and then some, will get to that later).
Both of these accounts are paired a client card (or simply know as Debit card). This can be used to withdraw, transfer, and purchase goods and services. Those actions are called bank transactions that cost anywhere between $1 to $7 per transaction, depending on institutions.
A usual account package is given 10-15 free transactions per month. Once consumed a fee is charged on succeeding transactions. To clarify, one (1) transaction is anywhere between withdrawing from an ATM or purchasing groceries at a store (online or otherwise).
You can also opt for unlimited transactions for a one time fee at the beginning of each billing cycle (per month). In doing so it will open you to benefits to certain types of credit cards, in my case, an annual fee of $65 is waved. Check your bank for credit card options.
Building Your Credit History
In Canada, credit scores range from 0 (just getting started) up to 900 points, which is the best score. According to TransUnion, 650 is the magic middle number.
How are these credit score used? What's so important about them? Well, these scores are use to determine your worthiness and eligibility for a loan.
Your score may be different from lender to lender (or from car loan to mortgage loan). Before credit scores, lenders physically looked over each applicant's credit report to determine whether to grant credit.
Usually, a score above 650 will likely qualify you for a standard loan while a score under 650 will likely bring difficulty in receiving new credit.
How to build your credit score? Simple, first get a credit card from your bank! If you can manage it, try to charge all your day to day expenses through your card to quickly build up your score.
In the beginning, we start at zero (0) because your spending habits in the Philippines does not count. However, if you come from United States it could be counted and could start at 300, but I'm not sure.
Here are some tips, from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada , on how to improve your credit score:
Requirements for Opening New Accounts
You need to make an appointment to your chosen bank. To make one, you can call the bank or visit the institution.
It is important to keep on your schedule and show up on time. If you can't make it. Call ahead of time to reschedule your appointment.
The required documents are just your passport with the visa stamp, Permanent Residence card (if you have one) and or your PR certificate, Certificat de sélection du Québec (if applicable), and of course your currencies (USDs, CADs, PHPs) and bring extra pictured ID's for verification procedures.
Good luck everyone! I hope you all the best. If you have questions or something to add that I forgot to mention please comment bellow, let me know.
You might be interested reading our past articles related to this topic.
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We're volunteers dedicated to provide information in helping new immigrants navigate the cultural and language differences for the Province of Québec.
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