How to Open a Bank Account in Canada: The Easy Way 2023
If you’re moving to Canada - or even if you just plan to spend time there travelling - you may be wondering how to open a bank account in Canada. If you’re planning to relocate in the near future, or if you’re already a Canadian legal resident, you may be able to open an account with a traditional bank. However, if you’ve not got proof of legal residency you may find it trickier.
In this case - or if you simply want to compare a few alternatives - check out digital multi-currency account services you can set up from the UK, such as Wise or Revolut. We’ll walk through the options from traditional Canadian banks as well as some top online and in-app providers, in this guide.
What documents do I need?
Some banks - like Scotiabank that we’ll look at in more detail later - offer the option for people moving to Canada to open an account prior to their move. You’ll be able to open an international account initially and then convert to a full Canadian account by visiting a branch once you move - to apply initially for this account type you’ll usually need:
Your date of arrival in Canada
Your Canadian Visa/Landing Document Number
Otherwise, if you’re opening an account after arriving in Canada you’ll need documents which can include:
Proof of legal residency, such as a Permanent Resident Card, IMM Form 5292, or a Temporary Permit
Proof of ID, such as a valid passport, Canadian driver’s licence or a Government of Canada identification card
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
If you’re new in Canada, or if you’ve not moved out there yet, it might be a struggle to get all the paperwork needed by a traditional bank. However, you can still get an account to hold, exchange, send and spend CAD, if you pick a specialist service like Wise or Revolut instead.
Open your Wise or Revolut account from the UK before you move, with a fully online verification and onboarding process. Depending on the provider you pick you may also get CAD bank details so you can get paid like a local before you even move. Easy.
How to open a bank account in Canada
You’ll pretty much always need to visit a branch in person to open your Canadian bank account. Even where you can start the application through a dedicated newcomer service, you’ll be required to attend a branch and confirm all your local details once you move to get full account functionality.
If that doesn’t work for your needs, you might want to consider an alternative provider which can set up and verify your account using your UK proof of ID and address, and which offers CAD services to hold, send, spend and receive payments.
Can I open a bank account in Canada before arrival?
If you’re planning to move to Canada in the near future you can go some way towards setting up a local account with a provider like Scotiabank. However what you’ll actually have to do is set up an international account which has limited functionality initially, and then convert it to the account package you prefer once you can attend a branch in person. That can be a hassle.
Which account is best in Canada for foreigners?
Which Canadian bank account is best for you will depend on how you prefer to transact. If you need a physical bank branch then a traditional bank like Scotiabank or TD Bank might be a good pick, with a broad branch network throughout Canada. Alternatively if you mainly manage your money online and value a flexible account which can handle international transactions easily, check out providers like Wise and Revolut.
Here’s a quick side by side overview to show how these options measure up on some key metrics.
|Service||Wise||Revolut||Scotiabank (StartRight)||TD Bank|
50+ currencies supported for holding including CAD, GBP, EUR, USD and AUD
Local bank details available for CAD along with 9 other currencies
Spend and withdraw in 170+ countries
30+ currencies including CAD, GBP, EUR, USD and AUD
|CAD||CAD - some accounts also offer USD services|
|Non-resident accounts available||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Open online||Yes||Yes||Start your application for an international account online, then convert to a full CAD account on arrival||No|
|Maintenance fee||Free||Up to £12.99/month||Up to $16.95/month||$16.95/month for the Unlimited Chequing account|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||No fees for StartRight customers - exchange rate markups may still apply||Fees vary - payments to the USA may be free|
Open a Wise Account before you head out to Canada and you’ll get Canadian banking details, plus local bank details for 9 other currencies including GBP. You’ll then be able to hold 50+ currencies and order a linked international debit card to spend in 170+ countries.
Wise Accounts are available for personal and business customers, and all currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with low fees from 0.41%. That makes Wise a good pick for anyone living internationally and looking to drive down the costs of currency exchange.
Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. You just pay a low, transparent fee for the services you use.
Eligibility: Wise offers accounts to customers in the UK and a broad range of countries - simply use your UK proof of address to get your account open
Is it safe? Yes. Wise is registered with the FCA in the UK and a range of other global bodies in the other countries it trades in.
If you’re in the UK but want an account to hold CAD, Revout is another good option. Accounts are opened and managed online or in the Revolut app, and can hold CAD and around 30 other currencies. Free standard plans are available, plus higher account tiers which have monthly fees but which unlock extra features and perks. You’ll be able to exchange currency fee free up to limits which are set according to the plan type you hold, and spend around the world with a linked card.
Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to £12.99/month.
Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? Revolut is registered with the FCA in the UK, and is a trustworthy provider to choose
Scotiabank offers its StartRight programme which is designed for people who plan to move to Canada in the next 18 months. You can open an international account at first, which can be done online from the UK, with the option to convert to a full CAD account when you get to Canada. Account options vary, with the Preferred Package recommended to newcomers. This account has a $16.95 monthly fee, which is waived initially and can then be removed by maintaining a minimum balance in the account.
Account types: Range of accounts, including StartRight plans for people moving to Canada
Eligibility: Available to customers who will move to Canada in the next 18 months - you’ll need your visa information to apply
Is it safe? Yes - Scotiabank is a large Canadian bank with 24 million+ customers, fully regulated to trade
TD Bank has a range of account products and services, including CAD and USD cross border accounts. If you’re coming from the UK you can’t open an account with TD Bank in advance of your move at the moment - at the time of writing this service is only available for residents of a small number of countries. However, once you arrive there are preferential offers for newcomers which can still make this a good bet if you want an account with a local traditional bank.
Account types: Range of accounts, Unlimited Chequing as a recommended option for newcomers to Canada
Eligibility: Available to residents of Canada
Is it safe? Yes - TD Bank is fully regulated and a safe provider to choose
What are the costs
Canadian bank accounts often have monthly maintenance fees which can vary pretty widely. If you’re a newcomer to the country you may benefit from some promotional offers which waive fees for a fixed period - or you might be able to have the monthly costs removed by holding a minimum balance. Aside from maintenance fees, there’s also usually a range of transaction charges such as ATM costs, fees for sending payments and charges when you convert between currencies.
Compare a few options on cost to get the best deal for your needs - specialist providers which operate entirely online or in apps are often the most competitive on fees thanks to their low overheads.
Tips for transferring money
Sending international payments can be costly. Here are a few things to look out for to help you cut the overall charges.
Banks use exchange rates which have an extra fee - a markup - added into them. Compare your bank’s rate against the mid-market rate, the one you find on Google to see this in action
Sending payments online is usually far cheaper than transacting in a branch - double check all the charges that apply before you make your transfer
Don’t forget that third party fees may be deducted as the payment is processed, and can mean your recipient gets less than you expect
Online multi-currency accounts can be completely free to open, with better exchange rates and lower fees for international transfers compared to banks
You can open a bank account in Canada easily if you’re already a resident there - and in some cases you can get ahead on the process if you’re planning on moving in future. However, you’ll still need to visit a bank branch in person to complete your application and get full account access.
Instead of choosing a traditional bank, you may be better off with an online and digital provider like Wise or Revolut. Compare the options on features, fees and exchange rates to see which suits you best.
Yes. Open an account in Canada with a regular bank if you’re a resident there, or pick an alternative online specialist if you need a non-resident option.
There’s not usually a fee to open a bank account in Canada, although you might find your monthly charges are lowered or waived if you maintain a minimum balance amount.
To open a Canadian bank account online you’ll be best off with a specialist service like Wise or Revolut, which has fully digital onboarding and verification options.
You can start the account opening process with some providers like Scotiabank, but to get your account fully up and running you may need to pick an alternative option from a digital service.