Banking in canada

Banking is different over here. We can help you understand it.

The Scotiabank StartRight® Program1 has the information you need to feel confident managing your money in Canada.

What you should know about Canada’s banking system:

Bank fees are standard
Banks often charge fees for services that make banking more convenient such as sending money or taking cash out from ABMs belonging to other banks.

Interest rates are lower
Interest rates on savings accounts can be lower than some other countries, but these accounts are very reliable investments. View our current list of savings account rates.

Your credit score matters
Building a good credit history is important because lenders will check your credit score to determine whether to approve you for things like cell phone plans, rental housing and lines of credit.

Carrying debt is common
Carrying a certain amount of debt is socially acceptable in North America. From cars, to student loans, to mortgages, the majority of Canadian households carry some form of debt.

Rewards are popular
Points, miles, cash back – banks will often offer these types of free benefits to reward you for using your debit or credit cards.

Canadian banking products breakdown:

Scotiabank International Account
A Scotiabank International Account is a non-transactional bank account that lets you transfer funds to Canada before you move. Once you arrive, you can set up a transactional bank account, such as a chequing or savings account.

Chequing accounts
A chequing account is a bank account that is designed for your everyday banking needs like withdrawing cash, paying bills and sending money. While chequing accounts typically earn little or no interest, many also have unlimited transactions.

Savings accounts
A savings account is a bank account designed to help you build savings. They typically have more limits on the number of free transactions you can make, but they also have higher interest rates, so you can grow your savings faster.

Credit cards
A credit card provides you with a set amount of funds to pay for purchases. If you pay your balance in full each month, the bank will not charge you interest on your purchases. Credit cards are one of the fastest ways you can build your credit in Canada.

Have questions about Canadian banking?

Get answers to top newcomer questions.

Canada’s banking system is generally considered one of the safest in the world. In the unlikely event of a bank default, the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation protects eligible deposits. This includes deposits made in savings accounts and chequing accounts, cheques certified by CDIC members and more. Scotiabank is a CDIC member.

Connect with us to learn more about banking in Canada.

The right bank account for you depends on your needs:

  • A Scotiabank International Account is good for transferring money before you arrive in Canada. It lets you open an account online and transfer money to show proof of funds.
  • Chequing accounts are good for everyday banking transactions. You can use them to pay for purchases, withdraw cash, pay bills and send money. They typically offer little or no interest, but many also let you make an unlimited number of transactions. View our chequing account options.
  • Savings accounts are good for building savings. They typically have a limit on the number of free transactions you can make each month, but they also offer higher interest rates than chequing accounts. View our savings account interest rates.

Connect with us to find the right account for you.

Below are a few common examples of banking services that may have fees:

  • Monthly account fees – most banks in Canada will charge fees for your chequing or savings account. These fees are normally under $30 a month, but many banks offer accounts that will waive these fees if you maintain a high account balance.
  • ABM usage – while using your own bank’s ABMs is free, using ABMs that belong to a different bank or a privately-owned company costs money. The fees for using privately-owned ABMs can get expensive, ranging from $2 - $7 or more. These costs can add up quickly, so try to stick to using your own bank’s ABMs.
  • Interac e-Transfers – this service allows you to send money online using your recipient’s email address2. Some banks offer e-Transfers for free, while others may charge you $1 - $2 or more per transfer for this convenient service.

Learn more about our banking fees

When you open a bank account, you will be given a debit card (bank card) that you can use to take cash out of your account, make deposits, pay bills, view your account balances, and more. You will need to create a PIN password in order to use your debit card.

Your PIN is a 4-digit number that lets you access your bank accounts at ABMs, point-of-sale machines and online. Each time you use your debit card, you will be asked to enter your PIN. This helps keep your account secure.

Online banking lets you access your bank accounts at any time to make basic financial transactions such as paying bills, transferring money to other accounts, viewing account balances and sending e-Transfers. You can access your online banking 24/7 using a computer or a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet. Online banking in Canada is easy, secure and free to use.

Learn about our online security guarantee.

  • Scotia International Money Transfer – the no-fee way3 to send money directly from your bank account almost anywhere in the world, like the United States, India, Philippines and more.
  • A Scotiabank representative can assist you with transferring money at a branch or by calling 1-800-472-6842.
  • Foreign exchange services may be right for you if you’re planning to travel internationally, want to maintain a business in a different country, or have investments in foreign currencies. View our foreign exchanges rates.

How credit histories work in Canada

  • When you apply for credit, lenders will check your credit history which contains information on your past bill-paying behaviour.
  • A good credit history can make it easier for you to borrow money. A bad credit history – or no history – can make it harder.
  • You can build a good credit history faster by getting a credit card, using it, and paying the bills off on time.

How credit scores work in Canada

  • Credit scores are calculated by Canada’s two major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Factors like your past bill-paying behaviour and how much debt you have affect your score.
  • You can get a copy of your credit report and credit score for free through Scotiabank online banking or from Equifax and TransUnion Canada.

Get a credit card and start building your credit history.

Rewards are incentives you get when you use your debit or credit cards to pay for purchases. In Canada, rewards can come in a variety of formats like points, miles, or cash back. Whatever the format, all reward types will give you some sort of benefit for using your card.

Explore Scotiabank credit cards and rewards

Canada offers many different investment options. Below are just a few of the most popular options for newcomers.

Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

  • A TFSA lets you save a set amount of funds each year without incurring any taxes. Funds can be withdrawn at any time, making it a great option when saving for future goals. You can start contributing to a TFSA as soon as you arrive in Canada. Learn more about TFSAs.

High-interest Savings Account (HISA)

  • A HISA is a type of bank account that pays higher interest rates on the money you deposit. Your funds are safe, secure and you can withdraw money at any time. Learn more about Scotiabank HISAs.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP)

  • A RRSP lets you save money for your retirement while reducing your taxes. When you invest money in an RRSP you can then deduct that same amount from your taxable income for that year. You’ll need to wait until after you’ve filed your first year of taxes in Canada to open an RRSP. Learn more about RRSPs.

Connect with us to learn more about your investment options.

As a newcomer, paying extra attention to protecting yourself against fraud is important. Below are three common types of fraud to watch out for.

  1. Phishing or email fraud – these are emails, texts or websites that are designed to look like they are from trusted organizations. They are designed to trick you into sharing your confidential information. Learn how to recognize and report phishing scams.
  2. Cheque fraud – counterfeit cheques, forged cheques and altered cheques are all examples of cheque fraud. If you’re accepting a cheque as payment, ensure the cheque has cleared before giving anything to the person who gave it to you.
  3. Wire transfer fraud – wire fraud occurs when a criminal lies about a situation to convince you to send money through a wire transfer so they can steal it. Lottery scams, apartment rental scams and money laundering are just a few common examples of wire transfer fraud. Never send money to strangers – especially if they promise you financial rewards to do so.

Get more tips on protecting your personal information

Already made your move to Canada?

Start building your life here with our special services for newcomers.

Getting your first car in Canada is a big milestone. The Scotiabank Startright® Auto Finance Program can help you qualify for a loan with no Canadian credit history and get you special financing at over 4,000 dealerships across Canada4.

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Invest with one of Canada’s leading online brokerages. Get free investing and trading education, special tools and more when you open a Scotia iTRADE® account through the StartRight Program5.

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Canada is a great place to start your own business. Our Scotiabank Startright® for Business Program can help you start yours off right by giving you access to tools, advice and credit. No credit history required6.

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Buying a home in Canada is a goal for many newcomers. We can help you get into your first home in Canada sooner with our helpful home buyer resources and special mortgage programs for both temporary and permanent residents7.