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A student bank account unlocks a world of possibilities in Canada. From paying for your cell phone bill to depositing your pay check from your dream summer gig, finding the right student bank account as an international student in Canada will help make your transition as smooth as a zamboni gliding on ice.

Types of Student Bank Accounts for International Students in Canada

Many banks offer special accounts for students with perks like lower fees and free transactions. Other banks offer extras for students, like welcome bonuses, credit cards, and overdraft protection. It’s worth looking around to find a student bank account in Canada that meets your needs today – and into the future. 

Student Bank Account vs Regular Chequing Account

Student bank accounts and regular bank accounts in Canada have a few key differences, mostly relating to fees and minimum balances. Banks recognise that students are an important market, and they generally create accounts tailored to students to help make banking while studying easier (and cheaper). 

First off, student accounts often come with no monthly fees. They also typically offer a higher number of free transactions, helping to avoid extra charges.

Another cool perk is that some banks throw in bonuses, like cash rewards or even freebies. These are little extra incentives to make your banking experience even better. Plus, with a student account, you might get a bit more flexibility in terms of overdraft limits – which is a handy safety net for those unpredictable moments.

On the flip side, regular accounts may have higher fees, higher transaction fees, or fewer relevant perks since they cater to a broader audience. They often come with more stringent requirements, like maintaining a minimum balance, which might not be as student-friendly.

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Account Features To Look For In A Student Bank Account

These account features tend to be very important to a student audience. And, since general accounts are often more expensive than student bank accounts in Canada, it’s worthwhile making sure your student bank accounts offers most or all of these features: 

No-Fee Chequing Account 

Many students and newcomers to Canada are surprised by monthly bank account fees, since many countries around the world have done away with monthly fees. However, it’s very common in Canada for banks to charge fees for daily banking. 

In Canada, the daily banking account is called a chequing account. Account fees for these accounts can be up to $25+ per month, depending on the bank and the other benefits offered. 

However, as we outlined above, students can get a no-fee chequing account – if they find the right bank. 

If you’re coming to Canada to study, be sure to shop around and find a bank that offers no-fee chequing account for students. It can save you hundreds of dollars per year, so it’s worth spending the extra time and effort. 

Getting a Credit Card While You Study in Canada

Getting a credit card while you study opens up a world of opportunities. In the short term, it’s a convenient way to make online purchases or pay bills, and it offers a security net in case of an emergency. 

For the long term, it’s a handy tool to build your credit history which is crucial in Canada. Plus many credit cards offer rewards programs with perks like cash back, travel points, or discounts on certain items or at certain businesses. 

However, you really want to keep an eye on your credit card balance so you don’t fall into credit card debt while you study.

Tips To Keep Your Credit Card Debt Under Control While You Study In Canada

Budget Wisely: Set clear monthly spending limits and stick to them to avoid overspending.

Pay in Full: Whenever possible, pay off your credit card balance in full each month to dodge accumulating interest. Some banks even let you set up automated credit card payments so you won’t even need to remember to pay it.

Emergency Fund: Keep an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, reducing the reliance on credit cards.

Review Your Statements: Regularly review your credit card statements to catch any unnecessary or unauthorized charges.

Limit Cards: Stick to one or two credit cards to manage debts more effectively, preventing the temptation to accumulate multiple balances.

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International Money Transfers

For international students, choosing a student bank that offers free international money transfers can be a gamechanger. No fees for international transfers means more money in your account for books, paying rent, or whatever else you need. 

GIC Program for International Students

Choosing a bank with a GIC Program for International Students is critical for any international student applying through the Student Direct Stream (SDS). The SDS offers a faster and smoother application process with higher rates of approval than the other study permit stream in Canada. But, students applying for this program must open a GIC bank account and deposit at least $20,635 to apply. 

Your GIC account is an investment. You will get the money back from your GIC once you start your studies in Canada. After you arrive in Canada, you can go to the bank, open a chequing account and you’ll then receive an initial payment of $6,190.50. The remaining $14,444.50 is invested and paid out into your chequing account through monthly instalments, with interest.

Popular Student Bank Accounts in Canada 

Canada’s largest banks — Scotiabank, CIBC, BMO, RBC, and TD — all offer student banking options, and they all offer a variety of perks to woo students each year, but other options for student banking in Canada are available too. Watch out in particular for monthly transaction limits – it could cost you around $1 each time you use your debit card if you go over this limit. Canada’s main banks have online banking services and mobile apps for simple and secure banking from home or on the go.

Note: Canadian banks usually charge fees for cash withdrawals at other banks’ (or private) ATMs. It’s  important to know if you will be charged a fee and plan accordingly. You can save a lot of money by only withdrawing cash from your bank’s ATMs. 

Here’s an overview of the student bank accounts offered by the five largest banks in Canada:

BankNo-Fee Student Chequing AccountCredit Card for StudentsUnlimited No-Fee International Money TransfersGIC for International Students
ScotiabankYesYesYesYes
TDYesYesFree for 12 monthsYes
RBCYesYesYesYes
BMOYesYesNoYes
CIBCYesYesYesYes

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Online Only Banking In Canada

Online-only banking is growing in popularity across Canada, and there are several banks that operate exclusively online. This can be fast and convenient, but there may be downsides too, particularly if you need to withdraw or deposit cash frequently.

The main draw of online banks for many is that they usually don’t charge monthly fees. However, given that you’re a student, you should be able to get a free bank account at any of the main banks. 

It’s also important to remember that having access to a branch can be really useful as you’re getting used to a new banking system. You may have questions, since the banking system in Canada might be quite different from what you’re used to at home. So, having the option of going to a branch might be helpful for you. 

Student Bank Accounts in Canada: Summary

Choosing a bank is an important step towards starting your new life in Canada, and it’s important to think carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand when presented with student bank accounts in Canada, and shop around before going with the first bank you see. However, as many of the student offerings are comparable across the main banks, there’s no real “wrong” decision. Plus, you can always change banks later. 

You can learn more about which bank might be the best bank in Canada for you.

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