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Moving to a new country comes with unique financial challenges. Beyond the expenses of moving, newcomers also have to adjust to Canada’s particular banking and financial systems.

To help newcomers get settled in Canada, our experts at Scotiabank conducted a study to better understand the types of financial challenges newcomers face when they move to Canada. It is important for us to know what barriers foreigners face when they arrive in Canada, so that we can offer solutions.

What we found likely won’t surprise anyone who’s moved to another country to build a new life. Most newcomers feel worried, overwhelmed, and confused by their finances and how to navigate the Canadian banking system.

That makes sense. Financial rules, practices and products can be very different from one country to another. There’s a steep learning curve for everyone.

In this article, we’ll walk you through our findings of what our study found were the top five banking challenges for newcomers — and give you tips for how to tackle them.

And, if you learn better by watching a video, check out our interview with Ivy (Ang) Li, Financial Advisor of Scotiabank, who talks about everything from credit cards to budgeting, and a whole lot more in between.

5 common banking challenges for newcomers

Our study found that, for many newcomers, issues around banking and finances added stress to the process of moving countries. The top five banking challenges survey respondents identified were:

  • High rental costs. Rent is a challenge for many Canadians — and newcomers are no different. Many newcomers who arrive from countries where rent is much more affordable are surprised at the high rental costs, especially those who land in Canada’s major cities. Recent studies show that rental demand surged in 2022, leading to average advertised rates of around $1,000 a month for a bedroom in a shared home, or closer to $2,000 for studio apartments and units with up to three bedrooms. But, these national averages are skewed by higher rates in Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Getting the right documentation and identification. Obtaining the needed to set up a bank account or apply for a credit card in a new country can be stressful for newcomers.
  • Signing up for a mobile phone and credit card. Because don’t transfer between countries (and some countries don’t even have a credit scoring system), things that typically require a credit history, like getting a mobile phone plan or a credit card, can be especially difficult for newcomers.
  • Finding employment. A job search is usually difficult, but especially in a new country where you may not fully understand the cultural and work expectations.
  • Financial fraud from internet and phone scams. Due to a lack of knowledge about the Canadian banking system, newcomers are particularly vulnerable to — and are more likely to be targets of scammers.

In response to these challenges, our banking experts at Scotiabank have come up with five recommendations to help newcomers cope.

5 recommendations to overcome banking challenges for newcomers

This list will give you a baseline to start your journey to financial freedom in Canada, even despite the challenges mentioned previously.

Build up your financial literacy

The Canadian financial and banking system is different from other countries. With new terminology to learn, it’s easy to get confused. The newcomers we interviewed wanted short explanations of Canadian banking terms that they could study to make sense of it all.

has a selection of articles to help newcomers understand the Canadian banking landscape. You can also book a meeting with one of our who are always willing to answer any questions and can even explain confusing banking terms in a variety of languages.

Start building credit in Canada

Credit scores were something newcomers, understandably, found frustrating. Without a Canadian credit score history, the approval process to get a is slow. Foreign workers are often required to have a pay stub before being approved.

Scotiabank’s ® program helps solve that. Newcomers are eligible to apply for their first credit card with a limit of up to $15,000, ³ without any Canadian credit history.² This can help you get started building credit history as soon as you land in Canada.

Get help with online banking

The newcomers we interviewed said they needed help figuring out how to use online and mobile banking. They loved the idea of being able to bank online, make e-transfers and use online investing tools, but found it was difficult to figure out on their own. For those who are interested in online and mobile banking we offer to help you get started.

Look at credit card options

Not being eligible for a premium credit card was a challenge for many newcomers. Even if they had savings to cover their spending on the card, they often lacked the documents needed to apply, or the card they wanted excluded people with their immigration status. That meant they were limited to entry-level credit cards with low credit — impractical when trying to pay for initial expenses, especially newcomers arriving with a family.

Card choice is important. That’s why Scotiabank offers a .²

Scotiabank advisors can even help you decide which one is best for your needs and your goals.

Beware of fraud

Newcomers are targets of scammers because they often don’t know about Canada’s financial practices. Plus, they’re often looking for work or other ways to make money. It’s important newcomers learn how to the most common scams.

For example, phishing scams often involve fraudsters impersonating government agencies, banks, communication providers, or other companies and sending text messages asking newcomers to provide personal or financial information. Mail and loan scams also typically target newcomers. They promise financial gain for an upfront fee but once that fee is paid, the scammer disappears.

Takeaways

Getting started in Canada may not always be easy, but figuring out your finances and navigating the Canadian banking system should be. Scotiabank is committed to easing the financial challenges newcomers face when they move to Canada.We do that by providing resources, advisors and financial products that make newcomers’ first days and weeks in Canada that much easier.

We offer advisors who speak your language, to credit products that don’t exclude you just because you don’t have a credit score yet, and we help you that are unique to your situation. While we can’t lower the price of moving, we can help you to be able to afford it.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? .

Legal Disclaimer

¹ Scotiabank StartRight® Program is available only for Canadian Permanent Residents from 0-5 years in Canada and Foreign Workers.

² Subject to credit approval. To be eligible, you must be a participant in the Scotiabank StartRight® Program. To qualify for a credit card, you must be a resident of Canada and the age of majority in your province/territory where you live. Your approval for a credit card and the credit limit assigned will be determined based on Scotiabank’s credit criteria, including your verifiable income and credit history (If available). The credit limit amount of up to $15,000 under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program is subject to change by Scotiabank from time to time without prior notice. A credit history in Canada is not required in order to be eligible for a credit card under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program. .

³ Subject to credit approval. To be eligible, you must be a participant in the Scotiabank StartRight® Program. To qualify for a credit card, you must be a resident of Canada and the age of majority in your province/territory where you live. Your approval for a credit card and the credit limit assigned will be determined based on Scotiabank’s credit criteria, including your verifiable income and credit history (if available). The credit limit amount of up to $15,000 under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program is subject to change by Scotiabank from time to time without prior notice. A credit history in Canada is not required in order to be eligible for a credit card under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program.

® Registered trademarks of The Bank of Nova Scotia.

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