Banking in Canada may be different from banking at home. Visit the Government of Canada's banking site for additional information.
- It is important to be aware that the number of scams reported each year is rising. Protect yourself by learning how to spot a scam and what to do
- International students, researchers, and staff who will be living in Kingston for more than six months are advised to open a Canadian bank account
- Anyone who will be working in Canada must have a Canadian bank account, as employers may use direct deposit to pay your wages. Also, it is difficult to cash a cheque without a bank account
- All banks will issue you a bank card that you can use. You will have to apply separately for a credit card
Check out our video with information on banking in Canada and things to consider when deciding which bank to use:
- An appointment – most banks will require that you make an appointment to open an account
- Your passport or birth certificate
- A second piece of identiﬁcation (Driver’s license, SIN)
- Your study or work permit (if you have one)
- Some money to deposit
- Your Queen’s Student ID (or a copy of your offer of admission) to be eligible for special student plans
Bank staff will explain the process for opening a bank account, but you should ask questions if there are details you do not understand.
Everyone has different needs for their banking. As a result, there is not one bank or account that is best for all students. Google "Best Student Account Canada" as a starting point.
You can access your account online through your bank's app, where you can set up notifications for transaction updates to come to your phone.
Selecting a Bank
You can choose to change banks at any time or have accounts with multiple banks.
When selecting a bank, you want to be sure you can access their services – either through a local branch or online – and know where you can access your money without having to pay additional fees.
Using an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) that is not linked with your bank can result in extra service fees. All 5 of the major Canadian banks have multiple branches in Kingston.
Selecting an Account
Be sure to ask about student plans when opening a bank account. These plans have reduced or no service fees and are probably best for you.
When choosing an account type, consider the following:
- Is there a limit on how much money you can take out at a time?
- Is there a limit on the number of bank card transactions per month?
- What are the fees if you go over this limit?
Consider you may need to transfer money from your bank at home into your Canadian account, and that you may need to pay tuition and bills in Canada. These factors may influence which account type you decide to open.
Here is a list of some of the different bank options. It's best to select one that has a local branch in Kingston.
Major Canadian Banks:
- Bank of Montreal
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
- Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
- Toronto Dominion (TD) Canada Trust
Debit cards are issued by your bank and linked to your bank account. Debit cards are quickly replacing cash transactions in Canada. When using a debit card, it is very important that you know how much money you have in your account. If you don’t have enough when making a purchase, the transaction will be declined, and you'll have to pay another way.
You can take cash out of your account by visiting your local bank branch or using an ATM. There may be additional fees to use ATMs that are not covered by your bank. You can also request “cash back” when making purchases at stores.
If you open a chequing account, you can request cheques from your bank, but you will be charged a fee for this. Cheques are not commonly used in Canada anymore, but may still be requested by landlords, utility companies, etc. Employers may request a void cheque (a cheque with the word “void” written across the front) for you to receive your payments – if you don’t have a cheque, you can request a direct deposit sheet from your bank to provide to your employer. When using cheques, be sure that you have enough money to cover the cost – if you don’t you will be charged a Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) penalty.
Managing money and sticking to a budget can be hard. It is very exciting to live in a new country and to participate in all the experiences available, but this can also result in losing track of how much money you are spending.
Before arriving in Canada, you should sit down and create a draft budget. Having a draft budget will allow you to better plan and track your money. Research the cost of things in Canada, as they may be significantly higher than you are used to at home. Plan what you’ll buy in Canada and what you may be able to bring with you.
You can visit the Financial Aid and Awards Office in Gordon Hall for help creating a budget based on your income and expenses. They can also give general advice on money management. You can call 613-533-2216, email email@example.com, or visit this page to schedule an appointment with an Awards Officer.
The Financial Aid and Awards Office can also provide information about scholarships and awards that may help cover costs during your time at Queen’s University.
Check out the following video for more tips on student finances and budgeting: Financial Planning: Budgets are Important
If you will be using your bank card from home while in Canada, it is important to be aware of which ATMs you can use. Compare the logos on the back of your debit/credit card to the logos on ATMs in Canada to determine whether you can use the machine or not (i.e. Maestro, Cirrus or Plus). The fees to use international bank cards at Canadian ATMs can be quite high and add up quickly.
All major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa) are accepted at ATMs and businesses in Canada, however international bank cards may not be accepted at retail locations. American Express is not widely accepted.
ATM – Automated Teller Machine
(or ABM – Automated Banking Machine)
When you open a bank account, you will receive a bank card and will need to choose a Personal Identiﬁcation Number (PIN). Do not share this number with anyone. Bank machines allow you to bank 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can do all your routine banking, including withdrawing money, depositing money or cheques, paying bills, and checking your account balance when using your bank’s ATM. There is usually an extra charge for using an ATM that does not belong to your own bank, and particularly high fees for using private ATMs that are not associated with any bank (like those found in restaurants and bars).
Banks offer a toll-free number (located on the back of your bank card) for you to use to get information about your account, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through telephone banking you can pay bills, get your current account balance, hear your recent transactions, and transfer money between accounts. You will need your bank card and you will need to choose a telephone banking password.
Online Banking/Banking Apps
Most people now use Online Banking or banking apps for their day-to-day needs. These offer the same options as telephone banking, but are easier to navigate and provide some additional services, including buying and selling stocks. You can also sign up to get account activity alerts sent directly to your phone.
Interac ® Direct Payment
In most stores, you can pay for your purchases using your bank card. Each time you use your bank card to pay at a retailer it is considered a “non-teller” transaction. To pay for something this way, tell the cashier you would like to pay with your debit card.
Interac ® E-mail Money Transfer
An online banking service that allows you to instantly and securely send and receive money electronically using an email address and a password that the sender creates. Make sure to check service fees before sending an eTransfer.
Some companies will allow you to pay your bills through Pre-Authorized Payments. This usually requires you ﬁll out a form and send it to the company, along with a void cheque, or enter your bank account details through their website. The money will then automatically be withdrawn from your account. As with writing cheques, it is extremely important that you have enough money in your account to pay your bill. If you do not, your bank will charge you high penalty fees. The company you are paying may do the same.
In-Branch (or Teller) Transactions
Although transactions can be conducted “in-branch” with the assistance of a teller (a person who works in the bank), this can be more expensive and may not be included in monthly plans. Make sure you check with bank staff when you open your account.
Cheques are one way to transfer money to other people’s accounts. Cheques are not widely used in Canada anymore. They may be required to pay rent to your landlord, but direct payments through the Interac® E-mail Money Transfer (eTransfer) system are quickly becoming more common. It is important to ensure that you have enough money in your account to cover any cheques that you write. If your account does not have enough money in it, your bank may charge you a high penalty fee.