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Common Banking Questions

There are 5 major banks in Canada and a few smaller banks/credit unions.  When selecting a bank, you will want to be sure that 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 ATM that is not linked with your bank can result in extra service fees.  All 5 of the major banks have multiple branches in Kingston.

All banks will issue you a bank card that you can use, however you will have to apply for a credit card as a separate application. Through your bank you can access your account online, through an App and you can set up notifications for transaction updates to come to your phone.

Here is a listing of some of the banks in Canada to get your search started.

What bank should I choose?

There is no single answer to this question.  Everyone has different needs. As a result, there is not one account that is best for all students.

When deciding what bank to open an account with you will want to consider some of the following:


Will it be easy for you to access your money or visit the branch if needed?

Account Type

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?

Transferring Money

Is it easy to transfer money to and from your bank at home?

What do I need to open a bank account?
  1. An appointment – most banks will require that you make an appointment to open an account
  2. Your Passport or Birth Certificate
  3. Your Study or Work Permit (if you have one)
  4. A second piece of identification (Driver’s License, SIN)
  5. Some money to deposit
  6. 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.

Can I use my Bank/Credit Cards from home?

If you will be using your bank card from home while in Canada it is important to be aware of which Automated Teller Machines (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 ATMs in Canada can be quite high and add up quickly. 

All major credit card (MasterCard, Visa) are accepted in Canada at ATMs, and businesses, however international bank cards may not be accepted at retail locations.  American Express is not widely accepted.

Where can I get help in managing my money?

Managing money and sticking to a budget can be hard.  It is very exciting to live in a new country and participate in all the experiences available, but this can also result in people losing track of how much money they are spending.  Before arriving in Canada, you should sit down and create a draft budget.  Research the costs of things in Canada, the costs may be significantly higher than you are used to at home.  Having a draft budget will allow you to better plan and track your money.  Plan what you’ll buy in Canada and what you may be able to bring with you.

Once you arrive at Queens’ please visit the Queen’s Student Awards Office for help in creating a budget based on your income and expenses.   Their office is in Gordon Hall. They can also give general advice on money management. 

You can call 613-533-2216 or e-mail awards@queensu.ca to schedule an appointment with an Awards Officer.

The Queen’s Student Awards Office can also give information about scholarships and bursaries that may help cover some costs of your time at Queen’s University.

How can I access my money?

Debit Cards

Issued by your bank and linked to your bank account.  Debit cards are quickly replacing cash transactions.  It is very important that you know how much money you have in your account if you don’t have enough the transaction will be declined.


You can “take cash” out of your account through your bank, by visiting a branch or using an ATM. There may be additional fees to use ATMs that are not provided by your bank.  You can also request “cash back” when making purchases at stores.


If you have a “chequing account” you can request cheques from your bank, you will be charged a fee for this.  Cheques are not as commonly used in Canada anymore, but may still be requested by landlords, utilities, etc.  Employers may request a “void” cheque 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. If using cheques be sure that you have enough money to cover the cost, if you don’t you will be charged a penalty of NSF

Common Banking Terms

ATM – Automated Teller Machine

(or ABM – Automated Banking Machine)

You will receive a bank card when you open an account and will need to choose 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 not belonging 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).

Telephone Banking

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 last 5 or 10 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 a better interface and provide some additional options, including buying and selling stocks. You can also sign up to get alerts for activities on your account to be 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 funds electronically using an e-mail address and a password that the sender creates. Check the fees before sending an eTransfer.

Pre-Authorized Payments

Some companies will allow you to pay your bills by “Pre-Authorized Payments”. This usually requires you to fill out a form and attach a cheque with the word “void” written across the front to the company or enter your bank account details through their website. The money will then automatically be withdrawn from your account. Note: 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 always required in Canada. The most common use of cheques is to pay one’s rent, but direct payments through the Interac® E-mail Money Transfer system are now quite popular. Cheques are not widely used in Canada anymore. 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.

The Government of Canada provides additional information about managing your money and finances in Canada on their official website:  https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/banking/using-debit.html