When you’re a student, money can be tight. Luckily, many banks in Canada offer student bank accounts with no monthly fees, unlimited transactions and welcome offers such as cash bonuses, gift cards or rewards points.
If you’re a post-secondary student starting out on your own and don’t already have a chequing account, you’ll definitely need one for everyday transactions like depositing and withdrawing cash, sending and receiving Interac e-Transfers and paying for things like coffee, textbooks and groceries using a debit card linked to your account.
Keep reading to learn more about features to look for and how to open a student bank account.
How to open a student bank account in Canada
First, the obvious: to open a student bank account in Canada, you generally have to be a full-time student at an accredited Canadian college or university. Some banks may also recognize accredited professional programs or colleges and universities in the United States.
To prove you’re a student, you’ll need to provide proof of enrollment. Depending on what the financial institution requires, it could be an acceptance letter, a letter from the Registrar’s office, a tuition invoice, a current timetable or a student card. Because you can’t hang on to a student bank account forever, you may also be asked to provide your expected graduation date.
Opening a student bank account in Canada is like opening any other type of bank account: it’s easy to apply online or in-person at a branch. To open a bank account, you’ll need to provide personal information including your full name, address, phone number and at least one piece of government-issued identification (such as a provincial driver’s licence or Canadian passport) or documents such as recent public utility bills, credit card statements, notice of tax assessment or statement of benefits.
Before applying to open an account, read the fine print to make sure you understand if you’re eligible for a student account and what identification you need to provide, as requirements for opening an account may vary between banks.
What to know about student bank accounts
A student bank account is simply a type of chequing account. Some banks offer what’s called a student banking plan, which bundles multiple products such as a chequing and savings account, student line of credit and/or a credit card.
Even if you meet all the requirements for a student bank account, you don’t necessarily have to choose one just because you’re a student. Any personal chequing account with no monthly fees, no minimum balance and free daily banking transactions (bill payments, debit purchases, pre-authorized payments and Interac e-Transfers) may suit your needs. However, many student accounts sweeten the deal with perks like sign-up bonuses for cash or gift cards.
Your student days won’t last forever – and neither will your student bank account. When you reach a certain age or graduate from school, your bank will convert your student account into a regular personal chequing account. Some banks may give you a grace period of a few months up to a year after you graduate. If you lose account benefits or have to start paying a monthly fee because you’re no longer a student, consider switching to a no-fee personal chequing account.
How to choose the best student bank account
The “best” student bank account really depends on your personal needs. Before signing up, think about how you want to use your account (cash withdrawals, cash or cheque deposits, online shopping, Interac e-Transfers), what you want to get out of the account (unlimited transactions, cash back, interest, rewards points) and special sign-up offers available to new customers.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing a student bank account:
No monthly fees and unlimited transactions: These are the most basic features student accounts should offer. This means that as long as there’s money in your account, you can use your debit card, pay bills and send Interac e-Transfers without worrying about going over a monthly transaction limit.
Convenient ATM locations: Banks typically offer free withdrawals from ATMs in your bank’s network, but withdrawing cash from another financial provider will cost you fees. Before signing up with a particular bank, you might want to investigate which banks or ATMs are located close to your residence hall or apartment, or located on campus.
Mobile app: All major financial institutions have mobile apps that make it easy to check your account balance, view transactions, deposit cheques, pay bills and send and receive Interac e-Transfers. Many apps offer spending insights, alerts and budget tracking.
Sign-up bonuses: Financial institutions want to attract students with the hope that you’ll stick with them as a customer for years to come, so many banks offer students some type of sign-up bonus in the form of rewards points, cash or gift cards. These offers may be dependent on you completing certain transactions once you open your account, such as making a deposit, setting up direct deposit or pre-authorized transactions, or making a purchase using your debit card. Always read the terms and conditions before signing up to make sure you receive your bonus.
Can international students have two bank accounts in Canada?
You don’t have to be a Canadian citizen or resident to open bank account in Canada. International students studying at accredited schools in Canada can open bank accounts, and many banks offer accounts and packages specifically for international students or newcomers to Canada.
Generally, you cannot have more than one student bank account at the same institution. However, you can open up more than one personal chequing or saving account at the same bank or credit union, or have multiple accounts at different financial institutions.
If you’re an international student studying in Canada, you can apply for a student bank account by showing proof of enrollment, your study permit and valid identification such as a foreign passport, Canadian driver’s licence or Government of Canada identification card.
Which bank is best for student accounts?
Again, it depends on what features you’re looking for in a bank account. All Big Six banks in Canada – TD, Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO and National Bank – offer student bank accounts and student banking plans with comparable features for domestic and international students. Student bank accounts are also available at Desjardins, HSBC and Simplii Financial, as well as credit unions across the country.
It’s not specifically designed for students, but KOHO is a free spending and savings account with no monthly fees, instant cash back and the ability to earn interest on your balance. It comes with a prepaid Mastercard that gives you the spending power of a credit card for things like online shopping and building credit, but it draws from your own money loaded into your KOHO account – that way, you only spend what you have.
KOHO’s mobile app helps you manage your day-to-day finances with spending insights and balance updates after each purchase, plus you can use your account to pay bills and send or receive Interac e-Transfers. KOHO works with any ATM, and you won’t be charged for withdrawing money.
Overall, you want to make sure you’re signing up for a student bank account with no monthly fees, unlimited transactions, a decent mobile app, convenient ATM locations and features that matters to you like earning interest, cash back or rewards points. Don’t forget to take advantage of welcome offers that could put extra cash or rewards points in your account or gift cards in your wallet.
Jane Switzer is a writer and editor who covers personal finance and investing from a millennial perspective. Living in an expensive (but fun!) city, she writes about trying to save money while still living well.