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Can I open a bank account online?

6 min read

Dan Bucherer
#bank#bank accounts#online banking
Can I open a bank account online?

Rounding it up

  • You can easily and quickly open a Canadian bank account online as long as you have the appropriate identification documents.

  • If you’re a non-resident, you may have to jump through a couple of more hoops before successfully opening an account online.

  • Ensure you have a firm understanding of the fees and requirements of the account you wish to open.

  • Whether you open an account online or at a branch, online banking offers so many benefits, like being able to monitor your spending and savings in real-time.

It’s perhaps the understatement of the century to say the internet is a big deal. You can literally do everything, from socializing to shopping for groceries, right from the comfort of your home. It goes without saying that the financial world also lives online. What used to require a branch visit, waiting in line, and too many slips of paper can now be done from home—or anywhere.

Opening a brand new Canadian bank account is no different. As long as you have the proper identification and any initial deposit that may be required by the financial institution. There are a few things to consider before you open a bank account online including what steps you’ll need to take, what responsibilities you have to fulfill in order to keep your account current, and the types of activities you can do with your brand new shiny bank account. Read on to learn all about it.

Who offers bank accounts that I can open online and how do I do it?

Most large banks allow Canadians to sign up for bank accounts online. Many smaller banks, fintechs (Like KOHO!) and federally chartered credit unions also have a simple online sign-up option. Before signing up, though, be sure to shop around to see the various kinds of accounts for which you qualify. Chequing and savings accounts often seem very similar (and they tend to be!) but there are some small nuances to the types of features each bank offers.

Moreover, banks will offer other products to existing chequing or savings account customers.  So, when you’re opening a bank account online, think down the road to other products and services you may need, such as mortgages and credit cards. Additionally, you can also get more favorable treatment with investment products when banking with the same institution. This will help you save, and even make, money.

Back to how to do it! All you really need to do, once you select a bank that fits your needs, is follow the process laid out online. They’ll ask for your name, address, and other identifiable information. They may also ask for your Social Insurance Number. You’ll have to provide certain pieces of identification to prove that you are you, and then, you’re all set! In some cases (as outlined below), you may need to follow up online registration with a visit to a branch.

KOHO Signup Link

What kind of identification?

The Canadian government is quite clear about the identification required to open a bank account, whether that's online or in-person at a local branch. There are three options for identification requirements.

Option 1: Two Items from the list below:

  • Valid Canadian driver’s license (as permitted by provincial law)

  • Current Canadian passport

  • Birth certificate issued in Canada

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN) card issued by the Government of Canada

  • Old Age Security card issued by the Government of Canada

  • Certificate of Indian Status

  • Provincial or territorial health insurance card that can be used as ID under provincial or territorial law

  • Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or Certification of Naturalization

  • Permanent Resident card or an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) form IMM 1000, IMM 1442, or IMM 5292

Option 2: One item from list above and one item from the list below:

  • Employee ID card with your picture on it that has been issued by an employer well known in your area

  • Debit card or bank card with your name and signature on it

  • Canadian credit card with your name and signature on it

  • Client card from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind with your picture and signature on it

  • Current foreign passport

Option 3: One item from the first list combined with someone of good standing to verify your identity.

As you might imagine, providing something from option 3 can be a bit challenging if you’re opening an account online. This leaves you with option 1 or 2. The vast majority of Canadian citizens can provide at least two items from Option 1. Most banks now make submitting these documents easy, either through a mobile app or via scanning and uploading. Your identity information, as well as your Social Insurance Number, is passed along to the Canadian Revenue Agency. The bank will also send along the interest you’ve earned to the CRA each year for tax purposes.

I need an initial deposit, right?

Unlike in the U.S., you do not need an initial deposit to open a chequing or savings account in Canada. Everyone has the right to a fair, safe place to keep money that is insured by the government. If a bank requires an initial deposit, it’s a fair bet that it’s not the bank with which you want to do business. A bank can (and many will) charge you fees for the use of your account. These fees can often be waived by keeping a minimum balance in an account or having a savings account with the same institution. With KOHO, you don’t have to worry about an initial deposit or a minimum balance because we require neither!

KOHO Signup Link

Can I open the account as a non-resident?

Non-residents can open Canadian bank accounts but they can very rarely do so online. You’ll likely have to go to a branch in person and provide a passport and a work visa or non-resident card in order to open the account. This can be a bit challenging if you’re applying for an account outside the country. You should plan to make a trip to Canada if you need to open a Canadian bank account. You can always contact your financial institution to determine if they have a different way to verify your identity and open an account that way.

If you’re having trouble opening an account online as a non-resident, you can always use a prepaid card to get access to Canadian funds. These are available from a variety of grocery stores, gas stations, and more. KOHO also offers a prepaid reloadable Mastercard. Plus, since we have zero physical branches, you’ll alway be able to create an account online, whether or not you’re residing in Canada!

What are some other reasons to open an account online?

There are a ton of great benefits to opening an account online and continuing your banking relationship in cyberspace. First, we’re nearly in an entirely cashless society. Having an online account will help you continue to operate without bills and coins. Second, online accounts allow you to see the money you have at any given time and can help you to understand a bit more about what's coming in and going out. Finally, online accounts often come with automated bill payment features, which can help you centralize recurring payments and keep things organized.

If you’re considering opening a Canadian chequing account, make sure that you’ve got the necessary identification documents ready. Additionally, ensure that you have a firm understanding of the fee structure of the financial institution and account. If you’re a non-resident, you can still get an account but there may be more hoops to jump through. Finally, consider a savings account in addition to a chequing account. Savings can help you in lots of ways and the accounts will often earn interest while safely storing your money. Opening a bank account is critical however you do it. The internet has made doing so about a million times easier, so go on, gather your identification and get started!

Note: KOHO product information and/or features may have been updated since this blog post was published. Please refer to our Subscription Plans page for our most up to date account information!

Dan Bucherer

Dan is a runner and writer living in the Washington, D.C. area, where he currently works for a financial services trade association as the Communications Director.

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