Canadian banks generally, and in particular the biggest five, were roundly applauded for the way they navigated the global financial crisis, especially compared to their global peers.

bank-buildings-downtown-toronto-canadaDowntown in Toronto, CanadaThe World Economic Forum has rated Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world.

Like their counterparts in Australia, a strong domestic housing market and good economic growth have helped the banks avoid some of the problems other banks around the world have suffered. However, there remain clouds on the horizon base on the fact that low interest rates have capped the amount the banks can charge on lending and through investments.

Additionally, low rates and an economy that hasn't suffered the falls in GDP other countries have experienced have allowed Canadians to take out record levels of debt. This, along with new, tighter rules around mortgage lending may see the banks struggle to find new sources of growth.

So how should you choose your bank in Canada? Do you want to set up your bank account before you go? Do you want to do it face-to-face, online or via telephone? Do you have a particular requirement or product in mind?

The Emigration Store Guide to Canadian Banks will help you make your decision about which bank in Canada is right for you.


*Trailing Twelve Months
Source: FT Markets data May 2014


Toronto-Dominion bank

TD Canada Trust: Newcomers to Canada


With a history stretching back to 1855, Toronto-Dominion Bank, widely known as TD or TD Bank today employs nearly 79,000 people worldwide. In Canada, it serves over 11 million customers, has over, 1,150 branches and operates some 2,800 ATMs. TD is ranked as the number one financial institution among newcomers to Canada and for the eighth year in a row it has ranked highest in the J.D power survey for Customer satisfaction among the big five retail banks.

Current account

TD offers a banking package for newcomers to Canada combining a current account, a credit card and other services. With an Unlimited Chequing Account, you get unlimited transactions, C$20 off the Annual fee for the first year of 3 select TD credit cards and no Account fees (normally C$14.95 a month) if you maintain a minimum monthly balance of C$3,500. Other terms and conditions apply.

There are other bank account options available with a variety of features and costs.

Credit Card

Moving to another country doesn't mean that your personal credit history moves with you. So it can be a little bit of a chicken and egg situation – which comes first the offer of credit or the build-up of a credit history.

TD will offer you an unsecured Credit card with a credit limit up to C$1,000 even if you don't have a credit history, as long you have been in Canada for less than2 years and are a permanent resident.

A basic card will offer you a purchase interest rate of 19.99% a year with no annual fee. There are a number (around 18)! of fee/service/reward combinations.


There a number of ways to take out a personal loan. The terms vary by the purpose, whether it is secured or unsecured, the length and the amount. You can apply by telephone or online.

Financial Planning / Other Products

Like most of the big five, TD offers the full range of financial products including mortgages, insurance and investment advice.


Royal Bank of Canada

RBC: Immigrating to Canada


Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is headquartered in Montreal but its operational head office is located in Toronto. Founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1864, it became known by its current name in 1901.

Today it employs nearly 79,000 full and part-time people globally and has around 10 million customers in Canada.

Current account

It is possible to open a bank account with RBC before you make your move to Canada, making it much easier to settle into your new homes in those first few weeks. They also provide a 'banking package' for newcomers who have arrived in the last 12 months and can prove permanent residence status.

This package is also available for newcomers who have arrived between 1 - 3yrs ago and who switch from another financial institution. It includes a no-fee credit card, secured loans on cars or properties and preferential rates on various services.

There are a number of bank account options with different fees/products/services/rewards so it is best to be clear about exactly what you want from your account.

Credit Card

If you get a bundled 'banking package' you can get no-fee credit card but it may be worth looking at the particular individual parts of the package to see if it meets you requirements and will actually be the most cost-effective solution for your particular needs. 

RBC offers a wide range of credit cards so it is important to check carefully. Purchase interest rates range from 11.99% on the low rate card (C$20 annual fee) to 19.99% with a cash back or reward card.


RBC offer either fixed or variable rate options. You can also choose any term up to 5 years. You can apply either online or by telephone but being a newcomer with no credit history may limit the amount and term of the loan.

Financial Planning / Other Products

RBC is a very large financial services company which offer a wide range of products and services. If you need advice or help with home loans, investments, or financial planning in general they will be able to help and advise.


The Bank of Nova Scotia / Scotiabank

Scotiabank   search for their Start Right programme, designed for those looking to move to Canada


The Bank of Nova Scotia, normally known as Scotiabank, was incorporated in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1832. Today it has global operations employing more than 83,000 people with 21 million customers. In Canada, it has nearly 8 million customers and has a network of over 1,000 branches and 4,500 ATMs.

It has a dedicated programme for new migrants called 'StartRight', designed to ensure a smooth transition for new migrants from their old home to Canada.

Current account

You can apply for a bank account within 6 months, but not less than 15 business days before the date of your arrival in Canada. Deposits are only accepted after you arrive in Canada. You can apply online from the UK and, once arrived in Canada, you have to visit the branch that you selected on your application to activate the account. If you leave it more than 6 months the account will be closed.

The StartRight programme offers a C$100 incentive when you open an eligible chequing account. As with any offer or bundled package, it is worth checking all the different component parts to assess the costs of each product.

Credit Card

Like most other banks, Scotiabank offers a range of credit card options offering rewards and cashback and different rewards.
Purchase interest rates are typically 19.99% and annual fees range from C$39 to C$99.


Scotiabank offer loans with vary terms and conditions, depending on the particular purpose of the loan, the term and whether it is secured or not. There are fixed or variable options, amounts from C$1,000-150,000 depending on your circumstances and the strength of your credit history in Canada.

Financial Planning / Other Products

Scotiabank offers the full range of Insurance, Mortgage and Advisory products that you may require.


Bank of Montreal

BMO: Welcome to Canada


Founded in Montreal in 1817, the Bank of Montreal (BMO) is actually Canada's oldest bank. In 1977 it's operational head office moved to Toronto, leaving the legal headquarters in Montreal.

With over 900 branches, nearly 46,000 employees and seven million customers, it is a major player in the Canadian bank market. It has a 'NewStart' programme for newcomers to the country.

Current account

Whilst it offers an online checklist and advice for preparing the documentation to set up an account ahead of your move to Canada, you can only open an account once you have arrived in Canada.

There are various options depending on the number of transactions and the minimum account balance. An account limited to 10 transactions per month has a monthly fee of C$4 unless you have C$1,500 as a minimum balance.

As part of the BMO NewStart scheme migrants can have a @Performance Chequing Account free for one year, with unlimited transactions. Normally this requires a balance greater than C$3,500 or it incurs a fee of C$13.95 a month.

Credit Card

In the NewStart programme, BMO offer a choice of Mastercard credit cards.

Depending on your financial circumstances, the basic Preferred Rate Card has a purchase interest rate of 17.5% with no annual fee or 11.9% with a C$20 annual fee.


BMO offer loans on broadly similar terms to other banks ie a repayment period up to 5 years, fixed or variable rates and a certain degree of payment variability.

Financial Planning / Other Products

BMO also offers a wide range of other products and advice. If you want to know more about savings/investment products, mortgages and financial planning visit the bank website.


Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

CIBC: New to Canada


One of the constituent banks of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) was founded in May 1867 in Toronto. In part the Canadian Bank of Commerce was founded to provide a counterweight to the influence of Montreal over the economy of Upper Canada as competition for the Bank of Montreal.

Today the bank employs over 43,000 people, has over 1,100 branches and over 3,500 ATMs.

Current account

CIBC has the usual choice of bank accounts but they can only be opened once you arrive in Canada. Depending on the likely number of transactions you will make, account fees range from C$3.90 to C$28.95 per month. As an incentive for migrants who have arrived in the last 3 years to join, they offer an Everyday Chequing Account with unlimited transactions and no monthly fee for one year.

CIBC also have series of Bundled accounts with various products and services included, including a credit card but, as ever, it is worth looking at the detail to ensure that you really want each part.

Credit Card

CIBC has a wide range of credit cards offering cash back and rewards. A typical standard card has a purchase interest rate of 11.99% and an annual fee of C$29. Other cards offering rewards typically have a purchase interest rate of 19.99% and an annual fee ranging from C$39 – 79.


CIBC has a personal loan facility that can either be secured (on your home or other assets attracting a lower interest rate) or unsecured. Terms range up to 5 years and certain requirements and terms apply.

Financial Planning / Other Products

In line with all the other major banking groups in Canada, CIBC offers a wide range of other products and services including mortgages, investments/financial advice and insurance.

In Canada, I want to live in....