Advice You Can Bank On

Today saw another milestone in my Canadian adventure, as I received my very first piece of Canadian mail!  The privilege of checking the mailbox has been taken away from me already (I lost the mailbox key on our third day living here and am now not to be trusted with it) so it was my boyfriend (the newly crowned keyholder) who opened the little brown door to reveal two shiny envelopes containing our brand new bank cards.  Granted, there are more exciting things one could find in one’s mailbox (tax refund cheques, magazines, chocolates), but the day I received my first piece of mail also turned out to be the day I became a fully fledged member of the Canadian banking system.

This second notable milestone was another easy one to achieve, with the most difficult decision being which bank to go with.  The four major banks in Canada are TD, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Scotia Bank and Royal Montreal (RMO), and SWAP recommended TD and RBC as the ones to check out.  We decided to go with RBC as we have a branch two blocks from us, for which the importance of this will soon become apparent.

So, off we went to our local RBC branch and made an appointment to set up our account.  We turned up bright and early on a Thursday morning, armed with two pieces of ID and the somewhat worrying knowledge that we were booked in for a two hour appointment.  Luckily we were done and dusted in a little over an hour, no thanks to our personal banker and relocation advisor, Reiner.  Now repeat his name with a more than slightly camp Canadian accent, and talk a lot about Vegas shows and trips to Europe, and you’ll have some inkling of how it took us a little over an hour to complete our applications.

Not one but two RBC cash machines, the holy grail...

Anyway, onto the banking bit, so banks in Canada are like mobile phones – you pay for everything!  A current account is called a chequing account, which is different to a savings account.  Monthly fees for basic chequing accounts are standard (though very basic accounts are free for students with some banks), and the RBC Day to Day Account costs $4 a month.  This includes 15 card transactions a month (anything above that is charged at $0.65 per transaction), which includes paying for something on your card and withdrawing cash from an ATM.  Which brings me onto the worst part.  It’s free to withdraw cash from one of your own bank’s cash machines, but if you use another bank’s cash machine you will be charged $1.50…by each bank!  $3 every time you want to take out $10 isn’t ideal, hence why the location of RBC as our nearest bank sealed the deal for us.

This daily ATM challenge has meant I’m finding it difficult to keep to my 15 transactions a month.  I’ve had my account for 13 days and have made 33 transactions already. Oops.  This clearly does not make financial sense, so I’ve upgraded my account online to the RBC No Limits Banking Account which costs $10.95 a month but allows unlimited transactions.  I guess there are just some Canadian ways that I will never get used to, just as I’ll always be surprised at the number of ways for paying for things (chip and pin, swipe and pin, swipe and sign, just swipe) and that when an employer wants your bank details they have to come directly from the bank (hassle).

Despite the annoyances within the system, setting up a bank account was easy enough, and we were even given a temporary bank card to use until our real ones turned up in the post.  Indeed the most difficult part of the process was not being able to access said real ones whilst we had to wait for our key to be re-cut (oops again).  The best thing about the appointment was ending up with some great tips on where to find seriously cheap package deals (and show tickets…) for weekends in Vegas, something we hope to make the most of in the coming months.    Here’s to you, Reiner!


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About MarmitetoMaple

I'm originally from the UK and have been working and living the dream in Vancouver, BC, since January 2011. I am a firm believer in travel, good cheese, volunteering and community engagement.

7 responses to “Advice You Can Bank On”

  1. Rebecca says :

    Wait, in the UK you can use any ATMs, for free, no matter what your banks is???

    In every country I’ve lived in (US, NZ and AU) it’s always been, your bank=free. Everything else=fee. Out of habit, I couldn’t even go to a bank that I didn’t bank at, it just wouldn’t occur to me. Funny the little things you just assume to take as standard!

  2. hito86 says :

    Do you need a job / a permanent address before you can get a bank account or? I saw you already had a place to live, but I am not going to be able to find a place to live realistically before I get there! The finding a bank is stressful 😦

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi there, thanks for the comment!
      Most banks will ask you for two pieces of ID which include a passport, work permit and a SIN card (though you don’t have to have the SIN card) and there is no mention on their websites of needing an address. I also know a lot of other people that set up a bank account before they found a place to live. Saying that, as I had an address myself I don’t know for sure that you don’t need one so can’t tell you 100%…only 90%!
      Finding a bank is definitely one of the least stressful parts of arriving here, it’s very straightforward and worst case scenario is that you just use cash for your first couple of weeks until you find a place to live.
      Don’t panic 🙂

  3. hito86 says :

    Again, thanks for the reply :-).
    I am moving all on my lonesome, so I will have to do some thorough reading about what bank account is best – or if they are all offering the same thing.
    I plan to stay there for a looooooong time…
    Also can I ‘bounce’ an idea off you – obviously you did the says you need a bank statement <1 week old (!) to prove that you have funds to survive etc. I am going to be bringing around 10,000 CAD with me – do I need to show a bank statement or?


    Hope you do a few blogs about christmas! :-).

    • marmitetomaple says :

      All the bank accounts are pretty much the same, the main thing to do with is where the closest ATM’s are to where you’ll be living/working, but you can always switch if you need to so no big deal!

      As for the bank statement, you’ll definitely need it no matter how much money you’re bringing. Either way, you still need proof. Saying that, they didn’t ask for it either time, but it is a condition of the visa so I wouldn’t risk it!

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