What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account in Canada?

A bank account is one of the most basic and valuable tools you can use to help manage your finances.

Unless you’re one of the rare individuals who has no qualms about stashing your money under your mattress or in a cookie jar, you’ll need to open a bank account at some point.

Here’s how you can set one up in six easy steps.

1. Decide What Type of Bank Account You Want

The first thing you need to do is decide what type of bank account you wish to open.

In Canada, there are three types of bank accounts to choose from:

Chequingused primarily for your day-to-day banking needs, such as purchasing groceries, paying bills, and accepting payment from your employer.

Savingsused primarily to store excess funds for a long-term goal or use as an emergency fund. This account earns interest on the money held in the account.

Hybridan account that serves the combined roles of a chequing and savings account.

A chequing account is the most accessible and convenient bank account you can set up.

It’s also the most useful for your daily banking needs.

Depending on your needs and budget, you can also apply for a savings account to set aside money for long-term financial goals. 

A hybrid account is an increasingly popular option among consumers who wish to simplify their banking while retaining the ability to perform a wide range of transactions and earn interest on idle cash.

2. Shop Around for the Best Deal

Once you’ve settled on your account type, it’s time to scour the market to see what various financial institutions offer.

There’s a wide array of banking packages available, so it’s crucial to consider the features and perks you’d like to see in your ideal bank account.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you prefer to conduct your banking activities in-person or online?

If you routinely perform most of your banking online, consider a bank that offers an app that can seamlessly facilitate all types of transactions.

If you’re more comfortable doing your banking in the physical world, look for a financial institution that offers a vast ATM network and numerous branches with extended hours.

What fees are you willing to pay?

Assess which bank account most closely aligns with your spending habits and charges reasonable fees.

For example, if you anticipate using your account frequently, paying a higher monthly fee for unlimited transactions may be prudent.

What types of transactions do you perform regularly?

Certain bank accounts offer more flexibility than others regarding the type and number of transactions you can conduct monthly.

Be sure to examine restrictions regarding Interac e-Transfers, internal transfers and international transfers.

What interest rates do you hope to earn?

When it comes to a savings or hybrid account, how high of an interest rate are you looking to earn on your money? Be sure to explore your options thoroughly, as rates can vary considerably. 

Are promotional deals or rewards programs vital to you?

Be on the lookout for bank accounts that offer limited-time offers, such as a higher interest rate on your initial deposit or a cash welcome bonus.

Some accounts also allow you to collect points that you can redeem for various rewards.

Once you’ve selected your ideal bank account, either apply online if the capabilities are available or head over to a local branch of the financial institution.

Bank website open on laptop on desk

3. Confirm your Identity

You’ll be asked to provide two pieces of identification to verify your identity.

There are three ways to satisfy this requirement:

  • Option 1 – Present two pieces of identification from List A, such as a driver’s licence, Canadian passport, or birth certificate
  • Option 2 – Present one piece of identification from List A and one from List B, such as a Canadian credit card bearing your name and signature, a foreign passport, or an employee ID card that has your picture on it.
  • Option 3 – Present one piece of identification from List A and bring a reputable family member or friend who can attest to your identity (it may be helpful if this individual is a long-time customer of the financial institution where you’re opening the account)

Don’t Forget!

If your financial institution cannot confirm your identity through your online application, you’ll need to make a trip to one of their physical branches to complete the process.

4. Complete the Necessary Paperwork

As part of the application process, you’ll need to supply personal details, such as your full name, address, phone number, date of birth, occupation, and more.

If you’re opening a savings account, you’ll also need to provide your social insurance number (SIN).

Fact

You don’t need a social insurance number (SIN) to open a chequing account in Canada.

5. Receive your Banking Package and Debit Card

Once all the paperwork is finalized, your financial institutions will prepare your banking documents, outlining your account’s terms, conditions, and features.

They’ll also provide you with a debit card.

If you completed your application online, you must wait for your documents and debit card to arrive by mail.

Once you receive your card, you’ll need to activate it before using it, which you can easily accomplish online or by calling your financial institution.

Your card’s PIN will arrive separately from your debit card for security purposes.

6. Customize your Account

That’s it – your bank account is ready for you to use!

You can review your account’s features and tweak your settings to suit your preferences as a final step.

If you’ll be conducting online transactions, sign up for online banking.

You can also customize your bank account by enabling pre-authorized payments, setting up overdraft protection and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I open a bank account online in Canada?
  • What documents are needed to open an account in a bank?

Mark is a freelance writer who specializes in covering personal finance topics related to investing, mortgages, credit cards, and more.

He is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.