Finances & Budgeting

Whether you choose to set up a bank account before or after you arrive, at some point you will need to become familiar with the Canadian banking system. You may check out the different types of financial institutions in Canada and review the various banking solutions available before deciding which institution will best serve your needs. Some banks will offer special accounts and discounted rates to newcomers and students, so please be sure to compare them.

Introduction to Local Financial Institutions

There are five major banks in Canada and most of these banks have branches near the university campus. In the following table, you will find the location info and contact details for the banks that are near the St. John’s campus: 


Bank NameTelephoneWebsiteLocations
Scotiabank 709-576-1199 Churchill Square
Royal Bank of Canada 709-576-4545 65 Elizabeth Avenue
CIBC 709-576-8777 Churchill Square
TD Canada Trust  709-758-1850 80 Elizabeth Avenue
Bank of Montreal 709-758-2110 384 Elizabeth Avenue
HSBC Canada 709-737-0007 205 Water Street
Royal Bank of Canada 709-327-8815 University Centre Level 3 (UC2018)


Tips for Choosing the best bank:

While there are many financial institutions to choose from in Canada, selecting a banking partner that’s right for your financial needs as a newcomer to Canada can be confusing. As this is a crucial decision to make, there are many factors you’ll need to keep in mind to ensure your bank meets your needs. Here are some things you should compare to find a bank account that meets your needs:

Minimum balance requirements: Some bank accounts require a minimum daily or monthly balance. If your balance dips below this required level, you may be charged a penalty.

Banking fees: Most chequing accounts have a monthly banking fee ranging from $0 to $30.95. Sometimes, the monthly fee can be waived if you maintain a minimum balance in the account.

Statement fees: Some banks charge a small monthly fee for issuing paper bank statements. In most cases, you can opt for paperless, e-statements for no charge.

Cheque or draft fees: Some chequing accounts come with free personalized cheques or bank drafts. In others, a chequebook with 50 leaves can cost as much as $50 and a bank draft can cost up to $10.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Interac e-Transfer limits and charges: Some accounts may limit how many ATM withdrawals or peer-to-peer Interac e-Transfer transactions you can make in a month. You should also check if there’s a fee for withdrawing money from another bank’s ATM or making Interac e-Transfer transactions to an account in a different bank.

International remittance fees: As a newcomer in Canada, you may want to continue financially supporting your family back home. If you’re planning to make international money transfers regularly, be sure to check the international remittance fees for the chequing accounts you’re considering, and ask if any transfers are included in your account offer.

Interest rates: The interest you’ll receive in savings accounts in Canada may be much less than what you’re used to in your home country, but it can still help you grow your savings for the future.

Offers: Some bank accounts offer incentives at the time of account opening. For instance, you may receive cash incentives, higher interest rates, or free services if you open a new account and meet some qualifying criteria.

Types of bank accounts

 One of the first things you must do upon arrival in Canada is open a Canadian bank account. This will allow you to transfer money and may be useful as proof of savings when renting your first apartment.

 There are two main types of bank accounts in Canada:

Chequing account: An essential basic account for daily transactions, paying bills, and making purchases. Flexibility is the key with this high-activity account, as you can deposit and withdraw your money at any time, use your debit card to pay for things and transfer money electronically.

  • Note that chequing account balances do not usually earn interest.
  • A chequing account will equip you with a debit card which can be used for making various purchases (online and offline) and withdrawing or depositing money at ATMs.

Savings account: A high-interest account to save money over a longer term. A savings account is the ideal place for the money you don’t need to access every day.

  • It allows you to access your money easily when you need it – for emergencies or unexpected expenses.
  • Identification: Valid Passport or Canadian Government Issued Photo ID
  • Study Permit: This might be used to apply student benefits to the account. To verify student status.
  • SIN: For credit products such as Credit Cards (which generally have no annual fee for students) and Overdraft.
  • Some banks also ask for an Enrollment verification letter from the University. Please see this link to learn the steps for applying for this letter. Note: It may take two business days to receive this letter. 


How to open a bank account

Step 1: Book an appointment: You can book an appointment online on your preferred Bank websites, please schedule an appointment for bank account opening in advance as sometimes it might take 15 to 20 days to schedule this appointment.

Some Banks also provide a facility to talk with financial advisors before you land in Canada. Please see the below info about it.

RBC: you can book an appointment to speak with an RBC Newcomer Advisor even before you land in Canada.

TD Bank: TD has provided their representative’s contact details so that students can contact them directly.

TD Contact:
Andrew Murumbi
709 758 5000 text 226

Tadiwa Muzvidziwa


Step 2: Gather your documents Before you head to the bank, it is recommended to have all the essential documents to facilitate and speed up the process. Below is the list of documents generally asked by Banks, for opening a bank account.

  • Identification: Valid Passport or Canadian Government Issued Photo ID
  • Study Permit: This might be used to apply student benefits to the account. To verify student status.
  • SIN: For credit products such as Credit Cards (which generally have no annual fee for students) and Overdraft.
  • Some banks also ask for an Enrollment verification letter from the University. Please see this link to learn the steps for applying for this letter. Note: It may take two business days to receive this letter. 

Information about credit card and credit score

Many newcomers come from credit-averse societies – where taking on debt is seen as something to be avoided – and are surprised to learn what an important role credit plays in Canadian society. Having a credit history or a credit score is essential for life in Canada for things like renting a home, leasing a car, or taking out a loan or mortgage. A good credit score can ensure you qualify for better interest rates on mortgages and other loans down the line. To get started with building your credit history, having and using a credit card is essential.

You will need to build your credit history in Canada from scratch. Once you receive your first credit card, start by making payments for small expenses such as phone bills or groceries, and be sure you pay the balance in full by the end of the billing cycle. Your credit score is your financial reputation in Canada. When you borrow money from a bank (or lender), certain information is shared with a credit bureau. Over time, additional information, such as whether you’ve paid your bills on time, whether you’ve missed payments, and how much debt you have outstanding, will get shared with the credit bureau.

A credit score is a way for financial institutions to measure your ability to repay loans. Your credit score and credit history can influence the interest rate you receive on loans, mortgages, or other credit products. The lower your score, the less likely you are to be approved for a credit card, mortgage, or loan. And if you do qualify for one, the interest rate you receive will likely be high – which is not beneficial. Conversely, the higher your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved for a credit card, mortgage, or loan and receive attractive (low) interest rates.

Note: It takes at least a few weeks to a month for newcomers to receive their first Canadian credit card and a few additional months of credit transactions to generate a credit history.


Some other useful resources about banking in Canada

  1. CIBC International Student guide
  2. Getting started in Canada: Banking Budgeting and investments

Whether you start your academic career and study abroad experience with sufficient financial resources or you are relying on a combination of scholarships and employment opportunities to stay on top of your expenses, you will benefit from maintaining a budget.

To begin with, you may want to get an idea of what your expenses will be during your studies at Memorial University:

Minimum Expense Form lists the tuition fees, administrative charges and estimates other expenses like books and stationery supplies, accommodations, meals, and so on. (Tuition and related fees for undergraduate students, medical students and Marine Institute may be found here.) The estimated cost of living for a single, international student completing a full-time master’s can be found here. Please make separate calculations for accompanying family members.

Once you have a good understanding of how much money you will need to live and study in St. John’s, you may use this online budget planner. Once you have filled out all the expense sections and recorded all your different sources of income, you will get a realistic overview of your financial situation. With this information, you are better equipped to make a spending plan and manage your cash flow.

For more assistance with making a budget, please check out the “Spending Plans” online course (free course offered by an external agency) to learn how to get the most out of your money and better meet your needs and goals.

As a parent in Canada, you may be eligible to receive tax benefits after you have been in Canada for 18 months.

Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

The Canada child benefit is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. The CCB might include the child disability benefit and any related provincial and territorial programs. If you already received CCTB or UCCB, you don’t need to apply. However, both you and your partner must file your tax return each year to receive CCB.

The Canada Revenue Agency uses information from your income tax and benefit return to calculate how much your CCB payments will be. To get the CCB, you have to file your return every year, even if you did not have income in the year. If you have a spouse or common-law partner, they also have to file a return every year.

Benefits are paid over a 12-month period from July of one year to June of the next year. Your benefit payments will be recalculated every July based on information from your income tax and benefit return from the previous year.

For international student families to be eligible:

  1. You must live with the child, and the child must be under 18 years of age.
  2. You must be primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child.
  3. You must be a resident of Canada for tax purposes.
  4. You or your spouse or common-law partner must be: a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, protected person or a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the previous 18 months, and who has a valid permit in the 19th month

For further information regarding application and eligibility, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website.  To apply, click here. 

Child Disability Benefit (CDB) - The Child Disability Benefit is a tax-free benefit for families who care for a child under age 18 who is eligible for the disability tax credit. A child is eligible for the disability tax credit when a medical practitioner certifies, on Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate, that the child has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) approves the form.

Further information click here. 

GST/HST credit

The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. To apply for the GST/HST credit click here.