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Banks and other financial institutions such as “credit unions” and “caisses populaires” are safe places to keep your money. If your financial institution is a member of the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government insures the money in your account up to a maximum of $100,000 (go to for more information).

A bank account allows you to write cheques, use ABMs to pay your bills, receive funds through direct deposit or use a debit card for purchases. You can get help with these services at your bank branch during business hours. You can also have access to many of these services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at an ABM, or through telephone or Internet banking. Telephone and Internet banking are very common ways for Canadians to do their banking transactions. Ask your bank for details. 

Opening a bank account 

In Canada, you have the right to a personal bank account, even if: 

  • You do not have a job;
  • You do not have money to put in the account right away;
  • You have poor credit rating; or you have been bankrupt. 

To open a bank account, you must go to the bank in person and present acceptable identification pieces. The documents you present must be original (not photocopies) and in good condition. Identification that has expired is not valid. 

When you open a bank account in Canada, you will need to provide appropriate identification. There are several options. 

  • Show two pieces of identification document (ID) from List A.
  • Show one piece of ID from List A and one piece of ID from List B.
  • Show one piece of ID from List A and have someone that the bank knows confirm that you are who you say you are. 

List A

  • A Canadian driver’s licence*
  • A Social Insurance Number (SIN) card
  • An Old Age Security (OAS) card with your SIN
  • A provincial or territorial health insurance card (except in Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba)**
  • A permanent resident card or a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) form IMM 1000, IMM 1442 or IMM 5292 

*Financial institutions cannot require a Quebec driver’s licence for identification purposes, but you may present one if you wish. 

**Financial institutions cannot require a Quebec health insurance card as a piece of identification, but you may present one if you wish. 

List B 

  • An employee ID card with a photograph, from a known employer
  • A debit card or bankcard with your name and signature on it
  • A Canadian credit card with your name and signature on it
  • A Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) client card with your photograph and signature on it
  • A valid foreign passport 

Remember: Unless the personal bank account you are opening pays interest, you do not need to provide your SIN to the bank. Note: You do not have to have a permanent address to open a bank account. However, if you do provide an address, the bank may ask you for proof that you live there. An example of such proof would be a recent electricity, cable or telephone bill that includes both your name and address. If you do not have acceptable identification, contact your federal, provincial or territorial government for information on how to get the pieces of identification you need.  

Main types of bank accounts 

Chequing accounts allow you to write cheques and usually include the use of a debit card. They often have lower transaction fees than a savings account and may or may not have a fixed monthly fee. You will need a chequing account if your employer uses payroll deposit. Payroll deposit allows your employer to deposit money directly into your chequing account (without of course being able to take out money). 

Savings and investment accounts are helpful if you want to save money because they provide higher interest than chequing accounts. With these accounts, you may be allowed to make only certain types of transactions or a certain number of transactions. Additional transactions may be expensive. That is why most consumers who open a savings account also have a chequing account for their day-to-day banking needs. 

There are many investment opportunities available in Canada. To learn more about investments, contact your bank or consult the FCAC website at 

Debit cards

Debit cards are accepted in many places and are a popular form of payment in Canada. They are a safe, convenient way to pay for purchases directly from your bank account (direct payment). Make sure that you have sufficient funds in your account when you use direct payment. When you use your debit card in stores, or at an ABM that is not owned by your financial institution, you may be charged an additional fee. 

For tips regarding the use of your debit card, consult the FCAC website.


For a list of popular banks in Canada, see our directory.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.