The Canadian banking system and how it works in Québec

You’ve moved to Montréal full of big dreams, but have you thought about your finances? Keep reading to learn how to navigate the Canadian banking system so you can keep your finances on track and fund your new life—from purchasing a new home to going to dinner with friends.

How to open a bank account in Montréal

Your money can travel faster than you! Even before you move to your new city, you can transfer your assets online. Several banks allow you to open an account remotely from your country of residence, giving you one less thing to think about on your long moving to-do list!

The documents you’ll need

To open a new account, the minimum you’ll need is your passport and an official government document proving your provincial status (work permit, study permit, visa, acceptance letter, etc.). If you’re an international student, you may need to show proof that you’re enrolled in a college or university here as well.

Once you’ve arrived in Greater Montréal, you can make an appointment with a financial advisor at your bank to finalise opening your account. Your advisor will also ask to see your government documents.

Bank accounts for newcomers

A lot of banks offer great accounts designed especially for newcomers and international students. Just some of the benefits you could enjoy with your monthly plan include unlimited transactions, a free telephone assistance service and no-fee Interac transfers. Take some time to compare the various plans and choose the one that’s best for you.

Here are the main Canadian banks offering attractive plans:

Managing your finances and transactions

Unless you plan to stockpile your money under the mattress, you’ll need some tools to access and manage your funds. Here’s all you need to know, from bank cards and transactions to managing your financial file.

Debit cards

The days of bartering for goods and services are long gone! These days in Québec, we use a debit card to access funds from our bank account. Similar to the Carte Bleue card in France (or the debit immédiat card), you can use your debit card to pay for your everyday store purchases and to make withdrawals at the ATM or bank counter.

You can withdraw funds from any ATM in Canada but be aware that you’ll be charged a fee if you withdraw from a bank that isn’t yours. Keep this in mind if you’re someone who likes to travel. Try to choose a bank that has a lot of easily accessible branches.

Credit cards

Need to hop on a plane for a family reunion? Got your eye on a new food processor on Amazon? Having a credit card is a must! You’ll need this card to make any small or large purchases online, as well as to book things like concert tickets or car rentals.

A credit card works in the same way as the debit immédiat card in France. It gives you access to the bank’s funds in the form of a loan, and you’re bound by a contract that includes a credit limit and repayment terms (maturity and interest). It’s a useful tool to manage your personal finances in your new home city.

Staying on top of your finances is key

Keep in mind that a credit card comes with responsibility. By definition, a bank loan is a temporary loan and must be repaid. Since your balance won’t magically be repaid, and failing to pay your balance in full will result in monthly interest charges, it’s best to be sure you can always repay your loan in full and on time.

Your financial history and credit rating

Credit history is an important part of your financial profile that’s linked to your credit card and various accounts (Internet, electricity, cellphone, etc.).

As soon as you take out a loan of any kind, a credit file is created in your name. This allows potential lenders to understand your financial history and behaviour thanks to a rating or score based on your personal financial situation (compliance with repayment deadlines, level of debt, number of loan requests, etc.). The better your repayment habits, the higher your rating will be and the better chance you have of obtaining financing for major purchases, such as a home or a car. It’s important to build a strong credit history to build a higher credit rating, giving you the freedom to make the most of your new life in Montréal.

Interac e-transfers

Why line up for concert tickets when you can pay with your phone? With Interac e-transfers, you can send funds to people or companies electronically—a safe and efficient way of transferring money. Whether you’re paying your rent, buying a couch on Kijiji or paying back a friend, Interac transfers are a simple way to send funds to anyone, regardless of the financial institution they bank with. All you need is the recipient’s phone number or email address and you’re good to go!

How to save money in Québec

Just like building a home, it takes tools to build your financial future. Here in Québec, you have several options when it comes to saving money (if you meet the eligibility requirements). No matter which bank you choose, you can save easily and securely thanks to a Québec Investment Savings Account (Épargne Placements Québec).

Whether you’re looking to grow your assets in an Investment Savings account, a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or a Registered Retirement Savings Account (RRSP), you have access to a range of flexible and cost-effective solutions so you can find the best savings option for you.

To learn more about the various guaranteed investment options in Québec, visit the Épargne Placements Québec website.

It pays to be a student

Did you know that as a student, you’re entitled to tax credits for tuition fees? It’s the province’s way to say thank you for contributing to the development of our community! To take advantage of these credits, don’t forget to specify that you’re a student when filing your income tax return.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the Québec banking system, don’t hesitate to reach out to your chosen bank to learn about the different financial solutions available to you. That way, you’ll be well equipped to take full advantage of Greater Montréal’s countless events and activities. From coffee shops, live shows and festivals to ice skating and taking pictures on top of Mont-Royal, there’s no shortage of fun things to see and do in your new city!