How do I open a bank account?

Opening a bank account is an important first step when settling in a new country and an easy process with the proper documentation. It’s even advisable to open an account before you arrive so you have proof of funds for immigration officials as you enter the country.

You can open a bank account in person, online, or by telephone with the proper identification. Several financial institutions offer services in multiple languages.

Banking Options

There are five major banks in Canada often referred to as “the Big Five”:

The list sometimes can include the National Bank of Canada.

Other popular types of financial institutions are credit unions or caisses populaires. Some of the most popular credit unions in Ontario are:

Find a full list here of credit unions in Ontario.

Lastly, if you prefer to do online banking only, there are strictly virtual options:

For a more in-depth look at the differences between all financial institutions, read What kinds of financial institutions are there?  

Opening an Account in Person

You don’t need a job or money to deposit to open an account. You don't even need to be a Canadian citizen, you can open a bank account if you have the proper identification. A customer service representative will help you open the account in just a few minutes. 

Opening an Online Account

Connect with a Canadian bank online to find out what their process is. If you are a non-resident or haven’t arrived in Canada yet, ask the bank about their newcomer programs. Many banks have newcomer programs to help you get set up before your move date. 

You can also open an international account with a Canadian bank that has branches all over the world. 

Identification you Need to Open an Account

All documents you present at the bank must be original identification (ID), not photocopies. There are two ways to confirm your identity:

1. Provide 2 reliable source ID documents:

  • a document with your name and address
  • a document indicating your name and date of birth

Accepted ID must be from the following sources:

  • identification issued by the Government of Canada or the government of a province
  • recent notices of tax assessments issued by the Government of Canada or the government of a province or municipality
  • recent statements of benefits from the Government of Canada or the government of a province
  • recent Canadian public utility bills
  • recent bank account or credit card statements
  • foreign passports

2. Provide 1 reliable source document with your name and date of birth along with a confirmation from:

  • an existing customer of the bank who is in good standing or
  • someone in the community where you are opening the account who is in good standing.

International students and workers on temporary visas may need proof of work or school admission. Check with the financial institution for their requirements.

For More Information

  • Your Rights and Responsibilities: Accounts - This guide has information about who can open a bank account and what to do if a bank refuses to open an account for you. From the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
  • Newcomers to Canada - Banking information for newcomers from the Canadian Bankers Association.
  • Ontario Photo Card - This card is an identification document for non-drivers in Ontario. You can get one if you are 16 or over and do not have a driver’s licence.
Last updated: March 28, 2024 4000068