Congratulations, you’ve finally arrived in Canada. After all your hard work, research and planning for this day, you’re now a university student, eager and excited to start this new chapter of your life. 

There are some essential things you’ll need to do – both as a student and member of your new Canadian family – to ensure your transition into your new home is as smooth as possible. 

Here is a checklist of key items you’ll need to take care of. 

1. Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number that you’ll need in order to work in Canada and to access benefits and services from government programs. Service Canada (a department within the Government of Canada) is responsible for issuing SINs. There is no fee to apply for a SIN. 

Some reminders:

  • If you haven’t yet done so, apply immediately.
  • Your SIN belongs to you and it’s illegal for anyone else to use it.
  • You are responsible for protecting your SIN.
For more information, visit the Government of Canada website at, Social Insurance Number – Overview.

2.  Set up a bank account

An important step in getting your finances set up is by opening a Canadian bank account as soon as possible.

Your must-have account for daily transactions

A chequing account is a bank account designed for everyday activities like withdrawing cash, paying bills and sending money. It doesn’t typically earn interest.

 For students we recommend the Student Banking Advantage® Plan , which includes:

  • No monthly account fee1
  • Unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer† transactions2
  • Earn points on everyday purchases with the Scene+™ program3
  • Available through online and mobile banking

Check out our latest student bank account offers .

3. Start building your Canadian credit history

Now that you’re in Canada, you may have started hearing a lot about “credit.” 

A credit card, which is issued by a bank, is the most common method of paying for goods or services on credit. Obtaining “credit” allows you to obtain a good or service before paying for it, with an understanding that it will be paid for later.

Many banks require that a person have a credit history before approving them for a credit card, which can put some newcomers at a disadvantage. A credit history refers to your payment history and your ability to consistently pay your credit card bill, and any other bills, on time. When you apply for credit in Canada, lenders will normally check your credit history to help with their decision as to whether to give you credit.


Did you know?

The Scotiabank StartRight® Program4 offers you the chance to apply for your first credit card without providing a credit history beforehand. If approved, having a credit card can help get you started on building your credit in Canada. You may be eligible for up to a $5,000 credit limit on a Scotiabank credit card!5 Once you’ve been approved for a credit card, it’s important to use it responsibly in order to build a good credit score.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number that represents your financial health at a specific moment in time. It indicates how risky you are to money lenders, and how likely you are to pay your bills on time. In Canada, your credit score generally falls between 300 and 900, and the higher the better.

A good credit score is important for a healthy financial life in Canada. Without it, it may be difficult to get a loan, mortgage or credit card, and you may experience higher interest rates on these products. A good credit score allows you to get more easily approved for such things as a rental property, a cell phone or the purchase or lease of a car. 

Tips for building a good credit score

  • Always pay your bills on time – paying at least the minimum payment
  • Try to pay your bills in full whenever possible, or as much as you can afford
  • Don’t spend more than your credit card allows
  • Limit yourself to just one or two credit cards
  • Read your monthly account statements to ensure they’re correct – and report any errors as soon as possible 
  • Know your credit score and monitor any fluctuations (your credit score falls between 300 and 900 – the higher the better)


You can check your credit score

Once you’re a Scotiabank customer and signed up for online or mobile banking, you can register for the TransUnion Credit Score tool6 at no cost.  With this tool, you can check your credit score, view your personal credit report, and get practical tips on how to build a good credit history.

4. Establish your means of transportation

If you move to a major Canadian city or town, you can take advantage of public transportation, like the bus, subway or train. But if you immigrate to a more rural area, you might consider buying a vehicle to get around. 

Scotiabank offers the StartRight auto finance program, which is a loan created especially for newcomers. With the StartRight loan, you may be able to qualify with no Canadian credit history to purchase a new car, or one that’s up to four years old, and take up to five years to repay your loan. To apply, you need to provide Proof of Permanent Residence (three years or less in Canada) and your arrival date. 

5. Set up a phone plan

Canada is known for having some of the most expensive cell phone plans in the world, especially when it comes to data. It’s important to choose a plan that fits your needs and budget.

Some students, particularly those from the U.S., may be able to extend their current plan to allow for their move to Canada. However, many students may find it cheaper and more practical to obtain a new cellphone and cell plan here in Montreal. The sooner you get a local phone, the more you’ll avoid costly roaming charges from your home provider.

Getting a phone

Some companies will provide a free phone/device when you sign up for a plan with them. Some service providers may also sell used certified phones at a discounted rate. 

To help you decide what plan is best for you, here are some questions to consider:

  • What is important for you to have:

              - Do you need a data plan?
              - Do you need long-distance calling? International texting?
              - Do you plan on using a smartphone?

  • What are the overage charges should you go over your limit of text messaging, minutes or data?
  • Is the plan flexible? Can you add on or remove different services?
  • Do you want to sign onto a monthly contract plan (usually a two- to three-year term) or use a pre-paid plan?

For a newcomers’ guide to understanding Canadian cell phones, visit the Moving2Canada  website.

What is the difference between a monthly contract plan and pre-paid phone plan?

monthly contract plan is where you pay for the services you have selected typically on a set day every month. With this type of plan if you exceed your limit for calls, texts or data, the phone provider will charge you for the overage by adding it to your next monthly bill. Overage charges can be expensive, so try to stay within your limit and find out in advance what the overage fees are on your plan. Always pay your bill on time, as being late will negatively impact your credit score. 

pre-paid plan, also referred to as “pay-as-you-go,” is where you pay for your services in advance. You purchase a certain amount of calling minutes, texts and data. Once you use up your allotment, you will no longer have access to those services, unless you pay more to refill your account. 

Want to talk about this more? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today