Having a bank account is one of the most useful things you can do for your finances. A chequing account will allow you to receive payments and transfer funds seamlessly for bills, essentials, and all other purchases. A savings account is equally as essential for your financial well-being and can help you achieve your savings goals, like buying a new vehicle or saving enough for a down payment on your first home.

Figuring out how to open a bank account in Canada is quite straightforward, and if you have the proper documentation, you can do it today.

1. Check your eligibility

As a resident, you have the right to open a bank account regardless of your credit status, and even if you have gone through bankruptcy or are unemployed.

If you are a non-resident living, working, or attending school in Canada for an extended period of time, learning how to open a bank account in Canada is helpful. In most cases, non-residents who are working or attending school legally in Canada will have all of the paperwork needed to open an account, and select banks offer specialized newcomer assistance. Tourists, on the other hand, might have a difficult time obtaining the needed proof of ID for an account, especially if they are enjoying the country for rest and relaxation rather than work.

Opening a bank account is a speedy process if you have all the required paperwork on hand. Once in the bank, opening an account will take an average of 15-20 minutes, and you will be handed your debit card at the branch.

New to Canada? We’re here to help you to be financially ready for the future

2. Do your research

When researching what account(s) to open and where, ask the following questions to help narrow down your search:

  • What do I need this account for? If you need a combined chequing and savings account, then look for a package that gives you the most mileage for your money. On the other hand, if you are primarily focusing on business banking needs, focus on options with the best perks for your business type.   
  • How do I want to use my bank account? If you are planning to do most of your shopping, bill payments, and financial tasks online, opting for a bank that has a seamless app and website will be beneficial to you. Likewise, if you prefer to do your banking in person, choosing a bank that has more accessible branches and ATMs will be a better option. You can get a feel for a bank's online interface by visiting their website; you want to see updated content, quick-loading pages, and modern design.
  • How much will this account cost me? While different accounts have different fees, your fee total will depend on the type and how you use your account. For example, if you plan to use your chequing account for more than 20 transactions per month, it might save you money to choose an account that has a higher monthly account fee but unlimited transactions.

Before you open a bank account, determine what you want to use this account for. Do you need an account for receiving and making payments or do you need an account to hold your savings? The two major types of bank account in Canada are chequing accounts and savings accounts.

Types of chequing accounts

  • Standard chequing: This type of chequing is the most common and allows you to use your money on a daily basis. This type of account usually gives you access to point of sale purchasing with your debit card, cheques, and the ability to transfer money and pay bills electronically.
  • Interest-earning chequing: Select chequing accounts will earn a small amount of interest on account balances.
  • Student/teen account: The monthly account fee for youth chequing accounts is generally waived or reduced.

Types of savings accounts

  • High interest-earning savings account
  • Foreign currency savings accounts, which are helpful for individuals who do transactions in U.S. dollars or Euros

All accounts have unique perks and fees. Note all fees before signing up for a new account to ensure it is the right fit for you. Some common banking account fees include the following:

  • Monthly chequing account fees: These may be waived for some accounts if your account minimum stays above a certain amount, depending on the account you choose (the more perks you receive, the higher the required balance).
  • ABM fees: Pulling out money from your bank's ATMs may not result in a fee, but accessing your account through a different ATM typically will.
  • Foreign transaction fees: If you use your debit card overseas, you could incur a foreign transaction fee in addition to the foreign currency exchange rate.
  • Cheque book fees: A flat cost to order cheques.
  • Debit transaction fees: If your account comes with a monthly debit transaction limit, then you will pay a minimal fee for each transaction over the limit.
  • Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fees: If your account total cannot cover debit transactions or scheduled payments, you will receive a fee for every transaction that is covered.

4. Check the list of documents required

Both residents and non-residents alike must show proper identification to open a bank account in Canada. You must show original documents in person at the financial institute of your choice; photocopies will not be accepted.

When you open a personal deposit account with us, you will be required to present identification or documents using one of the following methods:

  • One piece of government-issued photo identification from the list of Acceptable Government-Issued Photo Identification; or
  • Documents from two independent reliable sources from the list of Acceptable Dual Process Documents/Identification; or

If you are unable to present identification or documents following either of the methods above, you will be required to present to us:

Any document from a reliable source that indicates your name and date of birth. This way works only if your identity is also confirmed by:

  • A customer who is in good standing with the bank, or- 
  • Someone who is of good standing in the community where you are opening the account.

The identification or documents that you present to us must be original, valid and not substantially defaced. We reserve the right to contact the issuer of any identification document you present to us in order to verify that document and we will record the particulars of any identification document that you present to us.

If the name shown on one of the pieces of identification or documents presented by you differs from the name shown on any other piece of identification or documents presented by you, you are required to provide us with a certificate evidencing the change of name (or a certified copy of that certificate) or other document supporting the change.

In addition to the identification/documents you are required to present to us, you must also disclose to us the following information, if it is not available on the pieces of identification that you present:

  • Your full name
  • Your home address, if any
  • Your date of birth, and
  • Your occupation or type of business, if any.

In some instances, we may need to further investigate and verify the identification and/or information that you have provided prior to opening an account for you. We can refuse your request to open a personal deposit account for certain legal reasons, but if we do, we'll inform you about this in writing.

What do I need to open a bank account in Canada?1

Acceptable Government-Issued Photo Identification

  • A valid driver’s license issued in Canada, as permitted to be used for identification purposes under provincial law; (Quebec legislation prevents us from asking for your driver’s license, however, you may volunteer it.)
  • A valid Canadian passport;
  • A Certification of Naturalization, in the form of a paper document or card. We do not accept Commemorative certificates;
  • A Canadian Citizenship card issued prior to 2012
  • A Permanent Resident Card;
  • A provincial or territorial health insurance card containing a photo, if provincial or territorial law permits us to use it for identification purposes.


(1) Health cards from Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI and Yukon cannot be used for identification purposes, even if offered by the customer.

(2) Health cards from British Columbia, and Quebec (which we cannot ask for, but can take, if offered), are acceptable as ID in any province or territory including Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI and Yukon.

  • A secure certificate of Indian Status issued by the Government of Canada;
  • Any one of the following identification cards bearing your photograph and signature, issued by a provincial or territorial authority with the exception of Quebec:
  • British Columbia Enhanced ID
  • British Columbia Services Card
  • Alberta Photo ID Card
  • Saskatchewan Non-Driver Photo ID
  • Nova Scotia Identification Card
  • Prince Edward Island Voluntary ID
  • New Brunswick Photo ID Card
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Photo ID Card
  • Northwest Territories General ID Card
  • Nunavut General ID Card
  • Manitoba Enhanced Identification Card
  • Ontario Photo Card
  • Yukon General ID Card
  • A DND 404 Driver’s Licence
  • A Canadian Forces Card
  • A Firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence
  • A valid foreign passport
  • A valid driver’s licence
  • A Nexus Card
  • A Canpass Card
  • A Global Entry Card
  • A National Identity Card
  • A U.S. Permanent Resident Card1
  • A U.S. driver’s licence2

1 Valid only for residents of the U.S.

2 Valid only for residents of the U.S.

Acceptable Dual Process Documents/Identification Documents to verify name and date of birth

  • A Canada Pension Plan (CPP) statement of contributions
  • An original birth certificate
  • A marriage certificate or government-issued proof of marriage document (long-form which includes date of birth)
  • Divorce documentation
  • A Canadian Citizenship certificate
  • A temporary driver’s licence (non-photo)
  • A Canadian insurance document (home, auto, life)
  • IMM 1442 Study Permit
  • IMM 1442 Temporary Resident Permit 
  • IMM 1442 Visitor Record
  • IMM 1442 Work Permit
  • IMM 1442 B Refugee Protection Claimant Document 
  • Official Canadian Government Immigration Form or Certificate (name and date of birth)

Documents to verify name and address

  • A Canada Pension Plan (CPP) statement
  • A municipal property tax assessment
  • A provincially-issued vehicle registration
  • A federal, provincial, territorial or municipal benefits statement
  • Any one of the following CRA documents:
  • A notice of assessment
  • A requirements to pay notice
  • An installment reminder/receipt
  • A GST refund letter
  • A benefits statements
  • A Canadian utility bill
  • A Canadian T4 statement
  • A Canadian record of employment
  • A Registered account statement (for example, RRSP, GIC) from a Canadian financial institution
  • A travel visa
  • Official Canadian Government Immigration Form or Certificate (name and address) 

Documents to verify name and confirm a financial account

  • A credit card statement
  • A bank statement
  • A loan account statement
  • An email or letter from a financial entity holding a deposit account, credit card or loan account

5. How old do you have to be to open a bank account?

For individuals under the age of 12 years, we ask that a parent or legal guardian open the account for the minor and that the parent or legal guardian provide original acceptable government-issued photo identification or documents from two independent reliable sources to confirm his or her own identity. In addition, if in your capacity as legal guardian for a minor, you ask us to open an account for the minor, you must provide us with a certified copy of the legal document verifying your guardianship.

For individuals 12 – 15 years of age, we ask that the individual confirm his or her own identity by providing either:

  • One piece of original acceptable government-issued photo identification or documents from two independent reliable sources; or
  • One document from the minor containing their name and date of birth and one document from the parent or guardian containing their name and address; or
  • One piece of acceptable identification if your identity is also confirmed by a client in good standing in the community where your branch is located.

Learning how to open a bank account in Canada is simple but choosing the right account that is best suited for your money management style might take a little research. Don't be afraid to look at several different banks' account offerings before selecting the right one for you.

New to Canada? Speak to a Scotia advisor to get your finances on track in your new country