To open a Canadian bank account in Durham Region, you will need:

  • Your landed immigration papers.
  • A piece of identification (ID) that shows where you live in the region.

You can then find a bank or credit union near you, open a chequing account for daily banking, and deposit your funds into your new bank account.

With your Canadian bank account, you can:

  • Keep your money in a safe place.
  • Write cheques to make payments.
  • Take out and deposit money with your bank card from a bank teller, automated bank machine (ABM) or automated teller machine (ATM).
  • Buy things online and in stores with your bank card.
  • Set up online banking for direct deposit of your paycheques, direct payment of bills, and electronic money transfers.

Book an appointment with a banking specialist to discuss these items when you open your account:

Chequing accounts and fees
Banks often charge a monthly fee for the use of your standard chequing account. These fees can go up to about $20/month. You will need to ask your banking specialist about bank statements and about how to use and write cheques for payments. Cheques are not used often anymore but sometimes you do need them. 
Savings accounts and interest payments
If you open a savings account and keep a certain amount of money in it, banks will often offer you special incentives. Incentives include higher interest accrual on your money and lower banking fees. Ask your bank about savings and high interest accounts.
International currency
Different banks and types of accounts will determine what currency your funds must be for that account. You will need a special account for international currency. The bank you select will have different options. It's important to choose the bank and accounts that are right for you.
Using your bank card 

When you set up your account, you will get a bank card (often called a debit card).

Every card has a personal identification number (PIN). Use your PIN to access your account when you buy items, deposit or withdraw money. The bank usually gives you your first PIN. You can change your PIN to something that is secure and easy for you to remember.

Many stores and restaurants now have 'tap' technology that allows you to tap your debit card rather than inserting it and entering your PIN. Tap works for purchases less than $100.

Most banking locations and machines have a daily withdrawal limit of $1,000.

Interac and debit payments
If you see signs for interact or debit, you can use your bank card to make a direct payment transaction. Most places in the region accept interact or debit payments. This works much like a credit card, only instead of the amount coming off your credit limit, it comes directly out of the funds that you have in your bank account. If you do not have any funds in your account or insufficient funds for the purchase you are trying to make, then your card will be declined.
Safety deposit boxes
You can open a safety deposit box at your bank and deposit valuable items to keep them safe. 
Special savings accounts (RESPs and RRSPs) 
Special savings accounts offer benefits but come with specific conditions. Ask about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to get started. 
Scotiabank StartRight Program

This program is only available at Scotiabank. It is for new immigrants and foreign students from India, Korea, and China. It allows you to open a Scotiabank account, send money and get a VISA credit card before you arrive in Canada. See the Scotiabank StartRight Program website for more information.

If you choose a different bank, ask if they have similar programs for you.

Fraud and financial crimes

Thousands of Canadians (including newcomers) fall victim to fraud each year with losses in the millions of dollars. The impact is felt by individuals, families, businesses and society as a whole. The best way to fight against fraud is by having the knowledge to recognize it before you part with your money or property. Learn more about common schemes and fraud: Fraud and Financial Crimes - Durham Regional Police Service (

Establishing your credit history in Canada

Opening and using a bank account will begin to build your credit history. This is important for when you need to apply for credit.

Things you will need a credit history for:

  • Buying a car through financing or a car loan.
  • Leasing a car.
  • Buying a house through a mortgage (or sometimes for renting a home).
  • Opening a credit card account.
  • Getting a personal loan or line of credit.

Your credit history creates your reputation for your reliability in paying back money. Having a good credit history (or high credit score) will help you get higher loans on better terms. Having a poor credit history (or low credit score) will affect your ability to get a loan. This will often create higher interest payments for you to pay on the amount borrowed. If you have a very low or non-existent credit history, you may not be able to borrow at all. 

Building a good credit rating

To build a good or high credit rating:

  • Always pay your bills on time for credit cards, cell phone bills, utility bills, and other payments.
  • Borrow only what you need, and try to keep the limit low or pay it off every month or bill cycle.
  • If you cannot pay the full amount, always pay the minimum payment on time.
  • Do not miss payment dates, go over your credit limit, or try to use accounts that do not have sufficient funds to make payments.
Checking the status of your credit report
Go to TransUnion Canada or Equifax Canada to order a copy of your credit report. There is a fee for this. 

Every time you apply for credit or check your credit history it appears on your record. This can negatively impact your credit. To be safe, only apply for credit or a credit check when you absolutely need to.

Mortgages and buying a home

See our buying a home page for more information.


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