Canada's banks offer a variety of bank accounts to help consumers manage their money. When choosing an account, it's important to think about what services you require to meet day-to-day and long-term financial needs, and to shop around for the best account to meet these needs. Choosing the right service plan can provide added convenience and save you time and money.
For those who conduct a large number of transactions (withdrawals, transfers, cheques, bill payments and debit card purchases), there are accounts with packages that allow a specified number of transactions for a fee (most fees are waived if you keep a minimum balance in the account). For those who require other services, such as certified cheques, money orders, overdraft protection or cheque return, there are account packages that include these services as well.
Basic banking accounts are also available for $4 per month, and at no cost to youth, students, seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) beneficiaries. At a minimum, these accounts have the following features:
- a minimum of 12 debit transactions per month, at least two of which can be done in-branch (if available),
- cheque writing privileges, and
- no extra charge for deposit, debit cards, pre-authorized payments forms, and monthly printed statement
- cheque image return or online cheque image viewing
- unlimited Interac e-Transfers
In order to choose an account that suits your needs it is a good idea to assess which account features you use and how often you to use them. You can find this information in your current passbook or account statement.
Check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Account Selector Tool to help you compare different accounts and find the one that suits you best.
How to open an account
You can open a retail deposit bank account in Canada if you meet the requirements that are set out in the Bank Act.
When opening any type of bank account, banks and other financial institutions must comply with the requirements of a number of laws and regulations. For a retail deposit bank account, you must present two documents from a reliable source – one of which has your name and address and the other which has your name and birthdate. These documents include:
• 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, and
• foreign passports.
It’s also possible to present only one document that indicates your name and date of birth if your identity can be confirmed by a client in good standing with the bank or by an individual of good standing in the community where the bank is located. More information is available on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website.
Additional identification containing photograph and signature may be required if bank staff have reason to question your identity as presented.
If the identification presented to open the account does not contain your name, date of birth, address and occupation, the bank may request and you must provide that information, except where you do not have an address or are not employed.
Reasons why a personal account may not be opened
A bank does not have to open a personal account for you if:
- It believes that you plan to use the account for illegal or fraudulent purposes.
- You have a history of illegal or fraudulent activity in relation to financial services providers within seven years prior to your request to open the account.
- It believes that you knowingly made false statements in the information provided.
- It believes that opening the account would subject other customers or employees to physical harm, harassment or other abuse.
- You refuse to consent to the bank verifying the identification presented or whether any of the above conditions apply.
- The request is made at a branch or point of service where the only accounts offered are linked to an account at another financial institution.
If the bank cannot open the account, it will advise you in writing and provide you with information on how to contact the regulator.
If you have been bankrupt, you will generally be able to open an account as long as there is no evidence of fraud or any other illegal activity in relation to the bankruptcy.
Income tax reporting requirements
The Income Tax Act requires banks to ask you for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) when you open an interest-bearing account, so the bank can report your interest income to the government. Other accounts, however, can be opened without your SIN.
Credit bureau check
Banks may conduct, with your consent, a credit bureau check to help determine the conditions for the account, such as ABM withdrawal limits or hold policies on non-electronic deposits. Your positive credit history could allow the bank to offer you higher limits or other enhanced terms.
Holds on funds deposited by cheque
When you have a bank account, you may cash most cheques, subject to applicable hold periods. Banks may apply a hold on funds deposited by cheque to allow time for the cheque to clear. This protects banks and their depositors from losses due to fraud. Banks will explain their hold policies clearly to you during the account opening process. The best way to minimize holds is to establish a stable relationship with your bank branch.
Having funds deposited directly to your account is the easiest way to guarantee immediate access on the date of payment without concerns of late, lost or stolen cheques, or holds on funds.
Cashing government cheques for customers and non-customers
You can cash a federal government cheque to a maximum value of $1,750 at a bank without a hold and for free, even if you are not a customer of that bank, as long as you can provide either an acceptable piece of identification with your photo and signature on it or two acceptable pieces of identification that confirm your identity. Alternatively, you may present only one document from a reliable source that shows your name and date of birth, if your identity is confirmed by a client in good standing with the bank or by an individual of good standing in the community where the bank is located.
Banks are not required to cash a cheque if:
- There is evidence that the cheque has been altered in some way or is counterfeit.
- The bank believes there has been illegal or fraudulent activity involved.
If the bank cannot cash the cheque, it will advise you in writing and provide you with information on how to contact the regulator.
The banks also have agreements with B.C., Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick where a non-customer can cash a provincial government cheque as long as they have the appropriate identification.
If you receive social assistance benefits paid by a municipality and do not have a bank account, you are encouraged to open an account and have the funds deposited directly to your account. This ensures that the funds are safe and deposited on time, and you can have immediate access to the funds. Even without an account, however, you may be able to cash your benefits cheques if your municipality has made a special agreement with its bank. You can find out which bank is contracted to serve you by contacting your social services office.
If you encounter difficulty
If you encounter difficulty and are not satisfied with the response from a bank, you can contact the bank’s senior designated officer or employee (for example, a Chief Complaints Officer) responsible for handling complaints or its external complaints body. Please see our Resolving Problems with Your Bank section for more information.