Opening a Canadian bank account for US citizens

Gabriela Peratello

If you're planning to move to Canada, you’ve got a lot to think about. From sorting out your immigration status, to finding a place to stay, to working out how to manage your money and access everyday essential services, like the internet and a new cell phone number.

One key step is opening a Canadian bank account. If that’s where you’re at, this guide on how to open a bank account in Canada is for you. Let’s dive right in.

📑 Table of Contents


Can a US citizen open a bank account in Canada?

Yes. It’s possible to open a Canadian bank account from abroad if you’re planning on moving to the country full time — although you may not get full account functionality until you’ve physically relocated.

Many major Canadian banks offer newcomer services aimed at people immigrating to Canada, which can be really helpful in this scenario.

If you want to open a Canadian bank account from the US and don’t intend to move there you probably need a Canadian bank account for non-residents.

Or you could choose an online specialist account which offers CAD bank details, along with USD details to allow you to send and receive in both currencies. More on some top options coming up later.

Documents and rules for US citizens opening a Canadian bank account

If you’re Canadian you need to prove your name, address and date of birth to open a bank account¹. If you’re not a Canadian citizen, while the process is similar, you’ll need the following documents in order to open a bank account:

  • Your valid, unexpired passport
  • Your permanent residency card² or immigration papers

Different banks may have specific requirements, so it’s a good idea to get in touch beforehand to make sure you have everything you need.

As a general rule, however, it’s likely that your bank will accept one of the following immigration papers:

  • Temporary Residence Permit³
  • Work⁴ or study permit⁵
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence form (IMM 5292 or IMM 5688)⁶

You’ll need to obtain at least a Temporary Residence Permit or a work or study permit before you travel to Canada. Without them, you won’t be allowed to enter the country⁷.

Opening a bank account in Canada as an American: step by step

If you’ve already arrived in Canada and have all your immigration documents and a proof of address, you’ll find it easy to open a Canadian bank account.

If you’ve not traveled yet, you still have options, through major banks’ newcomer services. These can vary slightly — some allow you to open an ‘international account’ before you travel to Canada, which you can then convert to a regular day to day account upon arrival.

Some allow you to sign up fully through a US branch of the same bank. And others let you start your application, and complete it once you arrive in Canada by visiting a branch with your documents for verification.

In all cases, the steps to opening your account are usually quite similar:

Step 1. Research the banks and account products available to you

Step 2. Check and gather the documents needed for verification

Step 3. Apply for your account online or in person

Step 4. Complete the verification step by showing or uploading your paperwork

Step 5. Hand over your opening deposit and you’re ready to transact

Can you open a Canadian bank account from the USA?

It’s possible to open a bank account remotely before you arrive in Canada. However, not all providers offer this service. One to look out for is HSBC⁸, which lets you apply in a US based branch, meaning you can get a full Canadian account set up before you leave. However, HSBC doesn’t have a presence throughout the US, so if you’re not in one of the states in which they operate you’ll need an alternative.

Scotiabank⁹ allows customers to open an international account in advance of traveling which you can then convert to a checking account. However, this does mean attending a branch is inevitable — not necessarily convenient when you’re trying to settle into a new country.

Instead, check out online providers like Wise. Though Wise is not a bank, it will help you open a digital account from the US with CAD account details to send and receive payments easily. As a digital provider, there’s no need to visit a branch and the onboarding process is completed entirely online or in the Wise app.

Can you open a Canadian bank account online?

Once you’re in Canada and have a full set of paperwork covering your identity, immigration status, address and so on, you may well be able to open a regular Canadian bank account online instead of following a specific newcomer onboarding route.

Different providers have different processes, so it’s worth shopping around if getting your account set up online is important to you.

Does Canada offer international bank accounts?

You also have the option of opening an international bank account. Several international banks have operations in Canada, including BNP Paribas¹⁰, Citibank¹¹ and HSBC¹².

If you hold an account with one of these banks in your home country, they can help you set up a bank account remotely ahead of time.

That said, these accounts are often targeted at high net worth individuals and may be expensive to open and maintain, so they might not be a good fit for you.

💡 Keeping your money in another currency? Set up your Wise account to send, receive, hold and spend like a Canadian before crossing the border!

Learn more about Wise

Which Canadian bank is the best?

There are five major banks in Canada, all of which have special packages for newcomers. They are the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Let’s have a look at what each of these banks have to offer.

Royal Bank of Canada¹⁴

The Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank, and offers customer service in more than 200 languages. It also has a comprehensive Newcomers to Canada package¹³.

As you’d expect you can get a full range of accounts for day to day use and savings, credit cards, mortgages, loans and more.

TD Bank¹⁵

The Toronto-Dominion (TD) Bank’s New to Canada package includes a checking account to make day to day banking easy — but you can’t get fully set up before you arrive in Canada.

Start your application online from the US and then head to a branch in Canada to get verified and complete your application. Learn more about common expat transactions with TD Bank, using these handy resources:


Scotiabank is the third largest bank in Canada and has more than 4,000 ATMs around the country. It has a range of accounts to choose from, all of which come with their own perks.

If you’re applying for an account before traveling to Canada you can get an international account and then convert it to a checking account on arrival.

Bank of Montreal¹⁷

Canada’s oldest bank, the Bank of Montreal has a package for newcomers that covers workers, students and business owners.

You can also get savings accounts, investment and financial planning support, credit cards, loans, mortgages and more.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce¹⁸

Like the other four major Canadian banks, CIBC has a Newcomers to Canada Plan that’s available to both temporary and permanent residents. You’ll also benefit from access to over 1,100 locations, personal, business and wealth management services, and a comprehensive range of account options.

Costs and fees of Canadian bank accounts

In Canada, fees and charges can vary quite a bit from bank to bank, so it’s best to have a look at your bank’s terms and conditions. However, you can expect to meet a few costs — here’s an overview of some to watch out for:

Fee typeCanadian bank costs¹⁹ ²⁰
Monthly feesVaries by package. Some accounts are fee free — others have charges as high as 30 CAD/month or more
Transaction fees

Many accounts offer a limited level of free transactions, with a fee beyond that. Others have a higher fee for unlimited transactions.

Out of plan transaction fees for checking accounts may only be around 1.25 CAD but for savings accounts they can be much more costly

ATM fees

International withdrawals can be around 5 CAD

Domestic out of network fees may also apply

International transfer feesVaries by account — can be up to 25 CAD per transfer + exchange rate markups
Foreign transaction feesCan be in the region of 3.5%

Send money to and from your Canadian bank account with Wise

If you’re moving to Canada and need to send payments from USD to CAD, you need Wise.

Wise international transfers offer the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees²¹. 45%+ of Wise transfers arrive instantly²², too — meaning you can save time as well as money when you send your transfer through Wise.

Set up your payment online or in the Wise app in just a few clicks — and see how much you can save.

Get started with Wise 🚀


  1. CIC - Opening a bank account
  2. CIC - Application guide
  3. CIC - Permits
  4. CIC - Work permit
  5. CIC - Study permit
  6. CIC - Help center
  7. TD Bank - Arriving in Canada
  8. HSBC Canada - Applying from outside of Canada
  9. Scotiabank - International
  10. BNP Paribas
  11. Citibank
  12. HSBC - Expat
  13. RBC - Newcomers
  14. RBC
  15. TD Bank
  16. Scotiabank
  17. BMO
  18. CIBC
  19. Scotiabank - Fees
  20. TDBank - Fees
  21. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: only pay for what you use for the most up to date pricing and fee information
  22. The speed of transaction claim depends on funds availability, approval by Wise’s proprietary verification system and systems availability of our partners’ banking system, and may not be available for all transactions

Sources checked on 08.15.2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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