Opening a bank account

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Your right to open a bank account

In Canada, you have the right to open a bank account at a bank or a federally regulated credit union as long as you show proper identification.

You can open an account even if you:

  • don’t have a job
  • don’t have money to put in the account right away
  • have been bankrupt

To open an account, you usually have to:

  • go in person to a financial institution
  • provide an acceptable form of identification

Contact the financial institution to find out if there are other ways to open an account. Financial institutions that operate only online may require that you have an existing account with another financial institution before opening an account for you.

Opening a bank account if you’re not a Canadian citizen

You may be able to open a bank account with the proper identification in Canada if you’re not a Canadian citizen or if you live in another country.

You may need to go to the financial institution in person to open a bank account.

Contact the financial institution for more information about opening a bank account if you're not a Canadian citizen.

Identification you need to open a bank account

There are three different combinations of identification (ID) you may use. You must use original ID, not photocopies.

Option 1:

Show two pieces of ID from List A:

List A

  • valid Canadian driver’s licence (as permitted by provincial law)
  • current Canadian passport
  • birth certificate issued in Canada
  • Social Insurance Number (SIN) card issued by the Government of Canada
  • Old Age Security card issued by the Government of Canada
  • Certificate of Indian Status
  • provincial or territorial health insurance card that can be used as ID under provincial or territorial law
  • Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or Certification of Naturalization
  • Permanent Resident card or an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship form IMM 1000, IMM 1442, or IMM 5292

As part of List A, you can also use a document or card with your picture and signature on it issued by one of the following authorities or its successors:

  • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
  • Alberta Registries
  • Saskatchewan Government Insurance
  • Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
  • Department of Transportation and Infrastructure of the province of Prince Edward Island
  • Service New Brunswick
  • Service NL of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Department of Transportation of Northwest Territories
  • Department of Community Government and Transportation of Nunavut

Option 2:

You may:

  • show one piece of ID from List A, and
  • show one piece of ID from the following List B

List B

  • employee ID card with your picture on it that has been issued by an employer well known in your area
  • debit card or bank card with your name and signature on it
  • Canadian credit card with your name and signature on it
  • client card from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind with your picture and signature on it
  • current foreign passport

Option 3:

You may:

  • show one piece of ID from List A, and
  • have someone in good standing with the financial institution or in the community confirm your identity

Giving your Social Insurance Number when you open a bank account

Financial institutions must ask for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) if you’re opening an account that will earn interest for tax purposes, such as an interest-bearing account or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

The financial institution must give your information to the Canada Revenue Agency. It must state the interest earned on the account each year for income tax purposes.

However, if the financial institution wants to use your SIN for anything else, it needs your written consent.

What to consider before opening a bank account

Before opening an account, consider the following:

  • how you'll use the account, for saving or making payments
  • charges or fees on the account
  • interest you'll earn on the money in your account
  • if your deposits are protected by deposit insurance in case your financial institution fails

Make sure you understand all the terms, conditions and fees of the account before you sign up. Ask questions about anything that you don’t understand. Keep a copy of your account agreement for your records.

Where you can open a bank account

You can open chequing or different types of savings accounts at financial institutions, such as a:

  • bank
  • credit union
  • caisse populaire
  • trust company

Changing financial institutions

It’s a good idea to review your banking package from time to time to make sure it still meets your needs. You may decide to switch your personal account from one financial institution to another if they offer a product that better suits your needs.

Most financial institutions have processes in place to help you manage the move. This may include arranging for your old financial institution to transfer all of your pre-authorized debits to your new account.

Keep your old account open during the switch. Cut up old debit cards and cheques to prevent fraud.

Check your statements from both financial institutions until you’re sure that:

  • the new account is running smoothly
  • you’re not making the same payments twice

Make sure your new financial institution is legitimate.

Use the Account Comparison Tool to find the account that best suits your needs.

When a financial institution refuses to open an account for you

A financial institution doesn’t have to open a personal account for you if:

  • it believes you plan to use the account for illegal or fraudulent purposes
  • you have a history of illegal or fraudulent activity with financial service providers during the past seven years
  • it believes you knowingly made false statements in the information you gave
  • it believes you might cause physical harm to, harass or abuse other customers or its employees
  • you don’t already have an account and it only offers accounts which must be linked to an existing account with another financial institution
  • you don’t allow it to take steps to verify that the identification you presented is valid

If a financial institution refuses to open a personal account for you, it must:

  • tell you of its refusal in writing
  • give you contact details for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

You may also tell the financial institution that you want to make a complaint. All financial institutions must have a process in place to handle complaints.

Learn how to make a complaint.

Your rights and responsibilities when you open a bank account

There are certain things a financial institution must do or tell you when you open a bank account.

Information you must receive when you open a bank account

When you open an account at a federally regulated financial institution, such as a bank, it must give you information about your account. This applies even if you open another account by telephone at that same financial institution.

This information includes:

  • the interest rate you’ll earn on the account, if any
  • how any interest will be calculated
  • a copy of your account agreement
  • a list of fees and details about all charges related to the account
  • details about how you'll be contacted about any increase in those charges or the addition of any new charges
  • details on its complaint-handling process

You have the option of receiving this information in writing or electronically.

You must get a copy of the account agreement within 7 business days after you open the account.

If you decide to close the account, you have the right to close the account, without cost, within 14 business days of opening it by telephone. If so, the institution must refund any charges relating to the account incurred while the account was open. This doesn’t include interest charges.

Learn about how you may get this information electronically.

When your financial institution must tell you about fee increases

When a financial institution increases a fee or introduces a new charge, it must give you written information about it if you get an account statement. You must get this information at least 30 days before the change takes effect. You can also agree to have this information sent electronically.

The financial institution must also display notices about the change:

  • in each of its branches
  • on its website
  • at automated teller machines (ATMs)

The financial institution must display these notices at least 60 days before the change takes effect. It must also explain where a customer can get more information about the new or increased charges.

If you didn’t learn about changes to fees or new fees before they came into effect, you can make a complaint.

Learn how to make a complaint.

You may also contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. The agency will investigate your complaint to make sure the financial institution is following federal laws and honouring its public commitments.

Contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

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