Open a Registered Education Savings Plan and apply for benefits

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Three types of RESP

Any adult can open a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to help save for someone’s education after high school. Adults can open RESPs for:

  • their own child
  • someone else’s child
  • themselves, or another eligible adult

It is very important to choose the right type of RESP. Promoters can help explain different options to find the best choice for various situations.

  • 1. Family plan

    A family plan is an option if you have or plan on having more than 1 child.

    You can name one or more children to receive the savings when it is time to pay for their studies after high school. The children must be related to you, either by blood or adoption. They may be your children, stepchildren, grandchildren (including adopted grandchildren), brothers or sisters.

    Under the Income Tax Act, a blood relationship is that of a parent and child (or grandchild or great-grandchild), or that of a brother and sister. Nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins are not considered blood relatives.

    The advantage of a family plan is that earnings can be shared among the children, and the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) may be used by any eligible beneficiary named in the RESP, to a maximum of $7,200 per child. The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) can only be paid to eligible beneficiaries in the plan, up to $2,000 per child. As well, the British Columbia Training and Education Savings Grant (BCTESG) and the Québec Education Savings Incentive (QESI) can be shared among beneficiaries in a family plan.

    For more information, consult the RESP section from the Canada Revenue Agency.

  • 2. Individual (non-family) plan

    This type of plan is an option if you have only one child, or if you are not related to the child you are saving for. In this type of plan, only one beneficiary is named in the RESP, and the beneficiary does not have to be related to you.

    Adults can also open this kind of RESP for themselves.

    Adult beneficiaries are not eligible to receive the CESG. Adults born in 2004 or later may also receive the CLB for themselves until the age of 21, under certain conditions.

    For more information, consult the RESP section from the Canada Revenue Agency.

  • 3. Group plan

    A group plan is for 1 child only, and the child does not have to be related to you. In this type of plan, your savings are combined with those of other people saving for other children, born the same year as yours. How much each child gets depends on how much money is in the group account, and on the number of students of the same age who are in school that year.

    A group plan is an option if you can make regular payments throughout the term of the RESP.

    These plans are provided by group plan dealers who usually invest the money in low-risk investments. Each group plan is different and has its own rules. As you would with any investment, be sure to read the plan rules carefully.

    Usually, you will be asked to commit to making regular payments into the RESP over a certain period of time. Fees may apply if you stop these regular payments. Group plans are an option if you prefer to have someone decide how to invest the money for you and, you think the child you are saving for will continue his or her education after high school.

    Ask your group plan dealer for details.

    For more information, consult the RESP section from the Canada Revenue Agency.

How to open an RESP and apply for benefits

You do not need a bank account to open an RESP.

To open an RESP and apply for benefits, follow these steps:

  1. get a Social Insurance Number (SIN) for the beneficiary, and get one for yourself if you do not already have one
  2. choose an RESP promoter that best suits your needs
    • Most financial institutions (such as banks and credit unions), as well as certified financial planners and group plan dealers, provide RESPs
    • Not every promoter offers all possible benefits. Ask your promoter before opening your RESP to make sure they offer the benefits the beneficiary may be eligible for
  3. open the RESP with your promoter, and name the person you are saving for as the beneficiary
    • You can open an RESP and save for your child, someone else’s, yourself, or another adult
    • You may be able to open the RESP and apply online, over the phone, or by mail
  4. apply for benefits
    • When you open an RESP, your promoter will help you apply for the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) and provincial benefits at the same time
  5. consider making contributions to your RESP
    • You do not need to contribute to receive the CLB
    • You need to make contributions to receive the CESG
  6. check that benefits are deposited in your account
    • After applying, any benefits that the beneficiary is eligible to receive will be deposited automatically. It may take several weeks before receiving the benefits. For example, the CESG will be deposited within 65 days of an eligible contribution, once the application has been processed

Where to open an RESP: List of promoters

Consult the list of RESP promoters to see where you can open an RESP and apply for benefits.

Questions to ask promoters

Consider talking to more than 1 RESP promoter, and take the time to choose a promoter that meets your needs and offers the benefits the beneficiary may be eligible for. The promoter will then help you choose the right RESP, advise you on making investments, administer your RESP and provide the money when the beneficiary is ready for post-secondary school. Community organization or other financial advisors could also help you understand options for an RESP.

Some promoters may charge service fees or set limits on how often you can contribute. Before you open an RESP, ask them to explain all the fees, limits, penalties, payment options and all other requirements.

It is also important to ask about the types of plans your promoter offers, and the related benefits and costs. Investment options will also vary. Promoters may invest RESP funds in mutual funds, stocks, guaranteed investment certificates, term deposits or savings accounts. These options carry different risks and rates of return.

Finally, you may consider asking the RESP promoter to give you all information in writing. If you don’t understand something, ask the promoter to explain before you sign anything.

Sample questions to ask your promoter
  • Does the RESP promoter offer all education savings incentives, including the Canada Learning Bond, the Canada Education Savings Grant, and provincial benefits?
  • What types of RESPs do you offer (individual, family, or group)? What are the advantages and risks of each?
  • Once I have opened an RESP, will I have to pay any fees? If so, what are they for and how much will I have to pay?
  • Do I have to put a minimum amount of money into an RESP?
  • Do I have to make regular payments?
  • What happens if I cannot make regular payments? Can I change my contribution amounts?
  • What are my investment choices? What are the benefits of each choice? Can the value of my investment go down?
  • Can you provide me with an example of a savings plan and expected returns?
  • Can I withdraw money if I need it? Are there any fees or penalties for withdrawing money early?
  • Can I transfer the RESP to another person, or to another RESP promoter? If so, what is the cost to transfer?
  • What will happen to my savings in the RESP if my child does not continue their education after high school?
  • Does the RESP promoter limit the types of educational programs I can use my RESP to pay for?
  • What happens if I close my RESP early?
  • What if my child decides to go to school part-time?
  • Will you provide me with regular documentation on the status of my RESP and investments?


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