If you have brought a lot of cash with you, you will want to open a bank account in Canada as soon as possible and deposit the money there. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task.
The biggest banks are TD Canada Trust, CIBC and Bank of Montreal. We recommend and use TD only because of better online presence, ease of doing things remotely without having to visit branch for every little thing and long operating hours.
Because you have no banking history in Canada, if you try to open an account and put thousands of cash money in it, they will question if you are trying to launder money and ask you to proof for origin of the money. So, be prepared for this or just deposit small amounts at a time. You will also fill endless amounts of paperwork just to open an account.
When you open an account you a get a Debit Card, this card can be used for shopping in virtually anywhere to pay from your checking (regular account) or savings account. This system is called Interac and you will see its symbol near the Visa, Amex and MasterCard at the stores.
“Why carry cash at all?” you might ask. Because at every transaction, every time you use Interac you will be charged a transaction fee. This fee depends on your agreement with the bank, sometimes banks allow you limited time of ATM and Interac usage if you keep a certain amount of money in your checking account. Otherwise, you pay fee every time even when you use your bank’s ATM machine.
You could also use another bank’s or third party ATM machines to withdraw money. In this case, not only you will get charged a transaction fee but also the fee will be higher than your bank’s ATM.
As with opening your first account, obtaining credit cards first time in Canada could be tricky due to again you do not have any credit history in this country.
You could definitely live without them or bring one from your origin of country for emergencies, but if you like to start your credit history in Canada so you can apply for a car loan, house loan, rent a car, stay in a nice hotel (most hotels require you book with a credit card even if you do not charge to it as a guarantee), you might look into getting one. Here are the two options as a workaround:
Secured Credit Cards
One of the things you can do to get a credit card even before having a job is, ask your bank to give you a Secured Credit Card for your savings account as guarantee. Let’s say you have $5000 sitting in your bank account, the bank can give you a credit card with $2000 limit and they secure it with your $5000. So, the bank has no risk and you have a credit card that you can use to kick start your credit history. You need to use it and use it below its limit and pay on time to have a good credit rating. You need to have a good credit rating to be able to get more credit in the future.
Store Credit Cards
The other option after having a job for a while is; you can apply for a store credit card. Almost every big box store has their credit card, like Loblaws (President’s Choice), The Bay or Zellers (HBC), Sears (MasterCard) and like. The store cards tend to be less discriminatory, so your chances are high of obtaining one, but the catch with these is they tend to have high interest fees if you carry out a balance (if you do not pay on time monthly). So, if you get declined from one, wait a few months and try another and when you use them, make sure you pay on time.
Once you have one of these cards at least for a year, you can apply for regular, preferably low interest credit cards.