Personal banking and finances are obviously an extremely important part of settlement in a new country.
As mentioned earlier, the major banks all charge for their services. The six big players are Scotiabank, The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), The HSBC, The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), The Bank of Montreal (BMO)and the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD Bank).
All offer general personal banking services such as credit cards, cash machines, cheques, mortgages, insurances, savings, investments, counter service and business accounts.
The standard everyday account is called a chequeing account. This will normally comes with cheques (you have to pay for them!), a cash card and the choice of statement dates.
The cashcard can also be used as Cash at most retailers using a debit system called Interac. You may receive a very small interest payment on credit balances.
The banks will offer service charge packages or you can just pay per transaction. If you go it alone or exceed your package limits you will normally pay $1.00 per transaction at the counter or $0.50 otherwise. A "transaction" is use of interac (point of sale debit), cash or cheque deposit, any counter transaction, direct debit or payroll deposit. Bearing in mind that most employers pay twice monthly, these can soon add up.
A basic service package will cost around $11.00 per month and will feature used cheques returned with your statements, 50 transactions per month, certified cheques,processing foreign currency cheques and some give commission free travellers cheques and foreign currency. Other plans are available to suit you individual needs.
Phone, Internet and drive through personal banking are all extremely popular and very time efficient. Most bills can be paid via the phone or internet and most personal banking needs are met by the ATM's.
Before we left the UK we were told that we would need a letter of introduction from our UK Bank to open an account. Basically, as long as you have your immigration papers and Passport with an address you should be able to open an account. You DON'T have to be a citizen or resident to open a Canadian bank account but obviously, as with all countries, there are identity and security protocols to be adhered to.
We started off with the Royal Bank (RBC), but have since changed over to the Scotiabank and have received tremendous service, including a stress free transfer of direct debits and other standing transactions. Scotiabank are also open on a saturday morning in case you need counter service.