Many of the banks offer packages for new immigrants which give you free banking for six months or a year.  Other benefits may include a free safety deposit box for the duration of the offer.  Most will also offer credit cards but these will come with conditions attached and will be subject to credit checks.

Take your time to shop around and use the internet to find out which banks offer the best package to suit your needs.  It’s also worth finding a bank that has a branch near to home or work so that you can easily meet up with your ‘personal banker’.  Many work Saturdays and some even have branches open on a Sunday.

It is very likely that you will be required to put down what is called a security deposit to get a credit card.  If you want a $2000 limit on your credit card, you will be need to put down a deposit of $2000 which will usually be invested in a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate).  This GIC will have a very low interest rate associated with it so don’t expect to get much return when you cash it in.  After a year of making regular payments of your credit card (it’s a good idea to pay the full balance each month), the bank will review your history and you will be able to get that $2000 back.

Once your period of free banking expires, you will need to switch to a monthly paid package.  The cost of these varies depending on the number of transactions they include and other benefits such as the refund of your annual credit card fee.

Many credit cards also give you reward points and by far the most useful is the RBC Avion card as this gives you points that you can use towards flights.  Unlike many other airmiles schemes though, these points can be used towards any flight.  i.e. there are no restrictions to which airlines you can book with or which days you can fly on.  You may have to start off with a basic credit card that offers other benefits but keep hold of these points and once you transfer to an Avion card, your points will be transferred too.  You may also get bonus reward points for transferring to a monthly paid package.

Pay for everything on your credit card – even a $3 coffee in your favorite coffee shop.  Those points will soon start to add up.

Credit History

Do not underestimate how important it is to start building a credit history in Canada.  Any history from other countries will be of little benefit to you here even though you may have had bank accounts and credit cards for years or even decades back home with a ridiculous limit on your credit card.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you will be able to get the same limit here in Canada.

The companies that provided credit checking such as Equifax are international and there is no reason why information from different countries could not be used to get you started but this is not the case.  However, it may be  that if you do have any bad credit from another country, this will go against you.

Any bad credit in Canada will remain on your file for seven years and there is very little you can do to get it removed even if you were not at fault.

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