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CUAET guides pt.5: How to open a Canadian bank account & some words on the Credit Score system

This blog contains the unedited posts of Ukrainians who successfully moved to Victoria, BC, and/or their hosts. Content posted with permission. For privacy we are keeping them anonymous. The opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author and are neither supported nor endorsed by the moderators of this website.

To get your job payroll, to pay for food, clothes and more expensive articles, to pay for services, to transfer money to friends or relatives within and outside of Canada, and to build your Credit Score (doh!), you need to open an account in a Canadian bank.
This article is about all associated nuances. Just to make sure sure I’m objective and not promoting or sinking either of the banks, I can tell that I cannot stand banks overall, because [my censored opinion]. At the same time, Canadian banks seem a lesser evil when compared to Ukrainian banks, 90% of which are [censored data]. And there is no way around the system.

For safety reasons, only show your SIN number to the bank in person at the office and never tell it by phone: you’ll be receiving MANY scamming and phishing phone calls in Canada, never share your SIN number, your bank card credentials, or any other personal data with anyone whose identity you cannot verify.

WHAT PAPERS YOU NEED TO SHOW TO GET AN ACCOUNT OPENED FOR YOU
1. Your unique customer identified – UC (UCI) printed on the Work Permit. Don’t ever share it with anyone else but your bank, employer, directly verifiable Canadian state organs.
2. Your Social Insurance Number. Don’t ever share it with anyone else but your bank, employer, directly verifiable Canadian state organs.
3. Your international passport of Ukraine or another valid document that has your data written in it in English.

THE LESS KNOWN GREAT BANKS

Canadian banks are many, some are province-specific. I know that the Desjardins bank and the Revolut bank in the province of Quebec offer many goodies for CUAET newcomers, but these banks’ offices and no commission ATMs (bankomats) might be hard to find in other provinces. See the list of goodies offered by Desjardins here: https://www.desjardins.com/ca/landing-page/measures-ukraine/index.jsp (they are MANY! also not only in banking)
More banks often listed as Ukrainians-friendly but their offices might be hard to find in your province are:
Servus Credit Union. The goodies they offer: https://www.servus.ca/new-to-canada
NBC, another bank concentrated in Quebec but also available in other provinces. The goodies they are offering: https://www.nbc.ca/personal/accounts/newcomers.html
Tangerine it seems a bit like famous Monobank, see what they offer here https://www.tangerine.ca/en/products#all
Ukrainian Credit Union bank; their goodies list: https://www.ukrainiancu.com/welcome-ukraine

The banks which have the biggest coverage in Canada with ATMs and offices and services, called the Big-5.
I was told they all are more or less the same when it comes to reliability, use convenience and services. Never mind these banks’ names tied to specific locations, they are available all across Canada.

DEPOSITS RELIABILITY. DON’T FEAR KEEPING MONEY IN BANKS.

In Ukraine, many people, myself included, do not entrust banks with their money as deposits, fearing to never get back a deposit in USD or Euro or losing everything if a bank goes bankrupt. In Canada, it’s safe to trust major banks, and the state CDIC system guarantees to reimburse you the money up to 100000-200000 CAD, should your bank go bankrupt.
And, unlike Ukraine, you may just withdraw your money from a deposit in same currency (CAD or USD) in which you put them there, and without losing anything. This way, it’s absolutely safe to keep your savings in a reliable Canadian bank, instead of storing them in that 3-liter jar under your bed.

THE BIG-5

The Big-5 also allow zero-commission e-transfers of money to other ppl in Canada. It’s a super-popular fast system for transferring money nation-wide, paying for services or goods you get from private individuals.

RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) – I don’t have any negative information about this big bank. Only a remark “BMO and RBC are offering all the same things as TD but will allow you to have a credit card without tying up hundreds of dollars of your money indefinitely. I think BMO and RBC are offering more money in the form of a cash bonus for a newcomer opening an account than TD is as well (up to $350 vs up to $100 if I recall correctly).”

CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) aka Simplii – free card service for CUAET and other newcomers for 24 months, a 1000 CAD credit limit, no $$$$ freezing on a credit account as a deposit.

TD (Toronto Dominion) – this bank has a special USA connection, so transfers from/to USA might be easier through it. They don’t offer any special goodies, only a no fees bank account for 12 months and they are translating their essentials brochure into Ukrainian these weeks. I chose this bank because of the USA connection, it took me around 15 minutes to register everything I needed there, the personnel was attentive and respectful and gave the advice I asked for. After you sign all these papers and register your account(s) in TD and get an Access card (bank card) and change its default PIN code to your preferred one, you’ll get a card with two codes hand-written on it. One is 6 letters, the other ones is 4-5 digits. These are temporary access codes valid for 24 hours after issuing. Make sure to use the Access number on your bank card and the 6-letter code to access easyweb.td.com (it’s akin to like Privat24 or Ukrsib Online) before it expires. The code is written in capital letters but you should enter it in small letters, it won’t work otherwise. After you log in to your account, you should enter a new eligible alphanumeric password and keep it in a safe place. Never tell it to anyone, including individuals which may present themselves as bank personnel. You may also set up two-way authentication in the system to get SMS to access and use the account, like one you had with Privat Bank.
The digits-only temporary code from the card should be used to activate TD phone banking service EasyLine, see this article for details https://td.intelliresponse.com/cbaw/index.jsp?requestType=NormalRequest&id=694&question=How+do+I+register+for+EasyLine+telephone+banking
Never tell your permanent phone banking code to anyone, including TD bank personnel, by phone or in person.

About TD, some CUAET people mentioned they had problems at some TD offices, e.g. being refused the possibility to open a credit card account. Another specific nuance which may also be true for other banks: because of the time difference b/w British Columbia and TD headquarters in Ontario, the daily time window to perform internal operations in the bank is 5 hours, not 8. Their telephone support seems lightning-fast compared to Ukrainian banks. To issue a debit card for you for Credit Score building and overdraft spending, they need to freeze 500 CAD on your account first indefinitely, then it takes b/w 7 and 10 days to get this card issued. You’ll never have access to your frozen 500 CAD until the associated card expires, and as far as I know TD is the only bank that applies this crappy frozen deposit idea.

BMO (Bank of Montreal) – I don’t have any negative information about this big bank. Only a remark “BMO and RBC are offering all the same things as TD but will allow you to have a credit card without tying up hundreds of dollars of your money indefinitely. I think BMO and RBC are offering more money in the form of a cash bonus for a newcomer opening an account than TD is as well (up to $350 vs up to $100 if I recall correctly).”

Scotiabank (Bank of Scotia) – Some CUAET people had a negative experience, but that might have been caused by a misunderstanding or an individual BoS employer. Other CUAET people in another office got the goodies no problem, so that varies. In different offices different bank employees may have different ideas and approaches. My personal experience at a local Scotiabank office: they were friendly and helpful and told the details about a package intended for CUAET newcomers.
A very special point for Ukrainian Informational Technologies people and other UKRSIBBANK (УКРСИББАНК) users. Scotiabank has a partnership with the French bank BNP-Paribas that manages Ukrsibbank. For this reason, it’s easy to cash your Ukrsib Mastercard money via Scotiabank ATMs or offices with no fees. Note that you can only cash them in Canadian dollars, with some rare exceptions.

THE CREDIT SCORE

And now, about the Canadian Credit Score. There’s a similar system in place USA and other countries.
It’s [my censored opinion]. To rent an apartment in Canada or get a loan or take a huge credit, e.g. for house or car purchasing, you should have a Canadian Credit Score and it should be positive. As a CUAET new arrival, you won’t have any Credit Score in Canada, this locks out many vital opportunities.
Essentially, to build your Credit Score you must take an endless series of credits and then return the money on time. As soon as I get my TD credit card, I’ll be buying all my food and clothes and devices and paying services from it, then every two weeks I’ll be covering what I’ve spent with money from my other accounts. That’s [my censored opinion].
If you forget or fail to return a credit, then you accumulate a negative credit score and get locked out from many vital opportunities, like house rental and loans.
I’ll let this lady tell you more about the Credit Score system: https://youtu.be/HimFRnro9Is