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Opening a bank account is one of the first things any newcomer should do. You will need it to have easy access to your money and to pay for various goods and services; also, most employers prefer to deposit salaries in chequing accounts.

Accessing funds at banks from your home country usually comes with significant transfer fees, not to mention that any malfunction can turn into a customer service nightmare. It is always best to keep your money where you can see it; that is, in a respectable local banking institution to which you have direct access.

Canadian banks offer chequing, savings and combination accounts with various monthly fee plans and sometimes incentives. Some banks have special offers for newcomers (for example, no-fee chequing accounts or high-interest savings accounts), so take your time to see what gratuities you can get.

You can have more than one type of account simultaneously and you will be given several banking options. You can manage your accounts by going to the branch in person, using an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), over the internet or over the phone.

Online banking

It is a good idea to set up online banking if you have internet at home. It is preferable to access your online bank account only from your personal computer and only with a secure connection. The advantage is that you can check your balance, pay your bills, transfer money between accounts and make certain changes to your account features without having to visit a branch.

This flexibility will come in handy when you have to juggle a job and a personal life and will allow you to handle your money without depending on a bank’s business hours.

Choosing banks

Some people choose to open accounts at more than one bank, because they find each offers special advantages. While banking fees are fairly similar, particular features such as extended business hours, staff members that speak foreign languages or convenient locations can make a big difference. While there is nothing wrong with having accounts at more than one bank, do keep in mind that you will have more monthly fees to pay.

How to open an account

To open a bank account, you need to go in person to a local branch and have two original pieces of identification. You will have an interview with a financial officer who will show you different banking options, make suggestions, explain you your rights and responsibilities and help you fill in the paperwork.

Do not be reluctant to ask for additional explanations if there’s anything you don’t understand; the financial officer’s role is to provide quality customer service, so never worry about taking up too much of their time or asking too many questions. Ask for help whenever you feel it’s necessary and sign a contract only when you are confident that you understood all the terms correctly.