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Q1. I came to Canada on a student visa and I need to open a bank account, which bank should I go to?
I will try to answer this fair question by looking at common day-to day banking features. The more features we use the more we service charges we pay (that’s right we pay for banking in Canada), however we can save a lot of money by asking for student discounts. Let’s take a look at some student discounts that the 5 major banks are offering. (Also included are the National Bank of Canada’s ClickStudent Program and PC Financial’s no fee bank account.)
Please refer to the table. (Please note that all figures shown are taken from the banks’ websites, and only selected features are listed)
Some Important banking services:
(1) Email Money transfer - allows the account holder to send money to another person’s account using online banking. Normally only the sender pays for this transaction. The 5 major banks charge $1.50 per Email money transfer sent, there is no charge to the receiver.
(2) Overdraft is a service that allows the bank account to go into negative balance for a short period, until money is deposited into the account. It is normally used when there is not enough balance in the account to cover a cheque or per-authorized payment. Overdraft service and limit are subject to credit approval. There is a $2-$5 service charge per month, plus interest for the period the account is overdrawn.
(3) Stop Payment is a request made by the account holder to cancel/stop a cheque that he/she has already issued, or to stop a pre-authorized payment from being taken from the account on the due date. Normally a stop payment will cost you $10 - $15
(4) NSF means Not Sufficient Funds. NSF charge is a penalty that is applied when there is not enough money/overdraft in the account to cover a cheque or pre authorized payment. Usually it is $35.
(5) Bank Letter is normally a statement of funds available in the account. Most international students need this service for visa purposes. Banks can charge $10 to $25 to issue a letter.
As you can see the common feature of all these accounts is reduced service charges compared to regular bank accounts. The important thing is to ask for student discounts, because the bank will not apply discounts automatically. One reason is that the bank doesn’t know if you are full-time student. Even if the bank has all your details, they can only apply benefits to your account when they have proof of enrolment on record.
Q2. I have a bank account already, can I still get student discount?
Ans. Absolutely, if you are eligible. Just ask your bank to change your existing account to a student account. Most banks will not charge you anything to change from one account type to another. In case you wish to open a new account, make sure to ask the person opening your new account to give you some Overdraft(2).
Q3. How do I know if a student account is better than a regular account for me?
Ans. It depends on your usage. Here’s an example to make your selection easy: Sheena is a full-time student who likes to use her debit card for most purchases (at least 30 debits per month). She pays her landlord using Email money transfer. Once in a while her account goes into negative when the balance is not enough to cover her (pre-authorized) cable bill. Sheena will pay $2 - $15 in service charges if she opts for a discount package. However if she uses a regular account she will pay upwards of $20 dollars every month for the same usage. An average saving of $10 every month will leave $120 more in Sheena’s account at end of the year.
Coming back to our first question, your choice of bank depends on how much you will use your account. My personal suggestion is to select a bank that that has ABMs close to your home/campus, so that you have easy access to your money
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