How to Open a Canadian Bank Account From USA without Leaving Home

Best International Money Transfer Services

If you’re a US resident who wants to work and study north of the border, it’s worth knowing how to open a bank account before you relocate to Canada. You can get your finances in order, transfer money over and have everything ready to go when you want to make the move. Although US and Canadian banks have close ties, most traditional Canadian banks do require you to visit in person to open an account. That’s not always the case though - so read on for all you need to know about how to open a Canadian bank account while you’re in the US.

Can a US citizen open a bank account in Canada?

 

Americans can open a bank account in Canada, but if you don’t open an account in person at a Canadian bank branch, things do get more complicated. You have a few different options:

  • Several US banks have Canadian branches or a partnership with banks in Canada. You can contact your US bank to ask them about the possibility of opening a Canadian bank account. In many cases, having an existing account with a US bank will be necessary before they will consider opening a Canadian bank account for you.
  • If you’re going to be a Canadian resident, you can visit a Canadian bank when you’re there and provide documents proving your intent to immigrate, together with your identity and proof of address. There are several documents you will need to have before you’re allowed to open a Canadian bank account in person. Learn more about how to open an international bank account.
  • Open a specialist online multi-currency account with a provider like Wise, to access CAD bank account details and low cost currency exchange, before you move to Canada. We’ll cover this option in more detail later.

 

Learn more about Wise

 

How to open a bank account in Canada

If you’re already in Canada, or you’re about to move there for the long term, you may divide to open a bank account with a traditional bank there. Typically most Canadian banks will require you to either be a resident or have immigration papers that show you are going to be a resident before you open an account. While some banks will let you open your account online - or at least get started on your application online - it’s pretty common to need to visit a branch to show your paperwork and get your account up and running.

 

What documents do you need to open a bank account in Canada?

 

The Financial Consumer Agency lists the documents that a bank will typically ask for. The documents usually requested include several options which US citizens are unlikely to have - like a Canadian passport or birth certificate. Instead, as a US citizen, you’ll probably need to provide a couple of pieces of ID taken from a list which includes:

  • A current US passport
  • An employee ID card with your picture on it
  • A debit card, bank card or Canadian credit card
  • Temporary Residence Permit
  • Work or study permit
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence

 

lock

In some cases, if you can’t provide the specific documents requested you may be able to have someone in good standing with the bank or in the local community confirm your identity. 

If you’re opening an account that will earn interest and be liable to tax, you must also provide a Social Insurance Number (SIN). You can obtain an SIN from the Canadian government.

Identification and account opening requirements do vary from bank to bank, so it’s always worth contacting a bank where you want to open an account to see what their specific needs are. 

1. Cross-Border Account Opening Between the US and Canada

Several US banks have Canadian branches or close partnerships with Canadian banks. In these cases, you may be able to open a Canadian bank account without leaving the US. You should contact your US bank and ask them about the possibility of opening an account in Canada.

Many of these banks will have a cross-border account opening process. Find the contact details for your bank, get in touch and ask them if they have provisions for opening an account in Canada from the US In every case, you’ll need your immigration details as you can’t open an account without them.

2. Visit a Canadian Bank with the Right Documentation to Open an Account

The easiest way to open a Canadian bank account is to visit a Canadian bank. While you can’t do that from home or remotely, in some cases it may be your easiest option. Before you visit a Canadian branch, contact the bank and ask them about the account opening process as a US citizen. They will talk you through all of the rules, requirements and documentation you will need to open a bank account in Canada.

3. Other options

If you can’t open a Canadian bank account using the options above, you have another choice — a virtual bank account. These are specialist accounts that you can access from anywhere and that give you a bank account in a variety of countries.

Wise Multi-Currency Account

Wise (formerly TransferWise) is a much-loved international money transfer and currency exchange service. They offer excellent exchange rates and low, transparent fees for sending money around the world. They’ve been offering a virtual bank account for a few years, called the Wise Account. Their multi-currency account also provides a virtual Canadian account - and can work out 3x cheaper than using a traditional bank for international transactions.

 

Here’s how it works:

  • The Wise Account is a multiple currency account that lets you hold money in more than 50 currencies, including USD, EUR, GBP and CAD.
  • You can open up a “local” bank account in 30+ countries including the USA, UK, Eurozone, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  • You get local banking details for each of those countries, which effectively means you have a bank account in that country with its own routing and account number.
  • You can use your Wise account to send payments to 80+ countries, and exchange currencies using the real mid-market exchange rate with low, transparent fees.
  • You also get a connected Wise debit card, so you can spend money from the account. The debit card is free to use when you’re spending money in the local currency.
  • There’s a Wise app that tells you how much is in your account at all times.
  • Wise is safe, fully licensed and regulated for all its activities in the US around the world.

Fees for the Wise Account

There are no minimum account amounts, no monthly fees and no maintenance fees on the Wise account. The key Wise fees you’ll pay are:

  • Fees from 0.41% for switching between currencies and sending international payments
  • 9 USD one off charge to get a Wise debit card
  • 1.5 USD + 2% for ATM withdrawals over 100 USD/month
  • Receiving USD wire payments - 4.14 USD - getting paid by ACH is free

 

Learn more about Wise

How to open a business account in Canada?

If you’re interested in opening a business bank account in Canada you may need to follow a slightly different process. While some banks offer online opening options for personal accounts, it’s far more common to open a business account in person by visiting a branch. That means it’s trickier to open a business bank account with a traditional Canadian bank as a non-resident. If you’re not planning on moving to Canada you might find that choosing a multi-currency account with a specialist online provider is a simpler option.

No matter how you decide to set up your Canadian business bank account you’ll need to provide your personal ID documents plus a suite of business documentation, based on entity type - business licenses, registration numbers, partnership agreements or articles of incorporation for example.

To learn more, check our detailed guide on How to Open a Business Bank Account in Canada.

Online specialists like Wise can help you open a Canadian business account online. With Wise Business Account you can get local bank details in Canada, send money or get payment in CAD.

The Best Bank for US Citizens to Open a Canadian Bank Account

The following banks, among others, have branches in both the US and Canada:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • TD

If you already have a bank account with one of these banks, that may be a good starting point. However, these accounts may have high minimum one-off or ongoing deposit requirements and there can be significant ongoing fees for holding these accounts.

Canada has several major banks, and each of them may be able to help you as an immigrant:

  • The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has several accounts available to people who have recently arrived in the country, including accounts specially targeted at students
  • TD Bank has a “New to Canada” package that could be ideal for immigrants
  • Other banks with comprehensive account packages, including ones tailored to students, include Scotia Bank, Bank of Montreal and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Note that if you’re not a student, there are often monthly fees for having an account with a Canadian bank.

 

Conclusion

Opening a bank account in Canada as a US citizen is possible - but exactly how you get started will depend on whether you’re planning to move to Canada or need an account as a non-resident. Usually it’s far easier to open a bank account with a traditional Canadian bank if you’re a resident there.

However, you can still get a CAD account with Canadian banking details from a specialist provider like Wise, which offers both personal and business account options for US citizens, and can be 3x cheaper than using a regular bank.

Open a Wise Account to Get Started

FAQs

1. Can I open a bank account online in Canada from the USA?

Some Canadian banks do offer online account opening services, but it’s pretty common to need to visit a branch in person to get your account fully up and running. If opening your account online is essential you might be better off choosing a specialist provider like Wise, which offers a fully digital account opening service.

2. Can a foreigner open a bank account in Canada online?

Some Canadian banks do offer online account opening, but you may find it tricky to provide the required identification and residence documents. As a US citizen the easiest way to open your Canadian account is probably to choose a specialist online account provider which can accept your US identification documents.

3. Which US banks have branches in Canada?

Key options for banks which have branches in both the US and Canada include:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • TD

4. Can I open a Canadian Bank Account from the US?

You’ll be able to open a Canadian bank account from the US with a specialist provider such as Wise, or in some cases, with a traditional bank in Canada. Use this guide as a starting point to research which banks and account providers might suit you.

5. Can you open a bank account in Canada as a non-resident?

As a Canadian non-resident you might be able to open an account with a traditional bank, but many regular accounts aren’t available to non-resident customers. Instead, take a look at specialist international account providers which tend to be more flexible with non-resident customers.

Your currency knowledge centre

How to Easily Receive Money from Overseas

There are 4 main ways most people receive money from overseas. Find out the most common fees, exchange rates and money traps to avoid.

Should You Use Wise to Wire Money Overseas?

Our biggest, most comprehensive look at one of the most popular money transfer companies in the world. All the information you need to make the right decision.

International Money Transfer Comparison and Reviews

Doing an international money transfer with your bank can cost you a lot more than its worth. By the end of this article, you'll find out how to transfer funds internationally without paying too much.

General advice: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own personal situation and requirements before making any financial decisions.

By Justin Rampono Updated September 16th, 2022