To open a bank account, you’ll need identification, such as your UBCcard, passport, and local address. If you don’t have a local address yet, you can use the International House address temporarily. Some banks may ask for a letter of reference from your bank at home. If you don't have such a letter, go to a different bank to open an account.
When you visit a bank, ask about accounts that offer lower service fees for students. Be sure to ask for details concerning all the possible fees that might apply for services, such as:
- monthly administrative service
- withdrawing and depositing money
- using Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) at other institutions
- writing cheques
- online banking
- using debit cards
If you do not have a bank account yet and need to withdraw cash from your home country's bank, you can access your bank through the Plus or Cirrus international banking networks at an ATM. Additional fees will be charged on top of the currency transfer rates.
Cash advances from credit cards carry high interest rates and should usually be avoided.
When you open an account, the bank will issue you a debit card (also known as your ATM card). Your debit card can be used in bank machines around the city, and is protected with a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Charges to debit cards are deducted from your account immediately, unlike a credit card.
Credit cards are a convenient method of paying. Amount spent accumulates on your account, and should be paid off once a month. Most online purchases are carried out with credit cards. Payments will affect your credit score. You can also withdraw cash from it like a debit card, but there are high interest charges so it is not commonly done.
To apply, go to a bank with two pieces of government-issued ID. You may want to ask if they have cards with no annual fee for students.
Getting a credit card can be difficult for new international students, including US citizens. The limits for international students may be very low (around $250) for 6 months or more, or they may “lock in” an amount in an account tied to their credit card. This creates problems when making big purchases, such as buying plane tickets to go home. In this case, you can talk to your bank and they may help with individual purchases. However, if you develop a good credit score (which is very important in Canada), you may be eligible to raise the limit.
To develop good credit, you must:
- Pay bills on time, in full-balance to avoid interest charges
- Avoid credit-seeking behavior
- Not have multiple credit cards