Best International Banks in Canada in 2024

Claire Millard
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
April 22, 2024

Expats living overseas, digital nomads moving around while working, International business owners, frequent travellers and online shoppers could all find that an international bank account can make it cheaper and easier to manage their money across borders.

Some international bank accounts offer ways to hold and exchange foreign currencies, and cut the costs of international transactions. However, international accounts from banks can come with fairly high fees and restrictive features.

Join us as we walk through some of the best international banks in Canada, and also look at some alternatives which can be cheaper and more flexible, like Wise and the Canada Post Cash Passport.

4 Best Banks for International Travel

Here’s a quick summary of our picks for the top 4 banks or non-bank alternative options for international travel, for business owners, expats and digital nomads in Canada.

  • Wise Account: best for anyone looking to hold 40+ currencies, spend with a linked debit card in 150+ countries, and receive convenient payments with local bank details in 10 currencies

  • Canada Post Cash Passport: best for people who need to collect a card instantly to hold and exchange 7 major currencies, which are used in common vacation destinations

  • RBC Foreign Currency Account: best for personal customers looking to save in USD, GBP, EUR or HKD, with no minimum balance and no monthly fees to worry about. Accounts do not have cards, but you can deposit and withdraw in a branch

  • Scotiabank Foreign Currency Account: best for business customers who need to hold and receive GBP, EUR or JPY - there’s no interest paid on accounts, but it can be a convenient way to set money aside for future business payments

Go to Wise

What is the best international bank in Canada?

The best international bank account for you will depend on your specific preferences and needs. Here we’ll look at an overview on each provider  - and then later we’ll explore more in detail so you can see if any may suit your needs.

Not sure how to pick? Don’t worry. We’ll also cover what to consider when choosing an international bank.

Wise AccountCanada Post Cash Passport RBC Foreign Currency AccountScotiabank Foreign Currency Account
Account opening feeNo fee for personal customers15 CAD fee to get your cardNo feeNo fee
Account maintenance feesNo fee2.8 CAD/month inactivity fee may applyNo fee16 CAD/month
Multi-currency AccountAvailable - supports 40+ currenciesAvailable - supports 7 currenciesAccounts hold single currency only - USD, GBP, EUR or HKDAccounts hold single currency only - GBP, EUR or JPY
Travel Card (debit or credit)Wise Debit card availableCash Passport Mastercard debit cardNot availableNot available
Foreign Transaction feesNo fee to spend a currency you hold

No fee to spend a currency you hold

3.25% fee to spend in unsupported currency

Not applicableNot applicable
Currency Conversion RatesMid-market rateNetwork rateRBC exchange rateScotiabank exchange rate
Foreign ATM Transaction Fees2 free ATM withdrawals/month before any fees beginVaried fee based on currency Not applicableNot applicable
International Business AccountsAvailableNot available Alternative business products available Account for business customers only

*Details correct at time of writing - 22nd April 2024

As you can see, the accounts we’ve picked are a mix of bank and non-bank alternative options, with some for business and personal customers, and some serving only one or other customer type. Here’s a summary - we’ll take a deeper look at each provider and their account, next.

Wise Account: hold 40+ currencies, spend with a linked debit card in 150+ countries, and receive payments in 10 currencies - business and personal account options

Canada Post Cash Passport: travel card to hold, spend and exchange 7 major currencies good for leisure use

RBC Foreign Currency Account: saving account for personal customers in USD, GBP, EUR or HKD

Scotiabank Foreign Currency Account: business account to receive, hold, and send payments in GBP, EUR and JPY

Go to Wise

Wise Account

💡 Great for: People travelling or shopping online internationally, looking for flexible and low cost currency conversion

Personal customers can open a Wise account for free, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies and spend with the Wise debit card in 150+ countries. Wise is not a bank, but a financial technology company - it’s regulated and safe to use.

When you open an account you’ll also get local bank details which makes it easy to get paid in 10 common currencies.

Wise currency exchange used the mid-market rate - the one you find on Google. You’ll only pay a low conversion fee which is from 0.43%, with no fees to spend any currency you hold in your account.

Wise account & card: Order a card for a one time low fee, spend around the world - and if you don’t have the currency you need the card can convert for you using the lowest possible fee. Spend in 150+ countries

International fees: Currency conversion from 0.43%, no fee to spend currencies you hold in your account

International ATM withdrawals: Free to make 2 withdrawals per month to plan limits, with low fees after that

Go to Wise

Learn more: Wise Account review and Wise card review

Canada Post Cash Passport

💡 Great for: Travellers looking for instant access to a card to hold and spend 7 major currencies

The Mastercard Cash Passport, which you can get in person or online from Canada Post is not issued by a bank, but does offer easy ways to hold, withdraw and spend 7 currencies which are used in popular tourist destinations. This makes it a strong pick for travel use, particularly if you need to get a card instantly as you can collect one in person without needing to wait for it to be delivered by mail.

Various fees apply to use your card, so you’ll need to review the fee schedule carefully. There may be a charge to add money, make withdrawals or to spend a currency you don’t already hold in your account for example.

Cash Passport account & card: Order your card and top up your digital account online or in person at a Canada Post location, then spend and withdrawal anywhere Mastercard is accepted

International fees: No fee to spend currencies you hold in your account, 3.25% foreign transaction fee for unsupported currencies

International ATM withdrawals: Fee varies by currency, around 3 CAD per withdrawal

RBC Foreign Currency Account

💡 Great for: Savers who want to set aside funds in foreign currencies for future use or to invest

RBC offers personal customers foreign currency accounts in USD, GBP, EUR or HKD for saving purposes. There’s no minimum balance and no monthly fee which can make this a flexible way to set aside money in foreign currencies if you know you’ll need it in person. You don’t get a card with your account but you can withdraw and deposit funds over the counter in the currency of the account.

Although there are no ongoing charges with these accounts, there are some transaction fees - such as when making a wire transfer.

RBC Foreign Currency account & card: No card offered, accounts can hold one of either USD, GBP, EUR or HKD

International fees: Fees apply for making payments - including variable wire fees set by currency, 33 EUR or 27 GBP for example

International ATM withdrawals: Not available

Scotiabank Foreign Currency Account

💡 Great for: Business customers who need to receive, hold or send foreign currency payments regularly

Scotiabank business customers can open a foreign currency account product to send and receive payments conveniently in GBP, EUR or JPY. There’s a monthly fee for the account but with that you get a few free transactions before you need to pay any additional service fees.

RBC Foreign Currency account & card: No card offered, accounts can hold one of either GBP, EUR or JPY

International fees: 16 CAD monthly fee. Fees also apply for some transactions and payments

International ATM withdrawals: Not available

What is an international bank account?

International bank accounts can have a pretty broad selection of features, from accounts for daily use which let you hold foreign currency balances and get international travel cards, to accounts aimed at international investors.

As well as international accounts from banks, there are also a few non-bank alternatives which have powerful international features - such as the Wise account and the Canada Post Cash Passport. By contrast, the accounts available from banks can have fairly limited features and higher fees.

Here’s a rundown of some of the features you may get from an international account:

  • Hold a select of foreign currencies and convert between them

  • Send payments overseas with low or no fees

  • Access preferential exchange rates

  • Spend internationally with a linked debit or credit card

  • Invest internationally in foreign currencies

  • Receive personal or business payments in foreign currencies

Can you open an international bank account?

Some local and regional banks offer international bank accounts, although these do tend to have relatively limited features compared to international accounts from specialist services.

Providers like Wise offer flexible accounts which can hold multiple currencies and which can be used easily for everyday transactions. Or if you’re specifically looking for a non-bank travel card, the Canada Post Cash Passport may provide a decent pick instead.

What are the advantages of international banks?

So why bother with an international bank account at all? Here are some key advantages to know about:

  • Hold and exchange multiple currencies so you don’t need to switch back to CAD unnecessarily

  • Spend overseas with a linked card - which can mean lower costs and no foreign transaction fees

  • Manage your money on your phone with transaction alerts and an instant overview of all your currency balances

  • Open local receiving accounts to get paid easily and with no or low fees, in a selection of currencies

How to choose the best international bank account for your needs

There’s no single best international account, so you’ll need to review a few, looking at features and fees, to pick the one that suits you best.

Here are a few key points to consider when choosing the right account for you:

  • Availability of Foreign Currencies: Check that currencies you use frequently are supported for holding, exchange and spending

  • Monthly charges: Accounts are available with no monthly fees - although some accounts do have an ongoing maintenance charge or inactivity fee
  • International fees: Check for foreign transaction and foreign cash fees, and ATM charges when you travel - these can mount up steeply depending on the account you select
  • Currency conversion rates: Ideally look for an account which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no hidden charges. This is transparent and makes it easier to assess what you’re actually paying for overseas transactions 
  • International travel cards: If you’ll be travelling it’s worth checking you’ll have a linked debit or credit card, issued on a major global network 
  • Overseas transfers: See how much you’ll pay to send money overseas, and how many countries are available for transfers - handy for sending payments to friends and family or covering overseas bills
  • Ease of use: Choose an account with easy mobile and online access, so you can use your account wherever you are
  • Extra features: Different accounts have their own features, like investment options and local bank details to get paid for free from overseas
  • Safety: Finally, pick a reputable provider which is licensed and regulated in Canada and internationally

    How to open an international account

The process can vary widely for opening a digital bank account offered by a bank, and a multi-currency account from an alternative provider like Wise. Some banks may ask you to visit a branch to get started, or you may also need a linked account with the same bank in order to apply for an international account.

In either case you’ll normally need the following documents to open an international account:

  • Proof of ID, such as a passport

  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill in your name

How to open international bank account online

If you choose to open an international account with a non bank provider like Wise you can get everything done in an app or online, including verification.

Here’s how to open an international account with a specialist provider:

  1. Download the provider app or head to their desktop site

  2. Register an account using your email address and add your personal information

  3. Get verified by uploading images of your documents

  4. You’ll receive a physical card in the mail, and can often access a virtual card as soon as your account is verified

What are the best international banks with no fees?

It costs to offer international services. That means that while some banks may look like they have no fees, the chances are that they’ll have transaction and service fees, and exchange rate markups which can be tricky to spot.

Here is fee the structure of the providers we’ve explored in this article:

  • Wise Account: Accounts are free to open, there is no maintenance fee, there are low transaction fees.

  • Canada Post Cash Passport: 15 CAD card order fee, 3.25% foreign transaction fee for unsupported currencies , fees of around 3 CAD for ATM use

  • RBC Foreign Currency Account: No monthly fee, variable wire fees set by currency, 33 EUR or 27 GBP for example

  • Scotiabank Foreign Currency Account: 16 CAD monthly fee. Fees also apply for some transactions and payments

Go to Wise

What is the safest international bank?

All of the providers we feature on Exiap are regulated and licensed providers, with industry level security measures.

Here’s a look at how the providers we have featured which offer international spending keep you safe when you spend:

  • Wise Account: Get transaction alerts in the app, freeze and unfreeze the card easily when you travel

  • Canada Post Cash Passport: Manage your card in the app - you’re also covered by Mastercard Zero Liability policies

Best ways to withdraw money when travelling abroad

Sometimes you can’t manage with digital payments and need to get some cash. Here are some ways to cut the costs of cash withdrawals overseas:

  • Always check your banks foreign transaction fees so you know if you’ll pay a premium when abroad

  • Check which ATMs you can use for no extra fee when you travel - providers like Wise offer some fee free international withdrawals every month

  • Always withdraw in the local currency wherever you are, to avoid dynamic currency conversion

  • Avoid withdrawals with a credit card as these have extra fees

How to avoid foreign transaction fees

But what about when you spend with your card overseas? Here are some ideas to keep down costs:

  • Check your bank’s foreign transaction fees and exchange rates - you may be better off with a specialist like Wise or Canada Post’s Cash Passport

  • Pay in the local currency to avoid dynamic currency conversion

  • Look at multi-currency accounts from Wise to keep your money in local currencies to avoid paying high conversion fees with bad exchange rates

Conclusion on best international bank for expats

There are a few different options for international accounts for expats - either from banks or specialist online services. What’s right for you will depend on how you intend to use your account, whether you need a card, and whether you’re a registered business owner, among other things.

For many customers bank foreign or multi-currency account options can be somewhat limited, with a focus on businesses, payments and saving products rather than day to day spending. As an alternative, look at specialists like Wise, which can be handy for easy everyday use, and to hold a broad range of currencies all in the same place.

Go to Wise

FAQs on Best Banks for International Travel

Should you have a separate bank account for travel?

Having a separate account to hold, spend and exchange foreign currencies can make setting your travel budget easier and also keep down your costs. Choose an account with no ongoing fees and flexible multi-currency features if you can, to make sure you make the most of your account.

Can you open an international bank account online?

You may be able to open an international bank account online if you’re already a verified customer of the bank you’ve picked. However, the process is often easier and quicker if you choose a specialist digital provider like Wise instead - apply online or in app without needing to leave home.

How can you avoid bank charges when travelling internationally?

Double check your own account’s terms and conditions carefully before you head overseas, looking for foreign transaction fees and international ATM costs. You may find you’re better off with a specialist international account for when you’re abroad.

What bank does not charge international ATM fees?

Your own bank may have some fee free international ATM options with partner banks - or you can check out options like Wise which offers an account with some fee free overseas ATM withdrawals every month.