Looking for the best multi-currency account in Canada? A Complete Review 2022

Multi-currency accounts can be handy for a range of individuals and businesses. You’ll be able to receive, hold, send and spend across different currencies, and switch between them when you need to. Depending on the type of transactions you need to make, you may also find a multi-currency account cuts the costs of managing your money across currencies, whether that’s for travel, for work, or just in daily life.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for multi-currency accounts from Canadian banks - and those that are available can be pretty costly to operate. However, specialist online account providers can often offer a smart alternative.

This guide walks through a few different multi-currency account options which may suit you - as well as looking at the costs involved and how to get started.

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Can a multi-currency account be opened in Canada?

There are only a limited number of multi-currency account options available from Canadian banks. 

If you’re looking for a business account you may have a broader choice, but if you’re in the market for a personal multi-currency account you’ll probably need to pick between an expat account from a global banking brand, or an online alternative. Expat banking packages are pretty comprehensive, but do come with strict eligibility criteria. Online alternatives can be more flexible, with lower overall fees.

What are the advantages of a multi-currency account in Canada?

Multi-currency accounts can make it cheaper and more convenient to spend internationally - in person when you travel, and online when shopping with ecommerce sites based abroad. You can also use your account to send and receive international payments, and won’t need to convert foreign currencies back to CAD immediately if you receive a transfer from overseas. Instead you can just hold your balance and convert it whenever the rates look good.

Business multi-currency accounts allow you to get paid in a range of currencies from PSPs like Stripe or marketplaces like Amazon, and can often be cheaper than relying on the platform to convert foreign currencies back to CAD for you. Holding a balance in a range of currencies can also be helpful if you deal with international suppliers or any of your team are based abroad.

Best multi-currency accounts

The best multi-currency account for your needs will depend on the type of transactions you’re making, and your personal preferences. Accounts available in Canada usually split down into 3 categories:

  • Online specialist accounts

  • Expat banking packages

  • Business foreign currency accounts

Each of these account types will suit a different customer profile, as they each offer different functionality and features. Here’s an overview of 3 different multi-currency accounts - one of each type - and their key features. We’ll look at each account in a bit more detail, later.

ProviderAvailabilityFeesDebit cardOther features
WisePersonal and business customers
  • Personal accounts are free to open, with no monthly charges


  • One time 42 CAD payment for business account - no ongoing fees

Yes
  • Multi-currency account to manage 50+ currencies

  • Local account details for 10 currencies

  • Send payments to 80+ countries 

HSBC

Personal and business customers 

(account profiled is for personal customers only)

  • Fall below fees of 15 - 35 GBP (in the region of 20 - 50 CAD) apply

Yes
  • Expat banking services including a personal relationship manager

  • Manage 19 currencies, and get savings accounts for a range of global currencies

RBCBusiness customers
  • 25 CAD/month

No
  • Can handle a range of global currencies

  • 1 transaction a month fee free

  • Fees for both outgoing and incoming international payments

Wise

If you’re looking for a flexible multi-currency account you can manage from your laptop or smartphone, Wise could help. Get your account for free online to hold and exchange 50+ currencies, and get local account details to get paid fee free from 30+ currencies. There are no monthly charges and no minimum balance requirements, and you can also get a linked debit card to make spending and withdrawals easy all over the world.

Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees. If you’re spending with your Wise debit card, your card’s auto convert function will automatically switch to the currency you need from the balance which incurs the lowest fee to keep things easy.

  • Fees: Personal accounts are free to open, 42 CAD one time fee to open a business account. No monthly fee for either personal or business accounts

  • Currency conversion: Hold and convert 50+ currencies with the mid-market exchange rate

  • Other notable features: Receive payments like a local from 30 countries, send money to 80+ countries, spend with your linked debit card in 200+ countries.

Get your free multi-currency account

HSBC

Global banking giant HSBC has a range of products aimed at expat customers, which includes several different ways to manage your money across currencies. The most flexible is probably the HSBC Global Currency account which can be used to hold 19 currencies - although you can also choose foreign currency savings account options if you prefer.

Expat banking services like these are often targeted at high income individuals who need to manage day to day funds, investments and more across currencies. To be eligible for these services from HSBC you’ll typically need to have a salary of 100,000 GBP (around 150,000 CAD), or maintain a high minimum balance. 

  • Fees: Some free global payments between eligible accounts, if you don’t hit minimum balance requirements you’ll pay a fall below fee of 15 - 35 GBP per month

  • Currency conversion: Accounts offer discounted FX services across all currencies

  • Other notable features: Hold and exchange 19 different currencies, savings accounts in most currencies or open a current account which can operate in a handful of major world currencies

RBC

If you’re looking for a multi-currency account for your business, the RBC online foreign currency account may meet your needs. This account offers a flexible range of currencies - but it’s important to note that it doesn’t hold either CAD or USD. 

There’s no minimum balance requirement for this account, so you can receive and hold foreign currencies as and when you need to. Accounts can be opened easily online, too - RBC states you can get one set up in less than 15 minutes.

  • Fees: 25 CAD/month; incoming wires over 50 CAD cost 17 CAD, outgoing international wires start at 15 CAD

  • Currency conversion: Exchange rates are likely to include a markup

  • Other notable features: Operate in a range of currencies excluding CAD and USD

How to open a multi-currency account in Canada

The exact process to open a multi-currency account in Canada will depend on the provider or bank you pick - but the good news is that all the accounts profiled above can be opened online for convenience. The basic steps will be the same whichever account you choose:

  1. Pick the right provider and account for you

  2. Check your eligibility

  3. Collect the necessary documents for verification

  4. Apply online and upload documents

  5. Once your account is verified you’ll be ready to start transacting

To open a bank account of any type you’ll need to provide documents for verification - usually this will be:

  • One document which shows your name and address

  • One document which shows your name and date of birth

Different banks will accept different documents, but it’s common to use a passport, driving license or utility bill for verification.

For a business account you’ll need to take along your own ID documents, as well as a business registration document. The exact paperwork accepted will vary depending on your business structure and size.

Conclusion

Multi-currency accounts can be really useful for anyone who sends, spends or receives payments in different currencies. Accounts are available for both personal and business customers, although the range of multi-currency accounts from major Canadian banks is pretty small. If you’re looking for a personal relationship manager to help with investing and managing your finances, an expat banking package may suit you - or if you’re thinking of a lower cost, more flexible option, an alternative online provider may be the way to go.

FAQ

Can I open a multi-currency account in Canada?

It is possible to open a multi-currency account in Canada - but there are limited options out there from traditional banks. Alternative online providers can be a good option, with low cost accounts across a broad range of currencies.

How does it cost to open a multi-currency account?

If you’re thinking of opening an expat account you’ll probably need to maintain a fairly high minimum deposit in your account - but there’s often no ongoing fee as long as you can hold your balance. Online accounts can be free to open, with no ongoing fees.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated September 23, 2022