How to Open an International Bank Account in Canada in 2024

Tarah Ren
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
June 3, 2024

Looking to open an international bank account? Whether you’re planning to move to a different country or you need to make regular transfers abroad, managing your money across different countries and currencies can be challenging.

In this article we’ll look at how to open an international bank account with a bank or online specialist service, including the documents you need. We’ll also analyze the best options available to show you some of the most cost-effective international accounts, such as Wise. But more on that later, read on.

How to open an international bank account

The exact steps you need to take to open an international account will vary based on the provider you pick. Banks often ask you to visit a branch to get your account set up and provide your paperwork for verification. Digital specialist services will allow you to complete the entire process from home, usually with nothing more than your phone to upload your documents.

Here’s how to open an international account step by step:

Step 1. Choose the bank or provider you prefer

Doing some research to find the right bank and account type is essential. Take a look at the international accounts on offer from some of the big global banking brands available in Canada such as TBC and Scotia Bank, as well as digital specialist services like Wise.

  • Wise: For anyone looking to hold 40+ currencies, spend with a linked debit card in 150+ countries, and receive payments like a local from 30+ countries

  • Royal Bank of Canada: Choose from a US dollar personal chequing or high interest savings account or Hong Kong Dollar, Euro or British Pound savings accounts.

  • Scotia Bank: Offers US Dollar and Euro foreign currency accounts with no monthly fees.

But more on these providers later on.

Step 2. Fill in the application in a branch, via an app or online

Complete the application form online or in hard copy, and start to gather the paperwork and evidence you might need to support your application. Application process could vary from provider to provider.

Step 3. Provide the necessary documents

All banks need to follow verification processes, so you’ll have to provide documents either by scanning and uploading them if you can apply online, or by visiting a bank branch. Common documents typically include a passport or driver’s license as well as proof of address like a utility bill to verify your identity, which is essential for any bank application process.

Step 4. Fund the account

Depending on the account type you choose you may now need to add a fixed minimum deposit to get started. While this isn’t required by all providers, it’s common to add a small amount to your account to start using it and gain access to all of its features.

Wise doesn’t impose a minimum deposit requirement, making it a great choice for anyone looking for a low-cost option.

Step 5. Start using the account

Once your account has been verified – which can happen instantly, or may take a day or two – you’re ready to start using your account. You’ll be able to set up online or mobile banking, order a bank card and begin to manage your international account in your preferred way.

What do you need to open an international account?

Exactly what’s needed to open your account will depend a lot on the provider you select. It’s a good idea to double check before you start your application, so you’ll know you have all you need to hand.

Here’s a rundown of the documents often needed to open an international account:

  • Proof of identity – a passport, driving license or other government issued photo ID

  • Proof of address – a utility bill or government correspondence in your name, usually from within the last few months

  • Proof of minimum funding or salary, depending on the eligibility requirements for the account

Can you open an international bank account online for free?

Yes, you can open an international account online without paying account opening fees.

  • Some banks will let you open an international account online – but this isn’t always an option with a bank. Account opening is usually free with banks, but there might be a minimum deposit amount to open the account.

  • Digital providers like Wise offer online application, verification and onboarding processes. Plus, you can open an account without paying account opening fees, and there is no minimum account balance requirement.

What is an international account?

An international account lets you hold one or more foreign currencies, and make easy payments internationally. While different providers have their own features and fees, accounts can often come with linked cards for payments and withdrawals, and ways to pay and get paid in foreign currencies.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the people who may benefit from an international account:

  • Anyone who travels internationally for work or leisure

  • People who split their time between countries, those who need a way to manage CAD and USD side by side

  • International students and expats living away for work

  • Travelers to Europe who need a Euro non-resident account

  • Freelancers and contractors getting paid in foreign currencies

  • Business owners looking to send and receive overseas payments

  • People who choose to invest in foreign currencies or assets

Depending on the international account you select, you may find it’s easier to send and receive foreign currency payments, and hold multi-currency balances. That means you can send international money transfers without the need for currency conversion, bringing down the costs overall.

Can I open an international bank account from Canada?

Yes. You can open an international bank account in Canada, either with a bank or a digital provider like Wise.

There’s not a huge selection of multi-currency accounts on offer from mainstream banks, particularly if you’re a personal customer looking for a day to day international checking account.

Banks do tend to have a broader selection of services for businesses and customers looking to invest, though. We’ll cover more on these options in the following sections.

Who is the international bank account for?

International bank accounts can be handy for people moving to a different country for a limited time to work or study, people transferring money in different currencies, and people receiving salaries in different currencies.

If you pick an account which offers multi-currency balances and a linked payment card you could also find it’s handy for any international travel, and even when shopping online with retailers based overseas.

Different providers have quite different account options which suit different customer needs. It’s worth noting that international accounts from banks often come with strict eligibility requirements such as minimum balance or salary levels, and monthly fees.

However, in exchange you can often access wealth management services, rewards and priority treatment. Digital services can be more flexible with lower overall costs – we’ll look at a comparison of some banks vs specialist services, later.

More information: Best international bank accounts

Benefits of international bank accounts

An international account is a valuable resource for people who travel frequently, or who are living abroad for work or study. International accounts are also helpful for freelancers, and online sellers who receive payments from overseas, as well as businesses that engage in global trade.

Here are some of the key benefits of an international account:

  • Spend conveniently when you travel or shop in foreign currencies – particularly if you have a multi-currency account which lets you hold a selection of currencies

  • Lower fees and better exchange rates when you send a payment overseas or spend using your linked card

  • Receive foreign currencies – useful if you’re an international freelancer or business owner getting paid from overseas

  • Hold foreign currencies for future use, to pay overseas bills, or to invest

Good to know:
Multi-currency accounts with a linked card can mean you cut out foreign transaction fees when you travel or shop online in foreign currencies – saving around 2.5% compared to using many normal bank cards.

4 Best international bank accounts

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. In this section, we’ll cover 3 providers that offer international accounts, such as online specialists like Wise and as well as banks like RBC and Scotiabank

Services offered Wise account RBC Foreign Currency accounts Scotia Bank Foreign Currency accounts 
Foreign currencies supported40+ currencies 

4  currencies 

2 currencies 
Local account detailsYes – in 10 currencies including CAD, USD, and GBPYes - in 4 currencies including USD, EUR, GBP, and HKD

Yes - in 2 currencies: 

U.S. Dollar Daily Interest Account and Euro Savings Account

Account opening feeNo fee NoneNone
Minimum balance requirementNoneNone200 USD or 200 Euro minimum balance if you want to avoid monthly maintenance fees
Maintenance feesNone

The US personal account has a monthly 3 USD fee.

The US high interest savings and Hong Kong Dollar, Euro and British Pound foreign savings accounts have no monthly maintenance fee.

US Dollar account:

$1.00 US/month

No monthly account fees with a $200 U.S. minimum balance, if you’re a  Ultimate Package account holder or if you’re 60 and over

Euro account: 


No monthly account fees with a minimum balance of 200 euros, if you’re a 

Ultimate Package account holder or if you’re 60 and over

International transfersSend payments to 160+ countries

Free transfers between any RBC Royal Bank personal deposit accounts in your name.

Foreign exchange fees apply

Outgoing wire fees start at: 

$45.00 CAD,

$45.00 USD, €33 EUR, £27 GBP or 263 HKD

$1.99 per transfer
Currency conversion 

From 0.35%

Mid-market exchange rate

Exchange rates may include a markupExchange rates may include a markup
International debit cardsFree to order, no annual or monthly feesN/A N/A 

The accounts available from digital providers like Wise tend to be more designed for day to day use, with linked multi-currency cards and easy ways to pay and get paid.

Banks which offer multi-currency or foreign currency account services often have more of a focus on customers who want to invest or save in foreign currencies, and business owners and high wealth individuals who want additional perks and services.

Here’s a summary of the international account providers we’ve picked out:

  • Wise account: hold and exchange 40+ currencies, get local bank details for 10 currencies to get paid easily, send money to 160+ countries and use your linked Wise card in 150+ countries

  • RBC: Hold and manage funds in up to 4 currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, HKD), with free transfers between RBC personal accounts and no minimum balance required and no monthly maintenance fees, apart from a monthly 3 USD fee for the US personal account.

  • Scotiabank: Manage funds in USD and EUR with no monthly fees for balances over $200 USD/€200.

We’ll cover each providers’ account in more detail next.

Wise account

You can open a Wise account online or through the Wise app, and are a good choice for day to day money management across currencies.

You can hold 40+ currencies, send payments to 160+ countries, and get local bank details to get payments easily in up to 10 currencies. Wise accounts also come with the option to get a Wise card which can be used for spending and withdrawals in 150+ countries.

Best features of the Wise account:

  • No monthly or annual fees to pay and, no minimum balance requirement

  • Hold and exchange 40+ currencies

  • Local account details in 10 currencies to get paid like a local from 30+ countries

  • Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with low fees from 0.35%

Go to Wise

How to open a Wise account

Opening a Wise account is easy and convenient. Register via the Wise app or website by clicking the ‘Register’ button and add your email address. You can also sign up using your Google, Facebook or Apple account and you’ll need to verify your identity with documents like your passport or driver’s license. Once verified, you can set up your payment and open a currency balance.

Eligibility to open a Wise account in Canada: Opening an account with Wise is easy and you can register online in minutes. You’ll need to be at least 18 years old and provide your legal name, date of birth, and address. For business accounts you’ll need your business tax ID and registration address.

Learn more: How to open a Wise Account in Canada

Pros of Wise account Cons of Wise account 

✅ Broad multi-currency features

✅ Mid-market exchange rate for currency conversion

✅ Low, transparent fees

❌ No branch network

❌ No cash or check payment options

Go to Wise

Learn more: Wise Account Review

RBC account

RBC offers foreign currency eSavings accounts in Hong Kong Dollars, Euros and British Pounds alongside US dollar personal chequing and high interest eSavings accounts.

The accounts come with options for easy transfers between personal deposit accounts and interest on your balances, with no minimum balance required to open the account. They’re ideal for managing multiple currencies without the need to convert to Canadian dollars, allowing you to conveniently transfer funds and deposit or withdraw cash.

Best features of the RBC account:

  • No minimum balance required to open an account

  • Hold and manage funds in 4 currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, HKD)

  • Convenient transfers between RBC personal deposit accounts

  • US Personal Chequing Account has 6 transactions a month fee free, 1.25 USD per transaction after that

How to open a RBC account

Opening an RBC foreign currency account is simple - you’ll just need a valid ID and proof of residence. You can visit any RBC branch or, if you’re an existing RBC customer, sign in online to open an account or book an appointment.

Eligibility to open an account: To open an account with RBC, you must be a Canadian resident over the age of 18 and provide a piece of government-issued photo ID.

Pros of RBC account Cons of RBC account 

✅ No minimum balance required 

✅ Bank confidently with Canada’s biggest bank

✅ Conveniently transfer between RBC personal accounts 

❌ No debit card available 

❌ High outgoing wire fees starting at: 

$45.00 CAD, $45.00 USD, €33 EUR, £27 GBP or 263 HKD

Go to RBC

Scotiabank account

Scotiabank offers foreign currency accounts that allow you to save, send, and receive funds in USD and EUR without converting to Canadian dollars.

Both accounts come with competitive foreign exchange rates and two free teller transactions per month. There is no monthly account fee with a 200 USD or 200 EUR minimum balance or if you’re 60 or over.

Best features of the Scotiabank account:

  • No monthly account fees with minimum balances or for seniors (60+)

  • Competitive foreign exchange rates

  • Free paperless recordkeeping

  • Easy online transfers between Scotia accounts

How to open a Scotiabank account

To open a Scotiabank foreign account all you need to do is visit a Scotiabank branch and provide government-issued photo ID. You can also use the online appointment booking tool to book your appointment with an advisor in advance.

Eligibility to open an account: You must be a resident of Canada and provide a government-issued photo ID to open a foreign currency account with Scotiabank.

Pros of Scotiabank account Cons of Scotiabank account 

✅  No monthly fees if you stay within the minimum balance or you’re over the age of 60

✅ 2 free teller transactions per month

✅ Easy online transfers between Scotia accounts

❌ No debit card available 

❌ Limited to only USD and EUR accounts

Go to Scotiabank

Is it safe to keep money in international accounts?

All of the providers we’ve profiled are safe to use and comply with the required legislation to offer services in Canada, and often, internationally, too.

  • Wise: globally licensed and regulated, with strong digital security features

  • RBC: As Canada’s biggest bank, RBC accounts are CDIC-insured for up to $100,000 and protected against unauthorized transactions.

  • Scotiabank: Scotiabank is one of the five biggest banks in the country and is also CDIC-insured for safe and secure banking.

How much does it cost to open an international account?

Opening an international account is usually free, making international banking more accessible, but will vary from provider to provider. But even if an international account is free to open, it’s also important to be aware of other potential costs that could arise, like yearly or monthly maintenance fees, transaction fees or currency conversion charges. We’ll delve deeper into the important fees to consider in the next section.

Fees for opening an international account

Opening an international account is usually free of charge. However, different accounts do have their own fees, which can include maintenance fees. Some accounts may also require you to make and maintain a minimum deposit amount to access features and services.

Finally, international accounts from banks might also be available only to eligible customers who already hold a Canadian account with that bank – so you’ll need to double check if there are any fees involved in maintaining the CAD account too, before you decide which international account to pick.

Account fees Wise account RBC Foreign Currency Account ScotiaBank Foreign Currency Account 
Account opening feeNo feeNo feeNo fee
Minimum balance requirementNone None200 USD or 200 Euros
Fall below feeNone None $1.00 US/month or €1.00/month
Monthly or annual feesNone None apart from the US Personal Chequing Account, which has a 3 USD monthly fee$1.00 US/month or €1.00/month if you fall below the minimum balance requirement
Account closing feesNone None unless the account is closed after the expiry of 15 days from account opening and any remaining balance isn’t transferred to another RBC Royal Bank account, in which case a $20 fee applies$20 if the account is closed within 90 days of opening
Foreign transaction feesNo foreign transaction fee Not stated on the website$1.99 per transfer
Linked debit card feesYes, no order feeN/AN/A
Go to Wise
  • Wise account – No fees for account opening, minimum balance or monthly maintenance charges. One-time 9 USD fee for ordering a linked debit card but no foreign transaction fees.

  • Royal Bank of Canada - No fees for opening an account, no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance charges, except for the US Personal Chequing Account, which has a 3 USD monthly fee.

  • Scotia Bank - No fees for account opening, but there is a 1 USD or 1 EUR/month fee which applies if your balance falls below 200 USD or 200 Euros.

How long does it take to open an international account?

The time it takes to open an international account can vary significantly from provider to provider and can range from a few hours to several days. While the application process tends to be straightforward, the verification process can take a while, ensuring that all mandatory security and regulatory compliance checks are done to securely set up your account.

Wise – Registration can take minutes but the verification process usually takes around 2 working days.

RBC - Online applications can be completed in about 10 minutes or less and account opening should be relatively quick, especially if you’re already an existing customer.

Scotiabank -According to Scotiabank, you can open an account online with them in 20 minutes. However, for a foreign currency account you’ll need to visit your local brand or book an appointment to speak with an advisor.

Go to Wise

Opening an international bank account online free with zero balance

While opening a free online international bank account with zero balance is possible, major banks often require a minimum deposit amount, which can be high for foreign currency accounts dealing in various currencies.

However, digital platforms like Wise have made the process easy, quick and convenient, making it ideal for those who frequently travel or send and receive payments in multiple currencies.

With Wise you can hold, send and exchange over 40 currencies and gain access to up to 10 local account details, all without a minimum balance and no yearly or monthly fees.

Tips for saving money with an international account

Here are a few extra ideas to help you get the most out of your international account:

  • Avoid unnecessary currency exchange – if you’re paid in a foreign currency you can hold it in that currency instead of switching back to CAD unnecessarily

  • Get better rates – buy currencies you need when the rates look good, and hold the balance until you need it

  • Avoid foreign transaction fees – international accounts often let you spend foreign currencies for free with no additional charge to worry about

How to open a foreign bank account online

If you’re interested in opening a bank account in another country online, from Canada, our comprehensive guides for bank accounts in other countries can help:

Can I open a bank account in another country without living there?

Non-Canadian citizens can still open a bank account in Canada, although the process can be more challenging, and they might need to go through some extra steps that citizens wouldn’t, especially if they’re non-residents. This often involves providing extra documentation, but specific requirements will vary depending on the bank and country.

Thanks to digital banking platforms like Wise, opening a bank account in another country without being a resident is much more accessible.

Wise offers the convenience of local bank details in up to 10 currencies, including CAD, USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, and NZD, allowing you to receive local transfers from over 30 countries as if you had a local bank account. For example, if you open a USD account, you will get US bank account details, effectively allowing you to bank like a local.

Go to Wise

Conclusion: International bank account opening

Ultimately the best bank for your international bank account will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Canadian banks don’t usually have such a broad range of international account products for personal customers. Investors and businesses are better served, but you’ll need to shop around to find a bank and account that suits you.

Alternatively, specialist providers like Wise can offer more flexible international account options which can hold dozens of currencies and which come with extra perks like low cost international transfer and currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate.

How to open an international bank account FAQs

What’s the best bank to open an international account in Canada?

Banks in Canada don’t usually offer a very broad selection of international accounts – although top Canadian banks like RBC and Scotiabank may be able to help. Alternative providers like Wise may be a better option if you’re looking for a more flexible international account which has a good selection of supported currencies.

Can I open an international account online?

You can open an international account online or through an app if you pick a digital provider like Wise. If you’d prefer to use a bank you may be eligible for online account opening if you’ve got a full set of standard documents available for verification – if not you’ll need to visit a branch.

What’s the bank with the cheapest international fees?

Banks tend to have fees for international transfers, overseas spending and currency exchange. While bank international fees can vary widely, customers often find they can access lower international fees by picking a specialist online service for their foreign currency transactions instead.

How much does it cost to open an international account?

It’s often free to open an international account, although some account providers do have maintenance fees. Transaction fees usually apply when you use your account, including currency conversion charges and ATM fees.

Is it safe to keep money in an international account?

As long as you pick a reputable and properly licensed provider, it’s safe to keep money in an international account. All the providers we profile on Exiap are regulated and safe to use.