What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account? 2024

Tarah Ren
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
June 3, 2024

New to Canada and looking to set up your CAD bank account to help manage your money? Or maybe you’re looking for a first bank account for yourself or a younger family member – or even for your business? This guide has you covered.

Opening a Canadian bank account can be easy as long as you have all the right documentation prepared in advance – you could even get the entire process sorted out online or on your phone without leaving home.

In this article we’ll explain all you need to know about opening a Canadian bank account, and we’ll also touch on alternatives like Wise and Koho which offer feature packed digital accounts which can come with more flexibility and lower fees.

What documentation do you need to open a bank account?

The documentation you need to open a bank account in Canada will vary based on the bank you select, the account type you want, and in some cases your citizenship or residency information. Ultimately you’ll need to double check the specific rules which apply for the account you want to open – but let’s work through the most commonly requested paperwork to open a bank account in Canada.

Here are the documents you’ll need to be able to open a Canadian bank account:

  • Proof of identification

  • Proof of address

  • Proof of legal status

  • Proof of eligibility, based on the account type

Pretty much every bank will ask you for a proof of address and a proof of identification. However, depending on the account type you select, and your own personal situation, you may need more than this.

Specialist accounts may require you to prove your eligibility – proof of student status for a student account, for example. Some accounts may require you to prove your income or make a specific opening deposit. And finally, if you’re not a Canadian citizen you will have to show you have a legal right to reside in Canada if you’re applying for a standard bank account.

Different documents can be used for different purposes, and some banks can be more flexible than others when it comes to what’s acceptable.

What ID do I need to open a bank account in Canada?

For identification, you can usually provide one or more of these documents:

  • Passport

  • Government issued ID card with a photo

  • Valid driving license

  • A Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) card

  • A certificate of Indian Status

  • A provincial health insurance card

  • A Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Canadian Citizenship

  • A Permanent Resident Card

  • Birth Certificate

Do I need a Canadian address to open a bank account?

Most banks in Canada require you to provide a Canadian address as part of their application process. This is necessary for identity verification to ensure safety as well as communication purposes.

For proof of address, you can usually provide one or more of  these documents:

  • Lease document

  • Mortgage document

  • Recent utility bill in your name

  • A recent Canadian bank statement or credit card statement in your name

However, some alternatives providers like Wise allow you to open a CAD account without needing a Canadian address. This is especially useful for newcomers and anyone who is planning on moving to Canada.

Go to Wise

Save the paperwork with online solutions like Wise or Koho

Opening a bank account with a bank can be a hassle. You may need to visit a branch in person to get everything set up – and you’ll almost always need a local Canadian proof of address to get a full feature resident account. That can be tricky if you’re new to the country, or just starting out and don’t already have bills in your name.

Specialist services like Wise may be a better alternative. There’s no need to visit a branch in person as providers like these can complete verification digitally – all you need to do is upload images of your paperwork online or in the provider app.

If you’re new to Canada you can use proof of address from your home country before you move – to get your CAD account ahead of time. And once you’re all set up you can manage your money online and on the move with low fees and handy extras like multi-currency functionality.

Do you need a SIN number to open a bank account in Canada?

As long as the account doesn’t earn interest, you can open a checking account in Canada without a SIN number (Social Insurance Number)

You can open a basic account using other forms of identification and proof of address instead, which is helpful for newcomers and non-residents who don’t have a SIN yet.

However, while a SIN isn’t mandatory, some banks might request it depending on the type of account or service, especially if it involves earning interest, to comply with tax reporting requirements.

What do you need to open a bank account online?

Some Canadian banks do offer the option to open a bank account online. However, this is far easier if you’ve already got a full suite of paperwork pulled together. If you’re in a more complicated situation – for example, if you don’t have the standard documents accepted for account opening – you’ll usually be asked to visit a branch so your paperwork can be checked over in person.

The exact documents accepted – and how the process works – can vary a lot depending on the provider, so do check in advance before you start your application.

Here is what you’ll normally need to open a bank account online:

  • Proof of ID, like a government issued photo ID card or passport

  • A Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) card

  • Proof of address in Canada such as a local utility bill or bank statement in your name

Even if you’re able to provide the standard documents required by your bank, you might find you’re asked to upload extra paperwork based on the account type, and your personal situation. This is to ensure you comply with their eligibility criteria for the account, and to stay on the right side of the law.

In most cases, opening a bank account – or an online account with a specialist provider – can bring a lot of benefits, including an easier onboarding process, lower fees, and simple ways to manage your money with just your phone. Here are a couple of great alternatives to bank accounts which you might consider if you’re interested in a digital account:

Wise Account: Hold and exchange 40+ currencies, in a free to open personal Wise account. You can also get a linked Wise debit card, to spend in 150+ countries, with the mid market exchange rate every time you need to switch from one currency to another.

Go to Wise

Koho Account: Offers a no-fee spending and savings CAD account for everyday banking that comes with a reloadable, prepaid Mastercard, as well as a virtual card. Choose from 3 plans, earn cash back, interest on your balance and build your credit history.

How to open a bank account in Canada?

The exact process to open a Canadian bank account will vary depending on the bank you choose. However, we can look at the typical steps you’ll need to take to open a bank account in Canada:

1. Choose a bank or a provider to open an account with: If you like to bank face to face, pick a bank with branches in your local area, and make sure there are plenty of in-network ATMs nearby for low fee withdrawals

2. Make sure that you’re eligible to open an account with them: Different banks have their own eligibility criteria – and credit unions have further restrictions on who can apply. Check everything over before you get started

3. Choose the right account for yourself: Pick the account that offers all the features you need, for the lowest possible fees, to maximize your money

4. Put the required documentation together: You’ll almost always need a proof of ID and proof of address, but specific accounts may have extra document requirements – ask your bank directly if you’re unsure

5. Apply to open an account: This may be done online, in an app or in a branch, depending on the bank you pick

Checking vs savings accounts

Checking accounts are designed to make it easy to manage your money day to day. You’ll usually get a checkbook and a linked debit card to make payments and withdrawals, and can easily deposit your salary or other income to the account for spending.

Savings accounts are aimed at people who want to grow their money, often by setting aside a fixed amount to earn a higher interest rate. These accounts may not come with checkbooks and cards, but they do usually have better earning opportunities if you want to earn interest.

Checking Accounts might be best:Saving Accounts might be best:
  • If you need a card and checkbook for spending

  • If you’re looking for easy ways to pay bills and make withdrawals

  • If you’re likely to deposit and spend money regularly to cover your daily spending

  • If you’re looking to build your savings and get a better interest rate

  • If you’re not worried about getting easy or instant access to your money, and can wait to transfer funds out

Not eligible for a standard Canadian bank or credit union checking or saving account? Or maybe you just want something different?

Consider online alternatives such as Wise and Koho which can be opened as a non-Canada resident, or as a new arrival, with more flexibility, and some handy features, too.

  • Wise accounts can hold and exchange 50+ currencies with the mid market exchange rate and low, transparent fees.

  • Koho, on the other hand, only offers a no-fee spending and savings account in CAD for your everyday banking needs. All three subscription plans come with a reloadable, prepaid Mastercard, up to 5% cash back and interest on your balance.

Go to Wise

What to look for when choosing a bank account

Choosing a bank account can feel a bit overwhelming, with lots of choice and a huge range of different features available from different providers. Here are a few things to consider when you’re picking your perfect account:

  • Account fees: All accounts have some fees – but looking for an account with no monthly charges, and low fees for the transactions you make frequently can save you money

  • ATM availability: Typically banks charge out of network and international ATM fees – these can be high, so do check out the details carefully. Or consider a specialist like Wise and Koho, which offer some no-fee out of network and international withdrawals every month

  • Online banking: Make sure the bank you choose has easily available online and mobile banking options which let you manage your money without visiting a branch

  • Debit cards: For ease of use, check your account will come with a debit card for in person, online and mobile payments

  • International transactions: Finally, banks often charge high fees for international transactions and transfers. Look out for foreign transaction fees and high bank wire costs – or look into alternatives which are specialists in international transfers, like Wise.

Go to Wise

How much does it cost to open a bank account

You’re unlikely to need to pay a fee to open your Canadian bank account, but it’s common to need to pay a minimum deposit to get your account up and running. This can range from just a few dollars for a basic account, to thousands of dollars for premium account tiers.

The good news is that you can open accounts for free and online with Wise and Koho:

  • Wise Account: Personal accounts are free to open, with no minimum balance and no ongoing fee

  • Koho Account: Choose an Essential plan for $0 when you set up a direct deposit or load $1000 per month, or upgrade to a monthly fee of up to 19 CAD, to unlock more features

Go to Wise

What documents do you need to open a business bank account?

Exactly what’s needed to open a business bank account depends on both the specific bank, and the business entity type you have. In some cases you can open your account online – but it’s pretty common to be asked to attend a branch in person to open a business bank account in Canada.

For a fully online account opening process, check out business accounts from providers like Wise.

To open a business bank account you’ll usually need:

  • Your own proof of ID, like a passport

  • Social insurance number

  • Proof of ID for other directors or beneficial owners (depending on entity type)

If your company is incorporated, you’ll also need:

  • Articles of incorporation/association

  • Trade name registration

  • Business paperwork, depending on your entity type

  • Name, address and occupation of everyone who owns 25% or more of your business.

If your business is older than 12 months, you’ll also need one of the following documents:

  • A certificate or incorporation, certificate of continuation or letters patent

  • Certificate of compliance

  • Corporate profile report

  • Annual government filing

  • Financial statements

  • Business Notice of Assessment

  • Health and safety certificate

  • Business license or vendor’s permit

Before you open a business bank account with a Canadian bank, take a look at online alternatives like Wise, which offers business account services in Canada. Wise has great multi-currency features, which can help if you have staff, suppliers or customers abroad, and comes with a linked account card and easy ways to manage your business finances on the move.

Go to Wise Business

What information do you need to open a business bank account online?

Most Canadian banks offer online business accounts, although the eligibility requirements and account features and fees do vary pretty widely. If you’re not interested in banking in person in a branch, compare your options against a provider like Wise, which offers a fully online account opening and operation option.

To open a business account online, you normally need these documents:

  • Two forms of ID - at least one photo ID and one government-issued document

  • Sole proprietorship: Master business license and trade name registration

  • Partnership and limited partnerships: Trade name registration, copy of partnership agreement and a registered declaration of partnership

  • Corporation: Articles of incorporation/association and registration documents

Let’s look at a specific example – the information needed to open a Wise business account online:

  • Your own proof of ID, like a passport

  • Legal name of entity

  • Primary place of business and Canada street address

  • EIN or SIN

  • List of shareholders who own 25% or more of the business, and any relevant directors, including full name, country of residence, date of birth and exact percentage of shares they own

  • Details of your company’s website and a short description of what your business does

Wise Business Account: Open a Wise business account for a small one time fee, with no ongoing costs and no minimum balance requirement. Hold and exchange 40+ currencies with the mid market exchange rate, get linked business debit and expense cards, and helpful features like batch payments and cloud accounting solutions.

Go to Wise Business

What do you need to open a bank account if you’re under 18

Some banks and specialist providers offer accounts for minors. In some cases these can be opened as standalone account options, but in other cases, the child or teen’s account will have to be linked to an adult account with the same provider.

To open a bank account as an under 18 you’ll usually need:

  • Government issued photo ID or driving license

  • Social insurance number

  • Passport

  • Birth certificate

Conclusion: What information do you need to open a bank account?

To open a bank account in Canada you’ll pretty much always need a proof of ID and a local proof of address. However, some banks, and some specific accounts, come with more detailed requirements. You may also need to visit a branch to get your account open if you’re not eligible for online opening, or if you don’t have a full, standard suite of paperwork.

  • For an easier onboarding experience, look at online alternatives such as the Wise account and Koho account.

  • Both providers have easy to use online and in-app accounts with linked cards for payments and withdrawals.

  • Wise also has multi-currency functionality and a great range of international services for when you’re abroad or shopping online with international retailers.

Go to Wise

FAQs on requirements to open a bank account

Which banks allow you to open an account online?

Some US banks like RBC and Scotiabank offer online account opening based on customer eligibility. Alternatively you can open an account online or in-app easily with specialists like Wise and Koho, for a fully online onboarding including verification, which could make it a faster and easier process compared to using a bank.

Which bank is easiest to open an account with?

There’s no single best bank to open an account with – it’ll depend on your personal situation and preferences, and the documents you’re able to pull together to prove your eligibility. One smart option for an easy and intuitive experience is to look at Wise and Koho which have digital accounts which can be opened online, fast, conveniently and for free.

How much money do you need to open an account?

Many accounts can be opened for no initial fee – but you might need to make a deposit, which can be from just a few tens of dollars to thousands, depending on the account type. Once your account is open you’ll also need to pay any relevant maintenance fees and transaction charges.

Do I need to go to a bank to open a checking account?

Some banks do allow you to open a checking account online without visiting a branch – however, this is based on your eligibility, and you’ll need a full suite of paperwork to get started. If you’re struggling, check out Wise and Koho for accounts you can open entirely online, with low fees and a broad range of great features.

Can a minor open a bank account without a parent?

Older teens may be able to open accounts on their own, but in most cases, accounts for under 18s will need to be approved by or linked to a parent or guardian. Reach out to your preferred bank to check their account options.