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sdt13

Moving to Canada (advice on banks, cell phones, etc.)

35 posts in this topic

Hey everyone,

 

I will be moving out to Victoria, BC from New York at the end of this month and so I am starting to look into opening all of the necessary accounts. I am currently in Upstate NY and so I was thinking of day tripping to Toronto to set some things up, most notably a bank account and a cellphone. 

First off, does anyone have any suggestions on which banks and cell service providers are best? I've looked more into phones and I was thinking of going with Telus or Fido for an iPhone plan. As far as banks, I've seen that some (e.g., CIBC and RBC) have deals for 'newcomers'. RBC's site says that I will need my permit to open an account, but is this necessary for all places? 

I dont know if anyone can address this second question, but do you think it would be possible, given that I am so close to the border, that I could just go to the border any day and apply for my permit? I know applying at the border is possible for US citizens, but there is very little information about it. I will be leaving at the end of July, but if it's necessary that I have it before so I can open accounts than this could be a feasible option (if allowed).

 

Thanks!

 

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If you can I would recommend waiting a couple of months for the cell phone plan. The law changed recently so that 3 year contract plans are now illegal, but it doesn't come into effect until December 2nd. I don't have any suggestions for what to do until that time, but it'll be easier on you not having a 3 year contract - believe me.

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Hi there,

 

As you are moving to Victoria, BC, I do not recommend setting up a new bank account or cell phone plans in Toronto, very far away and they may not be able to give you a local phone number. You also won't have a go to branch for your bank that you trust. Also, if you plan on TAing or anything it'd be much more helpful to set all that up on location, which you won't be expected to do until August or so. I live in Alberta, and am with Telus, and personally think they have good service. Another option in Victoria, BC is Virgin Mobile (a friend of mine went to school out there and was very pleased with their service). Also, if you're moving out there for the long haul (Master's and PhD) there is likely no downside to signing a phone contract.

 

Edit: There is another thread on IHOG in this particular forum about the permit info, hopefully it can help! Good luck :)

Edited by CBrown

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Here's my experience with Canadian banks. When my wife and I moved in together and decided to switch to a common bank for the majority of our stuff, we researched a bunch of Canadian banks.

 

RBC -- I had their junior account as a child. After reaching adulthood, I changed banks because their student plan (the only one without a monthly fee) isn't very good. I would not recommend this bank since you can get much more services for less money elsewhere.

 

CIBC -- From my experience, this bank is more useful for business clients than personal banking.

 

HSBC -- Same as above.

 

TD Canada Trust -- I have an account with them but it is not my main account. They are open 7 days a week, so that is nice. The "TD" stands for Toronto Dominion, so the majority of their locations are actually on the east coast, but I know there's plenty of branches in Victoria too. They also have locations in the US (mostly in New York, I think) which is branded as "TD Bank" instead. If you have both a Canadian TD account and US TD account, you can conveniently transfer funds from one to another online, I think. I probably would be using this more if I moved to a US city with a TD Bank.

 

Bank of Montreal (BMO) -- This is where my wife and I do most of our banking in Canada. We really like this bank because you only need to keep a minimum deposit in one of our accounts and the banking plan (unlimited transactions etc.) is free for all of our accounts (e.g. savings, chequing, our joint and individual accounts too). This is much better than TD, where you need a minimum in EVERY account to get free transactions etc. Also, under their best banking plan, you can withdraw money at international ATMs without extra charges (from BMO) up to 5 times a month. In addition, if you show proof of being a student, you get the Student Price Card for free (attached to your credit card) which gives you a lot of discounts on stuff. I think BMO has the most benefits for students -- instead of having a low services no-fees student banking plan, they give you $8.50/month in banking plan credit. So, if you don't meet the minimum, you still get the standard banking plan for free! The down side of BMO is that it is also an east-coast based bank, so there are fewer locations out west, but there's still a good amount in Victoria. Oh, since moving to the US, we have created a US dollar account with BMO so that when we need to move money from one currency to another, we can do so with few fees. Bank drafts and money orders out of the US dollar account is free with BMO.

 

Coast Capital Savings -- This is a credit union that is only in Victoria and Vancouver. This was my main bank before BMO. They are very nice and so far, have given me the best banking service ever. They are very plentiful in Victoria and their basic free account includes unlimited transactions already. Obviously, a big downside is that they aren't very widespread so it might be hard to find an in-network ATM if you travel elsewhere in Canada.

 

In summary, I would probably recommend BMO or TD Canada Trust, depending on what you need. Check out their websites (make sure to get the Canadian version of the TD website) and see what fits you better. I know that TD sometimes will have offers like a free iPod if you sign up an account and put X dollars in it. 

 

You could open a bank account ahead of time in Toronto, but then your "home branch" will be set to something far away. This is no big deal though, because when my wife and I moved to Ontario, all our home branches were in Vancouver, and there was no real issues with that. Once in a while, you might need something specifically done at the home branch, so they might have to fax or mail stuff, and it could take a few extra days. But that is pretty rare and if you have a good reason to set up the bank account early (and perhaps transfer the money early), then it's probably worth the hassle of having a "home branch" that is not in the place you're living. Also, you might be able to change the home branch anyways, once you get to Victoria.

 

----

 

Cell phones: The Canadian market isn't as good as the US one! We were very pleasantly surprised to see how much better the US market was. For example, long distance works very differently in Canada. Basically, if you make a call outside of your city, even if it's the same area code, it will probably be long distance. Thus, if you sign up for a cell phone in Toronto/Ontario, you will get a Toronto number and using it in Victoria, BC would count as long distance!! You would have to pay extra for nationwide calling, which you probably do not need! Also, you might have to pay a fee to transfer your phone number from the Toronto one to a Victoria one (this fee might be gone now).

 

The three big telecom companies are Rogers, Telus, and Bell. They each have their own spinoff company that offers a less expensive plan for lighter users. Rogers has Fido, Telus has Koodoo, and Bell used to have Solo (but they aren't taking more clients). There are also other companies like Verizon. However, I think the new big thing is WIND Mobile (http://www.windmobile.ca/en/Pages/default.aspx) They seem to have the best rates but checking their service map, they haven't expanded to Victoria yet (although it is a "planned expansion"). 

 

Overall, be prepared to pay a lot more for cell phones. I used to be with Solo and paid $25/month for 100 local minutes, unlimited texting and then an extra $10 for voicemail and caller ID. I didn't even have a smartphone. My wife and I pay the same dollar amount today for smartphones with unlimited talk, text, and data as we did in Canada for the above plan with "dumbphones".

Edited by TakeruK

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Here's my experience with Canadian banks. When my wife and I moved in together and decided to switch to a common bank for the majority of our stuff, we researched a bunch of Canadian banks.

 

RBC -- I had their junior account as a child. After reaching adulthood, I changed banks because their student plan (the only one without a monthly fee) isn't very good. I would not recommend this bank since you can get much more services for less money elsewhere.

 

CIBC -- From my experience, this bank is more useful for business clients than personal banking.

 

HSBC -- Same as above.

 

TD Canada Trust -- I have an account with them but it is not my main account. They are open 7 days a week, so that is nice. The "TD" stands for Toronto Dominion, so the majority of their locations are actually on the east coast, but I know there's plenty of branches in Victoria too. They also have locations in the US (mostly in New York, I think) which is branded as "TD Bank" instead. If you have both a Canadian TD account and US TD account, you can conveniently transfer funds from one to another online, I think. I probably would be using this more if I moved to a US city with a TD Bank.

 

Bank of Montreal (BMO) -- This is where my wife and I do most of our banking in Canada. We really like this bank because you only need to keep a minimum deposit in one of our accounts and the banking plan (unlimited transactions etc.) is free for all of our accounts (e.g. savings, chequing, our joint and individual accounts too). This is much better than TD, where you need a minimum in EVERY account to get free transactions etc. Also, under their best banking plan, you can withdraw money at international ATMs without extra charges (from BMO) up to 5 times a month. In addition, if you show proof of being a student, you get the Student Price Card for free (attached to your credit card) which gives you a lot of discounts on stuff. I think BMO has the most benefits for students -- instead of having a low services no-fees student banking plan, they give you $8.50/month in banking plan credit. So, if you don't meet the minimum, you still get the standard banking plan for free! The down side of BMO is that it is also an east-coast based bank, so there are fewer locations out west, but there's still a good amount in Victoria. Oh, since moving to the US, we have created a US dollar account with BMO so that when we need to move money from one currency to another, we can do so with few fees. Bank drafts and money orders out of the US dollar account is free with BMO.

 

Coast Capital Savings -- This is a credit union that is only in Victoria and Vancouver. This was my main bank before BMO. They are very nice and so far, have given me the best banking service ever. They are very plentiful in Victoria and their basic free account includes unlimited transactions already. Obviously, a big downside is that they aren't very widespread so it might be hard to find an in-network ATM if you travel elsewhere in Canada.

 

In summary, I would probably recommend BMO or TD Canada Trust, depending on what you need. Check out their websites (make sure to get the Canadian version of the TD website) and see what fits you better. I know that TD sometimes will have offers like a free iPod if you sign up an account and put X dollars in it. 

 

You could open a bank account ahead of time in Toronto, but then your "home branch" will be set to something far away. This is no big deal though, because when my wife and I moved to Ontario, all our home branches were in Vancouver, and there was no real issues with that. Once in a while, you might need something specifically done at the home branch, so they might have to fax or mail stuff, and it could take a few extra days. But that is pretty rare and if you have a good reason to set up the bank account early (and perhaps transfer the money early), then it's probably worth the hassle of having a "home branch" that is not in the place you're living. Also, you might be able to change the home branch anyways, once you get to Victoria.

 

----

 

Cell phones: The Canadian market isn't as good as the US one! We were very pleasantly surprised to see how much better the US market was. For example, long distance works very differently in Canada. Basically, if you make a call outside of your city, even if it's the same area code, it will probably be long distance. Thus, if you sign up for a cell phone in Toronto/Ontario, you will get a Toronto number and using it in Victoria, BC would count as long distance!! You would have to pay extra for nationwide calling, which you probably do not need! Also, you might have to pay a fee to transfer your phone number from the Toronto one to a Victoria one (this fee might be gone now).

 

The three big telecom companies are Rogers, Telus, and Bell. They each have their own spinoff company that offers a less expensive plan for lighter users. Rogers has Fido, Telus has Koodoo, and Bell used to have Solo (but they aren't taking more clients). There are also other companies like Verizon. However, I think the new big thing is WIND Mobile (http://www.windmobile.ca/en/Pages/default.aspx) They seem to have the best rates but checking their service map, they haven't expanded to Victoria yet (although it is a "planned expansion"). 

 

Overall, be prepared to pay a lot more for cell phones. I used to be with Solo and paid $25/month for 100 local minutes, unlimited texting and then an extra $10 for voicemail and caller ID. I didn't even have a smartphone. My wife and I pay the same dollar amount today for smartphones with unlimited talk, text, and data as we did in Canada for the above plan with "dumbphones".

I just wanted to correct a few things, I know this post is old but I would hate for someone coming to Canada to rely upon it. First, there is no bank in Canada that would let you have access to an account in the US and a Canadian account, for online banking you would have to log into two different accounts. The banking laws here are much stricter than in the US. There are many banks that operate all over Canada and where you open your account is irrelevant. The top 5 are located all over Canada: RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, and BMO. Then you have smaller banks and the credit unions, while with this subsequent option you would be limited in finding another branch somewhere across Canada, most smaller banks and credit unions are part of the exchange network in which you can withdraw money from other locations with no fees.

As for cell phones, most companies do not charge long distance fees. I am with Koodo, no contract, and for $50 I have: unlimited anytime calling, unlimited national/international messaging and picture messaging (text), no roaming when outside local area, 2gigs monthly data. It is one of the best plans out there :) And they were my service provider when I lived in BC (Pender Island) and I had good reception.

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I just wanted to correct a few things, I know this post is old but I would hate for someone coming to Canada to rely upon it. First, there is no bank in Canada that would let you have access to an account in the US and a Canadian account, for online banking you would have to log into two different accounts. The banking laws here are much stricter than in the US. There are many banks that operate all over Canada and where you open your account is irrelevant. The top 5 are located all over Canada: RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, and BMO. Then you have smaller banks and the credit unions, while with this subsequent option you would be limited in finding another branch somewhere across Canada, most smaller banks and credit unions are part of the exchange network in which you can withdraw money from other locations with no fees.

As for cell phones, most companies do not charge long distance fees. I am with Koodo, no contract, and for $50 I have: unlimited anytime calling, unlimited national/international messaging and picture messaging (text), no roaming when outside local area, 2gigs monthly data. It is one of the best plans out there :) And they were my service provider when I lived in BC (Pender Island) and I had good reception.

 

Thanks for the cell phone plan update! I heard that in the past year, a lot of cell phone law reform has taken place in Canada and now we're closer to the better US model! Yay!

 

Also, regarding the US/Canada bank accounts, you are right, you will not be able to access a US bank account and a Canadian bank account in the same online bank session (or with the same bank card etc. if you visit a branch or go to an ATM). Perhaps I was not clear enough, but what I meant was that many banks, such as BMO, will allow you to have a US Dollar Bank Account, not an account with a US bank (which I'll call a  US Bank Account). When I log into BMO online banking, I see my Canadian Dollar Savings, my Canadian Dollar Chequing, and my US Dollar Bank Account. I am able to transfer money from my Canadian dollar accounts to my US dollar accounts online (paying the exchange rate of course). If I wanted to take the money in the US Dollar Bank Account to a US Bank Account (e.g. Citibank), then I would have to get a US Dollar Draft from BMO (aka Money order), which is free, and then physically take the money order to the US and deposit it there!

 

However, TD Bank / TD Canada Trust, does offer "Cross-Border Banking" (http://www.tdbank.com/personal/cross-border-banking.html). It even says you can view both your US and Canadian Bank accounts online. You will also be able to transfer funds from your US Account to your Canadian Account (and vice versa) with no fees. Of course, these services already exist (e.g. Western Union) but they cost money--if you do it internally within TD, then it's all free and there's no third party involved (although you could argue that TD Canada Trust is technically a separate entity from TD Bank in the US). 

 

So I hope this clarifies what I wrote last year about banking in Canada and the US!

Edited by TakeruK

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Thanks for the cell phone plan update! I heard that in the past year, a lot of cell phone law reform has taken place in Canada and now we're closer to the better US model! Yay!

 

Also, regarding the US/Canada bank accounts, you are right, you will not be able to access a US bank account and a Canadian bank account in the same online bank session (or with the same bank card etc. if you visit a branch or go to an ATM). Perhaps I was not clear enough, but what I meant was that many banks, such as BMO, will allow you to have a US Dollar Bank Account, not an account with a US bank (which I'll call a  US Bank Account). When I log into BMO online banking, I see my Canadian Dollar Savings, my Canadian Dollar Chequing, and my US Dollar Bank Account. I am able to transfer money from my Canadian dollar accounts to my US dollar accounts online (paying the exchange rate of course). If I wanted to take the money in the US Dollar Bank Account to a US Bank Account (e.g. Citibank), then I would have to get a US Dollar Draft from BMO (aka Money order), which is free, and then physically take the money order to the US and deposit it there!

 

However, TD Bank / TD Canada Trust, does offer "Cross-Border Banking" (http://www.tdbank.com/personal/cross-border-banking.html). It even says you can view both your US and Canadian Bank accounts online. You will also be able to transfer funds from your US Account to your Canadian Account (and vice versa) with no fees. Of course, these services already exist (e.g. Western Union) but they cost money--if you do it internally within TD, then it's all free and there's no third party involved (although you could argue that TD Canada Trust is technically a separate entity from TD Bank in the US). 

 

So I hope this clarifies what I wrote last year about banking in Canada and the US!

That does clarify some of the position. But to clarify one things, while you have the ability to see both accounts with TD, you cannot transfer money online, you must call them and complete a wire transfer.

Cheers :)

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That does clarify some of the position. But to clarify one things, while you have the ability to see both accounts with TD, you cannot transfer money online, you must call them and complete a wire transfer.

Cheers :)

 

Cool, good to know for the future where I might find myself in area that TD Bank serves :) At least a phone call wire transfer is more convenient than our current method of moving money across the border (wait for a trusted person/myself to go back home, or get someone to mail it [makes me uneasy!]). Thanks for the clarification (as I don't have a TD Bank account, just a TD Canada Trust one).

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Hey, I'll be coming in as an international student and I don't know a lot about flats in Montreal. When is the best time to look for rooms? The rooms advertised on the classified that I read are rooms available for the summer. When do people usually post available rooms for the fall semester?

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Rooms available starting September 1st typically start being advertised in July and August, though I have found landlords who will start looking even earlier, particularly if they know that the current lease is up at the end of the summer and the occupants are moving on.

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Rooms available starting September 1st typically start being advertised in July and August, though I have found landlords who will start looking even earlier, particularly if they know that the current lease is up at the end of the summer and the occupants are moving on.

 

This also really depends on where you are in Canada. In Ontario, there is a 60 day notice to vacate provincial law, so landlords will usually know by July 1 if their unit will be open on Sept 1. In some places, all of the good (and well managed) places disappear within a few days of being listed. We signed our lease something like June 5 and we moved in August 1. When we gave our 60 day notice, the landlord informed us someone already took our unit only 2-3 days after we told them that we were leaving! 

 

In BC, there is only a 30 day notice to vacate. With student tenants, sometimes landlords will still know that their tenant will move out by Sept 1 (or at the end of an academic term, for example). But I think it's a really good idea to keep these time spans in mind when planning your search. It's helpful to make contact with the landlord a few weeks before the 30 or 60 day mark and let them know you are interested in their building(s) and they might contact you as soon as something is available.

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Thanks for your tips everyone. I hope to find a room in NDG. :)

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Thanks for your tips everyone. I hope to find a room in NDG. :)

 

In Montreal, as in most of Quebec, July 1st is commonly "moving day" (I suppose it's one way Quebec thumbs its nose at the rest of Canada, as that's Canada Day, our national holiday).  Most leases go from July 1st to July 1st.  Now, I've never tried renting as a student in Quebec, so there may be some rental apartments available on a different timeline (and sublets may be available).  Traditionally, however, July 1st is the day that most leases will start and end in Quebec.  It ends up being quite chaotic since many people are trying to move on the same day!

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In Montreal, as in most of Quebec, July 1st is commonly "moving day" (I suppose it's one way Quebec thumbs its nose at the rest of Canada, as that's Canada Day, our national holiday).  Most leases go from July 1st to July 1st.  Now, I've never tried renting as a student in Quebec, so there may be some rental apartments available on a different timeline (and sublets may be available).  Traditionally, however, July 1st is the day that most leases will start and end in Quebec.  It ends up being quite chaotic since many people are trying to move on the same day!

 

I was going to mention this as well, but I wasn't sure if in more student focused areas of Montreal, things were different. In NDG (which I highly recommend) it's definitely the case though. Trying to save money by looking for a September 1st lease could definitely backfire. 

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This is helpful for someone moving to the province of Quebec: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho/yogureho/fash/fash_011.cfm

 

Note: In Quebec, for leases of more than 1 year, it is a 3 month notice to vacate, so some places that are available for Sept 1 might go on the market as early as June 1. Or, if you are looking to start on the traditional July 1 date, then the landlord might have already posted the listing on April 1. Of course, there will be other options to rent other than taking a place after a tenant on a year+ lease has moved out, but if you want to have all the options, remember the 3 months notice!

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Go to Montreal in June and find apartments while there. It's the only way to get good deals and relatively clean apartments.

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I actually thought of moving June, but visa processing takes time here in the Philippines, and I'm not sure if it can get it by that time. Moreover, since I won't get funding until September, I'm not sure if I can stretch the little money I have over the summer. That means I will just have to try late July or early August.

 

I've started reviewing French from Alliance in Manila, but I'll most likely enroll in a French language course come August. Know any good language schools?

 

Thank you so much for your help.

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I'm poor now and will be even poorer when school starts, so I'll be taking advantage of the free classes offered by the Quebec Government.

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Really? They have free classes? How does one sign up for them?

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Keep in mind that you don't actually need to know any French to function perfectly in Montreal. Obviously if you are interested in the language and would like to pick it up, then all the power to you. But when I was doing my undergrad there, given the chance at working harder on my studies vs. spending time studying French, I choose the former (I was also influenced this way because I don't particularly like the French language to begin with). Montreal is unlike any other place in Quebec, English has an incredible base there. 

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Hopeful is right...it's not necessary. You can get along pretty well without it. I started learning french as a kid, so for me to become fluent won't take as much time or effort. I love the language, so I'm looking forward to it.

 

Also, I think it's only proper to at least attempt to speak the dominant language of the place I'm going to live for the next 4+ years. Seems the respectful thing to do.

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Hopeful is right...it's not necessary. You can get along pretty well without it. I started learning french as a kid, so for me to become fluent won't take as much time or effort. I love the language, so I'm looking forward to it.

 

Also, I think it's only proper to at least attempt to speak the dominant language of the place I'm going to live for the next 4+ years. Seems the respectful thing to do.

 

I like your attitude! :) 

 

It is also a pretty unique opportunity. It is so much easier to learn french when you actually get to use it on a regular basis. 

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It is also a pretty unique opportunity. It is so much easier to learn french when you actually get to use it on a regular basis. 

 

Agreed! After my trip to Montreal last month, it is painfully obvious that I need a LOT of practice. :)

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