Banking in Canada is much the same as it is in the U.S., and probably not very different from Europe either. The ATM network used, however, is different. In Canada, the Interac network is used for ATMs and debit purchases, but the global Plus and Cirrus systems are available for you to withdraw your cash from a different network. Canada supports the global networks, so you can use your debit card to withdraw cash from a bank ATM (you will need to input your PIN). Most debit cards can be processed as either debit or credit (both come directly out of your primary checking account), if they bear the VISA or MC logo, thus you can also use your debit card in Canada at point of purchase, but it will be processed as a credit transaction (you will not need to input your PIN).
Credit cards are universal and can be used anywhere in the world, but understand you may be charged additional fees to use your credit (and debit) cards overseas.
Establishing Credit History
One of the first things you will want to begin to do once you’ve settled into your new home is to establish credit history. You can do very little in Canada without a credit history, so it is important to start right away. For expats relocating from the U.S., it is possible that your credit history there may be accessible in Canada, therefore, you may already have a good basis on which to begin building your Canadian credit history. Expats relocating from other parts of the world will need to begin at the ground level.
The two credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. U.S expats will recognize these as two of the U.S. credit bureaus (Equifax and TransUnion). From the moment you begin to live in Canada, these credit bureaus will collect and store information about your credit and payment habits. They will also collect and store personally identifiable information about you. You should obtain a local credit card from the bank you open your local chequing account with, as soon as you can (you can typically get one at the same time you open your bank account). Use it responsibly (don’t go over your limit) and pay it on time. This will help to begin building a positive credit history. Another way to help establish a good credit history is to always pay all your bills on time. If you follow these principles, within a year or so, you should have developed a positive credit history that, although still somewhat limited, should enable you to begin to make larger purchases and apply for financing on things such as a vehicle and perhaps even a home. Inquire at your bank about opening a personal line of credit (different from credit cards). With a line of credit, you can use some of the money, pay it back, and this will help to establish your credit history even further.
For Landed Immigrants (those who have arrived in Canada to stay), Royal Bank of Canada offers a Welcome to Canada banking package that includes a free chequing account for 12 months, and a Visa Gold credit card that requires no credit history. For further information, please see link below.
Understanding Credit—Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs — http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/h_ca02146.html
Privacy and Identity Protection—Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs — http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/h_ca02226.html
Protecting Yourself Against Debit Card Fraud—Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs — http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca01832.html
TransUnion Canada — http://www.transunion.ca/
Equifax Canada — http://www.equifax.com/home/en_ca