How to choose a bank in Canada and open a bank account - Bank of Montreal (BMO)
If you come to Canada on Working Holiday and plan to stay for several months, then the question of setting up your bank account is definitely relevant. If you are going to work in Canada, you are most likely to get a paper check every two weeks, which you have to monetize somehow. The most convenient option is to open a bank account with one of the reputable banks, at which you will be later able to cash out all your checks.
Like anywhere else, in Canada, you can choose from several banks.
Five of the most important banking institutions include the Bank of Montreal, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
The range of products offered by each bank may differ slightly from each other, but basically, the list of basic services does not change fundamentally. My main selection criteria were the density of bank branches, ATM availability, account maintenance fees, and the ease of opening the account.
Bank of Montreal (BMO)
I have decided to open my bank account with the BMO Bank - and for two years I have been a satisfied client.
How to open an account
Opening an account with the BMO was a simple administrative matter. I visited the BMO branch in Summerland, BC. I was immediately approached by a branch manager. The whole account creation process took less than 20 minutes. From the formal requirements, I needed only a valid passport and a copy of the SIN number confirmation. During the registration process, the bank officer made a few basic questions about my financial situation and work activity in Canada (at that time I was employed on a cherry farm). As the Canadian mailing address, we chose the address of the Summerland farm, and as a contact phone, we listed my Czech phone number. No work contract, no residence confirmation (e.g., electricity bill in my name) was required from the bank. The officer did not even contact my employer for verification purposes.
In contrast to banks in other countries, the account creation process was absolutely painless, fast and straightforward.
After signing the contract, the Interac debit card was issued immediately (Interac is a national Canadian payment system, something like EFTPOS in New Zealand). You can exchange this card at any time in person at the BMO Branch for an international debit embossed Master Card.
I would like to point out that while making online purchases with a debit card you might encounter many problems with its acceptance and Canadian dealers might often reject your transaction. Canada has been inspired by the US, and credit cards are primarily recommended for online payments.
Types of current and savings accounts
List of all updated types of current and savings accounts here: https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/bank-accounts/.
I personally like the most basic version of the Practical current account for 4 CAD per month. If your disposable balance does not fall below 2000 CAD, you will not be charged any fees.
The free online savings account Smart Saver should also suffice a regular saver.
Free access to the Internet and mobile banking is a matter of course.
Monetization of checks
The banking system and payment customs in Canada are, in my view, long miles behind our standards in Europe. Besides the problematic debit card, you will be forced to cash checks, wait for several business days for the entire transaction to process, and then you will be finally able to withdraw your money.
Usually, within 2 months of registering your account, we always had to wait for about 8 business days for the deposited check to transfer to the available balance. After the BMO verified our payment history during this period, they credited 100 CAD of the total amount of the check immediately to the account at the time of the deposit, and then we waited typically for another 8 business days for the remaining balance.
International money transfers
When we first requested at the BMO branch office in Invermere an international transfer of the balance to a UK account without conversion, the branch employees first looked at us like we were crazy. They had no idea what the European format IBAN meant at all. Long story short - they were not able to help us.
Transferwise enters into the transaction as an authorized intermediary, helping to reduce the exorbitant bank charges to a minimum. The method you choose for transferring money to the Transferwise account is up to you. You can choose between a very straightforward direct debit, a classic transfer to Transferwise's local Canadian account, or an international payment card. For a 1000 CAD transfer, you currently pay 9,90 CAD on fees and the entire transfer does not take longer than 3 business days.
I have been using Transferwise for three years now, and I am very satisfied with their service.
How to cancel your bank account
Besides canceling your bank account personally at the BMO branch, there is also the possibility of canceling the account remotely. This option will be used mainly by those who want to apply for Tax Return outside Canada (for example, from the Czech Republic). Tax Return can only be made by bank transfer to a Canadian account. After receiving the refund and transferring the amount to the Czech account (Transferwise), nothing will prevent you from canceling the Canadian account. Before leaving Canada, be sure to pick up your business consultant's email address with an email contact. Send an email to this counselor requesting cancellation of your account (Account closing letter), enclosing a copy of your passport and a copy of your national ID. If you still have a balance on your BMO account, the bank will request your mailing address where they will send a check. An alternative is to provide another Canadian account number to transfer the remaining balance.
I personally sent the account closing request via email directly to the branch manager, and the matter was processed within a few moments.
BMO is one of Canada's largest and most reputable banks. ATMs and branches are available throughout Canada. Charges for routine banking services are minimal, and I can only recommend the BMO.