The best bank accounts for students in Canada 2020

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With the cost of tuition and books—not to mention rent, food and transportation—students bear a significant economic burden. To ease the financial strain, savvy Canadian students take advantage of student discounts offered by many major retailers, on some modes of transportation, and on some services or attractions, like gyms and museums.

For a long time now, traditional banks have also offered student accounts, which charge lower fees and come with different perks than regular accounts. The emergence of online banks has also been a boon to cost-conscious students; though they don’t tend to offer accounts specifically for students, many offer attractive, low-cost options with features similar to traditional student bank accounts.

The best bank accounts for students in Canada

People looking to open a student account often turn to the major banks, which offer special accounts available only to registered students. Big banks are also established and secure, and frequently offer valuable promotions or rewards.

Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan*

Money’s tight for students, so having a full-featured account that commands no fees is a top priority. The Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage plan gives students unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers while boosting their buying power by allowing them to earn either SCENE or Scotia Rewards points.

For those most interested in movies, food and entertainment, SCENE Rewards offer great value—and if you go for the SCENE Student Banking Bundle (the Student Banking Advantage Plan plus a SCENE Visa card plus a Momentum Plus Savings Account), you can earn up to 12,500 additional reward points. 

Students looking to collect flexible Scotia Rewards points they can redeem for travel, merchandise and gift cards are in luck, too. Just like SCENE collectors, they can earn points on their everyday purchases, and redeem them in the category of their choice.

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: Unlimited  
  • E-transfers:  Unlimited
  • ATM networks: Interac, Plus, Cirrus, Union Pay, Pulse
  • Special features: Allows you to earn points on your everyday purchases in either the SCENE or Scotia Rewards program
  • Sign-up promotion: Get 5,000 SCENE or Scotia Rewards points when you sign up
  • Grace period after graduation: You must provide proof of enrollment every academic year; account will be converted on November 30th following  graduation

Learn more about the Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan*

RBC Student Banking Account

This is another strong no-fee option and very well-suited to those already banking with RBC. There’s a tasty welcome bonus of 5,000 RBC Rewards, plus the ongoing perk of a discount of $0.03 per litre and accelerated earn rate on Petro-Points when you fill up at Petro-Canada—perfect for car commuters. And, for those also using a Signature RBC Rewards Visa or WestJet RBC Mastercard, a reimbursement of the $39 annual fee could be on your way. Although this package doesn’t offer unlimited transactions, the first 25 per month are free and the account includes unlimited Interac e-Transfers, which should cover the spending habits of most students.

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: 25 debits per month included; $1.25 each thereafter
  • E-transfers: Unlimited
  • ATM networks: Interac, Plus
  • Special features: Fuel savings of $0.03/litre plus 20% more Petro-Points at Petro-Canada; up to $39 back on the annual fee of an eligible credit card
  • Sign-up promotion: 5,000 RBC Rewards welcome points
  • Grace period after graduation: Expires in the expected graduation year, as indicated by student upon opening account 

CIBC Smart Account for Students

The CIBC Smart Account for Students includes unlimited transactions and Interac e-Transfers for no monthly fee for as long as a student is in school—plus six months more after graduation. Holding this account also automatically enrolls students in the SPC rewards program, which offers deals and discounts to top brands like American Eagle, Foot Locker, and Apple. Sweetening the pot is a cool $60 back when students make three Visa debit purchases in the first two months—a welcome boost to a cash-strapped student. And account holders are eligible to enter a massive contest to win $35,000 towards tuition costs.

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: Unlimited
  • E-transfers: Unlimited
  • ATM networks: Interac, Plus, Cirrus
  • Special features: Get student discounts and deals with SPC
  • Sign-up promotion: Earn $60 when you open the account and make three Visa debit purchases within the first two months, plus enter for your chance to win $35,000 in tuition 
  • Grace period after graduation: Six months

Compare the Best Chequing Accounts in Canada

The best online bank accounts for students in Canada

In recent years, online banks have been gaining traction with Canadians. While they require a certain level of comfort with using the internet and web-based apps, accounts at online banks frequently offer good rates and options with lower or no fees. While the concept of a “student account” is the domain of traditional banks, these accounts at online banks have a lot to offer students as well. 

Simplii No Fee Chequing Account

Though not marketed as a student account specifically, the Simplii No Fee Chequing Account has lots to love for folks on a budget. There are zero monthly fees and unlimited free transactions, even for international transfers—a bonus for international students. New account holders who also open a High Interest Savings Account and transfer at least $50 per month for three months will receive $50. An extra $150 is available to those who set up either a payroll direct deposit and receive at least $100 per month for three months.

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: Unlimited
  • E-transfers: Unlimited
  • ATM network: Interac, Plus, Cirrus
  • Special features: None
  • Sign-up promotion: Up to $200 for new account holders

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account*

The main selling point with this account is its everyday high interest rate of 2.00%, a much higher return than most banks are offering. For those with large deposits (such as student loans disbursements), this could be a winning feature, but the account also offers affordable international money transfers through a partnership with TransferWise—an attractive perk for international students.

EQ Bank doesn’t offer debit card or ATM access, so this account works best to hold savings. Students can easily link an account at another bank and make free, unlimited transfers between the two. 

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: Unlimited
  • E-transfers: Unlimited
  • ATM network: None
  • Special features: Affordable international money transfers
  • Sign-up promotion: None

Learn more about the EQ Bank Savings Plus Account*

Motusbank No Fee Chequing Account

This chequing account will appeal to students for its free unlimited transactions and Interac e-Transfers and its unusually high interest rate (0.50% on every dollar) that will put scant funds to their best use. Account holders can digitally deposit cheques, and the first 25 paper cheques are free.

  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • Transactions: Unlimited
  • E-transfers: Unlimited
  • ATM  network: Interac, Accel, Cirrus
  • Special features: 25 free paper cheques; 0.05% interest rate
  • Sign-up promotion: None

Compare the Best Chequing Accounts in Canada

What is a student bank account?

A student bank account is a chequing or savings account offered to students—usually those enrolled full-time in a post-secondary institution. They typically carry reduced fees and may have special features or perks tailored for students. These could include membership in points programs, access to special discounts, rebates or higher interest rates. 

What do you need to open a student bank account?

When opening a student bank account, the applicant has to provide some sort of proof of their status. These requirements vary between institutions and can be as simple as showing a student card; some banks require a declaration, including expected graduation date. Students should check with the institution prior to applying. 

For accounts at online banks, there is no proof of student status required, as these are open to everyone. Students can simply open an account online, in minutes.

How to choose the best student bank account for you

Which is the right student account? The answer depends largely on the student. Those wanting to earn points or perks will be interested in the student accounts tied to the big banks, while those seeking to capitalize on higher interest rates may prefer to look to online institutions. 

If your number-one concern is finding a no-fee account, neither type has the edge, but online banks have a slight advantage in that they do not require proof of student status so won’t expire or be converted to a different (and possibly less attractive) account on or after graduation. 

That said, students with an existing relationship to a big bank might be able to bundle services for big savings and perks; be sure to ask before you sign up.

Compare the Best Savings Accounts in Canada


The post The best bank accounts for students in Canada 2020 appeared first on MoneySense.

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