Canadian currency and banking

Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD). It’s available in 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar paper notes.

Canadian coins circulate as:

  • 5 cents (nickel)
  • 10 cents (dime)
  • 25 cents (quarter)
  • CAD 1 (loonie)
  • CAD 2 (toonie)

You’ll rarely see a 50-cent piece, although these are minted for special occasions. Learn more at the Bank of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint.


Canadian banks are similar to banks in the United States and European countries. Most charge a monthly fee to customers for their bank accounts and services. A basic bank account costs approximately CAD 5 per month.

You don’t need to open a bank account in Canada while you are a student here. However, Canadian banks offer student accounts and services that may be attractive. For example, if you have a bank account here, you may pay lower fees for international money transfers than if you have no bank account. Here are some other benefits:

  • A bank account can help you manage your money
  • If you have a bank account, you can ask staff at the bank for financial advice
  • If you’re working in Canada, you need to have a bank account
  • If you rent housing off campus, you may need to write cheques using your bank account

Ask about student account options at any Canadian bank or ask whether a bank in your home country has a partnership with Canadian banks. Some other things you should know:

  • All Canadian banks offer Internet banking. You can pay bills and transfer funds online. Many universities offer online banking as an option to pay your tuition and other costs.
  • Most stores accept multiple payment methods, including cash, credit card and debit cards. They do not usually accept cheques issued by a bank.
  • Cheques are mostly used for large amounts, such as rent and bill payments. Your bank can issue personalized cheques when you open an account.

Canada’s major banks include:

Credit cards

Stores almost everywhere accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. If you already have a credit card, it may be accepted in Canada. Be sure to check with your bank before you arrive here to determine whether you might have to pay exchange rates and foreign transaction fees if you keep that card. You may wish to get a credit card with your Canadian bank account.

Automated banking machines

In Canada, automated banking machines (ABMs) are common and easy to find. Here’s what you need to know:

  • ABMs inside banks are operated by that bank. If you have a card or account with the bank, you can withdraw funds and do other transactions like deposits, paying bills, printing account statements and transferring money between accounts. However, if your bank card is with Bank-A and you do a transaction at an ABM inside a bank owned by Bank-B, you will have to pay a transaction fee.
  • ABMs in gas stations, malls, stores and tourist centres are owned by private companies. They charge a fee for withdrawing money. Usually, withdrawals are the only service they offer.

Check with your home country bank about whether your bank card from home will be accepted at Canadian ABMs. Your bank can also inform you about international withdrawal fees. Some banks have agreements with a Canadian bank.

Bank hours of business

Most banks are open Monday to Friday during business hours, which generally means between 9 or 10 a.m. and 4 or 5 p.m. Some branches close later in the evening at least 1 day per week. Some are open for reduced hours on Saturdays. Most banks are closed on Sundays. All banks are closed on official holidays in Canada.

Money transfers to Canada

Traveller’s cheques are an easy way to transfer money to Canada:

  • You can purchase them at most banks. They come in many standard amounts
  • They are secure and can be cashed at any Canadian bank or currency converter
  • You should scan or make copies of your traveller’s cheques in case they are lost or stolen

Some banks can transfer money electronically into your Canadian account. Fees vary by institution. You can also transfer money using a bank draft from another country. This can take up to 8 weeks to be cleared by the Canadian bank. This comes with a service fee.