For most young people the first step to taking control and ownership of our finances is getting that debit card/credit card at a bank. I remember getting first my debit card when I was 12 years old, quite young and completely clueless. While it might be a safe bet to follow your parent’s choice, I couldn’t help but wonder, what is the difference and where should I go for my credit and debit?

Let’s first look at the five largest banks in Canada – BMO, CIBC, RBC, TD, and Scotiabank. I will be introducing the points that stand out to me about these banks. I want to start off by saying the rates they have for their regular savings and checking accounts are about the same so that would not most likely be your focal point. Additionally, the debit/credit accounts discussed are all student accounts; this means it will all be free unless you go over certain limits. As students the top 3 things you should consider are:

  1. Easy to use so you actually check regularly (convenient phone app)
  2. Hard to get a monthly fee (lenient terms with transactions so you don’t keep lose money each month)
  3. No minimum balance (because as students we are all poor. Luckily, these 5 banks are good.)

BankAboutStudent DebitStudent CreditInvestment
BMOPuts their customers first- Free SPC cards for students (10% off selected places)
- Unlimited transactions
- 1% cash back
- Unlimited e-transfers
- Can get SPC student credit cards too
- Not the best  for lots of good options
CIBC- Lots of different promotions- Unlimited transactions- Deposit cheques by phone app
- Tim Horton’s collaboration
- Dividend VisaCard for 2% back on grocery
- Aventura VisaCard earn points for next flight
- Durable and steady
RBC- “Most canadian bank” - big in Canada
* more convenient to find an ATM or location
- 15 transactions per month free- Deposit cheques by phone app
- $20 cash back with over 3.0 GPA/year
- Earn 2% cash back at gas/restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
- Overwise 1% cash back
- Fast growing as an insurance organization
- Lots of investment opportunities.
- Focuses on expanding in Canada, struggled with US expansion before
TD- Best Consumer service by rank - opens even on Sundays - 25 transactions per month free- Deposit cheques by phone app

Example 1:
- 3% cash back on dining
- 2% cash back on groceries
- 1% for other
- $200 Cash Back when spent $500 within 90 days opening account
- Growing expansion in the US, if you like to invest in that direction
- Good investment choice
Scotiabank- Do you watch movies?
- Not too many options for students
- Unlimited transactions - Collaboration with scene card
- Up to 1% cash back (limitations online)
- Expands in the international direction

All these banks have tax free saving accounts (TFSA), where interest, dividends or capital gain are not taxed. Banks usually do promotions with high interest at the start of the promotion and lasts about 3 month. Take advantage of the beginning of the promotion if you want to start one. My personal experience with it is that locking up the money for longer periods of time gets you a better deal overall. However, as students we in constant need of money, so other special accounts like the smart saver/builder with BMO earned a higher interest based on my needs.

To recap, both Scotiabank and BMO has done free $50 when you sign up for their student accounts. TD and CIBC has done free $300 when you sign up for their regular accounts.

Protip 1*: As a student you can still register for these. The money if usually received after 3 months with the bank. Since these plans are for adults, they will cost a monthly fee, but if you cancel it after 3 months your gain is still more than $200 dollars.

Protip2*: Shaw cable & Telus have good student discounts – aka using the student’s name to register for the service will save you lots of money. Check it out with your family!

Lastly, I strongly encourage you to book an appointment with a bank you are interested in and learn about the terms and conditions that they follow in details, just in case there are additional changes.