There are three major credit card companies in Canada: American Express, Visa and Master Card. You may be able to request one from your financial institution to then find out that there are at least half a dozen “Visas” offered by your bank. The difference among all the credit cards offered by your bank relies on the services included in the card such as points for airline travel, included collision insurance for rental cars and a higher credit limit. Keep in mind that each credit card is different and you should carefully read the benefits, terms and conditions of each one being offered to you before getting a new card.
Note that every time that you fill out an application for a credit card, there will be a record at the credit bureau that indicates that you are a credit “seeker”. Too many requests in a given year may result on credit rejection, which will further damage your credit worthiness. That said, for the average person some credit is OK, too much may be counterproductive.
Notes on Seeking Credit
As a new arrival, establishing credit in Canada can be tough. Banks will not give you credit without prior credit history, so establishing any kind of “history” can become tricky for some. In contrast to the USA where you can easily establish credit history with the use of a “secured credit card”, such financial instruments are not easily found in Canada.
Instead you may chose to have an account (either chequing or savings) for about 6-12 months and then ask for a small line of credit to buy some durable asset, let’s say a computer or large home appliance. Your bank may not completely agree to do this, however merchants such as Sears, IKEA, Best Buy, etc. love your business and would take the risk (at a price). The merchant store will likely charge you an above average rate (currently above 20% APR), so do everything to pay the balance quickly.
If you manage to carry a balance in that merchant credit card for 6 months, this will serve you as a valid credit reference.
Other options include finding a co-signer for a small banking related loan. If the cosigner has enough “credit history”, he/she would likely be accepted and that may serve to build a reference.
Finally, having a reference with the utilities provider (heat, electricity, phone) or even your landlord may serve in some instances as references.
A final note on seeking credit: Be sure that you can pay back your balances or current payments on time. Failing to do so will have a negative effect that may even make you ineligible to rent an apartment. Protecting your credit worthiness is quite important, especially if you want to stay and take advantage of its benefits for the long haul to buy a house, apartment, car, etc.
Electronic Banking Machines
This type of machine is known as an ABM or automatic banking machine in Canada. (ATMs in the USA and some places in Europe). ABMs are widely available in cities at the different bank branches. Additionally you may find ABMs in gas stations and convenience stores all across the country providing 24 hours access to cash from your chequing, savings and/or credit card.
The five major Canadian banks are members of a network called “Interac” which means that you may withdraw funds from any ABM marked “Interac”. Interac also allows you to pay at major gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls, etc. by typing a secret personal identification number (PIN).
In addition to Interac, there are other networks such as Cirrus or Plus that offer travelers from other countries access to their cash while in Canada.
In most cases, using an ABM from a different financial institution may result in service fees of at least CAD$1 per operation. Consult your financial institution fees description to avoid surprises.
Standard banking hours are Monday to Friday from 9:30 until 16:30. Some banks and specific branches may be open later and even on Saturdays. Consult your institution to determine the availability of your branch staff to serve you.