Opening a Bank Account

Choosing a Bank

The first thing to consider when opening a bank account is which bank you will choose. Consider the following:

  • Where are the branches located?
  • What services does the bank offer?
  • What are the charges for each service?
  • What are the bank’s hours of operation?

Credit Unions

Some people prefer to put their money in credit unions instead of banks. A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that provides credit and other financial services to its members. Credit unions differ from banks in that the members who have accounts are the owners of the credit union. A credit union’s policies and interest rates are set by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by the membership. Credit unions offer many of the same services as banks, but you must become a member in order to deposit or borrow money. You become a member by buying a small share in the credit union when you open an account.

Banks, Credit Unions, and Trust Companies that offer financial services in Sarnia-Lambton include:

Choosing an Account

Most banks have different types of accounts. Savings accounts are for storing money and gaining some interest. Chequing accounts are for daily banking needs like paying bills or taking out money. All bank accounts usually have service fees. Speak to the bank personnel to determine which type of account is best for you.

Opening a Bank Account

To open a bank account, you may be asked to provide information about your residence, employment, and credit history. However, you do not have to be employed to open a bank account, and no minimum deposit is necessary. The bank may ask you to deposit money into the account if you are ordering cheques. This money will be used to pay for the cheques.

To open a bank account you are required to present two pieces of personal identification – either two pieces from Part A or one from Part A and one from part B (see below). The documents you provide must be original and your name must be the same on all pieces. If your name has changed, you must bring a certificate showing the name change. Regardless of what form of identification you present, you will be required to provide your date of birth, if it is not included in the identification you provide.

Schedule of Acceptable Identification:

This list is provided per the ‘Access to Basic Banking Services Regulations’ under the Bank Act.

Part A
  • A valid driver’s license issued in Canada, as permitted to be used for identification purposes under provincial law.
  • A valid Canadian passport.
  • A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or a Certification of Naturalization, in the form of a paper document or card, but not a commemorative issue.
  • A Permanent Resident card or Citizenship and Immigration Canada Form IMM 1000, IMM 1442 or IMM 5292.
  • A provincial health insurance card, as permitted to be used for identification purposes under provincial law.
  • A Social Insurance Number card issued by the Government of Canada.
  • An Old Age Security card issued by the Government of Canada.
  • A certificate of Indian Status issued by the Government of Canada.
  • A birth certificate issued in Canada.
  • A document or card, bearing the individual’s photograph and signature, issued by any of the following authorities:
    • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
    • Alberta Registries
    • Saskatchewan Government Insurance
    • Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
    • Department of Transportation and Public Works of the Province of Prince Edward Island
    • Service New Brunswick
    • Department of Government Services and Lands of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Department of Transportation of the Northwest Territories
    • Department of Community Government and Transportation of the Territory of Nunavut
Part B
  • A credit card, issued by a member of the Canadian Payments Association in the name of, or bearing the name of, the individual and bearing the individual’s signature.
  • A Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) client card bearing the individual’s photograph and signature.
  • An employee identity card, issued by an employer that is well known in the community, bearing the individual’s photograph.
  • A bank or automated banking machine or client card, issued by a member of the Canadian Payments Association in the name of, or bearing the name of, the individual and bearing the individual’s signature.
  • A foreign passport.

Source: Bank Act – Access to Basic Banking Services Regulations (SOR/2003-184)

Bank Card

When you open a bank account, you will be given a bank card that you can use to access your money. This may also be called a “debit card”. When you receive the card, you will be asked to choose a four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) that you will key in whenever you use your client card. Protect your PIN number by not writing it down. Be sure to memorize the number and not share it with anyone else.

Your client card and PIN number is used to:

  • Access your bank account when visiting the bank
  • Access money through an Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
  • Pay for purchases from retailers that accept Interac Direct Payment. Payment comes directly from your account.


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