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October 18, 2022

The top 5 banking challenges for newcomers — and what to do about them

CIC News > Latest News > > > The top 5 banking challenges for newcomers — and what to do about them Scotia study found the top banking challenges for newcomers. Here’s how to tackle them.

Moving to a new country is a big undertaking.

It’s not surprising that it comes with unique financial challenges. At Scotiabank, it’s important for us to help newcomers get settled — financially and otherwise. So, we conducted a study to better understand the types of financial challenges newcomers face when they move to Canada.

What we found likely won’t surprise anyone who’s moved to another country to build a new life. Most newcomers feel worried, overwhelmed, and confused by their finances and how to navigate the Canadian banking system.

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That makes sense. Financial rules, practices and products can be very different from one country to another. There’s a steep learning curve for everyone. We’ll walk you through what our study found were the top five banking challenges for newcomers — and give you tips for how to navigate them.

The top 5 banking challenges for newcomers

Our study found that establishing and navigating Canadian banking and financial issues can added stress to the moving process for many newcomers. The top five banking challenges survey respondents identified were:

High rental costs: Rent is a challenge for most Canadians — and newcomers are no different. Many newcomers who arrive from countries where rent is much cheaper can be surprised at the high rental prices, especially those who land in Canada’s biggest cities.

Getting the right documentation and identification: Landing in a country and needing all sorts of documentation and identification to set up a bank account or apply for a credit card can be stressful for newcomers.

Signing up for a mobile phone and credit card: Because credit scores don’t transfer between countries (and some countries don’t even have a credit scoring system), things that require a credit history, like getting a mobile phone or a credit card, can be especially difficult for newcomers.

Finding employment: A job search is always difficult. But a job search in a country you’ve never lived in before with cultural and work expectations you might not fully understand is especially so.

Financial fraud from internet and phone scams: Because of a lack of knowledge about the Canadian banking system, newcomers are particularly vulnerable to financial fraud — and more likely to be targets of scammers.

Despite these initial challenges, our study found that newcomers take a long view of their financial success in Canada. Their top motivations for coming to Canada include seeking out a better quality of life and a better future, opportunities to grow a career in Canada, and reunify families. These are things that also pay off over time.

How to cope with these challenges

Based on the top five challenges of starting right in Canada, here’s some advice for newcomers wanting to set themselves up for success.

Build up your financial literacy

The Canadian financial and banking system is different from other countries. With new terminology to learn, it’s easily to get confused. The newcomers we interviewed wanted short explanations of Canadian banking terms that they could study to make sense of it all.

Scotiabank’s StartRight® Program website has a selection of articles to help newcomers understand the Canadian banking landscape. You can also book a meeting with a Scotiabank advisor, who are always willing to answer any questions and can even explain confusing banking terms in a variety of languages.

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Know how credit products work and how to start building credit

Credit scores were something newcomers, understandably, found frustrating. Without a Canadian credit score history, the approval process to get a credit card is slow. Foreign workers are often required to have a pay stub before being approved.

Scotiabank’s StartRight® program helps solves that. Newcomers are eligible to apply for their first credit card with a limit of up to $15,000, without any Canadian credit history. This can help newcomers get started building their credit history as soon as they land in Canada.

Get help with online banking

The newcomers we interviewed said they needed help figuring out how to use online and mobile banking. They loved the idea of being able to bank online, make e-transfers and use online investing tools but found it all hard to figure out. For those who need them, we offer online tips to help people get started with online and mobile banking.

Look at credit card options

Not being eligible for a premium credit card was a challenge for many newcomers. Even if they had savings to cover their spending on the card, they often lacked the documents needed to apply, or the card they wanted excluded people with their immigration status. That meant they were limited to entry-level credit cards with low credit limits — impractical when trying to pay for initial expenses, especially newcomers arriving with a family.

Card choice is important. That’s why Scotiabank offers a wide range of card options for newcomers. Scotiabank advisors can even help newcomers decide which one is best for them.

Beware of fraud

Newcomers are targets of scammers because they don’t know as much as others about Canada’s financial practices. Plus, they’re often looking for work or other ways to make money. It’s important newcomers learn how to recognize, reject, and report the most common scams.

For example, phishing scams often involve fraudsters impersonating government agencies, banks, communication providers, or other companies and sending text messages asking newcomers to provide personal or financial information. Mail and loan scams also typically target newcomers. They promise financial gain for an upfront fee but once that fee is paid, the scammer disappears.


Getting started in Canada may not always be easy, but figuring out your finances and navigating the Canadian banking system should be. Scotiabank is committed to making the financial challenges newcomers face easier. We do that by providing resources, advisors and financial products that make newcomers’ first days and weeks in Canada that much easier. From advisors who speak your language to credit products that don’t exclude you just because you don’t have a credit score yet, we help you navigate the challenges.

While we can’t help you find an apartment that’s several hundred dollars cheaper, we can help you get up to speed on your finances.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotiabank advisor.

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Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability. Readers should consult their own professional advisor for specific financial, investment and/or tax advice tailored to their needs to ensure that individual circumstances are considered properly and action is taken based on the latest available information.

1 Scotiabank StartRight Program, created for Canadian Permanent residents from 0–3 years in Canada, International Students and Foreign Workers.

2 Subject to credit approval. To be eligible, you must be a participant in the Scotiabank StartRight® Program. To qualify for a credit card, you must be a resident of Canada and the age of majority in your province/territory where you live. Your approval for a credit card and the credit limit assigned will be determined based on Scotiabank’s credit criteria, including your verifiable income and credit history (If available). The credit limit amount of up to $15,000 under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program is subject to change by Scotiabank from time to time without prior notice. A credit history in Canada is not required in order to be eligible for a credit card under the Scotiabank StartRight® Program. Read more terms and conditions

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