Whether you are moving to Canada or taking a long vacation, it is recommended that you open a bank account if you plan to stay for more than three months. Unlike some countries that depend largely on cash transactions, most Canadians use their bank daily. You can get direct deposit into your account once you get a job, pay bills online, and use your debit card at ATMs. In other words, Canadian banks work a lot like banks in the United States.
If you choose to open an account, you will likely find that it is easy to transfer money to Canada from your current account to your new one. Some countries allow you to open an account before you arrive, but Canadian banks require both government-issue ID, such as a driver’s license, and proof of address. This means you will have to wait until you move to get an account. You will probably also need a reference letter from either your employer or your bank in the United States.
You might choose to open an account a bank that also exists in the United States, such as HSBC or ING. You could also switch to one of the larger banks in Canada, such as TD Canada Trust, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank of Canada, or Bank of Montreal, to name a few. Keep in mind that the currency of Canada is the Canadian dollar, and $1 USD is equal to about 1.09073 Canadian dollars. Also, be aware that many banks charge a monthly fee for an account unless you are a student. The fee is typically anywhere from 2 to 10 Canadian dollars per month.
If you do not want to wait until you arrive to open an account and transfer money to Canada from your U.S. account, you have other options. One of the cheaper solutions is to obtain a prepaid debit card. You can take one with you into Canada and then add funds to it from your U.S. account to hold you over until you can open a new account. The fee to add money to the card is about $5, and you can add as much as you want at one time for that amount. You can either use the card at stores that accept debit cards, or electronic banking machines. These are called ATMs in the United States, but they are referred to as automatic banking machines, or ABMs, in Canada. They are widespread, typically found at banks and gas stations.
You should choose the best method for you before you arrive. If you like to use cash as much as possible, then exchanging your American dollars for Canadian dollars might be a good idea for you. If you can wait until you arrive and get settled in to start spending money, you may opt to just open a bank account and transfer money to Canada from your account in the United States. If you enjoy using a card and want money the instant you arrive, a prepaid debit card might be best for you.