Essential facts newcomers need to know about financial institutions in Manitoba

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One of the first things that you need to do upon arriving is finding a good financial institution. Initially, you will need to choose one to help keep your settlement funds secure. Later on, you will need more services such as a direct deposit account for your employer to deposit your salary, and maybe remittance services for sending money to your loved ones abroad. You will also need access to savings, investment, or loan options to fund your plans for the future.

In Manitoba, the following are the most common financial institutions you may transact with, depending on your needs and requirements. Here are a few essential things you need to know:

Banks

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, Canada has a national system of banking. Together with many smaller local banks, the five largest banks compete in each of the 10 provinces. This means that you have access to similar products at the same price regardless of where you live in Canada. A bank is a good option for you as they are well-managed, well-regulated, and secure. Since all banks are members of the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, your deposits up to $100,000 are insured. Generally, anyone can open an account as long as they can present the necessary identification (Opening a bank account: Understanding your rights).

What you need to find out: Banks offer around 100 consumer account packages. The first step to finding out which account is best for you is to know: exactly what your needs are, the frequency of your transactions, and other preferences (like branch or ABM (automated banking machine) locations), so that you won’t have to pay for services that you don’t need. It is important to compare features like transaction fees, interest rates, and applicable taxes, as these vary among banks. Also, ask about account packages specifically designed for newcomers to Canada. Most major banks offer these, with some even waiving transaction fees for six months or more.

This video from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s (FCAC) provides good points for choosing the best bank for your needs:

Credit Unions

Credit Unions are financial cooperatives that are owned and controlled by the people who use their services, which is why they are called members (as opposed to customers). These institutions are not-for-profit, which means any earnings at end of the year are shared by all the members who own shares in the credit union. You may have also heard about caisses populaire, which is the francophone equivalent of a credit union (Investopedia).

According to the Manitoba’s Credit Unions site, credit unions are regulated. Moreover, all deposits including interest are guaranteed without limit by the Deposit Guarantee Corporation of Manitoba.

Just like banks, these financial institutions offer savings and chequing accounts, as well as investments, loans, insurance and trust services. They also have internet banking, mobile banking, ABM, and telephone banking. To join the nearest credit union in your neighborhood, you will need to present identification. For more detailed requirements (as they may vary), you should look for the nearest one in your area and contact the specific branch by using this map from Manitoba’s Credit Unions site.

What you need to find out: Before joining, you should compare fees, taxes, interests and other benefits, not only between credit unions in your area but with bank products as well. Again, the first step to knowing which financial service fits you is to figure out your needs and the frequency of your transactions. It will also be important to know where the nearest branches and ABM sites of the credit union of your choice are located.

Need some help in choosing between a credit union and a bank? The article Credit unions vs. banks – Differences, pros and cons by Angela Coley of Money Crashers may help you decide.

Remittance Centers

If you need to send money to your family or friends in your home country (or to another country), the safest would be to send it through a bank via wire transfer or other money transfer services such as Western Union, MoneyGram or via Postal Money Order.

What you need to find out: Fees and speed of delivery (the amount of time the money reaches the recipient) vary for each remittance service so it would be good to compare. Usually, these are indicated on their respective websites. If you are sending money through a bank, you’ll need to know whether your recipient needs to have a bank account and the kind of identification they will need to present to claim the money. Also, check if the bank has special offers for newcomers. Some have free remittance services for clients, or free for the first time you send money abroad.

Be on guard for money transfer scams usually carried out online. Read about some these and how to avoid them in this article from OnGuard Online.gov. Also read Best ways of sending money to your home country for more information.

Fringe financial institutions

These are institutions that offer services like cashing of checks and payday loans. Some also sell money orders and collect bill payments. Many who patronize such financial services are usually those without bank or credit union accounts. Part of the attraction of these institutions is their fast service, convenient locations, and extended hours of operation. They are generally unregulated as they are not deposit-taking institutions.

What you need to know: Many view transacting with fringe institutions as a last resort. They usually charge high transaction fees and interests compared to banks. But if you must avail of their services, be very aware of the exact charges and/or interest rates for loans. Check if there are hidden charges and ask questions if there is something in the transaction that is not clear to you.

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Community Resources

The Canadian Financial Literacy Database is your one-stop shop for news, information on savings, investments, tools and calculators and other resources on money-management. Watch this video to learn how to use the site:

Here’s a full list of banks operating in Canada from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

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Essential facts newcomers need to know about financial institutions in Manitoba

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