Manage your money

The financial system in British Columbia is similar to that in most advanced countries. However, it has some distinct features. When you know these differences, you can use your money with confidence and security.

Although Canada has a very secure and reliable financial system, you should always be aware of the risk of fraud and other dangers.

Banks, Credit Unions and Trust Companies

The main financial institutions in Canada are banks, credit unions and trust companies. You can deposit money in an account with any type of financial institution. Most will guarantee the safety of your deposits up to a certain level. Find out more from the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation or the B.C. Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Banks, credit unions and trust companies offer different types of accounts. They may pay interest on deposits, charge for services and limit when you can withdraw your money. Most offer card services and electronic or online banking. Before you choose a place to deposit your money, talk to a service agent. Most financial institutions can provide service in different languages.

Most banks, credit unions and trust companies also offer a variety of other services, such as loans and mortgages, investing advice and international services.

  • Get more information from the “Money and Banking” chapter of the B.C. Newcomers’ Guide.
  • More information is also available on the Banking webpage of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Cash, Banking Cards and Other Payment Systems

You can pay for purchases using traditional or new payment systems.

  • You can use cash for most payments, but for amounts over $10,000 you may have to complete a report.
  • A cheque is a written order to a bank to pay money to someone. Cheques were widely used, but are becoming less common. Many businesses do not accept cheques.
    • To cash a cheque, you can deposit it into an account at a bank, credit union or trust company.
    • To receive cash, you will have to show two pieces of identification, including a photo.
    • For information, see the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s webpage on cheques.
  • Many people use debit cards to shop or to get cash from an automatic teller machine (ATM). Debit cards are issued by your bank, credit union or trust company. They transfer money directly from your account.
  • You can use most credit cards at many retailers. Banks, credit unions and trust companies issue credit cards, and many large retailers also do. Interest charges on credit cards vary greatly, but are limited to 28 per cent per year. For information, go to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s credit cards webpage.
  • Most banks, credit unions and trust companies offer online and phone banking. Some are starting to offer mobile payments using an instant cell phone transfer. However, mobile payments are not yet widely accepted.
  • Some institutions accept digital or virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin. These currencies are not legal tender, and are not regulated like traditional currency. For information, go to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s webpage on virtual currencies.
  • Get more information from the “Money and Banking” chapter of the B.C. Newcomers’ Guide.
  • Or go to the Payment Options webpage of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Sending money to other countries

Money transfer organizations can send money to other countries. These include banks, foreign exchange companies, post offices and other services.

The Government of Canada regulates Canadian banks and some other organizations that transfer money. However, most money transfer organizations are not regulated. Use well-known organizations to transfer money, and make sure that a business has a good reputation before giving them your money.

Fees and exchange rates can be a significant cost. Ask about the total cost of sending money, including any fees that the receiver will pay. Compare the costs of different services.

  • For more information, go to the Sending money webpage of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Loans and mortgages

Loans are often used to make large purchases, such as a car or a house. Financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, trust companies and mortgage companies offer loans such as:

  • Personal loans and lines of credit, usually for short-term needs
  • Mortgages for large purchases, such as a home, over several years
  • Payday loans that you agree to repay from your next pay cheque

The loan agreement will require you to make regular payments, usually every month. Payments will include interest plus part of the loan amount until you repay the loan. There may be other fees as well. The fees and interest charges on payday loans make them a very expensive way to borrow.

To qualify for a loan, you will have to show that you have enough income to make the payments. You may also need an asset, such as a house, that the lender can take if you fail to make the payments. Usually you will have to pass a credit check based on your financial history. (It may help to make small loans using a credit card to build up a good credit history in Canada.)

For more information, go to the Credit and Loans webpage of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Find out more about buying a home and mortgages.

If you owe more money than you can afford to repay, you can get advice from the Credit Counselling Society, or call 1-888-527-8999.

Investing money

Banks and other financial companies sell investments such as term deposits, bonds and other products. Talk to someone at your bank, credit union or trust company.

For more advanced needs, you can talk with a financial planner or investment advisor. Many types of financial advisor are licensed to offer advice in Canada. They may charge fees or receive a payment from the company you invest in. Find out more about working with a financial planner or advisor.

Most investments offered to the public in B.C. are regulated by the B.C. Securities Commission. (BCSC) Get information about how to invest safely from the BCSC InvestRight webpage.

Criminals sometimes try to target newcomers with dishonest investments. Learn about investing frauds and how to avoid them.

Saving for an Education

Students in Canada pay fees for post-secondary education, as well as their costs of living. British Columbia and Canada offer many programs to help students pay for their education.

Financial support for education from StudentAid BC:
  • British Columbia lends money to students who have lived in B.C. for 12 months before their program starts. Some programs also help with loan repayment.
  • B.C. also offers an advanced education grant for students with financial need to attend certain technology and trades programs.
For more information, go to StudentAid BC.

Other financial support for education:
  • Canada Student Loans and Grants help students in full-time or part-time programs pay for post-secondary education.
  • A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) lets you save money for a child’s education in a special savings account. If you have an RESP, you can receive additional money through the Canada Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond.

For more information, go to the federal government's Student Financial Assistance webpages, or call 1-800-622-6232.

Financial support for education through the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant:
  • The B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant (BCTESG) helps B.C. families start early to prepare for their children’s post-secondary education or training.
  • If you have children at least six years old and born in or after 2006, who are beneficiaries of a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), they may be eligible for a B.C. Government contribution of $1200 through the BCTESG.

Visit BCTESG for more information, including on whether your child could be eligible and how to apply.

Seniors

Canada supports older residents through a variety of pensions and income programs.

  • If you work in Canada, you must contribute part of your income to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). In return, you receive a pension when you retire. You can claim CPP benefits after you reach the age of 60. CPP also pays for certain other benefits, such as disability and survivor benefits.
  • Many people also pay into a private pension plan where they work. Talk to your employer for details.
  • The Old Age Security (OAS) system pays a pension to all seniors. You must apply for this pension when you are 65 years old. You can receive OAS whether or not you worked. However, you must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years since you were 18 years old. If you worked in a country that has a pension agreement with Canada, the time can be shorter than 10 years.
  • If you get Old Age Security but have little other income, you may also get the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). How much you get depends on the income you and your wife or husband make.
  • Residents of B.C. who get Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement may also qualify for the B.C. Senior’s Supplement. You don’t have to apply – you will receive the Senior’s Supplement automatically if you are eligible. The amount depends on your income.

For more information, call 604-682-0391 in Metro Vancouver. In Victoria, call 250-387-4331. Everywhere else in B.C., call 1-800-665-2656.

Taxes

Governments get most of their money from taxes. Taxes pay for services such as roads, parks, community centres, health care, welfare, schools and universities.

Provincial Sales Tax (PST)

Provincial sales tax (PST) is a retail sales tax that you pay when you buy a taxable good or service, unless an exemption applies. The current PST rate on most goods and services is 7%.

B.C. Sales Tax Credit

You may be eligible to claim the sales tax credit for a tax year if you were a resident of B.C. on December 31 of that tax year and you:

  • were 19 years of age or older
  • had a spouse or common-law partner
  • were a parent

Find out more about the B.C. sales tax credit on the Government of B.C.’s website.

Property Tax

Everyone who owns a house, land or buildings must pay property tax. Your city or town sends you a bill once (or twice) a year. If your property is outside of a city, the B.C. government will send you a bill. You can also pay your property tax as part of your mortgage.

Property Transfer Tax

When you buy property in B.C. you must pay property transfer tax. The rate of tax is 1% on the first $200,000 of the property’s value and 2% on the rest.
If you are buying your first home, you may qualify for the First Time Home Buyers' Program. It reduces or eliminates the amount of property transfer tax you have to pay.
Learn more:

Income Tax

In Canada, you pay tax based on your income. You must fill in an income tax form each year and send it to the federal government by April 30. This form determines how much tax you will pay and whether you qualify for tax credits.

Employees have income tax taken off their paycheques. The government may return some money because too much tax was taken off your paycheque—or you may have to pay more because not enough tax was taken off.

Even if you had no income in Canada, you must still fill out and send in a tax form. You also have to report any income from outside Canada. You must pay tax on any income from investments, whether you have a job or not.

Self-employed people and people who own businesses have to fill out and send in an income tax form by June 15. However, if you owe tax, you still must pay it by April 30.

For income tax information, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website. During March and April, many community organizations give free help with filling in income tax forms. You can also pay an accountant or a tax preparation company to help you prepare your tax return. Look in the yellow pages or online under tax consultants.

Learn more:

Canada Child Tax Benefit

The Canada Child Tax Benefit is a monthly payment to families to help them with the cost of raising children under age 18. To qualify, at least one parent must be a resident of Canada and both parents must send in their income tax forms every year, even if they have no income to report.
Learn more:

Find out about other tax benefits, including the Universal Child Care Benefit, the Working Income Tax Benefit, the Goods and Services Tax Credit, and more.