Finance

The currency we use in Canada is the Canadian dollar ($). Keep in mind that the Canadian dollar is not to be confused with the American dollar, as they do not have the same value and different exchange rates will apply. You can find a currency converter here to check exchange rates with your country’s currency.

Coins come in the following denominations:

  • 5¢ (five cents), called a nickel
  • 10¢ (ten cents), called a dime
  • 25¢ (twenty-five cents), called a quarter
  • $1 (one dollar), called a loonie
  • $2 (two dollars), called a toonie

You may also occasionally encounter a 1¢ coin (called a penny), although pennies are no longer in use in Canada and most businesses will no longer accept 1¢ coins. If you are paying with cash, your total will be rounded to the nearest five-cent amount (for example, a total of $3.01 will be rounded to $3.00). However, if you are paying electronically with a debit card or credit card, rounding does not apply and transactions are settled to the cent (in our example, the final payment will be $3.01).

Paper bills or notes commonly come in the following denominations:

  • $5 (five dollars)
  • $10 (ten dollars)
  • $20 (twenty dollars)
  • $50 (fifty dollars)
  • $100 (one hundred dollars)

In Alberta, the Canadian Goods and Services tax (GST) will apply to most purchases you make, with the exception of some exempt items such as basic groceries, prescription drugs, medical devices, healthcare, and municipal bus services.

GST in Alberta is 5%. In most cases, unless otherwise indicated the GST will not be included in the listed price of an item, but will be included in the total cost of your purchase. For example, if you wish to purchase an item that has a price tag of $34.99, the actual cost of your transaction will be $38.58. (34.99 x 1.05, rounded to the nearest cent). You will want to keep GST costs in mind when you are doing your shopping.

Sales Tax outside Alberta

All provinces outside of Alberta will have additional sales tax added on to your purchase, such as PST (Provincial Sales Tax) or HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Keep this in mind if you plan on visiting other provinces.

There are many banks in Lethbridge. When you arrive, one of the first things you will want to do is open a bank account.

To open a bank account, you will need to go to a bank. It is a good idea to call ahead to make an appointment. You will need these documents:

  • Your passport
  • Your study permit

Additionally, you may need to provide:

  • Your Offer of Admission from uLethbridge or a Verification of Enrolment
  • Proof of your address in Canada
  • A secondary piece of identification
  • Your U of L Student ID number (if applying for a student account)

Not all banks accounts are the same. They can have fees for different services, there may be free (or discounted) bank accounts available for students, and some banks may offer perks to set up a new account. Do some research beforehand, so that you will be prepared when you arrive. This Government of Canada Account Selector Tool can help you determine which bank account might work for you.

Here are some questions to consider when opening a bank account:

  • Are there monthly fees?
  • Is there a fee to withdraw money or use my debit card?
  • Is there a fee to use ATMs at other banks?
  • Am I eligible for a student account?
  • Does the bank offer any incentives to students or people new to Canada?
  • Will I have access to online banking? Does the bank have an app that I can use from my smartphone?
  • What is the daily withdrawal limit? (Important for paying tuition)
  • Am I eligible to apply for a credit card?

Debit Card

When you open your bank in Canada, you will be given a debit card, also called a bank card. This card enables you to directly access funds from your bank account to pay for purchases or withdraw cash from an ATM machine. (Whenever possible, only withdraw cash from your own bank’s ATM, as other ATMs often charge withdrawal fees).

Credit Card

A credit card allows you to make purchases that you must pay back later. A credit card can be a great thing, but it can also be a dangerous thing. Compound interest applies monthly to all outstanding balances, so the best situation is to pay your entire bill every month. Make sure you understand how interest and payments work for your credit card, and be cautious of getting into steep credit card debt. Having a credit card that you pay off the balance for on a monthly basis is a great way to build a credit score in Canada, which is important for anyone hoping to stay in Canada permanently.

Chip and Tap

In Canada, most debit and credit cards, ATMs, and payment terminals use EMV or “chip” technology. You can insert your chip card into the payment machine rather than using the magnetic stripe. Chip payment requires that you enter a PIN to confirm your payment.

Some cards have a “tap to pay” contactless feature enabled, which allows you to pay by simply touching your card to the payment terminal with no need to input your PIN. There are usually low limits on how much and how often you can pay with this method to prevent theft. Talk to your bank about the “tap to pay” feature.

As a temporary resident of Canada, you will be responsible for filing your personal income tax return. You should file an income tax return if:

  • You have received any form of income in Canada, including 1) earnings from working on or off-campus or 2) scholarships, bursaries, and grants
  • You want to apply for GST credits, the Child Tax Benefit, or claim a tax refund

Every year, Dhillon School of Business students are trained as Canada Revenue Agency volunteers.  They host free tax clinics on the Main Campus to help students and other community members file income tax.  These clinics normally occur during the month of March. Check the Notice Board for details on upcoming clinics at the Main Campus.

For Calgary Campus students, there are many similar options for you in the community: Calgary Tax Clinics (Click "Find a free tax clinic in your area", then, after you select Alberta, refresh your browser to see the cities listed in the drop-down)

Some people pay an accountant to file their taxes, but this is not necessary. If you can't attend one of the free clinics, you can find a list of certified software here which will enable you to file your income tax return online, or you can download paper forms here.

Quick Guide

  • Collect all information and documents to show income or support deductions and credits you plan to claim
    • T4 slip(s) from your employer(s)
    • T2202A Tax Credit form (you can find this online on the Bridge),
    • Slips for any scholarships or awards your received
    • Notice of Assessment (only applicable if you filed income tax in Canada the year before)
    • Any other relevant documentation, such as  proof of childcare expenses, receipts for textbooks, proof of charitable donations, etc.
  • Make sure your personal information is up to date
  • Keep all your supporting documents for seven years

Additional Links

You should be cautious if you recieve a phone call, email, text message, or letter that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and

  • requests your personal information (like your Social Insurance Number (SIN), credit card number, bank account information, or passport number) or
  • uses threatening or coercive language to scare you into sending money

These are scams and you should not respond or provide any of your personal information. 

Visit the CRA website to learn more about

  • What to expect when the CRA contacts you 
  • Examples of scam communication (calls, emails, texts)
  • How to report a scam
  • What to do if you are scammed