Managing your finances

One of the most important things you must do before you leave home is to make sure that you will have enough money to cover all of your expenses during your stay in Canada. Here are some things you can do to help manage your finances:

Prepare a budget

A budget is a plan for allocating money. When living on a fixed income as most students do, preparing and following a budget is crucial. 

To plan a basic budget, follow these steps:

  1. Write down all of your expenses. Find information about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and tuition and fees for graduate students
  2. Make a list of your financial resources. Be sure to include only income that you know you will be receiving.
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income.

Use an interactive budget planner to start your planning.

These tips on how to save money (PDF) may also be helpful to you as a student living in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  

You can also register for EnRICHed Start on the Student Awards and Financial Aid (SAFA) website.  A free, video-based training program that teaches you how to manage your money and build a solid financial future.

Converting to Canadian currency

To make sure you are planning your budget based on accurate information, it is important to consider currency conversions. If you are unsure, contact your local bank for information on converting your country’s currency into Canadian dollars.

Working in Canada

After planning your budget, if you see that your expected income is less than your expected expenses, you will know how much money you will need to make up the difference. You have a few different options to find employment in Waterloo

Financial Assistance

If you find yourself in need of financial assistance, there are resources to help you. Undergraduate students in second year and above are eligible to apply for the International Work/Study Program and International Bursaries. 

Information on financial assistance for undergraduate students is available from the Student Awards and Financial Aid Office. Graduate students should make inquiries through the Graduate Studies Office and find more information on the Discover Graduate Studies website.

Pay your student fees

There are deadlines each term for arranging the payment of your tuition fees. 

If you do not arrange your fees by the deadline, you will be charged a late fee.

Instructions on how to arrange your fees is available on the Student Accounts website. If you have questions, you can contact the Student Accounts office.

Exchange students usually pay tuition fees to their home university, but fees for the University Health Insurance Plan and the Federation of Students (FEDS)/Graduate Student Association (GSA) Health Plan are compulsory and must be paid to the University of Waterloo.

Open a bank account

International students can open a bank account in Canada. There are many different types of banks and it is up to you to decide which one suits your needs. Two pieces of identification are usually required to open a bank account. A foreign passport is usually accepted as one piece. The University branch of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), located on campus in the Student Life Centre (SLC), will accept your Letter of Acceptance as a second piece. If you do not have a Study Permit, one piece of identification must have your photograph and this cannot include your foreign passport or WatCard. Some branches also require you to provide a home address in Waterloo in order to open a new account.

When you open your new account you will be given a bank card, also known as a debit card. This card allows you to use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), for deposits, withdrawals, and to pay your bills during or after normal business hours. Bank cards are very convenient, but make sure that you know exactly what the terms are regarding your card, and be sure to ask about transaction fees, as these vary from bank to bank.

Borrowing money

Financial institutions offer loans to their clients and usually require collateral (owned property, car, and investments). The borrower must make monthly payments on the loan with interest. If you are given a loan and do not make payments, the collateral is usually forfeited.

Credit cards

Credit cards are issued at all major financial institutions. With a credit card you can make purchases without carrying cash, or you can use it for online purchases. You have a certain time period before you have to pay for the purchases, however, if you do not pay the full amount of the credit card bill by the due date, you will be charged a high interest rate on the total amount of the bill.

Transfer money to Canada

We strongly recommend that you transfer the funds you will need during your stay when you open a bank account in Canada. You can then arrange for the bank in your home country to transfer funds to your bank account in Canada. The transfer of funds can take several weeks or more and Canadian financial institutions often place a hold on transferred funds from overseas for up to six weeks. Be sure to bring enough money with you to cover expenses for your first two months in Canada.

For a more secure, efficient and cost-effective way to transfer funds to your student account from outside Canada, please see information regarding Travelex Bank to Bank transfer (PDF).

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