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Five Tips to Manage Your Money as an International Student in Canada

By Diane Amato

Published February 25, 2021 • 7 Min Read

Money can be a big source of stress for students, particularly while far from home. Here are five top tips to help manage your money as an international student while living and studying in Canada.

1. Create a budget for yourself

Many students don’t create or use a budget, but a budget can make your life easier by making sure you have more money coming in than going out. Here’s how to get started.

Key items to include:

  • Your income. Your budget should reflect what you’re earning now, even if it doesn’t feel like that much. Typically, international students are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while class is in session, which is why tracking how much you have is so important.

  • Your fixed expenses. List things you have to pay for each month — like your rent and utility costs — and how much they cost.

  • Your discretionary expenses. Unlike your fixed expenses, these costs are flexible. For example, buying a snack might feel as if it’s a necessity, but you could also bring one from home.

For example, after looking at your income and fixed expenses, you decide to budget $200 a month for groceries and food. As you go through the month, you’ll need to subtract the amount you spend from the $200 total you budgeted for that month.

To help you stick to your budget, there are several budgeting apps you can use, like NOMI (available within the RBC Mobile1 app). Using budgeting software or a budgeting app can simplify tracking your money and where it is going.

2. Find ways to start saving

Once you have your budget, prioritizing your spending can help you find ways to save. Saving can help you reach your future goals, like a new laptop or someday, a car. One way many people save is by using two types of accounts.

  • Chequing Account. A checking account can be used for spending and paying bills.

  • Savings Account. A savings account earns interest (a per cent of your deposit) helping you grow how much you have.

Even if you’re not earning much right now, putting a little away each paycheque can help you in the long run. A regular small amount adds up quickly.

Want to learn more about how saving can set you up for success? Check out this free Financial Literacy series by RBC Future Launch and CivicAction Leadership Foundation.

3. Manage credit wisely

When you move to Canada to study, it’s important to learn how to build a credit history here and use credit wisely.

  • What is credit? Credit is a way of borrowing money from a lender (such as a bank). When you repay the money, you pay back the amount you borrowed, plus interest. The interest compensates the lender for using their money.

  • What is credit history? Your credit history contains facts about how you’ve borrowed and repaid money in the past. This information comes from financial institutions, retailers, or lenders you’ve borrowed from previously.

  • How do you build a credit history? Using credit and making regular payments is the easiest way to start building a credit history in Canada. A Canadian Student Credit Card, for example, can be one way to begin building a credit history and make your life as an international student easier at the same time.

If you are approved for credit, it’s wise to use only what you need. Then, come up with a repayment plan as part of your budget that doesn’t put too much additional strain on your bank balance. If you need to borrow more money in the future, such as for a car or home, you’ll enjoy more favourable terms (like a better interest rate) if you have a good credit history.

Navigating school and finances can be stressful for students — especially if you’re from another country. The Canadian banking system is different, and understanding it takes time. As an international student in Canada, it can help to have someone knowledgeable like an advisor explain Canadian banking and how to manage your money.

Kendra Coleman, Assistant Branch Manager/Advisor at RBC

4. Investigate new earning opportunities

In addition to helping financially, being able to work may help you gain Canadian work experience, increase your network in your chosen industry or field of study, and even explore new industries.

If you are a full-time post-secondary student in Canada, your study permit allows you to work on-campus at your school. According to the Government of Canada, an on-campus employer includes your school, faculty members, student organizations, or a private business or contractor that provides on-campus services to the school. You can even work for yourself, “if you run a business that is physically located on-campus.”

If your study permit allows you to work off-campus, you have more options for part-time jobs. You can do any job you are qualified for, but it’s best to be mindful of the number of hours you’re allowed to work per week as per your visa.

co-op work permit allows you to work with a co-op or internship program that’s directed by your university. Check your university’s website for information on available programs.

RBC Future Launch offers online resources to explore as you investigate new opportunities to build your network and learn new skills.

5. Stay safe from online scams

Unfortunately, scammers can take advantage of young people feeling anxious and isolated. Some ways to protect your information online include:

  • Be mindful when clicking links in emails or texts from unknown sources. Fraudsters send emails and text messages that look real in order to install malware and steal personal and financial information. Instead, type the URL for an official site (e.g., into your browser, or use an official app (e.g., RBC app.).

  • Never share your account information with someone you don’t know or trust —online, on the phone, or in person.

  • Try to avoid banking or sharing personal information on free public WiFi.

  • Don’t let anyone take remote control of your computer — for example, to provide (fake) technical support.

  • Fake job scams are real. For example, a fake employer may say they want to deposit funds into your account when what they really want is probably to empty it. Before applying for a job, it’s best to do a quick search to verify the company is legitimate.

  • Keep in mind that the Canadian government will not ask you to provide banking information by email.

  • It’s also good to remember: If a promise, prize, or offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s not easy to be far from home in a new country. Until businesses and institutions can reopen safely, using online resources available — for free — may help international students manage their money, continue their education, and upgrade job skills.

As you settle in, you’ll likely have questions about banking in Canada. Connect with an RBC Banking Advisor to get helpful tips to manage your money and to check out RBC banking offers for students.

RBC Mobile is operated by Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Direct Investing Inc. and RBC Dominion Securities Inc. RBC Mobile Student Edition is intended for clients under the age of 22, visit for details.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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