Step 3: Getting benefits

Help obtain access to banking


For people that are underbanked- meaning they have limited or no access to traditional financial institutions - accessing benefits via cheque or direct deposit is difficult. Some benefits require a registered savings account, such as the Canada Learning Bond that requires a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).

Your organization can help clients access banking services by easing their fears around banking or helping them to open an account.

You should be prepared with the following:

  • Staff time — Staff will require time (60-120 min per session) to assist clients with filling out applications or accompanying them to the bank or credit union. (Refer to the Examples section to find out what information is required to open an account.)
  • Resources — To help community members select the bank and account that is best suited to their needs will require non-biased information that is accessible and easy to understand. It could be in the form of flyers or information printed out from the internet on different kinds of accounts. You can also use the FCAC Account Comparison Tool.
  • Partnerships — Some communities build relationships with local banks and credit unions to refer community members to when they are interested in opening an account. This can help alleviate any fears the client may have about visiting a bank and ensure a welcome reception.
  • Training — It is important that staff receive some background training to understand the basics of financial products including Registered Savings Plans and the financial system. The My Money in Canada module on the Financial System in Canada is a good starting point.

If this is new to your organization, here are some good ways to get started:

  • Browse the Account Comparison Tool to get familiar with it and see what banking options are available in your community.
  • Learn about the financial system in Canada if you are not already familiar with it
  • Communicate to community members the benefits to having an account via workshops or social media promotions and newsletters.
  • Set aside time to support community members who want to open an account in one-on-one sessions or workshops; where needed and possible, accompany clients to the bank to support them.

  • Help with transportation costs should the community member require this support to get to the bank
  • If community members do not have the proper identification to open an account, refer them to an organization that can assist them if you do not offer this service.
  • Make connections with representatives from banks and credit unions in your community and share with them the challenges your community members may face when opening an account; see if there are ways the bank or credit union can help.

  • Community Financial Counselling Services (CFCS) in Winnipeg works with a local credit union that has agreed to waive the $5 membership fee required to open an account. CFCS staff will confirm they know the client. The account is needed to receive automatic direct deposit required to receive certain benefits. This can be a huge saving to a client previously cashing cheques at a Money Mart. It removes an additional financial barrier for the client.
  • Find out what you need to open a bank account in Canada.
  • Visit SmartSAVER to find out how to support a person to open a RESP for their child through the MySmartFUTURE program
  • Get support applying for the RDSP program through PLAN

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Crtitical supports you can provide throughout your client's entire journey

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Best practices

Get practical tools, methods, and advice. Learn from other organizations who are already providing access to benefits services by accessing this collection of their best practices.

Best practices