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Banking and insurance while on exchange

Stories and Updates

When transitioning to living in another country or state full time, there are small things that you may not think about before moving. For me this involved setting up a Canadian bank account, cell phone service, and health insurance.

Opening a bank account in Canada is a similar process to opening an account in the states. I heard about RBC’s exchange student banking account through a friend. RBC has a branch on campus in the student center making it easy to set up an account and plan when/how to close it when my exchange ended. While there were small fees, it was easy to direct deposit from my university account and get cash when I needed it. Their website and mobile app are easy to use. When someone tried to use my card information in another city, they immediately blocked the account and contacted me. I felt like I could really trust RBC, even though I had no prior experience with them like my bank account at home. You may not need a new bank account if you just go out of state, but it may help if you  can access more than the mobile app or website. Being able to easily withdraw money for trips, pay back friends, or just to have it to be safe is important, especially when in a new place. Several stores did not accept my debit card from my bank back home. Having a backup relieved a lot of stress.

When it came to my cellular company and plan, the main thing that affected me was not having service in certain areas. I have Sprint, which I personally love since it is cheap and I have my own personal unlimited plan. Reception can be spotty at home but I didn’t look very well at the map of coverage before I left for Calgary. While it wasn’t crazy bad in Calgary, if the dorm wifi cut out I didn’t have very good service and when we got closer to the mountains, I lost it all together. While this is pretty normal for most phones, it was just something I wish I had thought about so I could have been prepared. Some of my friends switched to Canadian cell companies to avoid this problem which I highly recommend if it makes sense financially. . I stayed with Sprint because I have full service in Mexico and Canada with my unlimited plan.

Health insurance in new hospitals or places can get tricky, but in another country, it becomes even harder to understand. Some of my friends got travel insurance while others, including myself, decided to just pay out of pocket and then send the information to insurance companies back home. In Canada they have universal healthcare and exchange students or residents planning on living there for 12 months or more are eligible for it as well. Since I was only there for 8 months, I couldn’t apply but it is definitely something to consider. I used the health center on campus to get my birth control shot and some friends got general checkups there as well. Some people were referred by their insurance companies to go to certain hospitals or dental offices in the city. I didn’t call my insurance company before I left. I should have, especially because I knew I was going to have to get my shot every three months. I recommend students going on exchange contact their insurance company before departure. It can be pretty complicated.

Students are always warned about these things by advisors before going on exchange but not everyone listens or thinks it is as hard or important as it is. I thought I would figure it out as I went along because other things seemed more important before I left. Always listen to your advisors or peers who have dealt with this more and check up on everything they recommend, even if you don’t think it applies to you. These are just a few of the small things I wish I had figured out before leaving on exchange.

Submitted by Caleigh Nordan

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