If the cost of tuition wasn’t enough, inflation means attending college or university in 2023 is even pricier than expected. What’s a first year to do? This story is part of a crash course in personal finance for students and parents. Read the full guide.
Among the many challenges that international students face in settling in a foreign country by themselves, including adapting to a different culture and sometimes language, they also have to ensure they don’t fall behind on finances.
The Globe and Mail compiled a list of tips to help international students become financially responsible and set them up for success should they wish to remain in Canada beyond their studies.
Obtain a credit card, but monitor your payments
Establishing good Canadian credit history is important because it shows lenders how likely you are to pay your bills by analyzing your repayments on credit cards, loans and lines of credit. The easiest way to begin building your credit history is by obtaining a credit card.
Many financial institutions have credit card offers for newcomers to Canada without previous credit history in the country, typically with limits of less than $10,000, said Natasha Macmillan, Ratehub.ca’s director of everyday banking.
Maintain a good credit rating
Credit history is measured through a credit score, which is tracked by two credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. You may be required to show your rating to a bank when applying for a mortgage or to a landlord when leasing an apartment, for instance. You can find your credit score report by going to the credit bureaus’ websites.
Certified financial planner Ravi Chhabra advises not applying for more credit cards than you need because if your application gets denied, it can hurt your credit score. He also says you can protect your score by putting phone bills in your name instead of sharing with friends, as only you are responsible should they fall behind on their payments.
Get your phone and internet bills from smaller providers, it’s cheaper
Canadian telecom prices are among the highest globally. Mr. Chhabra advises international students to seek smaller providers when picking their phone plans.
“A-level providers, Rogers, Bell, they are more expensive than their own B-levels which are Fido and Virgin,” he said. Most providers also offer back-to-school deals, some offering 30 gigabytes for $45 monthly.
Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) before securing employment
A SIN is a unique and secret nine-digit number required by employers in Canada. Employees must provide their SINs within three days of when they start working, so it’s best to apply for one before accepting job offers. You can apply in-person at a Service Canada Centre, online or by mail.
Beware of housing fraud
If living off-campus, beware of rental scams. This is when fraudsters post fake listings online and demand a rent deposit. In a previous Globe report, Chris Borkowski, a broker with Realty Executives Group, advised that renters only send a deposit after they’ve confirmed the place actually exists. For international students who are not in Canada, that might mean asking someone they know in the country to tour the home for them.
Understand how health insurance works in your province
Each province has its own eligibility rules for providing health insurance. It’s important to know what they are because, while health care is universal in Canada, out-of-pocket emergency services can cost thousands of dollars.
In British Columbia, for instance, there is a three-month waiting period to be eligible for provincial health care. Some universities, such as the University of British Columbia, provide their own health care programs to newly arrived international students in the meantime. However, returning international students who already had coverage through the university may need to sign up for a private plan temporarily.
If you are in Ontario, UHIP is your primary medical insurance plan. It will cover diagnostic and lab services as well as visits to a family doctor, but it doesn’t cover dental care or prescription drugs, for example. For a full list of what is covered under UHIP, head to its website. Many universities will offer supplementary coverage through their student unions.
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