Help this newly-arrived student acquire internet service in Canada.
December 21, 2010 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Student visa in Canada; no SIN or CDN credit card, hence no CDN credit history. Can't get anyone to give me internet/TV or mobile phone service!?

American in Vancouver, recently arrived on a student visa. According to Telus and Virgin Mobile, I've got nothing that can be used for a credit check. They can't use my American info, and they said getting a CDN credit card would take a while to get and form a history with. I suppose I can just get a prepaid cell phone, but it's actually really important that we get hi-speed home internet service. (Husband and now sole-income-earner will be working remotely from our new apt. for his current US employer. Bumming the neighbor's free wifi not reliable, etc.)

Thanks for any and all advice!
posted by wowbobwow to Technology (13 answers total)
I asked my girlfriend, also American and living here in Vancouver. She said that she had the same problem a few years ago, but Telus let her skip the credit check in exchange for a limit on her balance. You could try asking another service representative if that's an option.

Also, Telus has unbelievably bad customer service. I could write paragraphs about their terrible service, but for your sake I won't. I've had much better experiences with Shaw in the last few years, maybe they would be able to work something out?
posted by ripley_ at 9:52 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi, Australian who lived in Vancouver for some time. I had no problems getting a CDN credit card from TD (had to provide security for it), and no problems getting Shaw cable for internet / TV. I had no Canadian credit history at all.
posted by lych at 9:58 PM on December 21, 2010

Call more providers, you have way more options. If you need to borrow a wireless stick for a few days to research this, I can lend you guys one, just memail me.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:54 PM on December 21, 2010

Shaw doesn't do credit checks for service, all you have to do is provide a $50 up-front payment that's applied to your first bill.

As for cell phone service, why don't you do prepaid or pay for your phone outright? There's tons of companies (Wind, Mobilicity) that make you pay for your service in advance to avoid this malarkey. Also you can get a secured credit card from any bank or credit union if you need one. MeMail me if you need any help.
posted by calistasm at 12:06 AM on December 22, 2010

I just returned to the states after spending a bit over a year living in Victoria, BC for graduate school. I feel your pain; getting set up was a hassle. I wasn't in charge of the internet in my house, but Shaw generally seemed like the way to go.

For mobile phones, I used Koodo Mobile. You can design your own plan based on minutes, data usage, extras (like caller ID or voicemail, which don't seem to be standard in some Canadian plans).

In terms of credit cards, I opened a checking account with CIBC the day after I arrived, and they just asked me if I wanted to apply for a Visa at the same time. Surprisingly, it got approved and I had a credit card about a month after I arrived in Canada. It may have helped that I had an offer letter from my graduate program on hand that outlined my financial aid package. That stood in for the income portion of the application. All of which is to say, while it may not happen quickly, if you're solvent don't rule a credit card out.

Last, and this isn't the point of your question, but are you sure you don't need a SIN? I was in the country on a study permit and my university made it very clear that I was expected to have a SIN for tax purposes, registering for the BC Medical Services Plan (which is required by law if you live in the province for more than 3 months, I think), and a host of other things. At the very least, if you are American, you will have to file taxes next April both in Canada and the US. You can't do much of anything official without a SIN; they even have a special class of SINs for temporary residents, a lot of which go to those with study permits (they all start with "9"). Best of luck in BC!
posted by scdjpowell at 5:28 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's been a while, but I seem to remember Telus taking a (refundable) cash deposit if you didn't have decent credit. I'm pretty sure I've done that, but it was well over a decade ago.

That being said, I'd call Shaw first anyway, because they don't make you sign a contract. (Plus, I hate, hate, hate Telus with all the venom I can muster.)

If that doesn't work, I'd call Rogers; they might be willing to set you up with both internet and a phone. I'm sure the big companies deal with this all the time, with all the international students showing up every year. It can't be a unique problem. Just ask, and if you get an uncooperative customer service rep, hang up and try again and start all over with the new person you're now talking to. For reasons I'll never understand, it usually boils down to the luck of the draw with what customer service rep you get and whether or not they'll help you. I've called back and got such drastically different answers from two different reps on various issues it's mind boggling.

Also, for credit cards, you might also want to try the credit unions as well as the big banks; I'd suggest VanCity or Coast Capital Savings.
posted by cgg at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2010

Agreeing with others on the pure suckitude of Telus.

Also, while you lose a bit in convenience if you travel frequently, I've often found that the credit unions are able to go the extra mile and work with you on establishing credit. VanCity is the most prevalent credit union in Vancouver.
posted by Kurichina at 9:16 AM on December 22, 2010

I had to put down a deposit when I was in that situation, which was kind of annoying but did work for utilities and stuff. Also got a credit card with a low balance secured by a savings deposit that covered minor day to day expenses and established Canadian credit history.

So it's annoying and will involve sticking some money away in what amounts to escrow, but you should be able to get service.
posted by Naberius at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2010

Rogers gave me internet service when I didn't have a SIN or CDN credit card without any problem.

Koodo was able to use an American credit card (well, debit card that pretends to be a credit card, the sort of system they really could use in Canada, sigh) to sign me up, and they have generally been good for a Canadian cell phone company, and there's no contract.

Still haven't gotten a Canadian credit card, but I'm told that there are deals for international students at some banks.
posted by Casuistry at 10:15 AM on December 22, 2010

I used to work at The Bay, and many non-Canadians would apply for an "instant" store credit card as a way to circumvent stupid policies about Canadian credit. It may or may not work for you, but it could be a quick fix.
posted by oohisay at 10:53 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Australian in Canada here - my suggestions are Koodo for mobile phone service, Teksavvy for internet and TD for banking. Whilst my visa made me eligible for a SIN (one of the ones starting with a 9, as scdjpowell mentioned) I had (actually, have) a cap on my mobile phone bill and a low limit on my credit card.

Good luck!
posted by unlaced at 4:46 PM on December 22, 2010

Agreeing with TD for banking and Teksavvy for internet. I've actually had nothing but positive experiences with Telus Mobility, although I am told the Telus non-mobility part that handles DSL and home services is awful.

I'm an immigrant, but I've always had a SIN, so I haven't had that experience. That said, both Fido and Shaw hooked me up with service before I even started my job here. (I later switched to Telus and Teksavvy because both treated me better, but.)
posted by criacow at 6:00 PM on December 22, 2010

Hey thanks to everyone who responded. We're going with Shaw for web & TV and maybe Wind for cell service.

Signed up with BMO for banking, although I do have a sort of sketchy feel about them. Then again, I get that way about any service provider that
A) I have to use to live in the modern world and
B) I understand little of what they do and therefore always suspect I'm being conned.

In other news: that SPCA furniture thrift shop on W Broadway is like, totally tits.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:29 PM on December 25, 2010

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