There are basically two ways of looking at which chequing account should win the title of Canada’s best chequing account in 2021.
1) What is the best premium chequing account package, where you’ll get the most value and convenience for a relatively small monthly fee?
2) What is the best free Canadian chequing account, where you will pay $0 per month and still get some nice perks?
If you’re choosing a chequing account or high interest savings account at random, simply because “you’ve always banked there” you are likely missing out on perks and interest rates worth hundreds of dollars to the average Canadian.
Best Chequing Bank Account Offers in Canada 2021
EQ Bank Savings Plus
The best Canadian bank account – Now with TFSA and RRSP GIC options! High interest savings with all the features a chequing account has.
Best interest rates in Canada.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to be able to separate Canadian chequing accounts from Canadian high interest savings accounts. Many of the best options tend to combine elements of the two, so we’ll do our best below to explain which accounts have all of the elements of the traditional chequing account, while others are really good high interest savings bank accounts that can be made to do most of what an old school chequing account used to do. Read our best online bank account article here to learn more about this aspect.
Criteria for Choosing the Best Canadian Chequing Account
Skip straight to our Canadian Bank Account comparison by clicking here.
1) Monthly Fees – The bottom line, is there money coming out of your bank account each month?
2) Can you get the monthly fee waived simply by storing some rainy day cash in the account?
3) Is there currently an excellent promotion in place that will reward you just for signing up?
4) Convenience – Can you write cheques, access a large ATM network, get in-person help, and access an excellent online platform?
5) Perks+ – What kind of cool stuff can your chequing generate for you? This is usually accompanied by an “Unlimited Everything” feature where you don’t have to worry about “nickel and dime fees” (they’re a lot more costly than a nickel or dime these days) adding up.
6) What sort of interest rate can I get with this account?
Best Value and Convenience Premium Canadian Bank Account
Each of Canada’s major banks offers some version of an “Unlimited Premium Chequing Account” option.
In 2021, the best option by a fair margin is the Scotiabank Ultimate Package. You can read the gist of it below, or check our Scotiabank review for more details.
It costs $31 per month – BUT – if you simply maintain a $5,000 balance in the account, Scotiabank will waive that monthly fee. It’s not quite a free chequing account, but it’s a great deal in terms of replacing an interest rate on that $5,000!
Here’s what you get in exchange for that $31 or simply storing your emergency fund in the Scotiabank Ultimate Package bank account:
- Free premium credit card ($140 value)
- Free withdrawals from non-Scotia ATMs around the world – (Average $20 per year value to me)
- Free Safety Deposit Box ($50 value)
- Free Overdraft Protection ($60 value)
- Extra .10% Interest Rate ($5 value on $5,000 savings)
- Free Cheques ($25 value)
- Free International Money Transfers (Average value $0 – $200)
- Rewards points on chequing account spending (Value – depends on your spending, but at least a few free movie tickets per year = $50)
- The unlimited transactions options available through Scotiabank accounts (At least $180 with any major Canadian bank).
Grand Total: $530! (And that’s assuming $0 in value for international monetary transfers.)
If you look at your $5,000 deposit as an investment, that’s an annual return of 10.6% – and when you include the $300 welcome bonus, that’s a guaranteed return of 16.6% in the first year!
Comparison of RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, and BMO Premium Canadian Chequing Accounts
Min. Balance to Waive Fee
Free Safety Deposit Box
Free International Money Transfers
Scotiabank Ultimate Package
Earn points on chequing account transactions + extra .10% Interest Rate
TD All-Inclusive Banking Plan
RBC VIP Banking
Old Generation Ipad
Petro Canada Savings
CIBC Smart Plus Account
$100 Amazon.ca Gift Card
BMO Premium Chequing Account
$300 Welcome Cash
Hands Down Winner : Scotiabank
As you can see from the comparison above, Scotiabank is clearly the best choice when it comes to premium chequing accounts. In fact, i would go as far as to say that as long as their welcome bonus offer is valid, they are clearly the best overall chequing account in Canada.
For as long as the promotion is valid (currently due to end on July 31st, 2021) – the value you get from signing up to Scotiabank is actually greater than using a free chequing account, even if you do end up paying the monthly fees.
The best thing however, is that you don’t really have to pay those fees at all! as long as you keep a minimum balance of $30,000 across your various Scotiabank accounts (including savings accounts), or $5,000 in your chequing account – the monthly fees are all waived. Add to that the assortment of great perks and one of the best rewards programs in Canada, and you’ll see why Scotiabank is currently our #1 overall pick for opening a new chequing account in Canada.
You can read our Scotiabank review to get more details about the promotion’s terms and conditions, as well as a breakdown on its expected value. We also cover all the other perks and benefits Scotia has on offer.
Best Free Canadian Bank Account in 2021
When we start looking at the best free bank account options available in Canada, what we’re really talking about is online banking.
Online-only banking platforms have really taken off over the last few years.
Now, when we’re looking at online banks, the best options offer some version of a “hybrid solution” to the old school decision of using a high interest savings account or instead opening a basic chequing account. These hybrid accounts usually offer most (if not all) of the utility that you need in a modern day account (how many cheques do you really write these days?) combined with much higher interest rates than what pure chequing accounts do – and the ability to do most of your banking without worrying about shifting money all over the place.
For example, let’s look at the EQ Bank Savings Plus Accounts – which is our top pick for Best Free Canadian Bank Account and the best high interest savings account in Canada. For the princely sum of $0 you get:
- Instant ability to earn what is consistently the highest interest rate in Canada (currently 1.25% with no teaser rate).
- Unlimited eTransfers
- No fees for using the account to autopay bills
- No overdraft fees
- The same CDIC Insurance that covers all of Canada’s large banks
- Excellent GIC options – which can be placed in a TFSA or RRSP if you so choose
- No minimum balance to worry about
- Ultralow Currency Transfer Fees
What you don’t get with EQ is the ability to write a cheque or use a debit card. In place of these EQ recommends using one of the excellent Canadian credit cards available to make your everyday purchases, and then simply setting your credit card account to automatically withdraw funds from your Savings Plus Account. This is the logistics path that I take, as it lets me max out the interest I earn, send as many etransfers as I want (to use in place of cheques), and maximize my credit card rewards points.
The alternative path is to use our best free chequing account below (for now Tangerine, but more options to come later) and then pair EQ Bank up with a free account that allows for a debit card and printed cheques.
Best Free Chequing Account in 2021
If you are looking for a free bank account that gives you all of the options of a traditional chequing account, then we recommend waiting a couple of months to see what new Canadian option might pop up (brought to us from our cousin in the states).
In the past I would have unabashedly recommended Tangerine for the title of best cree Canadian chequing account, but their constant bait-and-switch tactics using temporary teaser interest rates while dramatically lowering their long-term interest rate just doesn’t sit well with me. We’ve also been getting more and more complaints about their customer service over the last couple of years. Tangerine still offers a solid free credit card option, as well as cheques and a debt card – for the excellent price point of $0.
I simply think that the product has gotten more and more watered down ever since Scotiabank bought the company a few years ago. It has suffered from a lack of competition, and I’m very interested to see what this new market entrant will have to offer. If it is anything like what it is offering down in the US, it will blow away what we have available right now. We’ll update this article as the new option becomes public.
Other Contenders for Best No-Fee Chequing Accounts
The Wealthsimple No-Fee Cash Bank Account
One interesting and innovative competitor to keep your eye on is the Wealthsimple no-fee cash account. It seems like Wealthsimple is inventing new ways to do a lot of things in the world of Canadian finance. See our full Wealthsimple Review for more details on their Canada-leading investment options.
Basically, through a deal with EQ Bank, Wealthsimple offers a very similar banking product, but rewards users with a lower user rate than EQ Bank (usually by about .75%) AND offers one free ATM withdrawal per month through fee reimbursement.
Like EQ’s Savings Plus Account, there are no cheques available and there is no Wealthsimple Cash Account debit cards. They do have a cool-looking prepaid tungsten metal card that can kind of act like a debit card if you want it to.
The New PC Money Account from PC Financial and Loblaws
Three years after selling their online no-fee banking operation to CIBC (and it subsequently becoming Simplii Financial) PC Financial is back with the PC Money Account. It is not technically a chequing account in that it does not appear that you can order cheques for it (and it certainly doesn’t come with free cheques). What it does come with is a nice little loyalty program that many Canadians are quite familiar with in the PC Optimum Plan.
The basic idea is that the PC Money Account will allow you to bank for free. You can send etransfers, use PC Financial ATMs, pay bills online, and all of the other transactions that fall under the umbrella of a chequing account – you just can’t send cheques.
The PC Money Account does come with a debit card option. When you pay with the PC Money Account and/or use it to pay bills online, you will earn PC Optimum points that can be used to make purchases at Loblaws grocery stores or Shoppers Drug Mart. It will essentially act as 1% cash back – just redeemable only at those stores.
Given the legions of fans that the old PC Financial Chequing accounts used to have, the new PC Money Account is certainly one to keep your eye on! We’ll see how their rollout goes before we start to place them with the leading contenders however.
Motive Financial No-Fee Chequing Account
The Motive Financial Cha-Ching account is relatively new to the Canadian no-fee chequing account scene, but it has certainly made a big splash! They are definitely a substantial step up on the vast majority of chequing accounts out there, and offer many of the same great no-fee options that Tangerine, Simplii, and Motus bring to the table.
While they do have a better high interest savings account option than Tangerine does – our Canadian banking hack of pairing Tangerine with EQ negates that advantage.
When comparing to Tangerine in other areas, we see that Motive charges a few other small fees that Tangerine does not, as well as an app that must be improved if Motive wants to ever get serious about mounting a real challenge for the Canadian chequing account crown. That said, Motive Financial (owned by Canada Western Bank) is still young – so I’m excited to see where it goes, and I hope that it continues to push Tangerine to improve. You can read our Motive Financial review here, updated for 2021.
The Simplii Financial (Formerly PC Financial) – No Fee Chequing Account
It used to be that there were two leading contenders when it came to Canadian chequing account dominance – Tangerine and PC Financial.
Then PC Financial changed to Simplii Financial, and there have been very few positive changes to go with the rebranding from everything that I’ve read and heard. Now I must admit that I’m not a Simplii user, so I can’t speak from firsthand experience, but I know from the sheer number of emails and comments I’ve received from former PC Financial customers that the transition has been anything but smooth.
I should point out that like Motive Financial, the Simplii Financial no-fee chequing account is not at all a bad product! Any banking platform in Canada that lets Canadians bank for free is a solid deal in my books. Simplii has access to the CIBC ATMs (whereas Tangerine makes use of Scotiabank’s ATM network) and offers a very competitive product offering.
It just simply isn’t as good as what Tangerine or EQ puts on on the table. The online platform needs an update, and the app could use a refresh as well. You can read my full Simplii Financial review here, and see exactly what’s good or bad about it.
The Motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account
I’m running out of ways to say, “Look this is a really good no-fee chequing account, but it’s just not quite as good as what Tangerine and EQ have built over the years.”
Motusbank is yet another solid new competitor on the Canadian banking scene. Just like these other excellent no-fee chequing account options, you can do your monthly banking, send etransfers, and write cheques for free. Motusbank also has some mortgage offers – but they’re not all that competitive with the best Mortgage rates in Canada at the moment.
Motusbank will have to invest some substantial resources into refining their online platforms, and measuring up to the wide menu of offerings that our current top picks puts forward before we can consider them a big threat.
Chequing Account Canada Frequently Asked Questions
What should I use my chequing account for?
Think of your checking account as the place you park money that you will need in the next few weeks. If you won’t be needing the money for more than a month (or you are building an emergency fund) then the money is better off being invested or held in a high interest savings account. Most people use their chequing account as the place that takes in their paycheque, then auto pays their bills and loans, and makes their monthly payments. It’s also the account that is hooked up to their debit card and is the account money comes out of when they write a cheque or send an etransfer.
What types of chequing accounts are there?
Most banks come up with some sort of fun-sounding marketing-savvy name for their plain-Jane chequing accounts. That said we can usually fit chequing accounts into the following categories: Personal – or basic – chequing account, senior chequing account, no-fee chequing account, hybrid account, student chequing account, youth chequing account, US Dollar chequing account, and joint chequing accounts. Make sure that when you compare chequing accounts in Canada that you are comparing apples-to-apples, and that you’re not comparing a premium chequing account with a no-fee Canadian chequing account.
What is the difference between a chequing account and a high interest savings account?
Most people have a high interest savings account for long-term savings and use their chequing account for day-to-day expenses. From a bank’s perspective, there is usually a much lower interest rate applied to a chequing account. There are a few banks (EQ, Motive and Wealthsimple) that combine certain aspects of both types of accounts, providing most of the flexibility of a chequing account with an interest rate somewhere around the midpoint of the two more mainstream categories.
Is checking account in Canada the same as chequing account?
Yes! Many people who write about “checking accounts in Canada” are in fact just allowing the dominance of the American media to show through. The USA obviously uses the term checking account almost exclusively and does not recognize the Quebecois background that led to the “chequing account” becoming the dominant term in Canada. You will also sometimes see the lesser-used – chequing account in Canada.
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