Most of us have memories of our parents or grandparents whipping out their chequebooks at the store or at the kitchen table when it was time to pay bills. While we may not need to spend hours a month writing out cheques and balancing our chequebooks, we still need quick access to cash for daily expenses, purchases, and bills.
The bottom line is, even if we never actually write a cheque, having a chequing account is still a necessity.
Chequing accounts have evolved over the years. With all of the options available today, it can be tough to decide what the best Canadian chequing account is. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best chequing accounts in Canada, including a quick comparison chart for easy reference.
By the time you’re done reading, you might find that your current bank is, in fact, not the best choice when it comes to chequing accounts.
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As you can see, most of these banks offer free, unlimited chequing, and a few offer interest to boot. However, none of them come close to EQ’s rate of 2.50%.
It’s getting increasingly difficult 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 are traditional chequing accounts, and which are blurring the lines between chequing and savings (and more!). Read our best online banks article to learn even more.
EQ Bank Savings Plus Account – Best Overall, Best Hybrid Account
When we start looking at the best bank accounts in Canada, we’re always going to end up talking about online banks.
Many online banks offer a “hybrid solution” that combines the features of a high interest savings account and 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 pure chequing accounts plus the ability to do most of your banking without worrying about shifting money between accounts.
The EQ Bank Savings Plus Account is a perfect example of a hybrid bank account done right. That’s why it’s also 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
1.252.50% with no teaser rate).
- Unlimited eTransfers and bill payments
- 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
Plus, EQ now offers the EQ Bank Card, a prepaid card that works just like a debit card and gives you the same high interest rate as their Savings Plus account – as well as cashback on every purchase. We loved this account before it had a card, so you know we love it even more now!
Scotiabank Ultimate Package – Best Premium Chequing Account
It takes a lot for a premium account to impress us, but Scotiabank’s Ultimate Package is so packed with value that it’s the only big bank to earn a place on this list, as well as our list of the Best Online Banks in Canada.
The Ultimate Package comes with a hefty fee but also a hefty welcome bonus (a $350 value). For as long as the promotion is valid (currently due to end on April 30, 2023), 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 $5,000 in your chequing account or $30,000 across your various Scotiabank accounts (including savings accounts) – 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 a premium 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 of everything that’s included in the package.
Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account
PC Financial used to be one of the leading contenders when it came to Canadian no-fee chequing accounts.
Then PC Financial changed to Simplii Financial, and other accounts took the lead. There hasn’t been much improvement to Simplii’s accounts since then.
That being said, the Simplii Financial no-fee chequing account is not at all a bad product! It just didn’t evolve in any meaningful way after the name change. It’s still on our list, but other banks are catching up fast.
Simplii has access to the CIBC ATMs and offers a very competitive product offering. On top of that, they currently have one of the best new accounts promos in Canada – with $400 offered if you sign up before June 30, 2023.
The final verdict on Simplii is that it’s good enough to make our list but not good enough to beat EQ Bank. The online platform needs an update, and the app could use a refresh as well. You can read our
motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account
motusbank is yet another solid competitor on the Canadian banking scene. Just like these other excellent no-fee chequing account options, motusbank offers free unlimited e-transfers, purchases, payments, and withdrawals. They also offer 0.15% interest on account balances, plus 25 free cheques.
Motusbank chequing account holders have access to the Exchange ATM network in Canada and the Allpoint ATM network in the US. This means that there are 43,000 ATMs available for use throughout North America. Many online-only banks have struggled with ATM access in the past, so this is great to see.
The downsides to motusbank are their platform, which is clunky and unimpressive, and their fees. You may not be paying a monthly fee, but their website has a long list of fees you could end up paying, from US ATM transaction fees to bank record searches.
But they still make our list because in spite of these downsides, their chequing account is really quite good.
Motive Financial No-Fee Cha-Ching Chequing Account
The Motive Financial Cha-Ching Chequing account is relatively new to the Canadian no-fee chequing account scene, but it has certainly made a big splash! They are a substantial step up from the majority of chequing accounts out there, and offer the same great no-fee options that better known online banks like Simplii and Motus bring to the table.
The Motive Cha-Ching! Chequing Account offers unlimited free transactions and transfers, 50 personalized cheques (almost unheard of these days), and 0.25% interest on chequing account balances. They used to ding clients with a number of fees, but they’ve been phasing them out over the past year or so, which is what we like to see.
That said, Motive Financial (owned by Canada Western Bank) isn’t perfect. Their app and web interface need some improvement, and their customer service is on par with a lot of budget online banks (which is to say, not great). However, Motive is still young – so we’re excited to see where it goes. You can read our Motive Financial review here.
PC Money Account
Three years after selling their online no-fee banking operation to CIBC (and it subsequently becoming Simplii Financial) PC Financial came back with the PC Money Account.
The PC Money Account combines most of the features of a no-fee chequing account with a rewards program. 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 actual cheques.
The PC Money Account comes with a prepaid Mastercard that functions like a debit/credit card hybrid. When you pay with the PC Money Account and/or use it to pay bills online, you 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.
The downside of the PC Money Account is that the only ATMs you can access for free are PC Financial branded ATMs. In other words, the ATMs in Loblaws stores. This was one upside of the old PC Financial -their partnership with CIBC meant that users had far more free ATM options.
What is a Chequing Account?
A chequing account is a bank account that’s intended to keep your money safe but accessible for daily spending. You can use it to pay bills, make purchases, withdraw cash, or deposit paycheques.
A typical chequing account comes with both a debit card and a chequebook (or at least the option to order cheques if needed).
When Should You Use a Chequing Account?
Use a chequing account for day to day transactions like paying bills and getting paid. Chequing accounts allow you to access your money regularly.
If you’re buying groceries, paying a parking ticket, getting paid, or going out to dinner, you should use your chequing account.
Chequing Account Types
When it comes to chequing accounts, it may seem at first that there is only one type: one that allows you to easily access and spend your money as needed! While it’s not quite as simple as that, it’s not super complicated either.
Every kind of chequing account lets you access and spend your money – but there are still minor differences. Here are the main types of chequing accounts offered:
Personal Chequing Account
This is your everyday, basic chequing account, usually from a big bank, and what you get is a no-frills chequing account that may come with a monthly fee and a limited number of transactions. You can expect to pay anywhere from $4 to $30 depending on what services you require.
RBC’s Royal Bank Day to Day Banking Account is a relatively low-cost option at only $4 per month. For that $4, you get 12 free transactions. That’s not a lot of transactions for the money, which is why it doesn’t feature on our list, but it demonstrates what a typical chequing account offer looks like.
No Fee Chequing Accounts
These accounts are as cheap as they come, as in free! No-fee chequing accounts are usually offered by digital banks with no in-person branches. These banks don’t have to pay for rent, upkeep, utilities, tellers- you get the idea. And that savings can be passed on to you.
The catch is that some accounts are quite limited in what they offer, or might add fees elsewhere to make up for offering their chequing service for free. Make sure to read the fine print or go with one of our top recommended accounts.
Many of the accounts on our list are no-fee chequing accounts because they offer such great value. For example, Simplii Financial offers unlimited, free chequing, so it’s a solid choice when it comes to no fee accounts.
Hybrid Chequing Accounts
This new breed of chequing accounts come to you courtesy of virtual banks like EQ. Instead of simply offering no-fee versions of traditional bank accounts, these banks are breaking the mold and pioneering new ways to bank.
Hybrid accounts combine the characteristics of chequing and savings accounts, although they can also include other features as well. One example is the EQ Savings Plus account, which gives you the best features of a high-interest savings account (hello, amazing interest rate!) plus the unlimited withdrawals of a chequing account.
Add the EQ Bank Card, which pays interest like a savings account and gives cashback like a credit card, and it’s a “best of all worlds” situation.
Hybrid accounts are the most exciting to watch because companies are constantly introducing new features. As the competition heats up, who knows what they’ll come up with next!
Premium Rewards Chequing Accounts
These accounts offer customers perks similar to how credit cards offer perks and benefits when they spend. Premium rewards chequing accounts usually come with a monthly fee and minimum balance requirement.
For example, accounts such as Scotia’s Preferred Package Account or Ultimate Package Account offer SCENE rewards, which means you’ll earn points on shopping, travel, entertainment, dining and more. It’s an easy way for banks to add value to a premium account.
Student or Youth Chequing Accounts
There are many student and youth accounts available out there, and there is no better way to start teaching financial responsibility than by learning to manage your money with a chequing account.
Youth accounts are usually free, and some even earn interest, but come with quite a few restrictions. The CIBC Advantage for Youth Account has a 0.15% interest rate and charges no fees. Student accounts, aimed at university students, may or may not have fees, and some come with rewards. Right now, the CIBC Smart for Students Chequing Account is offering a $150 sign up promo.
Joint Chequing Accounts
Joint chequing accounts are held by two or more people. They’re often used by couples with joint expenses or business partners who require access to the same account.
You’ll generally find that most chequing accounts on offer can be opened by two people, but it’s wise to double-check before beginning the process. Larger groups have more limited options and may need to apply in person at a big bank branch. You can read more in our list of the Best Joint Bank Accounts in Canada.
USD Chequing Accounts
As the name suggests, a USD chequing account is an account holding US dollars. In this case, we’re talking about Canadian bank accounts holding US currency as opposed to American bank accounts.
USD chequing accounts can be useful for people who frequently move money across the border and/or want to avoid foreign transaction fees. You can learn more in our list of the Best USD Bank Accounts in Canada.
Chequing, Savings, and Hybrid Accounts Compared
The best account for you will be the one that’s designed to fit your needs, while giving you the best possible value.
If you’re not sure which kind of account you need, here’s a quick rule of thumb:
Use a chequing account for regular transactions.
Use a savings account to save (not spend).
Use a hybrid account for whatever you need—you’ll get good interest rates but also be able to access your money.
We’ve laid the basics out in a chart for easy reference:
|Purpose||Daily spending and deposits (paycheques, bills, groceries, etc)||Keep money safe and accessible without spending it regularly (emergency fund, small/short-term savings goals)||Saving and spending|
|Cost||Often has a fee attached, especially from big banks||Often free, especially for existing chequing account holders||Often free (read the fine print)|
|Interest Paid?||None to minimal||Yes (amount varies)||Yes (amount varies)|
|Features||Automated bill payments, e-transfers, deposits, ATM access, point of sale purchases, cheques||Interest paid.|
Limited withdrawals (often with a fee associated). Limited ATM, e-transfer and point of sale access.
|Combines savings account interest with chequing account usability.|
How to Pick a Chequing Account in Canada
So, you know you need a chequing account to make it easy to pay for your day-to-day purchases, pay bills, and more. Now comes the question, how do you choose a chequing account?
Here are some things to consider:
- Safety and security: This is always a key factor in making sure your money is safe and secure. Knowing your money is insured and that your account is secure will give you peace of mind.
- Fees: Fees can be sneaky, and although a chequing account may be free and you won’t be charged for transactions, there might be fees hiding elsewhere. For example, if you plan to withdraw cash, you want to know that you won’t be charged a high fee for accessing your money at the ATM.
- Interest: Making your money work for you should always be a priority, even when it comes to your chequing account. Choosing an account that pays you back with interest will pay off in the long run.
- Perks: If you travel frequently, want to save on gas, or earn other rewards on things you purchase regularly, look for an account that features rewards points or cashback. Sometimes these accounts charge a fee, but depending on your spending habits, they can be worth it.
- Accessibility: Do you want a mobile app and online platform? Do you want to be able to speak to someone in person and on the phone easily if needed? Choosing a chequing account that offers the choices you want is key to long term satisfaction.
Chequing Accounts in Canada: Frequently Asked Questions
The Verdict: The Best Chequing Account in Canada
No matter what your financial goals are, your age, or your spending habits, a chequing account allows you to perform normal day to day transactions. But not all chequing accounts are created equal.
you should definitely maintain a chequing account. If you already have one, it might be a good time to consider a different option that will suit your needs a bit better.
The best banks are reputable, insured, and committed to providing value to their clients. Newer digital banks are pioneering hybrid accounts that combine the best features of chequing accounts with the interest rates of the best high interest savings accounts.
Our pick for the best chequing account in Canada is one of these hybrid accounts from EQ Bank. The EQ Savings Plus Account offers a sky-high interest rate along with the convenience of unlimited free transfers. The EQ Bank Card allows you to make withdrawals and point of sale purchases, while also paying you interest on your balance and cashback on your purchases.
However, if you’re interested in a more traditional bank account, Scotiabank offers a value-packed premium banking package, or Simplii is a solid no-fee option (although it’s not improving fast enough to compete with some of the up-and-coming online banks).
Now that you know our top picks for the best chequing accounts in Canada, you’re ready to make a great decision that will make your life a bit more convenient, and hopefully keep more money in your pocket!
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