When considering your contenders for best free Canadian chequing bank account in 2020, there are three things you need you understand right off the bat.
1) The big Canadian banks (RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, and BMO) are not your friend.
2) You should NOT be comparing these accounts based on their interest rates.
3) Chequing account, chequeing account, and checking accounts in Canada refer to the same basic vanilla transaction banking account. Chequing account is by far the most used term across the Great White North, but many of us are influenced by US-based checking account phrasing.
Here’s a look at our best Canadian Free Canadian Chequing Accounts for 2020… as well as some other contenders.
Free Chequing Account Canada: Comparison Table
Compare the best chequing account in Canada between Canada’s online banks:
|Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account||Motus Bank||Motive Financial||Simplii Financial|
|Chequing Account Fee||No-Fee||No-Fee||No-Fee||No-Fee|
|ATM Access||Yes – Scotiabank ATMs||Yes – The exchange network||Yes – The exchange network||Yes – CIBC ATMs|
|Platform Rating||4.2/5 Apple App Store||3.5/5 Apple App Store||1.6/5 Apple App Store||2.8 Apple App Store|
|4.3/5 Google Play Store||3.5/5 Google Play Store||1.9/5 Google Play Store||3.8 Google Play Store|
|Mobile Cheque Deposit||Yes (First in Canada)||Yes||No||Yes|
|Other Interesting Notes||Best app and online interface||New in Canada||Owned by Canada Western Bank||Worst customer service ever as per every Canadian blog and forum.|
|Cool promo when the Raptors win*||Mortgage focused||Best long-term interest rates|
|Great 1-per-month perks|
|Review||Tangerine Bank Review||Motus Bank Review||Motive Bank Review||Simplii Financial Review|
|Visit Website||Visit Tangerine||Visit Motus||Visit Motive||Visit Simplii Financial|
* They are the official sponsor of the Toronto Raptors.
Hands-Down Winner: Tangerine Bank
While I’m not as much of a fan of their high interest savings account, the combination of using Tangerine for daily banking with their chequing account (plus a great no-fee credit card option), together with EQ for your GIC/HISA needs, is currently the best deal going in Canada. Tangerine’s long-time experience and roots as the original Canadian online bank really show in their features they are able to provide, along with the excellent usability of their platforms. The large Canadian and international ATM networks are a nice bonus!
Canadian Chequing Account Comparison: Tangerine vs TD, BMO, RBC, CIBC, and Scotiabank
We’ll go into a little more detail here in a second, but here’s a quick peak at how Tangerine’s best Canadian chequing account compares to the TD Minimum Chequing Account, the BMO Practical Chequing Account, the RBC Day to Day Banking Chequing Account, the Scotiabank Basic Bank chequing account, and the CIBC Everyday Chequing Account. All of these Canadian chequing accounts represent the lowest cost option available at the major banks – not their “upgraded options” – which you can read more about later in this article.
Big Banks vs Tangerine Canadian Chequing Account Comparison
|Cost per month||$0||$4.00||$4.00||$4.00||$4.00||$4.00|
|# of free debit card transactions - or other transactions (cheques, bill payments, etc)||Unlimited||12||12||12||12||12|
|Cost of transactions after the free ones are used||N/A||$1.25||$1.25||$1.25||$1.25||$1.25|
The above Canadian chequing account comparison not a typo – and I’m not being lazy! I looked up the TD, RBC, BMO, CIBC, and Scotiabank chequing account details one by one – and they are exactly the same! (They play games with whether the price is $3.90, $3.95, $3.99 – but you get the point.) The more expensive chequing account packages from the big banks actually offer better value despite being more pricey.
How to Choose the Best Canadian Chequing Account
Here’s my ranked priorities when choosing the best chequing account in Canada.
1) Is there a chequing account fee? If yes – you’re not making the cut. Paying to access my own money is almost a non-starter in 2020. You’ll notice that none of our top accounts charge you a monthly fee of any kind!
2) A pleasant online banking experience. I know that this isn’t a high priority for everyone, but I don’t want to visit branches unless I absolutely have to.
3) Unlimited free transactions. This is pretty standard up and down the list of our best Canadian chequing account contenders.
4) Access to ATMs across Canada. While I visit an ATM less and less often, there is no denying that when you need some cash in a hurry, it’s inconvenient not to have locations nearby.
5) Elite trouble-free online experience. If you can’t use your bank account, it doesn’t matter how low-fee it is!
6) Free cheques. Because… Who wants to pay for cheques if you don’t have to?
7) Mobile cheque deposit. Because… Who wants to walk and wait in line to deposit a cheque if you don’t have to?
8) Interest rates and rewards points. As stated above, you should never have a large amount of money in your chequing account (use your high interest savings account instead) – so that renders interest rates almost irrelevant. Even more irrelevant is the miniscule rewards points that accompany certain chequing accounts. These aren’t premium credit cards where the point differences can add up in a hurry. Just ignore the attempts here to get you to enroll in a chequing account that requires you to pay a fee.
9) CDIC insurance coverage. Good to have, but all of our leading contenders check this box, so there is no real differentiation there.
Compare Scotiabank, BMO, RBC, TD and CIBC Checking Accounts
Comparing the Scotiabank Preferred Package Account, the BMO Performance Plan, RBC Day-to-Day Banking, TD Personal Chequing Accounts, and CIBC Smart Account.
Look, you can’t talk chequing accounts in Canada without looking at what the Big Banks bring to the table. Naturally, these banking behemoths are quite competitive with one another, and all offer the following:
- Online platforms and refined apps that look shiny and are very usable.
- Convenience of brick-and-mortar locations across the country.
- A large system of ATMs
- Various types of packages that allow certain transactions for free, while charging after a certain number of other types of transactions.
- A premium type of “everything/elite/expensive” account that often includes unlimited everything, and some add ons like a decent credit card or safety deposit box.
Generally, the accounts range in monthly cost from $4-$35. This is virtually identical across all of the big bank options. Perhaps it’s worth that monthly fee in added convenience for you personally, but for me, I just hate the idea of paying in order to grant the bank access to my money – just so they can make even more money off of the interest!
Is it worth it to keep a big minimum balance for the premium package?
Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo tuned me into the math behind keeping a big minimum balance in a chequing account a few years ago.
I have long espoused that folks should try to cut their banking fees to the bone (paying to access your own money!) by using no-fee banks like Tangerine or Motive. However, if you HAVE to use one of the big banks, think about this.
We’ll use the Scotiabank Ultimate Package is an example. It’s not a cheap commitment at $31 per month, but here’s the perks you get:
- Unlimited transactions and Interac etransfers
- Unlimited cheques
- A free pass to the top Credit Card in Canada (The Scotia Momentum Infinite) – valued at $139 annually.
- Unlimited global ATM withdrawals (even if they’re not part of the Scotia network)
- No overdraft protection fee
- Better GIC rates (still not nearly as good as EQ Bank’s)
- Some free trades with Scotia iTrade
- A free safety deposit box ($55 value)
- 10,000 Scotia Rewards or Scene Points on account opening
Those are some cool perks – but I’d still hate paying more than $420 (once taxes are added) each year to just access my own money!
The other option is to leave a permanent balance of $5,000 in my Scotia chequing account. If you leave $5,000 in the account, they’ll waive that monthly fee.
Now – if you wanted to use that excellent credit card, and needed a safety deposit box, that is truly a $194 value yearly. So that’s already a 3.8% return on your money. If there are a few bucks-worth of hidden value in the other perks, plus the value of a pared-down plan (like our RBC $4-monthly plan above), then you might be getting close to a 5% return on your $5,000 that you’re leaving in the account.
That’s not a bad guaranteed return on investment – especially in today’s income-starved environment.
Now, if you already have a favourite credit card and/or don’t use a safety deposit box, then obviously the value of this package can drop quickly – but it’s not as much of an opportunity cost-loss as you might think at first!
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 (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.
Best Canadian Chequing Account Promo Offer Code
The best Canadian chequing account with Tangerine also has unique promotions for our readers. Not only you will sign up with the best bank in Canada with free chequing, you will also receive the following promotion:
New clients earn 2.15% interest when you open a Tangerine Savings Account and Chequing Account with $200 bonus when payroll requirements are met.