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, having a chequing account is still a necessity.
Chequing accounts have definitely evolved over the years. There are free accounts, premium accounts, and hybrid accounts as well. With all of the options available today, it can be tough to decide what the best Canadian chequing account is. We are here to help you break it down so you can make the best choice for your situation and needs.
First, let’s compare the types of chequing accounts available, and you might find that your current bank is, in fact, not the best choice when it comes to the best chequing account.
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As you can see, most of these banks offer free, unlimited checking, 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 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 banks article to learn more about this aspect.
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.
Here are the main types of chequing accounts offered:
Personal Chequing Account
This is your everyday, basic chequing account, so 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 $6 per month and you get 12 free transactions. If you are already an RBC customer, the fee can be waived.
No Fee Accounts
These accounts are as cheap as they come, as in free! The catch is that some of the accounts are quite limited in what they offer, or might add fees elsewhere to make up for offering their chequing service for free. Simplii Financial offers unlimited, free checking, so it’s a solid choice when it comes to no fee accounts.
Hybrid or Alternative Chequing Accounts
This new breed of chequing accounts come to you courtesy of virtual banks like EQ, that can offer more services for less because they don’t have physical locations to pay for with your fees.
Many of these institutions offer free chequing with unlimited monthly transactions as well as other services such as money transfer and automatic deposit.
Some hybrid accounts have prepaid cards, or even pay interest. As things become more cashless, we think these types of accounts will gain traction and offer even more services in the coming years.
Premium Rewards Chequing Accounts
These accounts offer customers perks similar to how credit cards offer perks and benefits when they spend. These accounts usually come with a monthly fee and minimum balance requirement.
However, with accounts such as Scotia’s Basic Plus Account, and Preferred Package Account, or Ultimate Package Account you’ll get SCENE rewards, which means you’ll earn points on shopping, travel, entertainment, dining and more.
Student or Youth 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 $60 sign up promo.
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, paying a bit extra in the form of a monthly fee can help you earn more rewards, which usually more than pays for the monthly fee.
- 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.
Keeping these things in mind as you read through the rest of our article will help you choose the best Canadian chequing account for your daily needs and financial goals.
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 2022, 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 transaction 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
While online banks are clearly overtaking the traditional oldschool banks in terms of value, we understand that they are not for everyone. Big banks do offer a sense of comfort as well as convenience that really appeal to some.
On top of that, major banks might actually be better value if you are specifically looking for a premium chequing account, as online banks tend to focus more on providing a low-cost service rather than premium rewards.
Below you can find our quick comparison of chequing accounts offered by big Canadian banks, and see how they compare to our pick for the best chequing account in Canada – EQ Bank.
Min. Balance to Waive Fee
Free Safety Deposit Box
Free International Money Transfers
EQ Bank Savings Plus Account
$150 in Cash
1.50% Interest Rate
Scotiabank Ultimate Package
$300 Welcome Bonus
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 October 31, 2022) – 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 2022
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.
Other Contenders for Best No-Fee Chequing Accounts
EQ Bank Savings Plus Hybrid Account
Although EQ bank doesn’t have any physical locations, since opening in 2016 they have earned the trust and loyalty of many customers. No other banks come close to offering a 1.50% interest rate, which is because it’s actually a savings account with the flexibility of a chequing account.
Once opening an EQ account, you will have free and unlimited cheque transactions, Interac e-transfers, and monthly transactions, which can all be made through their mobile and online banking platform.
The one thing to be aware of is that EQ currently does not have an ATM card available for cash withdrawals. You would need to open an additional free chequing account with another bank, which you could easily fund via your EQ account.
While it might not be as convenient as having an account that has it all, the interest rate makes it worth the trouble. For our full review, check out MDJ’s EQ Bank Review.
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 isn’t a Wealthsimple Cash Account debit card. 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 it 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 2022.
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. On top of that, they currently have one of the best new accounts promos in Canada – with $350 offered if you sign up before July 31st, 2022.
It just simply isn’t as good as what Tangerine or EQ puts 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 measure up to the wide menu of offerings that our current top picks put forward before we can consider them a big threat.
Chequing Accounts in Canada: Frequently Asked Questions
No matter what your financial goals are, your age, or your spending habits, 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.
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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