You’re rushing to your 8am lecture with a hastily toasted bagel dangling from your teeth. Your half combed mane flaps through the air as you sprint across campus. You have two assignment deadlines and a few impending midterms on your mind, there is no time to think about your finances. You have tuition to pay, rent to cover, and textbooks to buy. It would be nice to get groceries and pizza too. You need a bank account that works for you but who has the time to search for the best student account in Canada?
There are so many choices for free/cheap banking for students, which among them is the best bank account for a student like you?
Chequing / Savings Account
Debit / Credit Card
High regular interest rates
Savings + Chequing
2.10% (first 5 months only) Regular is 0.10%
Variety of products
Savings + Chequing
Free ATM access throughout the USA
Savings + Chequing
Earn interest on your chequing accounts
Savings + Chequing
2% (PROMO) Regular is 0.10%
Strong Chequing account
Savings + Chequing
Best of the Big Banks
Savings + Chequing
Online investing partnership with QTrade
Good option for Quebec residents
We here at Million Dollar Journey believe that the free online chequing accounts are still the best value for most Canadians. Check out FT’s recent comparison of Canada’s best chequing accounts.
For those enrolled full time in post-secondary education such as a university or college the big banks actually offer some very attractive packages for the attractive price of $0. Read on to see an overview of some of the best accounts and offers for students. You can also read our new guide for the best student credit cards in Canada.
Flash that Student ID for Those Sweet Student Banking Promotions
Your student ID can get you a free chequing account at all major banks in Canada. When the time is right, you can enjoy some decent chequing account offers for students. Here are the current student banking deals from Canada’s big five banks.
BMO’s Students Discount
BMO Bank of Montreal gives students a $10.95 discount on the Plus, Performance, and Premium accounts. The discount makes the Plus account free. Interestingly, the most basic account (Practical account) is not discounted, so a fuller feature Plus account actually becomes cheaper (free) than the less featured Practical account.
The Plus account gives you 25 free transactions per month and unlimited Interac e-Transfers. If you need more transactions, you can upgrade to the Performance account to get unlimited transactions but that privilege costs $5.00 per month.
To be eligible, you must be enrolled full-time in university, college, or registered private vocational school. BMO is also nice enough to extend the student discount for up to one year after you graduate.
There is a $60 opening bonus promotion running at the moment until February 1, 2021. You need to be a brand new BMO customer and complete 4 Interac e-Transfers with your new account to receive the opening bonus. Sixty bucks isn’t too bad. That’s about 10 meatball subs worth of cash!
CIBC’s Free Chequing Account For Students
CIBC offers the Smart Account for Students. It’s a free chequing account with unlimited transactions and unlimited Interac e-Transfers. That’s quite a convenient account that takes away the hassle of tracking your transactions every month. You have enough things to track already, transactions shouldn’t be one of them.
CIBC’s Smart Account for Students has an expiration date. It’s limited to 4.5 years, after which, it automatically converts to a regular chequing account.
CIBC is also offering a $60 opening bonus to new customers until January 29, 2021. You just have to share your email, register for online or mobile banking, then make at least 1 Visa Debit purchase within two month of account opening to receive the bonus cash. If meatball subs aren’t your thing, you can get about 20 Red Bull energy drinks instead with your bonus cash.
The CIBC Smart Account also comes paired with a free SPC membership. You save the $10 SPC membership fee and you can enjoy discounts, contests, and other promotional offers for services or goods at retailers across Canada.
RBC’s Free Banking Account
RBC gives students two options:
1) a free Student Banking account with 25 monthly transactions and unlimited Interac e-Transfers.
2) the No Limit Banking for Students account with its $10.95 monthly fee waived for one full year. The No Limit Banking account, as its name implies, includes unlimited transactions and unlimited Interac e-Transfers.
The big banks aren’t all that creative when it comes to promotions, so no surprise, RBC is also offering a $60 opening bonus for new customers. Their promotion runs until February 1, 2021 and requires you to do two of the following: mobile cheque deposit, Interac e-Transfer, or any purchase. Sick of energy drinks and want to detox? 60 bucks can get you 6 healthy Teriyaki Twist bowls from Freshii.
Scotiabank – Free Unlimited Account + Promo
Scotiabank’s free Student Banking Advantage Plan offers unlimited transactions and unlimited Interac e-Transfers. Similar to other Scotiabank accounts, activity in the student account can earn you SCENE points towards free movies and other discounts.
Scotiabank’s new promo offer is $60 cash + a chance at winning $30,000.
You just have to complete one of two things: set up payroll deposit (a weird requirement for a student account) or set up 2 separate recurring pre-authorized transactions for a minimum of $25 per transaction for twelve consecutive months. This bonus offer can get you 4 free movies. That could be a couple of nice dates or one fun evening with friends.
Aside: an interesting option at Scotiabank is to forgo your student status and just open a regular chequing account instead. As Kyle discovered in his Scotiabank review, the current $300 opening bonus could be great value, even if you end up paying some fees.
TD Bank – Free Student Account But No Other Perks
Finally, TD’s Student Chequing account is free and gives you 25 free transactions and unlimited Interac e-Transfers. But TD isn’t offering any opening bonuses at the moment so forget about TD.
The main benefit of an account with a major bank is the in-person experience. If that’s important to you, then take advantage of one of the offers described above.
I quite like Scotiabank for its SCENE points rewards program. You’re going to be using your account, might as well earn some free movies at the same time. Those points could come in handy when you’re cash strapped but still want to treat a date to a movie (post pandemic, of course).
Best Free Online Bank Accounts for Students
If you don’t need the in-person, in-branch experience at a brick and mortar bank then a free, online chequing account is for you, student or otherwise. Million Dollar Journey often features updated reviews and comparisons of online banking options, like Hannah’s article on the Best Online Banks in Canada 2021. The advice there applies to most Canadians, including college and university students.
Tangerine offers the fullest suite of services including: chequing account, high interest savings account, credit card, investment account, and mortgage. Having all your financial products and services in one place is very convenient.
Tangerine is running a new customer bonus offer until January 31, 2021. Open both a savings account and a chequing account to earn 2.1% interest in your savings account for 5 months. If you also add payroll direct deposit to your chequing account, you can earn a $150 bonus.
The payroll direct deposit requirement is tough for a full-time student to satisfy. Aside from those lucky enough to have co-op jobs or internships, most students will likely not be able to enjoy this Tangerine promo.
Even without the cash bonus offer, Tangerine’s free chequing account is an excellent choice for students. It offers unlimited transactions, unlimited Interac e-Transfers, and a free first cheque book (50 cheques).
Canada’s online bank ecosystem is growing and a number of other choices have risen up to challenge Tangerine, a long time favourite at Million Dollar Journey.
For chequing accounts, Simplii Financial is currently offering the biggest opening bonus of $200 to new customers before March 31, 2021. To qualify, you need to set up one or more recurring direct deposits of at least $100 per month for three months. Of course, payroll direct deposit is the easiest way to satisfy this requirement but as we discussed, students may not have this luxury.
Simplii does allow other eligible direct deposits so it may be worthwhile to check the fine print or contact support to find a way to qualify for this cash bonus. If not, then Tangerine still remains the more preferable online chequing account for students.
High Interest Savings Accounts For Students
A student may not have much cash for savings or investments but it’s still important to put away some savings whenever and however much possible.
When it comes to high-interest savings accounts, EQ Bank is the top choice at the moment. We like the high interest rate (1.5%) on offer, and we like that the rate is not a teaser or promo. The rate is the rate. Whatever money you can set aside into an EQ Bank Savings Plus account can grow while you focus on studying for finals.
An interesting feature of EQ Bank’s Savings Plus accounts is the ability to make unlimited Interac e-Transfers and electronic funds transfers. This makes the savings account more flexible and acts a little bit like a chequing account. If you don’t need to write physical cheques, then this EQ Bank Savings Plus account could even cover your everyday banking needs.
In his EQ Bank Review 2021, Kornel suggests an ultimate EQ Bank hack: use a credit card for everyday purchases, then use pre-authorized payments to pay off the credit card. Voila, no chequing account is needed and your money earns you more interest than any chequing account.
We looked at some choices for free/cheap banking for students. All choices can be good banks for students.
If you really value the in-person, in-branch experience at a brick and mortar bank, then choose one of the big banks and take advantage of their opening bonuses. Between the major banks, I think Scotiabank offers the best student account because using the account earns you SCENE reward points. I think free movies are nice perks to help students get through tough years of intense study.
If in-person experience isn’t all that important, and if you missed the opening bonus from the major banks, then Tangerine is the best account for students during school and can continue to serve them long after graduation.
Finally, for setting aside savings for a rainy day, the EQ Bank Savings Plus account is the best savings account for students.
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