Best chequing accounts in Canada 2020


Although writing cheques might be increasingly anachronistic, our day-to-day banking is still carried out through a chequing, or chequing/savings, account. They’re designed to handle everyday tasks like ATM transactions, paying bills, point-of-purchase sales and transferring money. While at first blush it might seem like there’s not much to distinguish one chequing account from another, we surveyed the Canadian banking landscape to find a few standouts.

These are current accounts offered by Ratehub partners. You can find information about additional product options and MoneySense editor’s picks further below.


Summary of the best chequing accounts in Canada for 2020

If you’d like more information about the features offered by each of these accounts— from great interest rates, to no fees, to the ability to earn rewards—check out the table below, or jump ahead to the detailed profiles below.


ACCOUNT WHAT’S NOTABLE MONTHLY FEE
Simplii Chequing Account No fees, no min balance, earn interest from 0.05% $0
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan* No fees, unlimited transactions & e-transfers $0
Scotia Basic Banking Account* 12 free transactions, 2 free e-transfers per month, and rewards on debit purchases $3.95
RBC Day to Day Bank Account 12 free transactions & unlimited free e-transfers $4
Scotiabank Ultimate Package* Unlimited transactions & e-transfers, free safety deposit box, credit card fee waiver $30.95 ($0 with a min $5,000 balance)
Motive Chequing Account Unlimited free transactions and earn 0.6% interest $0
motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account Unlimited debit transactions and e-transfers, earn 0.25% interest $0


Best no-fee chequing account:

Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account

With the recent surge of no-fee banking options, it’s difficult to choose the best. But Simplii Financial takes the top spot in our list for the best chequing accounts in Canada, based on their offer of unlimited cheques and their tiered interest rate: starting at 0.05% for those banking up to $1,000, at 0.10% for $1,000.01 up to $5,000, and 0.15% for $5,000.01 and more. (Rates may change without notice.)  Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account holders have unlimited free online transactions, Interac e-Transfers and access to telephone banking—all for free and without a minimum balance. Although this is an online bank (so there are no brick-and-mortar branches), it’s associated with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, so Simplii account holders have access to their money through CIBC’s network of more than 3,400 ATMs across Canada.

  • Monthly fee: None
  • # of cheques: Unlimited
  • # of transactions: Unlimited
  • Interac e-transfers: Free
  • Extras: Mobile banking app for Apple and Android; pay-per-use overdraft protection
  • Service charges: None

Best student bank account:

Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan*

The Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan is an attractive no-fee account for students that sweetens the pot by earning you your choice of SCENE or Scotia Rewards points on your debit purchases. This means that for every $5 you spend, you’ll get 1 point in either program, essentially monetizing your everyday spends. While the earn rate isn’t as good as you’d get through a credit card, it’s a nice extra to have, especially on a no-fee student account. The welcome bonus of 5,000 SCENE or Scotia Rewards points, if you sign up before October 31, 2020,  is worth around $50, depending on your choice or redemption.

The nuts and bolts of the plan will make many students happy: no monthly fee, unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-transfers, overdraft protection, access to a massive network of over 4,000 ATMs. The Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan offers up a lot of perks–all for free. 

  • Monthly fee: None, as long as you’re enrolled in a post-secondary institution
  • # of transactions: Unlimited
  • Interac e-transfers: Unlimited
  • Extras: Earn SCENE or Scotia Rewards points on debit purchases; free paperless or paper statements; Apple and Android mobile banking apps
  • Service charges: None

Get more details about the Scotiabank Advantage Plan*


Best basic accounts from a big bank: 

Scotia Basic Banking Account*

This account pairs up the advantages of a big bank with the allure of a flexible rewards plan. At only $3.95 per month, the Scotia Basic Bank Account handles your day-to-day banking. Plus, unlike most other basic accounts, it allows account holders to collect loyalty points on debit card transactions. For every $5 you spend, you receive 1 point in either the SCENE or Scotia Rewards program. Account holders get 12 free monthly transactions plus two free Interac e-transfers; you’ll pay $1.25 and $1.00, respectively, for extras.

  • Monthly fee: $3.95
  • # of transactions: 12 per month, which 4 can be at a teller; additional transactions are $1.25
  • Interac e-transfers: 2 free per month
  • Extras: Free paperless and paper statements; earn Scene rewards for entertainment purchases or Scotia Rewards for travel and merchandise; Apple and Android mobile banking apps
  • Service charges: Many, including $1.50 for each Interac withdrawals

Get more details about the Scotia Basic Banking Account*

Runner up:

RBC Day to Day Bank Account

With similar offerings as the Scotia Basic Banking Account at almost the same price, the RBC Day to Day Bank Account is also worth a look. Both accounts include 12 free transactions per month, but the RBC package has an edge by offering unlimited free Interac e-transfers. Another perk is that you get instant savings of $0.03/litre at Petro-Canada. That said, it doesn’t offer rewards earnings which ultimately keeps this account from the top spot in the category. 

  • Monthly fee: $4.00
  • # of transactions: 12 per month; additional transactions are $1.25
  • Interac e-transfers: Unlimited
  • Extras: Savings at Petro-Canada; free after Seniors’ rebate; mobile banking app for Apple and Android
  • Service charges: Many, including $2.00 for Interac access at non-RBC ATMs

Best premium bank account for bundles:

Scotiabank Ultimate Package*

If you’re looking to bundle up on services to get a better deal, check out the Scotiabank Ultimate Package. Like many premium accounts it offers perks like unlimited transactions, unlimited Interac, or free cheques but the Ultimate goes one or two steps further. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this account, and why we added this to our list of best chequing accounts in Canada, is that you can receive an annual fee waiver of up to $139 on a credit card from Scotiabank, like the Scotiabank Gold American Express or Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite. Maybe it’s the ability to earn your choice of SCENE or Scotia Rewards points for debit transactions. Or, you might like the unlimited free global non-Scotiabank ABM withdrawals, the free safety deposit box, the 10 free equity trades at Scotia iTrade in your first year, or the additional 0.10% on your Momentum Plus Savings Account. You get this idea: This is a valuable bundle with perks that easily pay off the fees of $30.95 per month. And, if you don’t like that rate, simply waive it by keeping a $5,000 minimum in the account. 

  • Monthly fee: $0 or $30.95 (monthly fees waived by maintaining at least $5,000 in your account)
  • # of transactions: Unlimited
  • Interac e-transfers: Unlimited
  • Extras: 10 free equity trade at Scotia iTrade in the first year; free safety deposit box; earn SCENE or Scotia Rewards on purchases; get additional 0.10% on your Momentum Plus Savings Account 
  • Service charges: Some, including $2.25 for paper statement

Get more details about the Scotiabank Ultimate Package*


Best account from an online-only bank:

Motive Chequing Account

This online-only bank touts itself for its simple but effective suite of products. The Motive Chequing Account grabs accolades in this category for its free, unlimited transactions and no daily banking fees, higher-than-average interest rate of 0.6%, and access to more than 3,600 ATMs on the Exchange Network—all accessible with a physical debit card with no monthly fee. Although e-transfers will set you back $1 each (receiving them is free).

  • Monthly fee: None
  • # of transactions: Unlimited, except for e-transfers
  • Interac e-transfers: $1 each to send; free to receive 
  • Extras: 50 cheques; free withdrawals from the Exchange Network’s surcharge-free ATMs (this group of banks and credit unions allows each other’s customers to share use of ATMs at no charge)
  • Service charges: $1.50 for withdrawals from non-Exchange Network ATMs

Runner-up:

motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account

Owned and operated by Meridian credit union, motusbank doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar locations, which means you need to be comfortable with doing all your banking on your electronic devices. Your no-fee account includes unlimited transactions and e-transfers, 25 free cheques, and an interest rate of 0.25%. With motusbank, you’ll get only 25 free cheques, but sending money by e-transfer is free, so how you prefer to pay will factor into your choice (for example, some people prefer to use cheques because you’re able to stop payment if necessary and use the digital cheque images for record-keeping). For those who want to do their day-to-day banking through a credit union, the motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account is an excellent choice.

  • Monthly fee: None
  • # of cheques: First order of 25 free; cost after that starts at $40.56 + tax for 25
  • # of transactions: Unlimited
  • Interac e-transfers: Unlimited
  • Extras: Mobile cheque deposits; Apple and Android mobile apps
  • Service charges: None for daily banking, but there are some fees, including $30 for an inactive account

What do I use my chequing account for?

Typically, most people start out by opening up a savings account to stash away allowances and birthday money. As you get older, however, your banking needs change and you’ll require something that allows you to move money in and out of your account easily. Often savings accounts will have higher interest rates and fewer free transactions while chequing accounts accrue less interest but have more free transactions, allowing you to use your chequing account as the main hub of activity for your finances. You may choose to have recurring payments, such as phone and utility bills come out of your account, and have repeat deposits, such as payroll and GST rebates, set up to go into your account. When you look at your monthly cash withdrawals from ATMs, e-transfers and cheque deposits, the transactions can really add up, hence why having a large number of free transactions (or unlimited transactions) can be advantageous. Most people have at least two accounts (a savings and a chequing), so that they can reap the rewards of high interest as well as flexibility with the number of transactions.


How to choose the right chequing account

Given that nearly everyone needs a chequing account, regardless of their income level and financial goals, financial institutions offer a huge range of options. Different people use their accounts in different ways, so it’s important to consider what your individual needs are. If you will never write cheques, for example, then you shouldn’t pay monthly service fees on an account that includes them. We’ve broken down the various aspects you should consider before signing up for an account.

Fees

  • Banks have traditionally charged a monthly service fee for chequing accounts. Higher fee accounts generally include more features, while lower-fee accounts offer those features on a pay-per-use basis. With the advent of online-only banking services that don’t have to cover the costs of operating physical branches, some banks pass on those savings by offering no-fee chequing accounts. Many of these no-fee accounts even come with great features like unlimited transactions. If you don’t need to do your banking in person, these are worth looking into. 

Features

  • Interac e-Transfers allow you to send money easily to anyone with an email address. Some chequing accounts provide e-Transfers for free; others allow you to receive e-Transfers for free, but charge a fee to send them.
  • Transactions generally include debit purchases, deposits, withdrawals, bill payments and transfers. You’ll want to consider whether there are charges for transactions after you’ve surpassed a certain number per month.
  • Some banks may offer rewards debit cards that will accrue points toward programs like Scene, Air Miles or PC Optimum.

Accessibility

  • Banks with more ATMs will provide easier access to cash withdrawals or ATM transactions. Note that using ATMs outside your own bank’s network usually results in additional fees.
  • Branch access may be important for people who prefer to conduct banking in person or need assistance with transactions
  • Access to foreign currency may be important to frequent travellers or those who do business abroad. Some banks also offer foreign currency or borderless accounts, which offer favourable exchange rates.

Promotions

  • Student accounts are usually no fee accounts with no transaction limits.
  • Seniors can often qualify for discounts on existing accounts or low fee senior accounts
  • Small-business owners can find business accounts that cater to their needs
  • Banks are always looking to lure new customers. Look for cash signing bonuses or giveaways such as TVs or iPads.

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