When it comes to banking in Canada, there are a plethora of options available. Choosing the best bank for you that aligns with your needs and lifestyle is important.
In this article, we will explore the top banks in Canada, as well as online banks and credit unions, and compare their features to help you make an informed decision.
Criteria for Choosing a Canadian Bank
There are 35 domestic banks in Canada today. Selecting the right one for you involves considering factors like the ATM network, associated fees, credit card offerings, savings accounts, online experience and multicurrency account options. Depending on your financial needs and lifestyle, these aspects can influence your banking experience significantly. Let’s explore these factors further to guide your choice.
The ATM network
If you are someone who still uses cash, the ATM network of your chosen bank could matter. The Big Five Banks – RBC, TD, BMO, Scotiabank, and CIBC – maintain extensive ATM networks, providing widespread access for customers. However, many smaller institutions, such as Alterna Bank, National Bank, and many credit unions, are part of The Exchange Network. This network allows customers from participating institutions to use each other’s ATMs without incurring any additional fees.
It’s also essential to consider the fees associated with banking. Some banks charge monthly account fees, while others offer free banking if you maintain a minimum balance. Additionally, some banks charge fees for using ATMs outside of their network or for international transactions.
The credit cards
When choosing a bank, consider the credit cards they offer and how they match with your lifestyle. If you often fly with Air Canada, you might consider TD Bank due to its Aeroplan card offerings. Likewise, if you’re a regular shopper at Sobeys (which is one of the partners of the Scene+ program), Scotiabank could be a potential choice because of its Scene+ cards. If you have a lower credit score, on the other hand, a bank offering Visa Debit or MasterCard Debit cards might be more suitable.
When choosing a Canadian bank, it’s essential to consider their savings account offerings. Look for competitive interest rates and low fees to maximize your savings potential. Some banks, like Tangerine and EQ Bank, often provide high-interest savings accounts.
It’s also useful to consider convenience factors. Banks like the Big Five often facilitate easy transfers between checking and savings accounts. Remember, your choice should align with your financial goals and everyday banking needs.
In today’s digital age, the quality of a bank’s online platform plays a critical role in your banking experience. Look for a bank with a robust and user-friendly online and mobile banking system that allows for convenient and secure access to your accounts, easy transfer of funds, swift bill payments, and a clear view of your transactions and balances. The option for mobile check deposits and a well-designed app are additional perks.
When choosing a bank in Canada, the provision of multicurrency accounts is a critical consideration if you frequently deal in foreign currencies, such as Euros or USD. These accounts enable you to hold, manage, and transact in multiple currencies seamlessly, providing convenience in global transactions while potentially saving on currency exchange fees.
BMO – Best Bank in Canada for Newcomers
When it comes to welcoming newcomers to Canada, BMO stands tall among its peers, providing a comprehensive suite of financial products and services designed to help new arrivals quickly adjust to their new financial environment. Its impressive array of account types, including savings, chequing accounts, credit cards, investments, and mortgages, is tailored to accommodate a diverse range of financial needs.
Understanding the unique financial challenges newcomers may face, BMO offers a variety of solutions to ease their transition. Its NewStart program is a clear example of its commitment to assisting new Canadians. This program offers numerous benefits such as free banking for a year ($16.95 per month thereafter), a free small safety deposit box, no-fee international transfers, and a wide range of credit card options – all without requiring a credit history. They also regularly have sign-up bonuses that newcomers can take advantage of.
BMO also excels in the digital banking arena. Recognizing the increasing demand for online and mobile banking solutions, the bank offers robust platforms for online banking. Its easy-to-use interface, along with advanced security measures, ensures a seamless and safe banking experience for customers, even those who might be new to digital banking.
Moreover, BMO’s commitment to serving businesses of all sizes makes it a viable option for entrepreneurial newcomers planning to start or expand a business in Canada. It offers a wide range of commercial banking solutions, lines of credit, and business advisory services to help businesses grow and thrive.
The BMO NewStart program is available to foreign workers, permanent residents and international students. Like all other BMO accounts, the funds are covered under CDIC.
Scotiabank – Best Bank in Canada For Rewards and Loyalty Benefits
Scotiabank shines as the top choice for customers seeking to capitalize on rewards and loyalty benefits, as it offers one of the most diverse and rewarding product portfolios in Canada.
At the heart of Scotiabank’s rewarding offering is the Scene+ program, one of the most popular rewards programs in the country. This rewards scheme allows customers to earn and redeem points on everyday purchases, both at partner retailers and in other spending categories. The Scene+ program’s rewards range from groceries and travel perks to entertainment experiences, enabling customers to enjoy a wide array of benefits that align with their lifestyles.
In addition to Scene+, Scotiabank offers a variety of credit card options with rewards programs tied to various categories, from travel and dining to gas and groceries. These cards offer customers the opportunity to accumulate points faster and maximize their rewards.
Furthermore, Scotiabank offers comprehensive wealth management solutions that can yield significant benefits for customers who wish to grow their wealth. From investments and mortgages to savings and chequing accounts, customers can enjoy a holistic banking experience that seamlessly integrates earning rewards with managing and growing their finances.
If you’re interested in opening a chequing account with Scotiabank, your options start at $3.95 per month for their basic account. Many of their more premium chequing accounts range between a monthly fee of $10 to $30 but can be $0 if you fulfill the minimum balance requirement.
EQ Bank – Best Bank in Canada for High-Yield Savings
EQ Bank stands out as the premier choice in Canada for customers seeking to maximize their savings potential. As a fully digital bank, EQ Bank prides itself on its ability to offer high-yield savings options that far exceed many traditional banks.
One of the standout features of EQ Bank is its high-interest savings rate. Unlike many other banks that provide marginal interest on savings, EQ Bank offers highly competitive rates that can significantly enhance your savings over time. This competitive edge positions EQ Bank as an optimal choice for those keen on growing their savings rapidly with little to no risk.
Another striking feature that EQ Bank offers is the Savings Plus Account. This account uniquely combines the benefits of a savings account and a chequing account into a single package. Customers can enjoy the high-interest earnings on their savings while also taking advantage of the flexibility of a chequing account, with features such as a spending card for everyday purchases, free online bill payments, electronic funds transfers, and Interac e-Transfers.
Moreover, EQ Bank maintains a no-fee policy on their savings accounts, allowing customers to keep and grow more of their money without the worry of diminishing returns through bank fees. This approach enhances their appeal to customers focused on saving and growing their wealth efficiently.
If this all sounds a bit too good to be true, fret not, EQ is also a member of CDIC, which means your eligible deposits are insured just like they are at other federally registered banks in Canada.
KOHO: Best Bank in Canada for People with Low Credit Scores
Although not technically a bank, KOHO offers many features akin to a traditional banking experience and proves to be an excellent option for individuals with low credit scores. KOHO functions primarily as a digital platform paired with a prepaid MasterCard. The model allows users to load funds onto their KOHO card and use it like any traditional debit or credit card, bypassing the need for credit checks or maintaining a minimum balance.
Notably, despite its non-bank status, KOHO offers numerous banking-like features. For instance, users can have their pay directly deposited into their KOHO account and even earn interest on their balance. These features combine the convenience of traditional banking with the flexibility of a prepaid card, making it particularly accessible for those with lower credit scores.
Offered in partnership with Peoples Trust Company, KOHO’s plans have 4 tiers, ranging from $0 to $19 a month. As you level up, you get more cash-back and more interest on your balance. Since Peoples Trust Company is a federally registered bank, your funds are also insured under CDIC, which is a great perk!
Additionally, KOHO’s Credit Builder program is designed to help improve your credit score. With this feature, users can demonstrate consistent ‘repayments’, which are reported to major credit bureaus, helping boost their credit score over time.
Coupled with a cashback reward program on all purchases, budgeting tools, and real-time spending updates, KOHO offers a comprehensive suite of services that make it an excellent choice for those looking for banking alternatives without the stringent credit score requirements.
Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) – Best Bank in Canada for Extended Opening Hours
Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) stands out among Canadian banks for its dedication to accommodating client schedules, including extending opening hours at selected branches for Saturday service. Recognizing the diverse schedules and needs of their customers, TD has strived to enhance accessibility by providing services beyond the traditional nine-to-five weekday timeline.
Most TD branches across Canada operate with extended hours on weekdays, and some even offer Saturday service. This approach caters to those with busy schedules or those who prefer conducting their banking in person but can’t do so during typical business hours.
In addition to flexible branch hours, TD provides round-the-clock access to banking services through its robust digital platform. With a user-friendly interface and a comprehensive mobile app, TD customers can manage their banking needs anytime, anywhere.
By combining the convenience of selected branches open on Saturdays with a 24/7 accessible digital platform, TD has positioned itself as a top choice for those seeking flexible and accommodating banking services.
If you’re interested in opening an account with TD, your options range from a no-fee account with very minimal perks, all the way up to $30/month for unlimited transactions, a free chequebook, and other perks.
Coast Capital Savings: Best Bank in Canada for Social Impact
As a socially conscious banking institution, Coast Capital Savings has made a mark on Canada’s banking landscape by being the first federal credit union to earn B Corporation certification, a testament to its commitment to balancing profit and purpose. This prestigious certification, held by businesses globally acknowledged for their social and environmental responsibility, transparency, and accountability, sets Coast Capital apart in its mission to contribute positively to society.
But Coast Capital Savings’ pursuit of social impact extends far beyond this certification. The credit union has embedded community support and engagement into its core operations, regularly investing in local initiatives and projects. It takes great pride in facilitating financial literacy programs and contributing to community development projects, solidifying its role as a key player in social impact banking.
In terms of banking services, Coast Capital Savings doesn’t fall short. It offers a suite of affordable, accessible banking products including no-fee savings accounts and competitive loan rates, demonstrating its dedication to inclusivity and attainability.
Ever since transitioning to become a federal credit union (as opposed to a provincially regulated one) Coast Capital members’ deposits have transitioned from provincial insurance to the federally regulated CDIC. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you are transferring from a provincially regulated credit union, as your insurance limits may change in the process.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) – Best Bank in Canada for Businesses
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is a frontrunner for business banking in Canada, providing a myriad of specialized services to cater to companies of all sizes. RBC’s diverse array of financial offerings, along with its dedication to innovation, makes it the best choice for businesses.
RBC provides an expansive range of financial services including various business accounts, loans, credit cards, lines of credit, and merchant services. Additionally, its selection of business credit cards offers lucrative rewards and cash-back opportunities.
Signifying its commitment to innovation, RBC recently merged its RBC Ventures group with its technology banking and innovation division, RBCx. This strategic decision is intended to foster more integrated and comprehensive support for entrepreneurs at all stages of their startups’ growth.
This merger amplifies RBC’s already considerable business portfolio, which encompasses approximately 4,000 technology clients across Canada. RBC’s ability to provide specialized support for this burgeoning sector shows its commitment to understanding and catering to the unique needs of businesses.
RBC’s advisory services are another asset, offering expert guidance on a variety of topics, from cash management to international trade. These resources, combined with RBC’s unwavering dedication to customer service, further solidify its standing as the best bank for businesses in Canada.
Tangerine Bank – Best Bank in Canada Overall
When it comes to the overall banking experience, Tangerine Bank secures the top spot among Canadian banks. As one of Canada’s first-ever online-only banks with no physical branches, Tangerine Bank exemplifies modern banking by offering a streamlined, user-friendly, and efficient banking experience right from the comfort of one’s home.
With fast, secure, and intuitive online banking platforms and mobile applications, Tangerine provides exceptional accessibility and convenience, which is a vital factor in today’s digital age.
When it comes to products, Tangerine’s high-interest savings accounts are a major perk. These accounts are designed to make your money work harder, offering competitive interest rates that are typically higher than those of traditional banks. The absence of branches reduces overhead costs, allowing Tangerine to offer better rates to its customers.
In addition to its standout savings accounts, Tangerine offers a range of other financial products, including a no-fee chequing account, fantastic credit cards with no annual fees and great cash-back, mortgages, and investment options. This comprehensive suite of financial services ensures that customers can meet all their banking needs under one digital roof.
Lastly, just like many other Canadian banks, customer deposits at Tangerine are covered under the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). This means that eligible and separate deposits up to $100,000 are covered in the case of bank failure, including funds in savings accounts, guaranteed investment certificates, and registered accounts.
If you’d like to open an account, you can get started with Tangerine’s daily chequing account, which has no monthly or annual fees and great perks such as free Interac e-Transfers, free ATM transactions and a free chequebook!
Choosing the Right Bank for You
Choosing the right bank for you is an important decision that can affect your financial well-being for years to come. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision.
Assessing Your Banking Needs
Before you start comparing banks, take some time to assess your banking needs. Consider your spending habits, financial goals, and the type of banking experience you prefer. Are you someone who prefers to do everything online or do you prefer in-person banking? Do you need advanced budgeting tools to help you manage your money better? Do you frequently travel abroad and need a bank that offers low or no foreign transaction fees? Ensure you list all your banking needs and compare them against the bank’s offerings.
For example, if you are someone who prefers to do everything online, you may want to choose a bank that offers a robust mobile banking app. On the other hand, if you prefer in-person banking, you may want to choose a bank with a local branch that you can visit.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Once you have evaluated banks and the products and services they offer, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons. Factors to consider include accessibility, fees, and interest rates, account types and services, customer service, and support. Take the time to do your research and understand your priorities and preferences.
For example, if you are someone who values good customer service, you may want to choose a bank that has a reputation for providing excellent customer support. If you are someone who frequently travels, you may want to choose a bank that offers low or no foreign transaction fees.
Making the Switch to a New Bank
If you decide to switch banks, ensure that you have a clear understanding of any penalties, fees, or restrictions. Your new bank may have an offer to help cover these costs, so it’s worthwhile exploring before making the switch. Additionally, you may want to consider keeping your old account open for a few weeks to ensure that all your automatic payments and deposits have been transferred to your new account.
Switching banks can be a hassle, but it can also be a great way to save money and get better service. By doing your research and understanding your needs, you can make an informed decision that will benefit you in the long run.
The Best Banks in Canada: The Bottom Line
Choosing the best bank in Canada depends on your financial situation and lifestyle. The Big Five banks offer extensive product offerings, sophisticated digital capabilities, and numerous branches; however, online banks and credit unions offer innovative solutions with lower fees and competitive interest rates. When choosing a bank, consider your needs, weigh the pros and cons, and don’t be afraid to switch banks if it better aligns with your priorities and preferences.
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