BMO vs Scotiabank: The Ultimate Showdown

By Baggio Ma | Published on 10 Jul 2023

For Canadians who are looking to sign up with a new bank, it is only natural to gravitate toward Canada’s Big 5 banks. These five institutions are the foundation of the Canadian economy and dominate the personal banking industry. 

In this ultimate showdown article, we take a look at BMO vs Scotiabank and compare their offerings of bank accounts, credit cards, and online brokerages. If you are considering signing up with either BMO or Scotiabank, read on to learn which of these Big 5 banks is the right choice for you. 

BMO Overview

BMO or the Bank of Montreal was founded in 1817 making it Canada’s oldest bank. It is the third-largest bank in Canada by market capitalization behind only TD and RBC. BMO serves over 12 million people around the world and 8 million of those are Canadians. With over 800 branches and over 1,400 ATMs across Canada, BMO has a strong retail presence in nearly every Canadian city. 

Scotiabank Overview

Scotiabank, also known as the Bank of Nova Scotia, was established in 1832 in Halifax by the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. It is right behind BMO as the fourth-largest bank in Canada by market capitalization and boasts a significant international banking presence in regions like Asia Pacific and Latin America. Scotiabank has more than 20 million global customers, 2 million customers through its online subsidiary Tangerine, and more than 900 branches across Canada. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: Chequing Accounts

BMO Chequing Accounts

The Bank of Montreal offers five different chequing accounts to customers. All of these accounts come with unlimited Interac eTransfer transactions, BMO Insights, Free Credit Score Checks, and the ability to earn up to 4.00% interest on your account. 

BMO offers a basic chequing account that provides just 12 transactions per month and comes with a monthly fee of $4.00. For the rewards collectors out there, BMO also offers an Airmiles Chequing Account that allows you to earn Airmiles every time you use our BMO debit card. 

Most Canadians will likely be choosing between the Performance, Premium, and Plus chequing accounts. Here are the differences between the three BMO chequing accounts: 

BMO Plus Chequing AccountBMO Performance Chequing AccountBMO Premium Chequing Account
Monthly Fees$11.95 per month$16.95 per month$30.00 per month
Minimum Balance for $0 Monthly Fees$3,000$4,000$6,000
Other Perks25 transactions per month with unlimited Interac eTransfersUnlimited transactionsUnlimited transactions
Non-BMO ATM Withdrawals cost $2.00 in Canada and $5.00 outside of Canada1 Non-BMO ATM Withdrawal in Canada per month. After that, it is $2.00 in Canada and $5.00 outside of CanadaUnlimited Worldwide with no BMO fees
$5.00 per Global Money Transfer$5.00 per Global Money TransferFree Global Money Transfer
$5.00 per month overdraft protection$5.00 per month overdraft protectionNo Monthly Fee
Canadian and US Dollar Savings at no cost Canadian and US Dollar Savings at no cost Canadian and US Dollar Savings at no cost 

Scotiabank Chequing Accounts

Scotiabank offers a total of six different chequing accounts for Canadians with varying usage. Two of these are aimed at students and two others are basic accounts for those who do not rely on banking. The Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan and the Getting There Savings Program for Youth both come with no monthly fees and unlimited debit and Interac eTransfers. The Student Banking Advantage Plan even comes with lower commission fees on the Scotia iTrade brokerage platform. 

For a majority of Canadians, they will be choosing between Scotibank’s Preferred and Ultimate Packages. Here is a breakdown of the two main Scotiabank chequing accounts: 

Scotiabank Ultimate PackageScotiabank Preferred Package
Monthly Fees$30.95 per month$16.95 per month
Minimum Balance for $0 Monthly Fees$5,000$4,000
Other PerksUnlimited debit transactions, Interac eTransfers, and Scotiabank international money transfersUnlimited debit transactions and Interac eTransfers
Earn Scene+ RewardsEarn Scene+ Rewards
Up to $150 annual fee waiver on select credit cardsFirst-year up to $150 annual fee waiver on select credit cards
Ultimate Rates on select GICsPreferred Rates on select GICs
No Overdraft Protection feesEligible for Overdraft Protection
Unlimited free Global non-Scotiabank ABM withdrawalsFee waived on one non-Scotiabank ABM withdrawal per month in Canada
10 free trades at Scotia iTrade in your first year and 5 free trades each year after20 free trades on the mobile app in your first year and 10 free trades each year after

The Winner: Scotiabank

Scotiabank offers more variety to Canadians and includes integration with the Scotia iTrade brokerage platform as well. Add in the ability to earn Scene+ rewards and special rates for GICs and Scotiabank provides a total banking experience when comparing chequing accounts from these two banks. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: Savings Accounts

BMO Savings Accounts

BMO offers four different savings accounts for Canadians with varying rates of interest for each. The BMO US Dollar Premium Rate Savings Account pays 0.05% interest on your US savings. One caveat with opening this account is that you first need a BMO chequing account. 

The three other savings accounts from BMO are the Savings Amplifier Account, the Savings Builder Account, and the Premium Rate Savings Account. The Savings Amplifier Account is paired with a BMO chequing account and can boost your interest rate by up to 1.80%. This account has no monthly fees or minimum balance and offers unlimited no-fee transfers to other BMO accounts. 

The BMO Savings Builder Account comes with a base 0.50% interest rate but can get boosted to up to 2.50% if you grow your account balance by $200 each month. Finally, the Premium Rate Savings Account offers a minimal 0.01% interest rate but can be combined with a BMO chequing account to share transaction limits and fees. 

Scotiabank Savings Accounts

Scotiabank savings accounts offer Canadians flexibility and potentially higher interest rates. There are five different savings accounts at Scotiabank, two of which are reserved for US Dollars and Euros. These are great for avid travellers, although you need a minimum balance of USD 200 and 200 Euros each month. 

The Scotiabank Momentum Savings Account has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirement. With this account, the longer you save, the higher your rate of interest will be. Earn up to 1.40% on every dollar and up to an additional 1.25% during premium periods of between 90 and 360 days. 

With the Scotiabank Savings Accelerator Account, it can be added to another chequing account or investment portfolio. The higher the overall balance in this portfolio, the higher the interest rate you receive. Refer to this image to see how this Scotiabank savings account works:

Source: Scotiabank Savings Accelerator Account

The Winner: Scotiabank

Scotiabank just offers more optionality than BMO does with its savings accounts for Canadians. The ability to amplify your rate of interest is alluring and the additional options for both US dollars and Euros is the icing on the cake. 

One thing to note: both chequing and savings accounts from BMO and Scotiabank are protected by CDIC insurance. This means that for balances up to $100,000, you are fully covered if one of these banks declares bankruptcy. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: Credit Cards

BMO Credit Cards

BMO offers 13 different credit cards for Canadians and all of them are from either Visa or Mastercard. With BMO, you can take advantage of a couple of different rewards programs like the always popular Airmiles and BMO Rewards points. BMO has two student credit cards with no fees and lower interest rates, and a US dollar Mastercard which comes with set exchange rates for cross-border shopping. 

For the shoppers out there, BMO now offers its BMO PaySmart program. This allows BMO credit card users to pay off purchases in 3, 6, or 12 months with zero-interest payments. 

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Scotiabank Credit Cards 

Scotiabank offers 17 different credit cards from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Like with BMO’s Airmiles, Scotibank’s cards feature the Scene+ rewards points which can be redeemable for travel, movies, groceries, and consumer products. Of its 17 credit cards, six of Scotiabank’s cards are for students with lower interest rates and fees. 

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The Winner: BMO

When comparing credit cards between BMO and Scotiabank, we’ve concluded that less is more. Even with just 13 different cards, it seems like BMO has more variety and better overall reward systems with BMO Rewards and Airmiles. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: Online Brokerages

BMO InvestorLine

BMO’s online investing brokerage is called BMO InvestorLine. It offers both self-directed and robo-investing in a wide range of assets including stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, options, and GICs. Fees are fixed at $9.95 per transaction and there is no discount for active traders or students. 

InvestorLine does have an Active Trader platform which provides advanced charting, real-time of both Level 1 and Level 2 market data, and stock screeners. Canadians can also take advantage of BMO’s SmartFolio robo-advisor services for professionally managed portfolios with advisory fees from 0.4% to 0.7%. 

BMO also offers free ETF trades for over 80 different Canadian ETFs. This makes passively creating a diversified investment portfolio easier and cheaper than ever. Canadians can use BMO InvestorLine online through a desktop or with the BMO Invest mobile app for both Android and iOS.

Scotiabank iTrade

The Scotiabank iTrade online brokerage is a full, self-directed investment platform that allows Canadians to invest in a variety of assets in both registered and non-registered accounts. This platform charges $9.99 per trade although that falls to $4.99 for active traders who make more than 150 trades per quarter. 

Like BMO, Scotiabank offers zero-commission ETF investing for over 100 different Canadian ETFs. As of June 2023, Scotiabank does not offer the FHSA or First Home Savings Account and does not have a robo-advisor service through its iTrade brokerage. Canadians can manage their investments through Scotiabank’s desktop or iTrade Mobile app for both Android and iOS. 

The Winner: BMO InvestorLine

When comparing these two online brokerages, it is clear that they share many of the same products and features. Both incorporate free ETF investing, which was unheard of for big bank brokerages in the past. BMO InvestorLine gets the nod here because of its addition of a robo-advisor service. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: Best Offers for Newcomers

BMO Offers for Newcomers

For new residents in Canada that are looking for a new bank account, BMO offers the NewStart Program. This service provides unlimited BMO Global Money Transfers for one year at no cost. It also provides access to a safety deposit box for important documents. 

BMO provides up to $650 in savings for newcomers and can be combined with other products like various BMO credit cards. For families making the journey to Canada for a new life, saving on these costs can be an immense help when funds are scarce. 

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Scotiabank Offers for Newcomers

Scotiabank also offers a savings plan for newcomers to Canada. This plan allows families to transfer money to Canada before they even arrive. It also provides unlimited international money transfers at no cost for one year, access to a safety deposit box, help with mortgages, investments through iTrade, and even a no-fee credit card for the first year. This offer provides newcomers with savings of more than $200 at their most vulnerable time. 

The Winner: BMO

BMO provides a better value when it comes to the best banking offer for newcomers. A total savings of $650 is critical for new families in Canada, and the BMO NewStart Program helps them to ease their way into a new banking system to start their new lives. 

BMO vs Scotiabank: The Results

Chequing Accounts Scotiabank
Savings AccountsScotiabank
Credit CardsBMO
Online BrokeragesBMO
Best Offer to NewcomersBMO

Overall Scotiabank excelled when it came to personal banking but BMO had the edge in credit cards, online brokerages, and the best offers to newcomers in Canada. Who you choose as your new Canadian bank will always depend on what your banking needs are. If you are simply looking for the best chequing or savings account to park your money, then Scotiabank is likely the right choice. If you want to use other products like credit cards or investing, then BMO has a better overall offering of non-banking services. 

Baggio Ma has written for several Canadian websites on a variety of personal finance related topics. His knowledge is informed by his personal financial journey as an investor over the past 5 years. He invests using the online brokerage platform Wealthsimple, shops with one of the best credit cards in Canada, and keeps track of his credit score through Borrowell.