RBC vs Scotiabank: The Ultimate Showdown

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 10 Jul 2023

Compared to other countries, Canadians have the luxury of choosing between some of the best banks in the world. The financial sector in Canada is dominated by the big five banks which all offer a full range of products and services. This ultimate showdown article compare RBC vs Scotiabank and determine which is the better choice for banking.

RBC Overview

RBC or the Royal Bank of Canada is the country’s largest financial institution by market capitalization. It was established in 1864 and is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. As of 2023, Canada has over 1,200 RBC branches where customers can deal with personal banking, wealth management, and mortgages. Although RBC has operations in many countries around the world, Canada is the only market in which it provides retail banking services. 

Scotiabank Overview

The Bank of Nova Scotia was founded in 1832 in Halifax but is now headquartered in Toronto. It is the fourth-largest bank in Canada by market capitalization and has over 20 million customers around the world. In Canada, Scotiabank has over 900 branches as well as its online subsidiary Tangerine which has 2 million clients of its own. In addition to Canada, Scotiabank also has a strong retail banking presence in Latin America including branches in Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Scotiabank users can also use Bank of America ATMs in the United States at no charge thanks to the bank’s Global ATM Alliance program

RBC vs Scotiabank: Chequing Accounts

RBC Chequing Accounts

Personal and commercial banking is the largest revenue source for RBC accounting for more than 20% of total revenues in 2022. RBC offers four different types of chequing accounts to Canadians with monthly fees that range from $4.00 per month for the RBC Day to Day Banking Account to $30.00 per month for the RBC VIP Banking chequing account. 

Each account offers free Interac eTransfers, no minimum balance requirements, and the ability to earn Avion Rewards from purchases with an RBC debit card. Here is a breakdown of the four different RBC chequing accounts:

RBC Day to Day BankingRBC Advantage BankingRBC Signature No Limit BankingRBC VIP Banking
Monthly Fee$4.00$11.95$16.95$30.00
Monthly Fee After Senior RebateFREE$7.95$12.95$22.50
Debit Transactions12 per month + free debits for eligible public transit purchasesUnlimited in CanadaUnlimited in Canada Unlimited Worldwide
Fee to Use Non-RBC Interac ATM in Canada$2.00 for each transactionNo Fee3 Free per Month and $2.00 each thereafterNo Fee
Cross-Border Debits$1.00 each$1.00 each5 Free per Month and $1.00 each thereafterFREE

Scotiabank Chequing Accounts

Scotiabank offers a total of six different chequing accounts for Canadians, although two of them are designated for students and youths. Fees for Scotiabank chequing accounts range from $3.95 per month to $30.95 per month, although any chequing account fees at Scotiabank can be waived if the balance is over the minimum specified amount. 

The Basic and Basic Plus chequing accounts offer free Interac eTransfers and 12 and 25 debit transactions per month respectively. The Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan offers unlimited debit and Interac eTransfers as well as low-cost trading on the Scotia iTrade brokerage. Most Canadians will be choosing between either the Preferred Package or the Ultimate Package. Here is a breakdown of Scotiabank’s chequing accounts:

Scotiabank Ultimate PackageScotiabank Preferred Package
$30.95 per month$16.95 per month
Maintain a minimum account balance of $5,000 to avoid incurring any monthly fees.Maintain a minimum account balance of $4,000 to avoid incurring any monthly fees.
Unlimited 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: RBC

It looks like Scotiabank has more chequing account options than RBC but a closer look shows that it really only has two options. RBC has four different chequing accounts at different price points. To waive your fees on Scotiabank you need to hold a fairly significant minimum balance in your account. But on RBC, you can save up to $11.95 per month if you have 3 other RBC products. Overall, simplicity and convenience make RBC chequing accounts a better choice. 

RBC vs Scotiabank: Savings Accounts

RBC Savings Accounts

RBC offers four types of savings accounts all of which have no monthly fees and varying rates of interest. For most Canadians, the RBC Day to Day Savings Account is standard with 1 free monthly debit and a tiered interest rate structure. RBC also offers its High-Interest eSavings Account which pays a 1.6% interest rate on your balance. 

The NOMI Find & Save Savings Account uses predictive technology to learn your transaction patterns. It finds ways to save money and offers automatic payment protection by transferring money to your chequing account when bills are due. Finally, the RBC US High-Interest eSavings allows you to earn 0.50% interest on any US dollars you hold. At this point, we will mention that both RBC and Scotiabank abide by the CDIC coverage regulations that protect eligible deposits of up to $100,000. It is nice to know that your money is safe at either of these Canadian banks. 

Scotiabank Savings Accounts

Scotiabank offers five different savings accounts to Canadians although two are strictly for foreign currencies. The MomentumPlus account has no minimum balance or account fee and will earn a higher interest rate the longer you save your money. The Savings Accelerator account is Scotiabank’s High-Interest Savings Account which offers a higher interest rate the higher your balance is. 

If you are a big traveller you might want to look into Scotiabank’s US Dollar or Euro Daily Interest Savings Accounts. There are no monthly fees if you have a minimum balance of 200 USD or 200 Euros in your account. 

The Winner: Scotiabank

When comparing savings accounts, it is important to know their limitations compared to chequing accounts in Canada. Chequing accounts are used for making transactions and payments, while savings accounts are used to store funds. Scotiabank provides an incentive to save with higher interest rates and the foreign currency offerings top the US dollar savings account from RBC. 

RBC vs Scotiabank: Credit Cards

RBC Credit Cards

As of 2023, RBC offers 21 different credit cards to Canadians from both Mastercard and Visa. RBC’s Avion Rewards program is the focus of many of its credit cards. RBC also offers several different travel credit cards with partnerships with Westjet, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific. Finally, for business owners, RBC offers five different business credit cards with varying interest rates and annual fees. 

Overall, the best RBC credit card is the Visa Avion Visa Infinite card which offers plenty of travel benefits, one Avion reward point for every dollar spent, and no blackout periods when booking flights. 

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Scotiabank Credit Cards

Scotiabank offers 17 different credit cards to Canadians from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. The Scotiabank cards focus on the Scene+ reward program which can be redeemed for travel rewards, movies, and other popular products. Scotiabank offers six different credit cards for students which have minimal annual fees and lower interest rates. 

The best Scotiabank credit card is probably the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card. This card offers 4% cash back on groceries and recurring payments, 2% on gas and daily transit, and 1% on anything other purchases. 

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The Winner: RBC

It isn’t just the fact that RBC offers more credit cards. More than a third of Scotiabank’s cards are geared toward students, while RBC focuses on business owners and travel rewards. Overall, the Avion Rewards program has a better point per dollar value than Scene+ and offers more reward options as well. While the best credit card for you may depend on your spending habits and lifestyle, RBC offers many well rounded options that suit a variety of needs.

RBC vs Scotiabank: Online Brokerages

RBC Direct Investing

Canadian investors have long complained about high commission fees at big bank brokerages. RBC Direct Investing is certainly one of those brokerages with standard trading fees of $9.95 per trade for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. Options trading is an additional $1.25 per contract on top of the commission fees. 

The great thing about RBC Direct Investing is that it offers a wide range of investment assets on both desktop and mobile apps. You can invest in stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, GICs, and options in all registered or non-registered accounts. RBC Direct Investing even offers a wide range of investing tools like option chains, real-time charts, technical analysis, and live market news and updates. 

Scotiabank iTrade 

Scotiabank iTrade has bucked the trend for big bank brokerage platforms in Canada. It offers some of the lowest commission fees in Canada for active traders at just $4.99 with 150 or more trades per quarter. Otherwise, transactions are $9.99 per trade on Scotiabank iTrade. Where this platform really stands out is that it is the first big bank brokerage to offer zero-commission trades for over 100 different Canadian Exchange-Traded Funds or ETFs. 

This platform offers all of the same registered and non-registered accounts as RBC Direct Investing except for the First Home Savings Account or FHSA. As of June 2023, Scotiabank does not yet offer the FHSA while RBC does. 

The Winner: RBC

The zero-commission ETFs from Scotiabank iTrade are nice but overall RBC Direct Investing offers more to Canadian investors. Commission fees are ever-so-slightly cheaper at RBC unless you make over 150 trades per quarter which most Canadians will not. The addition of the FHSA at RBC and the large suite of investing tools available puts RBC Direct Investing as a slight winner over Scotiabank iTrade. 

Chequing AccountsRBC
Savings AccountsScotiabank
Credit CardsRBC
Online BrokeragesRBC

RBC vs Scotiabank: The Verdict

As you can see, RBC took three of the four categories in our RBC vs Scotiabank comparison review. This is not to say that RBC is the better bank option for every Canadian. Ultimately, this will come down to what product and services you are looking for. For now, we believe that RBC has a slight edge in chequing accounts, credit cards, and online brokerage. This makes RBC our choice when comparing it to Scotiabank in 2023. 

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications