Scotiabank vs CIBC: The Ultimate Showdown

By Baggio Ma | Published on 10 Jul 2023

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    Scotiabank and CIBC are two of the largest banks in Canada by total assets and market capitalization. If you are a Canadian looking for a new bank, the odds are high that these two will be near the top of your list. Scotiabank and CIBC along with the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, and the Bank of Montreal, make up Canada’s Big Five banks. These five institutions account for a lion’s share of Canada’s personal and commercial banking. 

    Since such a large part of Canada’s banking is concentrated among these five banks, there isn’t as much diversification when it comes to their financial services. Still, there are plenty of reasons to choose either Scotiabank or CIBC as your next bank. In this ultimate showdown article, we’ll take a closer look at Scotiabank vs CIBC, and which institution has the edge in the competitive Canadian banking sector in 2023. 

    Scotiabank Overview

    Scotiabank, or the Bank of Nova Scotia, was established in 1832 in Halifax by the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. As of 2023, Scotiabank is the fourth-largest Canadian bank by market capitalization and is considered a D-SIB or Domestic Systemically Important Bank for the Canadian economy. Scotiabank has amassed 20 million global customers and has a large retail banking presence in Latin America and Asia Pacific. Domestically, Scotiabank has over 900 branches across the country and has an additional 2 million Canadian customers through its Neobank subsidiary, Tangerine. 

    CIBC Overview

    CIBC, or the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, is the fifth-largest Canadian bank by market capitalization. This bank can trace its roots back to 1867 when it was established in Toronto as the Canadian Bank of Commerce. Originally, this bank was created as a direct competitor to the Bank of Montreal. CIBC has over 1,100 branches across Canada and over 13 million customers from around the world. 

    Scotiabank vs CIBC: Chequing Accounts

    Scotiabank Chequing Accounts

    Scotiabank has a variety of different chequing accounts for Canadians to use. In total, Scotiabank has six different chequing accounts, two of which are aimed at students and youths. Both of these student accounts offer zero monthly fees and unlimited debit and Interac eTransfer transactions.

    Included in the list of chequing accounts from Scotiabank are the Basic and Basic Plus Bank Accounts. The Scotiabank Basic Bank Account offers 12 free debit transactions and unlimited Interac eTransfer transactions for just $3.95 per month. 

    With the Scotiabank Basic Plus Bank Account, that number is raised to 25 free debit transactions and unlimited Interac transfer transactions for $11.95 per month. These fees can be waived for the Basic Plus Bank Account if a minimum balance of $3,000 is kept. 

    The final two Scotiabank chequing accounts are the Scotiabank Preferred Chequing Account and the Scotiabank Ultimate Chequing Account. Here is a comparison of what the two chequing accounts offer: 

    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

    CIBC Chequing Accounts

    CIBC offers four different types of chequing accounts for Canadians and a variety of others for specific groups within Canada. The CIBC Smart Start targets young students who are in either secondary or post-secondary schools. This chequing account has no monthly fees, unlimited debit and Interac eTransfer transactions, and includes a free SPC membership for savings on retail goods and services. 

    The CIBC Everyday Chequing Account is a no-frills bank account for people who simply do not rely on day-to-day banking. This account comes with a $4.00 monthly fee regardless of what the balance is and 12 included transactions per month. Interac eTransfers are free to receive but will cost $1.50 for each transaction that is sent. 

    A majority of Canadians will be choosing between the CIBC Smart Account and the CIBC Smart Plus Account. Here is a breakdown of the two types of CIBC chequing accounts:

    CIBC Smart AccountCIBC Smart Plus Account
    Monthly Fees$16.95$29.95
    Minimum Balance for $0 Monthly Fees$4,000$6,000 or $100,000 in eligible savings and investments with CIBC
    Monthly Fees for Seniors$10.00$23.00
    Other 12 Transactions or unlimited transactions for $16.95 per monthUnlimited debit and Interac eTransfers transactions
    One free Non-CIBC ATM withdrawal per month in CanadaUnlimited Non-CIBC ATM withdrawals worldwide
    Shop online or in person with the CIBC Visa Debit cardShop online or in person with the CIBC Visa Debit card
    Pay digitally with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay Pay digitally with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay
    Elibigle account for CIBC Global Money Transfer serviceElibigle account for CIBC Global Money Transfer service
    CIBC Insights on the CIBC Mobile App provides tips based on your credit card and debit card activityCIBC Insights on the CIBC Mobile App provides tips based on your credit card and debit card activity

    The Winner: Scotiabank

    In the end, when comparing chequing accounts, Scotiabank just provides more features to Canadians with its chequing accounts. Not only do you get a full range of perks with Scotiabank, but you also get access to the Scene+ Rewards System as well as bonus integration and free trades with the Scotiabank iTrade app. Both Scotiabank and CIBC bank accounts are protected by the CDIC or Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation. This means that your balances of up to $100,000 are protected in case your bank suddenly goes out of business. 

    Scotiabank vs CIBC: Savings Accounts

    Scotiabank Savings Accounts

    For Canadians looking for flexibility and the opportunity to earn a high-interest rate, Scotiabank has you covered. Scotiabank offers a total of five different types of savings accounts, two of which are used for foreign currencies. Most Canadians will be deciding between either the Momentum Savings Account or the Savings Accelerator Account. Both of these provide a unique way for Canadians to earn interest on their savings. 

    The Momentum Savings Account has no monthly fees or minimum balance required. This savings account allows you to earn a higher rate of interest the longer you save. The standard rate for the Momentum Savings Account is 1.40%, but you can choose a Premium Period of between 90 and 360 days to earn up to an additional 1.25%. 

    With the Savings Accelerator Account, you add it to an existing portfolio of registered or non-registered investments. The higher your balance in this portfolio, the higher the interest you earn on your savings. Here is a diagram of how the Savings Accelerator Account works: 

    Source: Scotiabank Savings Accelerator Account

    If you are an avid traveller, you can consider Scotiabank’s foreign currency savings accounts. Choose from either the Scotia U.S. Dollar Daily Interest Account or the Scotia Euro Daily Interest Account. The US dollar account has no monthly fees but you do need to have a minimum balance of USD $200. The Euro account has a monthly fee of 1 Euro and a minimum balance of 200 Euros. 

    CIBC Savings Accounts

    CIBC does not quite have the selection that Scotiabank does when it comes to savings accounts. Most Canadians will be interested in the CIBC eAdvantage Savings Account which has no monthly fee and pays out an interest rate of between 0.40% and 1.80%. You will need a balance of over $500,000 to earn the highest interest rate of 1.80%. Be warned that although there are no fees, each transaction costs $5.00. 

    There is also a standard US dollars savings account and of course, the Tax-Free Savings Account or TFSA. The US dollar account pays an interest rate of between 0.05% and 0.25% while the TFSA will pay out 0.80% on your cash. 

    The Winner: Scotiabank

    Just as with chequing accounts, Scotiabank has more variety and better options when it comes to comparing their savings accounts. The US Dollar and Euro accounts are great for travellers and the unique earning structures at Scotiabank edge out CIBC. 

    Scotiabank vs CIBC: Credit Cards

    Scotiabank Credit Cards

    With 17 different credit cards from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, Scotiabank provides its customers with a lot of spending options. Many of these cards feature Scotiabank’s Scene+ rewards program which are available at participating retailers. These can be redeemed for travel rewards, movies, groceries, and gift cards. Six of the 17 credit cards offered by Scotiabank are meant for students as they come with lower interest rates and minimal annual fees. 

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f32b19192ec22115033b2d5″ id=”202170″]

    CIBC Credit Cards

    CIBC offers 24 different credit cards from both Visa and Mastercard. While Scotiabank has Scene+, CIBC credit cards feature both the Aventura and Aeroplan rewards systems. CIBC offers plenty of options for business owners, students, and travellers with six different cards partnering with Air Canada. One of the most popular cards in Canada is the CIBC Costco Mastercard which doubles as your Costco membership and a card that can earn up to 3% cashback. 

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f34430b92ec22115033b301″ id=”205896″]

    The Winner: CIBC

    When comparing credit card options, CIBC offers 7 more credit cards than Scotiabank and features two different travel rewards systems. If you include the Costco Mastercard, it is three different reward systems that you have access to with CIBC credit cards. 

    Scotiabank vs CIBC: Online Brokerages

    Scotiabank iTrade

    The Scotiabank iTrade online brokerage is certainly a platform that is designed for active traders in Canada. While regular trades will cost you a commission fee of $9.99 per trade, active traders who make more than 150 trades per quarter will pay just $4.99 for each trade. 

    This online brokerage also offers zero-commission trades for over 100 different Canadian ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds. Scotiabank is one of the first big bank brokerages to offer this feature which is usually reserved for Canadian discount brokerages. Zero-commission ETF investing is a low-cost way to be a passive, long-term investor. 

    Scotiabank iTrade offers all of the regular registered and non-registered accounts available to Canadians except for the FHSA or First Home Savings Account. This registered account was only introduced to Canadians in April 2023, and as of June, Scotiabank has yet to add it to the Scotiabank iTrade platform. 

    CIBC Investor’s Edge

    [Offer productType=”BrokerageAccount” api_id=”5f53d4e34d1911503113cafb”]

    If there is one big bank brokerage in Canada that is breaking the mould, it is CIBC Investor’s Edge. This platform has by far the lowest commission fees out of any of the big banks, as trades cost just $6.95 for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. If you are an active investor, trades drop to $4.95. One of the best features of CIBC Investor’s Edge is that it encourages younger investors to get started early. Investors under the age of 25 have zero-commission trading for stocks and ETFs, while students only have to pay $5.95 per trade. 

    As for fees, CIBC will charge an annual fee of $100 if your account value is less than $25,000 in a registered retirement account and less than $10,000 in a non-registered account. There are no fees with either a TFSA or an RESP or Registered Education Savings Plan. These fees are waived for young investors and students as long as they have a CIBC Chequing Account open. 

    The Winner: CIBC Investor’s Edge

    CIBC Investor’s Edge is changing the game and is clearly one of the best online brokerages in Canada. Canadians have grown accustomed to paying high commission fees at big bank brokerages. With CIBC Investor’s Edge, the lower fees alone are worth signing up for. The zero-commission trading for younger investors is an excellent way to get younger Canadians involved in investing from an early age. 

    Scotiabank vs CIBC: The Results

    Chequing Accounts Scotiabank
    Savings AccountsScotiabank
    Credit CardsCIBC
    Online BrokeragesCIBC

    Of the four categories that we reviewed, Scotiabank and CIBC are locked in a tie. If we analyze the results, Scotiabank has better personal banking services while CIBC excels in non-banking services. Your choice of a new bank will depend on what you are using it for. If you are strictly using it for banking then Scotiabank is a good choice. But if you want to invest and plan on signing up for a credit card, then CIBC will be better suited for your needs. 

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    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.