Choosing a financial institution with which to open a chequing account is not the most important financial decision you’ll ever make, but it’s not a reason to do so blindly. Each institution offers several banking solutions and some are more advantageous, depending on your needs.
Like many of you, the day my “wealth” began to spill out of my piggy bank, I followed my parents to their branch to open my first account. And I kept it that way for several years, even after finishing my studies, without asking myself too many questions. Until the day I scrutinized my monthly statement to see a hundred dollars in transaction costs. I had paid the equivalent of a good dinner at a restaurant with my girlfriend to have the right to…spend my own money. OUCH!
Since our needs and habits change over time and with new technologies, a little shopping for chequing accounts can save considerably. It can even lead to some privileges and rewards.
At Hardbacon, we know your time is too valuable to spend a day comparing deals, so our team of financial geeks have done it for you. Here are our recommendations for the best chequing accounts in Canada in the following categories:
- Premium account – High usage
- Student accounts
- Accounts for newcomers
- Low-cost accounts – Basic usage
- Advantageous Account – Medium/High Usage
Note that the details of the following offers are valid as of the publication date of this article and are subject to change. For up-to-date information at all times, consult the Hardbacon chequing account comparison tool.
Need some advice? If you want a little help to make your choice, we’ve put together a handy guide about things to consider when shopping at a financial institution for your day-to-day banking.
You can find it at the bottom of this page, just after the list. You can also consult our article “How to choose a chequing account in Canada”.
Our recommendations for the National Bank’s The Total Chequing Account
The price: $24.95 per month ($25.95 maintenant sur le site web)
Why do we love it? We like it for its complete peace of mind. Total account holders are entitled to an unlimited number of online and over the counter transactions. Moreover, with nearly 1000 ATMs across Canada and more than 400 branches in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, you will have no difficulty obtaining in-person service whether you are at home, at work or on a road trip.
Who’s it for? At nearly $300 a year, this account is ideal for those willing to pay more so they don’t have to worry, like self-employed workers who must manage multiple payables and receivables through their chequing accounts. Since this banking package provides free overdraft protection and a built-in line of credit, approval for The Total is subject to a credit review.
Discounts and promotional offers: Upon presentation of proof of eligibility, students (18-25 years old) benefit from a reduced price of $16. For those 60 and over, the package is offered at $20.95. The fees drop to $0 if you maintain a balance of at least $ 6000 in your chequing account for an entire month. While this may seem like a great way to save monthly fees, in the long run there are surely better ways to make your money work than letting it sleep in that account.
The current offer at the time of publishing provides up to $350 in cash back. Obviously, several conditions apply.
The Scotiabank Ultimate Package
The price: $30.95 per month
Why do we love it? The Scotia Premium Chequing Account is a bit more expensive than the National Bank’s, but it offers more. Its many benefits and privileges can quickly make the additional $5 in monthly fees worth it.
- Earn SCENE rewards points for purchases made with the debit card.
- Take advantage of a higher interest rate of 0.10% on the MomentumPLUS savings account.
- Get 10 free trades in a Scotia iTRADE® account in the first year (valued at approximately $100) and 5 free trades per year for subsequent years.
- Make unlimited international money transfers with no fees.
- Free withdrawals from any ATM, even abroad. However, charges from the ATM operator may apply.
- And much more…
Who’s it for? Heavy users who travel a lot will certainly have the opportunity to save more than the monthly fee of $30.95. Note that Scotia Rewards Points can be redeemed for travel rewards. Free unlimited international money transfer transactions can also be very useful for those who are used to sending money to relatives outside the country.
Note, however, that if you plan to leave one of the major Quebec cities and head out to the more rural regions, Scotiabank may not be the ideal choice. Even if it is part of the Canadian Big 5, its presence in Quebec is limited primarily to Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau. For the rest of Canada, you’ll easily find a Scotia branch to serve you in person in most towns and cities.
Discounts and Promotional Offers: to eliminate monthly fees, you need to maintain a balance of $5000 during the month. Although this amount is lower than the one required for National Bank’s Total Chequing Account, I’ll reiterate that this is not a good reason to keep thousands of dollars in a chequing account indefinitely. If you meet some relatively simple conditions, the current bonus offer is a $300 directly deposited into your Scotia account.
Our student chequing account recommendations
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan
The price: it’s free!
Why do we love it? When you’re in school, every dollar you can save is worth its weight in gold. In addition to the $0 monthly fee, Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan holders earn points on their everyday purchases with the SCENE Points or the Scotia Rewards program. There is also no limit on the number of debit transactions and interac e-Transfers.
Who’s it for? The account holder must be attending a post-secondary institution full-time in Canada or the United States. Foreign students are also eligible. The current offer doesn’t mention any age restriction.
Other student chequing accounts that caught our attention
Desjardins Student STRATEGIC Account: The free monthly plan is reserved for students attending university full-time, regardless of their age. In addition to offering unlimited transactions, you also benefit from interest payments. For details on the offer, go to the Desjardins website.
National Bank’s Special Offers for Students: If you are enrolled in a program in the field of health, engineering, administration, law, business or accounting, National Bank may have an interesting banking solution for you.
This financial institution has created a series of offers especially for certain students that provide, among other things, access to a Platinum Mastercard free of charge. To find out more, see the Offer for Students section on the NBC’s website.
Our chequing account recommendations for newcomers to Canada
National Bank’s offer for newcomers to Canada
The price: $14.95 per month. By signing up for certain additional services, you may avoid paying fees for 3 years.
Why do we love it? Opening a bank account is one of the essentials for any newcomer, and National Bank has made this simple. You can even enrol online before you arrive in Canada. It is also possible to eliminate the monthly fee for 3 years, provided certain criteria are met. By getting easy access to credit card financing services, opening an account with NBC is a great way for a newcomer to start building their credit history. It is important to note that your borrowing and payment history is not transferable to Canadian credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion.
We also like the support service for newcomers at the National Bank. More than just support at the banking level, the service provides a wide range of important information and personalized answers to your questions about your new start in Canada.
Who’s it for? Any newcomer aged 17 or over is eligible for the National Bank offer, up to 5 years after arriving in the country.
Discounts and Promotional Offers: In addition to saving on monthly fees by signing up for additional services, those eligible for the offer are entitled to a free first order of cheques and access to a small safety deposit box.
Our 2nd choice for newcomers
BMO NewStart Program for Newcomers to Canada: BMO offers you the Performance Plan Chequing Account and a small safety deposit box at no cost for one year, provided you meet certain criteria. For a limited time, you could also get a $300 bonus when opening an account under the “NewStart” low-cost program. To view the details of the offer and apply, click here!
Our Basic Chequing Account Recommendations
Scotiabank Basic Plus Bank Account
The price: $10.95 per month
Why do we love it? Even though it’s a basic account, you can accumulate SCENE Points or Scotia Rewards Points using your debit card. You only need to maintain a balance of $3000 to have your monthly fees waived.
Who’s it for? By providing 25 debit transactions and 10 free interac e-Transfer transactions per month, the Basic Plus chequing account is ideal for occasional users.
Discounts and Promotional Offers: Seniors with this account are entitled to a $4 discount on their monthly fees.
Other basic chequing accounts that caught our attention
Scotiabank Basic Bank Account: For very occasional users, this account costs just $3.95 per month. You can make up to 12 regular transactions and 2 interac e-transfers per month, free of charge. To view the details of the offer and apply, click here!
Desjardins Basic Plan: It provides 12 transactions per month, and you only need to maintain a balance of $1500 to obtain a monthly fee credit of $3.95.
Our recommendations for advantageous chequing accounts for medium/high use Scotiabank Preferred Package.
The price: $15.95 per month
Why do we love it? With the Preferred Package, you don’t have to count your monthly transactions since it provides unlimited debit and interac e-transfer transactions. In addition to not having a limit on free transactions, your debit card purchases help you accumulate SCENE Points or Scotia Rewards Points, redeemable for travel rewards or cinema tickets, for example. And once a month, you can make a free withdrawal from any other institution’s ATM. It’s not huge, but it’s the kind of small savings that feel good!
Who’s it for? The Preferred Package is the ideal compromise for those who don’t want to be restricted in their banking activities without having to pay close to $30 a month for options that will not be useful to them.
Discounts and Promotional Offers: The monthly fee is waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $4000 throughout the month. The account also provides first year annual fee waivers on certain credit cards.
National Bank Connected Chequing Account
The price: $14.95 per month
Why do we love it? We appreciate it especially for its simplicity. You can request an account be opened online in just a few clicks. Interac transfers and online transactions are unlimited and free.
Who’s it for? Like the Scotia Preferred account, Connected offers a value-for-money compromise between basic and premium plans.
Discounts and promotional offers: The Connected Account is offered at a reduced price for those aged 60 and over ($9.95 per month) and for students aged 18 to 24 ($5 per month). It also provides a $30 credit card fee rebate.
How-to Guide: How to Determine Your Bank Account Needs
Before revealing our choices, here are some questions to consider when determining what type of chequing account and plan is right for you.
Have you considered how many transactions you make?
Are you paying too much for an expensive plan with options you don’t need?
Are you paying too much in unnecessary additional fees for an overly generous plan?
There’s only one way to find out: by examining your banking budget. Take a look at your transactions and your additional costs over the last 12 months. Since your consumption habits may vary in different seasons, look at a full year so that you can identify your maximum monthly needs. As a general rule, take the most active 3 or 4 months as a baseline to establish your level of use.
It’s usually better to go for a more expensive, but more generous plan to avoid significant excess transaction fees in the months when you’re more active.
Consolidate or diversify?
There are certainly advantages to bringing all of your financial activities together in one institution. In addition to making it simpler to manage, the multiplication of services under a single banner can offer rewards and privileges.
But loyalty in business must earn you money, or at least save you money! You shop around for your mortgage and insurance (at least I hope so), so why not check out the various bank account offers available on the market?
Do you need to have a branch nearby?
According to a 2019 Canadian Bankers Association survey, more than a third of respondents said they went to a branch at least once a year. But only 20% of Canadians reported going there frequently. Perhaps an online bank’s services are a better and more economical solution for those who no longer feel the need to make face-to-face transactions.
There are free chequing accounts, like Tangerine’s for example, but they require you to give up some traditional services since the bank does not operate any traditional branch. For more advice on choosing a chequing account, see our article “How to choose a chequing account in Canada”
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