Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
Most Canadians are aware of the Big Five banks: RBC, TD, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC. And, some may even know that occasionally National Bank of Canada sneaks in and expands that list to six. But even with these accounted for, there are dozens of banks in this country—including a growing number of fintechs and neo banks—each offering its own suite of personal banking products and services. Finding the best one is tricky, especially since it depends on your specific needs, covering everything from your everyday banking habits to your savings goals, if you need or have a mortgage, as well as investments and more. In this article, we take a look at the standout banks, so you can decide which one works for your personal banking needs. We’ll also cover if these banks are covered by The Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), meaning that deposits held at said banks are insured up to C$100,000 in case of a bank failure. Here are the best banks in Canada for 2022.
All of Canada’s Big Five banks offer customers stability, a broad portfolio of financial products, and the convenience of thousands of physical bank branches and ATMs. That said, Scotiabank’s money-saving flexibility is rare, and it’s why we’ve picked them as the best large-scale bank for Canadians.
In terms of everyday banking options, Scotiabank has five different types of accounts; each with perks and benefits designed for Canadians at any stage of life. Customers under 18 years of age and students enrolled in a post-secondary institution can apply for a no-fee account. For adults, Scotia offers four options that balance banking needs and benefits, from the minimal Basic Banking Account with its fee of $3.95 per month, right up to the perk-laden Ultimate Account that earns you rewards and credit card rebates, among other benefits, for $30.95 monthly in fees.
Individually, these accounts are on par with other Big Five offerings, but Scotiabank will reduce or waive fees entirely with bundled services. The Ultimate Package, for example, includes everyday banking with unlimited transactions, the ability to earn Scene+ points, a boosted savings interest rate, an annual fee waiver for select credit cards, free trades on Scotia iTrade, and a welcome bonus of up to $300 cash. That’s a lot of banking perks, but it gets even better. Those who maintain a minimum of $5,000 in chequing or $30,000 combined with the Momentum Plus Savings account don’t have to pay the monthly fee.
Scotiabank carries 16 credit cards, including some of the highest-earning rewards cards in Canada. As with their bank accounts, Scotiabank has cards tailored to a variety of Canadians, from those looking for a no-fee card to travellers to cash-back collectors. Notably, Scotiabank is the only Big Five bank to offer cards with no foreign transaction fees.
In addition to everyday banking accounts and credit cards, Scotia provides mortgages, loans, and lines of credit. They even have their own investing platform, Scotia iTrade, and offer investment accounts including registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs).
One of the main benefits of banking with a Big Five bank is that you can keep all of your financial products with one, trusted institution. With this in mind, Scotiabank offers the widest variety with the best perks and benefits, and has options to help you save on fees.
Over the past several years, online-only banks have grown in popularity, appealing to many of the 76% of Canadians who do most of their banking digitally. Online banks deliver their services through their website, on the phone, and on their phone apps so customers don’t speak to a teller or visit a branch.
Our pick for best online Canadian bank is Tangerine, an (almost) online-only bank that’s owned by Scotiabank. Although Tangerine is virtual, it does operate a face-to-face Tangerine Café in Toronto North.
Tangerine’s No-Fee Daily Chequing Account gives you all of the functionality you’ll need for everyday banking—for free. When you open an account you have to link it to an external account so you can transfer money into it. Then you’ll receive a debit card in the mail, which you can use to make purchases or withdraw cash. Transactions take place online, on the phone or at any of the more than 3,600 national Scotiabank ATMs (and 44,000 associated international ATMs), so you don’t have to visit a physical bank. With the No-Fee Chequing Account, you receive unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers, as well as pre-authorized withdrawals and bill payments.
Tangerine also offers savings accounts (including RRSPs, TFSAs, US dollar, and registered retirement income funds (RRIFs)) and investment accounts such as guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). And, even though it is an online bank, it provides mortgages, loans and lines of credit, so you can take advantage of having all your accounts with a single financial provider. You can even operate a business account through Tangerine—the bank has four accounts tailored for businesses.
Finally, Tangerine offers one of the best cash-back credit cards in Canada. The Tangerine Money-Back Card lets you earn 2% cash back in up to three spending categories of 10: groceries, restaurants, hotel-motel, furniture, gas, recurring bill payments, home improvement, entertainment, drug store, or public transportation and parking. For those who earn a minimum income of $60,000 annually (or $100,000 for the household), the World Mastercard adds free Boingo Wi-Fi access, car rental and mobile device insurance, and Mastercard Airport Experiences. Neither card charges an annual fee.
Again, Tangerine takes the crown in this category, since it charges $0 on the services that most other banks charge for. For instance, there are no monthly or annual fees, and the debit transactions, pre-authorized payments and email money transfers are unlimited. Though it doesn’t have physical branches, you’ll get free access to 3,500 Scotiabank ABMs and 44,000 ABMs worldwide through Scotiabank’s Global ATM Alliance.
Watch: How to find the best online bank account.
EQ Bank is an online-only bank owned by Equitable Bank, the ninth largest bank in Canada, and it is an absolute standout for its savings options. It knows its focus is on savings, since it doesn’t offer credits cards nor chequing accounts (its Everyday Savings Plus account functions like a chequing account too).
It also offers the US Dollar Savings account, but the one that’s a standout for general purposes is the EQ Savings Account Plus. With an interest rate of 1.25%, this account has a higher return compared to that of other banks—exciting news for those wanting to park their money in a safe and secure place without withdrawal restrictions. The EQ Savings Plus Account has no minimum deposit, no everyday banking fees, and free Interac e-Transfers, electronic fund transfers and bill payments. Every customer is eligible for up to $200,000 in deposits, and the accounts are set up to be used with a partner as a joint account. Plus, EQ Bank partners with Wise to give you affordable international money transfers. Deposits are federally insured for up to $100,000, just like with the big banks, which insure deposits. If you’re looking for safety and security, a great rate and no volatility, an EQ Bank Savings Plus Account is the best option.
EQ also offers GICs, which are essentially term deposits where you can benefit from higher interest rates while keeping your principal safe. GICs can be held in registered (for RRSP or TFSA investments) or non-registered accounts, and the amount of interest you’ll earn depends on the amount of time your commit to. EQ Bank has very competitive GIC rates.
EQ also stands out in this category. If you need to access and manage money with someone else, a joint account is for you. Our top pick is the EQ Bank Joint Savings Plus Account, a no-fee account that gives you unlimited transactions with no minimum balances and lets you earn a high interest rate of 1.25%. Balances are protected by CDIC.
Students have specific banking needs, and we’ve selected the Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan as the best banking product to meet them. This package includes unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer transactions, the ability to earn points in the Scene+ program, and overdraft protection without a monthly fee. Plus, new account holders are eligible for a $60 bonus when they set up and clear an automated and recurring direct deposits, like as payroll, within the first two months.
The best bank for budgeting tools may not be a bank at all. KOHO is a fintech company offering a prepaid card to can use in place of a savings account, rewards card, credit card. KOHO’s RoundUp feature allows you to automatically put money away into your savings each time you use the card. The budgeting tool on the app lets you see where your money is going. And with the new Early Payroll feature, you can access $100 from your next paycheque interest-free up to three days prior to payday, by setting up automatic payroll deposit. KOHO even offers free financial coaching. These features are designed to get and keep you on track, while the KOHO card lets you earn cash back on everyday purchases. (To find out how secure financial apps are, read this.)
Bank accounts for seniors are typically available for those aged 60 and older, offering a pared down set of features with the monthly fees waived. All five Big Banks offer seniors accounts with very similar features, but Scotiabank edges out the competition by allowing account holders to earn on their debit card through the Scotia Rewards or Scene+ program. Seniors receive a discount on all Scotiabank accounts and/or they can use the Basic Bank Account for free. This account includes 12 free monthly transactions, free Interac e-Transfers and overdraft protection.