Canadian Chequing Account Comparison

I’m always working hard to improve my finances and to save money wherever I can.  One of the first places I started was with my chequing account.  It bugs me that I have to pay a monthly fee to keep my money in a chequing account.

And since Canadians use their debit cards more than anyone else in the world, our banks have been raking in the profits from these monthly chequing account fees and additional transaction charges.

I’ll admit that I fell into this category once I got out of school and was no longer eligible for a free student chequing account.  I used my debit card for everything, so my bank recommended that I sign-up for the “unlimited” chequing account for $12.95 per month.

Since I lived paycheque-to-paycheque in my first few years out of school it didn’t even occur to me how much money I was wasting, and that I could have these fees waived by always carrying a minimum balance, or that a free chequing account alternative even existed.

So I happily paid $155 per year for the privilege of using my own money in my chequing account until I got wise and changed my approach.  Now I always carry a balance over $1,000 in my chequing account and I use my MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard for all of my monthly purchases in order to avoid paying debit card fees.

It helps to be aware of all your options, so I have put together a chart comparing the basic chequing account options offered at the big five Canadian banks as well as the two free chequing account alternatives offered Canada wide.

Canadian Chequing Account Comparison: The Big Banks

Basic Account Monthly Fee $3.95 $4.00 $3.95 $4.00 $3.90
Fee Waived with Minimum Balance $1,500 see note* $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Free Debits Per Month 10 15 12 10 10
Upgraded Account Monthly Fee $10.95 $10.95 $8.85 $8.50 $8.95
Minimum Balance to Waive Fees $2,500 see note* $2,000 $2,000 n/a
Free Debits Per Month 25 Unlimited 25 30 25
Additional Transaction Fee $0.65 $0.65 $0.65 $0.60 $0.65
Interac ABM Fee $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $2.15
PLUS System Fee $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $2.15
Email Money Transfer $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50

*fee waived if you hold an RBC Investment and RBC Rewards Card (plus mortgage for upgraded account)

PC Financial No Fee Banking

With the President’s Choice Financial no fee bank account, you get free unlimited daily banking, and you don’t have to keep a minimum balance. You will even earn interest on whatever balance you have, and earn PC Points if your balance exceeds $1,000.  Other features included with this no fee bank account are:

  • free daily banking – online and by phone, 24/7
  • free transactions at over 3,800 President’s Choice Financial and CIBC bank machines
  • unlimited cheques and free chequing
  • pay bills online for free
  • free InteracDirect Payments
  • free online access to your monthly statements
  • free cheques and chequing

ING DIRECT THRiVE Chequing Account

Recently, ING DIRECT announced the wide availability of their new THRiVE chequing account across Canada.  The account is an online, daily no-fee account with several unique features such as free email money transfers (first in the industry) and Whoops! Protection which covers clients up to $250 when they are a little short on funds for future dated transactions with no fee or interest, provided funds are paid back within 30 days.  Other features included are:

  • no fee daily chequing
  • pays interest
  • 24/7 live support
  • free email alerts
  • free ABM access through The Exchange Network
  • free Whoops! protection
  • mobile banking

Now that having a free chequing account is becoming more common in Canada hopefully we will wise up and stop paying these ridiculous fees for our daily banking.

Do you pay monthly fees for your chequing account?

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  1. schultzter on March 28, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Your table is a little incorrect when it comes to RBC. Rather having to maintain a minimum monthly balance to avoid the fee you have to maintain three products with them, so a chequeing account, a VISA card, and a TFSA would get the $4 fee waived (and the VISA card can be a no fee card as well but I think it has to be some kind of points or reward card).

    The other thing that would be nice to mention is whether the alternatives are available in every province. I’ve looked into PC Financial but it’s a non-starter in Quebec! I think ING is the only choice for Qc’ers and I’m not even sure all their products are available here – no idea why. I’m not sure if other provinces are excluded too.

    • Echo on March 28, 2011 at 6:56 am

      @schultzter – thanks for clarifying the RBC account, I will update the table with that point.

      As for PC Financial, yes Quebec is the only province where the no fee chequing account isn’t available, which is too bad. Luckily ING has stepped in to fill that void.

  2. My Own Advisor on March 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Good post. I love PCF, I’ve been with them for years now.

    Free groceries are fun 🙂

  3. The Passive Income Earner on March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    In BC, there is Coast Capital Savings and it’s all free banking. They have tellers and branches you can go to as well. Very competitive with the banks for mortgages and loans.

    I recently moved my wife’s bank accounts to it from ScotiaBank. I asked them to waived the fees and they said no. I was torn between being frustrated with the fees or being happy with the dividend increase 🙂 I make way more from the dividend increase …

    • Echo on March 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm

      I do find it beneficial to have a relationship with a full service bank so it sounds like with Coast Capital you get the best of both worlds.

      I hear you on the dividend increases. It’s a double-edged sword. Both my Telus bill (internet) and my Bell bill (TV) increased at the same time their dividend increased. I hope I come out ahead 🙂

  4. youngandthrifty on March 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I don’t know why, but the ING THRIVE account makes me think of smoking cessation chewing gum!?

    haha.. 🙂

    I use BMO and have RBC as our joint savings account linkeed to our mortgage.
    I also have Manulife and ING (but these are savings accounts and not chequing accounts).

    To me the main thing is the convenience of the ATM. I don’t like the idea of getting dinged on ATM fees over time.

    Thx for the list- i’ll look into it!

    • Echo on March 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm

      That’s a strange thing to think about, it’s just a bank account 😉

      Wow, you have a lot of accounts. I use TD for everything.

      I’d say ATM location is important, although I only go there once a month to take out cash. The rest of our purchases go on our credit cards for the points.

  5. Si on October 21, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Don’t just look at the big-5. Check out credit unions! They have way better accounts and interest rates!

  6. dave on April 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    i recently opened a no fee presidents choice account, under the no fee account i was charged for debit transactions. but i still like the account no fee internet banking.

  7. Mo on June 23, 2012 at 9:20 am

    …The thing with free accounts is people can not directly deposit money into your account. For example if you have tenants; they can not use a void cheque to deposit money into your account.

    • Alex Greene on September 15, 2012 at 9:36 am

      That is not true. I used ING Direct void cheque (which you can print online) to have my payroll deposit go into my Thrive Chequing account.

  8. angie on June 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    If you can and ultimately want to, try to add a parent or grandparent (someone over 60) of whom you trust to your chequing account. Most of the big banks don’t charge bank fees to seniors. Its worth looking into.

  9. Alan on June 5, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I have been looking for a joint checking account that can have 3 names on it. As far as I can see all the free checking accounts have a max of 2 names. Anyone know of a low fee Canadian checking account that can have 3 names on it?

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