Personal banking is a type of banking that is uniquely tailored to your personal needs. So, a bank that’s good for someone else, might not be right for you. Choosing the right personal bank account can seem a bit daunting as there is a lot to choose from.
It can also be a little off-putting to see the fees charged by the bigger banks. In fact, Canadians pay some of the largest banking fees in the world, which is a shame, and some fees can add up to more than $200 a year.
While some of the benefits you get from having a paid account might be worth it, and we will cover those in more detail later, it is not essential for you to get a bank account that you pay for.
There are free chequing accounts, the most basic personal bank account, available that will do everything you need them to without the price tag.
To make your life a bit easier, and to help wade through all the account choices we have gathered our favorites and broken them into two categories: free accounts and paid accounts.
We have leaned more heavily on the free account side of things, but we have also included three of our favorite paid accounts for your consideration.
Let’s dive into it…
What is a chequing account?
First, let us just clarify exactly what a chequing account is.
Your chequing account is the bank account you use for your everyday transactions like your monthly bills, your day-to-day shopping, and for transferring and depositing funds.
It’s the account that provides you with a debit card for making purchases and a cheque book too (hence the name).
You can get different accounts tailored to specific groups like students, businesses, joint, seniors, etc.
What you want to look for in a chequing account
Depending on whether you are wanting a no-fee bank account or are happy paying the fees there are a few things to consider when looking for an account.
- If you’re not wanting to pay a monthly fee then you’ll be looking for zero monthly fees
- Ideally, you want unlimited free transactions for all of your spending needs
- For some banks, they reduce the fees to zero if you hold a minimum monthly balance. For most, however, you’ll want to look for no minimum balances
- You want to be able to access your money easily through free ATMs
- You want a good and easy to use mobile app website for online banking
- Free money transfers
- CDIC insurance – up to $100,000 per category of deposit
- Electronic statement
It’s worth noting that when you are looking at free accounts then you are usually sacrificing access to in-person banking. This is less of a factor in this day and age, but if you are wanting that personal touch, or like to go into the bank to discuss things then you’ll struggle to find that with a free account.
Our top free personal banking solutions
Now, let’s have a look at our favorite free personal banking solutions:
The EQ Bank Savings Plus Account is by far and away one of the best free personal banking solutions in Canada. Not only does it have all the benefits you’re looking for from a chequing account without the monthly fee, but it also offers a fantastic 1.25% interest on the money in your account.
This makes it more of a hybrid account between a chequing and a savings account, which is great.
You get unlimited free transactions, unlimited free e-transfers, CDIC protection up to $100,000, and no minimum account balance either.
Its mobile app is also great, and you can deposit cheques through the app for free too.
Tangerine is an online-only bank and is actually owned by Scotiabank, so you know your money is in safe hands.
They have no monthly account fees and free unlimited money transfers. The account also gives you access to a high-interest savings account, as well as offering 0.10% on your account balance.
Not only that but you also have access to Scotiabank’s 3500 ATMs within Canada and 44,000 worldwide.
It’s worth noting that there is an inactive account fee of $10 per year if you make zero transactions throughout the year.
Wealthsimple also combines a savings account and chequing account into one, though don’t quite match the EQ bank’s savings rate, only offering you 0.75% on your account balance.
They don’t require any balance minimums, however, and have full CIPF protection, which is great. There are no fees for sending or receiving money or for deposits and withdrawals.
They have a unique way of sending money through individual Dollar $ign handles that allow you to transfer or receive money to and from anyone instantly.
They also have a great chat function for sending funds that allows you to personalize messages to your contracts and use emojis.
Motusbank is one of the newer online banks in Canada, though they are owned by Meridian Credit Union.
Their no-fee personal chequing account also doesn’t have a minimum balance, offers unlimited debit purchases, bill payments, and withdrawals. You get 0.15% interest on your balance too.
Through them, you also get access to high-interest savings accounts, mortgages, personal loans, and investments to name a few.
Their mobile app is also great and offers free cheque deposits.
You have access to over 43,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the whole of North America, which is also great.
You may know Simplii Financial by their previous name of PC Financial and they are owned by CIBC, so have a strong backing.
They have a very versatile app and a great website for online banking.
They offer unlimited debit purchases, bill payments, and withdrawals at over 3,400 CIBC ATMs across Canada.
They also have a small interest payment of up to 0.05% on your balances too.
It’s worth noting that they also have an inactive fee if you don’t use the account over a two year period. The fee is $20 per year.
Motive is another great fee-free personal bank solution, and they are a division of the Canadian Western Banks.
They actually offer two free chequing accounts, the Motive Cha-Ching and the Motive Chequing.
The former is a simple account that offers unlimited free transactions and e-transfers. While the latter also offers you interest on your account balances of up to 0.25% interest on top.
Their mobile app is easy to use, and your first cheque book is free.
This is another hybrid account offering interest on your account balances acting as a savings and chequing account. This account, however, requires you to keep a minimum balance of $1,000 in order to remain fee-free each month.
Their mobile app is great and supports cheque deposits and e-transfers as well as a multitude of other features.
You also get free access to over 3,000 ATMs across Canada.
They also have an inactivity fee of $20 per year if you have made no transactions over a two-year period.
Best Personal Banking solutions with a Monthly Fee
Now let’s look at our last few options that, while they do come with fees, are definitely accounts you should consider when looking for the right chequing account for you.
HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world and having a chequing account with them connects you to that incredible network.
The account has a fee of $25 per month unless you maintain a balance of $5,000 or more or you hold a personal mortgage of $150,000 or more with them, in which case the monthly fee is waived. Be warned, however, if you dip below the $5,000 even by 1 cent you will be charged.
You get unlimited day-to-day banking, free e-transfers, and convenient online international money transfers too.
Their mobile and online banking offer a streamlined solution for pretty much all your banking needs.
Scotia Bank is one of the ‘big 5’ in Canada and they have a few chequing accounts that offer excellent value and a wide range of rewards and benefits too.
Their Preferred Package gives you access to a savings account that offers 1.75% on your savings as well as unlimited debit transactions, e-transfers, and a fee waiver on non-Scotiabank ATM withdrawals.
Their account monthly fee is $16.95, but they will also waive this fee if you maintain a daily balance of $4,000.
BMO also has a selection of chequing account packages that include individual accounts and a family bundle account.
Where they really shine is in their accounts for Seniors, Students, and Military, offering discounts on their accounts for all three.
Their most popular account, the Performance Plan Chequing Account, gives you unlimited everyday banking that can all be controlled from their mobile or online banking.
Their monthly fee is $16.95 per month, but again they will waive this fee if you maintain a minimum balance of $4,000.
In our opinion, there is little or no need to pay for your personal banking solutions, and no matter what features you are looking for there are some great options out there. Hopefully, the ones we’ve highlighted here help you on your path to finding your ideal chequing account.