I recently joined a few local Facebook groups to get an insider’s look into what’s on people’s minds when it comes to personal finance, and a big question that I saw over and over again was what are the best free chequing accounts in Canada.
We all know that the big banks can charge exorbitant fees, and when you’re fresh out of school or on a strict budget, sometimes you’re just looking for a simple chequing account that doesn’t ding you every time you use your debit card.
Finding ways to avoid these monthly fees is absolutely the financially savvy thing to do — so why are most of us still paying fees on things like chequing accounts? It’s simple. Because it takes time and research to find a better option, and most of us just can’t be bothered. I’ll throw my hands up too. Sometimes saving $5/month isn’t as big a priority in my life as say earning an income as a newly self-employed person.
Still, laziness and busyness are terrible excuses not to save money, and as I’ve been mulling over the idea of switching financial institutions myself to save on fees, I thought I’d review the top free chequing accounts in Canada that are currently available.
What Are Chequing Accounts For Exactly?
Before I jump into this massive list, I wanted to share what chequing accounts are actually for. Up until I moved out of my parents’ place in my early 20s, I never had a chequing account. I just had a simple savings account and that’s what I connected my debit card too. And I thought everyone did the same.
It wasn’t until later on that I realized I was using my savings account like it was a chequing account, and pretty much defeating the purpose of having a savings account (which is meant for saving money, which I wasn’t doing).
You see, a chequing account is meant for day-to-day transactions, deposits, withdrawals, writing cheques, paying bills and moving money around. And because there is so much activity in a chequing account, most banks charge fees (whereas most don’t charge fees for savings accounts).
Still, just because you use your chequing account often, doesn’t mean you owe it to the banks to pay them some extra money for the privilege. Don’t ever forget, they are still making money off you, fees or no fees on your chequing account.
And with all that being said, here are some great options you should consider.
Banks & Credit Unions with Free Chequing Accounts in Canada
The Tangerine No Fee Daily Chequing Account is a great option if you’re looking for a free, online chequing account. And by free, I mean it offers unlimited debits, bill payments, pre-authorized payments, Email Money Transfers, mobile cheque deposits and your first book of 50 cheques for no monthly fee or minimum balance.
Not only that, it also earns you interest which sets it apart from many of its competitors. It’s not a substantial amount of interest mind you, but it’s better than nothing.
Currently, it offers:
- 0.15% on $0 – $49,999.99
- 0.55% on $50,000.00 – $99,999.99
- 0.65% on $100,000.00+
Sounds like a nice perk, though I would never suggest anyone keep that much of a balance in their chequing account anyway. Instead, put your money into a high-interest savings account or investments to earn better returns.
On top of this, since Tangerine is owned by Scotiabank you can use any Tangerine or Scotiabank ABM to take out cash without getting dinged a withdrawal fee.
The downsides? Well, they do charge $1 for Interac e-transfers whereas many banks offer that for free. Also, Email Money Transfers can take 2-3 business days to go through, and Electronic Fund Transfers (e.g. if you were to transfer money from an external chequing account into your Tangerine account) can take 1-2 business days.
Still, Tangerine is always one of my go-to recommendations for free chequing accounts. When I was in my early 20s and totally broke, I switched to Tangerine (then ING Direct) yo save on fees because I literally couldn’t afford them. I’m in a much different financial situation now, but I’m still a huge fan.
Want to sign up? Use my referral code 35764439S1 to get $50!
2. PC Financial
The President’s Choice Financial No-Free Bank Account is another option, and similar to Tangerine, it doesn’t really have any brick and mortar locations. Sure, there are those little kiosks at almost every President’s Choice grocery story (e.g. No Frills, Loblaws), but I consider it more of an online bank in comparison to the big banks.
Also similar to Tangerine, its chequing account has no monthly fee or balance minimum and pays you the following interest:
- 0.05% on $0 – $1,000
- 0.10% on $1,000.01 – $5,000.00
- 0.15% on $5,000.01 – $25,000.00
- 0.50% on $25,000.01+
So, the interest they pay out is way less than Tangerine, but again, I don’t think this is really important anyway.
Other benefits of this account include free cash withdrawals from PC Financial and CIBC ABMs, free unlimited checks, and the best one…you get to earn PC points toward free groceries.
There are of course some things to consider though. I actually used to bank with PC Financial when I first moved to Toronto, and I did find it a bit inconvenient at times. For instance, if you deposit a cheque, those funds could be help for up to 5 business days (which could seem like a lifetime if you really need the money).
3. Coast Capital Savings
Before I moved to Toronto, my husband and I banked at Coast Capital Savings and we loved it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they hands-down had the best customer service. I don’t know why, but they just always had the friendliest people working there.
Sadly, we had to switch financial institutions when we moved out east because it’s only open to residents in B.C. However, this notice I found on their website suggests that they may become a nationwide credit union in the near future (fingers crossed!).
One of the main reasons I enjoyed banking with Coast Capital so much was because of their Free Chequing, Free Debit, and More Account. Although it is pretty bare bones and doesn’t pay you any interest like Tangerine or PC Financial, it does offer unlimited day-to-day transactions and you can withdraw cash from any Coast Capital ABM or any ABM on The Exchange® since it’s a credit union.
4. Envision Financial
The Envision Financial Free Chequing – Simply Free Account is surprisingly a pretty strong rival to Tangerine and PC Financial’s free chequing accounts.
Besides no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement and, you also get free Interac e-transfers and free access to over 3,300 ABMs across Canada on The Exchange®.
The main downside with banking at such a small credit union is it only serves customers in British Columbia and only has 21 branches across the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Kitimat. But if you are a resident of B.C., it’s a pretty good deal.
5. Valley First
Just like Envision Financial, Valley First is part of the First West Credit Union network. It’s small with only 16 branches and serves customers in B.C.’s Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson Valley regions. Other than that, it offers the exact same Simply Free Account.
6. Enderby & District Financial
Another credit union part of First West’s network is Enderby & District Financial. It offers the same Simply Free Account as the two listed above, but serves customers in the North Okanagan area.
7. Island Savings
Last but not least, the fourth credit union within First West’s network that offers the same Simply Free Account is Island Savings. It serves customers in Vancouver Island, Pender Island and Salt Spring Island.
The first bundle is called the Daylight No Fee Banking Bundle, which offers the usual no monthly fee or minimum balance, unlimited deposits, withdrawals, cheques and EFTs, and free withdrawals with DUCA and Exchange® ABMs. It doesn’t pay any interest though, and there are costs associated with Interac e-transfers, bank drafts, certified cheques and paper statements.
The second bundle is called the Aim for More Banking Bundle, and the only real difference is it offers 3 free transactions at external ABMs, 3 free Interac e-transfers per month, and is only available to customers 16-29 years old.
The third and last bundle is called the The Feel Free Retirement Bundle. The big differences with this account is it’s only for customers 60 years of age and older, and offers unlimited transactions at non-DUCA and Exchange® ABMs, unlimited bank drafts, free personalized cheques and free paper statements.
9. FirstOntario Credit Union
FirstOntario is another Ontario credit union that offers a no-fee option with their Be Free Chequing Plan.
Similar to most of the other credit unions, it has no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement and offers unlimited transactions plus 20 free cheques.
10. FirstCalgary Financial
Although FirstCalgary Financial looks like it has some affiliation with FirstOntario Credit Union, it’s not. It is however part of the ConnectFirst Credit Union network alongside Chinook Financial. But unlike Chinook Financial, it does offer a free chequing account called the No Fees For Me Account.
It has the same standard features as many of the other free chequing accounts listed above, but it has an interesting twist. You get to choose one of the following free upgrades:
- Personal banking upgrade – 3 free Interac e-transfers a month, pre-approved $500
overdraft upon opening, personal cheque supply, and CDN drafts.
- Investing upgrade – ChangeUp™ (an automatic saving feature) and half price safety deposit box.
- Student upgrade – 3 free Interac e-transfers a month, student loan discount, student MasterCard, and pre-approved $500 overdraft.
In order to open an account, you need to visit a brand or book an appointment and you need to be a Calgary resident to join.
11. Cornerstone Credit Union
Cornerstone Credit Union offers their No-Fee Personal Chequing Account, and since it’s one of the few credit unions on the list for residents in Saskatchewan, it’s definitely worth checking out if that’s where you live. It doesn’t offer many bells and whistles besides perhaps unlimited Interac e-transfers, and pretty much offers the same standard benefits as the other credit unions listed above.
12. Motive Financial
Finally, another free chequing account that also earns you interest! I was starting to wonder if any of the credit unions would get on the bandwagon. Luckily, Motive Financial (formerly Canadian Direct Financial) did and they offer unlimited deposits and withdrawals, 50 free cheques, and a competitive interest rate on all balances in their Motive™ Chequing.
13. Conexus Credit Union
Conexus Credit Union’s No-Fee Account is pretty simple. It offers the same standard features as the rest of them and doesn’t pay any interest. It also only serves customers in Saskatchewan.
14. Innovation Credit Union
I can’t believe you’re still reading. This is by far my longest post ever (I think?), but if you’re still with me, you are a trooper! Okay, last but not least there’s Innovation Credit Union’s No-Fee Account. It offers unlimited debits and the other usual features, but it also let’s you do as many Interac e-transfers as you like for free too.
This credit union is for residents of Saskatchewan only, however similar to Coast Capital Savings, they are putting some moves in motion to become a federally regulated credit union so they can serve customers throughout Canada.
I’ve done a pretty thorough search of free chequing accounts in Canada, but have I missed any? If you know of any others, let me know in the comments!