No-Fee Banks in Canada: Top 5 Free Chequing Accounts

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Are you banking with one of the no-fee banks in Canada? If not…WHY NOT?

If there’s one thing that really grinds my gears, it’s paying bank fees! I can’t stand paying $10-$15 per month (or more) just for the privilege of having a chequing account at a particular financial institution. That’s why I want to share my top 5 picks for no-fee banks in Canada that offer free chequing accounts (no minimum balances required!).

Why Bank Fees Don’t Necessarily Equal More Value

Before I continue, I want to address something I always hear when I talk to people about banks that charge fees: “Don’t you get more value with those monthly fees, like access to a bank branch and financial planner?”

Sure, it’s true that with those bank fees you get access to a bank branch and financial planner, but for me, those don’t constitute more value than what a no-fee bank can offer. I’ve personally been banking online for years and never need to go to a branch. If I need help, I call or email their customer service. If I need cheques, they mail them to me. If I want to deposit a cheque, I use the bank’s app on my phone or go to an ATM. For all my other banking needs, I can do everything online.

In terms of access to a financial planner, you probably already know my sentiments on this. I personally prefer using a fee-only financial planner who does not work for a financial institution and cannot sell me products. I’d much rather pay out of pocket for unbiased advice. And if you’re in search of a no-fee financial planner, I made a list on my recommendations page you can check out.

When it comes to investing, I do DIY investing and use robo-advisors for all of that (I’ve got recommendations for discount brokerages and robo-advisors on my recommendations page too).

I wasn’t always this savvy though. Back in the day, I did pay bank fees and I did use a financial planner at a bank. And I 100% didn’t get more value than what I get now banking at various no-fee banks in Canada.

With all that said, this is of course just my personal opinion. If you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth with those monthly fees, you do you. But for me, when I calculated that I’d spent $540 on monthly bank fees over 3 years, when I could have put that money to better use (like towards a trip or into my investments), that’s when I made the switch and have never looked back!

What Is a No-Fee Bank

In case you’re wondering what exactly constitutes a no-fee bank, I’m talking about banks in Canada that charge you no monthly fees with no minimum balance requirements. I also don’t count banks that waive or reimburse monthly fees if you bundle multiple financial products with them (i.e. chequing account, savings account, line of credit, credit card, mortgage, etc…).

For a long list of banks and credit unions that offer free chequing accounts, check out this blog post I wrote listing 14 different banks and credit unions that offer free chequing accounts in Canada.

But if you want a concise list of different online banks you can open no matter where you live in Canada (with some exceptions, sorry Quebec!) that charge zero monthly bank fees, here are my top 5 no-fee banks in Canada in alphabetical order.

1. Alterna Bank

Alterna Bank - Free Chequing Accounts CanadaFirst on the list is Alterna Bank. You may think the name “Alterna” sounds familiar, and that’s because it is. If you live in Ontario, you may already be familiar with Alterna Savings, which is a credit union in Ontario that’s been around for 110 years. Alterna Bank is actually a subsidiary of Alterna Savings, and launched in the year 2000.

That being said, it operates as a separate bank than Alterna Savings. That means that Alterna Bank is completely online and does not have any of its own branches. Moreover, even though they have similar names, as an Alterna Bank customer, you can’t walk into an Alterna Savings branch and ask for help with your Alterna Bank products. If you need help, you have to contact Alterna Bank’s online customer service team.

Here’s a breakdown of Alterna Bank’s No-Fee eChequing Account.

Alterna Bank No-Fee eChequing Account

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Free, unlimited day-to-day transactions
  • Free, unlimited Interac® e-Transfers
  • Free access to over 3,300 ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® Network
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)
  • 0.05% annual interest rate

Alterna Bank also offers a fairly high annual interest rate on their savings accounts at 2.30%.

Alterna Bank is available to customers in all provinces.

2. Motive Financial

Motive Financial - No Fee Banks in CanadaNext, we’ve got Motive Financial, which was formerly known as Canadian Direct Financial before it rebranded and relaunched into Motive Financial in 2017.

Motive Financial is a division of Canadian Western Bank, which means that your deposits with Motive Financial are actually held at Canadian Western Bank, a CDIC-insured financial institution. The annoying thing is though, you can’t use any of Canadian Western Bank’s branches for help. As a Motive Financial customer, you must use their online support team.

To learn more about Motive Financial, check out this blog post I wrote about it when it first launched.

What’s unique about Motive Financial is they offer two different types of chequing accounts: the Motive Cha-Ching Chequing Account and the Motive Chequing Account.

Motive Cha-Ching Chequing Account™

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Free deposits
  • Free and unlimited monthly withdrawals
  • Unlimited free transactions and Interac® e-Transfers
  • First 50 personalized cheques free
  • Free access to over 3,300 ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® Network
  • 2 free non-Exchange Network ATM withdrawals (after that, $1.50 per withdrawal)
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) via Canadian Western Bank
  • 0.25% annual interest rate

Motive™ Chequing Account

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Free deposits
  • Free and unlimited monthly withdrawals
  • First 50 personalized cheques free
  • Free access to over 3,300 ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® Network
  • Non-Exchange Network ATM withdrawals cost $1.50 per withdrawal
  • Interac® e-Transfers cost $1 (but receiving e-transfers is free)
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) via Canadian Western Bank
  • 0.60% annual interest rate

As you can see, the differences between the two are that the Motive Chequing Account offers a higher interest rate than the Motive Cha-Ching Chequing Account, but you have to pay $1 for Interac e-transfers and $1.50 if Non-Exchange Network ATM withdrawals.

In terms of Motive Financial’s savings accounts, they offer an okay interest rate of 1.50% for their Motive™ Savings Account, but a stellar interest rate of 2.80% with their Motive® Savvy Savings™ Account.

Motive Financial is available to customers in all provinces EXCEPT Quebec.

3. Motusbank

MotusbankMotusbank - No Fee Banks in Canada is the newest bank on the block…literally. It only launched this past April 2019! I even wrote a post all about it, so if you want some more in-depth info about Motusbank go check it out. Similar to Alterna Bank, Motusbank is also a subsidiary of a big Ontario credit union. Ontario’s largest credit union in fact — Meridian Credit Union.

Here’s what you should know about the Motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account.

Motusbank No-Fee Chequing

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Free and unlimited Interac e-Transfers®
  • Unlimited debit purchases, bill payments and withdrawals
  • First 25 personalized cheques free
  • Free access to over 3,300 ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® Network
  • Mobile cheque deposits with Deposit Anywhere
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)
  • 0.50% annual interest rate

As for Motusbank’s savings accounts, they offer 2.25% on their regular high-interest savings account, but if you tuck that cash into their tax-free savings account (TFSA), you could earn 2.50%. But in my opinion, the best use for a TFSA is investments, not cash savings.

Motusbank is available to customers in all provinces EXCEPT Quebec.

4. Simplii Financial

Simplii FinancialSimplii Financial - No Fee Banks in Canada launched in 2017 after President’s Choice Financial folded its banking division to focus solely on its credit cards. At the time, CIBC actually managed the back-end of PC Financial. So, when PC Financial decided to make some big changes, CIBC decided to make its own online bank called Simplii Financial. This means that Simplii Financial is a division of CIBC, but like all the other banks I’ve mentioned, you can’t go to a CIBC and ask for help with your Simplii Financial accounts or products (I think you get the picture by now).

Here’s what you need to know about the Simplii No Fee Chequing account.

Simplii No Fee Chequing

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Free and unlimited Interac e-Transfers®
  • Unlimited debit purchases, bill payments and withdrawals
  • First 25 personalized cheques free
  • Free access to CIBC ATMs across Canada
  • Mobile cheque deposits with Simplii Financial Mobile Banking App
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)
  • Annual interest rates:
    • $0 – $1,000 = 0.05%
    • $1,000.01 – $5,000 = 0.10%
    • $5,000.01 – $25,000 = 0.15%
    • $25,0001.00 and up = 0.50%

Much like the low interest they offer for their chequing accounts, they also don’t offer the best annual interest rate for savings accounts at just 1.15%.

Simplii Financial is available to customers in all provinces EXCEPT Quebec.

5. Tangerine

Tangerine Bank - No Fee Chequing Account CanadaLast but not least, I’ve got the OG of online banks — Tangerine. I first banked with Tangerine when it was known as ING Direct in my 20s. ING Direct was first founded in 1997, but in 2012 it was acquired by Scotiabank, and then Tangerine emerged in 2014.

I honestly remember the whole thing so vividly too. There was so much buzz and excitement when it all went down, including an epic launch party featuring a performance by Macklemore (at the height of Thriftshop‘s popularity!). A ton of personal finance influencers were invited and had an amazing time…from what I could tell from Instagram. I guess my invite got lost in the mail? But I’m not bitter. Nooooo, no, no, no. And certainly not bitter that even though the party took place in Toronto (WHERE I LIVE!), they paid for flights/hotels for a number of out-of-town influencers to attend. But that’s all in the past now. Not. Bitter. At. All.

Regardless of my FOMO, after years of bank and credit union hopping, I decided to make Tangerine my main bank and have been happily banking with them for over 3 years. If you want to sign up with them too, make sure to use my promo code 35764439S1 to get $50 upon registration.

Here are the most important things you should know about the Tangerine Chequing account.

  • No monthly fee and no minimum balance required
  • Interac® e-Transfers cost $1 (but receiving e-transfers is free)
  • Unlimited debit purchases, bill payments and withdrawals
  • First 50 personalized cheques free
  • Free access to Scotiabank and Tangerine ATMs across Canada
  • Mobile cheque deposits with Tangerine’s mobile banking app
  • Eligible deposits are insured up to the maximum amount through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)
  • Annual interest rates:
    • $0 – $49,999.99 = 0.15%
    • $50,000.00 – $99,999.99 = 0.55%
    • $100,000 or more = 0.65%

For Tangerine’s savings accounts, the current annual interest rate is 1.15%.

Tangerine is available to customers in all provinces.

What are your thoughts on no-fee banks in Canada? Or do you pay bank fees? I would love to know your thoughts, share in the comments below!

Disclosure: Nothing on my website or affiliated channels should be considered advice or an endorsement, and some content may include affiliate links in which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Please read my disclaimer to learn more.
Showing 2 comments
  • Maggie
    Reply

    Hello Jessica, thanks for the recommendation. I have a question that you maybe able to help: I travel to USA quite often, but I don’t want to carry a US dollar credit card, so do you know if there’s any debit card (or prepaid card) that is in USD but without transaction fee and monthly fee? Thanks a lot!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      If you want a USD debit card, you’ll have to open up a USD chequing account with one of the big Canadian banks (those are the only ones I can see that offer them). I think the TD one looks pretty good, but take a look at your options. Prepaid cards, I know if you sign up for KOHO Premium, although it’s still a CDN funds card, they won’t charge you foreign transaction fees. You can learn more about KOHO in one of my latest posts: https://jessicamoorhouse.com/koho-review/

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