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Chequing accounts vs. debit cards

These two products go hand in hand, but have distinctly different functions.

Chequing accounts and debit cards work together, but they’re actually 2 separate products. While they’re related and together allow you to manage your money and make transactions, there are a few differences that set them apart.

What’s the difference between chequing accounts and debit cards?

Chequing accounts are type of bank account that holds your money. They usually come with a debit card that allows you to access your funds. A debit card is like the physical key to your bank account. Some savings accounts also offer debit cards, and digital-only banks or mobile apps are increasingly offering debit cards linked to their account or service. Ultimately, a debit card is dependent on a source account for the funds it accesses.

Isn’t a debit card a chequing account?

No. Chequing accounts are a place to store money for everyday transactions separately from your savings. Debit cards are tools to access the money in linked accounts through ATM withdrawals and point-of-sale transactions.

Chequing accountDebit card
AboutUnlimited access to your money through deposits, withdrawals, cheques, bill pay service and an optional debit card.Payment card linked to a financial account used to withdraw cash at ATMs or swipe for payments at retailers or online.
Online transfersYesNo
Check writingYesNo
ATM accessVia debit cardYes
CDIC insuranceYesDepends on the account it’s linked to
Monthly feesVaries by bankNo
Point of sale purchasesYes with debit cardYes
Online transactionsYesVaries by bank
Account featuresYesN/A
Stores moneyYesNo

Pros and cons of chequing accounts & debit cards

Chequing and savings accounts are both helpful banking products, but they each have their pros and cons:

Chequing accounts

Pros
  • Security. Chequing accounts allow you to deposit money to be kept safe inside the account. Plus, most of them are insured for up to $100,000 by the CDIC.
  • Account features. Many chequing accounts offer features like rewards programs, money management tools, overdraft protection and more.
  • Transfer money. Chequing accounts allow you to write cheques and transfer money to other accounts online or by phone.
Cons
  • Potential fees. Many chequing accounts charge monthly fees that could eat into your balance.
  • Minimum balance requirements. Some chequing accounts require that you keep a certain amount in your account to avoid fees.
  • Limited point-of-sale purchases. Unless the retailer accepts cheques, you won’t be able to make point-of-sale purchases at retailers without a debit card.

Debit cards

Pros
  • ATM access. Debit cards allow you to withdraw cash from ATMs whenever you need it.
  • Point of sale transactions. With a debit card, you can make purchases online and at retailers.
  • No monthly fees. While you could be charged ATM fees, there are usually no monthly fees to own a debit card.
Cons
  • Must be linked. Unless you have a prepaid debit card, you’ll need to link your debit card to another account to make purchases and withdrawals.
  • No deposits or account features. Debit cards are not accounts, so you won’t get any account features and won’t be able to make deposits.
  • Can’t transfer money. Cash withdrawals and POS transactions are the only way to access money with a debit card. If you want to make transfers, you’ll need to use an account.

Compare accounts with debit cards

1 - 14 of 14
Name Product Interest Rate Account Fee Debit Transactions Interac e-Transfer Transactions
BMO Practical Chequing Account
0%
$4 per month
12 transactions per month
unlimited
A low monthly fee bank account that provides you with the essentials including 12 free transactions a month.
OFFER
Simplii No Fee Chequing Account
0.01%
$0
Unlimited
Free
Earn $350 when you become a new client and set up direct deposit of at least $100 for 3 months. Offer ends October 31, 2022.
OFFER
Scotiabank Preferred Package
0%
$16.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Earn a $300 welcome bonus. Conditions apply. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 2.35% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Basic Bank Account
0%
$3.95 per month
12 free per month
Free
With a low monthly account fee, you can earn points toward the Scene+ rewards program.
BMO AIR MILES Chequing Account
0%
$16.95
unlimited
unlimited
Get 1 AIR MILES Reward Mile for every $30 spent using your BMO Debit Card.
BMO Performance Chequing Account
0%
$16.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Earn $350 with a Performance Chequing Account. Plus an additional $50 when you add a second member and make it a BMO Family Bundle. Valid until October 31, 2022.
BMO Premium Plan Chequing Account
0%
$30 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Earn $350 with a Premium Chequing Account. Plus earn an additional $50 when you add a second member and make it a BMO Family Bundle. Valid until October 31, 2022.
BMO Plus Chequing Account
0%
$11.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
25 free per month
unlimited
Earn $100 with a Plus Chequing Account when you open an account and setup recurring deposits and bill payments. Valid until October 31, 2022.
Scotiabank Ultimate Package
0%
$30.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Receive a welcome bonus of $300. Conditions apply. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 2.4% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan
0%
$0
unlimited
unlimited
Earn $75 and up to 7,500 Scene+ points with the Scene+ Student Banking Bundle. Conditions apply. Apply by October 31, 2022.
Scotiabank Basic Plus Bank Account
0%
$11.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
25 free per month
Free
Pay no monthly account fee by maintaining a minimum daily closing balance of $3,000 for the entire month.
BMO Performance Student Chequing Account
0%
$0
Unlimited
Unlimited
Earn a $100 cash bonus and enjoy no monthly fees while in school and one year after you graduate. Valid until October 31, 2022.
BMO New to Canada Performance Chequing Account
0%
$0
Unlimited
Unlimited
Earn $350 when you open an account. Plus an additional $50 when you add a second member and make it a BMO Family Bundle. Valid until October 31, 2022.
BMO Canadian Defence Community Banking Performance Plan Chequing Account
0%
$0
Unlimited
Unlimited
Save on banking fees with a no fee monthly account and unlimited Interac e-Transfers.
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Compare up to 4 providers

1 - 4 of 4
Name Product Interest Rate Promotional Interest Rate Min. Bal / Min. Deposit Account Fee
Simplii High Interest Savings Account
0.40%
4.75%
$0 / $0
$0
Earn 4.75% interest on your savings. Open an account and get a special interest rate for deposits up to $1,000,000. Conditions apply. Valid until October 31, 2022.
KOHO Earn Interest
1.20%
N/A
$0 / $0
$0
Use promo code FINDERCODE and get a $20 cash bonus when you make your first purchase within 30 days. Opt into earning interest for free and earn 1.20% on your balance, plus an additional 0.50% in cash back on every purchase you make.
Neo Money Account
2.25%
N/A
$0 / $0
$0
Get a competitive interest rate and unlimited free transactions with no monthly fees or minimum balances.
EQ Bank Savings Plus Account
2.00%
N/A
$0 / $0
$0
Enjoy zero everyday banking fees, free transactions and no minimum balance.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Standalone chequing accounts can help you store and manage your money while allowing you to make transfers and online purchases. Debit cards are used to withdraw cash and make point-of-sale transactions.

Compare your options to find a chequing account that’s right for you and enjoy the convenience that an accompanying debit card has to offer.

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