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Digital banking in Canada

Learn how to get started with digital banking and learn how virtual and challenger banks work.

Digital banking in Canada is here to stay. More and more people are managing their money online and through mobile banking without having to visit a bank branch. The latest banking technology offers a smooth user-interface, robust safety features and loads of convenient banking options.

Compare digital banking providers in Canada below and see which traditional banks offer digital banking through their websites and banking apps.

What is digital banking vs. online banking?

Digital banking is a fairly loose umbrella term that includes online banking, mobile banking, budgeting apps, and challenger banks (also called new banks). As the name suggests, online banking is the activity of dealing with your finances through the internet.

Some digital banks in Canada operate entirely online – usually through an app or website rather than from a physical branch – while others provide both online and in-person service.

Online banking has steadily been increasing in popularity in Canada. In the recent Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1, more than 1,845 Canadians were asked about their plans to open and use banking products, and almost 1 in 4 respondents (24%) said they planned to open an account with a digital bank.

Compare banks that offer digital banking in Canada

BankAccountWhat We LikeMonthly Fee
simplii financialSimplii No Fee Chequing Account
  • Earn a $400 welcome bonus
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
  • Savings account and no annual fee cashback credit card also available
$0

Learn more

EQ BankEQ Bank Personal Account
  • Earn 4% for 12 months and 2.5% thereafter on your savings
  • Functions as a hybrid chequing and savings account, with a prepaid card available
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
  • Free withdrawals from any ATM in Canada
$0

Learn more

KOHOKOHO Earn Interest
  • Earn 5% interest when you opt into KOHO Extra or KOHO Everything
  • Earn up to 5.00% interest with a high interest savings account. Pick a KOHO plan and opt-in to Earn Interest.
  • Functions as a hybrid chequing and savings account
$0

Learn more

Neo FinancialNeo Money Account
  • Earn up to 15% cashback on your Money card
  • Acts as a hybrid chequing and savings account
  • Earn 4% interest on savings
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
$0

Learn more

TangerineTangerine Savings Account
  • Earn 5.75% interest for 5 months
  • Earn 0.7% after promo ends
$0

Learn more

BMOBMO Performance Chequing Account
  • Earn a $600 welcome bonus
  • Earn 5.5% interest on a Savings Amplifier Account
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
$16.95 (can be waived)

Learn more

ScotiabankScotiabank Preferred Package
  • Earn a $400 welcome bonus
  • Earn up to 6.05% interest for 3 months on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
$16.95 (can be waived)

Learn more

RBCRBC Signature No Limit Banking Account
  • Get Apple Watch Series 9
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
  • Overdraft fee waived
$16.95 (can be partially waived)

Learn more

National BankNational Bank Connected Account
  • Get $30 towards an eligible National Bank credit card
  • $0 transactions and eTransfers
$15.95 (can be waived)

Learn more

TD Canada TrustTD Unlimited Chequing Account
  • Earn a $400 welcome bonus
  • Unlimited free transactions and eTransfers
$16.95 (can be waived)

Learn more

CIBCCIBC Smart Account
  • Get a $400 Costco Shop Card
  • Unlimited free transactions and eTransfers
$16.95 (can be waived)

Learn more

What are digital banks?

Digital banks are designed to be cheaper and more flexible than traditional banks. Ultimately, the aim is to compete with big banks like TD Bank, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and BMO. In response, some of the Big Banks have actually created their own digital-only banks to keep customers and profits from leaking away to competitors. For example, Tangerine is owned by Scotiabank, CIBC owns Simplii Financial, and Motusbank is a subsidiary of Meridian Credit Union.

Most digital banks were founded in the decade following the 2008 global financial crisis. The number of digital banks in Canada is small but growing, steadily gaining ground in a market dominated by financial industry giants like the Big 5 Banks.

Digital bank promotions on now

  • Simplii High Interest Savings Account: Earn 6.00% interest for 5 months on up to $1,000,000 in savings. Apply by April 30, 2024.
  • Simplii No Fee Chequing Account: Earn $400 when you become a new client and set up a direct deposit of at least $100 for 3 months. Offer ends October 31, 2024.
  • EQ Bank Personal Account: Earn up to 4.00% interest. Get 2.50% interest on your savings, plus 1.50% bonus interest when you direct deposit your pay.
  • KOHO Earn Interest: Earn up to 5.00% interest with a high interest savings account. Pick a KOHO plan and opt-in to Earn Interest.
  • Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account: Earn up to $500. Use promo code EARNMORE on signup. Get 20% cash back on eligible online Visa Debit transactions when you shop online or in-app for 60 days (up to $400 value), plus earn $100 when you set up automatic transfers.
  • Tangerine Savings Account: Earn 5.75% interest for 5 months (on up to $1,000,000 in deposits) when you use code EARNMORE when you signup by April 22, 2024.
  • Tangerine TFSA: Sign up using promo code EARNMORE and earn up to $400 cash back and a 5.25% savings rate.
  • Tangerine RSP: Sign up using promo code EARNMORE and earn up to $400 cash back and a 5.25% savings rate.
  • EQ Bank Joint Account: Earn a bonus interest rate of 4.00% (the Base Rate plus an additional 1.5%) for a maximum period of 12 consecutive months when you add and maintain qualifying recurring direct deposits of at least $500 per month

Digital-only banks in Canada

These banks in Canada only operate as digital banks, which mean they don’t offer physical bank branch locations, but instead enable customer to rely entirely on their web platform and mobile app to manage finances. Popular digital-only banks in Canada include:


Simplii Financial digital banking

simplii financial

Simplii Financial offers an entirely digital banking platform in Canada, which is backed by one of Canada’s Big Five banks, CIBC. It offers a host of online banking products like an everyday chequing account, high-interest savings account, credit card, mortgage, loans and investment opportunities.

Simplii offers a seamless digital banking experience through its website and a well-developed app available on both the Apple App and Google Play stores.

As a digital bank in Canada, Simplii does not have the overhead costs associated with traditional banks, which means it can pass on those savings to its customers through no-fee accounts and credit card options.

Get started with the Simplii No Fee Chequing Account:

Pros

  • Operates entirely online
  • Offers a promotional interest rate of 6% through the Simplii High Interest Savings Account
  • Earn up to 4% cash back through the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa Card
  • The No Fee Chequing Account offers unlimited transactions and free Interac e-Transfers
  • Offers mutual funds, RRSP, GIC or TFSA
  • Option to order foreign cash
  • Access to CIBC’s ATM network
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • No in-person service
  • Low ongoing savings interest rate after the promo period ends
  • Limited credit card options and perks
  • Limited banking options compared to traditional banks

Does Simplii Financial have a mobile app?

Yes, Simplii Financial offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
Simplii Financial appApple App Store4.1★★★★★
(10.7K reviews)
Google Play Store3.9★★★★★
(15.5K reviews)

EQ Bank digital banking

EQ Bank

EQ Bank is an exclusively digital bank in Canada offering savings accounts, US dollar account, reloadable transaction card, investment accounts, international money transfers, a business bank account and even mortgages. It was founded in 2016 and now has more than $8 billion in deposits.

The EQ Bank Personal Account has the functionality of both a savings and chequing account, giving you unlimited transactions and a relatively high interest rate on your balance. The EQ Bank mobile app is also available in both the Apple App and Google Play stores.

Get started with the EQ Bank Personal Account:

Pros

  • Completely digital bank
  • Get a 4% interest rate with the EQ Bank Personal Account
  • Offers GICs, RSPs, TFSAs and FHSAs
  • Send international money transfers using Wise
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • No in-person service
  • Limited banking options
  • Some negative customers reviews mention glitchy money transfers and poor customer service

Does EQ Bank have a mobile app?

Yes, you can download the EQ Bank app for both iOS and Android devices.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
EQ Bank appApple App Store4.9★★★★★
(188 reviews)
Google Play Store3.1★★★★★
(7.31K reviews)

KOHO digital banking

KOHO

Founded in 2014, KOHO offers Canadians a virtual banking experience through its KOHO prepaid Mastercard. You can use that card to make unlimited purchases wherever Mastercard is accepted, to pay bills or withdraw funds from domestic ATMs at no extra charge.

Add to that a stellar mobile app experience on both iOS and Android, and you have a serious online bank contender.

That said, KOHO’s online banking options are limited, as it does not offer products like loans, credit cards or TFSAs. But if you’re looking for a simplified online banking option in Canada that allows you to access funds digitally, KOHO is definitively worth considering.

KOHO offers these prepaid card options:

  • KOHO Extra Prepaid Card: Get 1.5% cash back return on special categories such as transportation, groceries and restaurants, and 0.25% cash back on all other purchases.
  • KOHO Easy Prepaid Mastercard: Earn 1% cash back on groceries and transportation.
  • KOHO Easy Joint Prepaid Card: Unlimited 1% cash back on groceries and transportation, and up to an extra 5% cash back with select merchants.
  • KOHO Essential Prepaid Card: Earn 5% interest on your entire balance.

Get started with KOHO Earn Interest:

Pros

  • Entirely online
  • Earn up to Up to 5.0% with select accounts
  • Manage everything on the mobile app
  • Offers budgeting and financial tracking tools
  • Earn up to 5% cashback on spending
  • Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) insured

Cons

  • No in-person service
  • Does not offer a full suite of banking options
  • No loan or credit card options

Does KOHO have a mobile app?

Yes, the KOHO app is available on both iOS and Android phones.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
KOHO appApple App Store4.8★★★★★
(77.9K reviews)
Google Play Store4.6★★★★★
(65.9K reviews)

Neo digital banking

Neo Financial

Neo Financial offers a digital banking experience in Canada through its spending, savings, credit, investing and mortgage products. It also offers financial learning resources and a stellar mobile app experience.

The Neo Money Account offers some stand out features: Earn 4% interest on your balance + get up to 15% cashback on first-time purchases with your Neo Money card.

Get started with the Neo Money Account:

Pros

  • Entirely online
  • Very highly rated mobile app
  • Earn 4% interest with the Neo Money Account in addition to cash back on purchases
  • Investment portfolio managers available
  • The Neo Credit card comes with unlimited cashback, no annual fees and flexible perks
  • Neo Money Account deposits (combined with eligible deposits at Concentra Bank) are CDIC insured

Cons

  • Does not offer a full suite of banking options, like loans and lines of credit
  • No in-person service
  • Can potentially get higher savings interest rates elsewhere

Does Neo have a mobile app?

Yes, Neo Financial offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
Neo appApple App Store4.8★★★★★
(28.5K reviews)
Google Play Store4.7★★★★★
(6K reviews)

Tangerine digital banking

Tangerine

Backed by Scotiabank, Tangerine is one of the most well-established, fully online banks in Canada. It offers an impressive suite of digital banking products through its comprehensive digital banking platform – everything from credit cards and mortgages to chequing and savings accounts.

Tangerine’s online banking portal and mobile app are designed around a self-service model. That means you can open accounts, apply for credit cards, manage investments, deposit cheques, download documents and cancel a card all from the app, without having to wait in line at a branch or on the phone.

One of Tangerine’s biggest draws is its no-fee model. You can get access to all of its accounts and credit cards with no monthly or annual fee. If you’re looking for a comprehensive digital bank in Canada, Tangerine may be just what you need.

Get started with the Tangerine Savings Account now and earn an interest rate of up to 5.75%:

Pros

  • Manage all of your banking entirely digitally online or through the Tangerine app
  • Highly rated mobile app for both iOS and Android
  • View your credit score report through TransUnion
  • 2 different $0 annual fee Tangerine credit card options with cash back and travel perks
  • Offers RSPs, GICs, RIFs, TFSAs, Non-Registered Investment Funds and more
  • Get access to personal lines of credit or home equity line of credit
  • Access to Scotiabank’s ATM network
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • No in-person service
  • Does not offer certain banking products, like wealth management or newcomer-to-Canada packages

Does Tangerine have a mobile app?

Yes, the Tangerine app is available for download on both iOS and Android.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
Tangerine appApple App Store4.7★★★★★
(63.5K reviews)
Google Play Store4.5★★★★★
(35.5K reviews)

Big Banks that offer digital banking

Although the Big Banks have branches across Canada, they also offer robust digital banking through their online login banking portals and mobile apps. Here is a breakdown of the biggest banks in Canada, what they offer and how their digital banking platforms compare. Learn more about digital banking from these banks below:


BMO digital banking

BMO

BMO is one of Canada’s Big Five Banks, and has a robust online banking system. It offers a full suite of banking products from everyday banking and lending to private wealth management. BMO is the 8th largest bank in North America by assets and serves over 12 million customers.

Looking at the digital banking side of BMO, it offers an online banking portal and highly-rated mobile app from both the Apple App and Google Play stores. You can manage your accounts, transfer funds, deposit cheques and pay bills all through the online banking system.

Get started with the BMO Performance Chequing Account:

Pros

  • Offers both online and in-person service
  • BMO offers a wide range of credit cards for travel, rewards, cash back, AIR MILES and more
  • Choose from an array of savings and chequing accounts
  • Options for personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Work with financial planners
  • Offers programs for newcomers to Canada
  • Sign up for the BMO Family Bundle and save on account fees
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • Some banking tasks can only be completed in person (not through online banking)
  • Can often find cheaper monthly or annual account fees
  • Some users mention that the mobile app can be buggy

Does BMO have a mobile app?

Yes, BMO offers a robust mobile app for both iOS and Android.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
BMO appApple App Store4.6★★★★★
(110.4K reviews)
Google Play Store4.2★★★★★
(78.4K reviews)

Scotiabank digital banking

Scotiabank

Scotiabank is one of Canada’s Big Five Banks, so you can expect a robust set of financial products. It also offers a unique rewards points system with the Scene+ program.

You can build up Scene+ points with certain Scotiabank credit cards and accounts, and redeem your points towards entertainment, movies, travel, shopping, dining, and banking.

Scotiabank offers digital banking in Canada through its mobile app and online banking portal. The Scotiabank app has very high ratings from users in both the Apple App and Google Play stores. The app offers budgeting tools, access to a Scotia advisor and the option to view and redeem your Scene+ points.

Scotiabank is offering a very competitive welcome offer: Earn a $400 welcome bonus. Get started with the Scotiabank Preferred Package:

Pros

  • Get access to in-person and online service
  • Offers Scotiabank credit cards with perks for travel, rewards, cash back and more
  • Open RRSPs, TFSAs, RRIFs, RDSPs, GICs, FHSAs, ETFs and more
  • Offers financial planning with a Scotia advisor
  • Provides personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Access to your TransUnion credit score and report
  • Banking for newcomers to Canada through the StartRight program
  • Self directed investing and commission-free ETFs through Scotia iTRADE
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • You may have to visit a branch to complete certain banking tasks rather than through digital banking online
  • Monthly and annual account fees can be comparatively costly
  • App users complain that the most recent update is very buggy

Does Scotiabank have a mobile app?

Yes, you can download the Scotiabank app on both iOS and Android devices.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
Scotiabank appApple App Store4.7★★★★★
(672.6K reviews)
Google Play Store4.6★★★★★
(145K reviews)

RBC digital banking

RBC

RBC is another of Canada’s Big Five Banks, and provides its customers with a well-established digital banking system in addition to its in-branch service. It serves more than 7 million customers in Canada, the US and in over 25 other countries.

The RBC online banking portal and mobile app (available for both iOS and Android) allow you to transfer money, pay bills, monitor your business banking, manage your investments and use wealth management services.

Get started with the RBC Signature No Limit Banking Account:

Pros

  • In-person and digital banking options
  • Keep all banking products for the entire family under one roof
  • RBC’s mobile app includes NOMI, a feature that gives insights based on your cash flow
  • RBC offers a range of credit cards for cash back, rewards, travel and more
  • Options for personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Robust wealth management services
  • Offers services for newcomers to Canada
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • Certain banking tasks will require a visit to a RBC branch and cannot be completed online
  • Monthly and annual fees can be costly
  • Some RBC users mention that select in-app features don’t work well

Does RBC have a mobile app?

Yes, the RBC app is available for both iOS and Android mobile operating systems.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
RBC appApple App Store4.8★★★★★
(207.6K reviews)
Google Play Store3.1★★★★★
(38.2K reviews)

National Bank digital bankingNational Bank

National Bank is Canada’s sixth largest bank and, like other big banks, it offers customers a convenient online banking platform. National Bank offers a full suite of banking products – from chequing accounts and credit cards to lines of credit and mortgages.

The National Bank mobile app is available on Android and iOS and is very highly rated by users on both platforms. You can deposit cheques, transfer funds, make international money transfers and more all through this digital banking platform.

Get $30 towards an eligible National Bank credit card you activate after opening a National Bank Connected Account. Get started with the National Bank Connected Account:

Pros

  • Both online and in-person service available
  • Very highly rated mobile app
  • Choose from a variety of National bank credit cards for cashback rewards, travel perks and more
  • Provides personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Offers RRSPs, TFSAs, GICs, FHSAs and RESPs
  • Get access to a serious of wealth management services
  • Offers programs for newcomers to Canada
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • Some tasks may not be available through online banking
  • Monthly and annual banking fees can be expensive
  • Fewer branches and ATM access compared to some other banks

Does National Bank have a mobile app?

Yes, you can download the National Bank app on iOS and Android devices.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
National Bank appApple App Store4.7★★★★★
(190.4K reviews)
Google Play Store4.7★★★★★
(43.4K reviews)

TD digital banking

TD Canada Trust

TD is not only one of Canada’s Big Five Banks, but is one of the top 10 banks in North America. TD Canada Trust is the commercial banking arm of TD Bank Group, which services over 27.5 million customers worldwide.

Like other big banks we’ve discussed, TD offers digital banking through its mobile app and online banking portal. In fact, TD’s mobile app tied for first place in “Highest in Customer Satisfaction” as part of the J.D. Power 2023 Canada Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Study.

Get started with the TD Unlimited Chequing Account:

Pros

  • In-person and online service available
  • TD offers credit cards with perks for travel, cash back, rewards and more
  • Offers personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Provides TFSAs, FHSAs, RRSPs, RESPs, RRIFs, RDSPs, GICs, mutual funds and more
  • DIY investing through TD Direct Investing and TD Easy Trade
  • TD Wealth Financial Planning or TD Wealth Private Wealth Management available
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • Some banking tasks cannot be done on the mobile app, but instead will require you to visit a branch
  • Monthly and annual fees can be costly
  • Some TD app users mention that the app occasionally gets stuck while loading

Does TD Canada Trust have a mobile app?

Yes, TD offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
TD appApple App Store4.5★★★★★
(77.6K reviews)
Google Play Store4.1★★★★★
(101K reviews)

CIBC digital banking

CIBC

Whether you’re looking for everyday banking solutions or ongoing wealth management, CIBC has a lot to offer its customers both online and in person as one of Canada’s Big Five Banks. When it comes to digital banking, CIBC offers both a mobile app (for iOS and Android) and online banking portal.

The CIBC mobile app tied for first place in the J.D. Power 2023 Canada Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Study for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction.” CIBC’s app boasts some interesting features, like allowing you to check your credit score for free, get real-time currency conversions for CIBC Visa Cards, set up savings goals and open accounts.

Get started with the CIBC Smart Account:

Pros

  • Offers both online and in-person service
  • A range of CIBC credit cards can help you earn rewards, cash back, travel perks and more
  • Get personal loans, lines of credit, car loans and student loans
  • Provides TFSAs, FHSAs, RRSPs, RESPs, RDSPs, mutual funds, GICs and more
  • Check your credit score for free through the CIBC mobile app
  • Get access to a CIBC Private Wealth advisory team
  • Offers a range of banking products for newcomers to Canada
  • CDIC insured

Cons

  • Some banking tasks cannot be completed through digital banking
  • Monthly and annual banking fees can be expensive
  • Some users mention that the newest version of the app has a poor layout

Does CIBC have a mobile app?

Yes, the CIBC mobile app is available for download on iOS and Android.

Apple App Store ratingGoogle Play rating
CIBC appApple App Store4.3★★★★★
(20K reviews)
Google Play Store3.1★★★★★
(42.3K reviews)

Pros and cons of digital banking

Opting for digital banking can give Canadians many conveniences and perks, but it’s always important to consider the drawbacks when deciding if it’s the right move for you.

Pros

  • Higher savings rates. Most digital banks offer higher interest rates on savings accounts because the banks have lower overhead costs.
  • Low to no fees. Most of the best digital banks don’t charge monthly fees or require you to carry a minimum balance.
  • Convenience. You can access all your accounts and investments through a banking app on any device 24/7. Make transfers, pay pills and track your spending and savings goals easily.

Cons

  • No physical locations. Banks that only offer digital banking usually don’t have face-to-face customer service options because they don’t have physical branches.
  • Some limited product offerings. Exclusively online banks have yet to match traditional banks with their range of product offerings which is sometimes still limited to basic accounts and investment options.
  • Limited ATM access. Although this isn’t so bad if a digital bank is a subsidiary of a traditional bank and uses its ATM network, this could still be a limitation if you want quick access to cash.

What is a digital banking?

Digital banking enables you to manage all of your finances entirely online through mobile banking apps and online banking portals. Although you may see the term “digital banking” used interchangeably with the term “online banking,” it’s safe to think of digital banking as the umbrella term for all the various ways you can manage your money over the internet.

Most banks in Canada offer a digital banking experience with a mobile app designed to help you complete all or most of your day-to-day banking online, without having to visit a physical bank branch. You simply log in to your bank’s online portal or mobile app to pay bills, open new accounts, send e-transfers, order cheques, request replacement cards and much more.

Alternatives and lesser-known digital-only banks

From the online offerings of major banks to big digtial-only banks like EQ Bank and Tangerine, it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of other banks in Canada that offer digital banking. Consider these other options:

Smaller banks and credit unions

Many credit unions and lesser-known financial institutions have competitive offerings with digital-only banking or a mix of online and in-branch banking. Credit unions like Alterna, Coast Capital, Meridian and Vancity all offer chequing and savings accounts you can manage via online or mobile banking. Some other small-bank and credit unions examples in Canada include:

  • Motive Financial.
    Run by Canadian Western Bank, Motive Financial is an online-only bank that offers a chequing account, savings account and investment options. Read our review here.
  • Alterna Bank.
    Alterna Bank was launched in 2000 to act as the digital bank arm of Alterna Savings. Read our review here.
  • Manulife Bank.
    A subsidiary of insurance and financial services company Manulife, this online-only bank offers chequing, savings and US dollar accounts as well as credit cards, mortgages, loans and investments.
  • Achieva Financial.
    This is one of the oldest online banking providers in the country (launched in 1998). It was opened as a division of the Cambrian Credit Union, based out of Manitoba. Read our review here.
  • ICICI Bank Canada.
    ICICI has branches in Alberta, BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia and offers a full suite of banking products.
  • Oaken Financial.
    This digital bank that was launched in 2013 as the direct “deposits” arm of Home Bank. Read our review here.
  • Outlook Financial.
    This online banking provider was launched in 2000 as a division of the Assiniboine Credit Union, one of the most respected financial co-operatives in Canada. Read our review here.
  • AcceleRate Financial.
    This digital banking provider that was launched in 2010 as a division of the Crosstown Civic Credit Union, which is a well-established financial institution in Manitoba. Read our review here.
  • Implicity Financial.
    This is an online banking provider that was created by Entegra Credit Union. Read our review here.
  • Hubert Financial.
    This is a well-known digital bank that was launched by Sunova Credit Union (which is one of the top 100 credit unions in Canada). Read our review here.
  • Impak Finance.
    Based in Quebec, this online banking provider’s focus is on ethical banking and social responsibility.
  • NorthOne Business Banking.
    This challenger bank is based in the US but is headquartered in Toronto. Its focus is small businesses and startups.
  • Wealth One Bank of Canada.
    This digital bank offers a savings account, mortgages, lines of credit and investment products. It also offers customer support in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Money apps

Providers like KOHO, Neo Financial and Mydoh provide mobile apps designed to make it easy to manage your money. Other perks like earning interest on your balance and cash back on purchases are often included too.

What is app-based banking?

App-based banking is any sort of financial management that you do primarily through an app. It’s basically another name for online banking but based solely through an app. Banking apps are popular tools in the online banking world and can help you save, budget and manage your spending. There are several advantages to app-based banking:

  • Banking access in your pocket
  • Many companies offer 24/7 access to banking support
  • Instant spending notifications
  • Many banking apps offer ways to automatically save money

Things to know about app-based banking from new banks

Using your phone as your main point of contact with your bank can save you time and give you more control over your finances, but there are a few things to be aware of.

Different types of app-based banking

  • Traditional bank apps. App-based online banking doesn’t only apply to challenger banks. It has also become increasingly possible to bank on your smartphone with traditional banks like the big 5. Check out the top 5 banking apps in Canada here.
  • Apps that help you save. One of the most common reasons for people heading away from traditional banks and towards app-based online banking is how easy app-based banking makes it for people to track, save and manage your money at a glance. Budgeting apps like Emma and Mint are examples.
  • Prepaid card apps. Some companies, like KOHO and Stack, let you control a prepaid card from an app so you can track your transactions and see exactly how much money you have left.
  • Investment apps. Some apps help you save and let you invest in stocks from your phone so that you have more control over your finances, like Wealthsimple.

Is digital banking safe?

Yes, most banks and other financial institutions that offer digital banking use standard safety measures to ensure your money is safe.

Firstly, keep in mind that digital banking providers need to have the same banking licenses as existing Canadian banks before they’re able to offer products and services. Banks will be regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC).

Almost all deposit-taking financial institutions in Canada — including the Big 6 Banks, digital-only banks, money apps and fintechs — are members of the government’s Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). Any money deposited in a CDIC-member bank is protected for a reimbursement of the full amount (up to $100,000) in the event of a bank collapse, insolvency, theft or similar method of loss.

You can have multiple accounts protected under CDIC insurance, each up to $100,000. If you’re unsure, go online or call the online bank or fintech provider and look for CDIC protection.

Financial institutions that offer digital banking typically use technology to enhance safety. These features often include:

  • Two-factor authentication, which requires you to use more than one method or device to sign into your account.
  • Biometric login, where you can use your phone or computer’s biometric technology to log in, like fingerprints and facial recognition.
  • Text and email alerts, where the bank will send you texts or emails if there is suspicious activity in your account, or if you reach a minimum balance threshold on your account.
  • Other features, like data encryption, SSL certificates, strong password requirements and constant fraud monitoring.

Use of online bank accounts continues to grow

According to results from the recent Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1, the majority of Canadians (55%) plan to open a bank account or new banking product at one of Canada’s big five banks. However, a growing number of Canadians — almost 1 in 4 (24%) — are turning to online banks, instead.

How to get started with digital banking

Digital banking is designed to be user friendly, so making the transition into digital banking is easier than ever. Follow these simple steps to get started with digital banking:

  1. Browse digital banking options in Canada to find the best digital banking account and platform for you.
  2. Open an account. Most banks let you sign up for a standard account completely online.
  3. Set up an online banking portal login. Navigate to your bank or financial institution website’s and click the log in button, enter your username or access card number, enter the password you want to use and login.
  4. Download the bank’s mobile banking app. Go to the Apple App store or Google Play store to download your bank’s app. You’ll typically use the same login credentials to get into the app as you would online.

If you want to join one of the new digital bank providers that have yet to open in Canada, you can join their waitlist by visiting their website. When they launch products, those on the waitlist will be the first to know and the first to receive access to these new products.

What’s the difference between a digital bank and a challenger bank?

“Challenger” is generally used to refer to challenging the market power of traditional banks. While digital banks are built on existing infrastructure and closely mimic traditional banks, challenger banks don’t use any physical infrastructure or digital operating systems that are already being used by existing financial institutions.

For example, digital banks like Tangerine or EQ Bank, usually don’t have physical branches (or they rely on the branches of other physical banks) and customers use mobile banking apps to control their money. Challenger banks, like Revolut or N26, are completely web based and don’t use any existing legacy systems to operate.

Are new banks or challenger banks “real” banks?

Not all challenger banks or new banks are actually banks. According to Canadian regulations, challengers and online banking apps need a full banking license to use the term “bank” in company branding and marketing materials.

Tangerine and EQ Bank are chartered (licensed) digital banks that offer a suite of everyday banking products. But apps like Mint and KOHO offer a narrower range of products that target more specific financial needs. Such apps compliment – but aren’t necessarily a substitute for – the institutions you use for everyday banking.

The bottom line on digital banking in Canada

Digital banking is becoming more and more popular – and for good reason. Besides the convenience it provides, digital banking often caters to specific niches and groups, and is known for coming with innovative apps. But before you ditch your current traditional bank, take the time to read through all of the fine print to make sure the digital bank you’re interested in is as good as it sounds, then compare digital banking providers to find the right one for you.

Survey Methodology – Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1

The results of the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1 were collected through an online Pollfish survey conducted between December 2022 and January 2023. In the survey, 1,846 Canadians from across the country were asked about their current banking services and their intentions and motivations for new banking products. The estimated margin of error for the survey is +/- 3%, 19 out of 20 times.

Survey Methodology – Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 2023

The results of the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 were collected through an online Pollfish survey conducted between April 27 to 29, 2023. In the survey, 1,011 Canadians from across the country were asked about their current banking services and their intentions and motivations for new banking products. The estimated margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.08%, 19 out of 20 times.

Frequently asked questions about digital banking

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