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How to choose a bank account that’s right for you

Knowing what to look for will help you find an account that fits.

Bank accounts come with a lot of jargon. Learning to sort through and compare them can keep you from getting stuck with an account that doesn’t meet your needs.

Is there more than one type of bank account?

In Canada, there are generally 2 main types of bank accounts: chequing accounts and savings accounts.

Chequing account icon representing everyday spending

Chequing accounts

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Savings accounts

Chequing accounts

A chequing account is available for frequent and immediate access and is most commonly used as an everyday transaction account. If you want to purchase something, you would typically use this type of account. Chequing accounts commonly come with:

  • A linked debit card. Usually either Visa debit or Mastercard debit card.
  • ATM access. Though some accounts will charge a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM.
  • Internet banking. This feature allows you to go online to access your account details and make transactions.
  • Branch access. This feature allows you to process transactions in a bank branch.
  • Cheque book. This feature allows you to make purchases with cheques. Subsequent cheque books usually have to be purchased for a fee. Cheques can also be voided (cancelled) and given to employers or companies to set up automatic withdrawals from your chequing account.

Chequing accounts with special benefits

There are several special benefits attached to some chequing accounts such as:

  • Earn points: With Scotiabank, you can enroll into the Scene+ points program, which can allow you to earn points that are redeemable for a movie at any Scotiabank theatre across Canada.
  • Get travel rewards miles: You’ll be awarded 1 AIR MILES point for every $30 spent using the BMO Debit Card on your everyday purchases

    when you have a BMO AIR MILES Chequing Account. This plan also includes unlimited monthly transactions using BMO’s services, unlimited Interac e-transfers and point-of-sale transactions on the worldwide Maestro and Mastercard network. You can You’ll collect 25 extra Miles every month if you’re also signed up with a BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard..
  • Promotional cash bonus or gift card: This is a form of incentive offered to customers where they receive a cash bonus, gas card or some other free gift after opening an account.

The 10 important factors to consider when choosing an everyday chequing account

1. Fees. Are there any monthly fees?

2. ATM access. Does your bank have a large number of ATMs?

3. Branches. If you prefer to bank in person, does your bank have a national network of branches?

4. Special account needs. If you’re a student, look for a bank that offers fee-free student accounts.

5. Eligibility criteria. You’ll typically need to be at least the age of majority in the province or territory in which you reside (either 18 or 19 years old) to open an account independently. Other eligibility requirements may include being a Canadian resident with a Canadian mailing address.

6. Currency conversion fees. Look into how much it’ll cost to use your debit card overseas.

7. Minimum deposits. Check if the account has a minimum opening deposit or if you need to meet a minimum ongoing balance to avoid fees. Learn more about minimum balance and deposit requirements in our guide.

8. Debit card access. Look into what kind of debit card the bank offers and how easy it is to freeze your account and get a replacement if you lose yours.

9. Bonus offers. Some bank accounts offer a cash bonus when you sign up. But don’t get an account just because of a freebie — look into all of the other features first.

10. Earning capabilities. Some chequing accounts earn cashback bonuses or even interest.

It’s okay if you don’t find the right bank account right away. It may take some time to sort through all the features offered by different banks, but it’s worth it to find an account that suits you.

How do I open a chequing account?

Most banks will allow you to open an account online. You’ll need to supply your personal information, including your Social Insurance Number (SIN), and government ID such as a passport or a driver’s license.

To get started, visit the website of the bank you’re interested in, navigate to the application page and follow the onscreen prompts. When your application has been processed and approved, you’ll be notified and given the details of your new account so that you can transfer money into it.

What are some chequing account options?

The best chequing account is the one that fits your needs, and every person will have a different best account. Here are a couple of popular chequing accounts in Canada:

Scotiabank Preferred Package

The Scotiabank Preferred Package is a low-fee account that combines some of Scotiabank’s most popular account features with a top-notch selection of preferred rates and rewards.

  • $16.95 fee per month
  • Monthly transactions are unlimited
  • Earn a $300 welcome bonus. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 3.20% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.

Tangerine Chequing Account

The Tangerine Chequing Account offers competitive rates and fees, as well as a massive network of ATMs nationwide.

  • $0 fee per month
  • Monthly transactions are unlimited
  • 0.1% APY

Compare more chequing accounts

1 - 6 of 6
Name Product Interest Rate Account Fee Debit Transactions Interac e-Transfer Transactions
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 July 31, 2022.
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.
OFFER
Scotiabank Preferred Package
0%
$16.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Earn a $300 welcome bonus. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 3.20% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Ultimate Package
0%
$30.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
unlimited
unlimited
Receive a welcome bonus of $300. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 3.25% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan
0%
$0
unlimited
unlimited
Open an account and earn $75. Terms apply. Apply by July 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.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Savings accounts

These accounts earn interest to help you save. Most also put restrictions on your withdrawals, which can give you motivation to save — but the fees can also eat into your savings if you make too many withdrawals.

To find the account that fits your needs, compare accounts based on:

  • Interest rate. Even a small difference in interest rate can start to add up over time.
  • Minimum and maximum account balances. Not every account will be the right fit for the nest egg you’re tucking away.
  • Ongoing fees. Check what fees you’ll need to pay, and if fees can be waived by meeting certain account requirements.
  • Account requirements. Some savings accounts will require a linked chequing account. Credit union accounts can require you to work at a specific place, live in a specific area or meet other membership requirements.

What are some savings account options?

The best savings account is the one that fits your needs, and every person will have a different best account. Some popular savings accounts include:

Tangerine Savings Account

This interest-earning account charges little or no fees and offers a competitive interest rate. New clients can earn up to 2.75% interest on their balance for the first 5 months, plus get a $400 cash bonus. Offer valid until August 18, 2022.

  • $0 monthly fee
  • 0.1% APY
  • Eligible for CDIC coverage up to $100,000

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

Get a $150 signup bonus when you open an account and switch your eligible recurring payroll direct deposit to EQ. Apply by June 29, 2022. Plus, enjoy zero everyday banking fees, free transactions and no minimum balance.
  • $0 monthly fee
  • 1.65% APY
  • $0 insufficient funds fee
  • Eligible for CDIC coverage up to $100,000

Compare more savings accounts

1 - 4 of 4
Name Product Interest Rate Promotional Interest Rate Min. Bal / Min. Deposit Account Fee
Simplii High Interest Savings Account
0.10%
3.00%
$0 / $0
$0
Earn 3.00% 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
1.80%
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
1.65%
N/A
$0 / $0
$0
Get a $150 signup bonus when you open an account and switch your eligible recurring payroll direct deposit to EQ. Apply by June 29, 2022. Plus, enjoy zero everyday banking fees, free transactions and no minimum balance.
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Compare up to 4 providers

What are the downsides of savings accounts?

These accounts can help you save, but there are disadvantages too.

  • Variable interest rates. If your account has a variable interest rate, your APY could drop in the future — but it could also rise. Interest rates on variable accounts are influence by the economy and the prime rate set by the Bank of Canada.
  • Withdrawal limitations. If you make more than amount of withdrawals your account allows you to make per month, you could be charged fees amounting to as much as several dollars per transaction.
  • Watch out for introductory rates. Some accounts offer a higher interest rate for an introductory period. If you sign up for one of these accounts, check what your long-term interest rate will be.

Compare different types of bank accounts

What other types of savings accounts exist?

Online savings accounts are popular because they’re convenient. You can make your deposits from the comfort of your living room. These accounts typically offer competitive interest rates due to the lower overheads associated with online-based institutions.

Encouraging children to start saving early can greatly benefit their financial habits in the future. Many banks offer savings accounts specifically for children. Most require a parent or guardian to open the account on behalf of the child or as a joint account holder.

These can include Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) or any other account with the main purpose of saving for retirement.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a new place to bank, it’s worth taking the time to compare savings accounts or chequing accounts to find one that’s the perfect fit. To avoid any nasty surprises, read all the fine print before signing up for a new account.

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