The monthly chequing fees charged by the Big Banks are largely avoidable and is why I am discussing the best free chequing accounts available to Canadians this year. Similar to investing fees (think mutual funds), Canadians pay some of the highest bank fees in the world. As per CBC News, Canadians pay more than $200 in annual bank fees.
Canadians do have free options when it comes to where they open their personal bank accounts – be it chequing or savings. While loyalty may be a good virtue, you definitely do not need to stay ‘married’ to your traditional bank, shelling out monthly bank fees month after month if there are no obvious and incremental benefits.
What is a Chequing Account?
A chequing account is a bank account designed for conducting everyday transactions, including bill payments, pre-authorized debits, electronic fund transfers, wire transfers, and making deposits.
Your chequing account provides access to a debit card and cheques which makes it easy to access your money on demand. Chequing accounts are also known as transactional or demand accounts. In the U.S., the account is spelled as “checking.”
There are various types of chequing accounts, including student, senior, youth, business, joint, premium, basic, and US dollar accounts.
What to look for in a free Chequing Account
The best no-fee bank account for you will depend on what your needs are. In general, you will want to ensure access to an account with:
- Zero monthly fees
- Unlimited free transactions including debits, POS payments, pre-authorized bill payments, transfers, and more
- No minimum balance
- Easy access to free ATMs (national and international)
- Excellent customer support
- Versatile mobile app with the ability to make mobile cheque deposits and a user-friendly website for online banking
- Easy and free money transfers
- CDIC insurance – up to $100,000 per category of deposit
- Free electronic statement
- Bonus: Interest earnings on your account balance. Yes, you can earn interest on your chequing account!
- Bonus: Free cheque books
If you noticed, I did not mention access to in-person banking because this is either unavailable or limited when you are seeking a no-fee bank account.
Free chequing accounts are made possible when banks save on the operational costs it takes to maintain brick-and-mortar branches by functioning as online-only or keeping only a few branches.
The Best No-Fee Bank Accounts in Canada
These are some of the best no-fee banking available in Canada today.
1. Tangerine No-Fee Chequing Account
Tangerine (formerly known as ING Direct) is an online-only bank owned by Scotiabank. They offer a free chequing account and a high-interest savings account (offers a 2.50% promotional rate for 5 months).
Tangerine’s free chequing account offers:
- Zero monthly fees and unlimited transactions
- Access to 3,500 Scotiabank ATMs within Canada and 44,000 worldwide
- 24/7 phone support
- A versatile app that supports instant cheque deposits
- Interest payments of up to 0.15% on your account balance
- Free unlimited email money transfers
- Your first chequebook is free (50 cheques)
- Free unlimited Interac e-Transfers
One fee to note is their $10/year inactive account fee. An account is considered ‘inactive’ if you do not make a single transaction for 12 months.
Promotion: Tangerine is offering a $200 cash bonus when you open a free chequing account. And, this is how it works:
- Open an account using this link and deposit at least $250 in your account
- Switch your payroll direct deposit to your Tangerine Account, OR
- Switch 2 pre-authorized payments of at least $50 each to your new account
Your $200 bonus is paid after 3 months of payments/deposits.
2. Wealthsimple No-Fee Cash Account
Wealthsimple’s new cash account is the perfect combination of a savings and chequing account. This innovative account provides all the best features you have ever wanted to have in both accounts.
Even better, it has no monthly fees. Note that some of the features below are still being rolled out over the next few months.
Features of Wealthsimple Cash include:
- No monthly account fee
- 0.90% interest rate on every dollar
- Unlimited withdrawals, e-Transfers and bill payments
- Free ATM withdrawals – coming soon
- No foreign exchange transaction fees (2.5% savings) – coming soon
- A premium tungsten metal debit card – coming soon
- No minimum account balance
- CIPF protection
This account is great for both spending (chequing) and savings and the interest rate is one of the best you will find in Canada. Read my complete Wealthsimple Cash review.
In addition to their savings and chequing accounts, Wealthsimple also offers an online investment service that’s worth checking out. You get a $50 cash bonus when you open an account with at least $500.
Open a Wealthsimple Cash account ($50 Bonus)
3. Motusbank No Fee Chequing Account
motusbank is Canada’s newest online-only bank. They are owned by the popular Meridian Credit Union and offer a no-fee chequing account, high-interest savings, mortgages, personal loans, investments, and more.
Features of motusbank’s free chequing account are:
- $0 monthly account fees
- Up to 0.25% interest payments on your account balance
- Free and unlimited Interac e-Transfers
- Unlimited free transactions, including debit purchases, withdrawals, and bill payments
- First cheque book is free (25 cheques)
- Mobile app with easy mobile cheque deposits
- Free access to more than 3,700 ATMs across Canada
A fee to note is their $30 inactive account fee if you don’t use your account in 12 months.
Read my complete motusbank review here.
4. Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account
Simplii Financial (formerly known as PC Financial) is owned by CIBC. They offer a no-fee chequing account, high-interest savings, mortgages, and more.
Features of their free chequing account include:
- No monthly fees and no minimum balance
- Free unlimited transactions including debit purchases and pre-authorized bill payments
- Free Interac e-Transfers
- Free access to 3,400+ CIBC ATMs across Canada
- Interest payments of up to 0.15% on your account balance
- Versatile app and user-friendly website
- Free cheque books
A fee to note is the $20/year inactive account fee if you do not conduct any transactions for 2 years or more.
Promotion: Simplii Financial is currently offering a $200 cash bonus when you open a free chequing account by October 31, 2020.
You receive an initial $150 when you set up direct payroll deposits and receive at least $100 in payroll or pension payments for 3 straight months. You can qualify for the remaining $50 bonus by:
- Opening a savings account, and
- Transferring at least $50 a month from your chequing to savings account for 3 months
5. Motive Financial
Motive Financial (formerly known as Canadian Direct Financial) is a division of the Canadian Western Bank. They offer two free chequing accounts (Motive Chequing and Motive Cha-Ching Chequing), savings accounts, investments, and more.
Motive Chequing account offers:
- Zero fees and unlimited transactions
- Free access to the second largest ATM network in Canada
- Up to 0.25% interest is paid on your account balance
- Mobile app
- First cheque book (of 50 cheques) is free
Fees to note include a $1 fee per Interac e-Transfer and a $20 inactive account charge that kicks in after 2 years of no transactions.
6. Manulife Advantage Account
This one-of-a-kind account combines the features of a chequing and savings account, and offers:
- Free unlimited transactions (including Interac e-Transfers) with a minimum $1,000 account balance
- High-interest rates on your account balance
- Free access to over 3,000 ATMs across Canada
- A mobile app that supports cheque deposits, e-Transfers, and more
- 24/7 customer support
Note that an inactivity fee of $20 may apply after 2 years of no transactions.
Bonus: Free Credit Union Chequing Accounts
There are several credit unions that offer a great chequing account package for free. Your deposits with them are also protected by provincial deposit insurance.
First Calgary Financial
Based in Alberta, they offer a no-fee chequing account that requires no minimum balance, offers unlimited transactions, and pays you an interest rate of between 0.025% and 0.05%.
Cornerstone Credit Union
This credit union is based in Saskatchewan. Their no-fee chequing account offers unlimited transactions, unlimited Interac e-Transfers, a no-minimum balance requirement, and free access to thousands of ATMs across Canada.
Cambrian Credit Union
They are based in Manitoba and offer a free chequing account when you set up at least one recurring direct deposit (e.g. payroll) to your account.
How to get a free Chequing Account with the Big Banks
My top picks for the best no-fee bank accounts in Canada do not include any of the biggest banks – popularly referred to as the “Big Five.” This is no surprise. With monthly fees ranging from around $5 to $35, these banks make a lot of money for their shareholders, as they should.
That being said, there are some ways to operate a free or ‘cheaper’ chequing account with the big banks if you would rather not close your account with them. These include by:
- Maintaining a minimum balance in your account – anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000. This can be tricky because if you dip below this balance at any point during the month, the fee becomes applicable. Also, note that your account balance is not earning interest while your money is just sitting there.
- Opening multiple accounts e.g. when you have credit cards, mortgage, investments, and more with the same bank. I do not like this option either because if your bank does not offer you the best mortgage rate for instance, why would you obtain your mortgage from them?
If moving all your bank accounts to an online-only bank feels challenging to you, these two options above may help you avoid or pay much lower monthly fees.
Chequing Account FAQ
What banks offer free chequing accounts?
The popular online banks in Canada offer free chequing accounts with unlimited transactions. While most chequing accounts offered by the big banks have a monthly fee, you may be able to waive the fee by maintaining a minimum daily closing balance. An example of this is the Scotiabank Preferred Package Chequing Account.
What is the best free bank account?
Our top choice for free bank accounts in Canada is Tangerine. That being said, your best option would depend on your banking needs.
For example, do you send a lot of Interac e-Transfers? Many online banks offer them for free in Canada. Or, do you need to walk into a bank branch in order to deposit cash or get a draft? In this case, your best option is to choose a traditional brick-and-mortar bank.
Do Chequing Accounts Pay Interest?
Chequing accounts are designed to manage your day-to-day cash flows and rarely pay interest on your balance. Accounts with online banks and some credit unions earn interest. if you want to earn a reasonable interest rate on your money, you should consider using a high interest savings account.
There are many options to choose from if you are looking to stop paying monthly bank fees.
Online-only banks have a few downsides and may not be attractive to individuals who prefer face-to-face transactions, or who conduct a lot of atypical or business transactions, such as bank drafts or international bank transfers.
However, for most people, these are not going to be daily banking needs.
If you are anything like the average Canadian, a no-fee bank account means you could save $200+ every year!
This is good money you could put towards other endeavours. My top pick for the best no-fee bank account is the Tangerine No-Fee Chequing Account!
KOHO: The KOHO prepaid Visa card and app will help you save on your banking fees, while also rewarding you every time you spend with a 0.50% cash back.
Open a KOHO account here and enter the promo code CASHBACK to get a bonus 1% cash back on all your purchases for 90 days.
Mylo: The Mylo app automatically saves your spare change, effortlessly helping you to build wealth without changing your lifestyle.
Sign up here for a Mylo account and get a $5 welcome bonus!