Thinking about earning tangible returns on funds in your savings account? You should take a look at high-interest savings accounts. Savers have not been getting a lot back in returns on their savings accounts for the better part of a decade. This has largely been due to a low-interest rate environment in which the Bank of Canada’s (BoC) benchmark rate has remained at historically low levels together with inflation.
Recent hikes in rates by the BoC have not translated into higher savings rates being offered by the “Big” banks, and you can still find rates as low as a measly 0.05% on what is supposed to be a savings account earning you some income. The downside to the ridiculous rates is that you are earning negative real returns (i.e. losing buying power) after inflation is taken into consideration.
Savings accounts are generally not the place to park your funds if you want to generate significant returns on it and realize some capital growth. However, if you have funds that are meant for short-term projects (such as a vacation, wedding, tuition, or home down payment) which you do not want exposed to the vagaries of the stock market, a high-interest savings account (HISA) can serve as a low-risk option to safeguard your money.
A high-interest savings account can help you earn some interest while keeping pace with inflation. However, in order to outpace inflation today, you should be looking at interest rates that are close to 2% or higher. The top 5 HISA rates in Canada are:
- EQ Bank: 2.30%
- Tangerine: 2.75% (+ $50 cash bonus – see promo code below)
- Alterna Bank: 2.05%
- Wealth One Bank of Canada: 2.00%
- Wealthsimple: 1.70%
High Interest vs. Traditional Savings Accounts
When people hear “high-interest savings accounts” or “HISA,” they often wonder what differences (if any) are between them and a traditional savings account at their bank.
For starters, a HISA pays a higher interest rate than is offered on regular “savings.” For example, compare a 0.05% rate on a savings account at a major bank while 0.90% is offered on a HISA at the same bank.
There may be limits on the frequency at which you can make withdrawals from a HISA. The reasoning behind this is simple – the bank lends some of the deposits they hold to borrowers in order to generate income. The longer your deposit sits in your HISA, the more it earns for the bank. If you are ‘in’ and ‘out’ of your account too frequently, then your money is not earning as much for the bank and they are unable to justify paying you higher rates. That said, the majority of online-only banks which offer great HISA rates do not have limits on the number of withdrawals you can make from your HISA per month.
There may be fees associated with some transactions conducted in a HISA, if you exceed your monthly quota. These may include when you exceed a certain number of withdrawals, money transfers, or when you request a paper statement. The bank may also require you to maintain a minimum balance in order to earn the HISA rate. Again, most online-only banks waive these fees, except for free interac transfers which often have a limit.
Essentially, a high-interest savings account is not designed to conduct day to day transactions.
Top High-Interest Savings Accounts in 2018
Here are the top high-interest savings accounts available in Canada as of today. Before choosing a bank to save with, take a look at their small-print including:
- Are there any restrictions on transactions allowed per month? Any lock-in periods?
- Are any fees charged on withdrawals or transfers?
- Is the offered rate a promotional or introductory rate, or is it an ongoing non-promotional rate?
1. EQ Bank: Savings Plus Account (2.30%)
EQ Bank is the online-only banking arm of Equitable Bank. Their high-interest savings account (HISA) is known as “EQ Bank Savings Plus Account” and currently offers the highest non-promotional savings rate in Canada at 2.30%.
There is no monthly fee, unlimited transactions, free electronic fund transfers, no minimum balance, free mobile cheque deposits, free bill payments, and five free interac transfers per month ($1.50 for each additional interac transfer). Interest rate is calculated daily on your closing balance and paid monthly. The maximum balance you can hold in your account is $100,000.
Visit: EQ Bank to earn your non-promotional rate of 2.30%.
2. Tangerine: Savings Account (2.50% promo rate + cash bonus)
Tangerine is a subsidiary of Scotiabank and was formerly known as ING Direct. Their HISA is referred to as the “Tangerine Savings Account” and currently offers a promotional rate of 2.75% for your first 6 months and 1.10% thereafter.
Their savings account has zero monthly fees or account minimum, no lock-in periods or service charges, and an automatic savings plan. When you enter a promo code (Orange Key) during account sign-up and deposit at least $100, you get a $50 cash bonus. You can use my Orange Key (43979980S1) which means we each get $50 when you open an account.
In addition to the HISA, Tangerine also offers a TFSA and RRSP savings plan which offer similar rates (2.75%/1.10%) and a $50 cash bonus when you enter a Orange Key.
Visit: Tangerine Bank
Orange key: 43979980S1
3. Alterna Bank: HISA (2.05%)
Alterna Bank and Alterna Savings are together known as the Alterna Financial Group. Their HISA is known by the same name and currently offers a non-promotional rate of 2.05%.
There is no minimum balance requirements, unlimited and free bill payments, and 2 free interac transfers per month ($0.95 thereafter). The maximum balance for new customers is $250,000 and they are also available in Quebec.
Visit: Alterna Bank
4. Wealth One Bank of Canada: HISA (2.00%)
WealthOne Bank of Canada is a relatively new bank and a member of CDIC. Their HISA is known by the same name and currently pays 2.00%. They also offer TFSA and RRSP savings accounts.
There are no monthly fees, unlimited transactions, no-minimum balance requirements, and you have access to their automatic savings program (ASP).
Visit: Wealth One Bank of Canada
5. Wealthsimple: Smart Savings (1.70%)
Wealthsimple is better known as a robo-advisor for the management of your investment portfolio. Their HISA is called “Wealthsimple Smart Savings” and offers an interest rate of 1.70%. There are no monthly fees, unlimited free transactions, and no minimum account size.
6. Zag Bank: Savings (1.65%)
Zag Bank is owned by the Western Financial Group. Their HISA is known as “Zag Savings” and currently offers a 1.65% rate. They also offer TFSA and RRSP savings accounts with the same rate.
There is no monthly account fee and most transactions are free. The maximum amount you can deposit with them is $5 million.
Visit: Zag Bank
7. Motive Financial: Savings (1.50%)
Motive Financial is a division of the Canadian Western Bank which is a member of CDIC. Their HISA is known as “Motive Savings” and currently offers 1.50% on account balances up to $5,000,000.
The account comes with unlimited deposits and withdrawals, no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements.
Visit: Motive Financial
8. Oaken Financial: Savings Account (1.50%)
Oaken Financial is Home Trust’s direct banking arm. Their HISA is known as “Oaken Savings Account” and currently offers a rate of 1.50%. They also offer TFSA and RRSP savings account at higher interest rates.
The Oaken savings account has no monthly fees and no minimum balance.
Visit: Oaken Financial
All the online banks above are CDIC insured. There are also credit unions offering equally great savings interest rates. These credit unions are insured by their provincial deposit insurer, such as the Deposit Guarantee Corporation of Manitoba which guarantees 100% of deposits held by Manitoba’s credit unions and caisses populaires. You do not need to reside within Manitoba to take advantage of this benefit.
9. AcceleRate Financial: offers 2.05% on their HISA
10. Achieve Financial: offers 2.00% on their HISA
11. Implicitly Financial: offers a 2.00% HISA
12. Outlook Financial: offers a 2.00% HISA
Advantages of a High-Interest Savings Account
1. Higher Returns: As already mentioned, you will earn better returns with a HISA than with a traditional savings account.
2. Safe and Guaranteed: Your money is generally safe in a HISA. If the financial institution is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), then your funds are insured up to $100,000 per customer per if the bank should go bankrupt. Deposits at credit unions are insured provincially and usually cover the customer’s full deposit, even those exceeding $100,000.
3. Flexible: Compared to a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) which may lock-in your funds from 6 months to 5 years or even longer, most HISA’s are readily accessible and penalty-free if you need your money. As such, a HISA can be a good option for holding emergency funds.
4. Bonuses: Some banks will offer you cash bonuses when you sign up. They may also offer promotional rates that come up now and then.
Disadvantage of a High-Interest Savings Account
A savings account will not double your money overnight, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They are less risky than many other investment assets and your expected return is supposed to reflect your assumed investment risk.
The main downside to savings accounts and other fixed-income assets in general is taxes. The tax on interest income is at your marginal tax rate which can result in a significant chunk of your earnings going to the tax man if you are in a high-tax bracket. Interest income is taxed less favourably compared to dividends or capital gains.
To avoid paying taxes on your HISA returns, an option is to utilize a TFSA Savings Account.
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