Best Banks in Canada in 2018
Along with the well-known, established ‘Big Five’ Canadian banks—Scotiabank, TD, BMO, RBC and CIBC—there are also newer, online-only banks that offer competitive options for credit cards, chequing accounts, and savings accounts. Today you can find many banks which specialize in rewards credit cards like cash back, grocery rewards, and travel rewards, along with low-interest and no-fee cards which are ideal for anyone who wants to cut down on their monthly credit card debt.
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While it’s standard to pay a monthly fee for chequing accounts, many banks offer to waive the fee if you keep a certain minimum monthly balance. Some new banks even have completely no-fee accounts and a few will pay interest on your chequing account balance. In contrast, it’s rare to find a savings account with a monthly fee, even among those that provide high levels of interest. Some savings accounts do, however, charge fees for actions like transfers, so it’s worth comparing fees as well as interest rates when shopping around.
It can be tough to choose between the many accounts and cards in the Canadian market, so we’ve helped you out by highlighting the best banks and financial products offered in Canada today.
Scotiabank is Canada’s third-largest bank, but one of the leaders when it comes to innovative financial offerings. At Scotiabank, every chequing account comes with a choice of rewards debit cards, including a cashback debit card. Scotiabank has 4 chequing accounts and 3 no-monthly-fee savings plans. Seniors get special discounted rates on accounts, and there are also a student chequing and a youth savings account. Scotiabank’s fleet of credit cards covers nearly the whole credit card gamut, including Visa and American Express, rewards, cash back, lifestyle, and low-interest and no-fee cards.
The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Combining a worthwhile instant bonus and point accrual rate, this double-edged card is a strong addition to any wallet. Its strengths are in its everyday use: even before customers spend $1,000 in the first three months and receive 15,000 points (only applies to accounts opened by June 30th, 2018), points accrue at a rate of 4 per $1 spent on gas, groceries, dining, and entertainment. You can redeem your points for travel rewards or a statement credit, convert them to SCENE points for free movie tickets, or buy merchandise from Scotia partners. The Scotiabank Gold American Express also brings valuable travel insurance, concierge services, and special offers.
- Annual fee: $99
- Earn 4 points for every $1 on gas, groceries, dining, or entertainment transactions
- 15,000-point welcome bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months of card membership
The ScotiaOne Chequing Account
ScotiaOne chequing account is still the only major Canadian chequing account that accrues travel rewards on debit card purchases. Even without the sweetener of free travel rewards points and the 10,000-point welcome bonus, the ScotiaOne account is a good choice for account holders who need unlimited ATM transactions, given they maintain a minimum daily balance. The monthly fee of $13.95 is competitive for an unlimited transaction account, and it can definitely be covered by the potential travel rewards using the Passport debit card.
- Monthly fee: $13.95, given a daily $4,000 balance
- Earn free travel rewards and a 10,000-point bonus with the Scotiabank Passport debit card
- Unlimited ATM transactions, 1 free teller-assisted transaction, 2 free Interac e-transfers, and 2 free non-Scotiabank ABM transactions per month
Tangerine is an online-only bank fielding a full set of financial services, including 5 savings accounts, one chequing account, and one credit card. Although there’s no branch service, you can get banking services through an online portal, mobile app, 24/7 phone support, or thousands of Scotiabank ABMs. Tangerine stands out for its no-fee chequing account and credit card, and the low or no-fee savings accounts include retirement savings plans, tax-free savings, and regular savings accounts.
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
With no annual fee, flexible cash back rewards categories, and no caps on cash back rewards accrual, the Tangerine Money-Back card is one of the hardest working daily credit cards you could have in your wallet. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all purchases made in 2 categories of your choice, plus a 3rd category when you choose to have your cash back deposited into a Tangerine savings account. Cash back categories include groceries, gas, and bill payments, and the regular cash back rate (on all purchases) is 0.5%.
- No annual fee
- 2% cash back on purchases in 2-3 chosen categories; 0.5% cash back everywhere else
- No annual caps or limits on your cash back earning
The Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account
If you don’t mind giving up on in-person branch access, the Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing account is the most flexible and lowest cost chequing account we found. For $0 per month, you’ll get unlimited free ABM transactions at all Scotiabank ABMs and unlimited free bill payments and Interac transfers. It’s also a rare chequing account that pays interest on your balance from the first dollar, beginning at 0.15%, and you can access your account online, over the phone, or at a Scotiabank ABM.
- No monthly fee
- Unlimited ABM transactions, Interac e-transfers, and bill payments
- Earn tiered interest on every dollar, beginning at 0.15% for balances up to $49,999.99
BMO Bank of Montreal
BMO (Bank of Montreal) is one of the best banks for getting Air Miles. Among its 8 credit cards, you’ll find 3 that earn Air Miles, as well as cards that offer cash back, low interest, and BMO Rewards. You can also earn Air Miles with 2 of BMO’s 5 chequing account options (although not with its savings accounts). BMO makes it worthwhile to get more than one of its products, offering bundles with rebates on premium credit cards and extra unlimited chequing account transactions.
The BMO Air Miles Mastercard
We love the BMO Air Miles Mastercard as the best way to earn Air Miles fast. You’ll get a standard rate of 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend anywhere, plus an accelerated 2 Miles per $20 spent at Air Miles partners. The bonus of 500 Air Miles applies as soon as you make your first purchase, with flights redeemable for as little as 1,200 Air Miles. There’s also a low introductory 1.99% interest rate on balance transfers during your first 9 months of card membership.
- No annual fee
- 1 Air Mile for every $20 spent
- Welcome bonus of 500 Air Miles
The BMO Premium Plan
For luxury perks like free personalized cheques and bank drafts, the BMO Premium Plan is the best high-end chequing account around. The annual fee of $30 can be waived as long as your monthly balance stays above $6,000, and in exchange, you get unlimited transactions and Interac transfers, 5 international debit transactions, and 10 non-BMO ATM transactions each month. Earning 1 Air Mile for every $40 you spend is just the icing on the cake.
- Annual fee: $30, waived for balances over $6,000
- Unlimited transactions and Interac transfers
- Free personalized cheques and bank drafts
RBC Royal Bank
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is Canada’s largest financial institution and it shows in its wide range of products. RBC has 3 no-fee savings accounts, plus a no-fee US dollar savings account. You can pick from one of 4 chequing accounts according to your banking needs and from dozens of credit cards across 6 card categories. RBC products work best together since you’ll get a discount on fees if you already have 2 or more eligible RBC products.
The RBC Cash Back Mastercard with No Annual Fee
For a no-fee cashback card, the RBC Cashback Mastercard is one of the leaders in the field, with an unusual cash back structure that makes it stand out. You can earn 2% cash back on all eligible grocery purchases up to $6,000 in spend per year and 1% after that. All other purchases earn 0.5% cash back up to $6,000 in spend per year; then you’ll get 1% cash back on transactions over that amount. There’s also a 3 cents per liter saving on fuel when you link the card to your Petro-Canada membership.
- $0 annual fee
- Earn 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases up to $6,000 spent annually
- Earn 0.5% cashback on all other transactions up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1% cash back over that amount
The No-Limit Banking Account
If you’re looking for a low-cost unlimited chequing account without a minimum balance, the RBC No-Limit Banking account is ideal. The fee is only $10.95 per month, and if you have another 2 RBC products, you’ll pay $5.95 monthly. As the name suggests, you’ll get truly unlimited transactions in-person, at an ATM or through Interac e-transfers, as well as personalized cheques and a discount on fuel when you link your Petro-Canada card.
- Monthly fee: $5.95-$10.95
- Unlimited in-person, Interac or ABM transactions
- Save 3 cents per liter on fuel when you link your Petro-Canada card
Established in just 2013, Rogers Bank has already earned a positive reputation among Canadians. It currently focuses only on credit cards, and offers only 2 of those, but Rogers stands out for its strong cash back offering for travellers and anyone who frequently makes purchases in a foreign currency.
The Rogers Platinum Mastercard
Travellers love the Rogers Platinum Mastercard because it fills a very important need—cash back on purchases in foreign currencies, or in other words, a solution to foreign transaction fees. You’ll earn 3% cash back on all purchases over $20 in other currencies, with no caps or limits, and 1.25% cash back on purchases in CAD. The $25 welcome bonus applies when you make your first purchase within 3 months, and the card has no annual fee.
- 3% cash back on all eligible purchases in a foreign currency
- 25% cash back on all eligible purchases in Canadian dollars
- No annual fee
TD Canada Trust Bank
Cash back and travel rewards feature heavily among TD’s credit card selection, and the chequing accounts include basic, unlimited, and premium options. The 3 savings accounts are all monthly-fee free, and there are student, youth, senior, and US dollar options for both chequing and savings accounts.
The TD ePremium Savings Account
For a higher rate of interest combined with free online transfers, we like the TD ePremium savings account. It’s managed online with no fee, and interest rates are 0.9% for balances over $10,000. It’s also part of TD’s Automated Savings plan, which lets you set an automatic transfer every day, week, or month from your chequing account to your savings account. The TD ePremium is a great way to make saving painless and easy.
- No monthly fee
- Interest rates of 0.9% on balances over $10,000
- Interest calculated daily
National Bank of Canada
The National Bank of Canada is headquartered in Montreal and serves millions of Canadians. Its focus is on socially responsible banking practices, and it has a range of products aimed at new arrivals to Canada. You can choose from 4 savings accounts, including a US dollar account, 4 chequing accounts from basic to premium, and a range of credit cards that include cashback, travel rewards, no fee, and low-interest cards.
The National Bank World Elite Mastercard
You can travel more often and with more confidence when you get the National Bank World Elite Mastercard. Every dollar you spend earns up to 2.5 travel points, with a tiered earning rate depending on your total spend in the year. You’ll even earn 0.5 points per dollar spent in a foreign currency, so you can keep earning rewards while you travel. Your travel fees are refunded, up to $250 per year, and the best part is that you’ll also get excellent comprehensive travel insurance to keep you safe and secure on your trips.
- Annual fee: $150
- Earn up to 2.5 points per dollar spent
- Get a refund on your travel fees of up to $250 per year
The Strategist Savings Account
If you’re serious about your savings, we recommend the Strategist account. The interest rates are among the highest available for large balances, with a top rate of 0.25% for balances over $100,000 and 0.10% for balances over $5,000. Transfers between National accounts and bill payments are free as long as your balance remains at $25,000 or more. It’s probably the highest interest rate you’ll find for an easy access savings account, and it’s not just an introductory special offer.
- No annual fee
- High-interest rate of 0.25% on balances over $100,000
- Basic interest rate of 0.02% on balances up to $4,999.99 and 0.1% from $5,000
President’s Choice Financial (PC Financial) is the banking arm of the massive President’s Choice corporation. President’s Choice is best known for its grocery stores such as Loblaws, but customers also appreciate PC Financial’s two credit cards. The rewards are heavily weighted towards President’s Choice chains, so if you shop in any connected store on a regular basis, you’ll be able to earn big rewards and save big time. PC Financial used to offer bank accounts as well, but now banking customers are directed elsewhere.
The PC Financial World Elite Mastercard
The sheer amount of rewards accrued for using the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard puts it leagues ahead of the competition, specifically on some of the biggest monthly bills of any household. Customers who shop at eligible grocery stores such as Loblaw or Shopper’s Mart get 3% of their purchases back as rewards points, which can be used to pay for groceries right at the checkout counter. Cardholders also receive a 3% earn rate on eligible travel purchases and PC Mobile monthly bills, 3 cents back per litre at eligible Esso gas stations, and 1% back on everything else. Free travel medical and car rental insurance seals the deal—especially considering that there is no annual fee!
- Earn up to 3% reward points on eligible grocery purchases
- Redeem points to pay for your grocery bill at the counter
- Annual fee: $0
Canadian Banks by Province/Territory
Canada has many different conditions in different provinces, so it’s not surprising that each region has different banks that are the most popular. Although it’s difficult to say which is the best bank for everyone, we used the following criteria in assessing the best bank for each province:
- How popular the bank is
- How many branches the bank has in that province
- What products are available from each bank
See what we chose as the best bank for your province or territory.
Best Bank in Ontario: TD Canada Trust
Residents of Ontario can choose from any one of the Big 5 as well as many online-only and smaller banks and credit unions, but according to our criteria, the best bank is TD Canada Trust. With over 600 branches in the province, it has the largest network in Ontario, and its range of credit cards, savings accounts, and chequing accounts is very broad. Ontario residents who cross the border into the US regularly might particularly appreciate the low-cost and easy-access US dollar accounts it offers.
Best Bank in Quebec: National Bank of Canada
National Bank of Canada (NBC) edges ahead as the largest bank in the province. It’s headquartered in Montreal and offers Quebecers many chequing and savings accounts and a variety of credit cards. NBC is very popular in Quebec, especially among customers looking for socially responsible banking and new immigrants to the country.
Best Bank in British Columbia: HSBC
With 20 branches across the province and a strong offering of bank accounts and credit cards, HSBC is the best bank in British Columbia. Headquartered in Vancouver, HSBC Canada offers 4 chequing accounts, 2 savings accounts, and a variety of credit cards to Canadians and British Columbia residents. Customer feedback about HSBC branches in BC is varied, but banking is available online, over the phone, and via smartphones and tablets as well as at HSBC branches and dozens of ATMs in British Columbia.
Best Bank in Alberta: RBC
In terms of branches, RBC and CIBC are neck and neck in Alberta. However, RBC’s language support for indigenous communities in Alberta and the huge number of credit cards that it offers help it to edge slightly ahead of CIBC to be the best bank in Alberta. Customers can add plenty of chequing and savings account options to the range provided by RBC and access their accounts online, through mobile phones and tablets and over the phone, too.
Best Bank in Manitoba: RBC
With 39 branches and even more ATMs across Manitoba, including over a dozen outside of Winnipeg, RBC is narrowly ahead of CIBC as the best bank in the province. RBC’s wide range of chequing accounts, from basic to premium, 3 no-fee savings accounts, and a US dollar account means that Manitoba residents have plenty of choice of financial products. RBC branches are generally well reviewed by Manitobans, and RBC also provides customers with online, telephone, and mobile banking.
Best Bank in Saskatchewan: CIBC
CIBC’s larg network of banks and ATMs in Saskatchewan, combined with its very rich offering of chequing and savings accounts and broad range of credit cards, makes CIBC the best bank for Saskatchewan. The choice of financial products helps CIBC to easily outstrip Credit Union Central of Saskatchewan, which is its nearest rival in terms of branches but doesn’t have anywhere near as many products available.
Best Bank in Nova Scotia: Scotiabank
It’s not too surprising that Scotiabank rules in Nova Scotia, with 20 branches—its nearest rival, RBC, only has 2 branches. As Canada’s third-largest bank, Scotiabank is a very popular banking institution across the country, thanks to its broad range of credit cards, chequing accounts, and savings accounts that include special offerings for youth, students, and seniors. Nova Scotia residents who bank with Scotiabank can bank online, via mobile or tablet, in-branch, at one of the many ABMs, or over the phone, which adds up to a lot of ways to access your accounts.
Best Bank in New Brunswick: TD Canada Trust
New Brunswick’s best bank is the TD Canada Trust, which provides residents with 15 branches and a further 2 standalone ATMs for round-the-clock banking. TD Canada Trust offers plenty of chequing accounts from basic to premium, savings accounts with a range of interest rates and student, youth, and senior banking options. There’s also two US dollar account options and many cashback and rewards credit cards for New Brunswick residents to choose from.
Best Bank in Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union (NLCU)
The local Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union (NLCU) is the most popular bank in Newfoundland and Labrador. It boasts 6 branches and 12 ATMs throughout the region and offers a full spread of financial products. Chequing accounts range from basic to premium, including a US dollar account, and there are 5 savings plans. There are special options for youth, students, and seniors across all banking products. NLCU also has plenty of credit cards including student cards, making it the top choice for Newfoundland and Labrador residents.
Best Bank in Prince Edward Island: CIBC
While Prince Edward Island is home to branches from all of the big five of Canadian banks, CIBC outflanks them all with 8 branches or ATMs in the province. Customers can carry out basic banking tasks at the ATMs, online, or over the phone, or enter one of the 7 full branches for more extensive in-person service. Added to this, CIBC customers in Prince Edward Island can access all of the savings accounts, chequing accounts, and credit card options provided by CIBC.
Best Bank in the Northwest Territories: CIBC
CIBC stands out among all other banking options in the Northwest Territories, thanks to the 5 banks with ATMs across the Territories. Although like all banks in the province, the branch hours are limited, the presence of so many ATMs means that customers can carry out basic banking tasks even when the branch is closed. CIBC adds to its appeal with the wide range of financial products it offers, and the branches have been awarded many 5-star customer reviews.
Best Bank in Nunavut: RBC
Only RBC and First Nations Bank have three branches across Nunavut, but RBC narrowly edges ahead thanks to its wider range of credit cards. RBC’s branches are spaced widely across the province with one in Cambridge Bay, one in Rankin Bay, and one in Iqaluit. You can access all of RBC’s financial products including chequing accounts, savings accounts, and all of the RBC credit cards online, in branch, or over the phone. RBC also stands out for offering customer support and day-to-day telephone banking in Cree and Inuktitut along with dozens of other languages, adding to its popularity with Nunavut’s residents.
Best Bank in the Yukon: CIBC
CIBC has the most branches in the Yukon, with 3 spread across the territory. Although TD Bank has more ATMs, it only has one proper branch, making it awkward for anyone who wants in-person banking and doesn’t live close to Whitehorse. CIBC offers a full spread of banking products to Yukon residents with all of its savings accounts, chequing accounts, and many credit cards available. You can bank over the phone, online, through the mobile app, or at one of the branches or ABMs, making it a reliable choice for the Yukon.
Choose the Best Bank in Canada for Your Banking Needs
While we can’t tell you where to bank, we have given you the information you need about the best banks in each province and territory in Canada, and a balanced review of the main banks in the country. Now, you can choose the best chequing account, savings account, and credit card provider for your needs.