Best Banks in Canada in 2023
The digital age (or information age) has ushered in banking options galore in Canada. Your choices have expanded well beyond the around-the-corner bank branch you grew up with into a slew of traditional banks, credit unions, and direct banks. Some banks offer the full menu of financial services; others excel in one or two essential products or orient their business toward specific types of consumers.
We’ve combed through all the options to determine which banks shine in what categories. This will allow you to decide if you’d like to bundle your accounts under one roof, mix and match products and services from one bank to the next, or try some combination of both.
In This Article:
Best Canadian Banks
|Bank||Scotiabank||BMO||EQ Bank||HSBC||Tangerine||Oaken Financial|
|Best For||Multi-Product Savings||Special Discounts||High-Interest Savings||Local & Global Banking Exclusive Offers||Online Banking||High-Interest GICs and TFSAs|
|Min. Balance to Waive Fees||$5,000||$4,000||N/A||$5,000||N/A||N/A|
|Regular Savings Interest Rates||1.60%||See BMO||2.50%*||See HSBC||See Tangerine||3.40%|
|Discounts Available||Seniors; students; youth; new immigrants||Seniors; students; youth; new immigrants; Canadian Defence Community members||N/A||Seniors; students; youth; new immigrants; Registered Disability Savings Plan beneficiaries||N/A||N/A|
|*Terms and Conditions Apply / Conditions and eligibility criteria apply.|
Scotiabank – Best for Multi-Product Savings
Scotiabank is Canada’s third-largest bank and combines the accessibility and range of products typical of one of the Big Five with the savings and innovation associated with a leaner digital bank. Not all of Scotia’s products are competitive individually. But when bundled together, they can save you (literally) hundreds of dollars. Scotia stands out from the pack because it reduces or waives fees and gives account holders extra value-added benefits when you get a holistic banking package containing a Scotiabank Chequing account, a Scotiabank Savings account, and credit card.
Scotiabank’s standout multi-product deal is its Ultimate Package. It consists of unlimited, no-fee debit transactions2; a debit card that earns Scene+TM points; a welcome bonus of $350*; up to 4.60% earned interest on a MomentumPLUS Savings Account for 5 months1; an annual fee waiver for a Scotia credit card of the accountholder’s choice on select cards2; and more. The bundle typically costs $30.95 per month. However, the fee is waived for those that maintain a minimum daily closing balance of $5,000 in their chequing account or a combined $30,000 in your Ultimate Package and MomentumPLUS Savings account.
Those that aren’t interested in bundling can instead choose a la carte from Scotiabank’s full spectrum of products and services, which, in addition to the core banking services mentioned above, also includes mortgages, loans, and lines of credit. That said, if you already have one or more of your banking needs covered elsewhere and you’re looking to fill the gaps, you might be underwhelmed by some of Scotiabank’s stand-alone products. For instance, its savings interest rates tend to be low compared to the high rates offered by branchless/direct banks. For that reason, we generally recommend Scotiabank to those who like the convenience of keeping all or most of their financial accounts in one place. It’s also for those who regularly keep enough money in their chequing account to take advantage of one of Scotiabank’s enticing bundle offers without paying a monthly fee for it.
* To qualify, certain conditions must be met. Offer ends April 30th, 2022. Visit here for full terms.
1 Conditions apply. Actual interest rate will vary based on the savings period (the Premium Period) that applies. Visit scotiabank.com/mpsa to learn more.
2 Conditions apply. Visit here to learn more.
TM Trademark of Scene IP LP.
®Registered trademarks of The Bank of Nova Scotia
BMO – Best for Special Discounts
The fourth-largest of the Big Five, BMO offers the full spectrum of banking products and services, but it’s perhaps most advantageous to these particular groups:
- Active students and recent graduates of a full-time university
- College or private vocational school
- Permanent residents
- Foreign workers who arrived in Canada within the last five years
- Members and family members of the Canadian Defence Community
- Seniors aged 60 or older
- Children between the ages of 13 to 18
Those who qualify can get:
- Significant discounts or waivers on monthly chequing account fees
- Special rewards, interest rates, and annual fee discounts on BMO credit cards
- Reduced interest rates for lines of credit and mortgages.
Though its credit card suite and bundled chequing accounts are appealing, particularly for the groups mentioned above, BMO’s rates for personal savings accounts, GICs, and registered savings accounts tend to be lower than other full-service banks. They are quite paltry compared to the rates offered by direct banks. Those looking for individual savings products are encouraged to consider options from direct banks, like EQ Bank or Oaken Financial.
EQ Bank – Best for High-Interest Savings
EQ Bank was launched in 2016 as Equitable Bank’s offer to the rapidly growing direct banking movement (also known as branchless banking). Because EQ Bank operates only online, it takes the money it would spend on high overhead costs of physical branches and gives that saved expense back to its customers in the form of higher interest rates and low or no everyday banking fees.
EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account has consistently offered one of the highest interest rates among Canada’s high-interest savings accounts, currently at 2.50%*. It also supports some of the functionality of a chequing account, like free bill payments, electronic funds transfers, and free Interac e-Transfers®. A partnership with TransferWise facilitates sending international money transfers at low, fully transparent rates.
A disadvantage of EQ Bank is that its small size also means it has fewer products and services than a traditional bank, like Scotia or HSBC. EQ Bank does not issue debit cards, physical cheques, or provide direct ABM access. Those interested in handling all their banking needs under one roof or who are not comfortable banking entirely online should seek out one of the larger traditional banks reviewed on this page.
* Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.
HSBC – Best for Local & Global Banking Needs
HSBC Bank Canada has one of the most impressive international reaches among all the major banks in Canada, ranking as the 7th largest bank in the world by total assets according to S&P’s Global Market Intelligence report in 2019. This clearly influences HSBC’s product offering. It provides unique services connecting Canada’s global citizens to overseas markets, seamlessly moving funds for them across borders, and saving them money when they travel.
The HSBC Premier Chequing Account might be the best example of HSBC Canada’s international advantages. HSBC doesn’t charge Premier accountholders fees on global wire transfers to send foreign currency less than $10,000* and among other benefits, allows them to make real-time transfers between HSBC global accounts. Account holders are also paired with a dedicated Relationship Manager, who can leverage HSBC’s network of investment professionals in 26+ countries on new investing opportunities.
One drawback of this account is that appealing as its high-end services may be, they’re not always accessible to the average consumer. You can qualify for the Premier benefits and get the account’s monthly fee waived* only if you meet some fairly ambitious criteria. That includes maintaining $100,000 or more in combined personal deposits and investments with HSBC Bank Canada and its subsidiaries, or $500,000 mortgage, or monthly income deposits of $6,500 with confirmation of $100,000 or more in assets under management, or qualifying for HSBC Premier in another country. Conditions and eligibility criteria apply. You can also qualify for Premier based on the Household Qualification Program.**
Those who don’t qualify for the Premier chequing account might instead open a more accessible account, like HSBC Advance Chequing Account, which has lower barriers for waiving its $25 monthly fee*: You need either $5,000+ in deposits or investments held with HSBC, or an HSBC mortgage with an original amount of $150,000 or more.
Issued by HSBC Bank Canada.
*Terms and conditions apply.
**Refer to hsbc.ca/householdqualification for details.
Tangerine – Best for Online Banking
Originally founded in 1997 as ING Direct, Tangerine was one of the first direct banks in Canada.
A subsidiary of Scotia, it combines the low fees of a branchless bank with some of the advantages of a traditional bank, in that account holders can use Scotiabank ABMs. Although there are technically no branches, there is some face-to-face service via Tangerine’s ‘cafes’ in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary. Customers can use Tangerine Cafes to sign up for accounts and ask associates questions, or they can get account support via phone, online chat, or Twitter.
For a digital bank, Tangerine’s range of services is quite broad, offering chequing, savings, credit cards, GICs, mortgages with guaranteed rates, and dedicated personnel to help, lines of credit (including HELOCs), TFSAs, etc. Its standout bank account is the No-Fee Daily Chequing Account, which comes with unlimited debits, bill payments, and Interac e-Transfers®. There’s no monthly account fee, no matter your balance, and the account earns some interest (rare for chequing accounts), currently maxing out at 0.10%. Its Money-Back Card also deserves a shout-out, as it allows cardholders to choose the spending categories where they want to earn their highest cashback rate. Additionally, its overall value consistently positions it as one of Canada’s top cash back cards overall.
Unlike Scotia, Tangerine has fewer options for better rates for bundling products, and its savings accounts don’t have interest rates relatively as strong as direct banking competitors like EQ Bank and Oaken. To get the best deals possible, those who don’t mind stretching their banking across multiple institutions might combine one of Tangerine’s standout products, like its No-Fee Daily Chequing Account, with a savings account from EQ Bank. We take a closer look at the differences between EQ Bank and Tangerine in our comparison so you can see which online bank works best for you.
Oaken Financial – Best for High-Interest GICs and TFSAs
Oaken Financial is another small digital bank launched in 2013 by Home Trust. It caught our attention because of its high-interest rates, particularly for its GICs, currently peaking at a 5.39% interest rate (for a limited time) and offering terms up to 5 years. Its consistently high GIC rates place Oaken among the best GICs in Canada, typically landing at or near the top of the pack. And it offers GICs in both non-registered and registered forms, so it also qualifies as having one of the best TFSA rates in Canada.
Like other banks, Oaken currently offers only GICs and a high-interest savings account, so it’s a good fit for those who don’t mind having a chequing account and/or credit card with one bank and a savings account and GIC with another. Oaken hasn’t indicated that it plans to expand its product offering in the future, so it seems unlikely that it will be able to cover all your banking needs anytime soon.
How to Choose the Best Bank for Me
Monthly account and basic transaction fees can quietly eat away at your earnings. When deciding on a bank product, keep an eye out for policies that allow you to bypass the fees, like bundling products or maintaining a reasonable account balance. If the bank makes it virtually impossible to avoid the fees or if your financial circumstance won’t allow you to meet the requirements to waive them, consider other competitors, particularly branchless banks.
The gap between the savings account interest rates offered by direct/virtual banks vs. traditional banks can be shocking. Granted, virtual banks also have their drawbacks, but if your top priority is generating the maximum amount of interest on your savings, you should go virtual. A select few chequing accounts also earn interest (though not nearly at the same rates that you’ll get with high-interest savings accounts).
Range of Products
Virtual/direct banks frequently have lower fees and better interest rates than their larger, brick-and-mortar competitors, but they typically have a smaller suite of products and services. If you don’t mind having a savings account with one bank, a credit card with another, and opening a chequing account with another, you can mix and match to get the absolute best deal possible for each type of banking product you need. But if you prefer to keep all your financial ducks in the same pond, you might opt for a larger traditional bank within, say, the Big Five, which will offer the full spectrum of banking services.
Account Management Preferences
Think: How often do you currently handle your banking needs in a branch vs. online? If you strongly prefer face-to-face interaction with a banker, switching to a branchless bank might not be worth the savings you’ll get in reduced/eliminated fees and better interest rates. On the other hand, if you can’t remember the last time you were inside a physical bank branch, you might as well benefit from the perks of direct banking. Some people are opting to close their bank accounts at physical branches in favour of digital ones.
Best Canadian Banks by Province/Territory
The digitalization of finance has made banking more accessible to all Canadians, regardless of where they live. That said, there are still differences in the accessibility of certain banks from one province or territory to the next, as not all banks are available throughout Canada.
With that in mind, we used the following criteria in assessing the best bank for each province:
- How many branches the bank has in that province
- What products are available for that province
- The bank’s overall popularity in a given province
Ontarians have the luxury of choosing 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 in Ontario overall is TD. It has a particularly large network in Ontario, with around 600 branches. Ontarian residents who cross the border into the US regularly might particularly appreciate the low-cost and easy-access US dollar accounts and credit card that TD offers.
Quebec: National Bank of Canada
National Bank of Canada (NBC) is one of the few major Canadian banks headquartered outside Toronto (it’s based in Montreal) and is the largest bank in Quebec. It is particularly popular among Quebec’s large community of immigrants, as it offers a suite of products with discounted rates to newcomers.
British Columbia: HSBC
With over 50 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 several chequing accounts, savings accounts, and a variety of credit cards to 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.
In terms of accessibility, RBC and CIBC are neck and neck in Alberta in terms of the number of branches available.
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.
With almost 50 branches throughout the province, RBC is narrowly ahead of CIBC as the most widespread bank in Manitoba. RBC’s range of chequing accounts, 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.
CIBC’s large 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.
Nova Scotia: Scotiabank
It’s not too surprising that Scotiabank rules in Nova Scotia (though RBC also has a surprisingly large presence in that province). As Canada’s third-largest bank, Scotiabank is a very popular banking institution across the country as well, 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.
New Brunswick: TD Canada Trust
New Brunswick’s best bank is TD, which provides residents with 16 branches and a number of other standalone ATMs for round-the-clock banking. TD 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.
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 12 branches 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 several savings plans. There are special options for youth, students, and seniors across all banking products. NLCU also offers credit cards, including student cards, making it the top choice for Newfoundland and Labrador residents.
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 6 branches in the province. Customers can carry out basic banking tasks at the ATMs, online, or over the phone, or enter one of the 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.
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, customers can use CIBC ATMs to 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.
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 products available. 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 Inuktitut, along with dozens of other languages, adding to its popularity with Nunavut’s residents.
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.
Alternatives to Traditional Banks
Sometimes, the best option is to look outside the box. While traditional banks like the ones mentioned above are often great options for a number of services, like mortgages or in-person consultations, there are benefits to using alternative methods for storing and spending your money. Not only that, but these alternative banks are a great option if you want to keep your money in more than one bank.
KOHO is a great example of a no-fee Fintech company that provides an alternative. It offers a prepaid card with similar perks and services to those from traditional banks. You can load your no-fee KOHO Prepaid Mastercard® with the amount you want to spend, keep track of your spending habits and set financial goals on its app, and even earn cash back on your transactions. You’ll also earn saving interests on your entire KOHO account balance. All of this can be done by applying for KOHO online and getting services through its app rather than from a brick-and-mortar branch.
Another great big bank alternatives is EQ Bank, which is a digital bank that works just like a traditional one, except it doesn’t have physical locations. Its Savings Plus Account is a high-interest savings account that offers low fees and high interest rates compared to some of its competition, making for a great alternative to some of the Big Five bank accounts.
Make Your Bank Work Harder
Banks with widespread name recognition may offer inferior products yet maintain their customer base due to brand familiarity. Don’t let them take your business for granted. If you’ve been with the same bank for a while and you haven’t seen meaningful changes to its fee structure or customer incentivizations, it might be time to finally act on that ‘switch banks’ resolution that you’ve been putting off for years.
† Interac e-Transfer is a registered trade-mark of Interac Corp. Used under license.