Our picks: Canada's top chequing accounts

James Rodriguez James Rodriguez  updated on 2022-06-30

Are you wondering which are the best chequing accounts out there right now? You are in the right place.

Did you know that the average Canadian consumer pays more than $200 in banking service fees per year? That is a small fortune. We will help you find chequing accounts with the best rewards and great no-fee options. Compare the top chequing accounts on the market and make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Whether you're looking for a no-frills account or one with all the bells and whistles, we've got you covered. The chequing account guide below explains how these accounts work and what to look for when choosing one.

What is a chequing account?

A chequing account is defined as a basic spending account that is accessible on a daily basis. It allows you to quickly purchase everyday items, pay bills, pay with a debit card and deposit cheques and cash. Employers using pay into your chequing account via direct deposit. 

Canadian chequing account transactions are convenient. Money can be directly deposited into the account and withdrawn from it in a matter of minutes. 

Did you know you can open a chequing account in as little as 5 minutes with just a few documents in hand? We’ll walk you through it.

How do I open a chequing account?

A good first step is to find a bank or credit union that is right for you. Banks and credit unions can charge very different fees depending on what type of chequing account you apply for. 

On one hand, you can easily find a basic no-fee chequing account, often through online banks. This type of account is free to open and use with minimal or no monthly fees. Other accounts offer perks and rewards but charge higher fees.

When you apply for a chequing account you may be asked to provide:

  • your contact information
  • your social insurance number
  • a form of government-issued identification such as a valid driver’s license or current Canadian passport 
  • your employer information

Many banks do not require a minimum balance to open a chequing account, so you don’t have to put money in at the start. Once you complete the application steps, your bank account will instantly be activated. You will receive a debit card and voilà! Now you should be all set for your everyday transactions, payments and deposits.

Compare Canadian banks and credit unions here to be sure you choose the best chequing account that suits your needs: Canada’s top chequing accounts

Can you open a chequing account online?

Yes, indeed! Most banks and credit unions offer a short online application to open a chequing account. 

Today, online banks make a lot of sense. They usually offer simple online-only chequing accounts. You can find a no-fee chequing account that includes unlimited debit transactions. They have the benefit of providing all their services online, making it convenient to bank on your schedule.

If you choose to open a chequing account with a traditional bank, some may require an in-person visit to one of their branches. If you’re not a Canadian resident, or if your situation is complex, you may want to consider an in-person visit to get all of your questions answered. You can always contact the bank and ask about the best avenue of application for your specific circumstance.

Not sure which chequing account is best for you? Quickly and anonymous compare offers using the comparison tool at the top of this page.

What are the pros and cons of an online chequing account?

While traditional brick-and-mortar banks offer a wide variety of chequing account options, the benefits of an online chequing account include lower fees and greater simplicity.

Pros of using an online/digital bank for your chequing account:

  • Lower fees or no fees
  • Unlimited transactions
  • Possibility of earning monthly interest
  • Able to complete all processes without stepping foot in a bank

Cons of an online bank: 

  • Loss of in-person branch visits
  • Possible longer transaction times

You’ll find that the five largest Canadian banks, commonly referred to as the “Big Five, RBC, BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank and TD Bank, offer a wide range of chequing account options. Most of these accounts charge a monthly fee. They often have hidden fees, so make sure you read the fine print and ask questions if you don’t understand what the account includes. 

If you opt for an online bank, you will most likely save on fees. Another perk to check for is cashback rewards. Some give you a percentage of your money back on each and every purchase you make!

How much do chequing accounts cost?

The cost of chequing accounts differs based on what you would like included. Many basic accounts are free or offered with a low monthly fee. Free chequing accounts are offered by many digital banks.

More inclusive accounts that boast perks such as rewards, unlimited transfers, unlimited banking transactions, air mileage points and unlimited ATM withdrawals at non-partner banks may charge a monthly fee ranging from $3.95 to $34.95.

Big 5 bank chequing account options could look similar to this:  

Typical feesTD Inclusive Chequing AccountRBC Inclusive Chequing AccountTD Basic Chequing AccountRBC Basic Chequing Account
Monthly fee$29.95$30$3.95$4.00
Number of ATM withdrawals at non-partner banksUnlimitedUnlimited$2.00 charge per withdrawal$2.00 charge per withdrawal
Number of free debit transactionsUnlimitedUnlimited12 per month12 per month
Minimum balance to waive the monthly fee$5,000N/AN/AN/A
Overdraft protection$5 per month or per useNo fee (only pay interest if used)$5 per month or per use$5 per month
Description of fees for popular chequing accounts

Online chequing accounts from digital banks are often free! A no-fee chequing account means there is no required monthly fee or minimum balance. Digital bank chequing accounts may offer unlimited debit transactions, unlimited bill payments, and unlimited electronic fund transfers. Some digital banks even offer interest on your chequing account balance. Popular online digital banks include Tangerine (a subsidiary of Scotiabank), motusbank and Simplii Financial.

Typical feesSimplii No Fee Chequing Accountmotusbank No-fee Chequing AccountTangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account
Monthly fee$0$0$0
ATM withdrawals Free at CIBC ATMs across Canada; $1.50 external ATM feeFree at 43,000 ATMs in North America; $2 external ATM feeFree at Tangerine and Scotiabank ATMs; $1.50 external ATM fee
Number of free debit transactionsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Description of fees for popular online chequing accounts

Check to see if your digital bank is connected to a Big Five bank; this would give you free access to use the bank’s ATMs.

How much should I keep in a chequing account?

It’s a good idea to keep sufficient funds in your chequing account to cover your daily spending needs, bill payments and cash withdrawals. 

Additionally, it is wise to keep a buffer of extra money in your account to avoid accidentally emptying it and spending more than what you have. This can trigger an overdraft fee. 

However, you do not want to let lots of extra cash sit in a chequing account, because the money will be earning little to no interest. You could get your cash to work for you by investing it or placing it into a savings account.

If you are interested in learning how to make grow your savings see our guide to investing in Canada.   

Note: If your bank charges a monthly fee for your chequing account, make sure there’s enough in your account each month to cover the cost. On the other hand, verify with your bank to see if maintaining a certain minimum balance will waive the monthly fee.

What types of chequing accounts exist?

Some banks offer up to six different chequing accounts with various perks and different costs. So, it is important to find the best Canadian chequing account for your needs. 

If you are looking for a simple chequing account with low fees, you can find a no-fee chequing account with unlimited transactions. For example, online digital banks often offer free chequing accounts with no hidden fees and no limit on the number of free debit transactions.

The more complex premium-style chequing accounts offer perks such as:

  • credit card fee waivers
  • unlimited electronic transfers
  • free personalized cheques
  • interest rate increases on savings
  • rewards points (at gas stations for example)

Be aware that premium chequing accounts usually charge a monthly fee.

There are chequing accounts to satisfy a wide range of client needs from big spenders looking for rewards to digital accounts with low fees. Some accounts offer free cash withdrawals at ATMs. Alternatively, if you are a student, many banks offer a no-fee chequing account with an unlimited amount of debit transactions.

What is the difference between a chequing account and a savings account?

Many people could benefit from both a chequing account and a savings account. Unsure of the difference? Learn about them before you decide which type of account to open. A chequing account is for everyday transactions, such as using your debit card, withdrawing money or writing cheques. On the other hand, a savings account encourages you to save money by offering interest on your deposited funds. It may also limit the frequency of transactions. Which is right for you? It depends on your needs and goals. See below for the main differences between chequing and savings accounts.

Chequing account:

  • Holds daily spending money
  • Can withdraw cash at ATMs
  • Deposit cash or cheques frequently
  • Access money with a debit card or cheque book
  • Pay bills
  • Little to no interest earnings
  • Potential monthly fees

Savings account:

  • Holds money for the long term
  • Accrues interest
  • Helpful for tracking financial saving goals – e.g. wedding, house, emergencies
  • Limits frequency of withdrawal transactions
  • Money could be earning more interest elsewhere – e.g. if it’s placed in an investment account

Do you feel that a savings account may be appropriate for you? Read more and then compare the best saving account here.

What is a minimum monthly balance?

A minimum monthly balance is an amount set by your bank. If your balance drops below that amount, fees may apply or you may lose some perks. This is less common on online chequing accounts.

Note that it is not a requirement to keep this amount in your chequing account. However, many banks incentivize maintaining the minimum monthly balance by offering to waive the monthly fee. A minimum balance can range from $100 to $6,000. Depending on the chequing account you choose, if you maintain the balance at the end of each day, you will avoid paying the fee at the end of the month.

What is an overdraft fee?

An overdraft fee is applied by your bank when you spend more money than what you have available in your account.

Spending money you don’t have from your chequing account is expensive! Some banks allow you to overdraw your balance up to $5 without receiving a fee. If you go over that amount, banks could charge you $35 (or more!) per item that they have to pay for. Additionally, if you continue to overdraft your account, they can charge multiple fees per day. Check with your specific bank or credit union to see how much they charge for overdrafts and their frequency of levying overdraft fees.

As you can imagine, if you aren’t keeping an eye on your chequing account and you happen to overdraw it, the overdraft fees can quickly add up. Some banks help you avoid this by offering overdraft protection. You can choose to pay a flat monthly fee ranging from $2.50 to $5. This prevents you from paying a fee every single time you overdraft your account. 

Alternatively, when used responsibly, credit cards can offer you a flexible, inexpensive way to spend money before it hits your chequing account.

Tips for saving on chequing account fees

When selecting the best chequing account, there are many options to choose from, and some include steep costs and fees. Here are good tips to help you save on chequing account fees:

  • Sign up for a no-fee digital chequing account
  • Maintain the minimum balance to waive a monthly fee (if your bank requires it)
  • Avoid overdrafts on your account 
  • If you only spend what you have in your account, you can opt out of paying for overdraft protection and save on monthly fees
  • Monitor your account to make sure there’s enough to cover any automatic payments

Read more about chequing accounts

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