Money Management, Personal Finance

Essential Guide to Choosing the Right Canadian Bank Account: Fees, Features & Security

by Modern Money

Summary: Choosing the Right Canadian Bank Account

Setting up a Canadian bank account can be an intimidating process with so many options out there, each offering unique features and benefits. Whether you’re opening your first account or contemplating a switch after some frustration, it’s important to find the best fit for your specific financial needs (i.e., available products, service, fees, account types, etc.).

Here is a full breakdown of everything that you should consider:

Customer Service

The best way to cut through the noise is to ask a few friends where they bank and how their experience has been. From there, you can do your own Google searches to assess the customer service of each option.

With major banks (i.e., the big 5, namely RBC, CIBC, Scotia, TD and BMO), they do offer customer service outside of typical business hours which can be a nice perk. With that said, you will likely experience very long wait times unless you’re a premium client (i.e., private banking, for example). This is a new feature that many smaller institutions or credit unions often don’t offer, as they have more traditional hours.

Type of Canadian Bank Account

What type of account best suits your lifestyle? If you need easy access to your money for numerous daily transactions or perhaps you send a lot of e-Transfers, it’s important to find suitable options with low or no fees. One thing to look for is fee waivers, which some banks offer if you maintain a minimum balance or have multiple products with them.


Tying into account options, fees can add up quickly (monthly and transactional). Because of that, it’s important to check the cost for your common type of transactions and read that fine print so you’re certain what you’re getting into!

If you hit the fee waiver account balance threshold referenced above, that’s certainly helpful but obviously that’s not realistic for everyone. Given that, looking at low-fee options may be the best bet if you have a lot of transactions, e-Transfers and ATM withdrawals (including international ATM withdrawals if that matters to you). Low-fee options would include smaller institutions or credit unions.

Online Banking Features

Given that most of what we do is online, a user-friendly and comprehensive online banking option should be a non-negotiable for you. Check to make sure that they offer online and mobile banking and features like e-Transfer. Your online banking experience should be helpful in assisting you to pay bills, transfer funds, deposit cheques – all without having to step foot into a branch.

Interest Rates

If you’re a saver and you tend to hold a lot of money in your savings account, or even if you’re just holding an emergency fund, it’s important that you’re earning interest on those funds. Compare interest rates across institutions and the frequency that it compounds, as this can add up!

Overdraft Protection

We know that life can sometime happen, so having overdraft protection can prevent your transactions from being declined, saving you on costly fees. If this is important to you, check what the overdraft limit is, how charges are applied for overdrawn amounts and how it’s to be repaid.

Deposit Insurance

Ensure that the institution you’re considering insures its deposits. In Canada, the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) insures eligible deposits up to $100,000 per insured category, per institution. Once you verify that the financial institution that you are considering is CDIC insured, it will give you piece of mind.

Additional Benefits To Consider When Choosing a Canadian Bank Account

Outside of those important items, a lot of institutions will offer additional perks or new customer incentives to get your business. This can include reward programs, no-fee cheques, a monetary gift for moving your account (i.e., $200 if you move over all of your banking), etc.

When considering these additional perks or one-time incentives, be sure to read the fine print! For an overview of the process of opening a Canadian bank account, check out this informative resource published by the Government of Canada with additional helpful detail on your rights when dealing with banks.

For more personal finance, banking and investment content, check out our full article list by clicking here!

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About Modern Money

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