Updated October 15, 2023

Best Free Bank Accounts in Canada

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Looking to bank for free in Canada? Check out these 10 no-fee options and say goodbye to unnecessary charges once and for all.

What is the best no-fee chequing account in Canada?
Here are the best free bank accounts in Canada:
  1. Tangerine Bank: best overall
  2. EQ Bank: best for interest
  3. TD Bank: best affordable big bank
  4. Motive Financial: best for frequent banking
  5. Wealthsimple: best with cash rewards
  6. Simplii Financial: best for perks
  7. Motusbank: best free basic account
  8. Neo Money: best free account with no-annual-fee credit card
  9. Scotiabank: best for students
  10. National Bank of Canada: best for people new to canada

Don't you hate the feeling of seeing those pesky chequing fees chipping away at your funds?

The good news is, Canada's got your back with free banking options.

Grab a seat, dive into the ten best free accounts you can access right now, and save some money in your pocket.

Tangerine No-fee Daily Chequing

Best Overall Free Account

Tangerine may be an online-only bank, but that doesn't mean they don't have good things to offer. In fact, it offers far better features in its accounts than other banks.

The No-fee Daily Chequing account is exactly what it is—zero fees on regular transactions. It has a Visa debit card and 50 free physical cheques to access your funds conveniently. You also get one free stop payment per year.

On top of that, this account even offers some interest to grow your balance.

Does a no-fee chequing account pay interest?
No-fee chequing accounts normally don't pay interest, but few actually do. Aside from waiving monthly fees and minimum balance requirements, some free accounts earn interest from your balance.

Their savings account is also worth looking into. It has no monthly fees and minimum balance, yet it earns great interest. Consider this account if you plan to save money on top of your regular spending.

  • Interest-earning balance
  • 50 free cheques
  • Free replacement card
  • No physical branches
  • Lower interest rate than most digital accounts

EQ Savings Plus Account

Best Interest-Earning Free Account

EQ Savings Plus is more than just a free bank account. It's unique, combining both a savings and chequing account in one. You earn interest on your balance while using it whenever needed without maintaining separate accounts.

One of the amazing things about this online bank is that they have a list of transactions that DON'T have fees instead of providing a schedule of fees like other banks. There are no non-sufficient funds or account closing fees—everything is practically free, at least from their end.[1]

Another benefit of your EQ Savings Plus is that they will refund any service fees and surcharges when you withdraw from any ATM in Canada.

But the best part is you can enjoy a high interest rate on your deposits and earn 0.5% cashback on purchases with your Mastercard debit card.[2]

  • No fees on almost all transactions
  • High-interest rate
  • Access to daily live customer support
  • No personal cheques
  • No EQ-to-EQ transfers for Quebec residents

TD Every Day Chequing Account

Best Affordable Big Bank Account

TD's Every Day Chequing Account will be your most cost-effective choice for a Big 5 bank that will charge you less.

With a $3,000 minimum balance, you can waive the monthly fee of $10.95, the lowest among the big banks. In exchange, you get 25 free monthly transactions, a Visa debit card, physical cheques, and in-branch services.

If you have a Starbucks Rewards account, you can link your TD debit card to earn 50% more stars at select Starbucks stores.

While this chequing account could be a solid option if you want access to a large branch network, there are better options for zero-fee banking.

  • Reputable image
  • Decent number of free monthly transactions
  • Video Relay Service calls for persons with hearing or speech difficulties[3]
  • Minimum balance required to waive monthly fees
  • Balance does not earn interest

Motive Financial Cha-Ching Chequing

Best Free Account for Frequent Banking

The Cha-Ching Chequing Account is another online option with the features of a traditional bank account, only better. One is their interest rate on balances. Although it isn't a high figure by any stretch, it is still a nice perk for a free bank account.

With this chequing account, your first 50 personalized cheques and two out-of-network ATM withdrawals are free. Even if it waives most transaction fees, you can get overdraft protection for up to $3,000 and pay a minimum of $5 per item.[4] This means you will only be charged when it occurs.

Motive Financial is a division of Canadian Western Bank, one of Canada's largest banks.[5] It operates entirely online and features competitive rates on deposits such as its high-interest savings account.

  • Backed by a top-10 bank
  • 50 free cheques
  • 2 free non-Exchange ATM withdrawals
  • No live customer support on weekends
  • Mobile cheque deposit may not be available

Wealthsimple Cash Account

Best Free Account with Cash Rewards

Wealthsimple is an easy-to-use digital platform where you can invest in stocks, deposits, and other assets even as a beginner.

Although it's not a bank, it offers a free cash account for daily banking. You don't even need to be an investing client to sign up.

With Wealthsimple Cash, you earn interest on your money, increasing as your balance reaches $100,000. This pertains to the total amount across all your Wealthsimple accounts, including investment accounts.

Purchases using your debit Mastercard earn you 1% cashback in multiple payout options such as cash, stock, or crypto.

Another good thing about this free account is not having foreign currency conversion fees when you use your debit Mastercard overseas or online. It also does not charge for any ATM withdrawals; however, it has no control over costs ATM operators may have.

Wealthsimple is registered by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), which monitors monetary transactions. It was founded in 2014, providing an online platform where users can easily invest in stocks, ETFs, and other investment vehicles. It boasts innovative features like automated investing, tax-loss harvesting, and financial planning tools.[6]

  • Higher interest on balances
  • Cashback incentives
  • Access to daily live customer support
  • ATM withdrawals may incur an additional charge
  • No physical branches

Simplii Financial No-fee Chequing

Best Perk-Filled Free Account

As CIBC's online division, it seems they pulled out all the stops for this account by adding more to its no-fee structure. It includes unique free features such as:

  • Free sending of personalized digital Visa gift cards
  • Free delivery for foreign cash requests
  • Free global money transfers

You can enjoy practically endless debit transactions, Interac e-Transfers, and access to thousands of ATMs across Canada from this chequing account at no extra cost.

  • Lots of unique freebies
  • Referral incentives and cashback rewards
  • 24/7 live customer support
  • No physical branches
  • Not available for Quebec residents

How can I avoid bank fees in Canada?
You can avoid Canadian bank fees by opening a no-fee account with online-only banks or credit unions. Make sure your funds are within the minimum balance required to waive monthly fees.

Motusbank No-fee Chequing Account

Best Free Basic Account

As an online subsidiary of Meridian Credit Union[7] that's only been around for four years, Motusbank has account features better than major banks.

It waives daily banking fees for its chequing account and earns interest on your balance. Also, it is among the few banks with accounts available even for Quebec residents.

Additionally, the No-fee Chequing Account has a personalized cheque option, which is quite rare for online banks. If that's not enough, you can get your first 25 cheques at zero cost.

This account comes with an Interac debit card with a unique vertical orientation, unlike the standard horizontal design of most debit cards.

  • Balance earns interest
  • 25 free cheques
  • Available for Quebec residents
  • No sign-up bonus or introductory offers
  • No mobile wallet feature

Neo Money

Best Free Account with No-Annual-Fee Credit Card

Neo Money combines high-interest savings and a cashback card you can maintain at zero cost. At the same time, you can get a free Neo credit card even without a credit history.

But here's the thing: your assigned credit limit will depend on the amount of your security funds, which is refundable once you cancel your card.

For example, if you put in $500 as a security fund, your credit limit is also $500. If this won't work for you, you can still go through the normal credit card application process to qualify for a higher limit.

The Neo Money card has partnered with more than 10,000 retail establishments where your purchases can earn an average of 5% cashback.

Debit card vs. Prepaid card
A debit card requires a bank account to draw funds from, while a prepaid card does not. Neo Money card is a prepaid Mastercard where you can access funds from your Money account instantly; no need to load it.

  • Access to no-annual-fee credit card
  • Interest-earning balance
  • Cashback incentives and cashback boost option
  • No live customer support through phone
  • No paper cheques

Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage

Best Free Account for Students

The Student Banking Advantage Plan features a chequing account with zero fees and unlimited transactions so students can manage their finances while focusing on their studies.

Pro tip: Opt for their bundle to get the most out of your student status without adding costs. It has a Scotiabank Scene+ credit card and a Momentum Plus Savings account, both with no annual or monthly fees.

You can earn Scene+ points with your credit card to pay for movies, food, and rides at participating merchants.

Scotiabank can provide a seamless transition from a student banking advantage plan to a preferred package once you graduate. You have one more year of no-monthly fee banking even when converting it into a regular account.

  • Extended free monthly fees after graduation
  • Access to no-annual-fee credit card
  • Use Scene+ points to purchase goods and services
  • No free overdraft protection plan
  • No cash back rewards from debit or credit card usage

National Bank of Canada Newcomers

Best Free Account for People New to Canada

National Bank of Canada's newcomer accommodation is perfect for international students, temporary workers, and those who have recently immigrated to Canada.

Unlike most newcomer packages, you can waive your monthly fee for up to three years, giving you enough room to adjust to your new life without making a dent in your pocket.

For the first year, the monthly fees on your chequing account are waived without balance requirements. You even get your first cheque order for free.

In the second year, you must get a credit card to continue your no-fee benefit. You should also sign up for e-statements and make a direct deposit or pay two bills using your account every month. If you don't want to sign up for those products and services, you'll still get a discount on your banking package for the remaining 2 years.

  • No monthly fee for up to three years
  • Access to no-annual-fee credit card
  • Free first cheque order
  • Conditions for waiving fees after 1st year
  • Fewer branches outside Quebec

What Is A Free Bank Account?

A free bank account in Canada is typically a chequing account that does not impose monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. Some banks also provide an option to waive monthly fees when the minimum balance or deposit is met.

Which bank accounts are free in Canada?
Here are free bank accounts in Canada:
  • Tangerine No-fee Daily Chequing Account
  • EQ Savings Plus Account
  • Motive Financial Cha-Ching Chequing Account
  • Wealthsimple Cash Account
  • Simplii Financial No-fee Chequing Account
  • Motusbank No-fee Chequing Account
  • Neo Money

Who Should Consider A No-Fee Chequing Account?

A no-fee chequing account is an excellent choice if you want an account to hold your funds for spending or paying bills without any additional costs.

Other considerations include the following:

  • You don't want to pay monthly fees and other traditional banking charges.
  • You don't maintain high balances in your accounts.
  • You don't qualify for regular chequing of major banks.
  • You don't require extra services beyond basic banking.
  • You prefer the ease of online and mobile banking.
  • You don't mind holding your account at online-only banks.

How Do You Open A No-Fee Chequing Account?

Here are the steps for opening a free chequing account.

  1. Once you've chosen your bank, check if you can open it online or in person.
  2. Be ready to provide your personal information, including your name, address, Social Insurance Number (SIN), and government-issued photo ID.
  3. You may be asked to make an opening deposit of any amount to activate the account.

Can a non-resident of Canada open a bank account in Canada?
Yes, non-residents can have a bank account in Canada. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, you can open one even if you're not a Canadian citizen or live in another country. Nevertheless, contacting the bank directly for more information is best.

What To Look For In Your Free Account?

When considering a free bank account, these are the things you need to take a look at.

Fees
Although most free chequing accounts won't have monthly fees, some require certain conditions to be fulfilled to enjoy this benefit. Also, a free account doesn't mean you won't have to pay for related transactions and services.

Check out the following that may add cost to your banking:

  • Transaction fees (above free monthly allocation)
  • Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees
  • NSF fees
  • Bank draft fees
  • Paper statement fees
  • Wire transfer fees

Sometimes, banks claim to be fee-free on everything, which can be true. However, they usually refer to fees that they are not charging from their end.

Remember that third parties, such as other banks or providers, may charge for certain transactions, like wire transfers and ATM withdrawals made from your account.

ATM accessibility
Another feature of free bank accounts is withdrawing from designated ATMs without incurring a charge. Aside from that, also look for a bank with a large ATM network for easy access.

Online access
Online access to your free chequing account is considered necessary, especially if your bank does not have a physical branch.

Many banks offer mobile apps that perform transactions like fund transfers, paying bills, mobile cheque deposits, etc., which help you manage your finances.

Customer service
Not all banks offer 24/7 access to a human agent; instead, an automated service can help you with certain transactions. Others have a customer hotline available during set hours or are only reachable through chat or email.

Which is the most important feature you look for in a free bank account?

Are cheques still used in Canada?
Yes, cheques are still used in Canada, although they have declined over the years with the rise of digital payment methods. Some individuals continue to use them for:
  • Bill payments
  • Rent payments
  • Personal and business transactions

Things To Remember About Free Bank Accounts

  • A free bank account may not be completely fee-free. But at the very least, it should not charge you a monthly fee. Additionally, it should allow a number of banking transactions like deposits and Interac e-Transfers to be free of charge.
  • If a specific number of monthly transactions is permitted, as with basic chequing accounts in major banks, make sure it matches your activity level.
  • Free bank accounts don't usually earn interest. If they do, it would be minimal, ranging from 0.01% to 0.10%, but often higher if they are from digital banks.

Bottom Line

You can manage your money without spending a lot on fees by opening a free bank account.

There are many different types of accounts to choose; pick one where you avoid paying fees often or do not have to pay them at all.

In addition, you can receive bonuses and rewards that help cover other bank fees or use them as extra money.

Perhaps one of the free bank accounts in this article will serve your needs and save you money. By making smart choices and some effort, you can get closer to reaching your financial goals.

References

  1. ^ EQ Bank. Savings Plus Account Fees & Features, Retrieved 9/21/2023
  2. ^ EQ Bank. EQ Savings Plus, Retrieved 10/02/23
  3. ^ TD Bank. Video Relay Services, Retrieved 10/02/23
  4. ^ Motive Financial. Service fees, Retrieved 9/21/2023
  5. ^ Motive Financial, Retrieved 10/03/23
  6. ^ Wealthsimple Wealthsimple Cash, Retrieved 10/2/23
  7. ^ Motus Bank, Retrieved 10/2/23

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