The Best Bank in Canada Ranked By Category in April 2024

WRITTEN BY Dan Kent | UPDATED ON: April 7, 2024

Disclaimer: The writer of this article or employees of Stocktrades Ltd may have positions in securities listed in this article. Stocktrades Ltd may also be compensated via affiliate links in this post. Stocktrades Ltd will run advertisements on our posts. These advertisements do not represent an endorsement by us.

The robustness and diversity of Canada's banking sector allows customers to select from an array of large banks with a nationwide presence, regional banking institutions, as well as digital-only banks. Each of these provides distinct benefits regarding their service charges, accessibility, customer service, and internet banking features.

Selecting the best bank in Canada for an individual's needs requires considering factors such as the convenience of physical branch locations, the range of financial products available, and the level of digital services offered. 

The big five Canadian banks, which include Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, ScotiabankBank of Montreal, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, dominate the landscape and are some of the most stable institutions in North America.

However, things are changing. Digital banks and newcomers to the scene, like Equitable Bank and Tangerine Bank, are taking over, and Canadians are shifting away from major institutions and heading to online banks.

Do they suit everyone? No. That's exactly why we've decided to publish this huge review of the best banks in Canada so you can decide for yourself.

What we'll go over in this review

Banking is complex. Some may be looking for a personal account, while some may be looking for a business account or a mortgage. For this reason, we're going to be reviewing which bank delivers for each particular account, including the following:

Feel free to click any of the links above to go to the desired page. Otherwise, let's jump right into it.

The bank with the best chequing account: Equitable Bank Personal Account

EQ Bank

The Equitable Bank Personal Account used to be called the Savings Plus Account. The company changed the name after it felt it misled consumers about what the account was all about.

I'll tell you right now: this is the best bank account in the country, and it's not even close. 

In fact, I ended up leaving a major institution here in Alberta and bank entirely with Equitable Bank now (you can read my review of the bank here).

The reasoning is quite simple: this bank account does nearly everything right and practically nothing wrong.

You'll earn interest on your balance, which increases if you set up recurring deposits. You'll also get cash back from your EQ Bank Card, which is a preloaded Mastercard that functions as your debit card.

What the EQ Personal Account does well:

  • High-interest rates: The account offers a competitive interest rate on your balance.
  • No monthly fees: There are no fees for maintaining the account.
  • Unlimited transactions: This includes free Interac e-Transfers, bill payments, and Electronic Funds Transfers.
  • ATM withdrawals: Free withdrawals from any ATM in Canada, with reimbursed fees.
  • Cash-back on purchases: Using the EQ Bank Card.
  • CDIC insurance: Deposits are insured up to a certain limit.
  • No minimum balance requirement.

What the EQ Personal Account is lacking:

  • Physical branches. Although free ATM withdrawals around the country make it easy to get your money, some people are sticklers about being able to visit the institution
  • Limited availability in Quebec

Overall, I have had absolutely zero interruptions or inconveniences when it comes to my banking since switching to Equitable Bank. 

I've noticed a $240+ swing in my banking fees on an annual basis. If you really want to turbocharge the money you get back, combine this account with a strong cash-back credit card for your everyday purchases.

If you don't need a brick-and-mortar bank, there is absolutely no reason not to open a Personal Account with EQ Bank.

The bank with the best savings account: EQ Bank Personal Account

EQ Bank

This will probably sound like a broken record, but Equitable Bank's Personal Account functions like a chequing and savings account, making it by far the best option for Canadians on both fronts.

I won't go over the entire pros and cons like I did above. Instead, I'll focus on what makes this account the best from a savings perspective.

What the EQ Personal Account does well:

  • Interest rates: Equitable offers much better rates than the major banks. Yes, some institutions may temporarily provide higher rates, but for the most part, they're promotional rates.
  • No fees: It goes without saying if a bank is charging you to deposit and save your money, you should be looking for another bank. Equitable has no fees, which will allow you to save more.
  • Bonuses for consistent savings: Equitable will give you higher rates of interest if you set up recurring deposits, which encourages Canadians to adopt better savings habits.
  • Great selection of GICs: Equitable Bank allows investors to purchase high-interest GICs in their accounts, potentially allowing for even higher rates of interest than their savings accounts.

What the EQ Personal Account is lacking:

  • Liquidity: In order to get money out, you'll need to utilize the EQ Bank Card, which will have maximum daily deposit limits.

Overall, Equitable Bank's personal account is by far the best offered savings account from any Canadian banking institution. 

If you're willing to venture outside of banks, however, Wealthsimple Cash offers very attractive rates on savings and has a card similar to Equitable's.

The bank with the best business account: Scotiabank Select Account For Business

ScotiaBank

Business banking is very complex. For some, a simple digital bank will allow you to access unlimited free transactions, no monthly fees, and possibly even some interest on your money.

However, if you are not operating a digital business you may need to frequent the bank in person to make deposits and such. For this reason, I'm going to stick with a brick-and-mortar institution for the best business bank account, and that is the Scotiabank Select Account.

It is very hard to find a business account that has top-level functionality without charging a monthly fee. However, I found that Scotiabank at least has the easiest way to void the fee and also has a lot of other features that make it cheaper than most institutions.

What the Scotiabank Select Account does well:

  • Multiple plan options: Provides flexibility to choose a plan based on your transaction needs.
  • Fee waivers: Opportunity to skip the monthly fee if certain conditions are met, like maintaining a minimum balance.
  • High limits: Generous limits on cash deposits are included at no extra charge.
  • High transaction limits: Most businesses, unless they're making over 30 transactions a month, will find Scotia's transaction limits to be within a comfortable level.

What the Scotiabank Select Account is lacking:

  • Monthly fees: Plans come with monthly fees, which can be high for larger plans.
  • Fee for additional transactions: Extra charges apply for transactions exceeding the plan limits.
  • Tougher for small businesses: To waive the monthly fee, a minimum of $20,000 must be held in the account, making it difficult for small businesses.

Overall, I feel the business landscape here in Canada will allow the major institutions to continue to charge fees for business accounts. Too many businesses still need physical locations to manage cash flow.

For Stocktrades, we currently bank with Royal Bank but will no doubt switch to the Equitable Bank Business Account when it launches. I'm on the waitlist right now, but the prospects of this account certainly have me excited. I'll be switching as soon as it opens.

It plans to have no monthly fees, free unlimited transactions, and high interest on account balances. Additionally, it promises a fully digital sign-up process without paperwork.

The best online bank: Equitable Bank

EQ Bank

I know I probably sound like a broken record here, but Equitable Bank really is, in my opinion, the best online bank in the country. The fact it takes only ten minutes to open an account is astonishing as well. At my old bank, it took a visit to the branch and a half-hour appointment.

They were arguably the first online bank to make major waves here in Canada.

Sure, Tangerine and other institutions existed, but Equitable really started making waves in the online world with its impressive suite of products.

There is a reason this bank has grown its customer base by over 400% over the last half-decade. Canadians are finally getting fed up with paying ridiculous fees for banks to hold their money and are also tired of subpar investment products.

I moved 100% of my accounts to Equitable Bank in 2023 and am happy I did. Instead of paying $10 a month, they're now paying me almost that amount to simply have a balance in a chequing account there.

Along with their Personal Accounts, they have access to mortgages, reverse mortgages, GICs, Home Equity Lines of Credit and much more.

What Equitable Bank does well:

  • High-interest savings rates: EQ Bank typically offers competitive interest rates on savings accounts, which can be higher than those offered by traditional banks.
  • No everyday banking fees: EQ Bank is known for having no monthly fees for everyday banking, which can lead to significant savings over time.
  • Convenience of digital banking: With a focus on online services, customers can manage their accounts, pay bills, and transfer money easily from anywhere with internet access.
  • Easy access to GICs: EQ Bank offers a range of GICs with competitive rates, which can be a great way for customers to secure their savings.
  • Innovative banking solutions: As a digital bank, EQ Bank often adopts new technologies and banking solutions faster than traditional banks. I have banked with Equitable for a year now and have never had to do anything beyond my computer.
  • Customer service: Customer service with Equitable Bank is the best there is. I've never had a problem persist long. I often have a solution in minutes from their live chat.

What Equitable Bank is lacking:

  • Lack of physical branches: As an online bank, we do not have physical branches for in-person banking, which might be inconvenient for some customers.
  • Limited product range: Compared to major banks, EQ Bank might offer a more limited range of products, focusing primarily on savings accounts and GICs. They are adopting new accounts like USD savings and reverse mortgages, but it will take some time for them to have a major institution-level product.
  • Dependence on technology: Customers need consistent internet access and comfort with digital platforms.
  • Limited personalized financial advice: The lack of face-to-face interactions might limit the extent to which personalized financial advice or services are available.

The best brick-and-mortar bank: Scotiabank

ScotiaBank

These days, the best brick-and-mortar bank should really just come down to fees. Yes, there is particular functionality when it comes to the major banks, but you really have to ask yourself what you're using the account for.

If it's for everyday basic banking and you're a stickler for choosing a major institution with physical branches, select the one that provides the lowest fees and the lowest hidden costs. In my opinion, that bank is Scotiabank.

Their Basic Plus Bank Account is the most straightforward, lowest-fee bank account among the major banks in Canada. It also has the lowest requirements for having its $11.95 a month fee waived. All you need to do is have more than $3000 in the account.

I was shocked to see what some of the other institutions were charging on a monthly basis for some of their accounts. Some of them were close to $30 just to have unlimited functionality. With the Scotiabank Basic Plus Bank Account, you'll get free e-transfers and up to 25 free debit transactions monthly.

So, if you're a frequent morning coffee drinker and pay with debit, this may be an issue. However, if you don't use your debit card much, like me, and instead utilize a credit card for the rewards and pay the balance off with your bank account, it's pretty easy to get in this range of transactions.

And speaking of credit cards, Scotiabank also has arguably the strongest cash-back credit card around, the Momentum Visa. I've found they typically have some of the best mortgages.

What Scotiabank does well:

  • Wide range of products and services: Scotiabank offers a comprehensive suite of financial products, including checking and savings accounts, investments, loans, mortgages, and select credit cards.
  • Global presence: As a major bank, Scotiabank has a significant international presence, making it a good choice for customers who travel or do business abroad.
  • Physical branches and ATMs: In addition to online banking, Scotiabank has an extensive network of physical branches and ATMs, which is beneficial for customers who prefer in-person banking or need to perform cash transactions.
  • One of the best mobile applications: Scotiabank provides an excellent mobile banking platform, allowing for convenient account management, bill payments, and transfers.
  • Rewards and incentives: They offer various rewards and incentive programs, especially linked to their credit card products.
  • Strong security measures: Scotiabank places a high emphasis on security, with advanced measures in place to protect online banking transactions.

What Scotiabank is lacking:

  • Fees: Scotiabank's banking services, particularly checking accounts, may have higher fees than those of some digital-only banks.
  • Low rates on deposit products: The interest rates on savings accounts are typically lower than those offered by online-only banks.
  • Customer service lacks: While Scotiabank offers multiple channels for customer service, the quality of service can vary, and some customers may experience longer wait times.

The best bank for GICs: Equitable Bank

EQ Bank

There are plenty of institutions that provide better GIC rates than Equitable Bank. However, there is a key difference between Equitable Bank and the other institutions offering higher rates.

Most of these institutions have very limited product suites and often simply have high-interest savings accounts. With Equitable Bank, they have mortgages, reverse mortgages, USD savings accounts, HELOCs, chequing accounts, and more.

In my eyes, sacrificing the 0.3% -0.4 % interest rate on a GIC is well worth it. Equitable Bank often offers a much better variety of short-term GIC products than these other institutions.

What EQ Bank does well with GICs:

  • A wide variety of maturities: You can find GICs ranging from 30 days to ten years with Equitable. This is the widest range of maturities I could find.
  • Long maturities now covered by CDIC: For the longest time, term deposits with maturities of more than 5 years have not been covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation. They now are.
  • Tax sheltering capability: Unlike many of the smaller banks offering more attractive rates, Equitable Bank can allow you to tax-shelter your GICs via a TFSA or RRSP.
  • Easy to buy: I found the process of buying a GIC on Equitable Bank to be the easiest among any institution.

What EQ Bank is lacking with GICs:

  • Lack of diversity: They don't have many of the redeemable, variable rates or market-linked products that other major institutions have.
  • Lack of yield: Their products, although still outstanding yields are not the best.

The best bank for mortgages: Royal Bank of Canada

Royal Bank dividend

When speaking about the best Canadian bank for mortgages, I decided to stick with banks and not alternative lenders. If you're looking for some of the most attractive rates in the country, a pure mortgage lender like True North Mortgage, for example, is typically going to have much more attractive rates.

However, if you're looking for a major bank, I find RBC to be the best.

Their rates are very competitive with the other lenders, and to be honest, if you ask them to match another major institution's rate, it is unlikely they'll say no.

The one thing I do like about the company's mortgages is the fact that it has a couple of niche mortgages, including its Cash-back Mortgage, which can really help new homeowners with smaller down payments.

Depending on the size of your mortgage, Royal Bank will give you cash back at closing of, at the time of writing, up to 7%. This can easily help you pay for legal fees, closing costs, title transfers, and maybe even new furniture.

What Royal Bank does well with mortgages:

  • Competitive rates: Although the rates won't be as good as those of an alternative lender like Equitable or True North, if you are a stickler for getting a mortgage with a major institution, Royal Bank offers some of the best rates.
  • Their cash-back mortgage: The bank's cash-back mortgage can help mitigate the impact of closing costs.
  • A rock-solid HELOC plan: The RBC Homeline Plan is a solid home equity line of credit that combines your mortgage and a Royal Credit Line into a single product. The limit increases depending on your home equity.

What Royal Bank is lacking with mortgages:

  • High rates: This is really all I could knock the bank for in terms of its mortgages. Its rates are much higher than many alternative and B-grade lenders. You'll often find yourself saving anywhere from 75 to 150 basis points on a rate, which can certainly be a deal breaker for some.

The best bank for personal loans: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

CIBC Logo

From my research, the bank best suited for the best personal loan lender title would probably have to be CIBC.

Their unsecured loans range anywhere from $3,000 to $200,000 and can go even higher when you secure the loan with a piece of property or other asset.

The bank also often allows online applications, which makes the process much easier than going to the branch.

Their term loans don't have any limitations as to how fast you can pay them off, and generally, I've found them to be the best bank to borrow from.

In terms of alternative lenders or peer-to-peer lenders, I find that the major institutions, CIBC included, are often able to offer more attractive interest rates.

Their rates fluctuate wildly, so I'm not really going to go over what you can expect to pay in terms of interest. The best option would be to contact the bank if you're looking to get a loan.

What CIBC does well with personal loans:

  • Differing products: The bank has a wide variety of products to suit your needs. Secured and unsecured loans, personal lines of credit, and high loan limits.
  • Pay off the loan whenever you want: The bank has no pre-payment penalties, making it easier for people to pay off the loan faster and save money on interest.

What CIBC is lacking with personal loans:

  • Lower approval rates: As a major institution, CIBC has slightly stingier approval ratings than a B-grade lender. For this reason, if your credit is poor, you may have to head elsewhere and pay a higher rate of interest for the same loan.

The bank with the best brokerage: National Bank of Canada

National Bank stock

It is very hard not to choose National Bank Direct Brokerage when considering the best bank when it comes to brokerage accounts.

Although many of the other major institutions here are attempting to offer specials and discount promotions when it comes to commissions, National Bank is the first major brokerage to truly come out with commission-free trades.

Platforms like Questrade, Scotia iTrade, and CIBC Investors Edge do have competitive commissions, but they're certainly not free.

This isn't a no-frills brokerage that has commission trades like Wealthsimple Trade either. This is a full-scale brokerage with a multitude of features that don't charge any commissions to buy and sell stocks.

Although its platform may not be as advanced as Interactive Brokers', it is still well worth a look if you're looking for a commission-free brokerage to buy and sell stocks with.

What National Bank does well with its brokerage:

  • Zero commissions: The bank transitioned to a completely free platform where you can buy and sell stocks and ETFs.
  • Free commissions with the perks: Most brokerages who offer free commissions cut out a lot of functionality. National Bank doesn't do this.

What National Bank is lacking with its brokerage:

  • Fractional shares: This is one thing Wealthsimple Trade does really well and is why I'm still with the platform over National Bank. Fractional shares allow investors to buy and sell portions of a stock rather than whole shares, which leads to more consistent investing habits.

Now that we've gone over the best banks in Canada let's have a look at Canada's banking system

Canada's banking system is recognized as one of the safest in the world, with a blend of regulatory bodies and insurance systems ensuring stability and consumer protection. We have six major institutions in Canada that are generally considered an oligopoly.

This is in contrast to the several hundred located in the United States.

Overview of Canada's major financial institutions

Canada's financial landscape is composed of various institutions, including Canadian banks, credit unions, and insurance companies, all of which offer a diverse array of financial products. 

However, the bulk of the market is controlled by the Big 6, including the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, National Bank, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

  • RBC is the largest bank in Canada by market capitalization and is known for its comprehensive range of services in over 40 countries.
  • TD Bank combines a wide Canadian presence with substantial operations in the United States.
  • The Bank of Nova Scotia is renowned for its international banking platform, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • BMO offers a wide array of financial services and maintains a significant presence in the Midwest United States through BMO Harris Bank and the acquisition of Bank of The West.
  • CIBC focuses on providing personal banking, business banking, wealth management, and capital markets services in Canada. It is expanding internationally but certainly has the largest Canadian focus at this moment.

Other smaller yet notable banks can include Laurentian Bank and Canadian Western Bank. However, these banks are hyper-focused on particular regions of the country instead of being country-wide.

Prominent online banks

Online banking in Canada has become increasingly popular, with institutions like Tangerine, Simplii Financial, and EQ Bank leading the way. These banks offer competitive, typically no-fee banking options with high rates of interest on savings accounts, which are appealing to customers seeking simplicity and value.

  • Tangerine, operating as a subsidiary of Scotiabank, offers no-fee chequing and savings accounts, a money-back credit card, and investment options.
  • EQ Bank, a trademark of Equitable Bank, provides high-interest accounts, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), mortgages, USD accounts, and reverse mortgages without the overhead cost of traditional branches.
  • Simplii Financial is a subsidiary of CIBC. The bank offers no-fee chequing accounts, high-interest savings accounts, personal loans and lines of credit, and so much more.

I personally swapped all of my banking needs to Equitable Bank in 2023 and haven't looked back since. In my opinion, they're a league above everything else available in Canada right now.

How Canada's banks are regulated

The regulatory framework for financial institutions in Canada is rigorous and designed to protect the stability of the financial system. 

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) oversees banks and insurers, ensuring their compliance with high operating standards. 

Additionally, the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) provides insurance on eligible deposits up to $100,000 per insured category at each member institution, safeguarding Canadians' deposits in the event of a bank failure. 

Accounts offered by Canadian banks

Chequing accounts

Chequing accounts are the standard for day-to-day transactions. They typically offer unlimited transactions, though some may have limits. 

Most financial institutions offer a no-fee chequing account option, which can save users monthly fees, provided certain conditions are met, such as maintaining a minimum balance.

Standard features:

  • Unlimited debit transactions
  • Online bill payments
  • Interac e-Transfer capabilities

Optional add-ons:

  • Overdraft protection
  • Customized cheques
  • Reward points on transactions

The best option for Canadians:

  • Equitable Bank

Savings accounts

Savings accounts traditionally offer interest on the funds deposited, making them suitable for short-term savings and emergency funds. Options like a high-interest savings account can provide a greater return on investment, whereas a standard savings account might offer more accessibility with lower interest rates.

Account benefits:

  • Interest on your balance
  • Separate from daily spending

Considerations:

  • Transaction limits may apply
  • Interest rates can vary significantly

Some banks offer the option to link a savings account to a joint account, allowing multiple individuals to save together.

The best option for Canadians:

  • Equitable Bank

Investment accounts

Investment accounts are designed for long-term financial growth, offering a variety of vehicles such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Unlike chequing or savings accounts, investment accounts often come with a risk, depending on market conditions.

Many of the major institutions in Canada have wealth management divisions and brokerages, whereas smaller banks like Equitable Bank do have TFSAs and RRSPs. However, they don't offer the ability to buy stocks, bonds, or mutual funds inside them yet.

Popular options:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)

Key considerations:

  • Potential for higher returns
  • Various risk levels depending on the investment type

When opening an investment account, a comprehensive evaluation of one's financial goals and risk tolerance is imperative.

The best option for Canadians:

  • National Bank Direct Brokerage

Loans and credit offered by most banks

Credit card offerings

Banks in Canada provide a plethora of credit card options designed to reward customer lifestyles and spending habits. Consumers can choose from cards offering travel rewards, cash back, low-interest rates, or no annual fees. 

For example, the Royal Bank of Canada offers a very popular card called the Avion, which is primarily a travel card. On the other hand, Scotiabank has the Momentum, which is one of the best cash-back cards in the country.

Personal and business loans

Financial institutions in Canada are known for their wide variety of loan products available to both individuals and businesses. Whether or not you're looking for a loan to renovate your house or a loan to expand your business, there is a high likelihood that if you're credit is good, you'll be approved.

Mortgages and lines of credit

Mortgages in Canada are offered with various interest rates, terms, and conditions to accommodate different buyer needs. Banks offer fixed-rate or variable-rate mortgages, as well as special programs for first-time homebuyers. 

I would have to say that if you're looking for a mortgage and are willing to go outside of a major bank to get one, there are plenty of B-grade lenders that will give you one at a much lower rate. This is what I have done almost my whole life.

On the other hand, a line of credit is a flexible borrowing option with typically lower interest rates than credit cards. It can be secured or unsecured, and you'll often get a much lower rate of interest on a secured loan.

How do these banks make money off me?

Make no mistake about it- Canadian banks make a lot of money. In fact, they often profit hundreds of dollars every single second of the day. And I'm not talking revenue; I'm talking profits.

The banks make money a multitude of ways. But lets focus on how they make money from a typical single consumer.

Account and transaction fees

Canadian banks typically charge a monthly account fee, which can be waived if the customer maintains a minimum balance. For instance, one can expect to pay a fee of around $16.95 for unlimited banking transactions with certain bank accounts, waived if they maintain a minimum balance—often $4,000 or more.

At the time of writing, Scotiabank offers an account that only has to have $3,000 in it, or you pay $11.95. It's one of the most attractive big bank accounts out there.

Overdraft protection is another feature that often incurs a fee. This service allows customers to temporarily exceed their account balance, preventing declined transactions and covering unexpected shortfalls.

Depending on the bank, each overdraft transaction might attract fees, which could add up if one frequently overdraws their account.

Example of typical fees:

  • Monthly account fee: $5.00 - $30.00
  • Transactions: $1.00 - $5.00 per transaction after the free limit is reached
  • Overdraft protection: $5.00 per use plus interest on the balance

Interest charged on loans

The interest rate on loans and credit cards in Canada can vary greatly depending on the type of loan and what the loan is for.

The Bank of Canada's benchmark rate, the borrower's creditworthiness, and market competition is also another element that can change your interest rate.

These banks make significant returns on the interest charged, particularly credit cards, which can be in excess of 25% interest.

The current range of interest rates:

  • Savings account: 0.05% - 2.00%
  • Personal loan: 3.00% - 20.00% (based on credit score and other factors)