The Best Banks in Canada for 2021
We’re Ryan Seacrest-ing it, as we count down the hits in Canadian banking with the annual Best Banks in Canada review for 2021.
But we’re not numbering them, as the platinum blonde Seacrest might do if this was the radio’s Weekly Top 40.
Instead, we’re making like the Oscars and handing out awards for certain categories. These will be the best banks in Canada that fit a certain mold or niche, such as “Best Online Bank” or “Best One-Stop-Shop.”
Do you think that your bank made the cut? There’s only one way to find out.
Learn more about the best banks in Canada for 2021 below.
Table of Contents
Scotiabank: Best One-Stop-Shop Bank
Founded in 1832 as The Bank of Nova Scotia, Scotiabank is Canada’s third-largest bank, and, as far as market capitalization, is the only one of Canada’s “Big Five Banks” to make this list.
That’s because they are one of the best banks in Canada if you are a millennial.
If you’re looking to do all of your banking in one place and want to earn attractive rewards, Scotiabank is that bank.
The most compelling case for this is their Ultimate Package Offer, where if you sign up for The Ultimate Package (before Jan. 29, 2021), you can earn $300 simply by doing two out of three of the following in the first 60 days of having an account in addition to signing up:
- Make a bill payment of $50 online or through Scotia’s mobile app,
- Make two pre-authorized recurring transactions over $50 for three consecutive months, and
- Make a recurring direct deposit for three consecutive months
An extra $300 or not, the Ultimate package includes:
- An additional 0.10% interest on top of the standard 0.05% on Scotia’s MomentumPLUS Savings Account,
- Unlimited debit transactions, e-transfers and Scotia International Money Transfers,
- Free and unlimited ABM withdrawals from the Global ATM Alliance
- Up to $139 annual fee waiver on select Scotiabank credit cards,
- No monthly overdraft protection fee,
- Rewards options, including SCENE (for free movies) or Scotia Rewards (for travel and merchandise),
- Ten free equity trades on Scotia iTrade in the first year and five free equity trades every subsequent year, and
- Ultimate rates on select GICs and free personalized cheques and drafts.
Honestly, it’s everything but the kitchen sink. That means up to $650 in benefits and savings. Though the account ordinarily costs $30.95 per month, keeping a minimum balance of $5,000 daily closing balance waives this monthly fee.
If you’re starting from scratch and you want to do all your banking with Scotiabank, you can get a ton of perks and savings for all your banking needs across many different financial services.
However, if you’re picking and choosing products, your savings or investment interest won’t be as high as saying a branchless bank like EQ or Tangerine.
That said, Scotiabank is very much an all-or-nothing bank but is undeniably the best one-stop-shop for all your banking needs.
Tangerine: Best Online Bank in Canada
Technically, Tangerine allows Scotiabank to hold two spots on this list because it’s a Scotiabank subsidiary.
Tangerine holds the distinction of being Canada’s first branchless (direct) bank when founded as ING Direct back in 1997.
Tangerine combines the best aspects of online banking with the best aspects of terrestrial banking.
They may not have branches, but they have one “café” on the grounds of their head office in Toronto, where clients can use Tangerine ATMs and ask questions of live associates or seek assistance by phone, online chat, or through social media.
The café may eliminate the feeling that you are on your own with online banking with no support, which is great.
However, reviews of their customer service by phone and online have been mixed and can very much lack a full-service or thorough quality for less knowledgeable clients.
It helps to be already proficient at technology and navigate online financial services mostly independently if you’re going with Tangerine.
Tangerine offers great interest rates on a variety of savings accounts. Accounts offered by Tangerine include the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), the Registered Retirement Savings Accounts (RRSP), and the Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). Rates range up to 2.10%, in addition to the standard savings account with the 0.10% interest rate, which matches Scotiabank’s.
Tanger also offers a no-fee daily banking chequing account with no transaction fees and free e-transfers. It also offers Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), business accounts, mortgages, lines of credit options, unlimited Money-Back credit card options with no annual fees, investment funds, and loans.
The offerings are quite fruitful for an online bank. However, within each product category, you only have a few options.
Tangerine is the perfect bank for people who want to keep their financial services under one hood, with total control left to manage their finances.
Tangerine products also work as a supplement to a primary banking relationship somewhere else.
Simplii Financial: Best No-Nonsense Bank
Simplii Financial is remarkably like Tangerine, except it’s even more stripped-down, more straight forward, and its offerings aren’t as plentiful.
It’s the perfect bank if you don’t require many banking product options and want one or two options within product categories like daily banking, credit, cards, loans, investments, and mortgages.
You also want your bank completely branchless with no terrestrial presence whatsoever, and, like a Tangerine customer, you’re looking for high-interest savings and cashback with no fees on the most widely used financial products like bank accounts and credit cards.
Tangerine and Simplii not only share similar product offerings with similar benefits, but they are structured the same way as well.
As Scotiabank is the parent bank of its branchless subsidiary Tangerine, Simplii Financial is owned and operated by CIBC.
As much as Tangerine and Simplii Financial are almost mirrored images of each other in structure and product offerings, some subtle differences make Simplii even, well, simpler, with even more savings through interest and cashback.
Tangerine offers no fees on daily banking and no annual fee on its only money back credit card. While Tangerine offers $150 to new clients who open an account, Simplii offers a $200 bonus offer.
While Simplii offers 2% interest on a basic high-interest savings account, Tangerine offers 2.10% for the first five months and 0.10% the rest of the time.
Tangerine also offers 2% unlimited cash back on two categories of your choice and 0.5% on everything else with its Money-Back Mastercard, while Simplii offers a gargantuan 10% cashback (an added 6% plus the 4% offered for the life of the account) at bars and restaurants on up to $500 in purchases in the first four months.
Plus, 1.5% cashback on grocery, gas, and drugstore purchases, with 0.5% on all other categories.
Simplii Financial and Tangerine see-saw like this on all their products and services, each earning incremental advantages in a back-and-forth battle for Canada’s favorite branchless banking option.
But Simplii is the place to bank if you’re seeking a branchless banking option and nothing else. No hybrid option, no getting bogged down by product options, just a no-frills, no fee online bank.
EQ Bank: Best Bank for High-Interest Savings
The EQ in EQ Bank stands for Equitable, as in, Equitable Bank. Founded in 1970, Equitable Trust Company provided mortgages, commercial lending, and deposit services in commercial and residential real estate. In 2016, it launched EQ bank as a completely branchless, online-only personal banking arm.
EQ Bank made this list because its flagship Savings Plus Account holds one of the highest interest rates in Canada, sitting at 1.5% interest.
Unlike other banks on this list, that’s not a promo rate, but their everyday banking rate.
Like other direct banks such as Simplii and Tangerine, EQ Bank offers no minimum balance, no transaction fees, and free Interac e-transfers.
However, there’s no chequing account at EQ, but the Savings Plus Account offers limited chequing account functionality in free bill payments, direct deposit, and automatic transfers.
EQ has also teamed with TransferWise to offer international money transfers that cost eight times less than traditional banks.
An international transfer from the U.S. can cost as much as $15.00 with the Big Five, but sending $1,000 CAN to the U.S. with Transferwise costs only $8.71 CAN plus exchange rate.
EQ Bank also offers Joint Accounts, RRSPs, TFSAs, and GICs, which with the high-interest savings account rate you’re coming to the dance for, making up for their otherwise limited product offerings.
PC Money: Best Bank for Everyday Rewards
There’s one reason to open a PC Financial Bank account – free groceries.
Okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. PC stands for President’s Choice, a legendary name in Canadian store-brand grocery products.
The store in question is Loblaws, a national grocery chain with several grocery store brands under its umbrella. The brand also owns Shoppers Drug Mart, which is the biggest drugstore chain in the country.
Loblaws’ customers can collect PC Points that are redeemable toward free groceries, while Shoppers Drug Mart customers collect Optimum points. When the two store chains merged in March 2014, the rewards program earned the new name, PC Optimum.
If you want to maximize your opportunity for more PC Optimum points beyond a rewards card, you open a PC Financial Bank Account. (Does anyone else think it’s weird that PC Optimum points are so popular that there are enough customers who’d want to collect them through a bank account or credit card?)
Still, free groceries and drug store purchases aren’t anything to mock, especially when everyone’s financial security is becoming more and more scarce, and essentials like food are becoming harder to afford.
Open a PC Financial Money Account, and you’ll get 10 PC Optimum points for every dollar you spend everywhere you shop and no fees on account transactions.
Plus, you’ll receive 10 points for every dollar spent at Loblaws stores in-store and online and 25 points for every dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart.
Meanwhile, you can get up to 50,000 PC Optimum points (a $50 value) when you link another bank account, (10,000) set up direct payroll deposit, (25,000) make your first $50 transaction, (10,000) and make five recurring bill payments (5,000).
Combine that PC Optimum points landslide with the no annual fee PC Financial Mastercard, and free groceries will become an inevitability every week, especially when the Mastercard offers another 10 points per dollar at Loblaws and 25 points at Shoppers, effectively doubling the points you can collect between your credit and debit card.
Still, if you don’t shop at any Loblaws brand stores, this isn’t the bank for you.
Also, a major drawback is their minimal ATM network and advisor stations to talk to a live person, as they’re only available inside some Loblaws grocery stores and are outpaced by other branchless banks and the major banks too.
It’s so annoying when you have to hunt for a free place to take out your money that could be far and out of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best banks according to Wealth Rocket, in no particular order, are Scotiabank, Tangerine, Simplii Financial, EQ Bank and PC Financial. Read this article to find out why.
What are the biggest banks in Canada?
The biggest banks in Canada according to assets are the following:
1. Toronto-Dominion Bank -- $1,104.37B
2. Royal Bank of Canada -- $1074.28B
3. Bank of Nova Scotia -- $856.49B
4. Bank of Montreal – $641.88B
5. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce -- $463.60B
The best online bank in Canada is Tangerine simply because its product offering is the broadest of all online banks in Canada, despite only a few options being available in each product category.
It also has the most customer support and most like a traditional bank in terms of what you can get of all the online banks. Meanwhile, you still get high interest savings and high cash back.