Free Chequing Accounts Canada: Save $200 A Year In Bank Fees

Save $200 A Year With These 4 Free Chequing Accounts

I have a confession.

I'm a new grad and I still pay monthly fees for my chequing account.

And I have to watch how many transactions I do per month so I don’t go over my limit, resulting in even more fees...

And every month, I ask myself, "Why do I still pay fees when no-fee alternatives exist?"

And today, that’s what I’m asking you, too

Sure, many Big 5 accounts offer free services...with the caveat that a monthly minimum balance is maintained. But this ties up money that could otherwise be growing as an investment or in a higher-interest savings account.

Outside the Big 5, there are alternative institutions that offer accounts with unlimited transactions and no fees.

And they’ve been expanding their ATM network, so you don’t have to worry about being condemned to constant ATM-withdrawal fees.

Want to take advantage of no-fee banking and some great interest rates? Set up an EQBank savings account and get 2.30% – one of the best interest rates in Canada.

Interested? Here are 4 no-fee, Canada-wide chequing accounts for you to consider:

No-fee chequing accounts at a glance

Name Tangerine Alterna Bank Simplii Financial Manulife Advantage
Account Name No Fee Daily Chequing Account No-Fee eChequing Account No Fee Chequing Account Advantage Account
ATMs Scotiabank (3.6k), Global Alliance (44k) Alterna, The Exchange (3.3k) CIBC (3.4k) The Exchange Network (3.3k)
Mobile Cheque Deposit Yes Yes Yes Yes
Minimum Balance None None None $1,000 (to have all transactions free)
Interest Rate <50k = 0.15% <100k = 0.55% >100k = 0.65% 0.05% <1k = 0.05% 1k-5k = 0.10% 5k-25k=0.15% >25k=0.50% 1.40%
Paper Statement Free $2.00 $1.00 $2.00
Non-Bank ATM Fee $1.00 $1.90 $1.50 $1.50
Foreign ATM (Inside US/Mex) $2.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00
Outside ATM (Outside US/Mex) $2.00 $5.00 $3.00 $3.00
Transfer to Accounts at other Institutions Free Free Free Free
Interac e-Transfer $1.00 Free Free $1.00 (No charge with min balance)
Overdraft Fee $5.00 $2.50 (monthly) $4.97 $45.00
Cheque Image Return Free (Online) $2.00 Free (Online), $5 printed Free (Online)
Other Benefits $200 cash bonus until 1/31/19, First chequebook free   $200 cash offer until 1/31/19, Free personal cheques  

What they all can offer you

All 4 of these accounts will give you the following benefits:

  • $0 monthly fee: Of course, or else they wouldn’t be here.
  • No minimum balance: You won’t need to keep a minimum balance in your account in order to make use of that precious $0 monthly fee.
  • Mobile cheque deposit: Simply take a picture of your cheque with your phone in order to deposit it into your account.
  • Free paperless statements: Access to your bank statements online so there’s no monthly waiting or paper waste.
  • Canada-wide service: None of the accounts have any region locks other than Canada.
  • CDIC insurance: All your deposits (up to $100,000) are covered by the Government’s service.
  • Unlimited transactions: No cap for transactions, via cheque, online, or otherwise.

Tangerine No Fee Daily Chequing Account

The Tangerine option is a no-fee daily banking account that earns tiered interest, from 0.15% all the way up to 0.65%.

Since Tangerine is owned by Scotiabank, you can use all 3,600 Scotiabank ATMs in Canada for free. And you get access to Alliance members ATMs worldwide, giving you another 44,000 ATMs when travelling, all free of charge.

The account comes with a free book of 50 cheques. Once you run out, you'll have to pay $20 for each new book of cheques.

Current promotion

Right now, they’re running an offer of up to a $200 cash bonus offer.

The first $50 you get from setting up your account before January 31, 2019 using the OrangeKey "Orange50," and depositing at least $100. 

Open A Tangerine Account: Click Here
Use This Orange Key: Orange50

For the next $150, you just need to switch your payroll direct deposits to your Tangerine Chequing Account by November 30, 2018, and the $150 will be paid to you after 3 months of deposits.

OR you can switch 2 pre-authorized payments (at least $50 each) to your Chequing Account by November 30, 2018. Again, your $150 will be paid to you after 3 months of payments.

Related: Never A Better Time To Open A Tangerine Bank Account

The Alterna No-Fee eChequing Account

Though Alterna Savings is a credit union, its subsidiary, Alterna Bank, extends their service across Canada using The Exchange Network’s ATMs.

It offers free, easy banking that’s accessible online and through their mobile app.

Its interest rate (0.05%) is the lowest among the 4 I’m comparing today, but since it's a chequing account, this shouldn’t play too big of a role.

The account also has the lowest overdraft fee ($2.50), but that’s because it’s not a fee at all, it’s a protection feature that’s charged monthly.

The other banks have overdraft protection that is only charged when you use it, leaving Alterna alone on this one.

So keep in mind that if you want overdraft protection, the account isn’t no fee anymore.

Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account

Simplii Financial is owned by CIBC, one of the Big 5 banks in Canada.

Like Tangerine, you get access to all ATMs Canada-wide that are owned by Simplii’s big brother. This gives you about 3,400 CIBC ATMs to choose from, at no fee to you.

Also like Tangerine, Simplii’s interest rates are given based on the amount of money in your account. With less than $1,000, you’ll only be getting 0.05% interest, but this can be increased tenfold once you reach more than $25,000.

Something cool about this account: you get personal cheques for free.

Related: PC Financial Virtual Banking Is No More – But There Are Alternatives

Current promotion

Simplii has a great cash-bonus offer for up to $200 going on until January 31st, 2019.

For the first $100, all you have to do is set up your chequing account, then set up payroll or pension direct deposits. You’ll get your $100 after you receive 2 payments.

And for the rest of the money, you need to complete one or more the following:

  • set-up and complete a recurring pre-authorized bill payment,
  • add your Simplii debit card to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Play, or
  • register for Interac e-Transfer Autodeposit.

Each activity is worth $25, and you can repeat them until you reach $100.

Note: All activities must be completed within 3 months following the month you opened the account.

Manulife Advantage Account

Manulife’s no-fee chequing account option is definitely a unique one.

It works as a combination chequing AND savings account, giving you the withdrawal options of a chequing account, but with an interest rate of 1.40% – by far the highest offered by the 4 accounts we’re looking at, and relatively-high even for savings accounts standards.

Like Alterna, it uses The Exchange Network ATMs, giving you free access to about 3,300 ATMsCanada-wide.

Though you don’t need to keep a minimum balance in order to qualify for the $0 monthly fee, you do need to maintain $1,000 to get all your transactions free, including Interac e-Transfer.

Related: The War On Debt: Shopping For A Better Deal From The Bank

Choose the account that best meets your needs

Free everyday banking can bring in savings close to or exceeding $200 a year when compared to the fees of an unlimited chequing account offered by a Big 5 bank.

And the services they offer are similar, if not better, than conventional banking accounts with monthly fees.

Choosing one of the free banking options can also free up money tied up in minimum balance requirements, allowing savings to grow faster either through higher savings rates or investments.

Ultimately, the right account is the one that best suits your individual needs, but if you’re not fully using the features of a monthly fee account, there are many compelling alternatives that are worth looking into.

Related: Savings Account Interest Rate Chasing Can Be Rewarding

Do you think the fee is worth it?

What can you do with your monthly fee bank account that you couldn’t with one of these no-fee alternatives?

Are you considering switching to a no-fee account?

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Editorial Disclaimer: The content here reflects the author's opinion alone, and is not endorsed or sponsored by a bank, credit card issuer, rewards program or other entity.

Hot Credit Card Deals This Month:

  • COMING SOON: No foreign transaction fees + up to 5X reward multipliers
    • Coming August 1 to all cardholders:
    • 0% foreign transaction fees – a 2.5% savings.
    • 5X points on groceries, dining, and entertainment.
    • 3X points on gas, daily transit, and select streaming services.
    • Apply today to qualify for the lower $99 annual fee this year.
  • Pay Your Balance Faster with 0% Interest for 10 Months
    • Best introductory balance transfer offer in Canada right now.
    • Pay off pre-existing credit card debt with a 0% promotional balance transfer rate.
    • No annual fee and no minimum income requirements.
    • Offer not available to residents of Quebec.
  • Best credit card in Canada for 2 years in a row
    • Our top rated credit card in Canada in 2018 and 2019.
    • Earn up to 30,000 points as a welcome bonus in the first year.
    • 5 points per $1 spent on groceries and dining.
    • 2 points per $1 spent on travel, transit and gas purchases.
    • Monthly fee of $10 instead of an annual fee.
  • Rate Your Wallet in 3 minutes or less. Take the quiz


Ken S
Ken S's picture

You know, I disagree with this. I didn't think I would until reality changed my mind.

I have a Scotiabank Moneyback account. It costs $15 a month, or $180/yr.

It allows up to $300/year as cashback for interac transactions, and pre-authorized payments.

I have, so far, yet to have a year where I didn't hit that cap.

That means, in the two years I have had this account, I have been *paid* $240 for banking with Scotiabank.

August 11, 2015 @ 7:36 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, but if you used one of the top credit cards instead to make those purchases in conjunction with a no fee bank account then you would have earned a lot MORE cash back and not paid any fees at all. Definitely not a bad arrangement for those who can't help but use their debit card for some reason.

Also, Stop Using Your Debit Card Canada.

August 11, 2015 @ 7:55 pm
Ken's picture

Thanks, Stephen.

Actually, I do use my Credit card for all possible purchases, having followed your advice and gone with cashback as much as possible on those cards.

That being said, there are several large costs I tend to incur that, annoyingly, cannot be made by credit card. In the cases where Credit cards can't be used, I do suggest that folks look at the options for cashback debit, and see if their projected spending on debit for the year may *also* net them some savings, as it has for me. :)

August 11, 2015 @ 9:19 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Wow, that's amazing that you are able to spend that much in interac transactions (and pre-authorized payments) after you've funneled all the spending you can through your credit card. I checked the Scotia Moneyback Account details and I didn't see anywhere it mentioned that pre-authorized payments eligible for cash back. I wonder if that has changed and you are grandfathered in or I just missed it. How do you manage $30,000 worth of those types of transactions a year - you must be balling or run a business? :)

August 12, 2015 @ 8:23 pm
GMan's picture

Ken S,

OR you can get a scotia 4% cash back visa, make %800 to 900 a year without paying interest and bank at Tangerine ( owned by Scotia ) for FREE plus THEY pay you interest.

3 Years in a row now that our cash back money has paid for Back to School and 100% of our Christmas spending on gifts.

Even with the 2% cash back visa you get about $450 a year.... and Tangerine has a ZERO fee 2% CB card.

August 13, 2016 @ 7:21 pm
GMan's picture

Ken S

I too banked with Scotia bank and until you do the math for other options out there, you will realize that there are better ways. I switched from scotia bank to Tangerine. So, within 1 year I have saved $180 in fee's made $80 in interest but the best part is I kept my Scotia 4% cash back visa. I use that for everything, even a tangerine no fee 2% cash back would give you more then $240. Last year Scotia bank deposited $890 into my account, zero fee's paid or interest and I the banks pay me now. Win / Win .... Just my 2 cents

January 25, 2017 @ 2:57 pm
Deb S
Deb S's picture

I'm signing up with Tangerine! Enough of the big 5 and their nickel and diming as you say.

August 12, 2015 @ 1:29 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I agree. The banks are insanely profitable yet they tend to keep raising fees even though they don't need to. The point of a business is to make money, so I don't blame them for trying, but you'd think they'd show a little restraint and not raise fees.

August 12, 2015 @ 8:24 pm
Andrew Wade
Andrew Wade's picture

Worth noting that Tangerine has halved its interest rates for savings accounts in the last year or so. I'm not happy about that.

August 13, 2015 @ 4:00 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes they have but so has almost all the big banks and most others. There are smaller financial institutions that are still above 1% but the big banks are down near half a percent. Tangerine and PC Financial are currently at 0.8%. A combination of PC Financial and Tangerine together are also great for maximizing interest rate promotions.

August 13, 2015 @ 3:17 pm
tara nierychlo
tara nierychlo's picture

not a techy person, so please bear with me. How would I deposit or cash a personal check? Now, with Coast Cap, I just go into the bank & deal through the teller. Thanks for your patience.

August 12, 2015 @ 6:06 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

No problem Tara. You can deposit your cheques through the bank machine, it's very easy. Tangerine customers can use all Scotia ATMs and PC Financial customers can use all CIBC ATMs plus those PC Financial ATMs located at Superstore and other Loblaws stores.

Both also have cheque imaging deposit, which is super easy and convenient because you can do it from home using a smartphone. This is how I deposit most of my cheques now. You just sign the back of your cheque and use the bank's app you download from the app store to take a picture of the front and back and voila the money is in your account immediately (the usual holds will apply).

August 12, 2015 @ 8:27 pm
karen's picture

Is there a no fee home business bank account available on the market where you do get your cheques back?

August 24, 2015 @ 4:52 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

The only no-fee small business bank account available to Canadians is offered by RBC. Only online transactions are free. All teller transactions cost money and sending EFTs costs money as well. This account wouldn't be good for businesses that deal with a lot of cash and cheques or that need personal service because the fees for those things are higher. If you don't need that stuff, then it's perfect. I'm planning to open one myself soon.

August 27, 2015 @ 11:05 pm
ALISSA  's picture

I am presently with RBC as I can also have an RBC US account and transfer money between countries which is helpful as I also have US credit cards I keep active since living down there. Would that be possible through Tangerine or PC ?

February 16, 2016 @ 7:11 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Well, that is a little outside the scope of my knowledge, but you can certainly set up transfers between Canadian and USA bank accounts. If you can't set up an EFT transfer between them directly, you can use a service like xeTrade as a middle man to do the transfer, which would probably be cheaper than whatever currency exchange fees RBC is tacking on for transferring between your USA and Canadian accounts.

February 17, 2016 @ 4:37 pm
Mark's picture

Hi Stephen

Alterna Bank also has a no fee chequing account call the "No Fee eChequing". They offer 2 free interac e-transfers a month which is not bad in my opinion. I only found out about it recently when I opened a 1.85% high interest savings account with them. You actually have to click on "Becoming a Client" at the top of the webpage to get the details on it. I didn't know they offer a no fee chequing until I clicked on "Becoming a Client" to open up the high interest savings account.

There is also Canadian Direct Financial. They have a no fee chequing account call "KeyDirect" chequing. As with Alterna Bank, I found out about their no fee chequing when I was looking into their 1.50% "KeyRate" high interest savings account. However, they currently do not have mobile deposit, but is supposedly in the works.

Both these banks are federally licensed (CDIC members) and available to all Canadians.


March 27, 2016 @ 11:31 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

That's excellent Mark, thanks for sharing those additional options!

March 28, 2016 @ 10:25 pm
GMan's picture

Hey Stephen Weyman,

FYI, please update your info. Tangerine has FREE email money transfer as well ( Unlimited ) only difference is it takes 3 days for the recipient to get their money. So Tangerine offers the Instant transfer for $1 or the FREE transfer as well

August 13, 2016 @ 7:25 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

If you take a closer look at the table you'll see that it is already there.

August 13, 2016 @ 7:59 pm
Mike S
Mike S's picture

Thanks for sharing a great post, Stephen.
Do you know if it costs any fee to transfer money (say, monthly) from a major bank to either of Tangerine or PC Financial's No Fee accounts?

August 31, 2016 @ 12:30 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

No, this is free. You see up an "Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)" arrangement using either PC Financial or Tangerine. After that you can transfer money with a few clicks in both directions between your bank accounts. It takes 2-3 business days to process and you can set up recurring and automated transfers no problem.

September 05, 2016 @ 1:09 pm
David McKay
David McKay's picture

Thanks Stephen, great information.

One other nice perk of Tangerine's overdraft protection is that they notify you if you dip into it, and give you until midnight to fix it before accessing the fee.


April 02, 2017 @ 9:06 pm
Danny Jellis
Danny Jellis's picture

The no fee banks are great until you require customer service. According to Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star, who I reached out to with a problem with Simplii, the no fee, no bricks banks have the WORST track record for customer service. You may save a couple of hundred dollars in fees but may end up tearing your hair out when you need some kind of assistance from your bank.
Recently all my accounts were FROZEN at Simplii when I moved %15000.00 from my TFSA to a GIC at the same bank! I got no notice or information on th ewebsite why I couldn't do an email transfer, so I called the customer support line and was told that the passport I had presented as identity was Fraudulent. I have had this account thru PC Financial and transferred over to Simplii for more than 12 years, going thru at least 2 passports. The person on the phone was very unskilled and I asked to be transferred to a supervisor. Somewhat later a supervisor came on th eline and told me I had to physically present my passport at a branch or send a photocopy by physical Canada Post. No option to send a scanned image . This was necessitated by my purchasing a GIC. I told the supervisor at no time did MY MONEY LEAVE THEIR HANDS and asked why I had to identify myself in person if they continued to hold all of y funds in various accounts. We diuscussed the procedures for closing all of my accounts and he rang off. Next day the hold on my frozen accounts was removed without notice of any kind.
One nagging question I have as a result of this and in light of other folks not being able to produce paper when cashing in GIC's, what should I be doing to PROVE I own this GIC?

November 07, 2018 @ 2:42 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hi Danny,

Sorry to hear about your experience with Simplii. As an online bank, you'd think they'd be better at notifications, either through email or on their site. Not to mention they're owned by CIBC, who should know better than do things without notifying their customers.

I hope your future banking went better! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Happy saving!

November 08, 2018 @ 2:37 pm
Jay's picture

Update required?
I just looked at Tangerine (Nov. 21/18) and they seem to offer a no-fee Interac transfer which I assume is the same as an e-mail transfer.
Please confirm.

November 21, 2018 @ 7:29 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hello Jay, thanks for your question!

I just checked on their website again, and it says that Tangerine Email Money Transfers are free, but Interac e-Transfers are $1.00 each.

The difference between these two methods is that the Tangerine Email Money Transfer takes 2-3 days to go through, whereas Interac e-Transfers are immediate.

I hope this clears things up!

November 22, 2018 @ 10:50 am

Post new comment