Last updated: March 22, 2019
As a Simplii Financial customer for almost 17 years now, I've been taking advantage of no-fee virtual banking pretty much since it first became available in Canada.
It's been fantastic.
I've enjoyed no monthly account fees and unlimited free cheques for that entire time along with earning much higher interest rates on savings than what is offered by the big Canadian banks. No complaints here!
All the while there has been another no-fee banking competitor out there: ING Direct.
I'd always known about them, but their value proposition was never great enough for me. However, they were acquired by Scotiabank in 2012, changed their name to Tangerine, and upped their value proposition just enough that I took the plunge and opened my first account in 2014.
Up to $200 in bonuses + up to 2.75% interest for becoming a client
One of the main reasons I decided to open a Tangerine account was because they were giving away up to $150 in cash bonuses for opening new accounts, as part of their rebranding effort to entice new customers.
Tangerine currently has a similar offer open to new clients:
2.75% interest with a new savings account
If you open one of their free savings accounts (including an RRSP savings account or a Tax-Free savings account) Tangerine will give you a great 2.75% interest rate for 6 months.
You can set up a free EFT link between Tangerine and your existing chequing accounts at any bank if you want to keep using your existing chequing account.
+ $50 Orange Key bonus
When you open your Tangerine Chequing Account before April 30, 2019 and make an initial deposit of at least $100, you'll be given a $50 cash bonus.
Open A Tangerine Account: Click Here
Use This Orange Key: Orange50
Once you have an active account, you can then refer your friends, family, and acquaintances for additional bonuses using your own orange key.
+ $150 cash bonus
Plus, as a new client, you'll receive a $150 cash bonus if you:
- switch 2 pre-authorized payments of $50 or more to your new account for 3 consecutive months, or...
- set up a payroll direct deposit for 3 consecutive months.
In either case, your $150 will be deposited after 3 consecutive months of deposits or payments.
Tangerine vs. Simplii Financial (formerly PC Financial)
I have to admit the sign-up bonuses and interest rate promotions didn't hurt, but Tangerine has some other advantages (and disadvantages) over Simplii Financial.
Access to Scotiabank ATMs
Tangerine has access to the entire network of Scotiabank ATMs. While Simplii Financial uses the CIBC ATMs.
Free email money transfers
Tangerine has their own system for transferring money by email. This is different than the standard Interac email money transfer, which they also offer for a $1 fee.
They developed this system for sending money by email years ago, long before most of the big banks started offering Interac transfers for free. It's unfortunate that Tangerine hasn't dropped the $1 fee from their Interac transfers yet, but I hope they will soon.
In November 2017, Simplii Financial announced that they would no longer be charging fees for Interac transfers, which now gives them a slight edge over Tangerine.
Cheque deposits by picture
I'm a busy guy and I really hate going into the branch, hence my love for virtual banking. I also hate going to the ATM if I can avoid it.
Since I pay for all my purchases using a rewards credit card, I rarely need to withdraw cash. However, I still receive a decent number of cheques which forces me to visit either the branch or an ATM now and then.
Related: Stop Using Your Debit Card Canada!
Tangerine offers mobile cheque deposits simply by snapping a picture of the cheque using their mobile app on your smartphone. What a time saver! Now I can just snap a picture anytime and anywhere and the money will quickly show up in my account.
Tangerine was one of the first banks in Canada to offer this feature and other banks have been scrambling to catch up.
Most of them have it now, including Simplii Financial so it is no longer an exclusive advantage to them, but it's good to know the feature is there.
Competitive interest rates
There are smaller banks and credit unions out there that offer higher interest rates than both Tangerine and Simplii Financial, but their service typically isn't as convenient. Tangerine's rates are typically as good as or better than Simplii Financial.
A few years ago, the big banks didn't come anywhere close on savings account rates but they were eventually forced to stop bleeding people completely dry when they started losing customers in droves to virtual banks due to their much higher interest rates.
As of March 2019, both Simplii and Tangerine have the same core rate: 1.20%.
Good mobile app
I'm starting to bank on my phone more and more often. Both Tangerine and Simplii Financial have a good mobile apps so it's pretty much a tie on that front.
Easy account opening
It's super easy to open an account with Tangerine. I hate going into a branch to sign up for an account and Tangerine has definitely made ease of account opening a priority.
PC Financial used to require you to go into their Pavilion to open a brand new account or wait up to 3 weeks with lots of different steps to get the account approved and opened entirely virtually.
Now that Simplii Financial has launched, hopefully that process has improved.
With Tangerine, all you have to do is fill out a simple form online and then use the mobile cheque deposit to make your first deposit from another Canadian financial institution and your account is up and running within a day or two.
It actually shocked me how easy it was. I was very pleasantly surprised!
Instant transfers between Tangerine accounts
One annoying feature of Simplii Financial Interest Plus Savings accounts is that transfers out of your savings to your chequing account aren't instant and require one business day to process. Sometimes you just need access to your money NOW, am I right?
With Tangerine, transfers between savings and chequing accounts are instant.
Cheques aren't always free
The biggest disadvantage Tangerine has over Simplii Financial is that only the first book of cheques is free whereas they are always free with the latter.
However, if you do need to reorder cheques, they sell them at a very reasonable price of $20 which is much lower than the $40+ that the big banks typically charge.
All else is basically equal
Everything else is basically the same between the two virtual banks as I outlined in my no-fee banking article. You can check it out if you want to know what else to expect.
My experience so far
My experience with Tangerine started off really well with quick account opening process that just blew my socks off because opening accounts is usually such a slow process when done online.
From there I was immediately impressed with the mobile cheque cashing process and the fact that they used it as part of the account opening process.
The free email transfers were also really great, but less so now that most banks are giving Interac transfers away for free.
The mobile app has been a real time saver. I think I actually like the Simplii Financial mobile app layout slightly better, but I really like the full disclosure they give in the Tangerine app. They make sure you are aware of any security risks and they provide a very secure process for logging in.
The link created between my Simplii account and my savings account with Tangerine has been very useful as well. I love that a link is automatically created between the two accounts when you open a new account and you can then transfer funds back and forth between those accounts with a couple of clicks.
If things continue on this way, I'll probably stick with them for quite some time but I'll definitely keep my Simplii Financial accounts open just in case I want to switch back or a good interest rate promotion comes along.
Update: I've now been with Tangerine for about 4 years and I couldn't be happier. I ended up using the account mostly for business transactions for a while so I could keep them separate from my personal transactions. Now I use it mostly to take advantage of higher interest rates on my savings by opting into their regular interest rate promotions. No hiccups yet.