No Fee Banking Is Totally Worth It

No fee banking is totally worth itNo fee banking has been around for quite a while now in Canada but I still see the majority of people around me using debit cards from one of the big five Canadian banks and I’m always asking myself “why?”. Most people must have at least heard that no fee banking exists by now but still people continue to pay monthly fees or keep large sums of money in their chequing accounts to have their monthly fee waived despite these freely available alternatives!

Maybe they just don’t think no fee banking is worth it?

Well, as a no fee banking customer that has been with President’s Choice Financial pretty much since they opened their doors back in the late 90s, I can confidently tell you that it is most certainly worth it. I mean seriously, what’s not to love?

I've since opened a Tangerine no-fee bank account because of their high interest rates and cash bonuses for being a new customer and I couldn't be happier with them either.

The Pros And Cons Of No Fee Banking

This list of pros for no fee banking heavily outweighs the cons in my opinion. It can vary depending on your specific situation, of course, but for the average person it’s really hard to ignore the no fee option because it offers almost all of positives of traditional banking with almost none of the drawbacks.


  • No monthly fee.
  • No transaction fees.
  • Unlimited transactions.
  • No minimum balances.
  • Loads of available ATMs.
  • Unlimited free cheques.*
  • Free overdraft protection.
  • Top notch online banking websites.
  • Earn rewards for everyday banking.*
  • Much higher interest rates on savings accounts.
  • Cheap overdraft processing fees and interest rates.
  • Prompt and friendly customer service over the phone.
  • Free money transfers to and from your other bank accounts.
  • Convenient banking options online, by phone, on your phone, or at an ATM.

* Only available at some of the virtual banks, but not all.


  • Occasionally higher one-time service fees like NSF fees, but not by much.
  • No teller to speak to in person the once in a blue moon you might actually need to.
  • No relationship developed with a personal banking representative at your local branch.
Related: Who Says Nothing In Life Is Free?

Major Purchases Need More Planning

As you can see, the only real drawback to virtual banking is not having a teller to speak with and to handle your request immediately. However, 99% of the time this isn’t actually a drawback because there is another more convenient way to carry out your banking needs without involving a teller.

Large Sums Of Money

The general rule is if you are going to be doing something that involves a large sum of money, you will need to do a little bit of advance planning. This is also true with traditional banks, but the problem can usually be solved in relatively short order with a teller if necessary.

With a virtual bank, if you need a large bank draft to pay for a major purchase like a new vehicle, you will need to call them a couple of days in advance so they can express post the draft to your home or place of business. In the case of PC Financial, they also will deliver a bank draft to any CIBC branch where you can pick it up from the teller. If you are in a rush, calling them to order your draft and requesting a rush be placed on it is the best way to go.

Third Party Depositors

The only other issue I ran into was in selling my house. When my lawyer called me wondering where to deposit the funds, he told me that he was unable to deposit them into a PC bank account. I think the reason for that was because he was using some type of draft or cheque to do it and needed a physical branch to make the deposit. He would have mailed me the money for deposit if necessary, but I had him deposit it in my Royal Bank account because I still had an unused savings account with them.

Ready To Give No-Fee Banking A Try?

Those fees and minimum balance requirements are doing you any favours - why not join me in getting rid of those fees forever?

Why not switch to Tangerine no-fee chequing? I've been a client for less than 2 years and I've already saved $364 in bank fees and earned thousands of dollars in interest that I never would have had with the big banks.

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.


canadianbudgetbinder's picture
We bank with PC Financial and have never had any problems with them. I've been with them since I moved to Canada and my wife has been with them even longer. I don't mind not paying for fees.
October 01, 2013 @ 7:06 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
I joined when I was still a student trying to save money anywhere I could. Since then I've never felt compelled to leave. I've had accounts with several other banks for various reasons, but PC has always been primary.
October 02, 2013 @ 8:48 am
Richard's picture
No-fee banking is great, but on the other hand if you have an account that's costing you less than $10/month that's not a huge amount to save. I'm willing to pay that for convenience, but I've never seen the value of having a relationship with a bank (not a person since they move around so much). For example a credit union that I'd dealt with for nearly 10 years wouldn't even give me a range of interest rates that I might get if I applied for a mortgage, and wouldn't allow me to deposit a cheque because of a small difference in the name. I closed that account soon after. I think I'm just not a good banking customer since I aggressively minimize fees and I've used ING direct accounts to earn over $1000 in extra interest on savings. For my business it's a different matter. I was surprised to find a Royal Bank account to be a good value for several reasons. I'm considering closing my personal accounts outside of ING Direct in the next 6 months so the business account would be useful for anything that still requires a teller's help (or, last time I went in there, 3 tellers for 45 minutes and a phone call to the head office).
October 02, 2013 @ 1:38 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
You raise a good point that it isn't a whole lot of money so it can easily be worth it for some people just to avoid any extra hassle. But if you take advantage of all the savings (no monthly fee, free cheques, higher interest rates, and the rewards programs, then you could easily be saving $300 or more in a year which is a nice little extra to have in the bank account.
October 02, 2013 @ 8:47 am
Richard's picture
Higher interest rates are a big advantage although those are usually separate from the actual no-fee chequing accounts. Even at $300/year it's probably not changing people's lives. I still like banks like ING because it can be more convenient for a lot of things - their online banking is ahead of everyone else. In the last month I've saved $400 on cable/internet (once those savings are up I'm cancelling the cable anyways) and tens of thousands of dollars in car costs, and I'm working on a move that will save me an order of magnitude more in housing costs (not to mention the gains from re-investing all those savings). So the time I spend thinking about chequing account fees measures in the seconds :)
October 02, 2013 @ 11:10 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Absolutely, you should always focus on where the biggest savings are. However, $300 a year is still enough to pay for a decent cell phone plan. When you talk cable/internet savings you must be talking over a term period because if you're saving $400/mth on those things you're paying way too much :) I talk a little about that in my article about all my costs for services. Since changing a chequing accounts is a one time set it and forget it type of thing, I think it can be worth it because those $300 in savings keep coming in year after year. Any recurring expense should be minimized as much as possible in my opinion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
October 02, 2013 @ 11:32 am
Be'en's picture
Is is possible to link up a discount brokerage account (TD Direct investment, in this case) with a chequing account with ING or PC accounts?
October 02, 2013 @ 2:40 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
It shouldn't be a problem. I have my account hooked up with Questrade.
October 02, 2013 @ 8:49 am
Steve's picture
Have been with a credit union with a no fee chequings account since 18, have never looked back! Of course, I use banks like TD for investing and People's Trust for their 3% TFSA HISA. But everyday stuff I don't need to or want to pay fees on a chequings account!
October 02, 2013 @ 3:07 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
I've thought about going to People's trust for a savings account many times but never did because I didn't really want the hassle when PC usually has decent savings rates and good promotions that bump them up every now and then. 3% would definitely be worth it, but too bad it is only for TFSAs. I have mortgage money sitting in our bank account at 2% right now and it would be nice if I could bump that entire amount up to 3%.
October 04, 2013 @ 8:45 am
Daniel @ UrbanDepartures's picture
I'm on the fence thus about online banking and haven't yet hopped over. Having used PCF all your years, any opinions or insights into ING?
October 05, 2013 @ 11:15 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Without having tried them yet, ING seems like a good option to me. They have a lot of the same benefits of PC some being slightly better and some being slightly worse. The one thing I don't like is that only your first book of cheques is free with ING whereas they are always free with PC Financial. I like that ING direct has a free version of the email money transfer and that Interac EMTs are only $1.00 each. Also the cheque cashing by taking a picture on your smartphone is awesome too. That should come to other banks soon too I would think. The free overdraft up to $250 is also quite nice. I like having access to the PC bank machines at the grocery store which makes banking super convenient. However, the exchange network gives lots of options for bank machines as well. I think it really comes down to personal preference.
October 09, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
Kevin Watts's picture
I have been using PC Financial for a long time. I am very happy with it. Thanks for sharing pros and cons with us.
October 08, 2013 @ 12:32 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Thanks for stopping by Kevin! The vast majority of the people I run in to are very happy with PC Financial and virtual banking in general.
October 08, 2013 @ 11:02 pm
Kathy's picture
I share similar sentiments. Why the heck are people paying even a dime to do what they please with their money!? When I opened a bank account with PC yeeeaaars ago when I was in HS, I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I just thought it was just like any other bank. I didn't realise that I was getting more bang for my buck until I started working. I kept my TD student account "just in case." Years later, I realise how stupid that was because my money just sat there. When I took personal finance a little bit more seriously a few years ago, I saw that the major banks suck you dry. I mean unless I'm making a huge salary with diversified investments, I don't see how people who make avg. to below avg. wage could keep up with bank fees and such. And for people who say $300 is nothing, try telling that to someone who does not even have a penny to their name.
April 11, 2014 @ 4:06 pm
Michael 's picture
I am with PC and really like it. The only drawback I find is that they hold cheques for while. I work for a small company that only pays by cheque. Not really a problem though as long as you get the money you need. I do still keep my account with RBC and keep a little money in it for times if I need things like foreign currency when I am traveling. PC cards also don't always work in overseas ATMS.
June 03, 2014 @ 3:06 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
It's like any bank, hold times and amounts are negotiable. They may be a bit more strict than some banks though. Give them a call and ask them to reduce your hold time and to give you a higher hold limit so you have access to more of the money right away.
June 06, 2014 @ 11:45 am
Orville's picture

We were recently charged $1.00 per transaction by the TD Bank on our bank accounts after their most recent fee change in March 2015. They no-longer honoured the accounts we had for over 15 years. We either have to double the amount in the account to waiver fees, and for 2 accounts, it just does not make that much sense to tie up over $4000 to save fees. We're giving PC Financial a good look over before making a final decision, but I think it's basically a done deal.

April 07, 2015 @ 12:56 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I really don't know how big banks can justify fee hikes after fee hikes when they make so much money already. It just makes zero sense to me. I guess people are just so stuck with their current bank that they know not many people will leave over gradual fee increases. It's sad really.

Glad to hear that you are giving PC Financial a chance, I don't think you will be disappointed.

April 07, 2015 @ 10:53 am
Mike's picture

Do not use pc banking!!! Do not, do not. I told you so.

February 26, 2016 @ 11:51 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Haven't had a problem with them in a decade myself - could you at least provide a few reasons?

February 27, 2016 @ 8:42 pm
Nicole's picture

PC Financial mastercard customer service is just horrible!!!!

March 16, 2016 @ 12:26 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Can you provide some details of what you've experienced?

March 18, 2016 @ 3:30 pm
Paul's picture

Since moving to Canada we started out with TD but eventually settled on brick and mortar credit union. 1st Ontario took some time to understand our needs and value. But now we can write a US $2000+ check deposit it with them and have immediate access to any and all the money if needed. Very happy and love saving the money that TD charges.

December 13, 2016 @ 6:03 pm
J. Reid
J. Reid's picture

When my spouse suffered a brain injury in a car accident her PC account was only in her name as she paid the bills with it. It took ten years - yes, years - to find a semi-solution to her not being able to use the account or remember the PIN. They would not accept a copy of the POA and insisted on having the original. My lawyer said to never send the original so I had copies notarized. They would not accept that. Since the account was in debit, they called me regularly, and then collection agencies called me twice a day, to demand I pay the debt and bring the account out of debit. I said to them, "How? You won't let me access the account." They never found an answer to that question. Finally, they agreed to let me use the account and set up a PIN, but the first time I had to contact them about an issue with the account, they decided I shouldn't be using it, and said I was using it illegally. I said, fine, lets just close it. They wouldn't let me close it. I was worried about this account being active when I am unable to monitor it for fraud. I finally took my spouse into a kiosk in her wheelchair and said she would like to close the account since someone (me) had been using it illegally. The account wasn't closed just frozen. I think it is still there floating around in the world with its $10.95 balance forever inaccessible to anyone. This is the problem I have with these types of accounts. They aren't flexible in certain situations and are unable to adjust. Our CIBC account was fixed up in a week and they accepted the POA immediately. No one knows when their life might change. If this had been our main account, I would have had major problems paying bills etc. for years.

January 13, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

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