Best Free Chequing Accounts in Canada: No-Fee Banking 2021

What is there not to love about a free chequing account?

Canadians pay more than $200 per year on average in bank fees and a good portion of that comes from monthly account fees that are as high as $30 every single month!

While a premium chequing account may offer some “VIP” perks, for the most part, you are simply paying for the convenience of a bank account you can use for debit transactions.

If your banking needs are like that of the average Canadian, a no-fee chequing account at a virtual bank (online bank) may meet your needs.

Not only do you save on the monthly maintenance fees, but in many cases, you also earn interest on your balance and enjoy unlimited fee-free transactions.

Below, I summarize some of the best free chequing accounts you can open in Canada, plus how to waive monthly fees if you prefer to do your banking with a big bank.

What is a Chequing Account?

A chequing accounts is a bank account designed for enabling day to day transactions.

It is the account when your wages are deposited and when you make purchases using your debit card or use the ATM, you are making withdrawals from your chequing account.

Unlike savings accounts, a traditional chequing does not accumulate interest and you pay a monthly fee based on how many transactions you conduct and the type of transactions.

There are different types of chequing accounts including:

  • Personal chequing account
  • Business chequing account
  • Senior’s chequing account
  • Student chequing account
  • Kid’s or Youth chequing account
  • Premium chequing account
  • Hybrid chequing account
  • No-fee chequing account
  • US Dollar chequing account

Benefits of a No-Fee Bank Account

A no-fee chequing account can help you save $360 in annual fees (assuming you are paying $30/month) and may also offer the following benefits:

  • Unlimited debit transactions including bill payments and pre-authorized debits
  • Free Interac e-Transfers
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Interest paid on your balance
  • Easy access to Automated Banking Machines (ABMs)
  • Free cheques
  • Mobile banking with access to mobile cheque deposits

How about downsides?

If you routinely conduct complex transactions that require in-person support (e.g. international wire transfers, money orders, or safety deposit box), a no-fee online bank account may not work for you.

Best Free Chequing Accounts from Virtual Banks

Here is a list of the best no-fee chequing accounts offered by online banks.

1. Tangerine No-Fee Chequing Account

This no-fee bank account is offered by Canada’s most popular online bank.

Tangerine Bank is a subsidiary of Scotiabank and its chequing account offers:

  • No monthly account fees
  • Free debit purchases, bill payments, Interac e-Transfers, and email money transfers
  • Access to 3,500 Scotiabank ABMs in Canada and 44,000 ABM worldwide
  • Interest up to 0.10% on your account balance

For fees, you can expect to pay $10 for Canadian drafts, $45 for Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF), and ABM fees when you use non-Scotiabank machines.

Visit Tangerine Bank.

2. Simplii Financial No Fee Chequing Account

Simplii Financial is owned by CIBC. It is an online-only bank and its free chequing account has the following features:

  • No monthly account fee
  • Free debit purchases, bill payments, and withdrawals
  • Interest payments up to 0.05% on your balance
  • Free access to 3,400 CIBC ATMs in Canada
  • Free cheques

If your account goes into overdraft, a 19% annual interest rate applies to your overdraft balance. Also, fees apply when you stop an Interac e-Transfer, order bank drafts, send wire transfers, or have a bounced cheque.

Visit Simplii Financial.

Alterna Bank No-Fee Chequing Account

Alterna Bank is the online banking arm of Alterna Savings, a credit union based in Ontario.

Its no-fee chequing account offers:

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum account balance
  • Free debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers
  • Access to 3,300 free ATMs in Canada via THE EXCHANGE Network
  • 0.05% interest on your balance

Service fees apply when you order personalized cheques or use overdraft protection.

Visit Alterna Bank.

4. motusbank No-Fee Chequing Account

motusbank is owned by Meridian Credit Union.

Its no-fee chequing account offers:

  • $0 monthly account fees
  • Free debit purchases, bill payments, withdrawals, and Interac e-Transfers
  • Free access to over 3,000 ATMs in Canada
  • 0.15% interest payments on your balance
  • No minimum balance and first order of 25 cheques is free

Note that fees apply when you request a stop payment, use overdraft, replace your debit card, or have an inactive/dormant account.

Visit motusbank.

5. Motive Cha-Ching Chequing Account

Motive Financial is a division of the Canadian Western Bank which is based in Alberta.

Its Cha-Ching Chequing Account offers:

  • Free debit transactions and Interac e-Transfers
  • No monthly fees
  • Access to thousands of “ding-free” ATMs
  • First 50 personalized cheques are free
  • Pays interest up to 0.25% on your balance

Fees may apply when you conduct specific transactions including drafts, stop payments, NSF cheques, etc.

Visit Motive Financial.

6. EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

While this is technically a savings account, it also works as a hybrid and offers both chequing and savings account features, including:

  • No monthly account fees
  • Free debit transactions, bill payments, Interac e-Transfers, and electronic fund transfers
  • 1.25% interest in your balance
  • Free mobile cheque deposits
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Cheap international money transfer

EQ Bank also offers joint accounts, Guaranteed Investment Certificates, TFSA, and RRSP accounts.

You can learn more about its offerings in this EQ Bank review.

Visit EQ Bank.

Free Chequing Accounts with a Big Bank

While you would generally pay monthly fees when you open a chequing account at one of the big five banks, there are ways to waive some or all of the fees.

For example, you can:

  • Maintain a minimum balance and waive monthly fees with a Scotiabank or BMO chequing account. You need to keep the minimum balance on a daily basis throughout the month to qualify for a fee waiver or discount.
  • Open multiple accounts at the same bank. Some RBC chequing accounts waive or reduce your monthly fees when you also have a credit card, investments, and/or mortgage with RBC.

No-Fee Bank Account FAQs

Which banks offer free chequing accounts in Canada?

Online banks such as Tangerine, Simplii Financial, Alterna Bank, EQ Bank, motusbank, and Neo Financial offer chequing accounts or hybrid accounts that have no fees.

What is the best free chequing account in Canada?

If you prefer to do all your banking in one place, Tangerine Bank also offers credit cards, investments, savings account, and mortgages, in addition to its no-fee chequing account. If you want to earn high interest rates on your balance while having access to free and unlimited debits and Interac e-Transfers, EQ Bank is our top choice.

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