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High Interest Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA)





ING Direct now offers the highest interest Tax Free Saving Account (TFSA) in Canada at 3.0%.  Not only is it free, they are offering a $25 bonus directly into your account when you use an “orange key” code - Note that the bonus requires a minimum deposit of $100 with the initial registration cheque.

Get the latest Orange Key Referral Code

As I mentioned in my upcoming TFSA article before the new year, most big banks and smaller online banks are offering high interest tax free savings accounts.  Now that the TFSA is here, below is a list of banks that are offering it as a high interest account.  This is the perfect solution for using the TFSA as an emergency fund.

Here are the offerings along with the current interest rate.  For those of you looking for a refresher course, here’s how the tax free savings account (TFSA) works.

From the list, it seems that most of the major players have created a tax free savings account.  That is except Scotia Bank.  Perhaps their TFSA products are in branch only?

As the name of the account states, it’s a tax free account.  This means that all the interest in the account can accumulate tax free.  Not only that, you can withdraw from the account at any time without any penalties.  In addition to being a simple savings account, the TSFA can be a trading account or even a viable alternative to the RRSP Home Buyers Plan.

Have you opened your TFSA yet?  If so, who did you open it with?





83 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. Squawkfox

    I opened my TFSA January 2nd. :D

    I’m doing GIC ladders with Achieva Financial. I’m looking at my TFSA as a very long term savings account (perhaps for retirement) and intend on using the power of compounding interest.

  2. Squawkfox, was there any reason why you chose Achieva? Are they a local bank?

  3. 3. Jody

    I opened my TFSA with PC Financial and have made my first deposit. I chose PC Financial because they had a good rate and because I do all of my banking with them and it was super convenient.

    I plan to put the full $5,000 in this year and that will be my emergency fund. Next year (or possibly once I reach $3,000) I will open a second TFSA elsewhere that gives me the option of stocks, bonds etc. and this second TFSA will be for retirement savings (and I can dip into it if I lose my job and go thru the $3,000 EF).

    I just wanted to have my first emergency fund in a very liquid investment that didn’t charge me a fee to withdraw my own money. (The TFSA I can contribute to thru payroll deduction has the stocks and bonds options which is great but it also has a $50.00 fee per withdrawal – that is fine for a long-term retirement saving TFSA but not for my EF).

  4. 4. David V

    I opened mine with TD Waterhouse. I’m an investor, so I’m happy to be able to invest in an index fund or something.

  5. 5. bob

    Just remember, that while you can pull it out without penalty, you can’t put it back in until the next calendar year.

  6. 6. Archanfel

    It should be noted that all these rate can change without notice. For example, PCF was advertise 3.75% and then drop the rate barely 2 weeks in to the year. Talk about bait and switch. ING bumped up its rate from 2.7% to 3%, so I doubt it will last either.

    Many of the banks also charge withdraw fees or transfer fees. ING is the only one I know that doesn’t charge anything. Maybe RBC and BMO as well.

  7. I have to agree with Archanfel – these numbers can change at the drop of a hat.

    Some of the bank-owned brokerages for example are waiving their normal brokerage account fees for tfsa accounts in 2009 but you can be pretty sure they will reappear soon – probably 2010.

  8. 8. Frog of Finance

    I opened one with ING in November with $2000, which got me double the interest at the end of the year. I’ll add to it as the GIC ladder of my emergency fund unwinds. This will bring me up to around $3500.

    I chose ING because I already had an account with them, and for the promotion. They may no longer offer the best cutting rate of all, but they are dependable and offer reasonable rates.

    I plan on eventually open a second one with a discount broker, to put distribution-paying investments in. That will use up the rest of my contribution room for this year, and I’ll add more next year.

  9. 9. Kyle

    I haven’t opened one yet, but I’m looking at setting up a TFSA through Credential Direct. It’s an online brokerage that’s part of the credit union system and they have no annual fee and no withdrawal fees attached to their TFSA account. I’m not planning on using it as an emergency fund so I can go with less liquid investments.

  10. 10. Sharkey

    I haven’t opened mine yet, but I’m planning on opening at TD and using the TFSA to hold a non-registered bond index fund.

  11. 11. Chuck

    I opened my TFSA with ING. My wife’s TFSA is with CIBC. In both cases we moved money from our emergency fund over to the TFSAs.

    Our thought next year would be to open a brokerage TFSA, and move some of our USD denominated, dividend paying stocks put in there.

    I was surprised to hear ING had 150,000 people take advantage of their sign up bonus.

    On a different note, are TFSAs of benefit to someone who’s 70 years old, already retired and drawing pension and RSP income? Because their investment horizon is likely too small to generate much in the way of tax deferred income.

  12. 12. Chris

    I have opened two. I have TD Mutual Fund TFSA which I have converted to e-series & purchase index funds monthly. I also have a ING one for the remaining contribution room. I also had my wife open an ING TFSA for high interest savings.

  13. 13. rob

    i opened one with the promo ING account about two weeks after it was announced… with the whole $5000.

  14. 14. tom

    I opened at PCF, though I think this product is far from mature. I asked how we track our contributions and how to ensure we don’t overcontribute. Their answer was that we have to track it ourselves, and the government will penalize us if we overcontribute (similar to RSPs). Also, what happens in the case when, for example, you have $5000 contributed this year and it grows to $6000, and then you withdraw the $6000; ie. is your contribution limit (the amount you’re allowed to contribute) reset to $5000, or is it now $6000? Anyone know? That’s where it gets tricky to track, and the PCF agent didn’t know the answer.

  15. 15. DividendMan

    I sent my forms to open it up with TradeFreedom.

    I’m probably going to put the whole amount into American dividend stock(s) so I don’t get dinged on the dividend tax.

  16. I’ve signed a few clients up for the Manulife offering.

  17. 17. Jewels (from MTL)

    I’m not done my annual contribution to my RRSP, but as soon as that’s done I’ll be opening up a TFSA at QTrade. I’ll be buying dividend stocks through it.
    Tom: Yes, if the TFSA grows to $6000 and you withdraw it, the contribution room grows to $6000 for that year and your contribution for the next year is ($5000 + $6000) $11 000.
    Does anyone know about DRIPs? If we have a DRIP set up, do those dividends fall under extra contribution or growth of the original contribution?

  18. 18. Bryce

    Rob,
    If you contributed the entire $5000 to your ING account 2 weeks after the promotion started then haven’t you already over contributed to your TFSA? The interest with the bonus should have you overcontributing by ~$60. No?

  19. 19. Chuck

    @bryce
    ING ensured you weren’t overcontributed and put any overages above $5,000 into your regular taxable account automatically.

    @jewels
    A DRIP are growth of the orginal contribution. Your investment in the TFSA produced income, which is being rolled over into more investment. Similar to how it would work in an RSP.

  20. 20. Xenko

    Tom: If you put in$5,000 in January 2009, and it grew to $6,000 and then you withdrew it all in say June of 2009. You could not contribute to the account again until January 1, 2010; however, at that point you could contribute up to $11,000 in 2010: $6,000 in withdrawals from 2009 + $5,000 in new contribution room.

    Basic calculation would be:
    2010 Contribution Room = Unused 2009 Contribution Room + 2009 TFSA Withdrawals + $5,000

    I have my TFSA with PC Financial (maxed out already) as PCF is my normal bank and I just moved my emergency fund into it. It will take another year or two to move all my savings in the TFSA, and then I will have to figure out where to go from there. Either a GIC ladder or Dividends, we’ll see what dividend tax is like in 2010-11.

  21. Tom – you have to track your contributions and withdrawals yourself. This is similar to RRSP, RESP. Because you can set up these programs at different institutions – none of the institutions can track it for you.

    Hopefully the government will add a “TFSA room” section to the notice of assessment form – that would be useful.

  22. 22. jesse

    Watch for hidden fees. Some accounts have withdrawal and administration fees. You have been warned.

  23. 23. Andrew

    I’m waiting ’till RRSP time and hopefully some GIC’s will come out with better interest rates. If not I’ll probably get the PC Financial account.

  24. 24. bob

    Tom: If you put in$5,000 in January 2009, and it grew to $6,000 and then you withdrew it all in say June of 2009. You could not contribute to the account again until January 1, 2010; however, at that point you could contribute up to $11,000 in 2010: $6,000 in withdrawals from 2009 + $5,000 in new contribution room.

    This is incorrect. See the CRA website

    You have $5000 to invest per year. Period.

    You’re interest growth within the TFSA does not increase your limit.

    In Tom’s scenario, he would only be able to redeposit $10000 ($5000 from 2009 + $5000 from 2010). His $1000 in interest would have to be invested elsewhere, but note that he still did not have to pay tax on that interest.

  25. 25. Sampson

    Set one up for wife and myself at RBC Direct Investing.

    Plan is to hold income trusts and foreign dividend payers in there. All the contributions for the next few years will be simple in-kind transfers from existing non-registered holdings.

    Still trying to figure out timing of transfers so I can stuff as many units as I can into the accounts. Any ideas? Maybe ‘DCA’ my transfers in since it is free?

  26. opened one quickly with PCFinancial out of convenience but am looking to eventually transfer the account to Questrade for a better use.

  27. 27. Lisa

    Does anyone know whether we can name beneficiary for TFSA account with ING?

    I know that we can do it for TFSA with HSBC.

  28. 28. Mat

    I’ve got mine setup at Citizens Bank. I just moved everything from my regular savings account there into the TFSA. Was easy as pie!

  29. 29. Remus

    I opened mine at ING using their savings account. And put 5k in it right from the start as they were sitting in my regular savings account anyway earning a pathetic interest rate at TD Bank taxed at my marginal rate anyway so pretty much useless:)
    Indeed is funny to see how banks try to compete with each other changing their rates so often. I too don’t expect it to last too long at 3% at ING. However I must say I am pretty impressed with ING business model and how they took the lead on this one trying to go ahead of themselves to offer things to attract new money. And based on the numbers it seems they are doing a good job. In a capital starved world they seem to get new money in quite effectivly. So who knows maybe some ING stocks now that we have this inside information :)
    If you are in TFSA for the long run I think that until you have some significant money in there (meaning to be able to waive the fees most of the brokers charge for low balances and to qualify for lower commisions) your best 2 options are TD e-series mutual funds or ING streetwise fund the growth one which has a pretty decent asset allocation and a low 1% MER. The world old dilemma of young investors just starting up with low balances like in RSP case applies here equilly.
    So that is my plan at least.

    Lisa: At ING during the enrollment process online there was the option to designate a beneficiary.

  30. I opened mine at Ing late last year and I also opened one this year with Td. Both of them are savings accounts, I might move into stocks and mutual funds if I get any extra money.

  31. 31. Steve - Montreal

    PC financial TFSA is NOT available in Quebec. I have both chequing and savings through them but they can’t provide the TFSA. I was told after driving to one of their kiosks in Ontario that they don’t have an agreement for that product in Quebec. Sucks to be me.

  32. 32. archanfel

    To all people who decided to hold foreign dividend stock in them, what about the US withholding tax? Has Canada and the US reached a new tax treat to cover TFSA? If not, those taxes may not be recoverable.

  33. 33. The Machine

    Opened mine this week at RBC Direct Investing. Getting a nice sell off here to trade some equities.

  34. 34. Cow

    I’ve opened two — one with Vancity (2.75% interest, plus I already have an existing relationship with them) and one with Questrade, my discount broker of choice. I use the TFSA trading account for high-dividend, low-risk investments (i.e. preferred shares of Canadian banks), while I use my normal trading account for .. well, gambling, basically.

  35. 35. Ollie_Mark

    I am in the process of signing up with Questrade. I will contribute as much as I can for myself and my wife. If there is still room left, I will sell my biggest losing securities (For the capital loss write-off) and top up the TFSAs.

    Does anybody have any experience with Questrade? I don’t think that they charge any account management or withdraw fees. How is their trading platform?

  36. 36. Sameer

    Ahoy there! Scotiabank offers the TFSA currently at 1.75% on the cash portion. In addition to cash, you can invest in their GICs and Mutual Funds as well.

  37. 37. chococrazy

    I disagree with Bob (and I know for a fact). The others are right.

    The example on the CRA site that he linked is as follows:

    In 2009, Sarah invests $5,000 in a TFSA. Later that year, she withdraws $3,000 for a trip to Europe. Unfortunately, her plans change and she cannot go. Since Sarah has no unused TFSA contribution room left, she will have to wait until the beginning of 2010 to deposit the $3,000 in her TFSA. Is she does so earlier, she will have overcontributed to her TFSA and will be charged a monthly tax of 1% on the overcontributed amount.

    Thus, Sara cannot re-contribute the $3,000 in 2009. She can do so in 2010 + her $5,000 new contribution for 2010.

    To answer the question: I have yet to open up one, I’m thinking of Questrade…

  38. 38. Cash Canuck

    I did my full $5k at TD since that’s where I do all my other banking. I put into the savings account since I’m planning to use that money towards a home within a year.

    I was upset to learn that if I opened a TFSA waterhouse account I would be charged $100 annual fee in addition to the $100 fee charged on my waterhouse RRSP account. When it comes to mortgage negotiation time I plan to tell TD to drop at least one of those fees or I’m taking my mortgage (and all my bank/trading accounts) to one of their competitors. I’ve heard that has worked for other people.

  39. 39. Elina

    I am new to this investing world and have a quick question regarding the TFSA.

    If you did by $5000 worth of dividend paying stocks and had the dividends going directly into the TFSA. Would that be added to your yearly limit in the future?

    For example. If you made $100 in dividends, would your 2009 limit be $5100?

    If this is true, would the same apply to options and Income Trusts?

    If this holds true then it seems like it might be worth trying to raise our TFSA limits rather than making $100 on 3% interest.

    Am I wrong?

  40. 40. Peter B

    TD has an e-series TFSA? There website could be a whole lot better.

    Anyways I maxed out my family’s TFSA with PC financial. Online application approved in seconds and great rate 3.75%… no wait they dropped that to 3.05% (crooks).

    Going to pull it out later this year to hopefully buy a home then look at my options for next year. I like the idea of a GIC ladder. Anyone know of a good place to start (ie. no fees)?

    Peter

  41. 41. Kirk S.

    I went to RBC on January 2nd and they said that they wouldn’t be able to open one for me until next week (the 23rd).

    I have a few questions about contribution room (some valuable information already).

    I deposit $5000 and I earn $500 interest (or dividend or whatever). On December 31st, 2009 I withdraw the $500 interest (and leave the original principle so I still have my original $5000 in the account).

    Some posters are saying that I will get 5500 in deposit room in 2010. Will I get 5000 deposit room or 5500? Would that change if I withdrew the entire amount?

    Thanks in advance and great blog BTW!

  42. 42. DAvid

    Elina,
    See post 24.

    Kirt S,
    You should have the amount you withdrew, plus the 2010 contribution amount available to contribute in 2010. You do not have to withdraw the whole amount from your savings.

    DAvid

  43. 43. Elina

    @ DAvid: Post 36 disagrees with Post 24. That is why I asked the question.

    Question: “If you did buy $5000 worth of dividend paying stocks and had the dividends going directly into the TFSA. Would that be added to your yearly limit in the future?

    For example. If you made $100 in dividends, would your 2009 limit be $5100? Or if your Dividend stock grew in value by $100 dollars.

    If this is true, would the same apply to Option Trading and Income Trusts?”

    I ask this because if it holds true then it seems like it might be worth trying to raise our TFSA limits in the short term, rather than making a few bucks on interest.

    Any thoughts?

  44. 44. Joe

    Elina,
    “For example. If you made $100 in dividends, would your 2009 limit be $5100? Or if your Dividend stock grew in value by $100 dollars.”

    It is not true. You need withdraw some amount to make more room for future years.
    The following is from CRA web site:
    The TFSA contribution room is made up of:

    * your annual TFSA dollar limit;
    * any unused TFSA contribution room in the previous year; and
    * any withdrawals made from the TFSA in the previous year, excluding qualifying transfers.

  45. 45. skube

    Does anyone know which places do NOT charge annual and/or withdrawal fees? Are there any that are completely free?

  46. skube, you’ll have to research each companies terms and conditions, but to my knowledge, most of the banks listed do not charge an annual fee for their savings account. Their brokerage accounts are a different story however.

  47. 47. Emma

    Despite the fact we have both I hadn’t actually noticed that their TFSA rate was different from their regular savings rate …. although as 4P says, I’m sure it’ll change fairly quickly.

  48. 48. Emma

    Er, that last comment references ING. Sorry.

  49. 49. DAvid

    Elina,
    My apologies. By following the link in post 24 you will find the information quoted by Joe above. As he states, your contribution room is not increased by your profits, but you do have the opportunity to re-contribute your withdrawls.

    DAvid

  50. 50. Jeff

    skube – I’m in the process of opening an account with Credential Direct. They claim no annual fee and no withdrawal fee. I already have other accounts there so it was an easy decision to also open a TFSA.

  51. 51. Chris

    FYI – dividends earned on US stocks in a TFSA are taxable.

  52. Chris, do you have a link/source for your findings? I was under the assumption that foreign dividends held in a TFSA would be treated the same as within an RRSP… tax free.

  53. 53. john

    The US dividends would have a 15% withholding tax charged on them that would be unrecoverable. I don’t think there would be Canadian tax though. Anyone have anymore info?

  54. 54. DK

    FT,

    I believe Chris and John are right although I have not found a source that says so explicitly.

    Foreign sourced dividends (i.e. dividends from U.S. corporations) are taxed not by Canada, but by the foreign country. The broker simply withholds a portion of the dividend and remits it to the source country. The reason they don’t get taxed in a RRSP is because the tax treaties with the source countries exempt certain types of retirement or pension plans, such as RRSPs, 401k, Roth, etc. from some of the tax obligations.

    To my knowledge a TFSA is not strictly speaking a “retirement” plan – although it can be used for retirement it is really more of an all-purpose savings plan. Therefore my belief is that the treaty exemptions for retirement plans would not apply.

  55. 55. Sampson

    I have also read that US dividends within the TFSA will be subject to the withholding tax, however, that tax rate is still better than 100% taxable at marginal rates.

  56. 56. Aolis

    TD e-Series Index mutual funds have some of the lowest rates in Canada. For example, the Canadian Index is 0.31%. I opened a TD TFSA Mutual Fund account.

  57. 57. kumar

    I haven’t opened my TFSA account yet.
    Here is another link to TFSA product comparison on Savings, GIC and Brokerage acconts.
    http://www.redflagdeals.com/deals/main.php/articles/tfsa_tax_free_savings_accounts_comparison/

  58. 58. kumar

    Waiting for better GIC rates to open a TFSA

  59. 59. lauren

    go to bmo.

  60. Surprised to see that nobody mentioned E*Trade. Is E*Trade not as popular anymore?

  61. 61. Nguyen Nguyen

    I opened one with PC Financial. It was painless. The only pain is having money to put into the account! Spent it all on tuition. Starting from 0 again! :P

  62. Stephen, does etrade have a high interest TFSA in addition to their trading account?

  63. 63. Mark

    I have been calling around to the banks today and Scotiabank’s current rate is 2.6%.

  64. 65. DAvid

    Opened my TFSA today. RBC has a sale on 2 year non-redeemable GIC at 3.25%. Seemed more of a sure thing than Manulife, given their recent decisions on the M1 interest rate, and far better than the RBC high interest savings account at 2.5%.

    DAvid

  65. 66. newbie

    BMO has a 2 year GIC at 3.50%.

  66. 67. Leu

    Regarding fees for tese accounts, what you have to watch out for is the fee for moving the account to another financial instiution. Many of them are charging $100 for this privilege, just like they do with RRSPs.
    I think I’ll go with ING, where I can be sure of no hidden costs.
    Ellen Roseman had a column in the Toronto Star yesterday which is probably online and is instructrive, or at least raises questions. Apparently these are subject to some kind of inheritance tax in Ontario because Ontario has not yet passed enabling legislation. I didn’t understand her calculation. Did anyone?

  67. 68. Leu

    Also, what ahppens if you simply close down the account because you don’t have the money? Is there going to be a significant minimum monthly balance type of thing required to stop tehm taking whatever you have left? I don’t know the answers, but worth reading the fine print, and remember that they can always change their rules, usually to your disadvantage, as hapened with RRSP fees, which were very low at the beginning, or non-existent. They usually introduce them sometime when you’re in the middle of a 5year GIC, so you are stuck!

  68. 69. Carole

    Avoid PCF…they dropped their rate twice in the first two weeks of Jan.
    Now one of the lowest.

  69. 70. D-Mac

    Just happened upon the site and getting a lot of reading done! Quick question. I noticed the Smith Manoevre you are involved in. Can the money from the HELOC be put into a TFSA. Seems like a good deal… get the tax shelter from the TFSA but also the deductible interest because you are borrowing to invest?

    I hope it’s not a silly question.

  70. 71. DAvid

    D-mac,
    See the discussion on this topic here.

    DAvid

  71. I’ve just posted an update on my blog if you want to see the latest rates. (http://www.canadianmoneyblogs.com/2009/02/they-really-want-your-money-high.html)

    Manulife seems strangely high. Any idea why?

  72. 73. Wade

    I opened TFSAs for my wife and I at E-Trade. I bought $5,000 (face value) of discounted Bell Aliant bonds paying 4.72% and maturing in Sept 2011. I’ll continue putting relatively short term bonds rated BBB or better, into these accounts each year, rolling the interest into new bonds each time I put more money in. If interest rates increase in a few years, I’ll start laddering out to longer terms.

    I think this is a great place to put interest income because I won’t be paying tax on it. I’ll keep capital gains and dividends primarily for my regular accounts.

    Wade

  73. 74. John Doe

    What I’ve read about contribution limits in the responses to this post (other than Bob’s) doesn’t make a lot of sense…. the way I’ve understood this is that you can only inject a max of $5000 cash every year into any TFSA per year, and that accumulates annually. *Earnings* from a TFSA I can’t imagine are a factor towards this contribution limit. For example, if I strike it rich in a penny stock and my $5000 (after the first year) grows to a million, and I withdraw it as cash (not transfer to another TFSA). I can’t imagine that would mean I would have a million dollars+ in TFSA contribution space the following year. The example mentioned by “chococrazy” is perfectly fine as it deals with an amount below the max. contribution limit.

    Sample scenario as I understand it:
    Year 1: I put in $5000 in the TFSA
    Year 2: I put another in $5000 in the TFSA
    Year 3: I put another in $5000 in the TFSA. My total account (due to amazing investing) doubles to $30000, and I decide to withdraw it all as cash. I’m not allowed to reinject *any* cash into the TFSA as I’ve used up my space for this year, and all previous years.
    Year 4: I’m *allowed* to reinject a max of 4*$5000=$20000 into the TFSA this year, due to the withdrawal ( >= $20000 ) I made previously.

    Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong…

  74. 75. ed

    what kind of tax do i have to pay on a TFSA inherited from a parent when they pass away?

  75. 76. DAvid

    ed,
    See this link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/tfsa-celi/dth-eng.html or do a web search: “TFSA upon death”

    Basically the amount accrued until the date of death is transferred to the estate as a TFSA, but any income after that date becomes taxable to the estate (and therefore heirs).

    DAvid

  76. Thanks for the link DAvid.

  77. 78. Bev

    ING Direct has dropped their rate to only 1.2%

  78. 79. RUSS

    Bev,

    As of Jan 1, 2010 ING raised the TFSA rate back to 3%. It’s likely a marketing ploy to draw a bunch of deposits in early in the year and then they’ll start dropping the rate again, but it’s a good deal while it lasts!

    Cheers,
    Russ

  79. 80. Marcus

    I checked my ING TFSA savings account yesterday (30 Apr), and they dropped it to 2%. Marketing ploys… tisk tisk.

  80. 81. FRANK

    12. CHUCK

    I believe USD investments will be automatically converted to CDN upon withdrawl. Check that out.

  81. 82. David

    The and of the year is close. Does anybody know who offers the best rates on TFSAs?

  82. 83. dream

    Hello,
    Great site. Just stumble this week.
    Only thing I am finding it difficult is there were no dates of blog postings so I am unable to correlate whether it is current or old

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