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High End Chequing Account Comparison

As a frugalist, I’m all about the free chequing accounts.  Whether it’s completely free, like what PC Financial offers, or free after keeping a minimum balance.  However, I was doing some surfing on available chequing accounts from the big banks and noticed a big variation in their high end accounts.  The fees varied from $12.95/month to $30 /month some of which can be avoided by keeping a high balance.  But $30/month for a bank account?  Really!?

So what else do these expensive chequing accounts offer besides unlimited transactions and free cheques.  From my wanderings, it seems that some of the high end chequing accounts do provide some extra value like free safety deposit boxes, email money transfers, US chequing accounts, or even waiving the annual fee on an expensive credit card.

So lets down to it, who offers the best high end chequing account?.

TD BMO RY CIBC BNS
Title: Select Premium VIP PremierService Value
Monthly Fee: $24.95 $25.00 $30.00 $24.50 $12.95 (50 trans)
Min Monthly Balance: $5,000.00 $4,500.00 n/a n/a n/a
EMT: $1.50/trans 2 free/month 2 free/month $1.50/trans $1.50/trans
Drafts: free free 12/year free free
Certified Cheques: free free 2/year free free
Safety Deposit Box: free $12 off / year $40 off/year n/a $5 off/year
Travellers Cheques: free free free free free
Visa Fee Waived: $120/year select n/a $120/year select $120/year select $110/year select
Online Broker discount: $25/year n/a Fee Waived RRSP only RRSP only
Non Bank Interac Trans: Unlimited 10/month Unlimited 4/month $1.50/trans
International Interac Trans: Unlimited 5/month Unlimited $3-$5/trans $3-$5/trans

There are some details not included in the table above. To start, the credit card annual fee discounts that they offer with these accounts vary. The best offerings are from TD and CIBC.  They both offer to waive the fee on their Visa Infinite cards which are their top of the line travel credit cards.  Whereas Royal Bank is the only account to offer exclusive travel savings for clients of the VIP package.

Personally, I would only consider one of these accounts if they would waive the fee after a certain balance.  Having said that, it seems that TD bank has the most competitive product.  With a $5,000 balance, you get a small safety deposit box, free Visa Infinite credit card, a discount off TD waterhouse along with unlimited Interac withdrawals while traveling abroad.  For good measure, they throw in their U.S dollar bank account for free.  Caution though, if you drop $1 below the $5,000 threshold at any time, the monthly fee applies.

What do you think of these accounts?  Do you pay a monthly fee for your chequing account?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Martin June 11, 2009, 8:47 am

    I have to keep $2500 in my checking account to avoid the fees. Assuming a 1% interest rate I could earn by keeping that money in a low interest (aka high interest) savings accounts at ING Direct, I pay $25 a year for my “free” checking account.

    I hate banks.

  • Keith June 11, 2009, 9:20 am

    I have Royal Vip. The infinite card is free there as well, for some reason you omitted that. Also with multiproduct discount i pay 22.50 for the VIP package.

  • Keith June 11, 2009, 9:27 am

    Sorry, I mis-read your article. You did mention the Visa discount.

  • Anna June 11, 2009, 9:52 am

    We have had TD Select account for over 6 years now. The best bargain for us is the annual fee waived on our TD Travel Rewards card (it’s $120 for a primary cardholder and $50 or $60 for the secondary cardholder) – we use our Visa for everything and as a result have enjoyed a number of free (or almost free) trips. That alone “pays” back on having to keep $5k balance.

  • Caitlin June 11, 2009, 10:21 am

    I pay about $8/mo for my TD chequing account (I forget what it’s called, but it’s an account that’s no longer available). It’s definitely not high-end, though, and has few benefits. For years I was able to meet the minimum balance (only 2k), but after my second degree I was broke, and have been paying off student debt ever since, and haven’t managed to be able to keep the minimum yet.

    The main reason I’ve kept my accounts at TD all these years is because I had a business account with them too. PC Financial doesn’t offer business accounts, and I have no interest in logging in to multiple banks just to see all my money (ING notwithstanding – I prefer my emergency account out of sight). I plan on closing my business eventually, though, so I’ll be on the lookout for good banking deals then.

  • Blogging Banks June 11, 2009, 10:52 am

    Wow, you pay $13- $25/month in canada for the priviledge of owning a checking account?
    That’s ridiculous.. Canadian Banking market needs more competition..

  • Four Pillars June 11, 2009, 10:56 am

    I use a CIBC chequing account that requires a $1500 minimum to avoid transaction fees. There is no monthly account fee. I would have this cash anyway so I don’t mind.

    I also use a PC Financial chequing account for my business.

  • Blogging Banks June 11, 2009, 10:59 am

    One other thing, what are the interest rates on those checking accounts? If you pay $30/month for a checking account yielding 5%, that’s a great deal if youask me ;-)

  • Keith June 11, 2009, 11:32 am

    BB- We dont need to pay $30, there are lots of free accounts. Sometimes however, the pros outweigh the cons. EX. At RBC, I was paying $35/yr for Visa, $75/yr for Brokerage, $45 randomly for travel insurance and occasionally various usage fees. Now everything is bundled into the $30/mth ($22.50 for myself). Oh yeah, and my wife now gets the VIP account for free as well. she was paying $4/mth.

    There are many other perks involved in having the upgraded infinite visa as well.

  • CuriousReader June 11, 2009, 11:45 am

    I got my chequing account with TD, the select account, keeping it above $5,000 is not a problem, and with all the benefits I get, I think it’s the best chequing account out there (if you can keep the min balance of course)

  • Canadian Capitalist June 11, 2009, 11:50 am

    I’m tempted by the TD Select account. I currently pay $60 for a safe deposit box and $2 per month for a USD account. A $5,000 minimum would mean a 1.7% yield on just these two services. Add roadside assistance through the Visa card and it is a pretty good deal overall IMO.

  • ldk June 11, 2009, 12:08 pm

    We use a credit union that refunds all fees monthly as long as we have $30,000 worth of ‘business’ (loans and deposits combined) with them.

  • Jerry Hung June 11, 2009, 12:33 pm

    TD Select Service for the win
    $5000 gives you so many benefits that I’d gladly keep $5k in there

    Unlimited transactions also mean I can enroll into TD’s Simply Save program to get 10% return now. SELECT + Joint is even better

    Been a loyal TD customer since the 2005 iPod Promotion
    http://www.jerryhung.com/2009/02/proud-to-be-td-canada-trust-customer.html

  • Sarlock June 11, 2009, 1:29 pm

    I go with Royal Bank No Limit Banking and with their other products, there is no monthly fee (I have an RBC Visa that I use once every month or two and then pay off to keep it active). Since I do all of my banking online, I write maybe 2-3 cheques per month, I use Visa, not debit, for purchases, it means my bank fees are free and I don’t have to worry about any minimum balances (which are not free, think about the interest potential you’re losing!! … I sure hope that most readers of this blog are getting more than 1% on their investments!).

  • Finance Matters June 11, 2009, 2:18 pm

    I have had the TD Select service account and a GIA account as well. Looking at my statement I see no monthly fee at all. I have the travel Rewards card, SD box and Waterhouse account. Great value if you ask me!

  • Ms Save Money June 11, 2009, 4:22 pm

    I definitely don’t pay any fees for any of my checking accounts – if I did I’d keep my money in a safe instead. :)

  • Elbyron June 11, 2009, 4:27 pm

    I use PC Financial and a Capital One Miles Plus Platinum Mastercard. After reading this article, I thought it would be interesting to see how these compare with TD Select + Platinum Travel Visa card (which has comparable benefits and same fee).
    First I’ll look at the credit cards. Both cards cost $99/year, but TD charges another $50 or $60 for a second card, so it’s a bit more expensive for couples. For both cards, I can redeem points for any type of travel expense, with no restrictions or expiry. Let’s say I spend $30,000/year on a credit card. My card would get me 60,000 points, which can then be redeemed for $600 worth of travel (so 2% back). But the TD card would only get me $450 worth of travel, which works out to 1.5% back. I heard that TD only lets you redeem in $50 increments, so what if your flight costs $451? Maybe they let you just redeem 90000 for $450 back, but it seems more likely that you are forced to use up 100,000 to redeem for this purchase. In this case the card only gets you between 1.35% and 1.5% back. To be fair, Capital One also has stupid redemption increments on lower amounts, but after $600 you just use 100 points per dollar.
    TD offers double points (triple for Infinite card) if you book your travel with them. They might have good prices, but probably not the best price. If I bought a $1000 ticket with them, I would get back $15 or $30 worth of travel points – not a huge discount and I could probably buy the ticket for more than $30 cheaper through a good travel agent.

    For the bank accounts, the comparison is just about features vs cost. If I could put the $5000 into a 5-year GIC with 3.5% (simple) interest, I could earn $175 per year, so that’s essentially what the TD Select account costs. If I were to want a safety deposit box, it would cost me about $26/year after tax deduction, and getting the free Visa card saves another $99 (I know you get actually get the $120 Infinite card, but the extra $21 just buys you trip cancellation and interruption insurance). So to be worthwhile, I would have to spend more than $50/year on bank drafts ($7.50), out of bank interac ($1.50 – $3), and whatever the price difference is on the EMTs. And that doesn’t account for the extra 0.5% that my Mastercard earns.

    So in conclusion, the Select account with Infinite Visa card can be better than PC Financial with the Capital One Miles Plus Platinum Mastercard if several of these things apply to you:
    – you spend a lot (over $50) on bank drafts, out of bank interac, etc
    – you like to use teller services at a bank branch
    – you use a safety deposit box
    – you use a USD chequing account
    – you use TD Waterhouse for investing
    – you don’t use your credit card very much, and don’t need a second card
    – you get good value from trip cancellation or interruption insurance
    – you like to book flights through TD’s travel agency

    However, none of these things apply to me, so I think I’ll stick with what I got.

  • mojo30 June 11, 2009, 4:51 pm

    I use PCF and pay 0 in fees, I used to have an account at BMO years ago, paying $30 month and I cancelled it..best decision I made

  • Carl June 11, 2009, 5:04 pm

    Hi Ms Save Money

    Thanks for telling us how you manage to do that. Very nice of you.

  • cannon_fodder June 11, 2009, 5:06 pm

    I’ve never had an account that charged monthly fees. I’m with TD and have to maintain a minimum balance of $1,000. In fact, if they ding me even $1 service charge to use the teller, I dispute it, since I couldn’t do the transaction at the ATM which is how they justify the charge.

    Except for the bank that holds our SM mortgage, most of the other major banks in Canada pay me. That’s because I own their stocks and collect thousands of dollars in dividends every few months.

    Don’t get mad at the banks – get even!

  • Sean June 11, 2009, 5:20 pm

    It is a bit expensive, but one nice thing with the RBC package is that you get up to 4 accounts included: 3 Canadian $, and one US $, and they all have unlimited transactions, and the benefits like e-mail transfers are pooled.

    The $40/year for a safe deposit box also covers the entire cost for a small size box.

    The free (after waived fee) permium Visa card is also nice for all the benefits it offers, like purchase protection, and travel, and rental car insurance. The reward points are just a bonus.

  • Kathryn June 11, 2009, 5:49 pm

    Wow, those fees are high.

    We bank with PC and use a PC Mastercard. $0 in fees. Over $1000 in PC points since 1997.

    $24.95 over 10 years would have cost me just under $3000.

    I have trouble following the logic of big banks. Why would they want to charge their wealthier customers more? Aren’t those the same customers that keep more money in the banks – money that the banks then turn around and lend out to others? You’d think the high end accounts would have lower fees!

  • Annuity Quotes June 11, 2009, 6:43 pm

    Don’t most banks offer free checking and some type of perks? I think USAA is worth a look if you can become a member.

  • Elbyron June 11, 2009, 6:44 pm

    Perhaps some wealthy customer are so rich that they don’t care how much the bank charges them, and these high end accounts offer more convenience. But mostly people choose these accounts because it’s the best fit for their needs. Some folks use tellers, safety deposit boxes, USD chequing accounts, brokerage accounts, and various other services on a regular basis. So it just makes sense financially to get a high end account rather than pay all these costs individually.

  • Chris L June 11, 2009, 7:05 pm

    Keep it simple, float it all out of a line of credit. Try TD, like a regular account, free cheques, and no positive account, it’s all working right for ya….no extra sideline money. Whatever you don’t spend each month keeps the principle down.

  • bank gal June 11, 2009, 9:01 pm

    Hi! To four pillars: If you have a CIBC account that has no fees, if you keep $1500.0 in it- keep it! They are no longer offered. They like to talk you into an UNLIMITED account for $12.95 for almost the some thing!

  • Mark June 11, 2009, 9:37 pm

    Hi everyone,

    There is another alternative: do like I did, marry a staff :) Usually staff have no fees when it comes to their banking needs…

    Thanks for understanding my Thursday evening humour!!

  • mp June 11, 2009, 9:52 pm

    I have a grandfathered account at TD from the old Canada Trust days. $12.95 a month but if I have a $3000 balance it’s waived. Unlimited ATM, web banking and web bill payments, debit transactions. I argue when they try to charge me a dollar to do banking at the counter and usually get it waived.
    Don’t travel much so not getting free travellers checks or travel insurance isn’t a big deal.

  • Peter June 11, 2009, 10:41 pm

    I have PC Financial account for everyday banking because it’s free and the bank machines are everywhere (every 7-Eleven) plus all the CIBC and Superstore locations.

    Last year I opened an account with TD, they were close by and I wanted a safety deposit box. Cost me $5000 upfront to keep it free but got the VISA card and US account as well. Since PC does not have any tellers I can bring all my coin for free to deposit in my account. When I go on trips to the US we get preferred rates on US currency, and a USD credit card as well. All the benefits including travel insurance are just a bonus if you do any traveling.

    When it comes time for a mortgage I will see if they will provide the account for free because the $5000 is part of my down payment :-)

    Peter

  • Howie June 11, 2009, 11:37 pm

    How about HSBC Premier? You have to have a $150,000 in deposits / investments with them to qualify (or $300,000 of loans/mortgage/deposits/investments). The monthly fee is $28 but that goes down if you have more assets. I don’t think any of the banks here match can match the level of international service they provide.

    Perks:
    – HSBC Premier MasterCard
    – $2000USD emergency cash advance anywhere in the world
    – Next day card replacement
    – Worldwide recognition of Premier
    – Lower commissions with their discount brokerage

  • Emily June 11, 2009, 11:56 pm

    Hello. To clarify on the TD account: You still get all the perks listed with the TD Select Service account, even if you don’t keep the 5k balance (you just have to pay the $24.95.) If you keep a 5k balance, the fee for the account is waived, plus you get all of the services. It’s worked out great for us!

  • Amit June 12, 2009, 12:19 am

    At TD, Value Plus account, $2000 minimum and the $8.95/mo. fee is waived off.
    At TD, Business account, $8000 minimum and the $11.95/mo. fee is waived off. Pretty hard to keep the minimum in the business account and I end up paying the monthly fee. I wish there were better alternatives that I was aware of for business accounts in Canada. But there are some advantages – there is never any hold for any of the cheques that I deposit in my business account and the money is available immediately, and I can immediately transfer it to my chequing account the moment I deposit the cheques. But this varies from branch to branch.

    I just saw some adverstisement for Coast Capital bank advertising no-fee, no-hassle, no-minimum balance chequing accounts, even for business accounts. Need to study more. Does anyone have any accounts at Coast Capital?

  • Amit June 12, 2009, 12:22 am

    Forgot to add – Both my credit cards are $0 fee cards – CIBC Visa, and Capital One Mastercard. No Amex (I am not a fan of American Express for many reasons), no costco cards. Don’t see the need for more than 2 cards.

    I have $0 fee savings accounts at ICICI bank and at ING Direct.

  • badcaleb June 12, 2009, 3:23 am

    I use TD Select Service. I have the TD Gold Elite (no charge for a second card) which has the 1% cash back which returns about $240 back a year from my purchases. If it didn’t come with the TD Auto Club benefit then I’d get it for my wife as she drives the car most of the time. A comparable BCCA membership would cost me $80. I use the safety deposit box, it’s a small one but enough for our needs and I think it’s usually a $40 annual charge. The $5000 min deposit is worth it for me. Using Elbyron’s example of the lost opportunity cost of a 5yr GIC returning $175/yr, that works out to only $110 after taxes using my marginal rate. I also use US$ chequing account and US$ Visa card.

  • Adam June 12, 2009, 7:22 pm

    I have the No limit banking with RBC. I pay no fees and don’t have to carry any minimum balance. I have a mortgage and investment accounts, as well as my Infinite card with them. My fees are rebated to me instantly.

    http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/products/deposits/multiproduct-rebate.html

  • Charles Pedley June 13, 2009, 1:49 am

    I almost laughed when I saw what banks do in regard to charging fees for an account where they take YOUR money and invest it to make a profit and yet they charge you for that privilege. That is why it is good to invest in banks but NOT put money in them.

    For a real deal you do to CitizensBank.ca which is an online bank operated by Vancity Credit Union, the biggest credit union in Canada. Like most credit unions, Citizensbank DOES not charge you for an account. Those charges for an account add up. There are NO charges for an account.

    They have a high interest savings account, credit line and the works.

    Another place you can get a good deal with a minimum deposit [forget the amount] is People’s TRust at http://www.peoplestrust.com/.

    A few months back they were paying 3.60% interest. Last time I looked it was 2.5 % which I think is better than Ingdirect.

    The biggest question I have about the so-called high-end savings accounts from banks is what makes it high-end? The fees?

  • canadian dollars June 13, 2009, 10:27 am

    One way to get free cheques from TD is to deposit 5000 to get the select service. Then order some cheques. After the cheques arrive, you can downgrade your account to one of the lower tiers and withdraw most of your $5000.

    How do I know this? Well, I was told by a TD bank teller about this ‘trick’.

  • The Baker's Son June 15, 2009, 3:37 pm

    I was looking at the Select account last week myself. Just a note: the fees on the Visas are waived for the primary holder and one additional holder and if you choose the Gold Elite Visa (which gives 1% cash back) you also get the fees waived for the Deluxe TD Auto Club for your entire family (including unmarried children under 22) and every car you own is covered. I’m paying almost $100/yr for CAA just for myself for less coverage. Also, with the Elite Visa you get trip interruption insurance and delayed/lost baggage coverage included.

  • Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog June 17, 2009, 1:58 pm

    I think I’ll stick with PC Financial for now… I could see going for the TD account if I ever switch to TDW.

  • d2cold June 25, 2009, 3:13 am

    PC and I have been married for a decade. Paypass MC is the best. I love getting Timmies without swiping.

    Honestly who really uses the majority of those items for a $25/mo fee??

    Go PC or go else where and pay more!

    DH

  • Sampson July 10, 2009, 11:21 am

    This is a very interesting set of comments. It seems like there’s a split, maybe 30:70 of people who need few services vs. people who need additional benefits of these VIP type accounts.

    My household uses only free accounts. Mainly PC Financial. We have self-directed investment accounts at TD Waterhouse and RBC DI – and a bunch of free savings accounts a RBC (basically 0-2 free transactions, however all inter-account transactions are free).

    I can see the potential for benefits of the TD Select account, but as Elbryon points out, you really need to be using most of the services to benefit. We don’t have a safety deposit box, road-side assistance, a travel-points credit card, but even considering alternatives or paying for those services separately, I’m not sure it would amount to savings for me.

    Our monthly financials are simple, we use the cash advance machine twice per month, all bills are set up to be paid automatically online. I can’t imagine any other way of doing things. So I’m curious, what type of activities are those who need the multiple transactions doing to require unlimited chequeing accounts?

  • Cheap Scottish Guy July 10, 2009, 3:37 pm

    PC Financial is the way to go. I have not paid a bank fee in several years. Why try keeping a minimum balance getting a poor ROI just to avoid paying a monthly fee? I’d rather have that money working harder elsewhere and not worry if I went below the minimum balance or not.

  • Jeff July 11, 2009, 11:57 pm

    I have made money using PC Financial/PC MC… Why the hell would I ever want to pay?

  • Ramanan September 4, 2010, 1:12 am

    Beware if opening a TD Select Serve account. I upgraded my regular checking the account mid month to the select service account in the middle of the month. From the point the account was upgraded i maintained the min $5K for fee waiver. To my surprise at the end of the month they had the cheek to slap on the $24.95 charge because i didnt maintain $5K during the month prior to upgrading my account to the select service account. It took quite a bit of haggling to get the charge reversed. This experience definitely sours my perception of TD’s customer oriented image. Next week I’m going to shop around, see what else is out there.

  • LD November 15, 2012, 4:38 pm

    Is the annual fee for the credit card waived EVERY year you have the TD select service account? Or is it only waived for the first year?

    Thanks!

  • Julie November 16, 2012, 6:20 pm

    LD – I’ve had the Visa Infinite with TD for over a year and it is still free with the Select Service Account. I’ve also used my account for the free US account, free US Visa, and free cheques (US & CDN).

  • LD November 17, 2012, 9:42 pm

    Julie: Thank you SO much for your answer. This helps greatly! I booked an appointment w/ TD this morning and will switch to this account :)

    Thanks again for your time and help!

    LD

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