Whether you are a full-time freelancer or you are doing some constant freelancing work on the side of your traditional eight-to-five job, you will notice that your banking activities will increase. More cheque/cash deposits, more withdrawals, perhaps writing additional cheques every month or even start performing other kinds of daily transactions.
It is likely that you will be using your personal chequing account in order to handle the above-mentioned transactions but, is your current banking institution helping you to save and grow your money? Most of them, if not all, claim they can do so.
Your banking institution should be a partner. Any fee you are currently paying to your bank should reflect a direct benefit to you if not, what is the point of keep on paying such fees?
Most banks give you the option to choose between chequing accounts with limited or unlimited transactions per month; personal chequing accounts plans are pretty much as cellphone plans:
- Plan A: 10 transactions a month for $9.95 and $0.65 every additional transaction.
- Plan B: 40 transactions a month for $11.99 and $0.65 every additional transaction.
- Plan C: Unlimited transactions a month for $19.99
Note: Understand by transaction any use of an ATM (deposit/withdrawal), paying bills (electronically, with traditional cheque or even at the bank’s counter), teller assisted withdrawal and, of course, every single use of your Interac® debit card.
We could easily count over 150 different kinds of limited chequing accounts, so similar between each other, that it would be very hard to compare them side by side.
Having said that, we will only focus on Unlimited Personal Chequing accounts offered in Canada. Like this we can compare apples with apples and everybody has the same amount of transactions.
The following original infographic by Veodesign shows you the relation between the price you pay for the most tangible benefits you receive: Cheques and ATM/ABM usage.
Most commonly performed transactions with a chequing account are:
- Interac® debit card payment
- ATM Cheque/cash deposit or withdrawal, thus the ATM network convenience is very important
- Bill payments, by traditional cheque or electronic payment
Unless your needs include special requirements —like certified cheques, bank drafts or money orders—, there is basically no difference between unlimited chequing accounts, but for the price.
Paper cheques are not as frequently used as before, actually most —young— people will choose to pay their utility bills via electronic bill payment, therefore your booklet with 50 or 100 cheques could easily last a couple of years.
- ING Direct THRiVE (Free): It is free and available in all Canada, pays you up to 1.10% interest, it gives your first 50 cheques for free ($12.50 for additional 50-cheque booklet) and you can use ATM banking within members of the THE EXCHANGE® network in Canada and the US.
- PC Financial No fee bank account (Free): This product comes in second place due to a big setback: you can only use ATMs within the CIBC/PC network, and man those are scarce! It is an excellent option if you write a lot of cheques, you can request a free booklet (100 cheques) several times a year and it also pays up to 0.50% interest a year. Unfortunately this product is not available in Québec.
- ICICI HiVALUE® Chequing Account ($5/mo): In order to keep it free you will have to keep a monthly balance of at least $500 or set up your account for direct payroll, first 20 cheques free (no information on website about cost of extra cheques), it pays up to 0.50% interest and its free within THE EXCHANGE® ATM network.
- ICICI HiVALUE® PLUS Chequing Account ($9.95/mo): it also pays up to 0.50% interest, it gives you 100 cheques free per year, you can use free of charge any ATM in Canada. The monthly fee cannot be waived.
- Laurentian Bank Transact without limit ($10.95/mo): The only good thing of this plan is its price, no free cheques and you can only use the Laurentian Bank ATM network (which at least in Montréal is very extense).
RBC Royal Bank No Limit Banking ($10.95/mo): Same as above, no free cheques and you can only use the ATMs within the RBC network.
- HSBC Performance Chequing-Unlimited ($11.95/mo): no free cheques, but at least you can use THE EXCHANGE® network.
Scotiabank Scotia One™ Account ($11.95/mo): Another near-to-useless account, no free cheques, you can only use ATMs within the Scotiabank network (but free outside Canada using the Global ATM Alliance). All this (?) could be for free if you keep a minimum balance of $3000 a month.
- National Bank AccessPlus ($12.25/mo): No free cheques and also uses THE EXCHANGE® network.
- CIBC Unlimited® ($12.95/mo): It is basically the same as the PC Financial No fee bank account with a $12.95 label on it (yes, PC Finance banking services are provided by CIBC).
- BMO Performance plan ($13.95/mo): The monthly fee can be waived with a +$3000 monthly balance, you have the right to use one (1) time a non-BMO ATM. There are no cheques included in this plan.
Desjardins The Premier ($13.95/mo): This account does not give you any free cheques either and, in Ontario, will give you three (3) free transactions on any ATM and its monthly fee can be waived if you have $4000 monthly balance.
RBC Royal Bank Signature No Limits Banking ($13.95/mo): Free cheques with this account, up to three (3) ATM withdrawals in ATMs not belonging to RBC. The fee cannot be waived. It gives you six (6) free money orders per year.
- Scotiabank® Moneyback™ ($14.95/mo): You can have up to two (2) transactions in a non-Scotiabank ATM, no free cheques in this account and, although no balance can waive your monthly fee you could receive up to $300 money back when you buy eligible goods
TD Infinity ($14.95/mo): No free cheques, you can only use TD ATMs but, if you keep more than $3500 as monthly balance, they will waive the monthly fee.
- Desjardins The Premier Plus ($21.95/mo): Free cheques (100/year), up to 3 transactions in a non-Desjardins ATM (Ontario only), the monthly fee can be waived with a monthly balance of $5000. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
National Bank Virtuoso Package ($21.95/mo): Free cheques (100/year), you can use ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® network; unfortunately the monthly fee cannot be waived. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
- CIBC PremierService® ($24.50/mo): This account gives you four (4) free non-CIBC ATM transactions, you can order cheques (100) several times a year and can give you up to 0.50% interest; the monthly fee cannot be waived. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
- BMO Premium Plan ($25/mo): Up to ten (10) non-BMO ATM transactions, free cheques (100) every year; free if you keep a minimum monthly balance of $5000. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
- Laurentian Bank The Gold Serice ($28/mo): This account gives you free cheques and unlimited transactions in any ATM, unfortunately its monthly fee cannot be waived with any balance. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
- TD Select Service ($29.95/mo): Free cheques, unlimited transactions in any ATM and free if you keep a monthly balance of $5000. This account gives you free certified cheques, bank drafts and/or money orders.
- RBC Royal Bank VIP Banking ($30/mo): Free cheques and unlimited transactions in any ATM, the monthly fee cannot be waived. This account gives you two (2) free certified cheques per year and twelve (12) bank drafts and/or money orders per year.
Many of the paid accounts may offer rebates on the monthly fee if you are a student, over 60 years old or if you have any other product with the bank, so do not be shy nor forget to ask for such rebates.
In my opinion, the best product would be the TD Select Service account; once your monthly balance is over $5000, and the administration fee is waived, this account has everything: Free administration, free cheques and free any-ATM banking, plus free certified cheques, bank drafts and money orders.
If you write less than a hundred cheques a year and you already pay your bills online, pay almost everything with your debit card and have not set a foot in your branch since the day you opened your account, why do you keep on paying for a service you can receive for free?
So the question remains in the air, is your banking institution helping you to save and grow your money or is it bloodsucking your hard-earned dollars every month?