credit unions

When you open an account with a credit union, you're not just a customer - you become a member.  Each member owns a small part of the credit union.  Credit unions return their profit to members through lower fee / higher interest products and services.

Credit unions are community-oriented. You may find one in your neighbourhood.

What is it like to bank with a credit union?

We've done some research comparing Canadian chequing accounts. We've chosen to look at CIBC, TD, RBC, Royal, & Scotia (the 'Big 5') as well as Tangerine & Simplii (both are online banks - Tangerine is owned by Scotiabank / Simplii by CIBC). These are real product offerings.

Each phrase can have up to five words - always choose the most appropriate answer. 

Updated September 2, 2022

Use our tables as a guide and remember to do some research on your own. 

Research Tips

Google the name of the bank and the product you are checking. For example, “CIBC student chequing account”. Be sure to investigate links that say ‘legal disclaimers’, ‘learn more’, ‘additional features’, 'view details', and footnotes for certain key words.

Websites, like or, can help you compare offers.

how it works

​​​​​​Your chequing account is the backbone of your financial setup.

If you have a youth or a student account, it will convert to a regular one when you stop being eligible. This may not be the account you want. Convert properly.

They're multiple choice - always choose the most appropriate answer. 

Justin is at the mall chewing on a slice of pizza when a slick banker approaches him...

​​online banks

Online banks are different. You can't just visit a branch and speak with a teller - they don't have branches. You'll have access to a 24h hotline instead. The online banks in our tables are owned by Big 5 banks and share their network of ATMs - for cash withdrawals and deposits.

  • How important is access to cash?

As long as you have the internet, online banking is an option, no matter where you live. You'll also need access to a secure smart phone or a computer.

 Play 'Talk Like a Banker' - FinStart's glossary game!

​If you're 18 or older...

chequing accounts

Click on the icon to join Justin and sprint through chequing accounts. It should take you about 8 minutes.

What is it used for?

Your chequing account is a waypoint for your income and expenses:

  • ​​Money you earn or receive is deposited in your chequing account.
  • Use it to pay for things and store enough for your short-term expenses (transfer the rest to your savings / investment accounts).
  • Every financial product you use will be linked to this account.

A debit card, which comes with your chequing account, identifies you as the bank's client.

  • It allows you to withdraw (take out) and deposit (add) cash from / to your account, at a bank machine (ATM) or with a teller.
  • You can use it in stores to buy things. When you spend with a debit card, the money comes from your chequing account.  
  • Don't make online purchases with a debit card. Use a credit card with a small limit if you have one - it's better protection against fraud. 

The money in your bank accounts is in Canadian dollars. What do you do if you're travelling or shopping online and need to pay for something in another country's currency?

Own your chequing account, step-by-step.

If you want to switch banks, open your new account, then close the old one.

What's next?

Click on the diagram to find out how chequing accounts work.

​This will open our video player.

If you're not turning 18 soon...

Choosing a bank for your chequing account


Traditional banks have branches and their own ATM networks across Canada. The so-called Big 5 are present across the country. A few other traditional banks are regional. The Big 5 tend to offer the widest range of products / services.

If you live in a rural community, you may not have a lot of traditional banks to choose from, if any.

​​​​​Key Features 

​Monthly Fee

  • You get what you pay for. Free accounts tend to have fewer features but get the job done.
  • If there is a fee, it may be waived if you keep a certain balance (amount) in the account, or purchase several products / services from the same bank.

Monthly Transactions and E-transfers 

  • A 'transaction' is money leaving your account (like debit purchases or ATM / teller withdrawals).

  • ​Some banks limit your monthly transactions / e-transfers, but no bank limits deposits. Banks make money from their clients' deposits.

Debit Rewards

  • Earn points / get cash back when you spend money with your debit card.

  • Points can be redeemed for goods and services at participating retailers.

  • Cashback refunds are sent to your account every month.

​Once you've opened an account...

Test your knowledge - take a FinStart quiz!

Look for no monthly fee, unlimited transactions, and free e-transfers.