While there is healthy competition with many players offering high-interest savings accounts at attractive interest rates and features, President’s Choice Financial is pretty much the only game in town if you want a no-fee chequing account. Not for much longer. Nancy Zimmerman, who is a Bank Evangelist at Citizens Bank (and a money coach and blogger), broke the news that as of mid-September, her employer (an online, national bank formed by Vancity, which already offers a competitive high-interest savings account), will be dropping the $8 monthly fee on their current chequing account, and offer the following features:

  • Free personal cheques.
  • Unlimited Interac transactions and unlimited cheques and bill payments.
  • Online access and online bill payments.
  • Unlimited free ATM transactions throught the Exchange network run by most credit unions, National Bank, HSBC etc.
  • No international ATM charges by Citizens Bank (there may be a charge by the bank running the ATM network).

While the international ATM transactions are a nice bonus and will be very attractive to frequent travelers, the other features make Citizens Bank account equivalent to PC Financial’s. Still, I’ll be sticking with PC Financial because it is convenient to withdraw cash while shopping for groceries. However, it is nice to know that there is a strong alternative now.

This article has 22 comments

  1. I’d mention that Citizens Bank is more of West Coast bank than East Coast (in case people didn’t know)

    And their ATM network is relatively smaller, despite on the EXCHANGE network. I find PC Financial benefits greatly from the CIBC ATM network.

    But kudos to another benefit out of more competition

  2. Foiled again: I checked the Citizens Bank website and it says their services are not available in Québec. Same deal with President’s Choice.

    Someday I hope we’ll get a bank that offers no-fee unlimited ATM, Interac, and chequing in Québec; in the meantime I’ll keep paying my $10.95/month. Ugh.

  3. Oh no – PC isn’t available in Quebec?? I thought the “Now Serving Quebec” indicated it was, but it looks to only have PC Mastercard services and PC Points available. Now I’m going to have to move banks when we move to Montreal in the fall. 🙁

    Brad, is $10.95/month in Quebec really the best option available?

  4. Canadian Capitalist

    brad: It’s too bad that both these no-fee accounts aren’t available in Quebec. I guess your best bet is one of the big bank unlimited accounts that waive the fees with a minimum balance.

  5. Hey Brad and Christine, talk to your language police and maybe things like this would become available 😉

  6. Traciatim — it has nothing to do with the language police, actually, it’s an issue of some arcane banking rules here in the province, I remember reading about it awhile back but can’t recall the details.

    There are indeed some banks here that waive fees with a minimum balance, but last time I checked the balance in most cases was something like $2,000.

    Christine: the $10.95/month covers essentially unlimited ATM, Interac, and chequing at my bank (Banque Nationale). Rates at other banks were similar last time I did a comparison (a few years ago), although TD does operate here and they probably have better deals. There aren’t any TD branches in my part of town; the most common banks in my borough are the Desjardins credit union (which has pretty high fees) and Banque Nationale.

    I keep the minimum in my bank and use ING for savings.

  7. If you have a PC account opened, you can use it in Quebec, but you cannot open it in Quebec.

    Therefore, Quebecers who insist having a PCF chequing account must go to Ontario (or some other province near Quebec) and open and account. Look up at Redflagdeals for a thread on this topic (there is a grocery store about 1h15 from Montreal mentioned).

    I currently have a free unlimited (for more or less everything I could use) chequing account because of student status, but I will think about the PCF alternative when I will finish my graduate degree.

  8. Another no-fee chequing account is offered by Coast Capital Savings (in BC).

  9. My wife works for one of the banks, and its normal for products to launch much later in Quebec. Her explanation was that Quebec has much more stringent consumer protection laws

    PCF may also be limited in quebec because loblaws network isn’t as big in Quebec as other provinces?

  10. That’s interesting Chuck, I always thought it was that the government dictates what language people can communicate in in promotional materials and it was way too expensive to have a ‘Canadian Promotion’ and a ‘Quebec Promotion’ too. I guess it’s just that the socialist policies have gone too far there and businesses don’t have as much freedom to thrive there . . . either way I suppose.

  11. Great post CC. Nancy contacted me about their promotion also, pretty exciting for some of us. I have a small blurb about the promotion coming up on Friday.

  12. There is a way to get a no fee chequing account from any major bank. Simply close your chequing account and move everything to a line of credit. I do this with TD bank and have no problems. It gives me:
    – unlimited free cheques
    – unlimited interac
    – free overdraft protection (if you actually carry a balance on your line of credit you just pay the interest)
    – free atm transactions at any of the banks atms
    I’ve been doing this for years and it works great.

  13. Canadian Capitalist

    brad: I wonder if a pay-as-you-go might be better than shelling out $10 every month. Though I use a PC Financial account, my average number of cheque/bill payment/debit tends to be about 10 or so (though I could probably reduce even that by using a credit card or withdrawing bigger chunks of cash). Of course, this means using a credit card everywhere and may not be appropriate for folks who have a spending problem.

    Anika: Thanks for the tip about Coast Capital Savings.

    Chuck, Traciatim: I guess this is another unfortunate by-product of our patch work quilt of regulations.

    MDJ: Yep, Nancy mentioned breaking the news to bloggers and she’s already posted this on her blog. I think this is great news even though PC Financial has been around for a long time. Competition is great!

  14. Not only has Coast Capital had this account for a while, but they’ve been airing cheeky ads in BC television stations:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq1E_o9Ysdc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLj9ukcM9w
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU5hWLYNRd8

    The only reason I haven’t switched is because I might move back to Ontario one of these days and that’d be easier sticking with TD.

  15. Regarding PCF and Quebec, do what I did, I opened my account in Ottawa 5 years ago and I’ve been using it in Quebec since that without any issue at all.

    The closest PCF location from Montreal is The Independant’s Grocer in Cornwall. Helen works there and believe me, she’s used to open accounts for Quebec residents.

  16. Thanks so much everyone for your advice! So it looks like I can keep my PC accounts in Quebec since they’re already open – thank goodness. Hopefully if I have to switch in a couple years, there will be more competition by that time.

    In case anyone’s curious, the gist of the issue is that Quebec law requires you to open a new account in person – yet another example of our law system not being caught up to digital technologies. C’est la vie!

  17. There’s also the credit union option.

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  19. Linda Rocco,
    Can you clarify for me about opening the PC account in Cornwall: Can I open an account there using my Montreal address? Or will I need to use an ON address to open the account and then change it to my QC address?
    Thank You!
    I want free checking!!!

  20. Pingback: Citizen’s Bank Shutting down Free Chequing Accounts | Canadian Capitalist

  21. Citizens bank customers must simply switch to PC financial instead of TD. Why pay fees when you an get it for free? I am happy today I did that 3 years ago and have been extremely happy. I even did my mortgage with them (even got my closing costs’ draft from them). They are awesome! Just Go for it guys!