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Which is the best bank in Canada?

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Poll: What is your favourite bank?

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[OP]
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Which is the best bank in Canada?

I'd like to hear about your experiences with various Canadian banks. I'm thinking along the lines of:

* Customer service (staff).
* Good / long opening hours.
* Reasonable fee structure (you don't feel like they are trying to steal from you).
* How easy it is to avoid paying fees.
* Availability of ATMs.
* Quality of on-line banking user interface.
* Anything I missed.

Think of this mainly in terms of a user with a checking account for regular, day to day banking.

Thanks.
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TD Select Service + 5K in chequing account == Unlimited no-fee ATM withdraws at ANY Interac or Plus machine worldwide, Infinite Visa card, no fee drafts / certified cheques / AMEX travellers cheques, unlimited free cheques in any style you want, free safe deposit box, free US Borderless account and USD Visa, .25% GIC interest bonus, discount on TD SDRSP, etc etc...

I added it all up - even not including the worldwide unlimited transactions and the other benefits, you get over $300 in free premium services / yr. That is 6% of $5,000 - it will be a long time before a no-risk investment will get me 6% annually after-taxes again.

Oh and also they have the best customer service and best hours in the industry - I canhonestly say when I went to set up all my stuff last week (On a Sat. afternoon no less!) it was a JOY to deal with the account manager - something I have not experienced at a bank in awhile, and I have had experiences at BMO, RBC, Scotia, and PCF.
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To be really honest, most Canadian banks are basically the same in terms of fee structures. It depends on your individual needs (do you only need a few transactions a month or do you need the full package?)

But anyways, I'll answer in the order you posted the criteria.

1. Your mileage may vary on this. Every bank has outstanding CSRs and bad apples too. From my experience, TD staff have made the fewest mistakes while BMO and RBC was the worst in this respect for me. I had a terrible account manager at both these banks, they never returned calls and set my accounts up wrong on a few occasions.

2. TD. Most branches are open 8-8 on Monday to Friday and 8-4 on Saturday. I don't need to worry about not making it to the branch on a busy day. RBC is the worse in this respect as many of their branches don't even open until 8 on Thursday or Friday.

3. All of the big banks have similar fees in their minimum chequing option and unlimited chequing options (around $4 for the minimum and $13 for unlimited) TD, BMO and Scotiabank have options to waive fees with minimum balances, so that's a plus. A lot of people here like the TD Select Service which has a $5,000 minimum balance, but if you are looking for the basics this account may be too much.

One thing to note is that most banks have free overdraft (no fees unless it is used in a month), while RBC charges $3 a month even if it's not used and still charges per-item fees.

4. Again, if you choose comparable package between the banks, they are also similar. In the minimum chequing options they don't come with free cheques (have to pay $30 or so for 100 basic cheques) while their unlimited chequing options should come with free cheque orders.

5. This depends on which city you live in. In Toronto, it would seem to me CIBC and TD are the easiest to find. Other posters have said that it is easier to find RBC/CIBC than TD in Vancouver.

6. TD. Their online banking interface is easy to use and practical. The RBC online banking has more features like a message centre where you can send special requests and international remittances but it seems hard to navigate at times.

After all this, I would say evaluate if you really need a B&M bank account. Personally, I only do about 10 transactions that must be done at a teller every year.

(I come from a country where basic bank accounts are completely free with unlimited transactions and free cheques, so Canadian banks were a shock at first)
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tng11 wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 12:10 pm
6. TD. Their online banking interface is easy to use and practical. The RBC online banking has more features like a message centre where you can send special requests and international remittances but it seems hard to navigate at times.
I don't agree with you on this one TNG. Like I said above, I have had (and still have accounts at most of ) TD, RBC, PCF, and Scotia, so I have used all of the online systems.

Having just recently opened my TD account, I have to say - EasyWeb is inferior to the BMO system for a few small reasons.

1) You can't manage your ATM card online. With BMO, I can totally manage my ATM card - I can choose what account is linked to chequing, what account is linke dot savings, and what CC is linked to the CC button. The changes take effect immediately. I wanted to do this with my TD card but again, had to call the call centre.

2) There is no security image and security word at logon. This makes the login less secure (more easily phished)

3) This is more of a personal thing, but I really dislike how it adds my SRSP balance into my "consolodated accounts" total. This is not money available to me and IMO should be a totally separate line item that is not added to the total, as it gives a weird picture (are they trying for this to be "net worth" or something? I find it strange).

Other than that the systems from my POV have basically the same features. The one feature TD has that BMO is missing (RBC has this too) is ability to "name" a biller when you add a bill, so you can add one MBNA card with "Smartcash" and one with "SPG" for example, to easily tell which is which. You can't do this with BMO and because of it I have paid the wrong card on a few occasions.
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brunes wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 12:31 pm
1) You can't manage your ATM card online. With BMO, I can totally manage my ATM card - I can choose what account is linked to chequing, what account is linke dot savings, and what CC is linked to the CC button. The changes take effect immediately. I wanted to do this with my TD card but again, had to call the call centre.

2) There is no security image and security word at logon. This makes the login less secure (more easily phished)
Fair enough, BMO is the only big bank to have the security image so that's a plus. Oddly enough, most of the virtual banks (ING, Ally, Citizens) also had this security feature. You can also manage your ATM card online with CIBC, but the feature doesn't work when I've tried it.

In terms of security I will admit the TD site is inferior in this aspect. Why on earth do they allow a maximum of 8 characters for the password? (I forgot this when I was writing my post)
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brunes wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 11:59 am
TD Select Service + 5K in chequing account == Unlimited no-fee ATM withdraws at ANY Interac or Plus machine worldwide, Infinite Visa card, no fee drafts / certified cheques / AMEX travellers cheques, unlimited free cheques in any style you want, free safe deposit box, free US Borderless account and USD Visa, .25% GIC interest bonus, discount on TD SDRSP, etc etc...
Cool... That does sound good. But I should mention that the interest lost by not having $5K in a high-interest account works out to about $12.50 before tax (assuming that the high-interest account is 3%).
I added it all up - even not including the worldwide unlimited transactions and the other benefits, you get over $300 in free premium services / yr. That is 6% of $5,000 - it will be a long time before a no-risk investment will get me 6% annually after-taxes again.
Interesting. Let's see... $300/year works out to about 17 Interac transactions per month. The wife says that that sounds reasonable (for both of us together).
Oh and also they have the best customer service and best hours in the industry - I canhonestly say when I went to set up all my stuff last week (On a Sat. afternoon no less!) it was a JOY to deal with the account manager - something I have not experienced at a bank in awhile, and I have had experiences at BMO, RBC, Scotia, and PCF.
Thanks! I especially like to hear the opinion of someone who has dealt with several banks, so they can compare. I can only speak for RBC and I know I didn't like it. The people were helpful and friendly, yes, but the hours were crappy, and I hated the fees.
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tng11 wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 12:10 pm
To be really honest, most Canadian banks are basically the same in terms of fee structures.
RBC is a little different in that you can't avoid the monthly fee by having $X in your account. Instead you have to get other products with them. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I know I don't like it, since I like to shop around to get the best product from each bank.
2. TD. Most branches are open 8-8 on Monday to Friday and 8-4 on Saturday. I don't need to worry about not making it to the branch on a busy day. RBC is the worse in this respect as many of their branches don't even open until 8 on Thursday or Friday.
Yay for TD. The only bank I have experience with is RBC and I didn't like the opening hours.
One thing to note is that most banks have free overdraft (no fees unless it is used in a month), while RBC charges $3 a month even if it's not used and still charges per-item fees.
Good to know. That's a good reason to avoid RBC.
(I come from a country where basic bank accounts are completely free with unlimited transactions and free cheques, so Canadian banks were a shock at first)
I had a similar experience. When I came I was shocked by the fees and the crappy opening hours at RBC.
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tng11 wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 12:40 pm
In terms of security I will admit the TD site is inferior in this aspect. Why on earth do they allow a maximum of 8 characters for the password? (I forgot this when I was writing my post)
Oh, I really hate it when they do that. Especially a BANK. My preferred password for high-security applications has 13 characters. Why shouldn't I be able to have a 25 character password if I feel like?

I have an account at a German bank and it's even worse. They only allow a maximum of FIVE (5) characters for the password! Then they lock the account if you get the password wrong three times (which happened to me once because I had caps lock on).

I have an account at a British bank, and that's better. I can have a lot of characters in my password, but I can't use "special" characters like "
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DanielCarrera wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 1:00 pm
Oh, I really hate it when they do that. Especially a BANK. My preferred password for high-security applications has 13 characters. Why shouldn't I be able to have a 25 character password if I feel like?

I have an account at a German bank and it's even worse. They only allow a maximum of FIVE (5) characters for the password! Then they lock the account if you get the password wrong three times (which happened to me once because I had caps lock on).

I have an account at a British bank, and that's better. I can have a lot of characters in my password, but I can't use "special" characters like "
To be nobody but yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. -- E. E. Cummings
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Well let's see. I'll list in order of my recommendation. RBC is my primary bank for reasons listed but I think TD fits if you are starting new.

TD: Definitely has the most convenient branch hours, useful branch services like the coin counters at some locations. I've been with them since I was a kid. I grew up in a small town they were the only bank in town. Personal Bankers are hit and miss. I occasionally still call the PB in the small town branch to handle GIC renewals as such as she seems to give preferential rates versus branches in the city. I have a Visa as well. Though I don't do a lot of day-to-day business with them at this point, I can say they've never really annoyed me.

Online Banking has a nice interface. Probably has the best fee if you need a high usage personal chequing account.

RBC: Been with them for years. Later, they were the official Loan provider for my professional school degree and thus became my primary bank. Racked up a 75k LoC with them, no complaints on the LoC was at Prime. Personal Banker from University branch still calls me, his primary portfolio at the branch is the LoCs for all the different professional programs (Meds, Law, MBA etc) at the Uni. Will try to get good rate on a new LoC for my personal side business with him based on this past relationship as the last of that Student loan is paid when I get my 2009 tax return next spring.

Other PBs in the big city branches are hit and miss. One branch near my home is particularly bad. Snooty tellers and a PB that doesn't give any useful help. You need to know what to ask for. Other branches closer to my workplace I've had better luck.

I prefer RBCs Online Banking and Direct Investing Interface to TDs. My favorite of the 3 interfaces I've used a lot. I also like that a basic banking package is free if you have a rewards credit card (just get a no fee Rewards Gold Visa) and an investment (a $500 GIC). Though if you need an unlimited chequing TD gives you a better deal.

BMO: I started with them when I went to Uni. At that time my University would only accept tuition payment made at BMO so I ended up opening an account. They were my primary bank for 8 years. Branches were pretty good back then but seem to have gotten run down in the past 5 years. Personal Bankers seem overly eager to push certain products, one year it was Market Linked GICs the next it was their 5 year escalating GIC. Makes me think that their bonuses are tied too closely to promoting certain products in a period.

Balances needed to waive fees are reasonable but since I have exactly one debit per year atm on this account, I went to the pay as you go option and shut down the chequing fees.

One really annoying thing about BMO has always been the interface on the online banking. Why is there a separate interface for Bank Accounts and Mastercard and Mutual Funds and GICs etc? The GIC and Mutual fund interface is particularly ugly and useless. I can understand in the days when the Internet was new but come on you've had 12 years at this point.


CIBC: Every time I've gone in here I've been annoyed by long lines and slow service. Don't have any accounts with them at the moment. Had a car loan here years ago.

BNS: By far my least favorite bank. They rub me the wrong way and have been more than annoyed when I've gone here. I've actually felt insulted. I will not bank with them.
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brunes wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 1:10 pm
I have the same gripe about PINs. RBC is the only bank that I know of that lets you choose more than 4 digits - my RBC PIN used to be 14 digits, and it worked everywhere - so I know Interac and all ATMs support it, the other banks just don't let you pick one, for fear of having to reset it.
Yeah, that 4 digit PIN limit is complete BS. The banks keep on pushing the myth that international ATMs will only take 4 digits. In Hong Kong (a major financial centre with people who travel all the time) all banks require you to select a minimum of 6 digits for your PIN and no one there has complained their card cannot be used overseas.

I am also waiting for the day when Canadian banks will employ a better form of two-factor authentication. My bank accounts in Asia and Europe all have some form of this, whether it is sending a one-time SMS or a offline physical token, like this:

Image
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brunes wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 1:10 pm
I have the same gripe about PINs. RBC is the only bank that I know of that lets you choose more than 4 digits - my RBC PIN used to be 14 digits, and it worked everywhere - so I know Interac and all ATMs support it, the other banks just don't let you pick one, for fear of having to reset it.
PINs aren't so bad. A 4-digit PIN is secure because (1) ATMs use two-factor authentication ("something you carry" and "something you know") and (2) After three trials the machine takes your card, making brute force attacks infeasible.

In a similar way, my German bank is not necessarily all that insecure because of the short passwords because they block the account after three trials. My complaint is that this is a needless user inconvenience. There is absolutely no reason to cap password length, and if passwords were longer they could afford to allow more trials before blocking the account.
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tng11 wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 1:17 pm
I am also waiting for the day when Canadian banks will employ a better form of two-factor authentication. My bank accounts in Asia and Europe all have some form of this, whether it is sending a one-time SMS or a offline physical token, like this:

Image

Yeah you can get these SecureID tokens for your Paypal account too. I think they charge a small fee for them (couple bucks).
DanielCarrera wrote:
Sep 19th, 2009 1:50 pm
PINs aren't so bad. A 4-digit PIN is secure because (1) ATMs use two-factor authentication ("something you carry" and "something you know") and (2) After three trials the machine takes your card, making brute force attacks infeasible.
That's not the problem with a small PIN. The problem is with shoulder surfing and spycams, especially if you are using it for a debit purchase (I know you should never do that but you are stuck every once in awhile).

It is a lot easier to shoulder surf / capture on a spycam a 4 digit PIN than a 14 digit one. i would wager with my 14 digit PIN it would be hard to pick out all of the numbers even if you had a cam DIRECTLY on me while I was typing it in, since I type it fast and my fingers overlap with other keys etc.
To be nobody but yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. -- E. E. Cummings
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RBC is really starting to annoy me...
I put in a payment for the CRA through a teller one week ago today, and it STILL has not shown up on my ePass account. A few more days and interest will start accruing. :mad:
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This is a great thread. Thanks for all the information guys.

I've been completely happy with PC Financial so far for a virtual bank. I also have experience with RBC and really like my account manager but I don't like their products so much and am not a really big fan of their online interface. I really like PC Financial's online interface.

I used to be a BNS customer about 10 years ago (they were my first bank). There is nothing in particular good that I can say about them. Their banking packages always seemed average or below average to me.

I will probably move TD at some point in the future ... probably after I pay off my mortgage with RBC or renew for a new term.
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