Clever way to transfer money between the Big 5 banks?
Here are the ways I know:
1) Use Interac (or Visa) money transfer. This way is fast (usually a couple hours), but most banks have a limit of only a few $1,000, so to transfer more money would be both annoying (e.g., 10x transfers for 30K) and cost more. Most banks charge a $1.50 fee per transfer.
2) Use a virtual bank like PC financial, tangerine, et al, as a "middle man" - transferring first from the source Big 5 bank to the virtual bank, then on to the destination bank. Unfortunately, this often takes close to 10 business days. A couple days for the transfer, then a 5 day hold (typical, although it can vary by bank and by customer), and then another couple days for the transfer. Additionally, this isn't fire and forget - you have to come back to do the second half of the transfer (although you could potentially set it up as a future transfer if the interface allows it and you have the timing down).
This method is usually free, and can be initiated at any time, online. No particular limits, unless your intermediary bank imposes some type of deposit or withdrawal limits for EFT (this is rare, but some do, such as Interactive Brokers).
3) Bill payment to LOC or credit card. If you have a LOC or credit card at the destination bank, you can probably do a bill payment from the source bank directly to the LOC, or credit card. This doesn't exactly get your money in your chequing account, but in the case of a LOC that allows a positive balance, you can transfer as much as you want and then move it immediately into your chequing account. For LOCs that don't allow positive balances, or credit cards, this technique probably doesn't work as well.
This takes a couple days generally.
4) Wire transfer. This usually happens the same day, but costs $30-$50 on the sending end, and sometimes $20 or so on the receiving end (varies by account). Some banks allow you to set this up over the phone, but some require you to visit a branch. No limit on the amount that can be transferred this way.
5) Cheque. Write a cheque to yourself from the source bank, and deposit it at the destination bank. This works best if the destination bank has cheque deposit by photo (do all the big 5 have it now?). The cost is only the cost of a cheque, which may be free depending on your account. However, if you don't have cheques, and don't have a way to get free ones, this may be expensive. In principle, you could print your own cheque and take a photo of that (perhaps even skipping the photo step entirely), but I haven't been able to find any good templates for Canadian cheques.
This approach is "fast" in that the money nominally appears in your account immediately, but the amount you can actually spend or transfer out depends on your hold limits.
6) Draft. Get a draft at the source bank and deposit it at the destination bank. This will cost you a trip to each bank (can you deposit drafts via the image-deposit option for cheques?), and probably $5-$8 for the draft. Some may get free drafts if they have a premium account plan. As it turns out, drafts are not as good as cash any more, at least based on the last time I deposited one: they said there would be a 5 day hold for them to verify the draft. You may be able to ask them to call the issuing branch to validate it, but it my case it didn't work because the issuing branch never picked up (and never returned any calls, either).
So what else is out there?