Personal Finance

How do you rank the quality of the Big 5?

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  • Dec 11th, 2022 3:24 am
Deal Addict
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Jul 16, 2019
1577 posts

How do you rank the quality of the Big 5?

Many RFDers seem to steer clear of the Big 5 to avoid fees. However, some people think their fees are worth it and others need to use a Big 5 bank, whether for teller service, cross-border banking, or some other niche service online banks don't provide.

So for people who need to choose a Big 5 bank, how do you rank them in terms of quality?

Here's my 2¢:

1 - TD: Best cross-border bank. Somewhat longer hours than other banks. LOC functions like a free chequing account, though they charge to send e-transfers.

2 - CIBC: LOC functions like a free chequing account, including free e-transfers.

3 - BMO: Second best cross-border bank. Small annoyances abound, adding friction for no reason.

4 - RBC: No firsthand experience with them, but helping my Dad with his RBC account is a pain.

5 - Scotiabank: Little personal experience with them, but I hear tons of complaints. There seem to be a lot of things that only your home branch can do. They have a few good credit cards, though.

How do you rank the Big 5 banks?
46 replies
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Feb 8, 2014
28775 posts
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1 - TD: Good bank. Some nutty fees like Interac E-transfer and onerous requirements to waive monthly fees i don't like. TD Direct Investing is good but to avoid fees you need 15K or $100/m automated transfer.

2 - CIBC: Not much experience but Simplii is good, free cheques, can use CIBC bank machines, no fees for everyday needs.

3 - BMO: I cannot understand how they stay in business. The right hand denies the left hand exists. That said if you don't need to do anything exotic like open an account or change anything about an existing account then you can use it and keep your fingers crossed. Have a backup bank anyways.

4 - RBC: Not a bad bank, the requirements to avoid monthly fees are not great. Their online portal keeps bank statements back to 2013 which is very helpful at times. Their alerts don't work.

5 - Scotiabank: No personal experience but Tangerine works well, you can use Scotia ATMs, no fees for standard banking and some smart features and Visa Debit. The alerts work.
In fact in Rand McNally they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people
Dec 12, 2020
17 posts
1. CIBC: I do all my personal banking with Simplii and business with CIBC. No problems, great customer service, etc.

2. BMO: They were ok. I never used them for anything beyond a checking account but in that time things worked well and I had no complaints. Their products were just not attractive to me from a business perspective so I moved on.

3. RBC: No personal experience, but my partner is with them and no complaints.

4. TD: Got burned by TD many years ago, had a horrible time with their customer service. On top of that, since they took over MBNA credit, the cards have gone to shit. I wouldn't trust TD in any capacity.

5. Scotia: By far the WORST bank to deal with. The only bank to ever freeze my accounts for large purchases. The only bank to ever lower my credit limit. Terrible customer service. Getting anything done takes DAYS. You get transferred to multiple people all of whom are the wrong person. Its just a mess of an operation and I do not recommend them AT ALL.
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2018
8403 posts
They're all in a race to the bottom in customer service, but Scotiabank is winning.
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Sep 14, 2012
2452 posts
Montreal, QC
I deal with 2 brick & mortar banks (Big 5).

My first bank was Scotiabank and I had them until I was 17 based on their location (I lived right across the street from them). I closed that account due mainly to the fact that I moved and Scotiabank didn't have a convenient branch located near me (I would need a car or take a bus to get to the closest Scotiabank at my new address)

When I moved at 17, the closest bank was Toronto Dominion Bank so I used them and they are still my primary Big 5 financial institution. I've gotten good as well as bad customer service from them (most of the times, I would say that it is good/excellent). One of those times that I got bad customer service from them (they closed one of my accounts and moved my cash from that account to another of my bank accounts and I was using these 2 separate bank accounts for certain "budgets" (ex: "vacation" account and "car" account), I was very upset and I decided to open an account at RBC (which I still have and still use as well as investments with RBC)

I also dealt with Bank of Montreal but I dealt with them only for a car loan as well as a credit card (they were the first financial institution to give me a credit card). I never had any issues with them but I mainly just went there to make lump sum car loan payments and my Bank of Montreal credit card payment since back then, it wasn't possible to pay a credit card bill affiliated with another bank at a different bank (or there were costs associated with it which is why I did this directly at Bank of Montreal).

I have 3 online only bank accounts with one of the online banks doing the majority of my day to day transactions (Tangerine).

Between the 2 brick and mortar banks that I currently deal with (TD Canada Trust and RBC), I would say that I get better service from TD Canada Trust. I'm not sure if this is because of the amount of investment assets that I have with them when compared to RBC (TD Canada Trust has approximately 10x the amount than RBC). With TD Canada Trust, I also have/use their cross border services so I have an account at TD Bank NA as well as a US credit card with TD Bank NA.
Sr. Member
Jan 24, 2013
539 posts
Rainy River
1) CIBC - only issue with them is they force you to come to the branch occasionally to do things that you should be able to do online
2) Scotiabank- have same issue as CIBC does above, otherwise good
3) RBC- service is good, however, products generally speaking are lousy
4) TD- lousy service, overrated product line
5) BMO- the cynical acronym you hear from time to time suits them perfectly - really lousy service and products, been brutal for at least 40 years.
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Mar 28, 2005
8066 posts
Cornwall, Ontario
Scote64 wrote: They're all in a race to the bottom in customer service, but Scotiabank is winning.
With Sotiabank it must depend on the branch and who you get with telephone support.

I have had very few issues (actually all my own fault) and they were all resolved promptly and efficiently, both on line where possible and also at the branch.
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Jan 21, 2018
8403 posts
krs wrote: With Sotiabank it must depend on the branch and who you get with telephone support.

I have had very few issues (actually all my own fault) and they were all resolved promptly and efficiently, both on line where possible and also at the branch.
It's highly variable, but I was a Scotiabank customer for a long time, as were members of my family, and in the end there were just too many issues of unacceptably bad service. I do business still with all the other big banks and many other financial institutions, and while most of them have occasional screwups and increasingly worse customer service, Scotiabank is the only one I've ever had to terminate and say "no more". Close the accounts. Cut up the credit cards.

At one time I would have praised BMO, where I've also had personal and business accounts for a long time, but they've gone downhill to be just middle-of the-pack.

My brother likes RBC, where he currently has a good relationship with the local branch manager and investment advisor, but I haven't found them to be great in my area.

The only standout in customer service for me these days is Hubert. They always have a helpful agent answer the phone without a long wait, and they always address the issue right away without passing the buck. That makes them a standout for just doing what we should expect from all the financial institutions.
Deal Addict
Feb 28, 2014
1003 posts
The Big Banks are kinda the same in terms of customer service but you can still rank them, they can't touch my local credit union imo. Like always, with the Big Banks, customer service quality differs from branch to branch and depending on who you get on the phone.

This is my ranking:
  1. TD - Out of all the Big Banks, they have the best customer service experience. Still can't believe they refuse to support Google Pay, they're the only Big Bank that refuses to do so in Canada. They offer it in the States... Their product lines have been pretty good.
  2. Scotiabank - Good customer service so far, a bit more dependent on the branches - RFD loves to hate this bank for some reason but my experiences with them overall has been good. Never had the whole "only home branch can fix stuff" experience, all branches were able to do what I asked of them. I really like their credit card offerings. Their online banking portal needs to be redesigned, still looks like from the 2000s.
  3. CIBC - Good interactions with them in the past but haven't used them enough to comment too much on them.
  4. RBC - I hate their product structure, you have to completely buy into their ecosystem in order to waive account fees. Interaction with RBC in the past has been OK.
  5. BMO - This bank made me almost rage quit in branch. Their call centre is only OK at best, been hot potatoed before, just not as bad as Tangerine though.
Deal Expert
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Jan 9, 2011
17102 posts
Good/bad customer service is quite possible from any and all of the big 5. It all depends on the mood of the person who you are dealing with at any particular time. Humans will be humans. So, I'd rather focus on institutional issues. Scotiabank makes you visit a branch to do trivial things that every other bank lets you do online or over the phone. And poor training of its employees over its product lines and procedures seems to be an institutional thing as well.

Other than that, I look through the lens of how decent their credit card lineups are, so I will rank them purely on that:

1) Scotiabank
3) TD
4) BMO
5) RBC
Jul 7, 2020
376 posts
I like Simplii and CIBC.

I was a former customer of TD since I was a child, but I quit them once they started charging me fees. Their credit cards and other products are horrible, so I don't anticipate ever doing business with them again.

BMO has horrible online banking, and I can't get my MasterCard to work on Google Pay. Activating the card was also a strange and convoluted process with bad customer service along the way. However, I like the card. I wouldn't use them for anything else in the future though. I have one of their ETFs in my investment portfolio, and this seems to be one area that they do well in.

Tangerine is fine, but I haven't dealt with Scotiabank.

No experience with RBC other than them rejecting me for a credit card for some strange reason.

I would probably rank them: 1) CIBC, 2) Scotia, 3) BMO, 4) TD
Jan 12, 2009
352 posts
Greater Toronto Area
You should also consider how they cater to their audiences. BMO for example has much stronger offerings for Canadian Defence Community Members (I.e. Performance Account for free). Scotiabank offers a very strong professional student banking program. CIBC is one of the big banks that waives chequing and credit card for investment accounts. If you were legacy with TD they offered waivers on credit cards per member for joint accounts. Some frugal RFDers automated free banking through RBC.

TD has longer hours and I find their retail support relatively consistent. I have not found them to be a good fit if your funds with them are limited (e.g. relatively high user fees without minimum balances).

Scotiabank gets the love/hate as they often have very good promotions (credit card/chequing), but have significant income verification requirements, and frequently botch the execution and customer support (they were markedly worse in my experience, the latest was a routine account opening where my income deposits somehow did not trigger).
Koodo Cell, Fongo Home Phone, Rogers Internet for now.

RFD Effect is real...Let the Credit Card games begin!
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Dec 23, 2008
6028 posts
TD and RBC will be top two solely because their etransfer is immediate.

I dont know why cibc/scotia/bmo's etransfer takes so long (upwards to 30min)
Deal Addict
Dec 4, 2016
2001 posts
CIBC still has separate apps for online banking and online brokerage. CIBC banking app doesn't support finger print login on my Pixel 5. SWIFT transfer to CIBC seem to take a bit longer to arrive than RBC. On the other hand, $7 per trade is less than $10 per trade. And waiving fees for 100k in asset is nice.

RBC app seems to work well. My wife seem to have good experience when she needs to call them. No fee waiver for keeping a certain amount in account though.

When I need to call someone at TD, I seem to connect to a human almost right away, after entering my login from the banking app. Wait time is significantly longer for CIBC.
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Jan 16, 2011
7205 posts
I rank the big 5 based on the quality of the dividend payout.

BNS - 4.68%
CM - 4.16%
TD - 3.86%
BMO - 3.47%
RY - 3.44%

I have owned BMO since 2009 and it's been very good to me.
Oct 7, 2020
258 posts
1 - TD - decent customer service, have offered me several pre-approvals, branch hours and locations suit me
2 - BMO - been with them forever and they acknowledge this, have offered several pre-approvals recently, best online brokerage
3 - CIBC - hit me twice for hard pulls opening account / credit card, very low credit limits, no pre-approvals, customer service is OK
4 - RBC - no experience with this bank, so putting them here
5 - Scotiabank - only bank to arbitrarily close a credit card on me, very hard to get info, didn't like the online experience at all
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2014
7289 posts
1. TD - we have grandfathered joint AI account that they gave us 2 premium CCs for free. We also have a free safety deposit box (not yet used). The best feature we like from them is we can deposit USD cheque into our TDDI account directly and no hold. We don't go to the branch often but if we need to, they have long hours and weekends so it's very convenient
2. CIBC - We opened account last year for special interest rate of 2.15% and we like their CCs. They also gave us each $300 welcome bonus despite I had an account with them a few years back. We will probably stay with them after the 1 year is up
3. RBC - We opened an account with them about 15 years ago and also have US borderless and USD Visa. We also have RBC DI accounts with them and till this day, they still couldn't do what TD could - putting my USD cheque directly into trading account. They want me to put my cheque in my USD chequing first and will be held for 15 business days before I can transfer to DI account :(
4. Scotia/BMO/National Bank/HSBC - I opened account with them before but only for getting welcoming bonus. There were hiccups here and there so I closed the accounts thereafter
Sr. Member
Feb 13, 2008
893 posts
Edmonton, AB
kr0zet wrote: I rank the big 5 based on the quality of the dividend payout.

BNS - 4.68%
CM - 4.16%
TD - 3.86%
BMO - 3.47%
RY - 3.44%

I have owned BMO since 2009 and it's been very good to me.
You made me chuckle but good points. Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Smiling Eyes
Sr. Member
Feb 13, 2008
893 posts
Edmonton, AB
Simplii and Tangerine. RBC and TD. I think they are about the same.