Canadian banks are world class! The World Economic Forum has been ranking Canadian banks as the world’s soundest banking system for several years now. Even in the Great Depression, Canadian banks didn’t go under, and they’re still rock-solid today. They didn’t need bailouts to do it either. So to choose the top rated online banks in Canada, you’re looking at the best among banks that are already very, very good.
Best design and products: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
The Royal Bank of Canada is not only the best Internet bank in Canada, it’s the best in North America. Even better, it’s a bank built around the needs of Canadian snowbirds who spend the cold Canadian winter in warmer places. That shows up in some of the banking products available.
This has to be one of the most user-friendly web interfaces of any bank out there. The login takes you straight to an overview of your accounts, investments, and balances. It’s easy and straightforward to transfer money, pay a bill, or adjust your investments.
RBC also wins for its exceptional customer service. Between 8 am and 6 pm, there’s always a person online to help with any problems.
Just about the only thing you can’t do with the RBC online interface is pay multiple bills at the same time. Even though it’s one of the Big Five banks of Canada, RBC also doesn’t have accounts and services in euros yet, just Canadian dollars and a few US dollar services for businesspeople and snowbirds.
Unlike some Internet banks, RBC does have full-service banking centres across Canada. It also has more than 400 full-service banking centres, mostly in the American southeast. That’s where many Canadians go for winter vacations.
Best value online bank: President’s Choice (PC)
An online bank as an extension of a supermarket? It looked bizarre at first, but now it’s one of the most popular online banks in Canada, with good reason. The no-fee, no minimum balance chequing account’s a no-brainer. The chequing’s absolutely free, and that includes getting the cheques free as well. The savings rates are better than most bricks-and-mortar banks, and decent for an online bank.
But the best part of PC’s online banking is its PC points. Just for using your debit card at no charge whatsoever, you get 0.5% of your debits back in groceries at any PC grocery store. That’s debit, not credit. With a debit card, you’re not spending money you don’t have. There’s not a lot of banks, online or bricks-and-mortar, which are willing to pay out loyalty points on debit transactions.
You can cash in those PC points right at the cash register. You also get PC points for automated paycheque deposit and for maintaining a minimum balance of $1,000 in your chequing account. Many other PC financial transactions also qualify for bonus PC points.
With a credit card, the PC points double. Their best customers get double the points again on all purchases at a PC store, for 2% back. There’s also regular promotions and coupons which give you bonus points, sometimes as much as 10x the regular rate.
But President’s Choice is more than just groceries. They’re more a department store than a grocery store, to the point that they compete directly with Walmart. They’ve even got gas bars, which give you a 2-cents/litre rebate for use in their stores. And bonus PC points can be earned at all of them.
PC has partnered with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to expand the number of ATMs beyond those available in PC stores. Your PC accounts can be accessed through any CIBC ATM at no extra charge, and those can be found in just about every town and city in Canada.
The only real restriction on PC online accounts are the daily limits on financial transactions, especially for new customers. The initial limit on daily transactions is just $200 a day, no matter how much you have in your account. That’s an issue for some people. However, it’s a good thing for banking security.
Canadians have been slow to love the idea of online banks, mostly because they were nervous about safety reasons. However, after ING and President’s Choice broke the ice and showed how it could be done right, the older established banks jumped on the bandwagon, and Canadians followed in droves. According to Statistics Canada, 68% of Canadian Internet users now do online banking, and that’s before the smartphone trend really caught on.
In Global Finance Magazine’s April 2012 assessment of the world’s safest banks, RBC comes in 10th world wide. Five of Canada’s banks are among the top 25. Seven are among the top 50 (Eight if you’re counting HSBC Canada.) That’s a record to be proud of. No other country does as well.