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Banking Service Fees

Last modified: 24 February 2014
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Fast facts

  • 33 per cent of Canadians say they pay no service fees at all while another 33 per cent pay between $1 and $15 per month
  • Basic accounts are available at major banks for $4 or less
  • 75 per cent of Canadians use their own bank's ABM and pay no convenience fee

The bottom line

With a great deal of competition, bank customers get good value and convenience in their banking services.


Consumers know they have choice in banking

Consumers have tremendous choice when it comes to banking with over 40 banks offering financial products and services to retail customers, in addition to hundreds of other financial services providers.
This high degree of competition puts the consumer in the driver’s seat and allows them to shop around for the banking and financial services that best meet their needs and their budget. And Canadians understand that they have a great deal of control over their banking packages and the service fees they pay:

  • 61 per cent of Canadians think they could switch banks to reduce their fees
  • 62 per cent of Canadians think they can look at different packages with their own bank to reduce fees
  • 90 per cent of Canadians say there is enough choice in banking

Banking is affordable

Banking in Canada is affordable. Service fees have gone down and many Canadians report that they pay no service fees at all:
  • 33 per cent of Canadians report paying no banking service fees at all because they take advantage of no-fee service packages for seniors, students, youth or new Canadians; maintain a minimum monthly account balance; or choose a no-fee electronic banking package.
  • 33 per cent of Canadians say they pay between $1 and $15 for monthly service fees.
  • Banks in Canada are committed to ensuring that Canadians can access banking services. A number of them offer low-fee account packages for just pennies a day. For example, the monthly fee for low-fee accounts ranges from $3.50 to $4 and include unlimited deposits, cheque writing privileges, in-branch services and ABM transactions.
  • Bank service fees are low and provide Canadians with good value. Service charges from banks and other financial institutions for the average household declined in 2012 to $185 from $196 in 2011.  

Bank customers enjoy value and convenience

Service fees help pay for the convenient and reliable banking services that Canadians have come to rely on, including:
  • A national network of 6,205 branches
  • 18,303 bank-owned ABMs
  • Debit payment services at more than 450,000 retailers in Canada
  • Internet, mobile and telephone banking

Many branches are open evenings and weekends so that customers can do their banking when it’s convenient for them. And with Internet and mobile banking, Canadians can do their banking from virtually anywhere in the world.

From 2002 to 2012, the six largest banks have invested $60.4 billion in technology to ensure a convenient and secure banking system.
When asked what they valued about their banks, Canadians pointed to the following:

  • Peace of mind: 79 per cent of Canadians believe our banks are stable and secure
  • Time saved: 71 per cent of Canadians believe that banking technologies improve the convenience of banking
  • Advice: 67 per cent say that banks are an important source of advice in retirement planning.

Tips to get the best value in banking services

Canadians have a great deal of choice over the service fees that they pay. Here are some tips for reducing service fees and finding the best account package:

  • Sign up for a low or no-fee account: Sign up for a low or no-fee account if you only have a few transactions each month. Use the FCAC’s online Banking Package Selector Tool to see if one of these accounts might meet your needs.
  • Maintain a minimum balance: It’s possible to avoid monthly service fees if your bank waives these fees when you maintain a minimum monthly account balance. If you have additional products with that bank (e.g., a mortgage or credit card), ask if your bank offers rebates on service fees.
  • Ask for senior’s discounts if you qualify: Many banks offer free or discounted banking to those who are over 59 or 60. Check with your bank to see if you qualify.
  • Ask for youth or student discounts if you qualify: Banks offer discounted service plans or those with no monthly fees for younger customers. Check with your bank to see what it offers, or shop around to find an account and fee package that works for you.
  • Ask for a new Canadian discount if you qualify: Many banks offer free or discounted banking for new Canadians. Check with your bank to see if you qualify.
  • Use cheaper online banking services: There are accounts available that offer discounts or even free banking if you use only online services.
  • Take advantage of cash back: Pay for your purchases with debit and get cash back from the retailer to avoid extra bank transactions.
  • Avoid ABM convenience fees: Use only your own institution’s bank machines. You’ll save on fees that the other bank machine owners charge to use their machines. In fact, 75 per cent of Canadians use their own bank’s machine and pay no ABM convenience fee.
  • Consider overdraft protection: Do you frequently write cheques that bounce and pay NSF (i.e. insufficient funds) charges? If so, you might want to consider applying for overdraft protection. The small monthly charge might turn out to be less than you are paying in NSF charges. And some financial institutions levy the overdraft charge only in months when you actually use the overdraft, so there could be additional savings there.



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