I think this must be the best kept secret in Canadian banking: credit unions. We’ve always, always had a credit union account, because they offered the best terms when it comes to:

Checks: they’re free. Last time I wanted to have checks printed with TD, they wanted to charge me $18.50!

Insurance: only now CDIC is insuring your bank deposits up to $100,000 but credit unions have always had it at that level (your bank deposits were only insured up to $60,000 until recently). I’m not sure this is a deal-breaker, considering that we haven’t yet had that much cash stashed at the bank. Also, for the most part it’s probably a theoretical thing. I mean when was the last time a bank in Canada defaulted?

Free personal accounts. And the only requirement/minimum is that you buy shares of the CU. In our case, it was $150 per account (personal and business share cost are the same).

– Very, I mean VERY, low business account fees. We pay $1-5 in fees monthly on our business account, and we typically have about 20-30 transactions per month. If I did everything online it would only be like $1.50 at most. Sometimes I just like to call in and chat with the teller 🙂

Truly personal service. Most credit unions are fairly small, with only a few (sometimes just one) branches, so you really get to know people. I always feel comfortable dealing with them just knowing that if there ever is a problem, people who know me personally will help me resolve any issue.

Best interest rates. They’ve always had the best rates, especially for $US term deposits and GIC’s. Now they will match and beat any online special high yield savings account for $CAD accounts, too. Right now we’re getting 4% on $CAD deposits, with no limits, restrictions or fees! On top of that, they have special rate offers on deposits $10,000 or more. I know, I know, always wiser to get a higher return via investing, but what if you have cash sitting there while you make up your mind re: what to do with it? (This is the situation we’re in right now).

The downside is usually high Interac charges (65 cents per transaction) and, like I already mentioned, few branches. Not a problem for us 99.9% of the time. I mail checks to deposit, and do the rest online.

More info on Ontario credit unions here. Opens in a new window.