Review: Scotiabank Rewards Chequing Accounts

by Jordan Lavin November 7, 2017 / No Comments

Who doesn’t love to earn rewards? There’s nothing more satisfying than booking a flight on points and taking off for free. And while most of us think about credit card rewards as being the main source of points, there are some chequing accounts that offer rewards as well. Today, we’ll take a look at Scotiabank rewards chequing accounts.

Scotiabank has no shortage of options when it comes to chequing accounts. For this review, we’ll focus in on the three Scotiabank accounts that offer travel and entertainment rewards: The Scotia One Chequing Account, Basic Banking Plan, and Basic Banking Account.

The basics

Each account comes with all the basic features you’d expect from a big bank. Each account also offers free record keeping, online banking, a limited number of teller-assisted transactions, free access to Scotiabank’s network of 4,000 ATMs in Canada, and fee-based access to 55,000 ATMs worldwide.

The Basic Banking Account includes 12 debit transactions per month for a monthly fee of $3.95, the Basic Banking Plan includes 25 transactions for a monthly fee of $10.95, and the Scotia One Chequing Account offers unlimited transactions for a monthly fee of $13.95. Additional transactions are $1.25 each.

All three accounts include two free Interac e-Transfers per month. While this is a nice feature, Scotiabank lags behind the other Big Five banks, all of which offer at least one account with unlimited Interac e-Transfers included. Additional e-Transfers will cost you $1.25 each with the Scotiabank Basic Banking Plan and Basic Banking Account, and $1 each with the Scotia One Chequing Account.

If you’re a senior aged 60 or over, you’ll qualify for a discount with all three of these accounts. With the senior’s discount, the Basic Banking Account is free, the Basic Banking Plan costs $6.95 per month, and the Scotia One Chequing Account costs $9.95 per month.

If you’re not 60 yet, you can also get your monthly fee waived on the Basic Banking Plan and Scotia One Chequing Account by carrying a minimum balance. The Basic Banking Plan requires a minimum daily closing balance of $3,000 to waive the monthly fee, and the Scotia One Chequing Account requires a minimum daily closing balance of $4,000 to waive the fee. But if the balance in your account is below the minimum at the end of the day even once in a month, you’ll lose your discount and be charged a monthly fee.

If you’re tempted to keep a minimum balance to avoid paying fees, your money may be better invested elsewhere. If you invest $4,000 with a 6% return, you’ll earn $20 per month in interest—enough to cover your monthly chequing fee and buy yourself a cup of coffee, too.

Opening an account can be done in-person at a Scotiabank branch, online, or over the phone. Scotiabank says the process takes about eight minutes.

The rewards

Each Scotiabank chequing account gives you a choice of rewards. You can choose between Scotia Rewards points or Scene points.

If you choose Scotia Rewards, you’ll earn one point for every $5 spent on everyday purchases. Note that recurring payments don’t count so you won’t earn rewards on your mortgage or bill payments. Scotia Rewards points can be redeemed for a wide range of products and services including hotels, flights, rental cars, vacation packages, merchandise and more. You can get up to 5,000 bonus points to get you started when you sign up.

Scotia Rewards points have a fixed value of $0.01 each and must be redeemed in increments of $50 per 5,000 points. You’ll need to spend $25,000 using your debit card to get to $50 in points. To earn a net reward (where the value of the points you earn exceeds the cost of your monthly fee) with the Scotia One Chequing Account, you’ll need to spend $6,975 month on debit purchases.

Between transaction fees and debit card spending limits, it’s unlikely you’ll reach the spending level required to earn enough Scotia Rewards points to balance out your monthly fee on a Scotiabank Rewards chequing account with limited transactions.

If you choose to earn Scene points, you’ll earn points depending on where you spend. You’ll earn 13.2 points per dollar spent on movies, 6.4 points per dollar spent on meals, and 2.4 points per dollar spent on everything else.

Read: Points Guru Chronicles: How the Scene Rewards Program Works

Scene points are redeemable for low-value entertainment including free movies at Cineplex, meals at Cara restaurants (for example, Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Montana’s, and East Side Mario’s), and other options. The points are valued between $0.008 and $0.0137 per point, depending on how you use them. You only need to redeem 1,000 points for a general admission movie ticket, so you’ll get a free movie for every $417 you spend on your debit card.

To earn a net reward collecting Scene points, you’ll need to spend $582 per month on debit purchases with your Scotia One Chequing Account (assuming an average value of $0.01 per point).

Whichever rewards you choose, you can supplement your earnings by pairing your Scotiabank chequing account with a Scotiabank credit card. For example, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is one of the credit cards with the biggest first-year net reward in Canada.

The average Canadian would need to spend their entire year’s pre-tax salary twice over, just on debit purchases to earn travel rewards worth more than the monthly fee on the Scotia One Chequing Account. And if you’re able to spend $7,000 a month on purchases, you likely have a high enough income to have your choice of the best rewards credit cards in Canada, which will let you accumulate rewards much faster.

If you choose to collect Scene points instead, you’re more likely to earn a net reward, but your redemption choices are limited.

When it comes to features, all three accounts offer little more than table stakes. Even perks like two free Interac e-Transfers per month fall behind other banks with competing accounts.

Among the Big Five banks, the unlimited Scotia One Chequing Account is priced competitively. Only RBC offers an unlimited chequing account with a lower monthly fee. However, if you look beyond the Big Five, Scotiabank’s offerings fall short. Tangerine, Simplii Financial (formerly PC Financial), and DUCA all offer no-fee chequing with unlimited transactions. And while they don’t offer rewards, you’ll probably find it’s more valuable to just have free banking than it is to offset your chequing account fees with free movies.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for a new chequing account and you love to earn rewards, Scotiabank Rewards chequing accounts can help you do that, but chances are it will take you a long time to earn enough points to get anything of value.

If you insist on banking with a Big Five bank, the Scotia One Chequing Account is worth considering simply for the fact that it’s one of the lowest priced unlimited chequing accounts among its peers.

However, other options with a lower monthly cost are available. If you’re considering a Scotiabank Rewards chequing account, compare chequing accounts online first to find out if you might be able to find a better deal elsewhere.

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