Chequing Account Transactions

Chequing accounts are used to manage your day to day financial transactions, and there are a number of transactions you can perform with your account. If you have a limited number of transactions included in your monthly account plan, you’ll be charged a small fee for each additional transaction once you go over the limit. Common transactions are included under your monthly account plan.

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Transaction types

A chequing account transaction can include any of the following:

  • Deposits (cash and cheques)
  • Withdrawals (at ATMs, bank tellers, in stores, etc.)
  • One-time payments for goods and services (groceries, clothing, food, etc.)
  • One-time bill payments
  • Pre-authorized payments (insurance, mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.)
  • Transfers (between two users of the same lending institution)
  • E-mail money transfers between two users of different lending institutions (both send and receive)

Other less common transactions are typically not covered by the monthly fee under most chequing account plans. The fee charged for each transaction depends on the financial institution. These transactions can include:

  • Personalized cheques
  • Certified cheques, bank drafts and money orders
  • Travellers’ cheques
  • Cheques processed in a foreign currency
  • Teller-assisted bill payments, fund transfers and balance inquiries
  • Stop-payment of a cheque or pre-authorized debit
  • Wire transfers
  • Cheque image retrieval or online viewing

Fees

Unless the following transactions are included under your monthly account plan,

Monthly fees: Chequing account monthly fees typically range from $3.95-14.95, covering a certain number of transactions. The monthly fee is meant to cover the most common transactions, such as the ones listed at top. Additional transactions over your monthly limit typically cost $1-$1.50 a piece, on top of any additional fee for that transaction. Some accounts may waive the monthly fee if you maintain a minimum account balance.

ATM cash withdrawals: Generally, it’s free for account holders to withdraw cash from their own bank’s ATM. However, your bank may charge you a fee for using an ATM if the transaction is over your account’s monthly limit. For example, going to a teller to withdraw cash counts as a transaction.

If you use another bank’s ATM, you’ll be charged two fees—one from your bank for using another institution’s ATM ($1.50-$2.50), and one from the ATM provider for the convenience of using their machine ($1-$4). Privately owned white label ATMs, found in places like bars and restaurants, casinos, malls, and hotels, are the most expensive, charging $1.50-$5 per transaction. This fee is on top of the $1.50-$2.50 network access fee and any applicable regular account fees your home financial institution will charge you.

If you use an ATM in a different country to withdraw foreign currency, your bank could tack on a foreign ATM access charge ($1-$5), plus a percentage of the transaction amount in foreign exchange fees (Canada’s Big Five banks each charge 2.5%). On top of all that, the ATM’s owner may charge you a few dollars (or euros, or pesos, etc.) as a convenience fee.

Personalized cheques: Cheques are typically sold in books of 50, 100 or 200. Depending on the style and quantity of cheques ordered, a chequebook can cost between $25-$70, plus taxes and shipping. However, you don’t have to order cheques through your bank: ordering directly through a reputable third-party supplier such as ASAP Cheques, Cheque Direct or Action Forms can be much cheaper. For example, a book of 200 personal cheques from ASAP Cheques costs just $13.

Certified cheques: A certified cheque is a cheque that is guaranteed by the issuing bank to have enough money set aside to cover the payment. The fee for getting a cheque certified is $10-$20.

Money orders: Similar to a cheque, a money order is payment slip directing that a specific sum of money be paid to a designated payee, up to $999. Money orders cost $5-$8 and can be purchased at banks, credit unions, and even through Canada Post.

Bank drafts: Similar to a money order, a bank draft is prepaid with a specified amount that is more than $1,000. Drafts typically cost around $7.50 each.

Travellers’ cheques: Travellers’ cheques are pre-printed with a fixed amount, denominated in a foreign currency, to be used in place of cash. But unlike cash, lost travellers’ cheques are secure and can be refunded. However, with the widespread availability of ATMs and wider acceptance of credit cards worldwide, travellers’ cheques are widely considered outdated—some banks no longer sell them, and many retailers no longer accept cheques as payment. Buying travellers’ cheques typically costs 1%-3% of the purchase amount.

Cheques processed in a foreign currency: If you want to deposit a cheque written in a currency other than Canadian, you’ll be charged a flat fee between $10-$20.

Stop payments: A stop payment is a request made by an account holder to a cancel a cheque or pre-authorized debit payment that has not yet been processed by the recipient. A stop payment order cannot be issued if the cheque has already been cashed or the pre-authorized payment has been accepted. A stop payment order costs around $12-$20.

Wire transfers: Wire transfers allow you to transfer money directly into a foreign bank account using cash, cheque, or funds directly from your chequing account. Wire transfers have both outgoing and incoming fees. Depending on the amount, sending a wire transfer usually costs between $20-$80. Being on the receiving end of a wire transfer is slightly cheaper, but will still cost you $15-$17.50 to receive the funds. It’s generally free to receive a wire payment from another account holder at the same institution.

eTransfers: There are two ways to transfer money electronically: through Interac’s proprietary e-Transfer service, or through your bank’s own electronic funds transfer service. With Interac e-transfer, you can send money almost instantly between personal and business chequing accounts at participating banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. Sending one costs $1-$1.50, but they’re free to receive and deposit. Interac e-Transfer can be used to can be deposited into any Canadian bank account, even if the institution doesn’t offer the service, but it will take 4-6 business days to process, and a $4 fee will be deducted from the deposit amount.

Banks that are not Interac clients also offer their own electronic money transferring service. The process is similar, but the receiver may be required to manually enter their bank account details (bank number, branch number, account number) to deposit the funds in their account. The fee is around $1 per transaction and may take a few business days to process if the sender and receiver have accounts at different institutions.

Cheque image retrieval or online viewing: Cheque image return is useful if you want to look up the details of a recently cashed cheque from your personal or business chequing account. This service may be included in your monthly accounts package, or cost $1-$1.50 per item. Some banks charge a monthly fee for unlimited cheque image returns, around $2/month. Check image retrieval is available online, in-branch, or as part of your mailed monthly account statement.


How to save on transaction account fees

Choose an account with more (or unlimited) monthly transactions

Monthly fees are generally proportional to the number of transactions covered: some accounts may charge a lower fee, but allow fewer monthly transactions. There are also chequing accounts that have no monthly fee, and unlimited chequing accounts that cost upwards of $30 a month. When shopping around for a chequing account, be realistic about the number of transactions you make each month and compare account features to save yourself from being gouged by fees. Some providers will also waive the monthly fee if you maintain a certain daily minimum balance in your account.

Only use your own bank’s ATMs

Using another bank’s ATM will result in charges between $1-4 from both the other bank and your bank—that fee can climb to $5 for white label (privately owned) ATMs. Convenience will cost you—the easiest way to avoid excess fees is by always using your own bank’s ATMs.

DIY banking

Avoid in-branch transactions (i.e. going to the teller) as much as possible, as they will count against your monthly limit. Completing transactions via online, mobile or telephone banking is often free, or at least significantly cheaper in fees. For example, it’s much cheaper to send money via an Interac e-Transfer ($1-$1.50) than by using a money order ($5-$8), bank draft ($7.50), or wire transfer ($20-$80).

Use cash

If you can trust yourself to take out a whack of cash all at once and use it for certain spending needs throughout the rest of the month, this is a useful way to cut down on your monthly withdrawals and one-time debit transactions for things like groceries, clothing, fast food, and every day miscellaneous spending. However, it’s best to stick to paying bills online—if you want to use cash, you’ll have to go to the teller, which will count against your monthly transaction limit.


The bottom line

Even if you think you’ll never need to utilize most or any of these services, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the costs of different transactions to prevent sticker shock if the need arises. For more fees that will cost you extra, see miscellaneous chequing account fees.

On the other hand, if you have specific needs such as sending a lot of wire transfers or requiring teller assistance for most of your transactions, these types of fees may be just as important to you as your monthly maintenance fee. Either way, knowledge is power—be informed about what transactions are included and not included in your plan and what they cost.