Ratehub.ca’s Personal Finance Awards (PFAs)
Whether you’re a risk-averse saver looking to earn more interest or an investor with the goal of maximizing your portfolio while fending off fees, our PFA winners will bring you closer to achieving your financial goals.
Ratehub.ca’s Personal Finance Award winners for 2021
If you’re looking to optimize your finances, you’ve come to the right place.
Over a million Canadians visit Ratehub.ca every year to compare the country’s top banking and investing accounts. Our Personal Finance Awards gives a special shoutout to the top products across a range of eight categories to simplify your search and help you make the most of your money.
Top Savings Accounts
EQ Bank sweeps the savings category, winning the titles for the best high-interest, RRSP, and TFSA savings accounts.
The online-only bank - which is a trademark of Equitable Bank, Canada’s ninth-largest domestic bank with over $35 billion in assets - delivers with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, no membership fees, free withdrawals, and of course, some of the highest savings interest rates available.
In particular, both of EQ Bank’s registered accounts (TFSA and RSP) offer an unbeatable interest rate of 2.30%, which is all the more impressive when considering: 1.) Canada’s current low-rate environment, 2.) 2.30% is the standard rate and not a limited-time promotional offer, and 3.) 2.30% is over thirty times more interest than what most regular run-of-the-mill savings accounts offer.
EQ Bank also provides an intuitive easy-to-use website and smartphone app experience, with the ability to set up recurring deposits to automate your savings (specifically for EQ Bank’s high interest Savings Plus Account) and Electronic Fund Transfers that allow you to move large sums of money between different banks (up to $100,000 in as little as five business days).
Just like Canada’s big five banks, EQ Bank has CDIC protection. So, you can have the peace of mind that up to $100,000 of your deposits in each eligible account is federally insured by the Government of Canada.
Whether you’re looking for an unregistered high-interest savings account to store your emergency fund, a TFSA savings account to earn interest tax-free for short-term financial goals, or an RSP account to conservatively grow your retirement savings or downpayment for your first-home purchase, EQ Bank has you covered.
Top Bank Account for Bundling
There isn’t one way to optimize your everyday bank accounts.
Some personal finance aficionados like to juggle multiple accounts between different banks while others like to keep things simple and streamlined by bundling everything with a single financial institution. If you identify with the latter camp, you’ll want to set your sights on our winner for the best bank account for bundling: the Scotiabank Ultimate Package.
Aside from offering unlimited debit transactions and Interac e-transfers, the Scotia Ultimate Package offers incentives and fee rebates when opening multiple Scotia accounts, including:
- Up to $139 in annual fee rebates on an ongoing basis on select Scotiabank credit cards (which is a big win considering Scotia offers some of the best cash back, travel, and low interest credit cards in the country)
- 10 free equity trades when using the bank’s online brokerage, Scotia iTRADE, which is the equivalent of $100 saved on commissions
- Access to accelerated interest rates on both Scotia savings and GIC accounts
- Ability to open additional Scotia accounts without having to pay extra monthly fees: including a Scotia Basic Plus Account and Scotia U.S. Dollar Daily Interest Account
- A $60 annual fee waiver for a small safety deposit box
The Scotia Ultimate Package also provides premium perks with the ability to earn your choice of either Scotia or Scene points on your everyday debit card purchases (rewards for using your own money is always a win), no monthly overdraft protection fees, along with free personalized cheques and drafts.
As one of Canada’s big banks, Scotia offers free cash withdrawals from a huge network of over 3,600 automated banking machines, access to 900 bank branches, and CDIC insurance on chequing, savings, and GIC accounts.
Be aware though, the Scotia Ultimate Package may or may not be worth your while depending on whether you can maintain the account’s daily balance and avoid its monthly fees. The Scotia Ultimate Package is free every month provided you maintain a chequing account balance of $5,000 at all times, otherwise, it’ll set you back $30.95 per month.
Top GIC Accounts
GICs are a unique investment product. In exchange for a guaranteed interest rate, your money will be locked away for a set period of time.
Sure, the fact your money can’t be withdrawn any time can be restrictive, but it also has its fair share of advantages. For one, your interest rate is fixed and can’t spontaneously drop within your GIC’s term due to a change in monetary policy or Bank of Canada’s prime lending rate (like we’ve seen happen to savings accounts over the past year). Your money will be set aside and harder to access, helping you fight off the temptation of taking out your cash and spending it sooner than planned. Finally, a GIC can help safely and conservatively grow your money to achieve specific time-sensitive goals, like a car purchase within the next year or retirement within the next five years.
Our picks for the best 1 year and 5 year GIC accounts - 1.40% and 1.80% respectively - goes to Oaken Financial. Aside from earning some of Canada’s highest GIC rates, Oaken Financial provides additional advantages including registered RSP, TFSA, and RIF GIC options, a low minimum deposit requirement of just $1,000, and CDIC insurance with up to $100,000 of your deposits protected by the Federal Government - just like the big banks. Oaken Financial is owned by Home Trust, which first launched over four decades ago and offers a wide spectrum of accounts from credit cards and mortgages to savings accounts and GICs.
Top Online Brokerage
First launched in 1999, Questrade was one of the first discount brokerages in Canada to make retail investing easy, accessible, and affordable. Two decades later and it still gets a spot in our 2021 Personal Finance Awards.
Questrade wins our award for the best online brokerage for a number of reasons. It has no quarterly or annual maintenance fees for basic accounts (regardless of the size of your balance), offers the ability to buy ETFs commission-free, and charges low commissions on trades of just 1 cent per share on most equities (minimum of $4.95 up to a maximum of $9.95).
With a Questrade account, you also aren’t restricted to trading just stocks and ETFs, but can buy into a huge range of investment options including IPOs, bonds, Options, CFDs, and even precious metals. Plus, Questrade offers a range of accounts aside from just the typical unregistered, RRSPs and TFSA options with RESPs, LIRAs, RIFs, Margin, and even corporate accounts.
Lastly, with Questrade, you can avoid costly foreign exchange fees when buying U.S. equities by cheaply converting your Canadian dollars using the strategy known as Norbert’s Gambit or by holding US dollars in your account. For regular traders looking to minimize fees, those savings can add up.
Questrade provides both a robust website and mobile app experience along with access to trading tools to monitor your portfolio and evaluate investment scenarios. The online brokerage is regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) - just like the big banks - and protects your account with $10 million in private insurance in addition to the $1 million covered by the CIPF.
Wealthsimple Invest wins our Personal Finance Award as the best robo-advisor for two years running.
Aside from the obvious - its low 0.5% management fee, easy-to-use interface, range of well-diversified ETF portfolios, and automated dividend reinvesting - we chose Wealthsimple because it’s fully committed to the principles of hands-off, passive investing.
There aren't active managers constantly tweaking the structure of your portfolio in response to the ebbs and flows of the market, and instead, the robo-advisor sticks to its mantra of trying to match the market versus beat it (which is the strategy that consistently wins for long-term investors). When you do need to change your risk tolerance because of your personal financial situation (as opposed to chasing the latest market trends), an expert advisor is just a call away.
Wealthsimple provides a broad range of three portfolio types for different risk levels (growth, balanced, and conservative) as well as socially responsible and Halal options so you can invest in a way that aligns with your personal beliefs and ethics. There are no investment minimums, automating deposits can be easily done in a few clicks, and tracking your performance is intuitive.