Want to know how your bank stacks up in terms of interest, fees and perks, but don't want to do the legwork? The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada ( http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca) can help, with interactive tools for one-stop comparison shopping.
It's as simple as answering a few questions. To get information on savings accounts, just plug in your province and how much of a minimum balance you will maintain. This gets you a list of several account options, with interest rates for each.
There are more questions for chequing accounts, including your age and the type and number of transactions you plan on making each month. Then the accounts that best meet your needs are shown, with information including monthly fees and balance requirements.
As a general rule, online banks (those without storefronts) are best when you want to maximize your savings. ING and PC Financial, for example, typically offer higher interest rates than the Big Five banks, no matter your balance.
There are plenty of other perks, too. Citizens Bank of Canada does not charge ATM withdrawal fees on its Global Chequing Accounts - a cost-saving boon for travellers. PC Financial awards five PC Points for each dollar spent when you pay by debit at a retailer offering its products, such as Superstore and No Frills - points that translate into free groceries. And if you're opening an ING account, ask an existing client for his or her "orange key" number (easily found online). Include it in your application and $13 will appear in both your accounts - a nice bonus in an economy where every dollar counts.
Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the new globeinvestor.com.