Small Business Banking: The Best Business Bank Accounts

Business Bank Accounts for Canadian Small Businesses

Woman discussing forms with bank executive
She's using her business bank account. Jon Riley / Getty Images

For years, the only difference between business bank accounts and personal bank accounts has been that business bank accounts cost a lot more in fees.

But the Cyclopean eyes of Canada's big banks have finally alighted on small business banking and, having decided that small business owners are a worthy market, the banks are actually competing with one another to create business bank accounts that small business owners will find attractive - and that means creating small business bank accounts with lower bank fees.

Here are the best business bank accounts for Canadian small businesses based on their monthly costs. Note that this article discusses Canadian dollar accounts only. 

Business Bank Accounts for Low-Volume Businesses

If you don't have many transactions each month and don't have a need to write or deposit cheques much, you may be able to use the only free business bank account around, RBC's Small Business eAccount, which has no monthly fee, unlimited electronic account transactions each month and no minimum balance required.

However, standard fees apply to all non-electronic transactions, such as a $1.50 charge for every paper debit or cheque and a $3.50 charge for every paper credit or deposit. So unless your clients are all paying directly through credit, debit or wire transfer, you may be better off springing for a business bank account that does have a monthly fee.

For instance, RBC also offers a Business Essentials $6 Small Business Account.

The $6.00 fee does not apply if your transaction fees are more than $6.00 and the transaction fees decrease by the number of transactions; for example, if you make 1-10 paper based transactions, the transaction fee is $1.12 each but if you make 11-30, the fee decreases to $1.07 each. You can also cut down on transaction fees by banking electronically; 1-10 electronic transactions are only $0.75 each.

The business bank account with the lowest monthly fee currently is the TD Basic Business Plan. Its $5.00 monthly fee includes five free transactions and five free deposit items each month. After that, each transaction is $1.25 each and each deposit item is $0.22 each. Cash deposits are $2.50 per $1,000.

Six dollars seems to be the popular fee for low-volume business accounts. It's the monthly charge for Scotiabank's Right Size Account for business (with transaction fees of $1.20 through $0.90 each depending on how many transactions you make each month), BMO's Business Start bank account which allows you seven free transactions a month and CIBC's Basic Business Operating Account which does not allow you any free transactions each month and charges $1.25 each transaction you make.

Scotiabank also offers a Basic Business Account  which has an account maintenance fee of $9.00 a month. In addition, you're charged for all your transactions on a pay-per-use basis. Each cheque, for instance, costs $1.20, while each item deposited to your account costs $1.00. The interesting thing about this account is that you earn one free transaction by keeping a $1,100 minimum monthly credit balance, and you will pay no monthly account maintenance fee if your minimum monthly credit balance is $6,000 or over.

And If You're Not a Low-Volume Business?

You're going to pay more. Sometimes a lot more. Each bank offers a slate of business account offerings and their charges for what you get are comparable. There are no banking bargains.

Most Canadian banks offer a business account at the $20 monthly fee level which might work for you if you run a small retail business. 

The Royal Bank's RBC Business Essentials Fixed-Fee Account is pretty typical of accounts offered. For a monthly business bank account fee of $20.00 you get:

  • Up to 20 debits/cheques each month
  • Up to 15 credits/deposits each month
  • Up to 20 items deposited each month
  • Up to $2,500 cash deposited each month.

The best of these accounts is the TD's Every Day Business Account. For $19.00, it gives you 50 deposit items and up to $5,000 in cash deposits, more than any other of the big banks.

From there, all the banks offer accounts with increasing monthly fees based on the number of monthly transactions.

The CIBC offers an Unlimited Business Operating Account which, as the name suggests, gives you unlimited transactions with a cash, coin and cheque deposit package for a $50.00 monthly fee. Looking at how few monthly transactions are included in most of the more inexpensive business bank accounts and how quickly additional transaction fees stack up, this may well be the most inexpensive option if your business has many monthly transactions.

Small Business Banking Packages

Another thing that complicates the small business banking issue is that some banks offer small business banking packages that bundle banking services.

Scotiabank's "combo" small business banking packages are of particular interest; they offer several business bank accounts that combine a personal and business bank account with other banking services, such as their ScotiaOne Account Plan. Besides the personal chequing and business bank account, the plan includes a business Visa card, a ScotiaCard and electronic banking for business. Fees start at $49.95 per month.

The Best Way to Get a "Free" Business Bank Account

...is to maintain a monthly balance. But the required monthly balance to waive the account maintenance fee is often quite high.

As of time of writing, the account with the lowest required minimum monthly balance is the aforementioned TD Every Day Business Account. You won't have to pay the $19.00 fee on their Every Day A bank account if you maintain a minimum monthly balance of $20,000.

See What Business Bank Accounts Your Credit Union Offers First

I've only compared Canadian banks in this article and not mentioned Credit Unions at all until now simply because there are so many Credit Unions operating in different regions in the country. But I urge you to check with your local Credit Union to see what kinds of business bank accounts they offer. Historically, Credit Unions have had a strong interest in small business banking and your local Credit Union probably offers banking accounts and services that are very competitive.

The Credit Union I use offers a $6.00 pay-as-you-go Business Chequing Account, a $10.25 Business Package that comes with 15 full-service transactions and four other business account packages with fees ranging from $19.95 through $99.95. Besides the range of packages, I also really like the fact that their transaction fees are lower than the banks in many cases. Check and see; this may be true of the Credit Union in your area too.

Small Business Banking Isn't All About the Fees

The most important feature of small business banking is the relationship you have with your bank or credit union manager, not the cost of your small business bank account. That being said, however, there's no point in spending money every month on small business banking services you’re not using or conversely, paying relatively high small business bank account fees and not getting the small business banking services you need.

Checking your business bank account and comparing it with the information on business bank accounts above could help you find a small business bank account that's a better fit for your small business and save you money.

See also:

Do You Need a Business Bank Account? 

What Is a Merchant Account and How Do You Get One? 

Canada Revenue Agency Online Accounts for Businesses 

How to Close Your GST/HST Account if Your Business Situation Changes