Best Canadian Bank for Overseas Travel

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First, some news…

Somehow, we convinced an actual company that our ramblings are interesting, and we’re super excited to have a post on the Travel Underwriters Blog, which will be posted today was just posted. Go check it out: we talk about the tips we use to save money for travel, and they’re pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

And since we’re on the topic of money, I thought I’d tackle another financial issue that comes along with globetrotting: the darned ATM fees…

On our recent trip to Guatemala, we hit up the ATM three times over ten days, and it ended up costing us $13 in fees from our Canadian Bank (RBC), plus another $10 or so charged by the ATM from which we withdrew the cash (not to mention the foreign exchange rate).  $23 for three ATM withdrawals seems INSANE to me, so I started rumbling around on the interwebz looking for better options.


Surely there is a better option for enjoying places like Guatemala on the cheap
Surely there is a better option for enjoying places like Guatemala on the cheap


Nomadic Matt has a great post about how to avoid bank fees while traveling, and while it contains some information relevant to Canadians, the article is mostly applicable to Americans.  And unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have a magic Charles Schwab-esque account.

While Canada’s big banks don’t offer a completely fee-free option for Canadians, there are some not bad options, and some banks are better than others. I’ve put together a report card of sorts, ranking Canada’s Big Five banks, plus a few outliers.

My criteria are simple:  monthly account fee, foreign withdrawal fee (charged by the Canadian bank and the foreign bank), and total user cost in a (simplified) fictitious situation I’ve created to compare the real costs of the different accounts.

Here is the fictitious example against which I’ll compare the bank accounts:

Jane is planning a RTW trip, and has saved $30,000 for the trip, plus enough money for travel insurance and a flight to her first destination. She plans to spend $2,000 per month (for the purpose of this experiment, we’ll assume she spends exactly $2,000 per month, including all flights). Starting out in Vancouver, she will fly to Mexico, and take three months to travel overland down to Panama, and then fly to Bogota. In South America, she’ll take another three months and go as far south as Buenos Aires/Santiago, and then fly to New York for a few days, before going to Europe. In Europe, she’ll hit up the UK, France and Spain in Western Europe, then take a cheap flight to Berlin, and take the train through Poland, Czech, Hungary, Romania, and the Ukraine. After three months in Europe, she’ll fly to Kenya, where she’ll spend three months traveling around Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. She’ll then grab a flight to Delhi, and plans to spend a month in India.  For her final two months, she’ll travel through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Let’s assume, for simplicity, that Jane withdraws cash only once from every country she visits, and there is a $3.00 local ATM fee when it applies. Jane will visit 32 countries and make one withdrawal per country.

Without further adieu, here’s how Canada’s big banks (plus a few) perform on Jane’s RTW journey.


This one seems like a no-brainer. The self-proclaimed “world’s local bank” surely must allow loyal customers the courtesy of using its global network of ATMs without gouging them with fees, right?  Sadly, this has not translated into a no fee policy for foreign ATMs, unless you’ve got some big time cash to invest upfront with HSBC. The HSBC Premiere Account is great if you have $100k in personal assets with HSBC: it gives you the privilege of accessing your money for free at any of HSBC’s ATMs in Canada and worldwide.  For those of us that don’t have $100k to invest with HSBC, there’s the HSBC Advance Chequing Account. The Advance account is $25 per month, which is waived if you have $25,000 with HSBC (in accounts or investments), and allows you to withdraw cash for free from HSBC machines worldwide.  However, it doesn’t take care of the fee charged by the local ATM, even – apparently – if it is an HSBC machine.

Example: Jane puts all $30,000 of her savings in the HSBC account. Withdrawing $2,000 per month means HSBC will waive the fee for the first two months; Jane will have to pay the $25 monthly fee for the remaining 13 months of her trip ($325).  Jane will be able to use her HSBC ATM card without home bank fees when she is in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, the USA, the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Kenya, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. This is assuming she’ll always be able to find an HSBC ATM when she needs cash.

La Paz Bolivia
Jane will be out of luck in La Paz, Bolivia, if she goes with HSBC


She won’t be able to use her card for free in Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Laos. Assuming she uses the card once per country, and the withdrawals cost $3.oo per use (which is what HSBC charges for withdrawals from international ATMs), this will cost her $42. Additionally, Jane will be charged by the local bank every time she makes a withdrawal. At 32 withdrawals, she will pay $96 to the local banks.

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank with HSBC over the course of her 15-month trip is $461. 


BMO’s Premium Plan costs $25.00 per month, which includes five international debit transactions per month using non-BMO ATMs on the Cirrus (Mastercard) network.  However, Jane will still have to pay whatever the local ATMs charge. This account also includes unlimited debit transactions at merchants, which will be helpful for Jane when she is in the US, UK, and some of western Europe. BMO waives the $25.00 monthly fee if you maintain a minimum $5k balance throughout each month.

Example: Jane puts all $30,000 in the BMO account. Withdrawing $2,000 per month means BMO will waive the fee for the first twelve months; Jane will have to pay the $25 monthly fee for the remaining three months of her trip ($75).  Jane will be able to use her card pretty much everywhere; the Cirrus network is in more than 200 countries. She’ll still be charged by the local ATMs, which we’re assuming will be $3 per time, for a total cost of $96. If Jane needs to make more than five withdrawals per month, she’ll be charged; BMO seems to charge between two and five percent of the withdrawal value.

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank with BMO over the course of her 15-month trip is $171.


Thai Cambodia Border Crossing
BMO has limited free transactions, which isn’t the best when unexpected expenses, like a visa for Cambodia, come up



TD Canada Trust‘s Select Service is similar to the BMO account, but doesn’t limit the number of foreign withdrawals you can make, as long as they are on the Plus (Visa) network. Again, it doesn’t do anything for the withdrawal fee from the local bank, and the monthly fee is $29.95, which is waived with a $5,000 minimum balance.

Lake Titicaca Boliva
TD totally has you covered for those unexpected expenses, such as having your picture taken with a llama


Example: Jane puts all $30,000 in the TD account. Withdrawing $2,000 per month means TD will waive the fee for the first twelve months; Jane will have to pay the $29.95 monthly fee for the remaining three months of her trip ($89.95).  Jane will be able to use her card pretty much everywhere; like the Cirrus network, the Plus network is widely available.  She’ll still be charged by the local ATMs, which we’re assuming will be $3 per time, for a total cost of $96. The difference between the BMO account and the TD account is that Jane can make unlimited withdrawals.

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank with TD over the course of her 15-month trip is $185.85, which is more than with BMO, but includes a bit of room for error if she needs to make more frequent withdrawals.


Scotiabank is the best option if the bulk of your travel is within the 40 countries that have Global Alliance ATMs.  The nice thing about the alliance is you pay neither fees from your home bank (in this case, Scotia), nor local bank fees.  It’s free! Scotiabank has two basic options, and I’ve done the math for both.


Koh Mak Thailand
Sadly, the Global Alliance doesn’t extend to SE Asia, which is kind of a deal breaker for me


The Basic Banking Account is $3.95 per month, and includes 12 transactions per month, including transferring money from accounts and paying bills. The Basic Banking Plan is $8.95 per month (waived with a $2,000 minimum balance), and includes 25 transactions per month.

Example 1: Jane puts all $30,000 in the Scotiabank Basic Banking Account. There is no option to have the fees waived for this account, so the account will cost Jane $3.95 per month x 15 months = $59.25. Jane will be able to bank for free in Mexico, the US, Chile, Peru, Germany, Poland, the UK, Germany, Spain, France, Ukraine, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and India. She won’t pay a fee to Scotiabank or the local ATM, as long as she uses machines within the Global Network.

She’ll have to pay Scotiabank and local ATM withdrawal fees in 18 countries that don’t have Global Alliance ATMs: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Czech, Hungary, Romania, Rwanda, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Given that she’ll be charged both by Scotiabank and the local banks, and the Scotiabank fee is $5 per transaction for withdrawals outside the alliance, she’ll pay $8 per withdrawal x 18 withdrawals = $144.

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank using Scotiabank’s Basic Banking Account over the course of her 15-month trip is $203.25. However, if she goes over the 12-transaction limit per month (i.e. continuing to pay her bills at home, etc.) the cost will go up.

Example 2: Jane puts all $30,000 in the Scotiabank Basic Banking Plan. Withdrawing $2,000 per month means Scotiabank will waive the fee for the first 14 months; Jane will have to pay the $8.95 monthly fee for the remaining one month of her trip ($8.95).  Just like in the above example, she’ll be able to bank for free in some countries, and will have to pay ~$8 per withdrawal in others ($144).

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank using Scotiabank’s Basic Banking Account over the course of her 15-month trip is $152.95. This option is cheaper, and also allows up to 25 transactions per month.


RBC has a similar plan to the TD plan, but unfortunately does not waive the ~$30 monthly fee with a minimum balance; you need to have multiple RBC products for a fee discount, and even then the fee is still more than $20 per month.

CIBC seems to be lacking any good options: I couldn’t find any accounts that offer free international withdrawals.



ICICI is the Canadian subsidiary of the synonymous Indian bank, and it seems to be a great option for travellers…at first. The HIVALUE Plus account is $9.95 per month, with no option for a fee waiver with minimum balance.  However, they don’t charge international withdrawal fees, leaving you to pay only the local ATM fees.

Example: Jane puts all $30,000 in the HIVALUE account. There is no option to have the fees waived for this account, and so the account will cost Jane $9.95 per month x 15 months = $149.25. Jane will only have to pay ATM withdrawal fees from the local banks. At 32 withdrawals x $3, this would cost $96.

Excluding foreign exchange rates, Jane’s total cost to bank using ICICI over the course of her 15-month trip is $245.25.


And the Winner is…?

The cheapest option is Scotiabank’s Basic Banking Account. However, what if you aren’t planning on going to the same countries as Jane, and don’t plan on hitting up many of the countries with Global Alliance ATMs?

View of Vilnius Lithuania in Summer
Lithuania, for example, does not have Global Alliance ATMs


The second best bet is TD. While the TD option is slightly more expensive than the BMO account, it gives more flexibility if you need to make more withdrawals. I think TD and Scotiabank offer the best bets, but I wonder if a combination would work better?

Example 1: TD Select Plus Scotiabank Basic Banking Account

Jane puts $29,500 in the TD account and $500 in a ScotiaBank Basic Banking Account ($3.95 per month x 15 months = $59.25). She plans to transfer money between the account using an Interac email transfer ($1.50 per transaction; let’s say she needs to transfer money five times =$7.50)

Jane will be able to bank for free in Mexico, the US, Chile, Peru, Germany, Poland, the UK, Germany, Spain, France, Ukraine, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and India. She won’t pay a fee to Scotiabank or the local ATM, as long as she uses machines within the Global Network. In the 18 countries that don’t have Global Alliance ATMs, Jane will use her TD card.  She won’t pay any fees to TD, but will be charged the $3 local fee per transaction (18 transactions x $3 per transaction = $54).

Jane’s costs in this scenario are the $54 in transaction fees, $7.50 in Interac transfer fees, $59.25 in Scotiabank account fees, and the TD banking fees: if Jane puts $29,500 in the TD account, withdrawing $2,000 per month means TD will waive the fee for the first twelve months; Jane will have to pay the $29.95 monthly fee for the remaining three months of her trip ($89.95). The total costs are $210.70 (I realize the math isn’t perfect, as she’d need to shift money from the TD account to the Scotiabank account; she may be charged the TD monthly fee sooner than I’ve allowed for in this calculation).

Example 2: TD Select Plus Scotiabank Basic Banking Plan

Jane puts $28,000 in the TD account and $2000 in a ScotiaBank Basic Banking Plan. She plans to transfer money between the account using an Interac email transfer ($1.50 per transaction; let’s say she needs to transfer money 10 times =$15)

Jane’s ATM costs will be the same as in the above example: $54. Her Interac transfer fees are doubled ($15), which will allow her to maintain the minimum required balance in each account for as long as possible ($5000 in the TD account, and $2000 in the Scotiabank account).

Let’s assume that Jane does a good job at maintaining minimum balances in each account until she needs to start spending her last $7000 ($5,000 in the TD account and $2000 in the Scotiabank account).  Using an oversimplified calculation, Jane will have to start paying the TD and the Scotiabank monthly fee when she has less than $7000 left, which will be after 11 months. The cost for both fees for four months is [ (8.95 x 4) + ($29.95 x 4) = $155.66. Jane’s total cost in this scenario is $155.66 + $54 + $15 = $224.60


The Verdict?

Personally, I think we are going to ditch RBC for the TD Select Service Account (plus it comes with a points credit card and other goodies). We have enough in savings that we can keep a $5k minimum balance, and although it works out being slightly more expensive than using Scotiabank for Jane, I think it is the best bet for worldwide travel, and I know we won’t always be traveling in Global Alliance countries. If I knew the majority of my travel was going to be within the countries covered by the Global Alliance, or couldn’t cough up the $5k to keep the monthly TD to zero, I’d absolutely go for Scotiabank.

And this baby sea lion totally agrees with me
And this baby sea lion totally agrees with me


Disclaimer: Before you make any life-altering financial decisions based on this blog post (hot tip: never make life-altering decisions based on any of our blog posts), you should probably check my math. A mathematician, I am not. You may also want to check with the bank, as I’m also not a banker, nor a financial expert.  So basically what I’m getting at is this: follow my advice at your own risk, and don’t blame us if things don’t work out.



67 thoughts on “Best Canadian Bank for Overseas Travel”

  1. Excellent resource for us Canucks! Thanks for taking the time to write this very long post :) I’m stuck with CIBC, so I guess I have to a max withdraw each time to minimize the damage :(

    1. Hey James! Thanks for the comment – I was surprised CIBC didn’t have a good option. It does seem as though they are lagging a bit behind some of the other big banks. Happy travels!

  2. Whew…I read your post with bated breath wondering what your verdict would be…and our current bank won! Yay! We did the same search as you a few years ago and also decided that the TD Select Service account would fit our travel needs best. We keep the balance up above $5000 and, quite frankly, if we couldn’t we would be in bigger trouble than paying a fee! Thanks for doing the research – I can continue to recommend this account to any Canadians who ask. Cheers!

    1. I’m glad you came to the same conclusion, Gillian, and it’s nice to hear you’ve been happy with your decision. As Nora mentioned, it seems to be the best of a relatively crappy selection, at least when compared to the options Americans have. We’re happy with TD so far, plus I really like green, so I’m digging my new ATM card…

  3. I’m very impressed with all the research you did. I expect this post took many hours to complete.

    I have a CIBC account but if I do any serious multi-month overseas travel I will definitely take your suggestions into account.I’ll share this post on FB!

    1. Thanks, Leigh – I appreciate the share! I was thinking of adding Credit Unions in too, but decided to leave that for a future project, as there are just so many of them!

  4. So the first time I traveled I used HSBC and Scotiabank so let me give a bit of perspective:

    1) HSBC does charge 3 bucks but if you get their high interest savings account and have your RTW money there, like 10-20k the interest more than pays for the 3 bucks you pay.
    2) I signed up for Scotia but actually the country list where you can get ATM withdrawls for free is very low. I paid for almost all of Latin America.

    In the end I stayed with HSBC, I only withdraw once or twice a month and 3 bucks a time isn’t so bad.

    1. Good call on calculating the interest – I am severely mathematically challenged, so didn’t take that into account, although I can see the flaw to my methodology. And I agree with your perspective on the Scotiabank account: it seems like a good idea, but is kind of useless in much of the world

    1. Yes – I can’t wait for the day that we get a Charles Schwab-esque account up here in Canada! Thanks for the feedback, Nora!

    1. We ended up switching last week. It was a slight pain, as we’ve been with RBC for years, and had to switch over our line of credit, etc. But I think it will be worth it in the long run. Plus, I think TD is getting an Aeroplan credit card as of early 2014, which is a bonus if you fly Air Canada!

  5. Diana @dmeetsthelocals

    When I travelled this past summer, I withdrew money from my Presidents Choice Basic Chequing account. The bank account is free to open, there is no minimum amount as far as I’m aware and you get an unlimited amount of withdrawals per month. It operates through CIBC and when you’re travelling aboard look for any ATM with a blue +Plus logo (found many in the 10 countries I visited.) I was only charged $3 for each withdrawal, cheaper than my other traditional bank — definitely the best option I’ve come across.


    1. Hi Diana,

      Thanks for taking the time to share. That seems like it would be a good option if you don’t want to maintain a minimum balance.

    1. I didn’t check out President’s Choice, but a number of people have since suggested it. We are happy with TD for now, but will keep it in mind!

  6. I would recommend ING Direct. Their no fee chequing account allows unlimited transactions and actually pays interest (OK it’s only 0.25%, but that’s better than nothing.) They charge $2 for foreign transactions on the CIRRUS network. I used an ATM in France recently and that was the only charge.

    1. Actually, I think the $2 fee is actually for non-CIRRUS ATMs, while a CIRRUS ATM is free. I’m not 100% sure on that, but either way $2 is pretty decent.

  7. Great posting thanks for all of your research. I’m heading to Nicaragua and need to be able to withdraw about $5k or so in USD to buy property. Do you think I can get this from a bank down there? I’m with TD.

    1. Hi Paul! I would contact TD to make sure, as we’ve never been to Nicaragua ourselves. Good luck with the property purchase – we’ve heard it is absolutely beautiful there!

    1. Katie Matthews

      Glad to hear it Gabriela! We’ve been traveling in Europe for the past 6 months now, and haven’t paid an ATM withdrawal fee once thanks to our TD account!

  8. Pingback: Quel est le meilleur compte de banque pour voyager? | Conseils pour des voyages pas chers pour gens du Québec et d'ailleurs dans le monde-- Tips and info for low budget travellers based in Quebec and the world!

  9. Amazing website!!! Thank you so much for your help, I’ve been trying to figure out which bank accounts to use for a while now before I leave for South America for 5 months.

    1. Hey Meaghan – I’m really happy we could help out! Good luck on your trip. We traveled from Colombia to Uruguay in 2009/2010, and it was amazing. I’m sure you’ll have a blast!

  10. Having family in Thailand and the only place I travel now I use RBC $30 fee for 2 chequeing and 1 savings accounts…international atm withdrawals waived. just pay atm fees of around $4.00

    They only way I have been able to save money as the exchange rate is lower through atm banking is to bring cash, if you are comfortable with that process I would suggest that, Travellers cheques come with a exchange fee as well, which seems a little high….ie:$50.00 to exchange $1000.00 but the exchange rate is a little higher
    but it depends on your travel itinerary

  11. Great post! As fellow Canadian travellers, we also did our own research (though not as extensively as you, nor did we write a blogpost), but found that Tangerine, formerly ING Direct, is the best option for us. It’s a subsidiary of Scotiabank, so their ATM rules apply. It’s an online bank, so there are no fees at all for using them (even if you only have $25 in your account). We also use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as much as possible, though, admittedly, it’s hard in places like Uganda.

    Thanks for your insights! I think if we ever need a brick and mortar bank, we’ll be going with TD :)

  12. That part “The nice thing about the alliance is you pay neither fees from your home bank (in this case, Scotia), nor local bank fees.” is incorrect.

    You might have called your bank (Scotiabank or Tangerine) and they assured you it will be free for both ends, but this is not true.

    I have an Tangerine account (Scotiabank), which is under Scotiabank’s Global ATM Alliance rules. I am currently in Chile and have been using Scotiabank ATM to withdraw my money. Unfortunately, it charges me a ridiculous 3500 Chilean Pesos (about $7 CAD) to withdraw a maximum per transaction limit of 200,000 pesos (about $400 CAD), this fee is on top of the currency exchange mark up of approx. 2.5%. So in reality, it costs me ($400×2.5%) = $10 + $7, a total of approx. $17CAD to take out $400CAD.

    Tangerine merely waives the $2 international ATM fee when you use an alliance ATM, or in a regular Scotiabank account’s case, it would be $5.

    In my opinion, this is still a huge fee.

    Unfortunately, for me Tangerine still worked out the cheapest, taking account into monthly account keeping fees with other bigger banks.

    Welcome to Canadian banking.

    (Former BMO and RBC employee)

    1. Katie Matthews

      Darn! Good to know…I wonder if there are exceptions for different countries, or if this has changed since I wrote this? We still use TD, and still haven’t been charged, so I do really recommend them if you can maintain a higher balance. Best of luck in other countries and please report back so I know how it goes :(

      1. Good point, this could be country specific for Scotia’s ATM alliance, but at least now we know it’s not free in Chile!

        I’ll report back when I try out another Scotia alliance ATM’s in other countries!

        Btw I have an TD all-inclusive account which waives the $5 fee, however, I was given the impression by Tangerine that as long as I used an Scotia alliance ATM I would not be charged an currency mark up fee, but I don’t know if this is true or not and it’s always difficult to work out.

        Either way there’ll be a fee more or less and there’s no way to avoid it but you CAN minimize it, having worked at banks I know most people have no idea they’re even being charged, or don’t bother paying attention to it. They also don’t know that a lot of bank fees, such as late fees, over limit fees or other penalty related fees can be waived for the first or second time simply by asking nicely by calling them.

        Once again, welcome to Canadian banking. That’s how they make billions every quarter because we customers and employees make them rich.

  13. I’m SO happy I found this post, it’s incredibly helpful!! I’ve been thinking of switching banks (currently with RBC) and was searching for the best German ATM-friendly option. Thanks for doing all this research! :)

  14. I think you will find HSBC is hands down the best bank to use when traveling. Whether in Paris or even in a remote city at the southern most part of the Philippines, I have always been able to find an HSBC. They also allow up to $1000 us daily in withdrawals whereby many banks restrict you to about $250 to $300 so they can maximize fees.

  15. Thank you for all the great info! I’m planning a trip to Peru, Chile, Bolivia & Nicaragua starting in Nov. I have a Scotia account, bit am thinking tangerine is sounding pretty good! I feel so much less perplexed now Lol!!!

  16. I also did this research – and also ended up with TD Select :) The lesser of the evils, but the best way forward is to open an american account if you can. Working on that now.

    1. Yes…we have a few Canadian friends who’ve managed to open accounts with US banks, and the benefits seem to be way better than in Canada.

  17. If you open an RBC cross border account, you can use the US debit card to make withdrawals at ATMs (unlimited) without any fees from RBC. The 3.95 / monthly account also can refund two ATM surcharges each month (premium is four). The downside is you need to send funds from online banking to your US account, although it is instantaneous. This might be more useful for those who already bank with RBC as you still need to pay for the Canadian account.

    1. Hey! Interesting…so the US debit card can be used abroad (outside US and Canada) for no fees? That’s great to know, because a lot of my clients pay my in USD, so it’d be nice to not have to do some many rounds of exchanges, if I can deposit right into there too. I would imagine maybe a lot of the cross-border accounts have something like that. Thanks!

      1. Yep it can be used outside the US and Canada. I have a TD Cross Border as well but I haven’t had luck using the access card to make ATM withdrawals outside of Canada. I should note I made a tiny mistake in my post — the 3.95 only allows for 10 free debits, but the premium 9.95 is unlimited. Still pretty cheap though considering — and comes with 4 surcharge refunds.

        1. Great – thanks for following up. I’m sure that will be interesting to a few people. I’ll definitely look into that option for us when we’re back in Canada next time!

  18. Hi all,
    Thank you for the posting everyone. I thought I could provide very useful info here as I leant a lot from you guys.

    Manulife Bank ” Advantage Account ” is way to go and the reasons are:

    1. No charge or personal Advantage Account withdrawals when the account balance is $5,000 or higher
    2. Unlimited withdrawal
    3. No FX conversion fee of 2.5%
    4. you will get 1% annum interest income on your balance


    1. When I was writing previously my baby was crying so here is better explanation.

      1. No transactions fees of C$3~5 per transactions if you have balance of more than C$5,000
      2, No FX conversion fees of 2.5% (other banks charge even TD all inclusive account)
      3. You can withdraw as many as you want. (but ATM operator can charge fees-this is nothing to do with Manulife bank; but I heard Commonwealth (Australia bank) ATM doesn’t charge fees)
      4. Interest rate change depends on Bank of Canada prime rate but at this moment Manulife gives you 1% on your any balance
      5. There is no monthly fee

      Only annoying part is since Manulife bank doesn’t have branches, you need to find Manulife financial advisor to open a bank account but after that you can set up with your other banks to transfer money back and forth without any charges (you should do it through Manulife bank online bank. I have been using this bank since 2005 and I love it.
      I put money in Manulife to earn interest and move to RBC to pay visa when it is close to the due date. If I need to transfer money to RBC to CIBC, I use Manulife as a bridge so I don’t have to pay any e-transfer fees.

  19. Thanks Katie for this great article ! It really helped me to see that my Scotia account is not that bad finally :-) We always think that we can find better somewhere else, but it seems that every bank in Canada is not ideal… We’ll pay fees anyway.
    Thank you again for the article !

    1. Glad we could be of help…!!! And I know what you mean about always wondering about Canadian bank accounts. Americans seem to have some many great options for fee-free overseas transactions, and credit card points hacking! While our options aren’t quite as good, they’re certainly not bad!

  20. Awesome and useful post – thank you so much! I will head over to my local TD bank and ask about fees, minimum balances etc. Too bad we don’t have a Charles Schwab option!!

  21. I’m traveling to Taiwan ,Thailand , Hong Kong , Vietnam , China and Macou end of this year for a month. I don’t want to carry lots of cash on me. This is a great post. I haven’t got time to read over to see if you have the withdrawal limit each day on your post. … . I’m wondering if you know the maximum withdrawal per day from the ATM for these places. Thanks a lot for your recourses.

    1. Hi Tamara – I think it actually depends on you, and the limit you set on you account. Other than that, I’m not aware of a daily limit. Enjoy your travels!

  22. Very nice experience. It’s totally useful for a new travel blogger like me. Looking for more articles from you in the future.

  23. Here in Chile the local bank/ATM owner adds a charge of $12. In Colombia I was able to withdraw almost $2,000 (i.e. Canadian dollar equivalent) to pay our apartment rent all at once. The fees may have been the same, I don’t remember ($3 for CIBC plus some semi-outrageous sum for the local bank). BUT that was much better than paying the same fees for merely $300!
    I did this by going to the teller and explaining my desire to withdraw much more than our home bank’s $300 limit and the reason. The teller had no problem to exceed the limit and I had no desire to cross examine him on how/why he could overrule the CIBC limit in case he realised he was doing something wrong.
    I had to visit several banks before finding one that was part of the “Plus” system that also was friendly enough to do this. So far I haven’t had the time to find a similar bank en Chile.

  24. Hi Katie,

    I am Canadian but I live in Italy. I have an account in Italy but often I lose so much money when I transfer money from Canada. So I think it is better to open a new Canadian account and see if the low fees and interest rates help me out. After reading your article, well done by the way, and some of the comments. looks like HSBC might be the ticket. That said, what do you know about Tangerine bank? It is a subsidiary of Scotia bank. A lot of travel blogs have started talking about it.

    1. Hi Charlotte! We actually aren’t that familiar with Tangerine. We opened up the TD account we mention about 5 years ago, and are still using it, so haven’t really looked for other options since. In terms of newer options, Transferwise now offers a borderless bank account which might serve your purposes? We use Transferwise all the time, but haven’t opened up the borderless bank account yet. We have, however, heard great things from friends who have it! I hope this helps!

  25. What this article doesn’t mention is the usability of certain bank cards. For instance, TD will cancel your debit card every time you use it abroad, their debit cards have serious issues with some atm’s (every ATM we used on the islands near Bali would time out when making withdrawals, yet the funds would still disappear from our accounts, we lost well over a thousand dollars), our TD visa’s were also cancelled regularly (I can’t count how many times I had to leave my wife at dinner to go find a way to call internationally to get my cards working again), and their TD visa cards simply aren’t accepted by some vendors (I have been told by vendors that, while they do take visa, my visa was deemed “risky” and couldn’t be used). So unless you like losing money from ATM’s, having your cards cancelled every time you use them, being stranded abroad with no cash, and not being able to use your visa at some places that take visa, I would avoid TD like the plague. I can’t imagine just how sketch this banks dealings really are for all this to happen within a year.

    1. Geoff Matthews

      Interesting, and thanks for your thoughts! I wonder if this is specific to Bali and the region maybe. We’ve been with TD, both debit and Visa for years now, and have been living and travelling abroad. Our experience has been quite different. Yes, there have been some pains, but we have never had our cards cancelled on us. There have been times when our card has been flagged for a suspicious transaction but they have allowed the purchase to go through, and their fraud department will call within 24 hours to verify the transaction. As we don’t live in Canada currently sometimes the call will go unnoticed and some functionality will be limited (typically only online purchases) which are then sorted with us calling TD. I would be interested to know if others have had similar experiences in SE Asia with TD or other banks for that matter. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  26. Here is what I came up with for overseas banking for Canadians:
    KOHO 1.5% fx fee for the free account, but the paid option is better:
    KOHO $84/ year (averages out to $7 / month) = 0 % fx fees and 2% on restaurants, travel, and groceries, and 1 free international withdraw per month (no fees on KOHOs side, they will reimburse the transaction from the otherside)
    Scotia American Express Gold – No fx fees, lots of travel bonuses and travel insurance, but does cost 120 per year. Does cost at bank machines though, so withdraw using KOHO.
    Tangerine/Motus bank for overseas (simplii not allowed)
    Now you have free banking, free Visa card, no fx fees, and the total is: $194 cad per year.
    The bonus money you would get back per year should “easily” cover the cost of the cards.

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