Tangerine Review—Best Online Bank in Canada?

When it comes to online banking in Canada, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better, more complete, or more user-friendly option than Tangerine Bank.

Tangerine used to be the Canadian branch of ING Direct, and was acquired by Scotiabank in 2012. While the name and ownership have changed over the years, the focus on no-fee chequing accounts, savings accounts that pay great interest rates, and a one-stop online shop for customer-first banking hasn’t.

Switching to Tangerine for my day-to-day banking was my first big step into the world of managing my money more actively, and after over four years as a customer I have nothing but positive things to say about them—including the fact that based on their online calculators, I’ve earned over $300 in interest since becoming a client, and saved almost $500 in bank fees. (I’ve also earned over $1500 cash back from their Mastercard. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.)

Tangerine Bank can save you money on bank fees.

That’s based on my previous chequing account charging $10 in monthly fees, but some accounts these days charge up to $30 just for a chequing account. Switching to Tangerine can save you money on your everyday banking without compromising on the quality of service and while earning you more interest.

Who should use Tangerine: Anyone who wants a great user experience and free daily banking features, with no need to visit a branch to manage your account—you can do it all online.

Best features include: Free chequing accounts with all the features you need for daily banking, one of the best cash-back credit cards in Canada, and easy-to-use investment options perfect for beginners.

Promotion: Get up to $200 in bonuses when you sign up and make Tangerine your daily banking account now.

Sign up now

That’s the high-level overview, but if my raving about Tangerine and how great they are isn’t enough, here’s a detailed overview of their products and services, and how you can get started with a Tangerine account today. Plus, if you want an actual breakdown of the accounts I personally use and how, jump right to that part now (the good part, imo!)

Tangerine’s account options

Tangerine offers a range of different accounts to suit almost every banking situation, including:

Tangerine’s no-fee daily Chequing Account

If you’re tired of paying for your day-to-day chequing account or getting dinged with fees for too many debit transactions, Tangerine’s no-fee chequing account is the perfect account for you.

  • No fees for your everyday banking. That includes unlimited debit transactions, bill payments, automated transactions (like automating your savings contributions!) and free Tangerine email money transfers.
  • Interest on your chequing account balance. Tangerine pays 0.15% on chequing account balances under $49,999—and while you’ll earn more than that on chequing balances higher than $50,000, why would you keep that much money in chequing? You can earn far more in a Tangerine savings account, and access it in seconds by moving it to your chequing when you need it.
  • CDIC insured so your money is protected. Tangerine is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, so you don’t need to worry about what happens if they fail. Your money is insured up to $100,000 in seven different account categories. Find out more about CDIC coverage.
  • Overdraft protection available. Overdraft protection is an option on your Tangerine daily chequing account as long as you qualify, and here’s how it works. If your account goes into overdraft, you have until the end of the day to get it back to a positive account balance. If you don’t, you’ll be charged $5, and another $5 if at the start of the next month you’re still in overdraft.
  • Left to Spend can help you manage your budget easily. Left to Spend is a new feature Tangerine offers, that uses the data they have about your regular spending to predict how much you have “left to spend” until your next payday. The setup process asks you a few questions to help guide them, and once you’re up and running it can arm you with the information you need to make smart spending decisions.
  • Your first chequebook is free. Cheques can still come in handy, and your first Tangerine chequebook is free for your chequing account. You’ll get 50 cheques, and each extra chequebook is only $20 and you can order them online.
  • Free ATMs at all Scotiabank locations. Since Tangerine is owned by Scotiabank, you can use 3,500 Scotiabank ATMs for free with your Tangerine account, making it easy to withdraw or deposit cash. You’ll also get access to 44,000 international ATMs that are part of Scotiabank’s Global ATM Alliance. If you use ATMs outside of the network, you’ll pay $1 within Canada, and $2 for international out-of-network machines.
  • Track and categorize your spending. Your Tangerine chequing account comes with the ability to track and analyze your spending by categorizing every purchase. It can help you see patterns in your spending, and total up the amount you’re spending on everything that goes through your account every month.
  • Deposit cheques from your phone. With the Cheque-In® feature on the Tangerine mobile app, you can take a photo of your (Canadian) cheques to deposit into your account no matter where you are.
  • Order bank drafts to your home. If you need a bank draft, you can order one directly from your online bank account and have it mailed to your house. The service costs $10, and you’ll need to plan ahead when you need one, but it’s an option.
  • Set up Orange Alerts to keep tabs on your account. You can customize email notifications for different account actions to keep track of what’s happening with your banking. I use Orange Alerts to tell me when my account dips below a specific balance, and when I get deposits of any amount.
  • Connect to mobile wallets. You can use your Tangerine Client Card (aka your debit card) with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay—which is a great way to balance the convenience of mobile wallets with the limits of only spending what you can afford.

A note about Interac eTransfers and Tangerine email money transfers

Tangerine offers unlimited, free Tangerine email money transfers, but it’s important to note that they’re not the same as Interac eTransfers. They’ll typically take a few days to show up in someone else’s inbox, so they’re not a perfect option unless you’re close to the person you’re transferring money to and you can give them a heads up that the money is en route. (However, if they’re going to another Tangerine customer, they usually arrive in a few hours in my experience.)

For now, Interac eTransfers are available from Tangerine, but you’ll pay $1 for every Interac eTransfer you send. Although I typically pay for 1 or 2 transfers every month, I’ve found that the no-fee account more than makes up for the dollar I spend here or there on transfers.

Sign up for a Tangerine no-fee chequing account and earn up to $200 in bonuses.

Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard

Tangerine’s Money-Back Credit Card is consistently ranked among the best no-fee cash-back cards in Canada by Moneysense Magazine, Ratehub, and credit card comparison sites. That’s no surprise to me, since it’s the card I use as my daily credit card, and I have since it came out. I’ve personally experienced the benefits of this card, including:

  • No annual fee. While annual fees can be worth it if you spend enough, Tangerine’s Mastercard comes with no annual fee, so it’s a great fit no matter how much or little you’re going to spend on it. (Here’s a guide to choosing the right credit card for you if you’re unsure if you should pay an annual fee.)
  • 2% cash back on up to three categories. With the Tangerine Mastercard, you can choose up to three categories to earn 2% cash-back on, including “traditional” categories like groceries, gas, and pharmacy, alongside less common reward categories like public transportation and parking, furniture, and home renovations.
    This flexibility means you can really adjust the card to suit your life, instead of getting fixed categories for your highest rewards. Whether you’re really into restaurants or home renos, this card can be rewarding for your personal spending.
    You can choose two high-reward categories to start, and if you opt to have your cash-back deposited into a Tangerine high-interest savings account, you can choose a third category. Since withdrawing from a Tangerine savings account is a simple process, there’s really no reason not to opt for the third category of 2% cash back.
  • 0.5% cash back on all other purchases. For all purchases that don’t fall within one of your 2% cash back categories, you’ll earn a flat 0.5% cash back.
  • Update your cash back categories easily, based on transparent recommendations. Tangerine will track and transparently show you how your spending on the credit card tracks against your reward categories. If you notice that you’re spending a lot in a category you didn’t select, you can switch your reward categories to make sure you’re always getting the highest cash back you can.
  • Mobile wallet compatible. Whether you want to use Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay, the Tangerine Cash Back Mastercard works with all three.

Tangerine’s high-interest savings accounts

The convenience of having high-interest savings accounts in the same place as your daily chequing account and credit card can’t be overstated.

While I always recommend hiding away your Big Long-Term Savings where you don’t see them every day (for example, my emergency fund lives at EQ Bank for that reason) I rely on my Tangerine savings accounts to pay me high every-day interest on savings like my vacation fund and my new-phone account. It makes it easy to check in on my progress, especially with the extra features Tangerine has added to make hitting your savings goals easier.

  • Earn interest on every dollar. While Tangerine’s everyday rate isn’t quite as high as some of the 2%+ rates you’ll find at other online options, you’ll earn 1.20%* on every dollar you keep in a savings account, and you can take advantage of periodic special offers that boost that rate automatically.
  • Easily withdraw money. The best feature, and why I am a forever-fan of keeping money in my Tangerine savings accounts even if it’s not always the absolute top interest rate I could earn, is convenience. If I decide today’s the day I want to move my home reno savings over into chequing, or to pay off my credit card for a trip to Home Depot, I can do it in seconds from a single login instead of waiting days for a transfer.
  • Track your savings with Goals. While there’s something to be said for keeping your savings out of sight so you aren’t tempted to spend them, there’s a counter-argument that Tangerine makes brilliantly: If you see your progress, you’ll be more motivated to keep going. Their new goal feature helped me save for both a vacation and a new cell phone, and seeing the goal get to be “more complete” was huge incentive to throw an extra few dollars at it when I could.
  • Set up automatic transfers. You can set up automatic transfers from your Tangerine chequing account directly into your savings accounts, and set them up to recur whenever works for you—weekly, monthly, on a specific date, whatever. When you do, you’ll see your upcoming automatic transactions at the top of your chequing account so that you can keep them in mind when making spending decisions.

Earn 2.75% interest on your savings for your first 6 months
When you move money into your Tangerine savings account right now, you’ll earn a promotional interest rate of 2.75% for your first six months of savings. That’s one of the best rates available, and could be a big boost to your short (or long!) term savings goals.

Open a Tangerine Savings Account

Mortgages and Lines of Credit

If you have a house, or are thinking of buying one, Tangerine also has mortgages available, and home equity lines of credit too. You can apply online and access their competitive mortgage rates, and you’ll get flexible prepayment options of up to 25% of your original mortgage amount every year. Basically, whether you want to pay off your mortgage early, or stick to your original schedule, it’s a great option.

Investing with Tangerine

There are four different investing accounts you can have with Tangerine:

  • Tax-Free Investment Funds (aka a TFSA)
  • RSP Investment Funds (aka an RRSP)
  • Non-Registered Investment Funds
  • RIF Investment Funds (this is what you convert an RSP to once you’re retired someday)

Within each of those accounts, you can choose from five different Tangerine investment funds to grow your money. The biggest differences between the funds are what they each invest in, so I’ve added those breakdowns here:

  • Balanced Income (70% Canadian bonds, 10% Canadian stocks, 10% US stocks, 10% international stocks)
  • Balanced (40% Canadian bonds, 20% Canadian stocks, 20% US stocks, 20% international stocks)
  • Balanced Growth (25% Canadian bonds, 25% Canadian stocks, 25% US stocks, 25% international stocks)
  • Equity Growth (33.4% Canadian stocks, 33.4% US stocks, 33.4% international stocks)
  • Dividend (50% Canadian dividend equity, 25% US dividend equity, 25% international dividend equity)

Each fund charges a flat 1.07% management expense ratio, which is a bit higher than you’d pay at a roboadvisor, but much lower than you’d pay for most funds from a bank.

The biggest perk with the Tangerine investments, in my personal experience, is that they offer an easy, streamlined way to put your money into the market. All you have to do is open an account online, answer a few questions, and choose the fund that’s right for you—and Tangerine does have people you can call if you’re not sure which is the right fit for you.

Tangerine’s user experience

A list of accounts is fine, but what’s it actually like to use Tangerine? There are a few touchpoints that are worth covering, because they’re where you’ll actually experience Tangerine.

Tangerine’s mobile app

Tangerine’s mobile app is where I do about 50% of my banking, with the other half being on my desktop computer. The mobile app can do pretty much everything you can do from your computer, with one big added bonus: Cheque-In deposits. You can take a photo of a cheque to deposit it into your Tangerine accounts, so you don’t have to go stand in line at the bank just to put money into your account again. (One note: this only applies to Canadian funds, and you can’t use Cheque-In to deposit foreign currency.)

Outside of that feature, the mobile app is easy to use, very clear, and lets you do everything you’d need to manage your money. You can pay your bills, transfer money between accounts, send email money transfers, and much more. They keep each screen easy to use and simple, and you can set your account to only require a full login to make changes—so you can see your balances at a glance. If you already have a password on your phone to unlock it, that feature alone is so handy and I make use of it multiple times a week.

In-person banking options with Tangerine

For an online bank, Tangerine has plenty of in-person options available. For one, you’ll be able to access over 3,000 ATMs for free across Canada, most notably all of the Scotiabank ATMs. That’s where I withdraw cash on the rare occasions I need it, since it’s free for Tangerine customers and they’re easy to find.

Tangerine also does operate Tangerine Cafes in multiple cities across Canada, and they’re the furthest thing from a bank branch you’ll find. The Cafes vary in size and location, but in my experience they’re personable, easy, and fun to be in. The staff at the Cafes can help you with a range of different banking tasks and some Cafes even host events—I was lucky enough to speak at one in the fall of 2018 in Toronto about personal finance 101!

Tangerine’s customer service

If you need help with your Tangerine account (it happens, nothing is perfect) you can connect with their customer service in a few different ways.

  • Phone. You can talk to someone on the phone about your Tangerine accounts 24/7, and call specifically about things like your mortgage or investments from 8AM to 8PM EST on weekdays.
  • Chat. If you’d prefer to ask questions by text, you can chat with Tangerine’s customer service about your savings and chequing accounts from 8AM to 8PM EST on weekdays, and 8AM to 5PM on weekends.
  • In-person. If you’re in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, or Montreal, you can stop by a Tangerine Cafe to get help IRL.

How to open a Tangerine account

You can open a Tangerine account in under 5 minutes, without ever leaving the house. All you’ll need is:

  • Your contact information, including your address and phone number
  • Your Social Insurance Number
  • Employment information and other details they need to know by law

Tangerine will walk you through the process, and you can open as many or as few accounts as you want to right now. If you only want a savings account, you can start there and add other accounts as you need them—and starting small is always a great way to dip your toe into the world of online banking if you’re not familiar.

Open a Tangerine account now

How do I use Tangerine?

There are a lot of reviews out there from people who don’t actually use the tools, but this review is based on my over-four years as a Tangerine customer. My banking situation has evolved a lot in these past four years, but here’s exactly how I have Tangerine set up to manage my money right now.

  • 1 personal chequing account. Tangerine is my home for day-to-day banking, and where I have what I consider my primary chequing account. It’s where my paycheque gets deposited, and where all of my automatic contributions (to Tangerine and to other accounts) come from.
  • 1 joint chequing account. My husband and I both use Tangerine as our primary personal banks, which makes it dead simple to also keep our joint account there as well. This is the account we both contribute to, that’s used to cover all of our shared expenses, so it’s a big portion of our financial lives. If you’re interested, here’s a breakdown of how we manage our money as a married couple.
  • 1 Tangerine Cash Back Mastercard. My Tangerine Mastercard is my everyday credit card, so it handles all of the joint expenses I pay for, as well as a few recurring bills like my cell phone. I separate out my (relatively small) fun spending onto a KOHO card to keep myself on budget, and I have a separate card for business expenses, but I’d say about 80% of my spending happens on this credit card. It’s easy to pay off and I can see the balance update automatically when the payments come from my Tangerine accounts, which is a huge perk, and the cash back rewards are so simple and go directly into my vacation savings.
  • 4 savings accounts. I currently use Tangerine to hold my vacation savings, new-car savings, kitchen reno savings, and house emergency savings. These accounts are ones that I’d tap into if I needed them, and I like keeping an eye on how they’re progressing since I’m actively saving towards them. I also recently used one to save up to buy a Google Pixel phone outright, and the goals feature on the savings account made it really motivating to put extra money towards getting the phone sooner.

Bottom line: Who should use Tangerine?

I recommend Tangerine to people who are tired of paying for things they don’t use—or things they do use but don’t have to pay for. Most basic debit accounts don’t provide many benefits and will add fees for things that I consider routine use, like additional debit transactions. If you want to run all your purchases through your debit account to keep yourself on track with your spending, you shouldn’t have to pay $1 per transaction over a certain number of transactions!

Plus, because Tangerine is so fully-featured for an online bank, most people won’t notice a meaningful difference between their current banking situation and using Tangerine once they’ve made the switch—other than saving more money because there are no fees, or very low fees in some cases, and you’ll be earning much more interest every single day.

If you’re already considering an online bank for some or all of your banking? Tangerine is a fantastic fit.

Bottom line: Who shouldn’t use Tangerine?

If you use a lot of in-person services at your current bank, or you routinely need things like certified cheques and wire transfers, Tangerine likely isn’t a great fit for your everyday banking or your chequing account. While free chequing is great, it’s only great if it provides everything you need from a daily bank account—if not, paying for services you need and use frequently is a great move.

However, even in that case, some of Tangerine’s other products might be a good fit to complement your existing in-person banking, like their investments or their savings accounts—especially if you currently pay over 2% for investments or earn less than 1% on your “high interest” savings accounts.

*Rates are all subject to change.

Tangerine: Best Online Bank in Canada?
  • No-fee daily chequing
  • No-fee cash back credit card
  • High-interest savings accounts
  • Low-cost investment options
  • User experience
  • Mobile app
4.8

Overview

Tangerine is one of the best online banks in Canada, especially if you’re looking for an all-around daily banking option with no fees.

Pros

No-fee daily chequing account, one of the best no-fee credit cards in Canada, and a fully-featured option for all of your banking needs in one place.

Cons

Not the absolute highest interest rate on your savings.