EQ Bank Review: Hyperfocused Savings

April 26, 2021
Banks

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To determine the best online banks in the Canada, we scored and reviewed 8 highly popular banks. In this case, we'll be focusing on EQ Bank

EQ Bank is the online branch of Equitable Bank that focuses on offering what the big banks are missing in terms of saving and spending smarter. This focus takes the shape of high-interest savings-oriented bank accounts that are able to send money internationally through TransferWise.

However, for as good as that bank is, we truly believe that it isn't the best, a spot that's reserved for Tangerine. It's got great domestic fees, the best everyday usage, possibly the best customer support, the most banking products and the most extra features.


Out of all the online banks we reviewed, without a doubt, Tangerine offers the most complete experience an online bank in Canada can give. From savings to investing to a great referral program, it's all here and it's why Tangerine is our top pick for the best Canadian online bank.

 EQ Bank
Domestic Fees6
International Fees2
Everyday Usage3
Interface and Usability4
Mobile App Functionality8
International Usability3
Customer Support8
Security & Regulation8
Savings/Premium Benefits4
Extra Features4
Total50

Now that you've seen the bank's overall scores, here's a more detailed look at how it performs in each category.

 EQ Bank
Total Score50
1 Domestic Fees
ATM feesX
Monthly feesFree
Card FeeX
Additional Cards FeeX
Card Delivery FeeX
Kids AccountX
Minimum balance required$0
Inactivity FeeFree
Free Interac e-Transfers?✔️
2 International Fees
Foreign ATM feesX
Foreign spending feeX
Foreign exchange feesX
Cross Border Transfer FeeDepends on TransferWiseCAD to USD will cost $2.6 CAD + 0.59%
3 Everyday Usage
Apple PayX
Google PayX
Does it accept cash deposits?X
Spending/Transaction CategoriesX
Real Time Notifications?✔️
Built-In DonationsX
4 Interface and Usablity
Spending limits in the appX
Withdrawal limits in the appX
Sub-savings accounts✔️, up to 4 Savings Goals
Bill splitting / Shared ExpensesX
Subscription trackingX
5 Mobile App Functionality
Toggling payments in the appX
Toggle Foreign PaymentsX
Signup Speed< 10 minutes
Mobile App Ease of UseHighly intuitive
Apple Appstore Score /54.6⭐
Google Playstore Score /54.4⭐
6 International Usability
Hold Multiple CurrenciesX
International Money Transfers✔️, through Transferwise (Real Exchange Rate)
Can The Card Be Used Abroad?X
Is The ATM Network International?No ATM network
7 Customer Support
In-app support chat✔️
Telephone support844-437-2265 within North America
1-416-551-3449 outside of North America
Priority Customer SupportX
Email support[email protected]
Email Response Time7+ days
8 Security & Regulation
RegulatorCDIC Regulated thanks to Equality Bank
Freeze/Unfreeze Card In The AppX
PIN resets in the appX
Biometric login and authentication?✔️
Does it do a credit check?Soft Credit check
9 Savings/Premium Benefits
Metal CardX
CashbackX
Partner Discounts?X
Gain interest rate?1.5% for Savings Plus accounts
2.3% for TFSA and RSPs accounts
10 Extra Features
Get Paid early?✔️, through Direct Deposits
Network ATM FinderX
Overdraft AvailabilityX
Overdraft ProtectionX
Stock TradingX
Commodities TradingX
Cryptocurrency Trading?X
Referral program?$20 for the first three (3) New Clients
$30 for the fourth (4th) to seventh (7th) New Clients
$40 for the eighth (8th) to fifteenth (15th) New Clients
Upto a maximum of $500 per referrer, permanently.
Referrals need to fund their account with at least $100 within the first 30 days
Each referral will earn $20 as a welcome bonus

Now let's jump into the full written review explaining what you just read in our previous tables.

EQ Bank Review: Breakdown

#1 Domestic Fees:

As we had mentioned earlier, EQ Bank’s focus is purely on high-interest savings products. This, however, means that there are some sacrifices to what could be called the norm in most online banking. EQ Bank’s accounts don’t come with any type of debit, prepaid or credit cards. Due to this, categories like ATM, card replacement/delivery fees don’t apply.

Although, what can be mentioned here is that even though EQ Bank has one of the highest interest offerings, there are no real drawbacks to its products besides the one already mentioned.

All products come with no monthly nor inactivity fees, nor minimum balance required. This implies that users can place their cash here and not have to worry about moving it every couple of months/years to avoid fees.

EQ Bank Domestic Fees Score: 6/10

#2 International Fees

As it was previously mentioned in the first category, EQ Bank doesn’t have a spending card, which means that categories like Foreign ATM, spending and exchange fees don’t apply.

However, EQ Bank does have the singular feature of being able to transfer money internationally thanks to a partnership with TransferWise. These transfers will incur some fees that are extremely low when compared to more traditional methods of sending money abroad.

We've found that a simple $1,000 transfer from Canada to an US based account will cost a total of $2.6 CAD + 0.59%.

On top of that, EQ Bank’s users can send and receive Interac e-Transfers without incurring any fees whatsoever.

However, since there's no a card to use, EQ Bank's international usability is severely limited.

EQ Bank International Fees Score: 2/10

#3 Everyday Usage:

Due to EQ Bank’s focus on savings accounts without a card, there are some features it just misses or that it plainly doesn’t think it needs. EQ Bank can’t be paired with either Apple or Google Pay since there’s no card to pair.

The online bank also doesn’t accept cash deposits nor it features spending/transaction categories on the app.

Although, EQ Bank’s app does feature real-time notifications when money is sent/received in the account, which is at least something to give it credit for.

EQ Bank Everyday Usage Score: 3/10

#4 Interface And Usability:

EQ Bank doesn’t feature most benefits/conveniences due to it not being developed as a traditional chequing account. This is firmly evidenced by the fact that EQ Bank doesn’t offer the following features:

  • Setting spending limits from the app
  • Setting withdrawal limits from the app
  • Sharing expenses/Bill splitting
  • Tracking online subscriptions.

However, EQ Bank does offer the feature to open up to 4 sub-savings accounts called goals, which can speed up the process of saving up for specific short/medium-term goals.

EQ Bank Interface And Usability Score: 4/10

#5 Mobile App Functionality

Here’s where we first see EQ Bank getting into some solid territory. This is due to the fact that EQ Bank’s signup process is very simple, taking less than 10 minutes to get started.

The design of the app is also very intuitive. users can explore it without getting lost or wondering whenever they're doing their daily banking. This is evidenced as well by its reviews in app stores, specifically, the Apple App Store with a score of 4.6/5 and in the Google Playstore with a score of 4.4/5 stars, being the second highest-rated Canadian bank we reviewed, just after KOHO.

However, EQ Bank lacks features like toggling local recurring and foreign payments from the app. This diminishes its usability to a point where it can't be called perfect.

EQ Bank Mobile App Functionality Score: 8/10

#6 International Usability

EQ Bank’s performance in this category is somewhat curious because it has the potential to be one of the best-scoring banks, but it misses the mark by not offering a card. This means that users can’t use their EQ Bank account abroad due to not being able to spend directly from their accounts.

However, EQ Bank fixes an issue that most other online banks have, which is being able to offer international money transfers at an incredibly cheap price. This is done through a partnership with TransferWise, from which EQ Bank’s users can transfer money internationally directly through their bank accounts.

Still, that feature alone doesn't make up for the lack of international usability available to EQ Bank.

EQ Bank International Usability Score: 3/10

#7 Customer Support

EQ Bank is an online-only bank, which means that it has no physical branches at all. This implies that all of the support a customer might need will be given through all online means as well, which is most of the truth in this story.

EQ Bank’s users have access to in-app support chat that’s active 24/7, telephone support from within Canada and when abroad, and email support.

We tested all three support channels and found out that the chat support is superb. Telephone support is good as well but has some medium-long waiting times (10 to 15 minutes). However, its email support is the biggest offender of the bunch, since it took them around 2 weeks to get back to us with the questions we had asked.

Of course, the latter issue’s blame could be attributed to the current world situation. However, no other bank took so long to answer our emails, so we can firmly say it's not related.

If you want to get in contact with EQ Bank, here are the main channels from which to do so:

  • Phone: Within North America: 844-437-2265/ Outside of North America: 1-416-551-3449
  • Email: [email protected] (Be ready to wait a long time for a response)
  • Support chat: In-app/Website.

EQ Bank Customer Support Score: 8/10

#8 Security & Regulation

An important part of online banking is not only the convenience to it, rather that convenience accompanied by the security they bring. Since EQ Bank is part of Equality Bank, it’s regulated in the same way by the CDIC ( Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation). This also means that all eligible deposits are insured for up to $100,000 CAD within it.

Other important details to mention are that the EQ Bank's mobile app can be configured to use biometric login authentication for signing in.

The last important thing to mention here is that users who apply for any of EQ Bank’s products will not incur in any kind of hard credit check, only a soft one, which doesn’t affect credit scores in a meaningful way.

EQ Bank Security & Regulation Score: 8/10

#9 Savings/Premium Benefits

Here’s where EQ Bank really shines, since its interest rates are some of the highest-non-promotional percentages in the current scene. Interest earned on account balances starts at 1.5% for Savings Plus accounts and goes as high as 2.3% for TFSAs and RSPs. GICs rates vary according to the time set upon the creation of one, but it ranges between both numbers mentioned.

For as much interest as EQ Bank offers, there are a couple of things that don’t come with its accounts. Whereas other online banks might have some discounts or even cashback rewards here and there, EQ Bank offers none of those due to its focus on its product not being spending accounts. Still, some of it, even in small quantities would be appreciated.

Solely as a savings product, EQ bank performs great, but hyperfocusing on this aspect only manages to hinder its performance from an overall standpoint.

EQ Bank Savings/Premium Benefits Score: 4/10

#10 Extra Features

It’s always nice when your bank lets you do more than you expect. However, that is quite not the case with EQ Bank. Out of all categories, this is probably the one where it performs the poorest.

The only important features it offers are probably getting paid early through Direct Deposits and its referral program, which is actually one of the most profitable out there.

EQ Bank’s referral program works in the following way: It’s got different tiers of rewards, each unlocking after a certain number of friends is referred.

Users will earn:

  • $20 for the first three (3) referrals
  • $30 for the fourth (4th) to seventh (7th) referrals
  • $40 for the eighth (8th) to fifteenth (15th) referrals.

This means that any user who refers 15 friends will earn a total of $500 CAD. However, once that 15th referral is registered, users can no longer refer friends anymore. Referrals will also need to fund their accounts with at least $100 within the first 30 days, each earning $20 as a welcome bonus.

This is one of the best referral systems we found out of the 8 Canadian online banks we reviewed, just behind that of Tangerine and Simplii Financial.

EQ Bank Extra Features Score: 4/10

Why EQ Bank??

Most online banks in Canada are great options if you're looking for a cheaper and more convenient alternative to regular banking. However, if you're eyeing EQ Bank for that matter, you've definitely set your eyes upon some of the best savings products in the country.

EQ Bank offers some of the best savings accounts in Canada. It's got some of the highest interest rates out of all online banks, a well-developed mobile app and the ability to send money internationally. It does come with some caveats, but if you're only looking for savings, then you've found the right place.

However, for as great as EQ Bank is, we recommend it solely as a side account in which to invest and save, not as a product to use as your main bank account.

EQ Bank vs. Tangerine

When reviewing a specific bank, we always compare it to the best in its category. And according to our thorough testing, the best online bank in Canada is Tangerine, which scores 72/100 points on our scoring system. Here’s why we think Tangerine is a better alternative:

EQ Bank's biggest flaw is its lack of usability. The fact that it's a hyper-focused savings account sounds great, but not having a prepaid or debit card on hand can be uncomfortable. There's just so much that EQ could be if it pushed a bit harder in terms of its overall usability as both a savings and spending account.

Tangerine, on the other hand, does have what EQ Bank offers, just to a lesser degree. However, the fact that it has multiple, can earn interest and has a broader availability of banking products just overwhelms what little EQ Bank has to offer.

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