Tangerine vs Simplii Financial

April 26, 2021

Simplii Financial is CIBC's answer to Tangerine, another big traditional bank. It's got some perks to it, like its referral program, which is the highest-earning one out of all online banks and its free international money transfers. It also has the best international usability out of all banks because it can waive most foreign ATM fees thanks to its ATM network partners in both the US and Canada.

Tangerine is a well-established online bank that has been leading the charge since a couple of years ago when it was released by Scotiabank. Tangerine is probably the one that strayed less from how a traditional brick & mortar bank works.

However, for as good as that bank is, we truly believe that it isn’t the best, a spot that’s reserved for Neo Financial. It’s got great domestic feesthe 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, Neo Financial offers the best-rounded experience an online bank in Canada can give. From savings to investing to tracking your expenses, it’s all here and it’s why Neo Financial is our top pick for the best Canadian online bank.

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Now that you've seen their overall scores, here's a more detailed look at how each bank scores on those ten categories.

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Tangerine Review: Breakdown

#1 Domestic Fees

Tangerine behaves like most online banks or even more traditional banks, with some new features here and there. The first and most important ones to mention are that Tangerine doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees nor requires a minimum balance to keep the account open.

This online bank also waives ATM fees as long as users are withdrawing from Tangerine/Scotiabank’s 3,500 ABMs in Canada. If users find themselves using any other ATM, they will incur a $1.5 fee.

In terms of cards, users will first get a debit card with their account, which doesn’t have any initial delivery/order fees attached to it. However, each replacement of this debit card will run users a total of $15, which is rather expensive, even if Tangerine offers 1 free replacement per year.

Where Tangerine edges closer to traditional banks is in terms of inactivity fees, which follow the following cost model:

  • $10 after 1 year of inactivity
  • $20 yearly from the 2nd to 9th years of inactivity
  • $40 after 10 years of inactivity

Tangerine performs rather well, as we had mentioned, but the fact that it charges some of those fees does hinder its score a bit. It does get some extra points for being able to both send and receive Interac e-Transfers for free.

It’s worth noting as well that Tangerine is currently the only Canadian online bank that offers accounts for kids.

Tangerine Domestic Fees Score: 7/10

#2 International Fees

Here’s where sticking to the way traditional banks work hurts Tangerine’s score more. This is due to Tangerine charging a base percentage fee for all foreign transactions and a hefty one at that. The online bank charges a 2.5% fee on foreign ATM, spending and exchange transactions, but ATM withdrawals will also incur a $3 fee if they’re not made on a Visa Plus or Global ATM Alliance network.

Tangerine also isn’t able to send money internationally, which is quite an important feature, but most online banks except EQ Bank and Simplii Financial can’t send money internationally either.

Tangerine International Fees Score: 2/10

#3 Everyday Usage

This is perhaps one of the categories where Tangerine excels the most as an online bank. Being able to pair Tangerine’s card with either Apple Pay or Google Pay are nice enough features. On top of that, the online bank also sends real-time spending notifications and automatically categorizes transactions into certain spending categories so users have a clear depiction of how and what their money is being used on.

Since Tangerine is part of Scotiabank, it can also use its ATMs to deposit cash, a feature not many online banks can boast about.

Tangerine is also the only bank we’ve found to open donation channels right from the app during times of emergency, which is certainly something great to have.

Tangerine Everyday Usage Score: 10/10

#4 Interface And Usability

In this category, Tangerine runs into some rocky soil. We’ve found that Tangerine is rather strict when it comes to letting users customize their own spending since it doesn’t let users set their own spending/withdrawal limits from the app.

It also doesn’t have a feature to easily split bills/share expenses with friends, or track online subscriptions. However, Tangerine does let users open sub-savings accounts, called goals, in order to facilitate saving for a particular goal either of either short or medium length, which is neat.

Tangerine Interface And Usability Score: 4/10

#5 Mobile App Functionality

Tangerine has one of the better-developed apps, which shows through the functionality it offers. This online bank is one of the few that lets users toggle both local and foreign recurring payments.

On top of that, new Tangerine users can sign up in less than 10 minutes, which is super quick when compared to traditional account opening times. Although, when it comes to the meat of Tangerine’s app, people still seem to want more out of what it already offers, which is denoted by the app’s score on popular app stores. Tangerine manages a score of 4.3/5 in the Apple App Store and 3.6/5 starts in the Google Play Store, which means that it still has some issues that need fixing.

Overall, Tangerine’s mobile app scores as the 4th highest-rated online bank app, just behind STACK, EQ Bank and KOHO.

Tangerine Mobile App Functionality Score: 8/10

#6 International Usability

Tangerine manages to find its ground yet again here due to some exclusive features to it. First of all, Tangerine is the only online bank we reviewed that offers to open an account in another currency besides, specifically USD.

On top of that, Tangerine’s card can be used anywhere where VISA is accepted while at the same time having access to VISA’s ATMs abroad.

All of this makes it a very solid contender for foreign spending if it weren’t for those hefty foreign transaction fees…

Tangerine International Usability Score: 7/10

#7 Customer Support

This is the category where we found that Tangerine beats all other banks. Not only offers all three main support channels, in-app chat, phone lines and email, but its support agents are the most responsive we dealt with.

Phone lines don’t take longer than 5 minutes to be answered and surprisingly, Tangerine responded to our emails only after 1 hour, which is the fastest time we recorded.

If good customer support is something you’re looking for in a bank, then Tangerine is probably the best in-store.

If you want to experience good support personally, you can reach Tangerine through the following channels:

  • Phone: 1-888-826-4374 (Within Canada)/ 416-758-3139 (Outside of Canada)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Support chat: In-app/Website.

Tangerine Customer Support Score: 10/10

#8 Security & Regulation

Due to being part of Scotiabank, Tangerine counts with the same regulation and insurance provided by CDIC. This means that Tangerine is directly regulated by the CDIC, and all eligible deposits in it are insured for up to $100,000.

Regarding security features, Tangerine lets users reset their card PINs right from the app, and the signing-in process can be configured with biometric authentication. However, users can’t freeze/unfreeze their cards through the app if it gets lost, which can be a hassle to do with other methods.

In terms of credit score, Tangerine does perform a soft credit check for both savings and chequing accounts. But, it will perform a hard credit check if the user applies for any overdraft/credit features.

Tangerine Security & Regulation Score: 9/10

#9 Savings/Premium Benefits

Here’s where we got into some polemic features of Tangerine, specifically interest. The first thing to note here is that yes, Tangerine users earn interest on their account balances.

However, Tangerine’s approach to interest is somewhat akin to restaurants luring customers with big neon signs while serving them what could be considered… not the best food. It works like this:

New users will earn 2.1% interest calculated daily and paid monthly both on savings and chequing accounts. Great, right? However, this superb interest rate is only promotional and will only apply for the first 5 months. After that, the interest rate will decrease down to 0.10% for chequing accounts and 0.15% for savings accounts, the lowest out of all Canadian online banks we reviewed.

Tangerine does earn some extra points here because it offers cash back, but only if you apply and are approved for the Money-Back Mastercard credit card.

Tangerine Savings/Premium Benefits Score: 5/10

#10 Extra Features

Here’s another category where, again, Tangerine outclasses all other online banks we reviewed. Here’s a full list of the extra features that make Tangerine outshine most other online banks:

  • Getting paid early through Direct Deposits
  • In-app network ATM finder
  • Being able to overdraft the chequing account (Once users have applied and have been approved)
  • Overdraft protection that can waive fees (if paid on the same day the account was overdraft)
  • Being able to trade ETFs
  • Having the second highest-earning referral program out of the banks we’ve reviewed.

All of those are nice features to have that most other banks don’t, especially trading and over-drafting an account. However, the really important one to mention is Tangerine’s referral program which works in the following way:

  1. Both the referrer and the referral will earn $50 each
  2. Referrals will need to fund their account with at least $250 within 60 days of opening an account
  3. Users can only refer 3 friends per calendar year (Maximum earnings of $150 per year).

This makes Tangerine’s referral program the second-highest earning program out of all the banks we reviewed, just behind Simplii Financial’s program.

Tangerine Extra Features: 10/10

Now let’s talk about our next bank in question:

Simplii Financial Review: Breakdown

#1 Domestic Fees

Simplii Financial starts strong by having no monthly fees whatsoever nor needing a minimum balance required in order to keep its account open. On top of that, Simplii Financial also offers free ATM withdrawals in Canada on all CIBC ATMs, of which there are around 3,400 countrywide, if not, a $1.5 fee will apply. It’s also worth noting that savings accounts can’t withdraw from ATMs.

On some of its bad points, Simplii Financial charges $4.97 per card replacement, even though its 1st yearly replacement and the delivery of the cards are free. Simplii also charges inactivity fees, but only after 2 years of inactivity, which will run for $20 each year after the account is considered inactive.

Simplii Financial Domestic Fees Score: 8/10

#2 International Fees

Here’s where we get into Simplii’s first rough patch, but also one of its most important features. Simplii Financial is one of the only online banks in Canada that can send international money transfers, aside from EQ Bank, but these are free.

However, that unique feature is somewhat overlapped by Simplii’s very hefty foreign fees. For foreign ATM withdrawals done on any non-CIBC-ATMs, Simplii Financial charges $3. For any foreign spending transaction, Simplii charges a base 2.5% fee, the same which is charged on foreign exchange.

However, when it comes to foreign exchange, Simplii Financial bears a unique feature where users can buy foreign currency from the app and receive it later at any local Canada Post. This helps users who like to plan in advance so they can get the currency of where they’re travelling to weeks in advance.

Simplii Financial International Fees Score: 5/10

#3 Everyday Usage

Here’s another rocky road for Simplii due to a lack of some features we consider crucial for online banks. These features are mainly categorizing transactions, showing spending insights and having real-time spending notifications.

Aside from that, Simplii features most other common features like being able to use Apple Pay, and Google Pay and being able to deposit cash, but only at CIBC ATMs.

Simplii Financial Everyday Usage Score: 4/10

#4 Interface And Usability

When it comes to having a fluid interface, Simplii Financial doesn’t quite do its job perfectly at all. It's the bank we found to have fewer features to customize spending. It's lacking in features like setting spending and withdrawal limits from the app, sharing expenses/splitting bills and online subscription tracking.

The only feature that Simplii has is being able to open a sub-savings account, which is quite important but doesn’t make up for the lack of others.

Simplii Financial Interface And Usability Score: 4/10

#5 Mobile App Functionality

Simplii Financial gets to another rough patch here thanks to its mobile app not being developed as well as others. It lacks features like toggling local and foreign recurring payments from the app, and its app isn’t the best in terms of ease of use. Simplii Financial garners a score of 3.0/5 in the Apple App Store and 3.9 stars in the Google Play Store, which are average scores at best.

It’s also worth noting that signing up for Simplii Financial usually takes longer than 10 minutes due to its approval process and its CIBC roots, which require more thorough verification.

Simplii Financial Mobile App Functionality Score: 4/10

#6 International Usability

There are a few things to mention in this category when it comes to Simplii Financial. First, Simplii is the highest-scoring Canadian online bank in terms of international usability. As we had mentioned earlier, it’s the only bank that can send international money transfers without any fees. It’s also the one that has the biggest international ATM network thanks to Visa’s PLUS, Interac and CIBC ATMs.

Simplii’s card can also be used internationally anywhere where Visa is accepted, so there are no real compromises to Simplii’s foreign usability.

Simplii Financial International Usability Score: 10/10

#7 Customer Support

Simplii Financial performs excellently in this category as well due to the fact that it has one of the most responsive support agents out there. They offer all the main support channels, which are support chat, phone lines and email. Email takes around 2 days to answer any queries and they’re rather thoughtful at their job, even if they could be a bit faster.

Support is also knowledgeable and easy to reach through phone and chat, which is always a must for online banks.

If you want to get in touch with Simplii Financial's representatives, you can do so via the following channels:

Simplii Financial Customer Support Score: 9/10

#8 Security & Regulation

Since Simplii Financial is associated with CIBC, this means that Simplii is also regulated and insured by the CDIC. In this case, the CDIC makes sure that all eligible deposits inside Simplii Financial are insured for up to $100,000.

However, Simplii lacks some other security features, like being able to freeze/unfreeze debit cards from the app and not being able to reset card PINs from it either, only from CIBC ATMs. Simplii does let users configure signing in with biometric login authentication, which is more convenient and safe for its users.

Another aspect that hinders Simplii’s score is the fact that the bank performs a hard credit check whenever any user applies for it, regardless of the product.

Simplii Financial Security & Regulation Score: 4/10

#9 Savings/Premium Benefits

It’s always nice when you can do more with your bank account, especially if you can earn without doing too much. However, Simplii didn’t keep this in mind when creating its account offering.

According to our scoring metrics, it ranks as the 7th, out of 8 banks in total, in terms of interest earned in account balance. Simplii Financial users will only earn 0.20% on their balances, only followed by Tangerine after its initial promotional interests are gone.

Although, it’s also worth mentioning that Simplii does offer cash back if users apply for the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa credit card, which has the following cash back rewards:

  • 4% Cash back in restaurants, bars and coffee shops
  • 1.5% on gas, groceries and drugstores
  • 0.5% on all other purchases

Overall, Simplii offers low interest, cash back exclusive to a credit card and doesn’t offer partner discounts either, which doesn't bode well for its performance as a savings account.

Simplii Financial Savings/Premium Benefits Score: 5/10

#10 Extra Features

Simplii Financial does get back up on its own two feet here because it offers features that are worth having a hard credit check. The main feature that Simplii Financial offers is overdraft and overdraft protection; its overdraft protection goes up to $5,000 and only with a minimum NSF of $4.97 per overdraft charge.

It’s worth noting that having a Simplii account overdrawn will incur a 19% interest rate on all overdraft balances, something that’s always worth keeping in mind.

Aside from that, Simplii Financial also allows Direct Deposits to be set up and features an in-app network ATM finder, which can help users avoid fees when abroad.

Now onto what’s probably the most important part of this category. Simplii offers the single highest possible earning referral program out of all online banks we reviewed. The biggest benefit to it is that users are not limited only to registrations, rather there are other promotions as well that take advantage of referrals

Here’s a bit more on that:

  • Main referral program: Referrers can earn $50 per friend referred (referrals will also earn $50 upon registration) with a maximum of 10 friends per year. Referrals will only need to fund their accounts with at least $100 and keep that balance for 60 consecutive days.
  • Promotion #1: $25 on the first order of foreign cash with a referral link
  • Promotion #2: $25 on the first Global Money Transfer with a referral link
  • Promotion #3: $50 on the first Global Money Transfer by using the “GMT50” promo code.

We scored all referral programs with how much money they could make with up to 5 referrals, of which Simplii users can earn up to $250 without any of the promotions mentioned. But the best part has to be the fact that the referral limit resets each calendar year, which means that users can earn up to $500 each year.

Simplii Financial Extra Features Score: 8/10

Tangerine Or Simplii Financial?

When recommending a certain product, here at Yore Oyster we always strive to really give you the best advice. This is why we always give a final recommendation comparing the products we talked about. So, here's our final take on both banks:

As we had mentioned before, Simplii Financial has to be one of the online banks with the flashiest features. However, these make it look better than it really is, since we consider it to be a bank that misses some of the fundamentals of online banking in terms of its mobile app and saving features.

Overall, Neo is the most solid online banking option for Canadians as of today. It manages to merge most of the benefits of traditional banking with the conveniences of online banking while keeping great fees, a lot of versatility and solid service both in and outside Canada.

It's definitely the biggest, broadest and more complete online bank in all of Canada.

If you're deciding between Simplii Financial and Tangerine, we definitely recommend Tangerine. Even though they're pretty similar, Tangerine manages to keep a steady performance on both its rewards and the fundamentals of online banking, which makes it a more solid institution from an overall perspective.

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