Choosing a financial institution

Identifying the financial products and services you need

Before you choose a financial institution, identify the products and services you need. This may help you determine which type of financial institution best meets your needs.

Some financial institutions offer many products and services. Others specialize in specific products and services.

Learn more about choosing financial products and services that are right for you.

Deciding if you want all your products and services with one financial institution

You may prefer to have all your products and services with one financial institution. There may be pros and cons.



Learn more about protecting your financial information in the event of a data breach.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to qualify for products or services at any financial institution. Examples of these products and services include credit cards, loans, lines of credit and mortgages.

You may not qualify for all the products and services a financial institution has to offer. You may need to choose a different financial institution for a specific product or service.

Types of financial institutions

There are many types of financial institutions in Canada. There are also companies offering products and services, like investment services and payday loan companies.

Each type of financial institution and company may offer different products and services and they may serve specific purposes.

The following are examples of types of financial institutions and companies.


Banks are financial institutions that provide a range of products and services. Examples of products and services include savings and chequing accounts, loans, mortgages and investment products.


A cooperative is organized and operated, and carries on business, on a cooperative basis. There are different types of cooperatives in the financial sector. Some examples of cooperatives include credit unions and Desjardins credit unions (caisses populaires Desjardins).

Credit Unions

A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative that provides a range of products and services. Examples of products and services include savings and chequing accounts, loans, mortgages and investment products.

Unlike banks, credit unions’ members actively participate in the governance of the institution.

Desjardins credit unions (caisses populaires Desjardins)

Desjardins credit unions (caisses populaires Desjardins) are part of the Desjardins Group, a cooperative financial group. Like other credit unions, they offer a range of products and services to their members.

Other cooperatives

Apart from credit unions, there are other types of cooperatives in the financial sector, such as cooperative insurance companies. They also operate based on a cooperative ownership model.

Loan companies

Loan companies specialize in providing various types of loans. Examples of types of loans include personal loans, car loans, small business loans and payday loans.

Learn more about loans.

Trust companies

Trust companies provide a variety of financial services, including estate planning and investment management. They also offer fiduciary services.

Examples of services include trustee and executor services, powers of attorney, investment management and employee benefit plans.

Mortgage companies

Mortgage companies specialize in providing mortgages and mortgage-related services. Examples of mortgage companies include mortgage brokers and mortgage investment corporations (MIC).

Mortgage brokers

Mortgage brokers are financial professionals. They connect borrowers with mortgage lenders such as banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. They also facilitate the mortgage application process. Unlike most other mortgage companies, they work with all types of borrowers.

Mortgage investment corporations

Mortgage investment corporations buy and sell mortgage loans. They often work with borrowers who may not qualify for a mortgage with a financial institution.

They operate by investing in mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. They raise capital from investors and use it to fund mortgages. Investors in mortgage investment corporations earn returns through interest payments made by borrowers.

Learn more about mortgages.

Insurance companies

Insurance companies specialize in insurance products. Examples of insurance products include insurance for your home, car, life and health.

Insurance companies might also offer investment and savings products.

Learn more about insurance.

Securities firms

Securities firms facilitate the buying and selling of securities. They offer investment advice and manage investments. Examples of securities firms include brokerage firms, mutual fund dealers and investment dealers.

Learn more about investments by visiting your securities regulator’s website.

Consumer protection

Before you choose a financial institution, make sure you understand the level of consumer protection it offers. Consumer protection includes your rights when dealing with a financial institution or company.

For example, the level of consumer protection may impact:

There are different levels of consumer protection for different financial institutions. It depends on their regulatory body.

Learn more about federal oversight bodies and other regulators.

Federally regulated financial institutions

Federally regulated financial institutions are incorporated or registered at the federal level. They may operate in any province or territory in Canada. They are typically larger and have a broader range of products and services than other types of financial institutions.

Examples include:

Find out if the federal government regulates a financial institution.

Federal oversight bodies and regulators ensure that these financial institutions comply with federal laws and regulations. This helps to ensure that these institutions are in sound financial condition and meet specific requirements.

This contributes to a safe and sound financial system in Canada. These laws and regulations also protect your rights and interests when dealing with a financial institution.

Learn more about the oversight of Canada’s financial system.

Learn more about how the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada helps protect your banking rights.

Provincially and territorially regulated financial institutions and companies

Other financial institutions and companies are registered or incorporated at the provincial or territorial level. They must usually operate within the province or territory where they’re registered.

Many of these financial institutions and companies offer a variety of products and services. These are often like those provided by federally regulated financial institutions.

Examples of provincially and territorially regulated financial institutions and companies include:

Each province and territory has their own regulators that oversee financial institutions and companies. They also oversee most investment products and services. The laws and regulations may vary from one province or territory to another.

Learn more about provincial and territorial regulators.

Deposit Insurance

Deposit insurance protects eligible deposits, up to a certain limit, if your financial institution fails. This provides a level of security for your deposits.

Most federally regulated financial institutions, such as banks, are members of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). CDIC insures eligible deposits for up to $100,000 at each member institution, for each type of deposit.

Learn more about coverage and categories of deposits.

If your financial insitution is not federeally regulated, your deposits may be protected at the provincial or territorial level. Deposit insurance plans vary from one province or territory to another. Contact your provincial or territorial deposit insurer or your financial institution to find out how your deposits are protected.

Learn more about deposit insurance.

Fees and interest rates

Compare financial institutions’ fees and interest rates for the products and services that meet your needs.


Financial institutions set the fees they charge for their products and services. These fees can vary from one financial institution to another and may change over time.

They may include:

Use the Account Comparison Tool to compare bank account interest rates, monthly fees, transaction fees and services.

Use the Credit Card Comparison Tool to compare credit card interest rates, annual fees, rewards and other features.

Interest rates

Financial institutions set the interest rates for their products. This includes products where you pay interest, like mortgages, loans and lines of credit.

They also set the interest rate for products where you earn interest. In these cases, the financial institution pays you interest on the money you keep in your account. Examples include savings accounts and certain types of investments products.

Learn how interest rates work.

The Bank of Canada’s policy interest rate typically influences the interest rates set by financial institutions.

Learn more about the policy interest rate on the Bank of Canada's website.


When choosing a financial institution, consider how you like to access your products and services.

Access to branches and automated teller machines (ATM)

If physical access is important to you, choose a financial institution with convenient branch and ATM locations. There may only be a limited number of branches available where you live. Larger financial institutions often have branches and ATMs across the country.

Online access

If you prefer digital banking, look at the quality of the financial institution’s online and mobile banking services. Consider things like ease of use, security features and mobile app ratings.

Learn more about your rights and responsibilities when banking online.

International access

Consider if a financial institution has an international presence. This may be important to you if you need to make international transactions. It may also be important if you require access to ATMs and services while abroad.

Other considerations

There are other factors to consider when choosing a financial institution.

Customer service

Financial institutions generally determine their customer service policies and guidelines.

Research for the financial institution’s customer service reputation. You may read reviews and ask friends and family for recommendations. You may even visit local branches to see if financial institutions’ employees are helpful and responsive.

Integration of services

Financial institutions may offer direct deposit for government benefits and tax refunds. This may be helpful if you need access to your money right away or if you don’t have access to a branch.

Financial institutions may also offer access to the first $100 when you cash a cheque.

Learn more about cashing a cheque.

Technology and innovation

Larger financial institutions may have more resources to invest in advanced technology and digital services. They may offer enhanced online banking experiences, such as mobile apps and other technological conveniences.

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