Banking in Toronto is merely a subset of banking in Canada. With over 2 million people living in Toronto and over 100 banking institutions, each with countless branches and automated bank machines to serve their needs. Banking in Toronto can be described as extremely accessible and International in nature.

Banks are divided into three main categories. These include domestic specific, domestic with international branches, and foreign banks with Canadian branches. Among these are institutions specifically for lending, as well as two Government owned banks.  

The Five major Canadian banks known as the ‘Big Five’ are:

  • TD/Canada Trust (Toronto Dominion/Canada Trust) 
  • BMO (Bank of Montreal) 
  • Scotiabank 
  • RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) 
  • CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)

Major offices for these banks are strategically located in the financial district of downtown Toronto. Each of these lending and savings institutions are housed in its own architecturally designed skyscraper, lending itself to the beautifully diverse skyline that is distinctly Toronto.

Bank Rates

The bank rates are determined by supply and demand of the Canadian currency and the current economic situation of the country.  These rates generated by the Bank of Canada and put forth to the banking institutions on eight set dates yearly.  This rate is referred to as the “overnight rate”. As its name suggests this rate is the interest rate suggested to banks for lending money.

The overnight rate in Canada as announced on September 8th, 2010 is 1% (Bank of Canada).

Banks base their lending fees or interest rates as they are commonly referred to on the prime rate, plus or minus a percent.  Depending on the length of loan term, the risk evaluation of a borrower, and/or amount of money borrowed, this interest rate can vary with each loan.  Each banking institution sets its own scale or rate; however upon overall evaluation of the borrowers credit worthiness, the end result is fairly similar between lending institutions.

Another interest rate set by the Bank of Canada assists in the rate of return a banking institution will offered to its customers.  Each bank will market themselves with an edge, but again the final result of each banks rate of return is very similar.  Customers often base their decision on quality of service offered, their previous experience with the institution, and their proximity to the local banking institutions branch.

Often a banking institution will promote a marketing strategy in hopes of gaining market share.  A prize or reward may be offered to customers opening new accounts with a minimum deposit and a minimum length of term without penalties or fee’s.  This may attract someone to close his or her accounts at one bank and switch to another.

In recent years many of the banking institutions have extended their hours in order to serve the busy lifestyle of Toronto residents.  There has been a trend towards improved customer service.  Some institutions open as early as 8:00 am and stay open as late as 8:00 pm Monday through Sunday.

There are banking branches offering treats and beverages to their customers as they enter the facility.  Often there are incentives and bonuses for utilizing the services of a particular institution.  This has led to competition among the various institutions in ways of competitive interest rates, lowered fees, and offering a chance to win money and prizes for opening accounts with a specified minimum balance and length of term.

Banks Cards and Automatic Teller Machines

Bank machines operate on a variety of cards distributed by each bank and generalized facilities known as the ATM (Automated Teller Machine).  Access to funds in any bank is accessible through the ATM machines as well as bank specific machines.  There is often a fee for use of this service that varies by financial institution and the balance in one’s account. 

Bank machines are accessible through bankcards that are issued by the banking institutions.  Many are located inside a foyer or vestibule of bank branches; along with locations in malls and busy tourist hotspots.  A bankcard will allow access through a computerized screen via a ‘pin’ or Personal Identifications Number. 

There are security cameras found in the general vicinity of these machines for safety and monitoring.  There is also a maximum amount allowable for withdrawal in order to ensure funds for an optimum number of customers during regulated periods.  It is a wise precaution to keep the screen and your typing hand covered so as not to expose your pin to the camera and others nearby. 

Foreign Exchange

Among the banking facilities in Toronto there are cheque cashing services and Foreign Exchange organizations that will allow travelers to access Canadian funds in exchange for foreign currencies carried by travelers.  

Foreign Currency

For Canadians seeking foreign currency these banks and exchange organizations are able to assist in converting funds to most foreign currencies.  Sometimes this may require pre-ordering of the foreign currency being sought ahead of time.  

Money Orders

The various banking institutions in Toronto also issue Money Orders and Travelers Cheques.  Again, there is often a fee for this convenience based on the amount of currency involved and the customer relationship with the institution.  Travelers’ Cheques and money orders are generally as accepted as cash anywhere in Toronto.  

Credit Cards

Toronto banks also issues credit cards among other financial organizations.  Depending on the offer there may fees and the interest rates may vary depending on the institution and the customer relationship with the institution.

Although much of the day to day banking can be done online or via ATM which involves very little human contact, as noted earlier, there has been a trend towards improved customer service.  Most banks have 24 hour call centers.  The automated banking centers have access to support services via call centers across the country.  Specific account questions may not be addressed however general assistance can be offered.  

Should one need to wire money to foreign destinations the banking institutions as well as specific organizations are available to facilitate this need.  Again, there is a fee calculated based on the amount of currency being transferred, the exchange rate to the destination, and of course the customer relationship to the institution if any.

Banking in Toronto is a very accessible service, including assistance offered to those not familiar with the local banking policies.