How To Choose Between Canada’s Five Major Banks?

How To Choose Between Canada’s Five Major Banks?

Written by Veronica Ott
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 23, 2021

The Big Five is a term coined to describe the five largest banks in Canada. They are as follows: 

  • CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
  • BMO (Bank of Montreal)
  • RBC (Royal Bank of Canada)
  • TD Bank (Toronto-Dominion Bank) 
  • Scotiabank (Bank of Nova Scotia)

Together, these banks hold over $5.4 trillion dollars in total assets and have a market capitalization of $399 billion dollars. The Big Five banks all have headquarters in Toronto and are among the 100 largest banks in the world. If you’re interested in banking with one of the Big Five, check out the information below. 

Overview Of Canada’s Five Major Banks

Below is a summary of Canada’s five largest, most major banks. You may have seen their name or logos in the city, town or region in which you live. 

Total Assets (in CAD billions)1,428.941,415.291,086.16852.20639.72
Market Capitalization (in CAD billions)




# of Branches1,3551,1651,0409391,100
# of employees74,000+85,000+89,000+47,000+42,000+

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Royal Bank Of Canada

The largest Canadian bank, RBC holds over $1.43 trillion dollars in total assets and has a market cap of $131 billion dollars. It also has the most branches and ATMs across Canada with more than 1,300 physical branches and over 4,200 ATMs. Founded in 1864 as the Merchants Bank of Halifax, the bank has a long-standing history in the development of Canada primarily through their financing of the lumber and timber industries. Today, RBC employs over 85,000 employees who serve more than 16 million clients worldwide.

Toronto-Dominion Bank

TD Bank was created when the Bank of Toronto and The Dominion Bank merged in 1955. It is the second-largest bank in Canada with total assets of $1.42 trillion dollars and a market cap of $109 billion dollars. TD offers its services to 22 million clients worldwide with more than 89,000 full-time employees. There are over 1,100 physical branches and 2,600 ATMs in Canada. Considered one of the safest banks in the world, TD has a credit rating of AA- from Fitch and S&P Global Ratings.

What are the Canadian bank institution numbers? Check them out here.

Bank Of Nova Scotia

The Bank of Nova Scotia which operates under the name Scotiabank is the third largest bank in Canada with total assets of $1.09 trillion dollars and a market cap of $67 billion dollars. Founded in 1832 in Halifax, the bank moved its headquarters to Toronto in 1900. Currently, Scotiabank serves over 25 million customers worldwide and employs more than 89,000 full-time staff. There are over 900 branches across Canada and Scotia has earned high praise for its comprehensive digital platform.

What happens to my bank account after I die? Find out here.

Bank Of Montreal

Bank of Montreal is the fourth largest bank in Canada with $852.2 billion dollars in total assets and a market cap of $47 billion dollars. Founded in 1817 with an institution number of 001, BMO is the oldest bank in Canada. They are well known for having one of the longest dividend payment histories in the world and have never missed a payment, even during the World Wars and the Great Depression. Today, BMO offers its services to more than 12 million customers worldwide and employs more than 45,000 people on a full-time basis. There are more than 900 physical branches across Canada.

Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce

In 1961 the Imperial Bank of Canada and the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged in what was the largest merger between Canadian banks to create the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce or CIBC for short. CIBC is the fifth-largest bank in Canada with just under $640 billion dollars in total assets and a market cap of $41 billion dollars. They have over 45,000 full-time employees who serve more than 11 million clients globally. In Canada, CIBC has over 1,100 physical branches and 3,000 ATMs.

Benefits Of Banking With Canada’s Big Five

As a Canadian financial institution, each of the Big Five banks is backed by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), which is a federal crown corporation that guarantees customer deposits of up to $100,000. Their customers benefit from a wide array of financial products and services as well. 

To serve such a large client base, these banks offer customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist with any problems or questions that may arise when physical branches are closed, customers are abroad or otherwise need service. Additionally, these banks have a very wide network of branches and ATMs for the convenience of their customers.

Check out how you can get a bank account in Canada for cheap or free. 

Drawbacks Of Banking With Canada’s Big Five

Although the Big Five are the most popular banks in Canada, there are others that offer services that the Big Five don’t. Smaller banks and credit unions tend to offer lower fees to entice customers to switch over. These banks also tend to have an easy to use and comprehensive online platform to allow customers to manage their finances from the comfort of their home. 

Also, the Big Five banks are known for providing some of the lowest interest rates in the industry for savings accounts. There are many online and direct banks that offer a higher interest rate and lower fees than the Big Five. 

Click here to find out the secrets your bank doesn’t want you to know. 

How To Choose A Bank Account Between Canada’s Five Major Banks?

Each of the Big Five banks has its own strengths and weaknesses that appeal to different customers. For example; RBC has the widest network of physical branches and ATMs, TD is rated the safest bank in North America, Scotiabank offers its clients an industry-leading digital platform, BMO has significant advantages for certain groups like students and CIBC offers a mobile banking platform that is the best in Canada.

Click here to find out your Canadian Bank Institution Number.

Ultimately, you’ll need to determine what’s important to you when you’re banking and find the bank that suits your needs. When evaluating which bank to go with, here are some typical points of consideration:

  • Branch And ATM Access. Knowing which bank has a better network of ATMs in your area will allow you to have greater accessibility to your money. Additionally, each bank has different policies regarding ATM charges when withdrawing at locations out of their network. For those that prefer to conduct their banking activity at physical branches, it is important to evaluate which bank has the most convenient locations and hours.
  • Fees And Interest Rates. Recurring and incidental account fees vary from bank to bank, so it’s important to consider which institution’s policies are the most favourable to your banking habits. Although interest rates tend to be fairly low amongst the Big Five banks, some will offer a higher interest rate on savings accounts when a certain balance threshold is met.
  • Minimum Deposit And Balance Requirements. Some banks may waive monthly account fees when certain balance thresholds are met or when you bundle products. You should take into account your budget and estimated monthly expenditures to minimize account fees and unnecessary charges, such as overdraft fees or transaction charges.
  • Online Banking. Although each of the Big Five banks offers online and mobile banking, some are more comprehensive than others. It is also important to consider whether the features on each of the mobile banking apps are suitable for your everyday needs. 
  • Perks. Certain banks offer perks and rewards for new customers so be sure to check what the current promotions are to capitalize on signup bonuses.

Banking With The Big Five

The Big Five banks provide a high level of security as well as convenience for their customers. However, they tend to feature interest rates and fees that are less competitive than those offered by smaller banks. Be sure to evaluate all the different factors and offerings from each institution to select a bank that best suits your needs.

Rating of 3/5 based on 22 votes.

Veronica is a writer who specializes in creating unique and educational personal finance content. She has extensive experience writing blog posts for companies in the financial sector. Veronica's background is in accounting as she graduated from Western University in 2017 with a degree in accounting. She is passionate about using her accounting expertise to help others with their personal finance questions and issues and enjoys using her writing to educate Canadian readers. When Veronica is not writing, she enjoys film, reading, travelling, going to the gym, and listening to music.

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