Alterna Bank Review 2024: A Hidden Gem Online Bank

Personal banking is becoming more digitalized with every passing year. Fewer and fewer people are walking into a branch bank these days.

Alterna Bank is a good example of a completely digitalized bank. As a subsidiary of Alterna Savings and Credit Union, they’ve got the values of a credit union coupled with the low fees of a digital bank.

Offering fully digitalized mortgages and specialized small business banking solutions, they are a strong competitor against other digital banks out there.

In this Alterna bank review, we’re going to go over its features and offerings, go over their governance and safety, and compare them to other digital banks in Canada.

Our Verdict
Alterna Bank Review

Alterna Bank

Digital bank with personal and business banking products

Alterna Bank is a good option to complement your existing day-to-day banking

  • Great day-to-day banking features such as a no-fee chequing account and high-interest savings account
  • Low fees overall
  • Offers business banking and financing
  • Offers a fully digital mortgage
  • Safe and reliable
  • Values-based and transparent
  • Does not currently offer a credit card
  • Does not offer the highest interest rate on their high-interest savings account

About Alterna Bank

Alterna Bank is a national digital bank. Wholly owned by Alterna Savings and Credit Union Limited, it offers a variety of personal banking products as well as mortgages, investment options and business accounts.

Going over their products and website in general, it’s clear to me that their credit union roots give this bank an edge in terms of community values and innovative products that cater to people as much as they do to profits.

For instance, they offer small business banking services specifically designed for the cannabis industry and pioneered Canada’s first fully digital mortgage.

Whether you are looking for day-to-day banking services, a brand new or transferred mortgage, investment services or business banking, Alterna Bank has options. Let’s dive into what these are and whether they are right for you.

What products does Alterna Bank offer?

Let’s go through Alterna Bank’s offerings into specific categories. Note that Alterna Bank currently does not offer a credit card. If you are looking for a digital credit card to complement your digital bank account, check out the Best Virtual Credit Cards In Canada.

1. Personal Everyday Banking

In the personal banking category, Alterna Bank offers some solid options. With a fee-free chequing account, high-interest savings account, and a variety of registered and non-registered investment products, you can divide up your money in a way that best suits your needs.

No-Fee eChequing Account

This account actually made it to my top 10 no-fee bank accounts in Canada, which you can find here. It offers great services with absolutely no costs; no hidden fees or minimum balances. Let’s go through some of its other features.

  • No monthly banking fees with no minimum balance
  • Free, unlimited daily transactions: withdrawals, Transfers, Interac e-Transfers, Me-to-Me Transfers, Bill Payments, Cheques, Pre-authorized payments, Debit card payments, Alterna and THE EXCHANGE Network ATM withdrawals and transfers
  • FREE, unlimited Interac® e-Transfers
  • Overdraft Protection is available for $2.50 a month + interest (calculated and debited monthly to your account)
  • 0.05% annual interest rate accrued

If you live in Ontario, you get access to all of Alterna Savings and Credit Union’s branches and ATMs, which can give your account the flexibility of a digital/in-person hybrid. Everywhere else in Canada, you have access to over 3,300 ATMs in THE EXCHANGE® Network completely free.

Travelling to the United States? This account also gives you access to 40,000 ATM’s through the Allpoint Network, free. If you are paying fees for your current chequing account, Alterna’s No-Fee eChequing Account is a great option to save you money.

For more details on this account and information on account opening and verification, go here.

High-Interest eSavings Account

Alterna Bank’s High-Interest eSavings Account offers a great interest rate. Higher rates like these are usually only offered by digital banks such as this one, so it’s worth checking out. Let’s go through its full account features.

  • High-interest rate on every dollar in your account
  • Free, unlimited bill payments, transfers and debits
  • Free, unlimited Interac® e-Transfers
  • No minimum balance

Contemplating what savings account to open? Check out this article that outlines the Best High-Interest Savings Accounts In Canada.

Registered savings accounts 

TFSA, RRSP and RRIF accounts with Alterna Bank offer a great base interest rate, much like their high-interest savings account. But that’s not all.

All of Alterna Bank’s investment options are also available as non-registered products, in case you have already hit your contribution limits or are not looking for registered products at the moment. For Alterna’s rates and full investment options, go here.

2. Mortgages at Alterna Bank

Alterna Bank was the first in Canada to offer a 100% digital end-to-end mortgage. In addition to the online convenience, they also offer good rates on their variable and fixed-rate mortgages, which can be found here.

Alterna Bank mortgages also have some attractive characteristics that you might want to check out: they allow annual payments of up to 20% of your original mortgage balance and waive closing legal fees to $800. All in all, I think this mortgage is worth checking out if you are on the market.

Please note: Alterna mortgage products are not available to the residents of Quebec.

3. Alterna Business Banking Options

Alterna describes their digital small business banking options as having simplicity, speed and ease. They offer a Small Business eChequing Account, loans and lines of credit, and payment processing options.

Their lines of credit run anywhere from $500 to $300,000 and are offered in partnership with Thinking Capital. They state on their website that you can get your pre-approval in a matter of minutes, and even have the funds in your account as quickly as 24 hours.

Their business chequing account comes with good features, which are:

  • Zero monthly fee with a minimum daily closing balance of $3,000 throughout the month (otherwise, a $5 monthly fee)​
  • Free unlimited electronic debit and credit transactions
  • Unlimited incoming Interac e-Transfers
  • 6 free outgoing Interac e-Transfers per month

For more information on Alterna’s business banking solutions, go here.

4. Investment Products

Alterna Bank offers a range of investment options, including Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) investment options. These investment products provide a safe and secure way to grow your money over time.

Alterna Bank also offers a range of mutual funds that you can buy for those accounts.

Is Alterna Bank Safe?

Alterna Bank is held accountable to the same rules and regulations as are other Canadian financial institutions under FINTRAC, The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

Furthermore, Alterna Bank is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), which means that your deposits under Alterna Bank, combined with deposits held at Alterna Savings and Credit Union, are protected for up to $100,000.

CDIC is free, automatic, and backed by the Government of Canada.

Alterna Bank also has a section on their website relating to the steps that you can take on your end to ensure that your online banking is safe and secure. To view those tips, along with what the bank is doing to ensure your privacy, go here.

​​Who Owns Alterna Bank?

Alterna Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alterna Savings and Credit Union Limited, the first full-service and member-owned financial co-op outside of Quebec. As a financial arm of Alterna Savings, the Bank has had its roots in the community since 1908.

Is Alterna Bank the Same As Alterna Savings?

Alterna Bank is not the same as Alterna Savings. As a customer of Alterna Bank, however, you are automatically a member of Alterna Financial Group, which includes Alterna Savings.

Alterna Savings is a credit union (a financial co-operative) and Alterna Bank is governed as a digital-only, for-profit bank. You can have accounts at both of these institutions and they will be separate because the way that banks and credit unions are governed is inherently different.

The bottom line is that Alterna Bank and Alterna Savings are two separate entities. Alterna Savings has been around since 1908 as an Ontario credit union and holds the newer, digital Alterna Bank as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Alternatives to Alterna Bank

As mentioned, Alterna Bank is a fully digital institution. There are, however, other digital banks in Canada such as EQ Bank and Tangerine. Let’s see how they compare to Alterna Bank in their features.

Alterna Bank vs. EQ Bank

EQ Bank Logo

EQ bank is a digital bank with its headquarters in Toronto. Their front-runner product, in my opinion, is their Savings Plus Account which has a great high-interest rate (currently 2.50%) and no fees. Some of its other features are:

  • Free unlimited Interac e-Transfers® (to send and receive)
  • Free bill payments
  • The convenience of virtual international bank transfers (powered by Wise)
  • No NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) chargeback fees for returned items (ex. cheque deposit with non-sufficient funds)
  • 4 possible joint account co-holders (including Primary Account holder)
  • Mobile Cheque Deposit

In terms of investments, registered products, and borrowing, EQ Bank has options as well.

Where they differ from Alterna Bank is that they lack small business banking and financing options, as well as the option to have separate, designated chequing and savings accounts (EQ Bank only offers one product that is a hybrid of the two.) Depending on how you like to bank, either could be a good option.

Alterna Bank vs. Tangerine

Tangerine is a very good digital all-rounder in my opinion. Chequing and savings accounts, mortgages, business banking, investments, credit cards, lines of credit, HELOCs, registered products, give you the opportunity to keep all of your banking digital and in one place.

If you are looking to switch your banking to online completely, I believe Tangerine is a good place to start. However, if you’re simply looking to open a digital account to complement your existing day-to-day banking, Alterna’s community-based values and straightforward products could be the way to go.

Digital Services and Mobile App

Alterna Bank is a fully digital bank, which means that all of its services are available through its website and mobile app. The bank’s digital services are user-friendly and intuitive, making banking easy and convenient for customers.

Online Banking

With Alterna Bank’s online banking, you can manage your accounts, pay bills, transfer funds, and more. The online banking platform is secure and easy to use, and it allows you to access your accounts from anywhere at any time. You can also view your account balances and transaction history, set up alerts, and manage your account preferences.

Mobile App

Alterna Bank’s mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. The app allows you to access all of the bank’s services, including account management, bill payment, and fund transfers.

You can also deposit cheques using the app’s mobile deposit feature, which makes banking even more convenient. The app is user-friendly and easy to navigate, and it is regularly updated to ensure that it remains secure and up-to-date.

Digital Mortgage

Alterna Bank offers a fully digital mortgage process, which means that you can apply for a mortgage online, without ever having to visit a branch. The bank’s digital mortgage process is fast and convenient, and it allows you to complete the entire mortgage application process from the comfort of your own home.

The online application process is easy to navigate, and you can track your application status in real-time using the bank’s online portal.

Customer Service

Alterna Bank provides customer service through phone, email, and live chat. You can call their customer service line at 1-866-560-0120 to speak with a representative.

Their customer service team is available from Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM ET and on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET. Alternatively, you can email them at [email protected] or use their live chat feature on their website.

Customer Reviews and Feedback

Here’s what people are saying about this online bank.

Positive Reviews

Many customers rave about Alterna Bank’s high-interest savings accounts and no-fee chequing accounts. Customers appreciate the convenience of online banking and the ability to manage their finances from anywhere. The bank’s mobile app is also highly rated for its ease of use and helpful features.

Other positive reviews highlight Alterna Bank’s excellent customer service. Customers report that the bank’s representatives are knowledgeable, friendly, and responsive to their needs. The bank’s website is also praised for its user-friendly interface and helpful resources, such as financial calculators and budgeting tools.

Negative Reviews

Some customers have reported issues with Alterna Bank’s online banking platform, including slow loading times and difficulty navigating the website. Others have experienced delays in processing transactions or have encountered technical glitches.

A few negative reviews also mention that Alterna Bank’s product offerings are limited compared to traditional banks. While the bank offers a range of personal and business banking products, some customers have noted that they would like to see more options, such as credit cards or loans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Alterna Bank a good choice for credit cards?

Alterna Bank does not currently offer credit cards. As an online bank, their focus is on providing competitive rates on savings and chequing accounts, as well as personal and business loans.

How does Alterna Bank’s mobile app compare to other banks?

Alterna Bank’s mobile app is highly rated and offers many features that are comparable to other banks. You can view account balances, transfer funds, pay bills, deposit cheques, and even open a new account right from the app. One unique feature is the ability to set up savings goals and track your progress towards them.

What are the differences between Alterna Bank and Alterna Savings?

Alterna Bank is the online subsidiary of Alterna Savings, which is a credit union with physical branches in Ontario. While both institutions offer similar products and services, Alterna Bank is focused on providing digital banking solutions and does not have any physical branches.

What are some reviews of Alterna Savings’ mortgages?

Alterna Savings offers a variety of mortgage products, including fixed and variable rate options, as well as mortgages specifically designed for self-employed individuals. Reviews of their mortgage products are generally positive, with customers praising their competitive rates and personalized service. However, as with any financial product, it’s important to do your own research and compare options before making a decision.

Conclusion – Alterna Bank Review

I’m a fan of the products that Alterna has to offer. They seem to operate transparently and with a customer-first mindset that is attractive.

Digital banks are surely up and coming in Canada these days, with what feels like a new option popping up every year. And frankly, online and digital is the direction that personal banking is heading. I hope that this Alterna Bank was helpful for you.

If you would like to check out more banking tips, head here.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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