9 Best Credit Unions in Ontario: A Better Way To Bank In 2024

As of 2023, about 70 credit unions are operating in Ontario.

Most of these are smaller in size compared to the Big Five banks in Canada, with some only serving a very specific demographic or geographic area in the province.

I have quite a bit of experience working for credit unions in Canada and prefer them over banks for various reasons.

I know profit is important, but credit unions also have to care about their members, who are also shareholders, at the bare minimum.

This makes most credit unions equally centred around the financial well-being of their members as well as their bottom line, which is fantastic.

This may sometimes mean that there are fewer branches to visit, but you will be getting highly personalized financial services and advice from most of them, making them an attractive option.

Today’s post will go through the five best credit unions in Ontario. With so many different ones in the province, they all do something best, such as no-fee accounts or business banking. Let’s get started!

Some (Fun) Facts About Credit Unions

Before diving into the list of best credit unions in Ontario, here’s a list of five things you may not have known about credit unions in Canada. You should keep them in mind when going through the list, as these facts apply to all of them.

  • To be served by a credit union, you must buy at least a single share of the company. This might be valued at $1 or more. You can buy more, up to a specific limit, and maybe paid annual dividends based on the company’s performance.
  • Nearly all credit union members in Canada have access to thousands of “ding-free” ATMs across the country through THE EXCHANGE and ACCULINK networks. That means you have access to more ATMs than you would even with the biggest Canadian banks!
  • Credit union members can vote in Board of Directors elections and attend the organization’s Annual General Meetings (AGM).
  • Believe it or not, your money may be safer in credit unions than in Canadian banks. Most Canadian banks offer a $100,000 deposit insurance on your account balances, whereas credit unions usually have $250,000 or even unlimited insurance, depending on the province and type of account (for example, registered or non-registered). This means that in the unlikely case that the credit union goes under, you can have $250,000 of your deposits, or more, back.
  • There are almost 6 million credit union members (aka shareholders) in Canada. That means nearly 1 in 6 Canadians are taking part in cooperative and values-based banking!

All in all, we’re all for the cooperative and value-driven nature of credit unions. The following list can help you narrow down your options if you’re an Ontarian.

Best Credit Unions in Ontario

Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions. Many people will confuse them with banks, but the reality is that a credit union’s governance system is significantly different than that of a bank.

Apart from the difference in governance and profit structures, most Canadian credit unions offer similar financial products and services as banks. 

Here are the best five in Ontario based on products, services, and values.

1. Meridian Credit Union: Best Overall

Meridian: Best Overall
  • Location: Ontario-Wide
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: High

Meridian Credit Union is the largest credit union in Ontario and the second largest in Canada (after Vancity in BC), with more than 85 branches across the province.

It offers a full-fledged line of products and services to its members on both personal and business banking fronts; a variety of chequing and savings accounts, credit cards, loan products, investment options, insurance, and mortgages.

Its members have the option to do their banking online, mobile app, or telephone banking.

Meridian is insured by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario and is great for those looking to have all or most of their banking needs met by one financial institution.

Their larger size and wide range of products mean that you don’t have to spread out your needs between multiple banks and credit unions.

They also have a large emphasis on community as an organization, with hundreds of thousands of dollars being donated to local organizations each year.

At Meridian, you can get similar products to Big Banks with a personal touch while supporting your local community.

Meridian Credit Union is also the owner of Motus Bank, a digital bank launched in 2014. Unlike Meridian, you do not have to be an Ontarian in order to sign up for their services.

You can sign up for Meridian here.

2. Alterna Savings and Credit Union: Best for Business Banking

Alterna Savings
  • Location: Ontario-Wide
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Low

Alterna Savings is the third-largest credit union in Ontario and one of Canada’s top 10 credit unions.

As the first full-service, member-owned financial coop outside of Quebec (which is known for its caisses populaires), they have been serving their community for more than 110 years.

Alterna has been a leader in credit union banking and has had many “firsts” in the country; they were the first credit union to offer micro-loans to the underserved members of their community, the first credit union to introduce a national digital bank (Alterna Bank) and the first to provide services to marijuana-related businesses in Canada.

Although Alterna Savings may not have the best-guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) rates, their business banking offerings are fantastic.

They have catered services for different types of organizations, such as not-for-profits, community businesses, and even the cannabis industry.

They also offer payment processing services that are rare to find with most credit unions.

All in all, we would recommend Alterna Savings to you, especially if you are looking for business banking solutions with an emphasis on community wellbeing.

After all, the success of your local business is inextricably related to the well-being of your local community.

3. DUCA Credit Union: Best for No Fee Banking

DUCA Credit Union
  • Location: Southern Ontario
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Medium

DUCA was founded by Dutch immigrants to Toronto in 1954 with a founding belief of “profits with a purpose.” They’ve made this list because they offer some of the best no-fee banking accounts by Ontarian credit unions.

No fee banking is usually associated with digital banks in Canada.

However, DUCA’s regular chequing account boasts absolutely no monthly fees, free deposits and withdrawals, free EFTs and bill payments, free Interac transactions, and free money transfers.

They’ve also got free student and retiree chequing accounts with even more free features.

In addition to their low-fee banking, DUCA is also incredibly value-driven – so much so that they are the first-ever B-Corp-certified credit union in Canada.

Their “DUgood community philosophy” leads them to fight poverty, grow good ideas, and fight for financial inclusion.

If you’re a member of them, we recommend you put in suggestions regarding environmental initiatives, too. Banks and credit unions have tremendous power to lead climate action with their sheer financial power.

4. Northern Credit Union: Best for Northern Ontario Residents

Northern Credit Union
  • Location: Northern Ontario
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Unavailable on the website, market-linked GICs are available

This credit union operates 28 branches, and Northern Credit Union serves the northern part of Ontario.

Apart from their geographical advantage, they also offer sound financial advice, chequing and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and loan products.

They also offer business products to their members, such as business accounts, loans, credit cards, and payment solutions.

They also have catered services for agricultural businesses, which is very relevant given the geographical service area of the credit union.

If you’re looking for personalized agricultural banking in Northern Ontario and want to bank with an organization doing good in the community, this credit union could be for you.

5. FirstOntario Credit Union: Best for Credit Cards

FirstOntario Credit Union
  • Location: Hamilton and Oakville 
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Medium

FirstOntario credit union’s most attractive offering is its cashback Visa credit card. As you spend, you earn 2 points for every $1 spent on gas, 1 point for every $1 spent on entertainment, and 0.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

You can redeem your points on things such as merchandise, gift cards, charity donations, and more.

But that’s not all; they also offer an “Infinite” credit card with exclusive privileges and even more points received per dollar spent, a travel points credit card, and a US dollar credit card.

FirstOntario has been serving its members since 1939 (although it has gone through several mergers before becoming FirstOntario.) They’ve got more than 120,000 members and deep roots in their community in and around Hamilton.

You can find a whole list of credit unions in Ontario on Central 1’s website.

6. Libro Credit Union

  • Location: London and southwest Ontario
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Not posted

Like DUCA, Libro Credit Union was founded in the early 1950s by Dutch immigrants. Today, the London, Ontario-based financial institution operates 31 branches throughout southwestern Ontario and has over 103,000 members.

This financial cooperative offers a wide array of banking solutions, ranging from chequing and savings accounts to mortgages, business loans, and investment products like RRSPs and TFSAs.

In addition to conventional banking services, they also offer customized business solutions, catering specifically to entrepreneurs and small enterprises.

Libro is also very involved in bettering its members’ communities. Through initiatives like the Libro Prosperity Fund, the credit union actively invests in community development projects, financial literacy, and youth leadership.

Best Local Credit Unions In Ontario

The benefit of banking with a larger credit union is that you’ll have access to an extended network of branches and ATMs, which can make it easier to access your funds, especially if you travel frequently.

However, there’s also a lot to be said for working with a small, local credit union in your town. You’ll be able to build a personal relationship with the bankers and may also be able to directly participate in community initiatives to help your small city or town.

7. Bay Credit Union

  • Location: Thunder Bay
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Excellent

Thunder Bay has seen a steady influx of new residents thanks to its steady job market and affordable cost of living. If you live in the area, Bay Credit Union offers three branches and is definitely worth looking into.

The financial institution offers a comprehensive lineup of financial products, including savings and chequing accounts and credit cards, as well as mortgage and loan options tailored to individual needs.

Personal banking aside, Bay Credit Union also offers several business banking solutions, ranging from business accounts to loans and even payment processing services.

Notably, they offer specialized services that cater to the region’s agricultural and fishing industries.

8. Oshawa Community Credit Union

  • Location: Oshawa 
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Not posted

Located in the Toronto suburb of Oshawa, this credit union has over 139 five-star reviews and has developed an excellent reputation in the local community.

In addition to investment options like GICs, RRSPs, and personal bank accounts, Oshawa is one of the few credit unions in the GTA to offer estate and trust services, which really makes them stand out.

Oshawa Credit Union is also one of the few credit unions I’ve seen that offer personalized lines of credit for students. This could help you fund your education at lower interest rates than you’d pay to traditional student lenders.

The credit union also offers business banking solutions and has special offerings for local sports teams and commercial real estate.

9. Parama Credit Union

  • Location: Etobicoke 
  • Banking: Personal and Business
  • GIC Rates: Medium

Founded shortly after World War II, Parama Credit Union has two branches and serves over 6,000 members in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke.

Operating out of Royal York and Roncesvalles, Parama offers a diverse range of financial products for both personal and business needs. From essential savings and chequing accounts to competitive loan and mortgage options, Parama has its members covered

The credit union also offers several investment options for members, including GICs, registered RRSPs and TFSAs, as well as direct investing through QTrade.

What is the largest credit union in Ontario?

The largest credit union in Ontario is Meridian. They currently serve over 370,000 members, have more than $28 billion in assets under administration, and employ nearly 2000 staff members.

With more than 89 branches and 15 business banking centres across the province, they are a big financial force in Ontario and Canada at large.

Are Ontario credit unions safe?

Yes, Ontario credit unions are safe. The credit unions in this province are regulated by The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), which means that their non-registered deposits are insured up to $250,000, and their registered deposits have unlimited coverage.

The FSRA is an independent regulatory body that was developed to enhance consumer and pension plan beneficiary protections within the province of Ontario.

As of 2022, the agency regulates more than 296 insurance companies, 4,817 regulated pension plans, 61 credit unions and caisses populaires, and many other financial organizations.


Best Credit Unions in Ontario

Credit unions are a safe and convenient method of banking, and there are several good options in Ontario.

Depending on your banking needs and your geographical location, you can buy a share, get great financial service and become a part of the cooperative movement in Canada. 

Reading up on Ontario? Check out the 12 Best Places To Retire In Ontario.

Photo of author
Selin is a seasoned personal finance and sustainable banking expert with several years of experience working in Canadian credit unions, both in the branch networks as well as the head office. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, she's also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers youth community and is either working with kids or travelling when she is away from her computer.

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8 thoughts on “9 Best Credit Unions in Ontario: A Better Way To Bank In 2024”

  1. I’m looking to divest from the big bank I’m currently using because they fuel the climate crisis (search for the 2023 report “Banking on climate chaos”). I know it’s a drop in the bucket, but it makes a difference to me and my family.
    How do I find out if the credit union I’m considering invests in fossil fuel development or infrastructure like the big banks mentioned in the report?

  2. Hi, very helpful article, thank-you! I’m looking to choose a Credit Union that has strong ties to the communities they serve, especially ones close to Durham Region East of Toronto where I live, but also ones that aim to be politically open and neutral.

    So for those Credit Unions in my area, is anyone able to comment on which ones (if any) have an organizational culture that promotes/prioritizes activism on the more hotly debated subjects on the one hand, and those which are known to be more neutral
    where they clearly prioritize operating as soundly as possible as a financial organization for the communities they serve.

    I don’t at all mind the organization getting involved in various charitable activity, so long as it’s not along wedge issues that tend to divide the population. For example organizing to clean-up local parks and greenspaces, planting native trees and plant species, is great… almost everybody finds that favorable. Helping to fund and organize after school programs for kids of any background is great.

    Any bit of information is helpful, thanks for considering!

  3. Sorry for the long post, but this is something I find important and am having trouble finding information on. I’m looking to bank with a credit union or small independent bank that is consciously resisting being pulled into the gravity-well of contemporary politics and ideology… somewhere focused on sound administration foremost, serving the community and bringing it together in as non-divisive a way as possible. I feel a sense of responsibility that the place I support with my capital is not one that’s likely to cave to pressure from the outside, or be vulnerable to agitation from within by zealous employees who think the institution needs to “take a stand” on any issue of the culture war, or even just outwardly representing themselves as Allies to some cause out of fear of being accused of being part of the problem for not advertising their support.

    I love how Credit Unions are focused on the more local,
    on community development, and not first and foremost profit-oriented. I’d love if they do fundraising to bring people in the community together to plant trees, cleanup rivers and setup erosion protection to aide the salmon-run. I believe that going forward, we need to build more community amd get away from over reliance on centralization. I’d be glad for that, but I wouldn’t want to find out their idea of helping the environment is giving money to consultants to visit public schools to promote Stakeholder Capitalism and warn of the looming Climate Catastrophe unless we stop using or producing energy that on net adds CO2 to the atmosphere.

    It’s not that I have no overlapping concerns or interests in common with Progressive causes. Rather, what concerns me is something in the deep code of how the Progressive movement sees the world and operates that I think is too likely to lead to critical errors without detection and self-correction and be too prone to purity-spiral and lead to authoritarian policies.

  4. Nice article, but a quetion, if I may? Could you do an analysis of which credit unions invest their funds in the derivatives market, vs those that do not. As that market is the biggest bubble on the planet, it should be factored into which credit union one chooses.

  5. Good Morning.
    I have a question regarding Credit Unions.
    With the Government freezing bank acct’s.
    Do the credit unions have to follow suit?
    Thank you.

    • I would think you should be OK because they were federal mandates, whereas credit unions are governed provincially. ie. no jurisdiction. I would ask the branch to make sure but I’m looking to make the switch also for that reason! Good luck


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