5 Best Credit Unions in Ontario: A Better Way To Bank In 2022

As of 2022, about 70 credit unions are operating in Ontario. Most of these are smaller in size compared to the Big Five, 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 centered around the financial wellbeing 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!

Best Credit Unions in Ontario

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

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: Best Overall

Meridian: Best Overall

Location: Ontario-Wide
Banking: Personal and Business
GIC Rates: High

Meridian 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.

They offer a full-fledged line of products and services to their members in both personal and business banking fronts; a variety of chequing and savings accounts, credit cards, loan products, investment options, insurance, and mortgages.

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

Meridian 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 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 microloans 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 wellbeing 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 available

Unlike most credit unions in Ontario, Northern Credit Union serves the northern part of the province with more than 28 branches.

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 their 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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Check Out These Posts:

3 thoughts on “5 Best Credit Unions in Ontario: A Better Way To Bank In 2022”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply

Leave a Comment