Alterna Savings Credit Union is arguably one of Canada’s largest credit unions. The credit union is the second largest outside of Ontario. It is only surpassed by Meridian Credit Union.
Alterna Savings, which is notably the first outside of Quebec, provides numerous services and products to its customers for many years.
This review will not only discuss the services and products but will also cover the activities of the credit union’s subsidiary, Alterna Bank. Alterna Savings is also much more localized than Alterna Bank.
Credit Unions operate within a specific community and as such decision making is pretty much done at a local level. This makes operations faster and smoother than that of the bank that operates all over the country.
Credit Unions like Alterna Savings have great social reputations. They are involved in community projects either by volunteering staff for projects or providing financial assistance. Banks are known to do this too, but not on as frequently as credit unions.
Let’s get started.
Founded in 1908, Alterna Savings has managed to amass for itself a large sphere of influence. The credit union has more than one hundred and sixty thousand (160000) members, a total of 35 branches in Ontario, and gathered over $8 billion in forms of assets that it manages.
These mergers include:
A merger with Ottawa Women’s Credit Union in 2013
A merger with Nexus Community Savings in 2016
A merger with Toronto Municipal Employee’s Credit Union (TME Savings) in 2018
A merging with City Savings and Credit Union in April 2019
With these mergers and thanks to the Exchange Network, members, of Alterna Savings and Credit Union are given access to more than 3700, surcharge-free ATMs all over Canada.
Alterna Bank – A Subsidiary Of Alterna Savings
When listing Canada’s most popular online banking institutions, Alterna Bank is one of the first come to mind. Alterna Bank is a child company of Alterna Savings and Credit Union. It is responsible for all digital operations of the company.
Moreover, It operates entirely online and provides Alterna’s customers with numerous possible options that make online banking very easy. Alterna through this Bank provides its members with impressive interest rates. The bank is also CDIC insured.
Alterna bank boast of access to the same 3000 ATMs its parent company has thanks to the Exchange Network. You don’t have to walk too far to make a withdrawal or use any other ATM service.
Furthermore, the bank is not only available online, but on mobile devices too. You can carry out your transactions, transfers, and payments all on your phone.
Alterna Bank Accounts
Alterna Bank comes with some impressive featured accounts, which include
No Fee e-Chequing Accounts: Alterna Bank offers the chance to open an account that comes with no fees attached to it in any way. This means you don’t have to worry about minimum balance requirements, transaction limits, and Transfer limits. The accounts offer an interest rate of 0.05% and come with overdraft protection that’s available for $2.50 each month.
High-Interest Savings Account (HISA): This account comes with unlimited transfers, deposits, withdrawals, and Interac e-Transfers. There is also no limit on transactions done with this account, even debits. No minimum balance requirements and comes with an interest rate of 1.05%. Interest earned with this account is regarded as part of the holder’s taxable income.
Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA): This account works like any regular tax-free account. It has no minimum deposit to open requirements. All deposits and withdrawals on this account are unlimited.
TFSA accounts come with contribution limits. They also allow all stocks, savings, and mutual funds to grow tax-free.
Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP): The Registered Retirement Savings Plan is designed for retirement plans. It is registered with the government and comes with tax benefits and contribution limits. These savings accounts offer customers a 2.35% interest rate. It also has no minimum balance requirements or minimum limits on contribution.
Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs): A term deposit that locks the investment for a certain agreed length of time is a GIC.
Alterna Bank GICs
Alterna Bank’s GICs gain incredible interest rates. The terms range between one to five years and interests depend on the terms of the deposit.
If you want to buy a GIC with Alterna, you will require a minimum deposit of $500. There is a $500000 deposit upper limit though. The interests can grow by placing them in a Retirement Savings Plan or in a TFSA.
Interests grow tax-free in TFSA or RRSP. This is why most customers are advised to place their interests in such accounts rather than others seeing as GIC interests are taxable otherwise.
Why Should You Pick Alterna Bank?
There are many positives about Alterna Bank that make using its services worthwhile.
The bank not only offers the best interest rates but also gives flexibility on accounts that most other banks don’t give. You will not have to worry about additional or hidden fees when performing your transactions.
The bank is also readily accessible on the go. You can open an account with no worry of minimum deposits or monthly fees, in simple terms you can operate an account on little to no budget. Their exceptional interest rates are also enough reason to choose to bank with them.
Alterna Bank also lets you link your accounts with other accounts that you might have in other institutions. This allows for stress-free and seamless “Me-to-Me” transfers.
If you are a Canadian who prefers to handle things on their own, then Alterna Bank is a very good choice for you. There might not be any physical Alterna Bank branches, but you can as well visit an Alterna Savings branch for any issues you might have.
Alterna Savings Vs. Alterna Bank – What’s The Difference?
While both the parent company and the digital online bank seem to provide the same services, such as banking and assistance in planning for retirement, there are a few differences between the two.
For one, Alterna Savings is a credit union and not a bank. You become a member by buying a part of the shares. Once you buy a share, you officially by all means become a member and have a say in the operations of the union.
Opening An Alterna Savings Account
Opening an Alterna Savings account is pretty straightforward. As long as you meet their requirements, you can even open an account online (www.alterna.ca for more info). You can also visit a branch office near you or make use of their mobile hotline 1-877-560-0100.
The requirements for opening an Alterna Savings account are
You must be an Ontario resident
You must be 18 years old or more
You must possess a valid social insurance number
You must also buy an equity share for members. This will allow you to own a stake in the Credit Union as well as vote in on future decisions. Equity shares cost about $15.
Banking with Alterna Savings is easy. Once you have opened an account, you can choose to perform transactions online or by visiting their branches. Some people even choose to perform their transactions through the telephone.
If you are looking for an Alterna Savings branch, there are 33 branches in Ontario. This includes areas in the Greater Toronto Area, Kingston, and North Bay.
Online services are available on the company website or through the Alterna Savings mobile app. The app is available on both iOS and Android devices.
You can reach Alterna customer care on the following numbers; 613-50-0100 (Ottawa) 416-252-5621 (Toronto) 1-877-560-0100 (Toll-free). You can call Mondays to Fridays from 8 am to 8 pm and on Saturdays, from 9:30 am to 4 pm.
Alterna Savings Membership
Alterna Savings is also decidedly more transparent than its digital online bank. Credit unions hide nothing from their members and the general public. Reports and updates on the union’s activities are regularly published and made available for anyone who is interested.
Thanks to its physical presence, Alterna Savings is also more customer-friendly than the bank. It is more likely to resolve customer complaints than the online bank. These customer services are also extended to their digital arm as support.
Alterna credit union also offers a broader list of services and more competitive benefits than its banking arm. These services are manifested in the form of mutual funds, insurance products, financial planning assistance and much better investment options,
A look at Ontario’s credit unions reveals that most unions reinvest a sizeable portion of their profits into the company. This is geared towards improving member benefits and conditions such as providing more no-fee accounts and better access to banking facilities. If you compare this to the bank’s capabilities, you will find it somewhat lacking.
I would like to point out that the credit union’s access to a large number of ATMs is a major benefit of using their services. It is this service that extends to its online digital banking arm that makes it also quite dependable. As I earlier mentioned, you can use any of Alterna Savings’ ATMs without worrying about hidden or extra charges, as they are all surcharge-free ATMs.
How Safe Is Alterna Savings?
Using the services of Alterna is a very safe venture. The company is a member of the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO). This membership translates to all deposits that Alterna handles being insured for up to about $250000 for each member.
This insurance also covers interests and dividends. Any deposits that are held in registered accounts are insured with no limit.
Take note though, deposits and investments held in foreign currency are not insured by DICO.
Alterna Savings Accounts
Alterna Savings allows customers to open two kinds of accounts decided by their needs, Personal and Business accounts. Each Alterna Savings account comes with different bonuses and interest rates.
When you open a chequing account with Alterna Savings, you get to pick from three packages; Basic, Value, and Unlimited packages.
The Basic package comes with a price tag of $4 per month. This fee is waived if you have a minimum balance of $1000. You also get access to 20 “free” transactions and all e-statements are free, though you do have to pay $1.50 for paper statements.
The Value package comes with a $10 per month price tag. There is no waiver on this account package, but it includes 35 “free” transactions, 50 cheques per year, and free American Express Traveler’s cheques.
The Unlimited package is priced at $14 per month. It comes with unlimited transactions, unlimited Interac e-transfers and a free ATM Interac withdrawal per month (this is free if you have a $1500 minimum monthly balance)
The Unlimited package also comes with free traveller’s cheques, a free bank draft or certified cheque per month
Personal Chequing Account
Personal chequing accounts also come in special packages that are available for specific customer sets.
These special packages include the Student Chequing account, Youth Start Package, Pay As you Go and 59+ Club.
Student chequing account: There is no monthly fee on this account and there is no minimum balance requirement. There are also unlimited and free transactions each day. The student chequing account also comes with unlimited Interac e-Transfers, two free ATM Interac withdrawals each month.
Youth Start Package: This account is designed for members who are 18 and below. There is no monthly fee on this account and it comes with thirty free transactions each month. Account statements of this package are also free.
Pay As You Go: This account does what its name suggests. You pay for each transaction that you carry out. There is no monthly fee attached to this account.
59+ Club: As the name suggests, this offers benefits to those 59 and above. A discount applies to the three initial package types. Basic Chequing comes free of charge, The Value package is charged at $5 and the unlimited package is $7.
Personal Savings Account
A personal Alterna savings account would earn up to 0.10% if it is a Daily Interest Savings account and up to 1% if it is an Investment savings account.
Borrowing With The Alterna Savings Personal Account
They offer credit cards such as Alterna Savings Cash Back Visa Card, Centra Visa Gold Card, Visa Classic Card, FlexRate Visa Card, Visa Infinite Card, Student Visa Card, Travel Rewards Visa Gold Card and US Dollar Visa Card.
Each credit card type comes with its bonuses and terms.
Alterna Savings Credit Cards
Alterna Savings Cash Back Visa Card: There are no annual fees attached to this credit card. There is a 19.9% interest rate attached to it and you earn a point for every dollar you spend with this card. These points are doubled if you are paying for gas. There is also purchase protection and the warranty is extended alongside mobile device insurance.
Alterna Savings Centra Visa Gold Card: This credit card comes with a $0 annual fees. Its interest rates are about 9.9% and you earn a point for each dollar you spend. There is also auto rental collision loss insurance, protection for accidents, purchase protection, and extended warranty on this card.
Alterna Savings Visa Classic Card: This comes with a $30 annual fee and an 11.9% interest rate. The card also comes with purchase protection, mobile device insurance, and extended warranty.
Alterna Savings FlexRate Visa Card: This card has a $40 annual fee. It comes with a variable interest rate of about 15.9%. You can also earn a point for each dollar you spend. It also has purchase protection, extended warranty, and mobile device insurance.
Alterna Savings Visa Infinite Card: A $120 annual fee comes with this card. It has a 19.9% interest rate along with several travel insurance benefits. There is also insurance coverage for auto rental collision or loss. Unlike the other cards, you earn 2 points for every dollar spent. This card also comes with purchase protection as well as extended warranty.
Alterna Savings Student Visa Card: this comes with a $0 annual fee. It has an 11.9% interest rate. The card also has purchase protection, mobile device insurance, and extended warranty
Alterna Savings Travel Rewards Visa Gold Card: There is a $99 annual fee attached to this card. It is best for frequent travellers as it comes with travel insurance benefits. It also has a 19.9% interest rate. This card earns you a point per dollar spent, 2 for foreign currency transactions, and comes with purchase protection and extended warranty.
Alterna Savings US Dollar Card: There is a $50 annual fee on this card. It has a 19.9% interest rate and comes with travel insurance as well. It comes with purchase protection, extended warranty, auto rental collision or loss insurance and earns you a point with Alterna Savings for every US Dollar spent.
Alterna Savings Investments and Insurance
Alterna Savings allows its customers to invest using term deposits inside registered (RRSP, TFSA, RESP, and RRIF) and non-registered accounts. You can read all about it here.
Insurance coverage is available thanks to CUMIS and Allianz Global Assistance Canada.
Alterna Savings Business Chequing Accounts
The Business chequing accounts also come in Basic, Value packages. The Unlimited Package is replaced with a premium package.
Business Basic comes with a $10 per month fee and covers 15 transactions
Business Value has $28 per month and covers 50 transactions
Business Premium has a $55 per month and covers 100 transactions
Alterna Savings and Credit Union business accounts also have special account types. These special account types include,
Business Prestige: $100 fee per month and covers 200 transactions
Business Pay As You Go: $5 monthly fee and you pay per transaction
CHIP chequing account: has reduced service fees and this account type earns interest
Community Plus Chequing Account: Specifically for incorporated non-profits
US Dollar Lawyer’s Trust Account
Visit www.alterna.ca for more information on these account types.
Business Savings Account
A Business Daily Interest Savings account will earn you around 0.1% and affords you 2 free transactions per month.
A Business Investment Savings Account earns you about 1% interest. These rates were the current rates as of the trading period of September 2019.
Business Financing and Investments
Alterna Savings also provides protections for overdrafts, mortgages, credit cards specifically for a business, micro-financing, and letters of credit.
The possible business cards that Alterna Savings could provide your business with include
Alterna Savings Collabria Visa Infinite Business Card
Alterna Savings Collabria Low Rate Visa Business Card
Alterna Savings Collabria No Fee Cash Back Visa Business Card
As a business member with Alterna, you can access investment assets like mutual funds and brokerage services via Qtrade Advisor, and term deposits.
Alterna Savings Credit Union is indeed a very large one. Its services and expertise in the financial industry are not easily ignored, if you decide to use their services, you can rest assured that you are giving your money to an experienced manager.
The company seems like it will only continue to grow. Most customer reviews are also in good light and as such, I personally believe that banking with Alterna Savings and Credit Union will a brilliant experience for anyone.
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- Alterna Savings Credit Union is arguably one of Canada’s largest credit unions
- Alterna Savings also provides protections for overdrafts, mortgages, credit cards specifically for a business, micro-financing, and letters of credit
- Alterna Savings is also decidedly more transparent than its digital online bank
- Meridian offers competitive interest rates as well, so do check that out
- Also, Meridian is the largest credit union in ON, so there is something they are doing right
Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.