There were recently some additions to ING Direct Canada, with new products being added. I thought I'd share this.
First, ING Direct now offer low-fee mutual funds in Canada. Although the selection is quite small (only 3 funds are offered), this adds another low-cost option for investors. All funds are diversified, with different profiles based on risk tolerance (Balanced Income, Balanced, Balanced Growth). This is straightforward index investing, with assets spread across 4 indexes (Canadian Bonds, Canadian Stocks via the TSX 60, US Stocks via the S&P 500, and International Stocks via the MSCI EAFE) with only the proportion invested in each index changing based on the fund selection. MERs are only 1%, and there are no other fees. A variety of account types can be opened (non-registered, RSP, RIF and TFSA).
Second and more important, ING Direct has announced that it will soon offer no-fee checking accounts (called Thrive). Basically, all transactions (bill payments, cheque writing, email money transfers). The account even has a small NSF protection of $250 built-in. Canadian Capitalist has a good review of the products, and Million Dollar Journey ran a comparison with PC Financial no-fee checking account, which is the reference right now in Canada.
I've looked closely at ING Direct's Thrive accounts, and the only drawback that I can see is that after the first 20-cheque booklet, you have to pay a fairly steep price for new paper cheques ($10 for 20 cheques) while they are free at PC Financial. Everything else is free, including EMT (email money transfers), which cost $1.50 at PC Financial.
But PC Financial is not available in Quebec, whereas Thrive will be!
So I signed up for the preview for the account, which will start on September 14th. Although at first I was disappointed with the cost of additional cheques (cheques for my current day-to-day account cost about half of what ING will ask for), I figured I could use this account to pay for many of my online bills, which will reduce the strain on the number of transactions in my main account.