Wealthsimple Cash review: Hybrid accounts, FinTech, and what it means for you

Wealthsimple, the 5-year old online investment service, has introduced Wealthsimple Cash, which is being branded as a hybrid chequing and savings account with a 2.40% interest rate.

Wealthsimple Cash is the evolution of Weathsimple Save (originally called Wealthsimple Smart Savings, launched in partnership with EQ Bank). It is technically, as of today, mostly a savings account with an updated interest rate, but promises that some key chequing account features are coming soon.

The interest rate would rank well on our high interest savings comparison chart; it would be tied with Outlook Financial behind LBC Digital (3.30%), Motive Financial (2.80%), EQ Bank (2.45%), and MAXA Financial (2.45%).

Note that Wealthsimple Cash cannot be held inside a TFSA or RRSP. It is also not CDIC insured, although the deposits are stored at 2 of the 6 Canadian Big Banks — Wealthsimple declines to mention which ones specifically — and are CIPF insured.

Hybrid account: is it chequing or savings? It’s both!

Once the chequing account features are added, Wealthsimple Cash will be a hybrid chequing and savings account — designed so that you can do all of your day-to-day banking and savings needs in one account. This way, you don’t have to manage cash flow between the chequing and savings accounts, or worry about holding large minimum balances in order to avoid chequing acccount fees.

Currently, the other main competitor in the “hybrid account” space is the EQ Bank Savings Plus Account, which was originally a Wealthsimple Save partner. EQ Bank not-so-coincidentally increased its hybrid account interest rate from 2.30% to 2.45% 2 days after the Wealthsimple Cash announcement, in order to top Wealthsimple Cash’s 2.40% interest rate by 0.05%.

Wealthsimple Cash is a no-fee account with no minimum account balance. It will soon include bill payments and free Interac e-Transfers. After that, there are some differences in features between Wealthsimple Cash and EQ Bank.

Weathsimple Cash supports joint accounts, which are apparently coming soon to EQ Bank.

You’ll be able to make purchases and ATM/ABM withdrawals (with ATM fee reimbursements) with Wealthsimple Cash’s Prepaid Visa card (made of tungsten, as it appears to be trendy to have metal cards) rather than a traditional debit card. It won’t charge you a foreign currency exchange transaction fee if you make purchases in US dollars for example. (It’s a Visa after all, and there are quite a few pure credit card options that also waive the forex fee.) Although not quite the same, EQ Bank has its own forex partnership with TransferWise for sending money internationally.

FinTech and why you should care

Wealthsimple has been touted as one of the great examples of FinTech in Canada. But is the definition of “financial technology” actually important to you? When EQ Bank talks about moving their core banking system to the cloud, is it as good as they say it is?

Wealthsimple Cash and the EQ Bank Savings Plus Account are branded as a different type of account. However, while EQ Bank is a Schedule I Bank, Wealthsimple is not. It’s up to you to decide whether the lack of technical CDIC coverage at Wealthsimple is a deal breaker.

What is clear is that FinTech is helping to accelerate innovation in personal banking. 91% of Canadians believe that “banking has become a lot more convenient because of new technologies”. Wealthsimple Cash’s Prepaid Visa will be implemented in partnership with Peoples Trust, using a similar setup that Peoples Trust already has with the KOHO Visa and Stack Mastercard. Both of those cards have an offering that waives foreign currency exchange fees, and offer rewards such as cash back. KOHO even has a 2.00% savings account that is not CDIC-insured and that is “offered by Canadian ShareOwner Investments Inc” — a company owned by Wealthsimple.

Wealthsimple has been steadily adding to its offerings, including its commission-free stock trading platform Wealthsimple Trade and its recent acquisition of SimpleTax, one of the most used tax return software. This is helping to make more Canadians aware of FinTech’s reach, even though the Big Banks play a part in some of the offerings and still hold 90% of assets.

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