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Fair Penalty Lenders: Which Lenders Have the Lowest Mortgage Penalties?

Which lenders have the best (lowest) mortgage prepayment penalties?

It’s a question we’re asked continually. So we’ve now created a list of them.

If you want to know if your lender will treat you fairly (i.e., charge you a reasonable penalty for breaking your mortgage early), read on.

What’s a “fair penalty?”

Check the mortgage penalty before you agree to any rate.

A fair penalty is a mortgage prepayment charge that reasonably compensates the lender for you breaking your mortgage contract before maturity.

That contrasts with lenders that charge more punitive penalties. In other words, penalties that are much higher than the lender’s true losses (from you breaking the mortgage early).

Despite that, most borrowers give barely a thought to penalties. That’s a mistake. The difference between “fair” and “unfair” penalties can amount to thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars—especially on big mortgages.

All too often, someone will crow about saving 10 basis points off their rate ($944 of interest over five years on a standard $200,000 mortgage), only to pay a $2,000 higher penalty when they break their mortgage to refinance or move. Remember: It’s total borrowing cost that matters, not just the interest rate.

The List

So now that you know what’s at stake, here’s a list of Canada’s most common fair-penalty lenders:

Check the fine print to find lowest mortgage penalty lenders.Some Caveats

This is an inexhaustive list and primarily includes higher volume mortgage lenders. If you’re aware of others, let us know and we’ll add them to this list.

If you see a major lender not on this list, it likely does not have favourable penalty calculations. This includes all the big banks.

Note also that the above list applies only to:

  • fixed-rate mortgages
    • Most (but not all) variable-rate mortgages entail simple penalties equalling three-months’ interest
      Spy Tip: The rough formula for calculating three months interest is:
      ( balance x interest rate ) / 4
      Example:    ( $400,000 x 0.0395 ) / 4 = $3,950
    • Low-frills mortgages are an exception (see the “other than” cases above for examples). They often have penalties of 2.75% to 3.00% of principal—i.e., much more than 3-months’ interest.
  • prime mortgages
    • If you get a non-prime mortgage from the above lenders, your penalty may differ.

Spy Tip: If you’re getting a variable-rate mortgage, check that the lender’s penalty is based on your “contract rate,” not on prime rate. The latter can be up to 100+ basis points higher and make a big difference (e.g., a $1,000 bigger penalty on a $400,000 mortgage).

How Fixed Penalties Work

When you terminate a fixed mortgage prematurely, lenders typically make you pay the higher of either three-months’ interest or the Interest Rate Differential (IRD).

All mainstream lenders impose IRD charges on fixed-rate mortgages, and it’s this IRD that makes penalties so expensive. Here’s an overview from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada if you want to understand why. The problem occurs when you pick a lender that uses harsh IRD calculation methods, like many of the banks.

If you’re considering breaking your mortgage, estimate the prepayment charge in advance using your lender’s mortgage penalty calculator (if they have one, not all do). Then call the lender directly to verify the amount.

Spy Tip: For terms over five years, the maximum prepayment penalty is always three months’ interest, as long as you’ve made it past the 60th month.

Just because a lender has a high penalty doesn’t mean it’s a bad lender. It could have other terms that are more important to you, like a much lower rate that makes up for the penalty risk.

Some high-penalty lenders also let you increase your mortgage borrowing without paying a prepayment charge out of pocket. Trouble is, unless they publicly advertise competitive rates you’ll likely be quoted cruddy rates on that new borrowing (because they know you don’t want to pay their penalty to switch lenders).

At a minimum, when choosing between two mortgage deals that are fairly close, the best penalty calculation method makes a great tie-breaker.

Note: Penalty policies vary by product. A lender can offer both fair penalty and “unfair” penalty terms. In addition, policies can change without notice or differ from what you see here. Please always confirm contractual terms directly with the lender.

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  • Mr credit union says:

    I will have to definitely disagree with the list you have here . I work for a major credit union and I have seen some large penalties from First National before -far and above reasonable.

  • Mark Fields says:

    Mr. CU is probably upset that his credit union is not on the list.

    Great work in putting this together guys.

  • Lionel says:

    Thanks for this very helpful page. I was wondering do all the big banks have the same penalty formulas for variable mortgages?

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Lionel,

      No, they don’t. Some (e.g., CIBC and National Bank) base variable-rate penalties on their prime rate, not the contract rate. That makes their 3-month interest penalties relatively more expensive.

  • Matt says:

    The fact that federally regulated lenders can get away with charging excessive penalties is a testament to regulatory capture in Canada. As much as some bankers complain about regulators, the simple truth is that the consumer protection regime in Canada is laughable weak, and regulation primarily provides protective barriers to entry into the Canadian market, and a defence of the indefensibly rapacious Canadian FIs. I’ve seen my parents get ripped off by a bank [Editor note: Lender name made generic as it otherwise creates risk for the site, sorry.], and there is absolutely no meaningful recourse, other than taking their business to another awful senior citizen defrauding bank.
    The banking industry in this country is a sick disgrace that makes the used car industry look like a bastion of consumer friendly practices.

  • Lee says:

    Can you please update the article to explain to clients that the 3 months interest is not based on three months interest payments on their current payments, but three months interest based on their current balance. A lot of people get confused regarding that.

    Furthermore – if you have a variable rate, it could be calculated on the greater of the variable rate or the lenders prime rate (depending on what their contract states)

  • JW says:

    I’ve never had a client confuse the two but it doesn’t really matter. Three times the interest from your current payment is virtually the same as three month’s interest based on the current balance.

  • Nicole says:

    It was clearly mentioned in the article balance of your Mortgage multiply by your rate. Oh people,!

  • Saydul says:

    What about HSBC? They are offering 2.84% for 5-year fixed/variable closed.

  • Mark says:

    HSBC’s IRD penalty on fixed rates can be expensive, just like the six major banks. The problem is it calculates IRD using the discount you get off it’s posted rates instead of using actual discounted rates. This overinflates penalties especially when rates have dropped a lot.

  • Saydul says:

    Thanks Mark for your reply. Today I called a CIBC brach in Calgary and asked the same question. He replied that it would be the similar amount (3 months interest) for fixed term as well. Now I am planning to send them an email.

  • Saydul says:

    sorry, not CIBC, HSBC branch…

  • Tom Allan says:

    Check Encompass Credit Union in Alberta for what they offer on residential mortgage prepayment penalty. You will be pleasantly surprised.

  • Mat says:

    I would remove CMLS Financial from that list. I contacted them to see what the penalty would be to break my mortgage and they quoted me an absurd number (close to 40K)…so clearly they are using the same formula as the big banks.

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Mat,

      CMLS does not use onerous big bank penalty calculation methods, at least not for its standard prime-borrower mortgages. If you like, shoot us your written penalty quote from CMLS and we’ll happily review it for you: [email protected]


  • Leon says:

    Is Motusbank expected to become a “non-fair penalty” lender soon? I am asking because I noticed they have ‘discount’ field in their mortgage penalty calculator website (

    Also, is Meridian Credit Union (owner of Motusbank) a fair penalty lender?

  • dirtylaundry says:

    Meridian’s penalty on fixed rates is not as bad as the major banks but it’s not as good as other lenders on this list.

  • Karen says:

    Are MCAP and RMG the same lender and are their discharge rates the same and are their mortgage interest rates similar or comparable?

  • Karen says:

    I meant penalty to break the mortgage and not discharge

  • Santhosh says:

    Is Think financial a fair penalty mortgage?
    How does it compare to others in the list?

  • Ryan says:

    @Santhosh THINK Financial is a fair penalty lender and a subsidiary of True North Mortgage. I recently got a mortgage with them through a broker and they were easy to deal with.

  • DougDeet says:

    Can anyone chime in on THINK Financial being fair penalty? It’s hard to tell without being able to see their posted rates, and the wording on their website is confusing.

    “Our IRD penalty captures the difference between your existing rate and the current rate available to new clients, minus the applicable discount you were originally given.”

  • Raj G says:

    I would also like to know about THINK Financial, they have been close to HSBC in terms of interest rate. But if they are a fair penalty lender I would sign with them in a heartbeat.

  • The Spy says:

    Hi Doug and Raj, Looks like the answer is yes. They use a similar penalty formula as MCAP, another fair penalty lender.

  • John Haris says:

    How does XMC calculate penalty charges?

  • Scott says:

    Will banks waive the IRD and apply 3 months interest to keep your business? Rates have dropped so much I am planning to refinance and bank will hit me hard with IRD. I want to tell them to charge 3 months interest or I will go elsewhere for new mortgage. Thoughts?

  • Alex says:

    Is Tangerine still considered a fair penalty lender? Based off their penalty calculator and their support line, it’s the “higher of either three-months’ interest or the Interest Rate Differential (IRD)” which is the same as the big-6 banks. Unless there is another criteria that makes them a fair penalty lender?

  • Alex says:

    Ah, okay! It’s clear to me now. It’s not that fair penalty lenders don’t calculate IRD. It’s HOW they calculate it (standard IRD vs discounted rate IRD). The word “typically” made me think that IRD didn’t apply to fair penalty lenders…

    Thank you so much for the education @The Spy!

  • The Spy says:

    September 28, 2020 Update:

    motusbank has added posted rates to its penalty calculation effective today, the company tells us. Hence, it has been removed as a “fair penalty lender.”

  • Tonya says:

    How does BlueShore Financial calculate their IRD penalty?

  • Jay says:

    ThinkFinancial is not a fair penalty lender. I have myself been a victim of it.

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Jay, Think tells us that it uses MCAP’s penalty formula on its standard product, thus suggesting it’s a fair penalty.

      They did/do have a “Skinny” mortgage that has a higher penalty. Is that the one you had?

  • Dave says:

    I dont think “think financial” is a fair penalty lender anymore either. The words on their FAQ clearly mention “minus the applicable DISCOUNT you were originally given”. From what I’ve read online, the word “discount” is what some big banks use to really hose people. It’s not a straight IRD, its the IRD discounted method. See a copy/paste i wrote below

    Think Financial FAQ:
    How are Interest Rate Differential (IRD) penalties calculated?

    Our IRD penalty captures the difference between your existing rate and the current rate available to new clients, minus the applicable discount you were originally given. It mirrors the penalty set by CMHC that we must pay to our institutional investors. The entire penalty we receive is passed through to our institutional investors.


    The wording changed if you look at the sample mortgage approval for 5 year “the works” fixed rate thats on the same FAQ website.

    In the sample, it doesn’t mention the word “discount” anywhere. In the FAQ on the website, it does. Looks like it’s time to either pull them off your fair penalty lenders list, or get some clarification from them on the discrepancy.


    • The Spy says:

      Hi Dave, A lot of lenders use discounts in their IRD calculations. That alone doesn’t make them an “un-fair” penalty lender.

      But just to be safe, we reached out to THINK to see if anything changed. Will advise on what they tell us.


  • The Spy says:

    Here is what we are told regarding Think Financial:

    To calculate IRD, THINK compares the customer’s actual contract rate to comparison rates on this page:

    For example, if someone’s balance is $100,000, their contract rate is 3% and they have 2 years to go, the interest rate differential today would be approximately equal to:

    3% – 1.54% = 1.46%

    multiply that x 2 years remaining

    Therefore IRD = 0.0146 x 2 years x $100,000 = roughly $2,920

    (It was actually a bit less than that when we ran this math by THINK.)

    Based on this calculation, THINK qualifies as a fair penalty lender.

  • Dave says:

    I’ve tried requesting the penalty for breaking my mortgage with meridian and they mentioned it will be based on my original loan amount and not the balance. Would you happen to know the formula they use?

    • The Spy says:

      Hey Dave, I’m not sure this is correct: “it will be based on my original loan amount”

      We’ve tried to get a copy of Meridian’s IRD calculation with no luck. I just asked again. Will post if we get it.

  • Kay says:

    I see First National is on the list as a fair penalty lender. Please can you confirm that their calculations are still ‘fair’?

    I was reading somewhere else and a customer said their penalties have been high post-covid.

    Do you know if they change how they calculate penalties?

    Thank you

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Kay,
      First National is still a fair penalty lender as far as we know.
      Penalties have been larger mainly because short-term rates have plunged.

  • The Spy says:

    Meridian provided us this helpful information on it’s IRD calculation:


    The IRD amount is the difference between the following two amounts:

    1) the contractual interest rate of the current term of your mortgage
    2) the current Meridian posted interest rate for a similar mortgage.

    The current interest rate for a similar mortgage is Meridian’s posted interest rate on the current date less any interest rate reduction or discount.


    Jim has a 5-year fixed-rate closed mortgage. Let’s assume that he received an interest rate discount of 2.00% when he arranged his mortgage. His existing annual interest rate on his mortgage is 3.75%. The principal amount he still owes is $100,000. Jim has two years (or 24 months) left in the term of this mortgage. However, Jim inherited some money and wants to pay his mortgage off completely.


    Step 1:

    Start with the current mortgage interest rate: 0.0375

    Step 2:

    Take the current Meridian posted rate of 3.49% for a new mortgage with a term closest to the remaining term in Jim’s existing mortgage. Subtract any potential rate discounts Jim may have received on his existing mortgage. In this example, we have assumed that Jim received an 2.00% discount on his existing mortgage: 0.0149

    Step 3:

    The difference between Jim’s existing interest rate and the current rate: 0.0226

    Step 4:

    Amount Jim wants to pay: $100,000

    Step 5:

    Number of months left until the mortgage maturity date: 24 months

    Step 6:

    (Step 3 × Step 4 × Step 5) / 12

    IRD = [(0.0226 × 100,000) x (24 / 12)] = $4,520

  • Rogerli says:


    I am a first time homebuyer and am being offered the following options from Think Financial.

    1.59% fixed over 5 years
    1.55% closed variable over 5 years

    Mortgage amount is around 600k

    Given Think Financials Policies around IRD and the general economic conditions, which of the above would you suggest i go with? Do you think it makes sense to start off with variable and then lock in if rates increase?

  • Paul says:

    Anyone know if People’s Bank has a fair penalty?

  • Paul says:

    Is Van City Credit Union is fair penalty FI ?

    What is the liability of an “agent “ of the Financial
    Institution versus an employee? Is this important regarding the information?

    What is the “ standard “ amount of a collateral mortgage ? Market evaluation? Appraisal amount ?

  • JJ says:

    No questions, just a comment to say that the information on this page was immensely helpful, as well as the comments and replies. From a FTHB, thank you!

  • TKS says:

    Hello – I have an existing closed mortgage with motusbank at 2.49% and a remaining term of just under 4 years. On my cost of borrowing disclosure statement, there is a 0% difference listed between my rate and the posted rate (at the time, their discounted rate was basically their posted rate). I am actively exploring options to switch my mortgage but have noticed a section in the standard charge terms (section 6.3) that states that I may only prepay the loan upon the closing of a sale. That doesn’t seem right to me. Am I misinterpreting the intent of that section? Have you encountered anything like that before? Thank you – really enjoy your site.

    • The Spy says:

      Hi TKS, When we covered motusbank’s launch last year they told us that on variable-rate mortgages, members cannot break the mortgage early to refinance at another lender. At the time (April 2019) this did not apply to their fixed rates. Best to ask them.

  • Jay says:

    I am with MCAP and I’m wondering what their penalty formula is? Have approx 4 years remaining on a property that I owe 126,000 at 3.44%

  • Rp says:

    $ 9324.
    Not worth to break it unless you get any lower than 1.55 fixed
    If you go variable than just hope its not going to increase in those 4yrs

  • mortgage renewer says:

    Hello. Thank you for collecting the info.
    I have a question. What about CanWise (ratehub company)?
    Are they a fair penalty lender?
    They have very impressive google reviews…

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Mortgage Renewer, They just launched a brand new lender so we’re not fully aware of their policies. You can read more here:

      An interesting side note on reviews: Almost all the major online brokers have 4.9 to 5.0 star reviews. They all seem to manage their reviews quite carefully. I doubt any of them solicit reviews from customers who don’t indicate high satisfaction. One of these days we’ll have to write about this curious phenomenon.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Spy,

    Do you know about the penalty with Marathon Mortgage? Our broker said it was based on our actual rate and not a discount but I can’t find the actual calculation online.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Spy,

    Follow up question. Is it true that how the IRD calculation is performed does not have an impact on a penalty in a rising interest rate market, since it would result in a negative number and therefore the 3 months interest would be used?

  • P-Y says:

    Anyone help is appreciate. We sold the house but the notarize date is 35 days before the end of my term. How is the penalty should be calculated? thanks

  • Jai says:

    I don’t think CMLS should be considered as a fair penalty lender.

    CMLS use Posted Rate IRD formula compare to other monoline lender example: MCAP which uses Standard rate formula. TD and large banks uses Discounted rate IRD formula (which has highest penalty).

    General example: MCAP IRD penalty would be 1000$ vs 3500$ for CMLS vs 9000$ for TD.

    No wonder it is very hard to get penalty information on CMLS website and there is no calculator to use on there site and I had a hard time getting response from there call center and mortgage agent.

  • Nope says:


    You are confusing big bank “posted rates” with CMLS’s posted rates. They are not the same. CMLS has much lower posted rates which is why their penalties are better.


    Your IRD penalty example looks suspect to me. Please share the math you did to arrive at those numbers.

  • jai says:

    I am not comparing CMLS penalty with big banks, but with other monoline lenders which I think are truly fair penalty lenders (example MCAP).

    CMLS penalty calculation are based on posted rate. Yes there penalty is cheaper than big banks but not cheap compared to other Monoline lenders.

    If I am concern about breaking mortgage in future, I will not select CMLS as there are better fair penalty lenders and that is the point I am trying to make.

    After lot of online research I found document which says:

    Greater of 3 months interest or Interest Rate Differential (based on CMLS Financial
    posted rate).

    And after various attempts to get explanation what posted rate are and where I can find this info, they did not provide clear answer. The rate on there website today (1.99% for 5 year fixed is promo rate and not posted rate). I have made numerous attempts but in vain. If you can somehow get an answer feel free to post. Thank you

  • Daniel says:

    This is from the XMC website, but the details are very vague.

    Does this sound like a fair IRD calculation? It is very unclear what the “alternative investments” could include in order to determine the interest rate.
    You may prepay in full on payment of the greater of either:

    (1) three (3) months’ interest on the principal amount owing, or
    (2) the present value of the forgone profit that would have been enjoyed by XMC for the remainder of the term of the mortgage, had the mortgage not been discharged.

    As a proxy for the forgone profit, XMC will compare the interest rate on the existing mortgage to the interest rate on alternative investments such as residential mortgages offered by Canada’s chartered Banks including any rate discounting offered by those banks on or about the time the mortgage discharge statement is requested.

  • Abbas says:

    I have a variable mortgage with Think Financial (sub of True North Mortgage) and asked them what the penalty would be for breaking my term early. They did the math for me on the phone and said it would be 3 months interest + discharge (admin fee) of $457. Not too bad imo – if i do sell my home and buy another one and get a new/port my current morgage with Think Financial I am sure I can get the discharge fee, if not the 3 months interest penalty, waived.

    I spoke with them on the phone today (Apr 6th 2021).

  • Broker says:

    Penalties largely depend on the rates at the time and the term remaining so you may not pay 3 months interest in the future. Think Financial’s penalties are ok but some lenders are even better like Equitable Bank.

  • Tomas says:

    I also have the same question about XMC. Its a little vague and they do not have a calculator.

    ” XMC will compare the interest rate on the existing mortgage to the interest rate on alternative investments such as residential mortgages offered by Canada’s chartered Banks including any rate discounting offered by those banks ”

    Can any experts decipher this for us please ?

    • The Spy says:

      Hi Tomas,

      From what we hear:

      XMC is working on an explainer that makes its IRD penalty easier to understand. As it stands, it’s anything but.

      The good news is, it uses a reasonable calculation method and XMC does fit the guidelines for a fair penalty lender.

      Here’s how its IRD works (as explained to us): IRD is based on the borrower’s actual rate compared to XMC’s lowest posted rate at time of discharge. As of June 23, 2021, that rate is 1.88% for example.

      Where it gets confusing is XMC’s reference to “posted rates” and chartered banks. Unlike the big banks, XMC’s “posted rates” are actually the discounted rates on its broker rate sheet. It doesn’t have posted rates that are significantly inflated like the big banks.

      Long story short, its penalty is reasonable and can cost much less than major banks in similar circumstances.

      Hope that helps!

  • Mina says:

    I inquired about my penalty with XMC back in March and they mentioned they also charge a 1% fee on top of the IRD.

    That 1% is also not stated on their website.

    Then to add insult to injury, they quoted me their starting rate of 3.39%.

    For a “fair penalty lender” they sure don’t want to make it worthwhile to break the mortgage by any means.

  • Mann says:

    XMC penalties are high and are not transparent in calculation ( nog clearlh listed) unlike Other credit unions like Alterna which has calculator on their website. 6000$ is what they are charging me plus another approximately 550$ in discharge fees equating 6500 as of Oct 1. 2021 ( breaking my 5 year fixed rate of 2.3%, 15 months into my term), which was only 5500 in sept 2021. So penalty kncreased by more than 1000$ in a month and they are jnwilling to explain the calculation.

    Stay away from XMC. Never again.

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