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Shoppers walk past a PC Financial kiosk at a newly opened Loblaws location, in Toronto on Sept., 11, 2020.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Pandemic banking means trying to never touch your money.

The new PC Money Account from the Loblaw supermarket chain’s PC Financial division can help you with that. You could call it a no-fee chequing account with unlimited transactions, except for a notable complication. You can’t write cheques on the account, nor can you cash them.

Also, there’s a limited network of ATMs for withdrawing cash without paying fees. These 700-plus bank machines are found only in supermarkets operated by Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart stores, which is owned by Loblaw Cos. Ltd.

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What you get in exchange for this cashless banking experience is the opportunity to earn a considerable number of PC Optimum points. Again, there’s a pandemic angle. Travel rewards are close to valueless right now for most people, whereas points you can use toward household grocery and drugstore items offer practicality as we head into a fall where increased physical distancing may be required.

Non-banks offering banking is a trend worth noting if you’re open to the best deals and don’t always default to a big bank. When I recently asked readers of the free Carrick on Money e-mail newsletter which reward credit cards they recommended, the clear winner was the Rogers World Elite Mastercard. That’s Rogers as in the Rogers Bank division of Rogers Communications Inc.

Loblaw used to have a banking partnership with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, but that venture was taken over by CIBC and rebooted as Simplii Financial. Simplii clients should take a look at PC Money because it’s got a lot to offer people ready for the kind of electronic banking that has taken off by necessity in the pandemic.

PC Financial calls PC Money an “online self-service money management account." If you want to add money to your account, you need to do it via transfer from a linked account at another bank, by e-transfer or by direct deposit of, say, your paycheque. Think of PC Money as a minimalist but functional account with a debit card that offers Loblaw a cheap way (no pesky cheques to process and a limited ATM network) to ply customers with loyalty points that keep them spending in-house rather than at competing supermarkets and drugstores.

Recently, the main line of business at PC Financial has been a lineup of three no-fee Mastercards focused on generating PC Optimum points. The PC Money account lets people continue to earn points even when they choose not to pay with a credit card.

The PC Money account for now offers 10 PC Optimum points per dollar you spend (10,000 PC Optimum points are worth $10 in rewards). The 10 points per dollar spent consists of five regular points and an allotment of five bonus points that will be cancelled, changed or extended as of Sept. 30, 2021. Don’t be shocked if those bonus points disappear then or later.

In addition, you get 25,000 points for setting up direct deposit of, say, a paycheque and up to 5,000 points a month for online bill payments above $50. There’s another 10,000 points available when you link an external bank account, which you will need to do.

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While it is a debit card, the PC Money client card is linked to the Mastercard network and is accepted by retailers who take Mastercard, both in Canada and internationally (a non-PC Financial ATM that accepts Mastercard is accessible at a cost of $1.50). You could be out of luck if you find a restaurant or store that doesn’t take credit cards of any type, which argues for having a backup debit card at another bank.

And then there’s the matter of cheques. If someone wrote you a cheque, you’d need to deposit it in a chequing account linked to your PC Money account and then log into that same PC account to initiate a transfer. Or, you could send yourself an Interac e-transfer from your external account and have it deposited in your PC Money account. E-transfers are free in this account.

Earning reward points from a chequing-type bank account isn’t a new thing – Bank of Montreal has an account that helps you earn Air Miles via debit purchases, and Bank of Nova Scotia offers the option of earning Scene points (free Cineplex movies) via debit transactions.

Where the PC Money account innovates is in combining points-earning power with next-level electronic banking that helps you avoid handling your money. Thanks to the pandemic’s rewiring of our banking habits, that’s an on-the-money offer.

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

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