Perhaps the only life event that’s worse than moving house is moving banks. Back in the olden days, you simply closed a chequing and maybe a savings account, took the money and went somewhere else.
Nowadays, with automatic debits and deposits, e-billing and multiple investment accounts from RRSPs to TFSAs and RESPs, packing up to leave a bank requires a whole lot more effort.
Mortgages or lines of credit can’t easily be transferred and most people have three to six accounts and up to 15 automatic transactions that must be closed and reopened or redirected. So, divorcing your bank requires some thought.
I’ve stayed with banks simply because of a good relationship with a senior manager. However, bank employees often move to different branches, which means you can’t count on the service continuing.
Not only that, but more rigid guidelines with respect to credit scores and debt-to-income ratios today give bank staff less latitude to bend the rules, even for their best clients.
Increasingly, the issue for consumers is banking fees, account, overdraft, debit and so on. About ten years ago, I got so fed up with rising fees at my bank that I switched to the low-fee, almost virtual President’s Choice Financial with kiosks in Loblaws stores.
I did save tons of dough — actually, more than $3,000 over a couple of years. However, there is a downside, as I quickly discovered.
If you have a complicated financial life, as I do, with Canadian and U.S. transactions and a business, you will find the no-frills banks can’t provide a full suite of services such as convenient currency exchange. Also, some things like stop payments are hit and miss.
Additionally, if you have investment accounts, it’s a little more complicated and you may elect to keep them at a regular bank.
However, virtual banks are offering RRSPs and TFSAs. ING and President’s Choice, for example, have some investment options beyond GICs — mostly mutual funds. And at ING you can now open a business account.
You certainly can save money and streamline your life by going to a no-frills banker. Just be sure that what’s offered fits your needs.
• Details. Check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s bank selector tool: fcac-acfc.gc.ca/eng/resources/toolCalculator/banking/index-eng.asp.