Thursday, February 24, 2011

Saving My Money, Changing Banks

My name is Shireen, and I was a bank hopper. Before my brain injury. This week I took up hopping again.

No bank in Canada has fully satisfied me, except for Canada Trust. And that was not technically a bank but a trust company. If TD had not bought it out, I’d probably still be a loyal customer. I moved as soon as it was bought out; I didn’t want to be a TD customer again. I have blogged before about so-called customer service at banks. To put it mildly, I have not been happy with the way my bank has treated me for years, but blogging was as far as I got in acting on my outrage. A brain injury that affects one’s decision-making abilities is a sure bank hopping killer. Also there was just too much change happening in my life to voluntarily add one more.

This week that changed.

I had heard of PC Banking and recently ING Thrive chequing. I liked the idea of no-fee banking; the idea that the banks made money the old-fashioned way – earning money from the discrepancy between interest charged on loans versus savings and helping the customer keep their money to boot. Banks used to do that, and then they introduced service charges. It wasn’t long, if memory serves, before they began installing ATMs, to make banking cheaper they said. Then what were the service charges for? And why the hikes? And why the expansion and growing variety of rules of what was charged for which service until one’s eyes glazed over and you could no longer pay attention, which is what they wanted? Then they reduced their service, calling it modernization and making it cheaper and better for the customer. They created an environment where people didn’t know their bank manager, and the bank manager and tellers knew only a few of their regular customers. Then they instituted minimum balances to reduce service charges, and people came to believe that the bank was doing them a favour with these minimum balances when in fact it was a way for banks to ensure more money to loan out at higher interest rates while they dropped savings interest rates. Then they upped those minimum balances as they made stupid loan decisions to businesses and had to recoup the losses.

It all got to be too much. I had yet to switch over though to no-fee banking. How would it work with no tellers? What about customer service? And what a hassle to move all the automated stuff. And so my excuses went. And then my bank f*d up again. Well, not technically. As the guy said, if they called everyone when there was a potential problem brewing they’d never get anything done, never mind that that used to be part of the traditional service banks offered, back before service charges, back before ATMs and online banking, even before email and text messages, those efficient marvels of technology that allow for instant and event-triggered communication to, um, get this, LET PEOPLE KNOW OF PROBLEMS CROPPING UP. He reversed the usurious NSF charge (and yes, I used exactly the right adjective as $42.50 is usurious; ING charges $25; PC Banking $40) in hopes I wouldn’t switch banks. But he didn’t tell me of a problem with another cheque and the bank now doesn’t seem to show (changed) transactions immediately – like it used to – so you think something’s OK and then two days later, it isn’t.

After years of being dicked around, this was the last straw.

PC Banking came to Loblaws stores everywhere to offer an appetizing menu of financial services. Then ING came to Canada and said, we’re going to stop annoying you. First, they offered savings rates that were fair not token. Then they offered more and more kinds of savings and credit products. Now comes their chequing product. If anything burns out butt more, it’s the service fees, the overdraft and NSF charges, on chequing accounts. Their foray into the market will probably get people to pay more attention to what is available out there. Yet this young guy next to me at the bank the other day, with his wad of government cheques, didn’t think about looking at the competition, didn’t know about ING, that it offered the best Tax-Free Savings Account rates and was going to put that wad into CIBC’s pathetic offering. I should’ve said something, like SAVE YOUR MONEY!

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