RBC closes Ally Bank’s high interest savings accounts

I’m hearing from disgruntled clients of Ally Financial, which was bought by RBC last October. After the deal closed this month, RBC delivered bad news to Ally customers.

They won’t earn 1.8 per cent on a non-registered savings account any more. They’ll earn only 1.2 per cent, unless they want to buy a one-year GIC.

Here’s the story from Matt Gierasimczuk, an RBC spokesman.

As part of our purchase of Ally Canada, we are integrating their Canadian operations into our existing Personal and Commercial Banking business.

All Ally non-registered high interest savings accounts will be closed on April 30, 2013, but we are offering these existing Ally clients an exclusive limited time rate of 1.8% on a one year non-redeemable GIC and 1.5% on a one-year redeemable GIC.

These are competitive interest rates in the market and provide access to RBC’s broad range of products and services.

All Tax Free High Interest Savings Accounts (TFSA HISA) and Tax Free Guaranteed Investment Certificate (TFSA GIC) accounts will continue to operate under their respective governing terms and conditions.

I’m posting comments from people who are angry with RBC and plan to take their money elsewhere. They worry that ING Direct, too, will lose its distinctiveness as part of Scotiabank.

A week ago, I did a column about cleaning up errors on your credit report. This was inspired by a U.S. Federal Trade Commission survey, featured on 60 Minutes, about the frequency of credit report mistakes.

Readers sent many questions about their credit reports, so I enlisted Ross Taylor, a credit counselling specialist, to help alleviate their concerns. You can find some of these conversations below.

Pros and cons of online chats

Howard Green, host of Headline on BNN (Business News Network), invited me to talk about my book last Friday. It was a fun interview, lasting about 20 minutes.

“Which industry is the worst offender?” he asked.

I hesitated for a second (since Bell Media owns BNN), but said that telecom topped the list. I get more complaints about phone/TV/Internet troubles than about any other topic.

Provincial governments are passing laws to tame telecom abuses, forcing the CRTC to consult Canadians on a wireless code of conduct. The first draft isn’t bold enough, says Toronto Star columnist Michael Geist.

Today, I’m asking about the value of online chats. Do you get answers more quickly than by calling or emailing a telecom supplier? Do you benefit from having a written record to refer to when told that a promised deal doesn’t really exist?

All depends on the agents who handle these live chats. How well trained are they? How much power do they have to escalate a complaint to a higher level?

If the agents are unhelpful or rude — as they were to Erin Paul, whose story I wrote about here — you might as well stop typing at high speed. You’re no further ahead than by using the traditional methods.

I like the fact that readers are sending me their online chats. So, I’m posting a few below for your reading entertainment. I also have a comment from Jordan C, a reader who feels that online chats are a step backward.

As always, feel free to add your opinions and cite your own experiences.

Banks charge for statements, despite record profits

Three of the Big Five Banks are making customers pay $2 a month for mailed statements. TD kicked it off last year, BMO started Feb. 1 and CIBC will start April 1.

This practice makes many people furious for a few reasons. Here’s some of the feedback that I received after writing about it in the Star last week:

— Don’t the banks make enough money already? This is a regressive price increase imposed on those with little access to computers or confidence in their computer skills.

— Why do the bank pretend they’re concerned about the environment? It’s just a cash grab. Many people will print their statements at home, with no decrease in paper use.

— Why charge $2 a month? That seems excessive. President’s Choice Financial, which has no branches, charges only $1 a month for mailed statements.

— Why penalize customers who distrust electronic statements and prefer paper documents sent in the mail? Don’t the banks support financial literacy?

— With Internet fraud rising, couldn’t this move to electronic statements make people more confused and vulnerable?

As it happens, Bell Canada was hit was a “phishing” scam last week. Customers were getting bogus emails, saying there was a problem with their monthly payments, and asking them to click a link to ensure the payment went through.

Several readers told me Bell’s recent move to e-statements made these phony emails seem more credible.

I think the banks should use incentives to get people to switch. They try to come across as customer-centric. Instead, they look like greedy profit maximizers.