To get discounts or best rates, you have to ask

Claudine didn’t know that Scotiabank had a free chequing account for customers age 59 and up. By the time she heard of it, she was 69 years old.

Do you think she deserved a refund of 10 years’ worth of service charges ? If not, what would be a fair settlement?

Claudine had renewed her mortgage two years ago and seven years ago. The bank staff could see her birth date and didn’t mention anything about the free account (Scotia Plus Program for Seniors).

“The banks do everything they can to bring in money, as if they don’t make enough. But when it comes to money-saving options for their clients, there is nothing done, no information disbursed,” she told me.

When she called the president’s office, she was offered a refund of two years’ worth of service charges. She thought that wasn’t enough.

“I didn’t feel I was responsible, since no one had made me aware of their seniors’ policy. How can I be held responsible for something I have no knowledge of?” she asked.

When I ran this complaint by Scotiabank’s media people, they boosted Claudine’s refund to $295.55 — up $173.95 from the previous amount.

This was still only partial reimbursement, but she was happy with the offer.

CBC Marketplace did a short item about seniors’ discounts on bank fees in last week’s show (the Busted edition).

Marketplace also had a great chart, showing the discounts at the Big Five Canadian banks. It said the rebates are not automatically applied when customers become eligible.

Two banks (BMO and RBC) add seniors’ discounts automatically. CIBC does not add discounts, but gives full refunds to those who miss out. Only Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust fail to add discounts and fail to pay full refunds to those who miss out.

I often hear from customers who didn’t get the best deals because they didn’t ask the right questions. They trusted that company staff would give them the information they needed.

Forget it. As Claudine’s example shows, you have to ask. You’re held to be partially responsible if you don’t ask.

“Are there any discounts or money-saving options I can qualify for?” That’s a good question. You can also try: “Is that the best you do? Can you do any better?”

You don’t know what you don’t know, so you have to reach out to the companies you deal with. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions. You may just get results.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

7 thoughts on “To get discounts or best rates, you have to ask”

  1. Do grocery stores automatically apply newspaper coupons? No! Or if you’re willing to pay me $10 for something that I would have sold for $2, is it my responsibility to tell you that? Again, no.

    People need to show some initiative and any refund from the bank is exceptionally generous.

  2. Third try on this. Short story as this just erased after second submission re “YOu have to know the questions: still learning.

    My father knew them and at age 90 (deceased at 93) would phone and make sure an account we shared did not have these charges.

    However, I did not know myself until I pointed out on my 60th birthday that TD had actually MAILED me a letter about 60 PLUS (now grandfathered: thanks Ellen for THAT one as well as new availability of Safety Dep Boxes : see fees).

    Althouth I swear by Scotia’s Pres office due to their handling of a mortgage insurance problem, I am still left wondering whether I should go back to them about 2009 charges on another account. AND whether the option of a Royal account without knowing the right questions is another story…

    THANKS for pointing out the right questions again.. on your own, it is even harder. Once again, you nailed it!!

  3. In all fairness, TD contacted me on my 60th birthday and told me that they had automatically moved me to their seniors-preferred account. I dodn’t have to do – or ask for – a thing!

Leave a Reply