Customer urges switching banks to save fees

Adam Mayers of the Toronto Star wrote about bank fees going up again. When he asked readers how they felt, 88 per cent said their bank fees were too high.

He suggested five ways to reduce them:

Go into your branch and ask. It’s the best way to figure out if you’re paying too much based on how you bank. The more business you have with the bank, the better the deal should be.

If you’re a student or your kids are students, a no-fee deal should be available.

Those over 60 should expect discounts, but not freebies. There are too many people in the demographic now to expect something for nothing. TD’s basic discount, for example, is 25 per cent for this group.

Many fee-free options relate to minimum balances in your account. If you keep a large sum in a savings account that is earning next to nothing, consider moving that cash to a chequing account. The fee savings may more than offset the interest earned.

Branch out. A credit union or low-fee option like PC Financial, Tangerine and EQ Bank can work for some of your needs.

Michael, a Toronto Star reader, grew tired of facing increases in TD’s minimum balance required to avoid fees. So, he moved to online bank Tangerine. Here is his story.


My wife and I were frustrated with TD’s ever-increasing minimum balances. We made a few attempts to argue that our $100+ a week mortgage interest outweighed the $11 a month service fee we were paying on our chequing account (since we were challenged to maintain the new $3,000 minimum).

Since we didn’t get anywhere, we made the bold leap to Tangerine Bank. There were two reasons for the switch:

1. The large majority of our banking is done online. We make infrequent branch visits (generally, to renegotiate the mortgage or to buy U.S. cash for bi-yearly trips south) and we did not believe we should be paying $11 for what was perceived as a subsidy for branch staffing.

2. Tying up $3,000 as a cost-avoidance method made no financial sense to us.

While our experience in changing banks was fairly smooth, it did have some moments of frustration.

· With Tangerine being an online-focused service, working through the mortgage transfer involved a few ‘real’ people. Communication between these people was not always great and we had a couple of moments wondering if the transaction was processing properly.

· Tellers at TD could not perform some of the transactions (mostly to do with transferring and closing our trading accounts), which meant we had to revert back to online and over-the-phone transactions.

· Transferring preauthorized payments began smoothly. Tangerine has a robust ‘switch assistant’ and a couple went without hitch (utilities mostly). Others involved going directly to the payee and updating the database personally.

We were thrilled when it was all complete and we were actually paid interest ($0.26!) at the end of the first month. This was a novel concept with a chequing account, but a satisfying one!

If you feel the increasing fees and minimum balances are outrageous, I urge you to investigate moving to one of the growing number of alternative banking solutions.

The big banks should all be taking notice, as I am sure more Canadians will be choosing these online options (with in-branch affiliations), especially given our penchant to embrace online and mobile tools.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

One thought on “Customer urges switching banks to save fees”

  1. Hello Ellen, I would like to bring an issue to your attention. My local bank branch, while doing the paperwork in transferring about $88,000 in fixed income investments at TD Canada Trust to its investment brokerage, TD Waterhouse, botched up the transfer.

    Despite assurances they’re looking into this matter, I find there’s hardly any urgency and I’m left to wonder how hard can it be to perform such in-house transfers and fix them.

    To my utter dismay, TD has no customer service etiquette for long time customers. I’ve been with them for 18 years.

    Details of my follow-up are in the email trail below.


    Thursday, March 10, 2016:

    Hi, Mr. and Mrs. S, thank you for your email. I am sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused you. I assure you I will get to the bottom of the situation.

    I have contacted the senior manager of TD Waterhouse’s transfer department. He is looking at what transpired and how we can help you moved forward with your request.

    I will call you as soon as I got an answer or at least a time frame for the resolution. Again, thank you for your time and patience.

    TD Canada Trust | Branch Manager|

    From: RS
    Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2016

    On Feb. 13th, as a follow-up to our regular banking and investment related meetings with Mrs. N, with her guidance, we authorized a combined/cumulative transfer of approx. $88k from our TD CT investment accounts to TDW.

    Mrs. N painstakingly went through the paperwork for more than 2 hours, while working in tandem on the phone with a TDW rep.

    However, since then, despite repeat follow-ups with TD CT and TDW (on what were supposed to be routine transfers), we have no acknowledgement of how the transactions went.

    1. Things were happening piecemeal with big lags.

    2. Money disappears from the “FROM” account, but there is no sign of it in the “TO” account.

    3. While Mrs. N said the process should be completed in five days, a follow up with TDW confirmed it could take 10 days.

    4. We were regularly checking our web accounts and becoming a bit unnerved about where the money went. (For us, $88k is no small amount.) Even now, we have no ability to track what we requested on Feb. 13th and where it all sits. We are wasting an hour of our time almost every day since Feb. 18th when we thought everything would be in order.

    5. No paperwork for the transactions as completed or rejected by TD Waterhouse came to us. In fact, one piece of paper that did come through has no details of what it’s about (just a template hurriedly stuffed into an envelope). Should we reckon that any investment below $1 million gets only this much attention at TDW?

    6. We did follow up with Mrs. N, but she was not getting the right vibes from TDW and she barely tried to contact us or keep us (adequately) informed.

    7. On Sat., Feb. 27th, Mrs. N called to inform us that the transactions had been rejected. She sounded gravely upset that all her effort went to waste, although we as customers were the ones severely inconvenienced.

    8. Since then, we continued to follow up. Mrs. N, in a curt March 3rd email, did inform that she’s escalating the issue. But we continue to wait (it’s almost four weeks since we carried out the transactions at your branch).

    9. Since only a few transactions did go through, but were below the thresholds of the minimum required to prevent quarterly or annual fees, it means we will wrongly be paying fees. It was TD CT that led us down this path but hasn’t been able to make the transactions work through TDW.

    Also, for the few limited transactions that did go through, we haven’t been able to make judicious investments, since the amount we wanted to invest in total hasn’t materialized. We continue to lose precious time in the currently weak markets (failing to capitalize on the opportunity). Not sure, why we should suffer for no fault of ours.

    10. Although we’ve had full confidence in Mrs. N, this is presumably an atypical incident that has occurred. I’m sure despite her best endeavours, she’s caught in a bureaucratic process between TD CT & TDW.

    I would like to point out that in 2015, we were working with another rep while Mrs. N was away on holidays. We were led to buy a mutual fund (in our TFSA accounts under TD CT) whose name wasn’t even disclosed to us.

    We backed out of it and vowed never to work with any other rep other than Mrs. N. She’s always handled our accounts deftly and confidently until this recent untoward incident.

    Please address this issue at your earliest convenience. As you can appreciate, $88k is not a small amount that can be dismissed or taken for granted (at least for us).

    On Thursday, March 3, 2016:

    Hi RS, I forwarded this to the branch manager who will be addressing the issue with TDW. As soon as I have a response, will let you know.

    Sorry about the turnaround time, hopefully this can be resolved soon.


    From: RS
    Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 12:04 AM
    To: NM
    Subject: Fw: TX of money from TD CT to TDW.

    Any update on the status of the transfers?

    On Sunday, February 28, 2016 12:13 PM, RS wrote:

    Thanks for the confirmation. Will await your confirmation on the rest.

    On Saturday, February 27, 2016:

    Hi RS, I contacted TDW about the RRSP contributions for both you and your wife, and they confirmed both were completed.

    Will let you know about the transfers as soon as I receive a response.


    NM | Financial Advisor | TD Canada Trust

    From: RS
    Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2016 10:13 AM

    Subject: TX of money from TD CT to TDW.

    Thanks for the status update call this morning. It is even more discouraging that all transactions have been deemed rejected, thereby not only wasting your time on Feb. 13th but also our time.

    We are without any clue as to what is happening to our money (we’re now well past the 10 business days that a TDW rep told me on the phone is the norm for such transactions).

    Also, what about the RRSP contribution that went straight to TDW? I hope that’s ok, or do I have to fund my contribution again to another account in TD CT (as opposed to TDW)?
    Kindly do confirm that as well.

    On Thursday, February 25, 2016, RS wrote:

    Sorry to bother you, yet again. But all our transactions have yet to show up.

    Not sure how this can be the normal process and why we have to review our accounts on a daily basis (akin to a ritual) to confirm if all transactions as requested through you on Feb. 13th have correctly materialized.

    Also, were we supposed to get documents of the transactions that do push through? We haven’t gotten any.

    Your response/feedback shall certainly be appreciated.

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