For years Canada’s big banks have walked all over their retail customers without fear of repercussion. They’ve raised account fees and hiked minimum balance thresholds at will, invented new charges for moving our money around, and generally nickel-and-dimed us to death just because they can.

Related: 10 fees you can avoid

Banks get away with it because of the perception that it’s difficult and inconvenient to switch. Typical Canadians, we grumble about the fee grab for a while and then quietly return to our normal everyday routine.

But this time it feels different. While banks continue to enjoy record profits – particularly from their retail banking operations – consumers pay higher fees and earn lower interest on savings deposits. When RBC joined the other big five banks in hiking fees this year – raising the eligibility for seniors rebates from age 60 to 65, introducing new charges for student accounts, and charging $1 to make a mortgage, loan, or credit card payment – they may have finally pushed customers too far.

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” – Isoroku Yamamoto

Back in March, after hearing about TD’s new fee grab, I called up a representative at my local branch and asked what the process was to switch the automatic payments for my mortgage and line of credit from TD to my Tangerine account. I told him I wasn’t happy with the new fee structure and that once I moved these payments I would be closing my chequing account.

Related: Bank slogans and taglines, translated

I stayed put when he offered to change my basic chequing account to a free “student” account with 25 free transactions and no minimum balance requirements, but the point is that I was serious about moving and you should be too.

In the meantime, I took advantage of a great promotion at a local credit union, which paid me $350 cash just for opening an account and setting up two automatic bill payments. I also have a free chequing account at Tangerine to use as a fall back option the next time TD decides to get creative with their fees.

Recently, I noticed one of our Twitter followers complaining about the upcoming RBC fee grab. When I pressed her to switch banks she hesitated, saying it would be inconvenient to move. I explained how easy it was to open an account at Tangerine – just fill out a form to enrol online, download the mobile app, and snap a picture of a cheque to make your initial deposit. She decided to make the switch and it was easy.

(Open a Tangerine Account with my Orange Key – 39602788S1 – and get a $50 Bonus! Visit tangerine.ca/referafriend)

I recognize the desire to keep a relationship with one of the big banks. For most of us, that’s where our paycheque gets deposited and where we have our mortgage, credit card, and investments. But we need to get over this idea that switching banks is hard and that the fees are unavoidable.

Who says you need unlimited transactions? Save yourself $15 per month or more and figure out how you can manage with a basic plan. Better yet, ask the branch manager or bank representative to waive certain fees in exchange for your loyalty. The answer is always no unless you ask.

Related: Does my bank deserve my loyalty?

Finally, it costs you nothing to open a free chequing account at Tangerine, PC Financial, or at a local credit union. It may give you the leverage and motivation you need to finally break free of the big banks and their never-ending assault on your wallet.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

27 Comments

  1. Barry @ Moneywehave on May 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve yet to set up a Tangerine chequing account but I agree these new fees have definitely given me a reason to.

  2. Justin on May 3, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Do it Barry! Its way better. Tangerine doesnt charge you to find out what out what the cheques you cashed were from. RBC sure does…

  3. schultzter on May 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    I wish Presidents Choice Financial was available in Quebec. I mean fully available. I’ve gone to one of their kiosks and asked about signing up, but they can only offer you one product (you chose which one, but only one).

  4. Tracey on May 4, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Don’t switch to Tangerine – I have had nightmare experiences! Everything from trying to switch back to my maiden name to them opening and account for my daughter without her approval and then refusing to close the account – their actions were criminal! I had to get Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail involved to close the account Tangerine Bank just decided to open for my daughter!

    Switch to President’s Choice – far better customer treatment!

    • Echo on May 4, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Hi Tracey, sorry to hear about your bad experience with Tangerine. I’m glad Rob was able to help you out.

    • Carolyn on May 5, 2015 at 7:38 am

      I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Tangerine. Changing my name wasn’t a problem with appropriate paperwork.

  5. Helen on May 4, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Ref: “stayed put when he offered to change my basic chequing account to a free “student” account with 25 free transactions and no minimum balance requirements” How did you get a student account at TD Can. Trust? Are you a student? I have been with TD Can, Trust for more than 25 years, and am annoyed with the fee change because they didn’t even bother to inform me in advance of the new min. balance requirement for chequing accounts before dinging me with a number of fees.

    • Echo on May 4, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Hi Helen, the TD rep said, “if you’re interested, I will change your chequing account to a student account. It’s a free basic account, but at least this way you wouldn’t have the hassle of making a bunch of changes to any direct debits you have going out. It would actually bump you up to 25 transactions and no minimum balance required.”

      I am not a student.

      • Cindi on May 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

        For a student account they will want proof of student ID #. I have had to give it to them every year, for my kids who were still in college.

        • Echo on May 4, 2015 at 11:05 am

          Just to be clear, I did not ask for a “student account”. It was offered to me by the TD rep, who I’m assuming was authorized to use that type of chequing account plan as an incentive to keep my business.

    • Carolyn on May 5, 2015 at 7:39 am

      I was not informed either. When I called to ask exactly how I was informed, they could only tell me what ‘should have’ happened.

  6. Robert on May 4, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I use TD Canada Trust for most of my banking needs, and really have not paid fees in about 20 years.

    I have a line of credit and no “bank account”, and try to keep my balance below zero – that is, normally the bank owes me on the LOC. I actually switched from RBC years ago because they did not allow this on their LOC product. With a LOC there are few fees, since the profit is in the interest. The times when I need that loan it pays off for them. If I never need credit it is all gravy for me. I have no minimum balance, just a maximum balance of zero, but that is self-imposed,

    Last year my total interest fees were $3.75 because of a special need I had to borrow one month for a few days. Every time I log into my TD online accounts they suggest I get an account.

    • Echo on May 4, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Hi Robert, thanks for sharing this work-around. It’s definitely an option for TD customers to consider, especially for those who are reluctant to pull the plug on full service banking.

      Once again shows that with a little effort and creativity you can avoid those pesky fees!

  7. JMEDY on May 4, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I switched almost all of my banking to Meridian Credit Union a couple of years ago. It was 3 months before my 60th birthday – but they gave me the seniors free account right away instead of charging me for those three months. I get decent interest on my chequeing account (compared to the big banks), the service is exceptional and I’m just winding up some short term GIC’s at 3%. All no charge accounts. I would highly recommend them.

  8. Jianghua on May 4, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Do I have to have a full-service bank to be able to be serviced by the Tangerine? For my case, I am dealing with TD, though I do not have a tangerine Checking account. I have to keep the monthly minimum balance to be able to be waived the monthly fee. I just use the basic TD checking account which requires the minimum monthly balance of 2000 for the fee waiver. Is it worth for me to open a Tangerine checking account? But I guess I have to still keep the monthly minimum balance in my TD bank, even if I have a Tangerine checking account.

    • Echo on May 4, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Hi Jianghua, I am with TD as well and had their basic chequing plan back when you only had to keep a $1000 minimum to waive the fees. When they increased that to $1500 (now $2000) I opened a Tangerine chequing account because I was worried about going over the 10 free transactions. I also like Tangerine for the free email money transfers. So I use Tangerine any time I have to use debit or pay bills (for places that don’t accept credit cards), and when I email money to friends and family.

      As far as I know, in order to open a Tangerine account you need to have an external chequing account so that you can write a cheque to yourself and fund the new account. They’d prefer to link your Tangerine chequing account to your TD chequing account (makes for easy transfers between banks), but once you’re set up I’m sure you could close your TD account and it wouldn’t make a difference to Tangerine.

      • Carolyn on May 5, 2015 at 7:42 am

        You could close your account after setting up with Tangerine indeed. You could also link a PC account if you have cheques.

        Tangerine accounts can be opened without an external ‘link’ if you are able to visit one of their few locations. They’re looking for more solutions to this issue.

  9. aB on May 4, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Do my banking at RBC here.
    I went the other way as most people. Got my employer to split my pay half into RBC, other half into PC financial.

    Stick in $475 (had $25 in an RRSP to save the $4 a month previously) and buy a $500 GIC in RRSP, which I have asked, and was confirmed (will confirm again when I do it) that it counts as active. Then buy a coffee every 3 months.

  10. Julie on May 4, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I have banked with Coast Capital Savings Credit Union for years. I have a chequing account and several savings accounts which are all entirely fee-free, and pay a small amount of interest as well. I am amazed that anybody would continue to pay the multiple “fees” banks extract, when options such as this exist at the credit unions. What’s most egregious about banking fees is that the less money you have, the more fees you have to pay. I would love to see Canadians switch to credit unions en masse.

  11. jP on May 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    When I read Robb’s story about getting a Student Account at TD, it brought the following to mind:
    At our local TD, one person (22 year old buying first house) gets a great mortgage – 5year closed at 2.75% with only 5% down and no extra charges – because he was friends with the mortgage specialist. Another person who has banked there for 20 years but isn’t chummy with anyone at the branch, is denied that same mortgage. He can get a mortgage but needs 20% for a down payment and will be charged a higher interest rate.

    I have to wonder – Robb, were you friends with the person who offered you the Student account?

  12. Echo on May 4, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Hi JP, I had never met this TD rep before – I believe he was new to the bank. I was surprised by the offer but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  13. Carolyn on May 5, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I’ve banked with Tangerine and PC for years. TD recent fee hike finally caused me to close my chequing account there. It wasn’t much of a change, as Tangerine had already been my ‘primary’ bank. I have a savings account (still free).

  14. Roly on May 5, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Play the game
    Sure love those dividends (my paycheck)

  15. Samantha @ LifeOnCredit on May 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I wrote a blog post on the same topic about a week ago, as some of my readers were quite outraged by the coming and recent bank fees increases. I have accounts with TD and RBC and I’ll be moving everything to Tangerine shortly. I’m tempted to speak to both TD and RBC about reducing my fees, however I don’t have high hopes about the outcome of such conversation…

  16. Stephen @ How To Save Money on May 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been with PC Financial basically since they opened their doors back in the 90s. Switched from Scotia while I was still in high school. I do have a no-fee chequing account with RBC and a USD savings account. I just got notice that they are going to start charging me fees for that account now I think, maybe both of them, so I will have to close them now.

    I’ve been using Tangerine since early last year as a second account and to do some interest rate chasing and it has been great.

    I liked having RBC as a backup if I ever really needed a real bank for something, but PC Financial has always fulfilled my needs 99.9% of the time anyway. Time to give them the axe!

  17. Ray on June 26, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    I’m fed up of this nickel and diming as well. I started moving my RRSPs, mutual funds, and my business account to another bank. I was loyal to TD for over 25 years. It’s time to say the words: GOODBYE TD !!!

  18. Suzanne on February 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I do all of my banking with TD (chequing, savings, td visa credit card, my son’s resp, mortgage, line of credit and a car loan).

    I’m interested in moving my chequing and savings to PC financial. Am I still able to pay my mortgage and credit from a PC account online?

Leave a Comment