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

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.

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