Weekend Reading_ Bill Negotiation Day Edition

I’ve long advocated for people to take a bill negotiation day – a day off work once a year to call their bank, telecom provider, and other other service providers and negotiate their monthly bills. These companies are not known for voluntarily offering loyalty discounts.

Banks add new service charges and increase monthly account fees on the regular. Home and auto insurers seem to jack up annual premiums with impunity. Cable, phone, and internet providers have no qualms about imposing a $5/month increase every year. It all adds up.

Long-time customers need to be proactive about using loyalty to their advantage. Annual calls to review your recurring monthly bills can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.

One advantage of working from home on my own schedule this past week is that I’ve had time to look into my ever-escalating bills and actually do something about them. I started with TELUS, who recently increased our internet bill by $5/month and charged us $35 last month for going over our monthly data cap.

I checked the website for any sign of a deal and noticed a prompt to call about a loyalty discount. I got through right away on that direct line and the agent immediately offered a $10 per month discount on both our cable and internet bill, plus unlimited monthly data if we agreed to a new two-year contract.

I happily agreed with the offer and $240+ per year in savings.

Next up was the monthly account charges for my TD small business account. For years I’ve had a basic plan and paid around $8 per month. But as business activity has increased my transactions have gone up and I paid a whopping $26 in fees last month. 

I logged-in through the TD mobile app, selected ‘contact us’ and called the small business team directly. Again, getting through right away, I explained to the agent how I wasn’t happy with the fees. She suggested an ‘everyday plan’, which included more transactions and, more importantly, waived the monthly fees if I kept a $20,000 balance. 

Not entirely satisfied, I asked for November’s $26 fee to be reimbursed and she agreed. Net savings for 12 months should be around $260.

Two phone calls. 20 minutes of my time. $500 in savings.

I won’t stop there.

The Alberta government imposed cap on auto insurance rates is set to expire in 2020, so premiums will likely skyrocket. That means, instead of blindly accepting my auto insurer’s renewal notice this coming spring, I’ll be shopping around for the best deal. 

I’ve already cut my investment costs to the bone with my one-ticket investing solution (VEQT). But if you’re still invested in high-fee mutual funds, the coming months is a good time to review your fees and consider switching to a robo-advisor or low cost do-it-yourself portfolio.

This holiday season challenge yourself to a bill negotiation day – get in touch with your service providers and negotiate some savings for 2020.

Questrade vs. Wealthsimple Trade

Known for rock-bottom trading fees for stocks, and free ETF purchases, Questrade has been the go-to discount brokerage for fee conscious investors. But recently Wealthsimple launched a zero-commission trading app called Wealthsimple Trade – putting Questrade on notice and challenging for supremacy in the world of self-directed investing.

I spent some time reviewing Wealthsimple Trade to see how it stacks up to Questrade. Here’s a quick summary:

Wealthsimple Trade features:

  • Zero-commission stock and ETF transactions (buy and sell)
  • RRSP, TFSA, and non-registered accounts
  • $0 account minimum
  • No inactivity fees

Questrade features:

  • Zero-commission ETF purchases
  • Stock trades and ETF sales for as low as $4.95
  • Get $50 in free trades for new accounts
  • RRSP, TFSA, non-registered, RESP, LIRA, Margin, RIF, LIF, Joint and Corporate accounts 
  • Ability to purchase options, IPOs, over-the-counter (OTC) securities, and international equities
  • $1,000 account minimum

One important note about Wealthsimple Trade is that it’s an app – meaning it’s only available on your mobile device or tablet. You cannot access your account via desktop, and Wealthsimple Trade does not integrate with the existing Wealthsimple robo-advisor platform.

Yes, trades are free. That means Wealthsimple Trade primarily makes money on foreign currency conversion (buying U.S. listed stocks and ETFs in Canadian dollars). Since investors cannot hold U.S. dollars inside the Wealthsimple Trading platform, clients will pay the corporate rate plus 1.5 percent on the conversion. 

Questrade allows investors to hold USD inside their registered accounts, potentially avoiding currency conversion fees inside the platform. Clients can also access the trading platform through a desktop or mobile device. Finally, Questrade offers more robust market data, research tools, and offers more account options than Wealthsimple Trade offers at this time.

The bottom line: If your investing needs are simple inside an RRSP and TFSA, and you frequently contribute small amounts, then Wealthsimple Trade is a great way for self-directed investors to build up their investments while trading for free.

If you’re investing needs are more complicated, like if you have a LIRA from a previous employer, or you want to trade in USD, then you’re better off with the Questrade platform.

This Week’s Recap:

I was feeling nostalgic this week and wrote my 2010-2019 decade in review.

Over on Rewards Cards Canada I looked at the best Air Miles Credit Cards in Canada.

From the archives: Have we reached peak stock market?

Weekend Reading:

Our partners at Credit Card Genius share the best credit card offers, sign-up bonuses, and deals for the month of December.

Preet Banerjee looked at some new research on how we handle credit card debt and determined that the avalanche method (tackling highest interest rate first) beats the snowball method (smallest balance first) in both math and behaviour. I came to the same conclusion when I compared debt reduction strategies.

Here’s Preet’s video explanation of the best way to reduce consumer debt:

Professor Scott Galloway explores the Dunning-Kruger effect and the difference between luck and effort.

Rob Carrick asks, what happens to Millennials in retirement when they can’t get into the housing market?

Investor advocate Robin Powell looks at sustainable investing and determines the same rules apply when it comes to fees:

“Active management is a zero-sum game before costs, and a negative-sum game after costs. The average sustainable investor using active funds must underperform the average investor using passive funds. It’s simple arithmetic.”

Here’s the Sketch Guy Carl Richards with a great article on how to talk about money.

‘Tis the season of reflecting: Nick Magguilli shares his favourite writing of 2019.

Canadian Portfolio Manager Justin Bender explains when to sell your losers.

Along the same topic, Dale Jackson explains why shifting the assets from tax-loss selling into a TFSA or RRSP makes sense.

Here’s a question I get a lot, and one that the Globe and Mail’s John Heinzl answers perfectly: I’m afraid of a market crash – Should I go completely into cash?

I loved this post from the Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam: When money, pleasure, and your brain decide to dance:

“When subjects took what they thought were the more expensive brand-name aspirins, they reported feeling about 30 percent improved pain relief, compared to when they took the lower-priced pills. As with the wine, they weren’t just faking this. The higher relief was real. This placebo effect wasn’t just fantasy.”

Here’s Hallam again with a history lesson on “great returns that never lose money.”

Cut the Crap Investing blogger Dale Roberts asks, Is this the end of the traditional 60 / 40 balanced portfolio?

On the My Own Advisor blog, the proven path to early retirement is ignoring the 4% rule.

Mortgage expert Rob McLister explains why, finally, the cost of getting a reverse mortgage in Canada is getting cheaper.

Finally, here’s a fun post explaining every type of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) personality

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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3 Comments

  1. Greg on December 15, 2019 at 6:38 am

    I’m in full support of keeping my service providers in check regarding charges.

    I would suggest you take your annual negotiation quest a step further and look for better rates through other providers. You can often get better internet rates from third party providers. Even the tier one’s flanker brands will sell their parent’s services at discounted prices (Virgin, Fido). Zoomer Mobile sells Rogers cell service at a significantly lower price.

  2. Pam on December 18, 2019 at 11:24 am

    I got a huge discount by changing insurance providers in this year. I hadn’t seriously shopped around in a while by APEGA switched their “loyalty partner” to a new insurance firm so I called and was shocked and how much money I could save.

    I also renegotiated with Shaw this year which saw me avoid an increase in fees that were coming.

    I would love to shop for a new cell phone provider but I do a fair bit of remote travel for work so need a big network and some of the newer providers just don’t cut it for me.

  3. Greg on December 18, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Is Zoomer available to you? They are part of Rogers so use their towers.

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