Switching banks not all cracked up to be

RBC offers $250 in cash and BMO offers free banking for a year. Make sure you read the fine print.



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Toronto-Dominion Bank’s TD Canada Trust division is offering $250 in cash to new customers who sign up for a chequing account and are approved for a TD Visa card by July 23. The Royal Bank of Canada is offering a similar promotion. By opening an RBC bank account — monthly fee $14 — customers get points that can be redeemed for things like a $75 Future Shop gift card. RBC offers discounts for people who do all their banking at RBC, and for adding an RBC Visa card — annual fee $120 — you’ll be awarded with enough points for a short-haul flight, says finance writer Rob Carrick.

“There’s a lot more to switching banks than meets the eye,” Carrick says. The more money you give to a bank, the more money the bank has to lend out to other people at high interest rates. “You expose yourself to a whack of fee-laden fine print,” Carrick says. For example, to qualify for TD’s $250 gift, you have to sign on for one of two premium accounts. One costs $13 per month and the other costs $25 per month.  These fees are waived if you keep $3,000 or more in your account, but if that’s the case, you might want to sign up for overdraft protection, which costs $3 per month. Neither of these premium accounts earns you any interest whatsoever. As for TD’s Visa card, the annual fee is a minimum of $100. “With fees like this, TD can easily make back the $250 it’s giving you in 12 months or less,” Carrick says.

Some of the other promotions at banks include Bank of Montreal’s free banking for a year for new Canadians program, Bank of Nova Scotia’s contributions matching program (of up to $150), and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s promotion of mortgages and lines of credit by giving customers cash and fee waivers.

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