What To Do About PC Financial & CIBC 2017-08-17
I used to have an account with ING Direct (Canada) and was pretty happy with their services. I must have been, I hate banks and I actually suggested to people that they might want to try ING. I used to call them on the phone to show people how quickly you could get a human on the line. They had my tax forms ready for me before any other banking institution. Ahhh, but that was before 2012.
Then one day, Bank Of Nova Scotia bought the Canadian part of ING. I was worried about what would change, so I phoned ING and they said "Don't worry sir, nothing will change". I also called BNS and they said "Don't worry sir, nothing will change". Well, that seemed awfully convincing... so I believed them. Then the changes started. Subtle stuff like minor changes to the web site (which was of course expected), and spam emails telling me of great deals, other products, and why I should love the new ownership. Their phone support suffered too. And at some point my disappointment with them grew big enough to make me transfer all my ING products to PC Financial.
The switch to PCF wasn't really a big deal. I had already been using them for a savings account, Mastercard, and a chequing account for years. My relationship with PCF seemed fine, until late 2016/early 2017. I found that they were pulling back on interest rates and pushing harder for people to pickup products that were clearly good for PCF's financial well-being. This wasn't a surprise since many banking institutions here have started to make that push lately. It was however, a disapointment. My reaction of course, was to look for another bank.
Fast forward to today... PC Financial has announced that it is breaking up with CIBC (which has been the actual financial institution behind PCF all along). Again I am worried that my bank is going to change from something I can live with, to an organization that sees me as a commodity. That wants to sell me shit I don't need. That thinks it is acceptable to email me every time they have an awesome new product or service. That will silently let interest rates creep in their favour and make a huge production about it if rates ever sway in my favour.
So what can you do about your banking if you are one of the more than two million PCF customers who are soon to be "seamlessly transitioned"? Hold on to your shorts. It is entirely possible that the newly branded Simplii accounts at CIBC will stay pretty much the same as your current PCF accounts. If nothing but your online login changes, maybe it won't be so bad. In the meantime, maybe try a couple other banks. I personally looked at ICICI Bank, but it turns out they are not-so-fee-free. In fact, if you carry less than $1000 in your checquing account, they provide you with a whopping 0.00% interest. Okay, that really isn't much different than PCF, but it is kind of insulting. I also checked out First Nations Bank, but their rates and fees were even worse.
Another bank I tried is Zag Bank. They don't offer chequing accounts (which some people still need), but they do seem to have the best no-fee accounts I can find. I have just a High Interest Savings Account with them and have been pretty happy about the way it works. They have better rates than pretty well everyone else, and they don't send me spam telling me about the great crap I should buy. They just let me leave some money with them and pay me a little interest for doing so.
I don't have any affiliation with Zag bank, and I don't gain any favour or whuffy by saying I like them. I just don't like being screwed around by my bank and I see Zag as a potential alternative. I suspect that my longer term solution is going to be to maintain a chequing account at Simplii (CIBC) and use Zag for any savings, TFSA, and RRSP accounts. It may not work out that way, but for now I think that's the way I'll treat it.
Then there's the PCF Mastercard. I [used to] put pretty well all of my payments on my PCF Mastercard. It gave me an easy way to see all my payments in one place, and it gave me "points" towards groceries. PCF Mastercard have always seemed at least somewhat removed from PC Financial, But a half year ago when I went looking for a PCF alternative, I figured that meant my credit card as well. There are a tonne of cards to choose from, and I was willing to take a hit on my "rewards" but not on the no-fee status of my card. The one I ended up getting was Capital One. Their web site (the card management portion of it) looks a little basic, but it does what I need it to do and it even has features the PCF one didn't (like instant emails for transactions).
I should note that I also do not make any money or gain any favour by saying I like Capital One. I just see them as a reasonable alternative to an organization that sees me as a source of income rather than a customer. The difference between the two may be subtle, but it is real. Having said that, if anyone has alternatives they think are better, I would love to hear about them, just click "contact" at the top up there and let me know!