David's Blog

Living a quiet life in Coquitlam, B.C.

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Location: Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Banks No Longer Taking Money?!

Yesterday, I tried to pay an MBNA MasterCard bill at the Bank of Montreal (BMO). I happen to also have a MasterCard issued by BMO, but I do not have an account there. Paying the BMO MasterCard has never been a problem and, usually, paying a MasterCard bill has been possible at any other financial institution that issues a MasterCard card. However, yesterday I was told that BMO’s policy recently changed. Apparently, their new policy is to not accept bill payments from a person unless the person has an account with them (the bill was only about $27 so I had planned to pay the bill with cash). I was advised to go to a bank where I have an account, register the bill with that bank, and pay the bill there. Register!? What does that mean? And what is the point? If that means I will be charged a service charge for paying a bill, I want no part of it. If not, what is the point? Is this policy simply new “Big Brother” nonsense in action? So I will deal with that bill later.

I then went to the HSBC where I hoped to deposit some Euros in my Swiss Franc account (I had some left over from my recent trip to Munich). One nice feature of the HSBC is that for many years they have offered accounts in a variety of currencies: American dollars, Japanese Yen, Swiss Francs, etc. It was a convenient way to hold money in a variety of currencies while remaining within Canada. I had opened a Swiss Franc account a number of years ago. In any case, I was told that the bank’s new policy was to charge a service charge for foreign currency transactions (such a charge had not existed previously). The charge is $4.00. In addition, they would not be able to convert it from Euros directly to Swiss Francs. They would have to convert it first to Canadian dollars, and then from Canadian dollars to Swiss Francs for deposit into my account. I assume the HSBC has a healthy spread–in their favour–when it comes to currency conversions, so not only would I be getting burnt by the service charge, I would also be burnt–twice–on the currency conversion. What nonsense. I decided not to proceed with the transaction; I will hold onto those Euros until my next trip to Europe. What is going on at the HSBC lately? They used to be my favorite bank. However, lately they seem to have been taken over by bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to bite their customers’ ankles and antagonize them. My wife and I closed our chequing account at the HSBC some time ago specifically because of the service charges. We moved most of our banking to a President’s Choice account. When we go house-hunting and shop around for a mortgage, we certainly won’t consider the HSBC.

These incidents remind me of another ridiculous bank policy. I also have a GreenLine account at the TD Bank. I used to go into a local branch every Saturday morning to deposit some money into this account. However, one Saturday I was told that their new policy was not to accept cash deposits before noon. They could accept cheques, but for cash I should come back after noon. Can you believe this?! A bank not willing to accept cash?! I am certainly not going to interrupt my Saturday activities so that I can go to the bank in the noon - 3 p.m. time slot; if I am on the beach or at a sporting event, I am not going leave, go to the bank, and then try to resume my activities. Have banks really become so arrogant that they expect their customers to reorganize their lives around them?!?

Canadian banks have apparently been taken over by ankle-biters. Yet every few years they talk about merging because (so they say) foreign banks are bigger, offering more services, and, therefore, Canadian banks must become bigger in order to be competitive with foreign banks. The implication is that unless the Canadian government allows mergers to take place among Canadian banks, foreign banks will steal customers away from Canadian banks. Here’s a tip to Canadian bankers: Foreign banks are not stealing customers away from you; Canadian banks are driving away customers by the introduction of many ridiculous, “Big Brother”-type, ankle-biting policies. Foreign bank here I come.

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