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New free, unlimited chequing account product - Simply Free Account
September 4, 2012
11:24 am
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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hi Everyone,

Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union that is based in the Lower Mainland and Metro Vancouver areas of B.C., announced on August 21/2012 the launch of a new, free unlimited chequing account called the "Simply Free Account". Some of its features include free Interac e-transfers (the only financial institution in Canada to offer such a feature, the company claims, and it is completely free of account transaction fees as well as the surcharges normally charged to use the Interac e-Transfer service), free Interac Direct Payment (POS) purchases, free Envision Financial and Exchange Network ATM deposits & withdrawals, free initial supply of cheques (assuming subsequent supplies of 25 or 50 cheques are at a nominal fee, which is pretty standard), free eStatements and, finally, free in-branch deposits, withdrawals and "money transfers" (assume they mean self-to-self and transfers to another Envision Financial or Valley First member's account). As well, in-branch bill payments are even included, which is very surprising. Basically, the only thing not included are more staff-intensive in-branch domestic and international wire transfers and bank drafts.

I had posted on Envision Financial's Facebook page asking if their "sister" division Valley First in the B.C. Interior, also a division of First West Credit Union, would be launching the Simply Free Account at some point in the future. They replied on a Sunday, Sept. 2nd, of the Labour Day long weekend that Valley First would be launching the Simply Free Account on Tuesday, Sept. 4th (today). Stay tuned to the Valley First website for more details – the ad for the Valley First Simply Free Account appeared in the local paper today but the website has not been updated as of yet nor have they established a company Facebook page.

The Envision Financial Web page for the Simply Free account states the account can be opened online, by phone or in-branch by any B.C. resident so I asked if it can be opened entirely online – and it can for existing First West Credit Union members – but new members will need to visit a branch to (presumably) show their ID and sign the membership application. I have a subsequent request in to suggest that should First West Credit Union decide to "go national" by incorporating nationally, to allow non-face-to-face account openings (like ING Direct or Coast Capital Savings, to name a couple).

This account, like Coast Capital Savings' Free Chequing, Free Debit and More Account, is only available to B.C. residents (proof of B.C. address). That said, in theory, if you have parents that live in B.C., you could pop into an Envision Financial or Valley First branch to establish a membership (if you don't have one) and open the account before you head back out of province. So, it definitely benefits forum members Peter, msl and myself. :)

The only other thing(s) I am curious about are: (a) whether or not they do a "hard" or "soft" credit check (I'm assuming "hard", though) and (b) whether Acculink (credit union ATMs in Canada) deposits and withdrawals are included (again, assuming they are). I'll keep you guys posted by replying to this thread!

Cheers,
Doug

Footnotes: First West Credit Union is B.C.'s third-largest and Canada's fifth-largest credit union (by assets and liabilities, that is member mortgages/loans and deposits). It also has a partnership with Calgary's First Calgary Savings Credit Union that could see First Calgary launch the Simply Free Account and, should they "go national", would be their likely merger target. (Update: First Calgary Savings does have a similar account called the "No Fees for Me Account" and basically offers the same thing minus the free Interac e-Transfers and in-branch bill payments. So, Albertans, you do have an option!)

September 4, 2012
2:42 pm
Jordan
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Not to steal Doug's thunder, but Valley First now has the account on their website:

https://www.valleyfirst.com/Personal/ProductsAndServices/Banking/Accounts/ChequingAccounts/SimplyFree/

September 4, 2012
2:47 pm
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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Thanks Jordan. I actually saw this a couple hours ago but held off posting until I heard back from Envision on those couple other questions. (I'll keep you all updated on those questions!)

As Jordan said, yes the Valley First version of the Simply Free account is available here. They did update their main page banner to promote the product and I would assume it would be a major fixture of their in-branch campaign(s) for the fall, complete with posters and possibly radio & TV spots. As well, an Envision Financial representative did reply to my comment (they are very fast and attentive!) that Valley First will be launching a Facebook page "soon". The only interesting thing about the Valley First Simply Free account is they didn't publish a news release on it, like Envision Financial did.

It's also worth noting that Envision Financial has had its Redfrog product for years that offered an all-in-one chequing/savings/HELOC and mortgage account that carried no monthly fee. So they are just extending this offer to non-mortgage holders, which is good news! :)

Cheers,
Doug

September 4, 2012
3:36 pm
Peter
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Thanks for sharing! The big differentiating factor seems to be the free Interac e-mail money transfer. That in itself is rather big news, because the other financial institutions say that they're simply passing on the fee that Interac charges them.

September 4, 2012
3:46 pm
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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Peter said:

Thanks for sharing! The big differentiating factor seems to be the free Interac e-mail money transfer. That in itself is rather big news, because the other financial institutions say that they're simply passing on the fee that Interac charges them.

Exactly – and the free in-branch deposits/withdrawals/bill payments/third-party transfers is also big news and only Coast Capital Savings offers this.

With the free, unlimited Interac e-Transfers, which Valley First only started offering last month, even soon-to-be-owned-by-Scotiabank ING Direct doesn't offer that (although, it does have free "e-mail money transfers" which are effectively third-party Canadian EFTs and Hubert Financial offers this as well by allowing you to enter the person's institution, transit and account number and name to proceed). :)

Cheers,
Doug

September 8, 2012
5:41 pm
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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hi Everyone,

A few updates since I originally started this thread, as promised.

First, Valley First did end up issuing a news release (https://www.valleyfirst.com/Personal/AboutUs/MediaCenter/NewsReleases/CurrentReleases/#2012-09-06, which is cumbersome to use and I do not like the redesign at all, indicates Envision and Valley First are Acculink ATM members so I would assume it is included

I think that's about it.

Cheers,
Doug

September 8, 2012
8:25 pm
Jordan
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Thanks for the update, Doug. Two questions for you:

1. You mentioned in your other post you would ask about a potential "Simply Free Savings" account, presumably to compete with the Coast Capital Savings "The High-interest, No-fee Savings Account"? Any information on that front?

2. This question is slightly off topic and may be of interest only to people in the Okanagan – any idea if Interior Savings will offer an account to compete with Valley First?

September 8, 2012
11:20 pm
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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hey Jordan,

I did ask about that, but they sidestepped that question (as if it didn't exist) completely. Again, that was just me speculating (or, rather, hoping) but who knows, it may be possible? ;)

As for whether Interior Savings will offer an account to compete with Valley First, given they are the dominant credit union in the Thompson-Okanagan regions, I'd say not initially (unless Valley First is successful at gaining market share). Plus, it's worth pointing out that Interior Savings is even more elitist - they are the ones that have turned away clients based on credit score alone, even when people aren't applying for credit-related products and services. Given the choice, I'd choose Valley First over Interior Savings any day. And, with both being Acculink ATM network members, you get the benefit of using Interior's ATMs for deposits/withdrawals/PIN changes surcharge free* (*still waiting on confirmation from Valley First/Envision that Acculink ATM network is included but am 99.99% sure it is). :)

Cheers,
Doug

February 5, 2013
3:52 am
jcipher
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Can this be done entirely online now?

Edit: Nope, need to go in-branch.

February 17, 2013
7:17 pm
Doug
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jcipher said

Can this be done entirely online now?

Edit: Nope, need to go in-branch.

Too bad. Coast Capital Savings offers a similar account that can be opened entirely online. You may also want to enquire on First Calgary Financial's similar account as well. Otherwise, do you live near either a Valley First or Envision Financial branch?

Cheers,
Doug

March 13, 2013
7:21 am
jcipher
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Doug said

Too bad. Coast Capital Savings offers a similar account that can be opened entirely online. You may also want to enquire on First Calgary Financial's similar account as well. Otherwise, do you live near either a Valley First or Envision Financial branch?

Cheers,
Doug

Not really near one but I did open the account. If they had a high interest account, I'd use it as my primary account.

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