December 12, 2009
It's been too long since I've thoroughly reviewed the Free Chequing accounts comparison chart. Sure, I've made the odd change here and there including a couple removals such when Citizens Bank of Canada shuttered its retail banking operations and BMO Bank of Montreal abruptly discontinued its co-branded BMO Sobeys free chequing account offerings, which remain available only to existing accountholders but for which any freebies have been dramatically pared back, but I really haven't gone through the comparison chart and made sure that each free chequing account offered still offered its various features.
With that said, I'll basically say that, the good news is, there's only been one (1) more deletion, not too bad as this is evidence that, at least for some financial institutions, a free chequing account is what is needed to grow market share in this market and, in turn, expand so-called "share of wallet."
I'll begin with the only deletion, share any addition(s) and, finally, highlight any general changes that apply to all free chequing accounts in the comparison chart and then any specific changes applicable to a certain free chequing account since around the summer of 2015, which was a year after BMO ended its BMO Sobeys free chequing accounts.
(Separately, Peter, do you think we might be able to "pin" this topic at the top of the "Site Suggestions" forum for a certain time period, say, for the next 12 months?)
* ICICI Bank Canada's HiVALUE Chequing Account has been removed from the comparison chart as it has since increased the minimum monthly balance requirement to waive its $6.00 monthly fee from $500 to $1,500. It had been included in the chart because it was another branchless bank available to all Canadian residents including Quebec residents and the $500 minimum monthly balance was quite low, lower than any of the Canadian banks. With a $1,500 minimum monthly balance, this is as high (or higher) than even the "Big 5" Canadian banks. Sure, they still offer to waive the monthly fee so long as you have a minimum of one (1) recurring payroll or pension direct deposit per month but given the competitive landscape that we have, that's simply not good enough, particularly since they add no value in other areas like a large proprietary ATM network of their own beyond The Exchange ATM Network, of which they are part, or free cheque book orders. Sure, this means Quebec residents are left with a single free chequing account provider in Canada in Tangerine Bank, but it's a really good one. For the above reasons, it has been removed.
* Added Enderby & District Financial and Island Savings, which are unincorporated divisions or "brands" of First West Credit Union, to the chart to reflect the fact that both have since amalgamated into First West Credit Union, with the former joining in April 2013 and the latter joining in January 2015. Both offer the same Simply Free Account as either their sister divisions Envision Financial and Valley First; however, I've decided to continue listing the four, separate Simply Free account types because there are a couple minor differences and each has a separate product page. Each of division of First West Credit Union specifically targets membership growth in a specific geographic area, which is highlighted on the chart; however, since their last banking system upgrade, all of them allow virtual account opening not requiring a visit to the branch as a credit report will be pulled and the prospective client would then mail in an initial deposit with a preprinted cheque in their name along with their signed application form so, in theory, any B.C. resident could apply for the Simply Free Account from anywhere in B.C. B.C. residency is required to join a B.C. credit union as a B.C. physical address and/or ID proving such are required, though, a customer could later move out of B.C., update their address online and maintain the account. Ideally, I'd love to see First West Credit Union eventually have a "rethink" in its strategy and consolidate its "brands" under a single name as this would reduce their costs and customer confusion but I digress.
* Added Conexus Credit Union, Cornerstone Credit Union and Innovation Credit Union as all began offering a free chequing account branded as "FreeStyle No Fee Chequing" with the same feature-set for each and patterned after First West Credit Union in B.C.'s Simply Free Account, including free Interac e-Transfers, approximately 2-3 years ago. It's important to note a key difference here, though, is that these credit unions are not a single credit union - they entered into a partnership sharing product design, marketing and, perhaps, I.T. development resources to launch this product. Each of the three credit unions doesn't target a specific area either as they all have a limited number of branches throughout Saskatchewan, generally in small towns like Cut Knife, Meadow Lake, the Battlefords or Swift Current as well as larger centres like Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina. While they don't offer a 1st book of cheques for free, they do allow free transactions through any channel, including branch or ATM. In terms of account opening, Saskatchewan credit unions, like those in B.C., do require Saskatchewan residency and, while the application be started online, a branch appointment is required to complete the account opening (but hopefully that'll change eventually with an eventual banking system upgrade!).
* Added DUCA Financial Services Credit Union and FirstOntario Credit Union as each, in the last year or two, launched their own free chequing accounts, more similar to Coast Capital Savings' pioneering Free Chequing, Free Debit and More account that started it all more than a decade ago in that there aren't free Interac e-Transfers except neither of these offer a 1st book of cheques for free. DUCA's is branded as the Daylight No Fee Banking Bundle which comes as companion no fee chequing & savings accounts, the latter of which can be opted out. A small caveat: a small $5.00 annual membership due is payable annually, which may not warrant its inclusion in the comparison chart; however, given the small amount and annual nature of it, it was easily overlooked but I will continue to monitor this and sure it doesn't increase and advise accordingly. DUCA also owns & operates Zenbanx Canada and its somewhat popular no fee Multi-Currency Account. FirstOntario's Be Free Chequing Plan is very similar to DUCA's with a similar, if not the same, feature-set. Most, if not all, Ontario credit unions allow non-Ontario residents to join, unlike B.C. and Saskatchewan. DUCA allows completely virtual, branchless account openings from Canadians, which was another reason for its inclusion in the chart despite the annual membership due of $5.00, while FirstOntario allows the account opening to be started online and completed with a branch appointment.
Applicable to All
* Added a "Surcharge-free ATM Network(s)" column to the comparison chart given that a number of credit unions' free chequing accounts have been added to the chart and some are members of both The Exchange ATM Network, which is currently made up of most B.C., Ontario & Atlantic credit unions as well as some banks, and Acculink, which is operated by the Canadian Credit Union Association (formerly the Credit Union Central of Canada), made up exclusively of all Canadian credit unions and is branded as the "ding-free ATM network" and others are only ding-free ATM Network members. As well, some banks on the list are only members of The Exchange ATM Network while others use their own proprietary bank branded ATM/ABM networks. Appropriate footnote(s) have also been added to the bottom of the comparison chart to explain this difference in ATM/ABM networks.
* With the exception of First Calgary Financial's No Fees For Me Account, all financial institutions' chequing account product pages had new URLs to reflect new website designs and structures since the last update so these were updated accordingly.
Applicable to Specific Financial Institutions
Noted in ascending alphabetical order by name of the financial institution, as followed in the comparison chart.
* Cambrian Credit Union: Updated account name from the "Unfee account" to "The Unfee Package". Update to product page URL to reflect change by the company. Under "Perks" column, added a note to reflect that the customer can receive a $1.00 credit to their primary chequing account in every month they are enrolled in electronic statements. Added a "Drawback" that this is actually an account "package" whereby its applicable monthly fee and all transaction fees and/or surcharges are fully refunded so long as they maintain a minimum of one (1) recurring payroll or pension direct deposit. Note: this drawback may not warrant its inclusion in the comparison chart; however, as they are the parent company of virtual high interest savings account provider Achieva Financial, which offers a free supply of cheques, and the fact they are the only full service financial institution to Manitoba residents to provide free chequing account services, it was deemed in the public's interest to include them in the comparison chart. Also, while Manitoba credit union membership is obviously open to all Canadian residents, in practice, this particular account can only be started online and must be completed with a branch appointment, like DUCA and FirstOntario in Ontario.
* Coast Capital Savings Credit Union: While their pioneering Free Chequing, Free Debit and More Account that started it all more than a decade ago can be opened entirely online (by B.C. residents), their branch network is primarily in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island so it's generally targeted to those geographic areas. That being said, they are opening a new Kelowna branch in a new market so the description was updated to reflect that it is primarily for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Central Okanagan residents. For those interested, the new Kelowna branch will be located in the new Gateway Plaza at the corner of Highway 97 and Burtch Road and open on November 1st as a Tuesday-Saturday branch (open hours: 9:30 am to 7 pm [Tuesday-Thursday], 9:30 am to 6 pm [Friday], 9:30 am to 3 pm [Saturday], closed Sundays and statutory holidays) and will feature ATM(s) and be staffed by a complement of six (6) personnel (namely, a Branch Manager, a Manager Member Services, two Relationship Managers [similar to Financial Advisors] and two Member Banking Specialists [similar to Personal Banking Officers]) but won't, at least initially, offer teller or in-branch cash services as that is the developing trend within the banking industry. The other change was that they no longer provide either free & unlimited supply or a free, first book of cheques for free.
* First Calgary Financial: Update to reflect that, several years ago, First Calgary Financial Savings Credit Union amalgamated with Chinook Credit Union to form Connect First Credit Union in a model similar to that of First West Credit Union in B.C., with each of the former credit unions serving as the First Calgary Financial and Chinook Financial, respectively, divisions of Connect First Credit Union. Somewhat different, though, First Calgary Financial offers its No Fees For Me Account primarily to Alberta residents in the cities of Calgary & Airdrie and surrounding areas whereas Chinook Financial doesn't have the same type of chequing account, though perhaps that's coming. It's a bit unclear if Connect First still has a marketing and shared services partnership with First West. It's also unclear if non-Alberta residents can join an Alberta credit union. Any Alberta resident may join either First Calgary Financial or Chinook Financial by starting an application online but they must attend a branch appointment to complete said application. One unique thing, though, about Alberta credit unions: any Alberta credit union member may receive in-branch transactional service at any Alberta credit union, similar to the U.K. where all of the banks partner with the U.K.'s Post Office to offer shared branch services.
That should be about it. Don't hesitate to provide any feedback by replying to this thread or, ideally, posting a reply in this one.