Banking fees are not going away any time soon. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, some financial institutions have even raised their fees — crunching the average person’s budget even tighter. Bank fees can feel overwhelming, but a few simple questions can make your accounts easier to understand. How much are you paying per month, and per year? What services are included? What are you using this account for? The answers to these questions will help determine the best account for your needs.
“You can’t control the decisions these financial institutions make and how much they charge for banking fees, but you do have the ability to do your research, to understand which account best suits your needs and ultimately save you money,” says Narendra Singh, Branch Manager at Envision Financial.
Instead of just accepting high fees, you can look at alternatives like credit unions — known for lower fees, a robust product suite and strong community support.
Many people have never thought about where they bank — the decision may have been made for them decades ago, or they just chose the closest branch. But it’s important — for your wallet’s sake — to explore other options if you are unhappy.
“New immigrants may choose a familiar brand at first because it’s one they recognize. These accounts may start with a limited-time special offer, and then most people forget to re-assess their options once that offer runs out,” Singh says.
You know more now than when you first started banking. What kind of products and services make sense for you now?
How credit unions are different
- Member-owned: Big banks are beholden to their shareholders, but credit unions like Envision Financial are owned by their members (that means you, as soon as you open an account). “Our profits are re-invested in our community — with growing support from our members we were able to provide services like our Simply Free Account®, and donate to local charities through our community investment and the First West Foundation. Last year during the pandemic we donated $2.1 million to local charities — that’s the power of local,” Singh says. “Members also have voting rights for major decisions, so you always have a voice!”
- Lower fees: “At most big banks, monthly fees can range from $4 to $30 for a basic chequing account, but our Simply Free Account offers all the same features with zero fees,” Singh says. Unlimited transactions for bill payments, deposits and withdrawals, free unlimited Interac e-Transfer®, no ATM fees at 3500 machines across the country, and no minimum balance required. “A minimum balance is basically collateral, and we don’t have that binding agreement. You’re free to use your money to invest or go on vacation.”
- Better service: Fees are one piece of the puzzle, but the decision on where you do your banking should be about more than that. Envision Financial offers all the same services as big banks (including an easy-to-use digital app) plus they offer holistic, localized advice. “We can offer better advice because we know our members — we know what’s going on in the family and their business and serve all four quadrants of their finances. Lending decision-making is done locally, which means you’ll be approved for loans faster,” Singh says. “Above all else, we really emphasize the importance of creating a strong relationship with our members built on advice rather than transactions. We proactively advise members and work with them towards achieving their financial goals.”
Envision Financial is a division of First West Credit Union.