When Cheques are Stolen

Last week Mrs. C8j and I found out that our son’s school had been a victim of theft (from their main office). The school is private, and we pay the fees with post dated cheques. All of the cheques (from all the students) along with a quantity of cash was stolen from the office.

The school informed us of the theft right away, and told us that we should cancel all the post dated cheques (a good security measure to take in all circumstances similar to this), and they supplied us with a Police Case number, to give to the bank. The school also said that if we were charged any fees for canceling the cheques, the school would reimburse us, however, they also told us that one parent had already checked that Scotiabank was waving any fees in this situation.

I trundled off to my local TD branch, to extricate more money from my daughter’s RESP (this time fairly quick, but I had to go to the branch to do it (and include a proof of enrollment)). While I was there the Rep I spoke to also took care of the cheque cancellations. She was not sure at the time how the fees might work out, so I left unsure of whether this was going to cost me money or not, but I found out on Sunday the importance of following up and watching account balances closely.

I looked at my account and saw the following:

9/11/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT FEE  $         12.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT  $       120.50
9/12/2013 STOP PAYMENT  $          4.50
Totals  $       137.50  $       125.00
Total fee paid  $         12.50

As you can see there are 11 stop payment charges, however there was only 10 cheques that needed to be cancelled.

I called the Easyline folks, and after a little bit of sleuthing by a helpful young lady on the line, we found that yes one cheque had been cancelled twice (must have been an extra nasty cheque), so another refund was given and now we no longer owe anything for having the cheques cancelled. Good on TD for finding the error and fixing it.

Remember if you don’t ask the answer is always no, so it never hurts to ask if fees can be waived in exceptional situations.


No Bank Would Do That!

Found this classic post about what a Bank might think is an ideal customer.

It has been pointed out that my post yesterday about a Real Service for Chronic Over Spenders is at best naive at worst unlikely to ever happen. Why wouldn’t a bank run a service like this? The answer is simple, it does not make them any money.

Banks make money on:

  • Customers who carry balances on their credit cards.
  • Customers that use the over-draft service available to them.
  • Folks with bad credit that don’t get preferential interest rates.
  • Consumers who do not carry the minimum balances in their bank accounts to get free banking (and thus pay $25 a month in service fees)
  • Debtors who do not pay back their loans quickly (i.e. they do not make over payments)

This is an interesting paradigm for the Banks.

They must portray themselves as being helpful, trustworthy and someone who wants you to succeed in your financial journey, when in fact anyone who does succeed, does not make the bank a lot of money. I have friends who have paid off their mortgages in 5 years instead of 25 years, saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars (but in turn costing the bank tens of thousands of dollars in lost interest earnings), yet the bank must publicly say that this is a good customer, even though they are bad for their business.

A good bank customer makes minimum payments on their debts (especially their credit cards), incurs many service fees (or penalties) and rarely if ever talks to anyone in the bank about their issues. Reading that sentence it seems to be an oxymoron, in that it seems to be a description for a bad client, but if all you look at is the bottom line banks will fight over getting these customers.

How do they fight over them? They offer interest free credit cards (for the first six months), and lower interest rates on loans (for the first year), and other interesting marketing gimmicks (free iPods even). These customers make banks much more money than someone who is careful about their debt load, and that keep meticulous records of every purchase and pay things off quickly.


This week I have let my imagination run a little wild, on the problem of how to help people who spend too much or that are chronically in debt, but at the end of it the answers are evident:

God helps those that helps themselvesAnonymous

The banks will help you, but be careful of the help you get Big Cajun Man

It is kind of like the guns don’t kill people, people kill people argument the NRA uses, in an obtuse way of thinking. People get into debt trouble because they can’t control their spending, and try to fix their spending issues with more debt, which the bank gladly obliges, and the financial death spiral (TM) begins.

Final conclusion:Getting out of debt is hard work, choose your tools to get out of debt carefully (unless you would like to try out a prototype Financial Shock Collar, then contact me).


Best of: Free Banking?

Last year about this time, I wrote about one of my favorite fights that I have most every year, and that is my fight to not pay banking fees. Some years I win the fight, some years I am forced to pay the exorbitant fees the banks wish I pay, can you guess what happened last year?

Free Banking?

Last night, my wife and I went for our yearly meeting with our current bank to move some money around, update our kids’ RESPs and to attempt to receive Free Banking. My wife was sure that this was not going to happen, and that we were going to walk out of their empty handed, and I would be ranting about how we have to change banks. I guessed I might get something, given I had some compelling arguments, so we had a friendly wager(my wife taking the “We are going to continue paying bank fees” side of the bet) for a sweet treat at a local food establishment.

Now if you don’t remember my compelling arguments were outlined in yesterday’s posting: Changings Banks? but I thought of 1 or 2 other arguments just in case.

My extra arguments that I thought of on the spot during the discussions were:

  • If I walked into the Bank of Montreal down the road, and say, I’d like to transfer all of my banking to this branch today, if you give me free banking for a year, I am sure they would comply with my request (and if they didn’t I could simply go to the Scotiabank in the same mall and ask them for the same deal).
  • Why if I was a new client, you would give me a free iPod which retails for about $130, yet as a customer in good standing, you expect me to pay $156 a year to use your bank?
Very High Bank Fees

Very High Bank Fees

The meeting was quite cordial, and we got the banking we needed done, and we were very happy with the service that we received, but when we were left alone, my wife was still adamant that we would not get any concessions (and I was starting to wonder if she was right).

The counter points made by my bank representative were:

  • PC Financial and ING (now Tangerine) have no service charges because they are virtual banks and have much lower overhead, due to them not really having “branches”. This is an interesting argument, except that PC Financial isn’t even really a bank, it is a FRONT to CIBC right now.
  • There is a policy not to give free banking services to anyone, since this is a business. As a share holder in TD I am glad to hear that, since I like seeing companies I invest in profit, however as a customer I am not happy to hear that.
  • An implied argument, but never stated directly was, “If I give YOU free banking, everybody will want it”, which is very true.
  • If I carried the minimum balance in my checking account (I think it is $1000) I would get free banking (i.e. no bank fees would be charged), so why wasn’t I doing that? I pointed out $1000 in my bank account does me little good, but $1000 paid on my debts, does a great deal of good. My guess is if I ever get out of debt, I will carry a balance and get free banking (of course by then I will get the Senior Citizen discount).

What was the final resolution of this discussion? Well, I promised the bank representative that I would not say, and I will abide by that agreement.

Later in the evening I did enjoy the Dairy Queen Blizzard that my wife bought for me, and I will enjoy it for the entire year.


Haven’t You Changed Banks Yet?

Have you at least threatened your current bank that you might leave if they don’t give you a better deal? Remember I have always said Don’t be Afraid to Make a Change, especially when it comes to your bank.

I must admit that I have not changed banks for a good long time (and given how much I have bitched about TD, you would almost think they might have asked me to go somewhere else), but I also have done my part to get better deals or to complain to get better service.

Right now, you have to work harder to get better deals from your bank, in the area of interest rates, because they are being a little more tight-fisted with credit, but if you don’t ask for a better deal I can give you a 100% guarantee that you will not get a better deal (OK, 99.9% maybe there is a bank that actually treats their current customers better but it isn’t very likely).

I also stand by the statement that if you are going to bargain with your current bank, you had better be willing to vote with your feet and move on, or your bank may not take much notice of you.

Here is an even easier scenario:

  1. Find a new bank that is willing to give you a much better deal on your: Mortgage, Debt, Investments, or Services (hopefully more than one of those)
  2. Get them to put it all in writing for you (say you want it for your records).
  3. Go to your old bank with the document and say, “I want this, can you give it to me?”

You shouldn’t do this very often, but if you are fed up with your current bank, it is a good tactic, and if they refuse, simply walk back to the bank that offered you a better deal and say, “Make it So!”.

Michael James also pointed out that most of the time when you do a change to a different bank or financial institution most of the time the new bank will be willing to do most of the work for you (i.e. do the transfer leg work), all you need to do is remember which bills come out of which account auto-magically and you are laughing.

Sometimes a change is what you need, keep that in mind.


Are You Solving the Right Problem?

Over many years of working at High Tech companies and with technology issues many times I have run into the interesting issue and many times (usually in hindsight) my team has realized they were solving the wrong problem.  It’s easy to get too close to a problem and to lose perspective on what the real problem you are trying to solve, and it happens more times than you think.

Here are a few problems that I have run into over the years (financially) where someone came up with great solutions but at the end of it, they were solving the wrong problem:

  1. Credit Card interest rate is too high, so find a credit card with a lower interest rate and transfer your balance over to have to have your debt grow slower (i.e. lower interest rate).
  2. Figure out that your overdraft protection interest rate is actually higher than a pay-day loan, so you get those instead.
  3. It is cheaper to get your car financed through the car dealership than it is through your bank, thus saving lots in interest paid.
  4. You have a high debt load of credit cards and such, so you get a consolidation loan, but you don’t destroy your credit cards.

Can you guess what the real problems were in these situations?

In case (1), why not pay off your credit card, or find a way to pay it off, or better still, don’t build up debt on your Credit Card is the real problem. Your solution is better than nothing, but you aren’t really solving the problem, especially if you keep using your credit card.

Seriously, you think that getting a pay-day loan is a better idea for case (2)? Stop over drafting and never get a pay-day loan is a much better solution, don’t you think?

Why not make a large down payment for your case in case (3) or better still pay cash for a used car that you can afford?

As for (4) consolidation loans can save folks financially, but if you don’t change your lifestyle and continue to build up debt, you will keep getting consolidation loans, and create a bigger problem for later.

Solve the right solution, did I miss any other “solving the wrong issue” problems?




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