Full Service Bank Accounts

Last modified on October 3rd, 2013

I won’t lie: I hate banks.

Other than PC Financial (which has been my main bank since I was about 20 years old), the major banks absolutely gouge their customers. I remember once going into TD when I was in university and asking to open a savings account. Once they showed me their fee structure, I realized there was absolutely no way I’d actually be able to save money using that account, since the costs each month were greater than the interest they paid. Consequently I have been a member of PC Financial since that time, and haven’t paid a single fee.

That said, I’ve been strongly considering switching over to one of many full service bank accounts before I leave. While I’m sure a bank that’s affiliated with a grocery store makes complete sense up here in Canada, it probably makes way less sense in South America. So, rather than leaving my financial fate up to chance, I’m probably going to start using TD as my main bank account.

As it stands now, we do the majority of our business banking through TD, and also use ING Direct from time to time for any funds we don’t need immediate use of. If you leave a certain amount of money in TD, you don’t have to pay fees. But outside of that, you also don’t accumulate any interest. That’s why we also have an ING Direct account – they are a no-fee bank with relatively high interest rates, so it’s a better store of money than idling in a TD account.

Because our business banking is through TD, I also decided to move all of my investments over to TD a while ago. Right now I’m completely self-directed, and mostly taking advantage of TD’s low MER index funds. TD requires a person to have a checking account tied to their investment services, so right now I have a very basic TD account that has a requirement of holding $1,000 in it to avoid fees.

So right now I’m planning on moving my money out of PC Financial and into TD, which has already started to cost me money. For example, PC Financial offers free checks – TD doesn’t. So before I can move my rent and some of my automatic withdrawals over to TD, I need some physical checks. After filling out the order forms and paying for shipping, getting a batch of checks cost me nearly $40 with TD.

Looking at TD’s fee schedules, it’s pretty clear that the two value accounts are basically useless. I can easily do 5 interact transactions a day, which would put my overage charge at around $80 a month. Granted I could start using cash again, but that’s a complete pain in the ass. So, it’s either the Infinity Account or the Select Service account for me. Given that the $120/yr Visa card I pay for each year is included for “free” with the Select Service account, it probably makes sense to just grab that one.

Another advantage of TD over PC Financial is that TD allows for email money transfers, whereas PC Financial does not. One of my concerns with traveling abroad is not being able to pay myself each month. Right now I simply write myself a check once a month and take it down to the bank. But in countries like Argentina, there’s a 10 business day hold on all foreign checks, so that’s probably not going to work. So with a TD personal account, I can fairly easily do an email money transfer to myself in order to get paid.

So, I’m definitely probably going to end up bending over to TD in the long run, but hopefully it’ll provide me with a bit of peace of mind while traveling. What bank is everyone else using?