This is a guest post from a retired lawyer who enjoys digging into interest rates and fees and comparing banking options. While we ask people in our BankSwitch campaign to move their money to a credit union in 2022, our guest poster thinks you should do it right away — because you’ll save money!

If you’re using a big bank, be assured that it is also using you. Big banks invest your savings in fossil fuel (“FF”) projects in North America and around the globe for their profits. Sadly, Canadian banks are among the top FF financiers in the world – RBC alone is #5 in the world, and #1 in Tar Sands, and has loaned over CAD $208 Billion from 2016-2020. Turning off the FF’ing financing tap is crucial to keeping climate chaos at bay, and switching banks has been identified as a strong strategy to get the big banks to do that.

YOU KNOW WHO’S BETTER OFF IF YOU SWITCH FROM A BIG BANK?
YOU + ALL OF US + THE WORLD

When you tell your big bank that you’re leaving because they invest your savings in FF businesses, they get the message. These are the ‘Big 5’ FF Banks, and their on-line banking subsidiaries, who we should be kicking out of bed: RBC/Royal Bank; CIBC + Simplii; BMO/Bank of Montreal; BNS/ Scotiabank + Tangerine; TD/Toronto-Dominion Bank/TD Canada Trust.

Here’s a simple email you can send after making arrangements to get your new, more ethical, banking life started: “I don’t want to be involved in your fossil fuel investing and you will no longer be my [main] bank.” Or you can sign-up for BankSwitch use our longer templates here.

WHY IS IT GOOD FOR YOU TO SWITCH?
Spend less $$$ on fees, make more $$$ through interest.

Credit unions are often the best option because they use a not-for-profit model (you become a Member for a small one-time fee, like $5) and have: no-fee chequing (or chequing /savings) accounts and no-minimum-balance banking; better interest rates; online banking and other typical bank services; a tradition of good customer service/sense of community. What smaller financial institutions (“FI”) don’t have are big marketing budgets to let you know you’d be better off with them than with a big bank.

Bank Switch Checklists:
When you’re ready to switch, these checklists will ensure you don’t miss anything.
https://www.squawkfox.com/switch-bank-accounts-checklist/
https://www.wealthsimple.com/en-ca/learn/how-to-switch-banks
https://www.consumerismcommentary.com/bank-switch-kit-checklist/

Credit Unions are better for the Planet AND your Pocketbook. Don’t believe us: see for yourself!

Dense tables don’t work well in our page theme so we put this in as a picture. You can also download a PDF here.

SOME POSSIBLE BANKING STRATEGIES

Still not sure you’ll get the best rates or all the services you need? Here are some way to approach different challenges.

  1. A credit union near your work/residence for in-person and online banking ( eg. small-balance chequing + savings accounts, bill-paying, ATM networks, “relationship” banking – financial planning, banking + investment advice) and a starting place for TFSA/RRSP GIC’s and credit (lines of credit, loans, mortgages, credit cards). Meet in person to sign up, hear about advantages, and start the “relationship”. Keep funds for expenses in a high interest savings account (‘HISA’) and transfer into chequing account (0 /low interest) to fund monthly bills. Ontario has many good credit unions – just do the Google Maps “credit unions near me” thing. This blog on credit cards explains their other differences from banks as well https://canadabuzz.ca/credit-union-credit-cards/

  2. For high interest rates on savings and GIC’s that won’t be touched for a while: Manitoba online credit unions (2 of the biggest are Access and Achieva; unlimited Manitoba deposit insurance); Oaken Financial/Home Bank Home Trust etc.. Link these accounts to your local institution for transfers.

    Check out these resources to see who is hungriest for your money (i.e current rates): https://highinterestsavings.ca/chart/ and https://highinterestsavings.ca/gic-rates/

  3. Travel: Alterna Bank has some fans if your travel is mostly to the USA. Another option is to research the best financial institutions for travel to your destinations before you go, arrange a bank account for that temporary purpose, and close it afterwards, leaving the rest of your banking with a more ethical FI.

  4. Bank: if you still need a full-service bricks-and-mortar bank with local premises (really?) whether ‘on the side’, or as your main bank, check out their ethics on www.banktrack.org and tell the Manager about what you don’t like about them. But remember that many people are able to look to the bigger credit unions etc. (like Alterna, DUCA, Meridian) and some smaller banks for multiple urban branches.

Additional Resources:
https://fossilbanks.org/fossil-banks
https://banktrack.org/
https://highinterestsavings.ca/
https://bankingonabetterfuture.org/
https://canadabuzz.ca/credit-union-credit-cards/
https://www.dico.com/design/0_0_Eng.html + https://www.fsrao.ca/industry/credit-unions-and-caisses-populaires/deposit-insurance/deposit-insurance-overview

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