Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bank Notes

In a move that clearly demonstrates they're on the cutting edge of the 19th Century, Royal Bank manned up this week and announced they were lowering their online investing commissions to a more reasonable $9.95 for users with $100,000 in their account or who make more than 30 trades in a quarter.

That's some nice window dressing, but I see this as largely a symbolic act. Cutting prices for customers who A) already have the most assets and B) are more likely to recompense your losses by using the service far more frequently is not what I'd call forward-thinking customer service. The discount for active traders is particularly irksome to me because it really looks like RBC is trying to rope people into being day-traders by offering them 'savings'. But I digress. RBC and the other big banks can get away with doing stuff like this because Canada's banking system is an oligopoly, and people like me will more often than not keep our business with them -- especially when I hear about the headaches people have have with the actual discount players like Questrade, Etrade and Credential Direct. As a Big Bank shareholder, bring on the screw-job, I say.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, PC Financial, where I keep my emergency fund/condo downpayment, has very quietly raised their rate on their savings account. It's now at 4.25% for people with more than $1,000 in the account, like me. By my count, this keeps them a full 0.5% ahead of the granddaddy of them all, ING Direct.

What can I say, besides, "I'm glad I made the switch." I'm tempted to open up a no-fee chequing account there and keeping $1,000 in it just to rack up some free grocery points, but I haven't crunched the numbers to see if the money I'd lose in interest would be replaced by the amount of free groceries that would buy me.

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