Get the best deals from your bank with these tips

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News broke earlier this month that Canada’s big banks may have been pressuring, or even tricking, customers into buying their products and services. That got us wondering if we’re paying for things we don’t need.

To help us get the best deal from our bank is personal finance writer Melissa Leong. Find her tips below.

Look for hidden fees
The bottom line is that banks aren’t suppose to add services to your account without your knowledge but banks will charge you all sorts of fees that you may not be aware of.

Every bank has a booklet, a package, or information online that outlines its fees. So, it’s your responsibility to be aware of them. For example, some banks charge customers up to $2 per month to receive statements by mail. To avoid that fee, go online and into your account settings, and check off that you want e-statements only.

You know the dreaded non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee of $45? If this happens often, consider whether you need overdraft protection. This account feature protects you and your credit rating if more money is withdrawn than there are funds to cover it. The service may only cost about $4 a month.

To cut back on fees in general, think about opening a few bank accounts. For example, have an account with a big bank so you can access ATMs. Then, have no-fee accounts at online banks so you can do free email money transfers and debit purchases. 

Make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t want
Check your bank statements regularly and investigate your bank services to ensure the account is right for you. What account are you signed up for and what does that include? Do you need unlimited debit transactions? Review your activity and research what plans are offered to find the right plan for you.

However, if you didn’t sign up for something like a safety deposit box or you’re paying for balance protection insurance that you didn’t sign up for, bring it up to your bank immediately.

Do your research
According to a recent study, many Canadians have held the same bank account for about half of their life. So, Canadians are super loyal. It’s not the greatest incentive for a business to hand over their best deals. You have to demand rewards for your loyalty. You must empower yourself with information by shopping around.

Go online and do some research. The government has online tools that help you compare features for different bank accounts and credit cards and insurance policies.

There are also sites like RateHub.ca and LowestRates.ca that give you options that suit your needs, because the lowest rate, isn’t always the best choice. Then, take that better offer to your bank and get them to match it or beat it.

Negotiate interest rates
Don’t just walk into your bank and accept the first offer they give you. If you’re shopping for a mortgage or your mortgage is up for renewal, consider using a broker. Things can get complicated and brokers can often access the best deals.

Be hyper aware of your credit card company’s interest rate and pay on time. The company will charge you a late fee of $25 if you miss your payment. That gets added to the balance and then you have to pay interest on it.

Be aware of the fine print when it comes to credit card debt. For example, you see this great deal to transfer your credit card balance to another account with a lower interest rate. Awesome, right? Not necessarily. Watch out for transfer fees or timeline stipulations where those low rates only apply for a short period of time and don’t apply to any new charges.

If you think you’re being taken advantage of…
The first step is to try to resolve it with your bank. Each bank has a process for dealing with complaints and points of contact which can be found online or at the branch.
If you’re not satisfied, then involve your bank’s ombudsman. Every bank will have an ombudsman to help resolve disputes.

Finally, after you’ve tried to resolve the issue with the bank, there are two independent bodies that investigate complaints. It’s free of charge: The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments and ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office.
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