Interest rates at conventional banks (TD Canada Trust, BMO, etc.) suck. There is little reason to place your savings there. I’ve followed the model of TD Canada Trust for my day-to-day checking and ING for my savings account. I also have my mortgage and investment accounts with TD.
Why not ING for the checking?
ING is a good bank; however, I still prefer an actual branch that I can walk into to deposit or withdraw funds. TD Branches are located everywhere (where we are, anyway) and their hours are unmatched by other traditional banks (some branches are open Sundays too). I prefer doing as much as I can online; however, I still manage to visit the branch at least a dozen times a year (depositing cash, obtaining a cashier’s check etc.). I also found it much easier to do simple things like changing your name due to marriage, converting to a joint account, etc. easier since I just walk into the bank with my wallet and proof of marriage. With all the online services, I had to call them, ask them what they wanted, scan documents, mail them…and then wait a few days. It’s not terribly difficult, but I prefer things done “instantly” or something as important as my checking account.
I love their Select Service checking account. It’s a $30 monthly fee that is waived if you maintain $5,000 or more in your checking account (which we do). Sure, we forego interest on this money, but in any checking account we’d have a couple of thousand at any point anyway and the benefits are worth it for us:
- Free checks. ING does not give free personalized checks. I use my checkbook regularly – i.e. at church for offering, paying another person, etc.
- Free certified checks. So far I’ve had to obtain at least one every year for the past 5 years.
- Free US checking account. I hold my US funds in this account. The US Borderless account also gives me preferred exchange rates.
- Free US Credit Card: TD US Dollar Visa. I often purchase from US websites in US funds (in addition to travelling to the US), and this has helped me save 2-3% in exchange fees.
- Free premium TD Credit Cards: my husband carries the TD Gold Visa and I carry the TD First Class Travel. Our joint account lets us have ‘em both for free.
You can also get a free safety deposit box (we don’t care for one) if you so desire. In the five or so years I’ve had this account, I’ve only once paid the monthly fee. Other times, I’ve always just called in the bank and they waived the fee as a “good will” gesture.
But TD for…discount brokerage?
Questrade is definitely the popular option as a discount brokerage. Nothing really beats $4.95 trades. TD starts at $29 unless you have over $50,000 in assets (sadly, your checking account doesn’t count) in which case it’s $9.99. So, going to Questrade is a no-brainer – and that’s exactly what I did. However, I found their service lacking and their platform archaic. I have three separate login accounts with them: one to the company where my money goes, one where my account is, and another for the trading platform. It’s a nightmare. There are people who have have great experiences with Questrade; I did not. I was especially displeased with their inability to let me change my account to my married name. To open an account, you can scan all your documents and send it to them; you never have to hit the mailbox. But to change your name? Nope, a scanned marriage certificate is insufficient. You need to mail a copy. Oh and if you didn’t change your name and decided to move some money from your checking to your Questrade brokerage account? Be prepared for the funds to be on hold because your name is different. Best part is, you will not be informed in any way that your funds are on hold. You will have to call them to find out, and then request that they be returned.
For that reason alone, I preferred paying $30 in commissions to TD. I still have my account at Questrade and a few stocks in there, which I will eventually empty…but I have no desire to use it as my primary brokerage. It’s not worth the hassle.