We’ve had a joint chequing account at BMO for more years than I care to admit. Let’s just say the numbers 20** are not part of the date when we opened it. This week for the first time in years, I had to make a request at BMO and their customer service was excellent.
How Do Old Chequing Accounts Differ from the New Ones?
This chequing account is so old that it pays interest. Yep, even now, when interest rates are between 1-2% for savings accounts, we have a chequing account that pays interest. Not that you’d want to go out for lunch with the amount it earns per year. But that’s proof of just how old an account it is.
For years it also had no fees. Gradually though the typical “minimum balance” requirement has slunk in. And ever so slowly the minimum daily balance required to avoid all fees has increased. I used to pay attention to those increases, but I must have missed one. The minimum required now is $1500, not $1200.
I Missed the Minimum Balance and Owed Big Fees at Month End
Due to my own mistake, I missed topping up the account by 17 hours. So for 17 hours in June, the balance slipped below the $1500 mark, though only by under $100. The next day, a typically generous infusion was made to the account.
When I updated the passbook at month end, I was shocked to see a huge list of fees charged to the account all carefully itemized by type and cost.
BMO Telephone Support Offers No Service
Because I wasn’t at my branch at the time, I called the BMO telephone banking support number. Unfortunately, although very polite, the representative was not able to waive the fees. In fact, he didn’t understand what I was talking about. He thought that the only way to avoid fees on a chequing account was to have a “plan.” He said he would enter a message asking my branch to phone me to discuss the problem.
Please Ma’am, I Messed Up
Halfway through the next business day I still hadn’t heard anything back. That didn’t particularly surprise me as “my branch” is in the last city I lived in, more than 14 years ago. The branch I bank at regularly is not the branch where my account was set up.
So I went to my regular branch, chatted nicely to the Service Agent while depositing another big cheque, and then pleaded for clemency. (We use the account as an entry point for new contributions to our InvestorLine account.)
She spoke briefly to the local manager, got approval, and reversed all of the service fees with a smile. Phew. And thanks BMO! I promise I won’t do it again.
Lessons I Learned
I did learn some valuable lessons:
- Keep an eye on the minimum balance requirement for no fees if your account has this feature.
- Watch your spending to avoid dropping below the minimum.
- Consider whether you should move all of your banking to a no fee bank.
Is It Time to Change Banks?
While I was pleased that BMO forgave my mistake, it did make me wonder if it’s getting time for me to move all of my banking to a no fee account. I have almost-no-fee chequing accounts at both ING Direct and PC Financial. Maybe I should use them and close the BMO account.
I’m a great procrastinator, so I don’t know what I’ll decide or when. But in the meantime, I think I’ll keep a closer eye on my bank balance.
- How to Open a No Fee Chequing Account at PC Financial in Person
- How to Open an ING Direct THRIVE Chequing Account
Did you ever ask forgiveness for an unusual banking mistake? Did your bank care enough to fix the problem? Please share your experiences with a comment.