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(Bill Grimshaw)
(Bill Grimshaw)

Personal Finance

Hot tips on ringing up savings Add to ...

Thanks, David from Edmonton.

It's people like you who make it worthwhile to swap ideas about where to find good deals in personal finance, and how to make them work.

David e-mailed in response in which I mentioned a few deals I had recently come across and invited readers to supply their own. Thanks for the many suggestions that came in by e-mail or comments left on Globeandmail.com, including David's idea about where to get top rates on a savings account.

He pointed out Canadian Direct Financial, which is part of Canadian Western Bank and bills itself as Canada's newest online banking service. Canadian Direct offers a high-rate savings account that yesterday paid 1.95 per cent, just behind Peoples Trust at 2.01 per cent and Maxa Financial at 2 per cent and beats other competitors by a big margin.

One proviso: You get just one free withdrawal from Canadian Direct Financial's KeyRate Savings Account per month and then you must pay fees ranging from $1 to $2.50, depending on what type of transaction you do.

highlighted the top rate offered by Peoples Trust, and it also pointed out that you can earn five to 25 Aeroplan reward points for each purchase of Tropicana juices, Quaker cereals and granola bars and Tostitos chips. That's more juice than you'll likely get through conventional ways of racking up Aeroplan points.

Reader Patrick Hanrahan of Calgary noted another benefit: By logging even a few of these points in a year, you can keep an otherwise dormant Aeroplan active. That's important because your points will expire if you don't do at least one transaction over a 12-month period. "We used to live overseas and our kids have huge Aeroplan points plans, but they haven't really used them or gained any more since moving back," he wrote in an e-mail. "By using the orange juice points, their accounts stay active and they don't lose their points.

The people at Air Miles, a competitor to Aeroplan, offered their own suggestion on how to boost your reward points earning power. They call it the "triple threat trick."

Step One: Go to a retail store that participates in the Air Miles program and find an item offering bonus miles. Recently, you could have earned 30 reward miles by buying two packs of Purex toilet paper at Safeway grocery stores.

Step Two: Pay for the purchase using your Bank of Montreal Air Miles MasterCard, which gives you one Air Mile point for every $15 or $20 you spend, depending on which card you have.

Step Three: Present your regular blue Air Miles reward card and collect additional Air Miles points.

Net result: You earn Air Miles points three separate ways on the same purchase.

Another rewards option highlighted by a reader is the Capital One Cash Back Plus Platinum MasterCard, which gives between 1 and 2 per cent cash back, depending on how much you spend. The annual fee is $59, and you get more flexibility than with comparable cards. Example: there's no cap on the amount of cash you can earn, and you can redeem as little as $15 at a time.

noted the approaching demise of Citizens Bank of Canada, which offered a superb deal in its no-fee Global Chequing Account. Readers were generous with their suggestions for alternatives to this strictly online account, although none appears to be as good (stay tuned for further investigations into the best, cheapest chequing accounts in the country). The most frequently mentioned alternative to Citizens Bank was President's Choice Financial. This online bank, run by the Loblaw grocery chain and CIBC, offers a no-fee chequing account that you can access through CIBC bank machines.

"PC Financial seems to be the best substitute for Citizens Bank that I can find," wrote David from Edmonton.

Some other options mentioned by a few readers are Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, a B.C. outfit that offers what it calls the Free Chequing, Free Debit and More Account, and ICICI Bank of Canada, a division of an India-based bank known mainly for high-rate savings accounts. ICICI's HiValue Chequing Account offers no-fee banking provided you keep a minimum balance of $500 or have your pay deposited directly into the account. Otherwise, you pay $5 per month.

Reader Chris Smith of Dartmouth said it's possible to get free chequing from your bank by negotiating for it. He did this with Royal Bank of Canada several years ago when setting up a mortgage. "Pretty cheap over all and from one of the big boys to boot," he wrote.

Got a tip to share? Send it to rcarrick@globeandmail.com



Here are some useful websites and online discussion forums for those who'd like to benefit from the experience of others in finding the best deals on financial products.

RedFlagDeals.com: Go to the Forums area of this bargain-hunting website, then look for the Personal Finance thread.

Canadian Money Forum: A new discussion forum covering all kinds of personal finance and investing matters.

Best Air Miles Deals: For people who want to max their point earning power using the Air Miles reward program.

Flyertalk : Info on global travel-related customer loyalty programs, including Aeroplan.

Canadian High Interest Savings Bank Accounts : Compare notes with other people on where to find the best rates, and the best service.

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Follow on Twitter: @rcarrick

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