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Five things to know if you’re a President’s Choice Financial client

A PC Financial banking card is inserted into a bank machine in Toronto March 5, 2007. PC Financial will fade to black in November.

J.P. Moczulski/Reuters

The online bank President's Choice Financial will fade to black in November. Roughly two million PCF accounts will be moved over to a new online bank called Simplii Financial, which will be run by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Here are five things you need to know if you're a PCF client, or if you're simply interested in switching to an online bank or credit union that offers no-fee chequing.

PCF was complacent

The no-fee chequing account was a great start when it was introduced almost 20 years ago, but PCF never really built on the idea. Interac e-transfers are increasingly replacing cheques, but PCF does not include this service as part of its package of free and unlimited services. Instead, you have to pay $1.50 a pop. If you're a millennial or anyone else who finds cheques archaic, that just might be a deal breaker.

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CIBC is under pressure to deliver something cool with Simplii Financial

Simply put, Simplii has to be better than PCF, which was co-run with Loblaw Cos. Ltd. Otherwise, CIBC will have nothing more than customer inertia going for it in keeping PCF clients. A few suggestions for CIBC: Add unlimited e-transfers, and come up with a reasonable overdraft-protection feature. PCF charges interest on overdrafts plus $4.97 in each month where overdraft protection is used, which kind of contradicts its no-fee claim. PCF clients: Give CIBC a chance to earn your business, but have a backup plan.

PCF clients have options

To start with, there's Tangerine. That's Bank of Nova Scotia's online banking operation, formerly known as ING Direct. Tangerine has a no-fee chequing account that is very competitive with PC Financial. Tangerine also has a big business in savings accounts, but it blows on rates.

More and more credit unions are offering no-fee chequing accounts, some of them with free e-transfers. Keep an open mind on these accounts, even if you're a big-bank loyalist. Credit unions are wired into the Exchange ATM network, which means you have no-cost access to bank machines nationally. One final possibility is EQ Bank, which offers a savings account that can be used to pay bills online.

The President's Choice Financial MasterCard is a keeper

No changes will be made in this credit card, which has a customer-loyalty program offering points redeemable toward purchases at stores in the Loblaw grocery chain. There may not be a better reward program out there in terms of practicality, simplicity and value. You can check your balance and redeem points at the cash register when paying for your weekly groceries.

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The name Simplii sounds a bit sillii

A made-up word as a brand name suggests a certain wishfulness about strategy. We will see how CIBC's idea of simple banking plays in the real world. True simplicity means unlimited transactions for everyday banking (including e-transfers) and no costs beyond interest charged on overdrafts. Some cool apps for encouraging people to budget and save would be great, too.

Rob Carrick has a summer project for you saver's out there - challenge your reliance on big banks for the best interests rates and research some alternatives. The Globe and Mail
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