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You can bank at zero cost with a wide variety of banks and credit unions. Someone should tell the federal Conservatives.

The party’s election campaign platform promises to make banking more affordable. To help that happen, a Conservative government would order the federal Competition Bureau to investigate bank fees.

Here’s what the bureau would find: banks commonly charge $15 a month or more for accounts with unlimited transactions, but you can often get that discounted by having other business with the bank or keeping a minimum balance. The rules differ widely from bank to bank, which is to say there’s competition.

No-fee transactional accounts – there’s little point calling them chequing accounts any more because cheques are antiquated – are on the rise in Canada. Two big banks, Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, offer them through their online divisions. That’s Tangerine for Scotiabank and Simplii Financial for CIBC. Elsewhere, you can find no-fee accounts in various permutations from the likes of Alterna Bank, PC Financial, Motive Financial, motusbank and some credit unions. You could add EQ Bank, Neo Financial and Koho to that list.

Competition in banking is intensifying, partly as a result of banks battling each other and partly because of the rise of apps and services developed by companies involved in fintech, for financial technology. The Conservatives say they would help fintechs by introducing legislation on open banking, which means big banks would have to make customer data available to third-party app developers.

Open banking would allow a new generation of financial tools and services, while also raising privacy and security concerns for personal data. It’s a good thing overall, but the Conservatives may be overhyping it in their platform.

The party says open banking will mean better offers for services like mortgages, lines of credit or credit cards. Maybe so, but you can already find better deals pretty easily with a Google search. Right now, there’s a ridiculous number of websites available to sift through the vast selection of different rates and fees on financial products. The competition is fierce.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Investing risks for the rest of the year

September is historically a risky month for stocks. Here’s a look at the potential for a market correction in the near term. Now for a look at how a pandemic resurgence could affect the stock markets, which have been in surge mode since spring 2020. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your portfolio in light of how far stocks have risen lately.

Stop picking on avocados

Somehow, avocado toast has become a symbol of wasteful spending, especially when ordered off a brunch menu. I like avocadoes and, it turns out, they’re good for you. A healthy splurge.

How to save for a house down payment

Look, saving for a house down payment is one of the biggest lifetime personal finance challenges. It didn’t use to be, but it is now. Here’s a good rundown of what you need to know to help you meet your down payment goal.

Defer CPP past age 65? Not if you continue to work

You will receive higher Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if you wait as many as five years past the usual starting age of 65. But if you continue to work after age 65, deferring CPP may be the least advantageous option.

Ask Rob

Q: I have a credit card I’ve had for years that gradually made its way up to an $18,000 limit (not that I exhaust this). This credit card has also increased its fees over time and I’m done with paying them. How can I get rid of this credit card now without hurting my credit limit? I don’t think cancelling it altogether is helpful to my credit score.

A: Cancelling a card you’ve held for a long time and replacing it with a new card can reduce your credit score temporarily. That’s because the length of time you’ve had a particular account and paid on time has some weight in setting your score. The drop in credit score should be minor, though. If you have a good score, it will not likely affect your creditworthiness as a borrower in a significant way.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

Travel expert Barry Choi covers the basics of travel insurance. Now that people are starting to travel again …

The money-free zone

I came across this prime Neil Young cut on YouTube – Road of Plenty (Eldorado). Almost eight minutes of live guitar perfection.


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