The Leo’s Young Savers Account from Royal Bank of Canada is a nice little intro to the banking world for kids aged 13 and under.
What happens to Leo account holders when they turn 14 is another story. Let’s call it an early education in dealing with banks as an adult. Let me summarize for all the kids out there: Expect banks to suggest products and services that are best for the bank and its shareholders, not clients like you.
A reader recently shared a copy of a letter from RBC about his teenage daughter’s Leo account. “We’re so happy you’ve been able to use the RBC Leo’s Young Savers Account for your banking,” the letter said. “Now, as you continue to complete high school and as things in your life change, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on managing and saving your money.”
The letter goes on to say that after reviewing activity in the Leo account (“Leo” being a cuddly riff on the lion in RBC’s logo), RBC recommends its Day to Day Savings Account “as it best meets your needs and provides the best value.” Unless contacted by a certain date, RBC was going to go ahead with the switch.
Page 2 of the letter offers a comparison of the Leo account and the RBC Day to Day Savings account. It’s a marvel of bankerly obliviousness.
Leo account holders get 15 free debits each month and unlimited Interac e-transfers. There are no monthly fees and RBC will drop $25 into the account if you open one by Dec. 31. Not bad, right?
RBC Day to Day Savings is a no-fee account, but it’s otherwise a dinosaur. Why it’s not extinct in this world of increasing tight competition for personal bank accounts is a mystery.
To start, you get one free debit a month and pay $2 for extras on top of that ungenerous allotment. Interac e-transfers cost $1 each, which is ironic because RBC has been a leader in the Canadian banking sector in making e-transfers available at no cost in its chequing accounts.
There are a few other differences between the Day to Day and Leo accounts. Day to Day makes overdraft protection available at a cost of $5 a month, while the Leo account does not offer this feature. Also, the Day to Day account charged $20 (or $40 depending on the length of inactivity) to provide inactive account notices, while the Leo account does not.
The Day to Day account has “savings” in the name – can a decent rate of interest be its saving grace? Nope. In fact, the rate is 0.005 per cent for balances up to $999.99 and 0.01 per cent for higher amounts. The Leo account is more generous, so to speak. It pays 0.01 per cent on your first dollar of savings.
An RBC spokesman said by e-mail that the bank routinely converts Leo account holders to a recommended product in the year they turn 14.
“The recommendation is based on the account holder’s transactional history to ensure the right product for them and we encourage them to contact their branch or the contact centre with any questions on the new account type, or other alternative options,” the spokesman wrote.
It makes sense to use a transaction history as a guide to a new account for an adult, but not a young person moving out of childhood. The early teens are a formative time in personal finance. You’re getting more money through allowances, payment for odd jobs and gifts, but you’re also starting to spend more. That one free debit with the Day to Day account would be used in a flash.
The Globe reader who shared the letter from RBC said the bank granted his request to keep the Leo account for the time being. A suggestion for making the transition to adult banking from a Leo account or something similar from another bank: Start with a no-fee chequing account that allows a suitable or unlimited menu of transactions that includes e-transfers, and then partner it with a high rate savings account.
RBC’s letter to Leo account holders offers one more lesson to the young: Never accept a bank’s recommendation of products without first doing your own research.
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