My Complicated Banking System

Last Updated on March 15, 2017

My personal banking system is pretty complicated. And my recent attempt to simplify it only made things worse.

It all started years ago when I graduated from university and no longer qualified for free student banking. I had never had to pay banking fees before in my life, so I was not too happy when suddenly it was going to cost me $15 a month for fewer options than I previously had for free.

I have been a client of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) since I was a pre-teen. Prior to that, I had a children’s account with the only other bank in my hometown. But when I was going on a school trip to Toronto, I didn’t want to have to carry all my cash around with me. My original bank didn’t yet offer this “cool new thing” known as a debit card, but RBC did. So I switched banks. All of my money was now safe inside this little plastic card that I could use to pay for things.

Throughout high school and university, this was the one and only bank account that I had. It was my spending and saving account in one. It was easy, and for the most part, it worked well for me. That is until I finished my undergrad.

I unemployed while in grad school, and somewhat unintentionally drained my $10,000 in savings one debit transaction at a time.

Suddenly paying $15 a month in bank fees was not something I could afford and was definitely not something I wanted to be paying.

With some advice from my sister, I looked into PC Financial who offered no-fee banking. I did a little research, liked what I saw, and opened an account with them.

My intention was to close my account with RBC and move everything to PC Financial. But I didn’t know what to do about my RBC credit card.

I had heard bad things about closing a credit card and didn’t want to ruin my credit score. (Although to be honest, at the time I had no idea what any of that meant or if that was even true.)

I foolishly never asked or looked into it and instead of switching everything over, I now had 2 banks accounts instead of just the one.

When I got my first “real” job, having 2 bank accounts actually worked out better for me. Despite being 2008, the theatre I worked at still paid us by cheque. Each month, I’d deposit one cheque into my RBC account to pay my rent and my online bills. I’d deposit the other cheque into my PC Financial account to use as my spending money (since it had free debit transactions).

Somewhere around this time, my sister told me about the new Tax-Free Savings Accounts. After years of making only pennies off my savings account with RBC, this sounded perfect. I used her Tangerine Orange Key to opened an account with them and got a $50 bonus!

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I used my Tangerine TSFA strictly as savings. I set up automatic payments to this account and since I didn’t do any day-to-day banking with them, it was easy to “forget” that this money was there, slowly growing.

Until I decided to buy a new car. Which I financed with a bank loan.

I had sort of settled into my complicated banking ways when I started to have more and more issues with RBC. Pending transactions would disappear and reappear weeks later. They kept adding and increasing their fees. And they were constantly contacting me, trying to up-sell me on one thing or another.

So I once again tried to simplify my banking by moving everything over to a new account with Tangerine. But I ran into problems.

Half of my bill payees aren’t available through their system because they are local companies from my small community. And when I tried to pay my rent with a Tangerine e-transfer, my landlords couldn’t figure it out and refused to accept it.

Now between my husband and I, we have 10 different accounts or financial products with 4 different banks. And not a single joint account.

And I hate it.

My wallet is overflowing with little plastic cards. I can’t keep all the PINs straight. And every payday, I have to shuffle money around to make sure the right accounts have the right amount of money needed in them.

My banking system is needlessly complicated and it’s my own fault.

I really got to sit down one day and figure it all out.

YOUR TURN: How do you manage your bank accounts? Do you have multiple accounts with the same bank? Or do you use multiple banks?

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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9 thoughts on “My Complicated Banking System”

  1. Yes, mine got even more complicated when I bought a house! My mortgage is with a new bank and they require my salary be directly paid into that bank. So pay goes into Bank 1 and mortgage goes out of Bank 1. I then transfer money to my regular bank Bank 2 (which I’ve been with since I was a kid, love, and consider my main bank … when I refinance I may try to move over to here…) From Bank 2, this is where everything else gets spent and paid and saved. Actually, I transfer a set amount into my ‘bills’ account at this bank each pay and then bills are paid from that when they are due. I also have savings and term deposits at an online only bank (Bank 3). And then I have investments at a couple other places.

  2. I don’t have a very good answer for you…because I also have quite a few accounts. I had 34 when I counted last April and now it looks like I have 22 personal checking/savings/brokerage/retirement accounts and 7 joint ones, so I’m down a few from last year… For some of these, I have valid reasons for having all of these accounts while in other cases, it’s a symptom of not wanting to close them out for emotional reasons. My day to day banking is entirely composed of two memberships at my current credit union that each have a checking account and one or more savings accounts, one personal and one joint with my husband. I can easily transfer money between the personal and joint accounts or to my husband’s personal account. It is pretty straight forward. We’ve been really enjoying the joint account – it is SO much easier to track joint spending! After we got married, we did an analysis to pick a financial institution to hold all of our primary joint and personal accounts and I’m so happy we thought it through from scratch.

  3. Between us and the business, we have 7 different accounts/credit cards, but only mainly use 2 or 3. I keep track of them mostly through Calendar Budget. As long as I keep things updated, I can see which accounts have money in them and it’s easy to see exactly what day I might need to transfer money between account (FYI I discovered the other day that if you transfer to a Tangerine account often enough, even using the free e-transfer, you can set it up to automatically accept any transfers from specific frequently used accounts, instantly and totally free. This is great between our separate Tangerine accounts!)

  4. I know the feeling.
    We use TD as our primary account. Within it, we have a regular acct, USD, visa and USD visa, all joint. We each have an LOC (not joint). Spouse has a separate visa there, too.
    I have an RBC account (from when I was 5). I also have a CC there (that I don’t use, it lives at home), an LOC (that I don’t use, used it during university), and $100 in a TFSA, which was to make the bank account free. They’ve since increased the minimum investment amount, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with those accounts.
    We also recently moved all of our investments to be with an investment advisor, so now they’re all at Scotia.

  5. Yeah, I’ve tried to simplify mine but it’s probably only gotten more complex. I’ve always thought that if I die, my wife is going to have a heck of a time trying to look back at things. She’d be better off just starting from scratch *LOL*

  6. We have several accounts between two banks. Our local branch for basic checking and savings, which also has our mortgage account, and we use it for all paycheck deposits and our debit card. And I opened an ING account during one of their black Friday $150 bonus signs up, because they became Capital One 360. I have multiple accounts with the online bank, as it makes savings much easier. Total banks 2, total accounts 8. It took awhile to adjust to my multi-account system, but it works well for us. Both are fee-free banks, I’d switch in a heartbeat if either started charging fees!

  7. Ugh I feel your pain. I have 7 free chequing/saving accounts, a BMO account, and a brand new account with another free bank. I have 4 credit cards from four different providers. I have three investment accounts (2 with Tangerine and one with yet another free bank). I’m about to open another investment account and move most of my RRSP/TFSA savings over there. So 12, soon to be 13 accounts with five providers and four credit cards. What the hell!!! Thankfully I’m in the middle of consolidating some of this madness.

  8. I have this issue too.

    I use PC for daily, Tangerine to save, and I have a BMO Credit Card – with a BMO Chequing acct (which I opened to help a friend who works there)

    I never use the BMO, and transfer half a paycheque monthly into my Tangerine to save. I also opened up a TFSA with someone separate… SMH

    My mom was the same way. I think it’s because all banks offer something better than the other at one point, so you go with it. I think I’d keep PC and Tangerine and that is it if I were you. PC can do the etransfer, and Tangerine will do the saving. I agree also Tangerine’s etransfer method is horrible.

  9. Oh my! You have more bank accounts than me! I do think 10 is a lot and that it would drive me nuts. I have 3 and each bank has multiple accounts, but they are all free. Same here, where each one was for different reasons. However, 3 is manageable, and I like having money in different places where I don’t see it every day. I do auto savings transfers to all three of them, but use just one as my primary for bills, debit, paycheck deposits and everything else.


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