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Quest for USD Account

weather: partially sunny
outside: 10.5°C
mood: ...
I was unhappy enough with TD Canada Trust that I closed both my accounts with them. And this is even considering the fact that they are open late on weekday evenings. Evening business hours is HUGE plus for someone like me. I opened an account with them when they had the best high interest savings account around, but their staff did some things that... didn't impress me.

I momentarily felt bad because the teller girl who closed out my accounts was so nice. She said I was the third person in 15 minutes to close my accounts with her. Apparently, I'm not the only one going to greener pastures. I tried to be nice about it too, saying that I'd gladly re-open an account if they had a great rate.

One of my accounts was a USD account. So, I've been looking around for somewhere to park it. I only ever plan to deposit and withdraw USD. I'm not going to be letting the bank automatically convert it for me.

Finding a good high interest USD bank account option in Canada is not easy. Every bank has a no-interest, everyday regular-use account option, but I don't use it that often. I mostly let it sit, accumulate and earn interest. I use it on trips abroad which is only once in a while. So, an everyday regular-use account is not right for me.

Most other USD Savings accounts have pitiful rates. I was almost thinking about finding out what rates American banks would give foreigners for an account...

And in the Learn Something New Every Day Department™:

I'd heard a lot about ING Direct, so I looked into them. Generally, good products sell themselves. When something is heavily, heavily advertised, that's usually the first clue that there's something wrong with it.

ING Direct is no exception in this regard. I've never had reason to care, so I always had the impression that they were a bank that gives customers a much better deal than the other banks. They're not a bank at all, but they're very happy to mislead you into thinking that they are.

They just offer financial services that are very similar to what banks have. They blare loudly, in an obnoxious orange colour, no less, that they give better rates and they are a better way of "banking". What they don't say is that those better rates come at the price of much greater inconvenience. It's fine if you can accept the greater level of inconvenience, but there's a sliminess to how they present themselves.

You still have to have an actual bank account at an actual bank in order to use ING's services. That external account is going to have fees. I find it bizarre that this is a prerequisite requirement and nobody mentions that.

I found this out when I was looking at their 3.5% USD account. That sounded great, but you don't have the ability to write cheques or order drafts from any of their accounts, so I can't use them because I would need a USD account at a real bank that I can transfer funds to and then write a cheque from the external account.

That just defeats the whole purpose of it.

When you deposit or transfer funds into your ING account from your other bank account it's held — by their own admission — for an excessively long time before you have access it. "It's MY MON-EY", is it? Transfering money electronically or by paper doesn't take more than 2 business days. Yes, I know they're hedging and they have to make their money somehow. I just don't like that they're advertising "different" as "better" and hiding the "not better" part.

I remember my mortgage advisor saying that their mortgages were crap too. They really don't have the best products, their advertising is just very very calculated. Famous Dutch actors with cool accents, who are largely unknown in North America, are exceptionally effective Marketing tools.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2007 07:40 am (UTC)
ING is great. I've used them for years. The transfers have never taken more than 1 business day for me.

As for defeating the whole purpose, if you find somewhere I can easily stash money at 3.5% and get to it quickly without paying early withdrawal fees, let me know. Plus everyone has a chequing account anyway... so it's not like you have to get something extra. Admittedly, not everyone has a US dollar account and I don't think I ever did sort out if I could link a US dollar ING account to a US dollar chequing account but if you're doing so many US dollar transactions that you have to have a US dollar account, why wouldn't you want to have somewhere you can put your excess US funds where they can actually earn you something but not be so tied up that you can't use them when you need to?

As far as I know, no bank in Canada offers any kind of real interest on funds held in US dollar accounts. The closest I came was US cash I had in a TD Waterhouse investment account which got a comparable rate to the ING rate but that would have been murder for me to transfer in and out of given that I have no other accounts with TD. "Hello, can you please mail me a cheque for some of my US funds?"

I haven't explored the ins and outs of their mortgages but they sure look WAY better on the surface than the ones offered by the Big 5 in terms of rates and flexibility. Given the service they've provided me over the last... probably 10 years, I'd totally check them out if I were in any position to buy property in this crazy city.

VanCity has US dollar accounts. I dumped BMO last year after they shafted me and my sister regarding some finances we were taking care of for my mum. Stupid of them, really, since I had been with them over a decade and will now happily pilory them to anyone who will listen. VanCity has been quite nice and has the added benefit of being on the Exchange network, which means you can access your money for free (imagine!) at an other credit union AND HSBC branches.

But yeah, don't knock ING until you try them. Plus--well, you don't seem like a very disorganised person so you can't tell me you wouldn't be able to handle, "Oh gee, I have to write a US-dollar cheque... better get some money transferred from my ING account in advance."

Actually, sometimes I transferred money from ING to BMO and back again just for fun because it was done as a pre-authorised debit and pre-authorised deposit to and from my BMO account, which meant each transaction earned me an Air Mile. You have to shaft financial institutions in all the many little ways you can think up.
May. 1st, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
In terms of regular banking, I have everything at RBC and they're giving me 4% (until July 31, then it's 3.5%) for on their eSavings account mimicking an ING account. No fees, no minimum, no held funds, free unlimited transfers to and from my regular savings/chequing accounts. It's murder if I withdraw directly from that account, or if I pay a bill from that account, but that's moot for me if it's free to transfer.

With the USD, I'm looking for the actual initial bank account to put my US cash in to begin with. So, ING is not going to work. I may as well try to find an actual USD account with a decent interest rate... I sent in my application to Citibank yesterday. No fees, but there's a minimum balance, chequing option is available. We'll see how that goes...

I suspect ING's mortgages are set up the same way, the numbers look fantastic, but the terms are set up to shaft you in another way. That seems to be their credo. And it's okay as long as you understand what those terms are and are agreeing to being shafted in a different way than the Big 5.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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