Interested in saving money? Wondering how you can take control of your finances? Keep reading!

I used to work at one of the big five Canadian banks. I learned a lot about money and finances. I learned a lot about how banks operate and work. But mostly, I learned that I HATE working with other people’s money. It’s uncomfortable, it’s a touchy subject, and honestly, it wasn’t for me.

That said, I love blogging and talking about finances, especially if I can help you save  money! So here are a few tips I learned from the bank:

1. Know your bank plan

Here’s one of the most common scenarios: a person comes in, looks through their finances, and then asked me where the hell all their money went. The first thing I did was look at their bank plan. More often than naught, particularly for younger people, their money was being eaten by excess fees.

Let’s say you’re on a bank plan for $9.99 a month and you’re allowed fifteen transaction. Make sure you stay within those fifteen! Anytime you go over your transaction limit you are charged a fee (often $1.00 or more) PER TRANSACTION. That’s right. Transferring money from your savings account to your chequing account? There’s a fee if you’ve already gone over fifteen transactions. Buying a coffee with your debit card? Add another fee. Buying lunch?

Well, I think you get the point.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal of a free or cheap plan. You think you’ll stay under the limit. You think you’ll keep track of the number of times you use your card. You think you’re saving money by choosing the free or cheap plan. I get it. But often people were coming in with $30 fees (or more!) on top of their usual $9.99 bank plan fee. Every. Single. Month.

If it’s an option and you use your debit card a lot, go with the unlimited plan. Your wallet will thank you.

2. Overdraft protection

If you have decent credit, apply for overdraft protection. There are usually options for pricing (pay a $5 dollar fee every time you go into overdraft, or if you use it a lot, pay a small monthly fee regardless of transactions). Even a small overdraft can mean the difference between cheques and bills bouncing.

This is important because every single time an automatic payment or cheque gets bounced, you pay an astronomical fee! It’s often upwards of $40 dollars every single time something doesn’t go through. This sucks. And if the biller tries again the next day, or later in the day, you’re getting ANOTHER huge charge unless you’ve deposited some cash.

Is there anything worse than looking at your bank and seeing a negative balance because you’ve been charged overdraft fees? I’d much rather pay $5 dollars for going into my overdraft than pay $40 dollars for a payment to bounce. Not to mention, missed payments on bills mean your credit takes a hit.

Granted, this isn’t an option for everyone. I know some people can’t get overdraft protection due to bad credit or for other reasons. But if you can, get an overdraft (just a small one) and save yourself the hassle and cash.

3. Get the mobile app

If your bank has a mobile app, get it. It is so much easier to manage and keep track of your money when you’ve got access to it right in the palm of your hand. I know some people worry, but online banking and mobile banking are just as safe as using a debit card. So long as you have never given your PIN out to anyone, any fraudulent charges on the card can be recovered. While we’re on the topic, do not give your PIN to anyone. Not your husband. Not your wife. Not your kid. No one is allowed to have your PIN, even if it’s a joint account.

4. Do as much as you can from home

Staying home and  looking through your finances yourself not only saves you gas from driving to the bank, but it saves you time, too! No more waiting in line (yay!). And who doesn’t love banking in their pjs!?

You can do so much from home: find your transit number, bank number, account number, deposit cheques, etransfer money to someone else, pay your bills, pay the government, invest & trade stocks, report your card stolen/lost, the options are endless really. You can even start pre-approvals for loans and mortgages online.

However, if you don’t know how to do all of this, or you’re unsure how to use the app or website, go to your bank and ask! Or book an appointment with someone at the bank to help you. Even going in once to have them explain things (where you can take notes and ask questions) will save you trips and time in the future.

5. Try to stick to 1 main bank

When I first started working at the bank I actually had 3 accounts with 3 different banks! That meant paying 3 bank fees per month, trying to keep track of 3 debit cards, and trying to keep track of what auto-deposited where and what came out of where. It was a lot of work!

If you have a few different accounts with a few different banks try to figure out if you can save some money by switching to just 1 or 2 banks.

6. Choose products wisely

If you’re pre-approved for a personal line of credit (PLOC) or a credit card, think long and hard about whether or not this fits with your long-term financial goals.  I’ve always considered myself ‘good’ with money, so when I was offered a PLOC, I accepted without hesitation. Fast forward a few years, and the rate I pay back the line of credit is MUCH slower than the rate I spent it. Its easy to count credit cards and PLOC towards money you can use. It’s easy to justify a fun vacation and think “I’ll just pay it back later, no worries!”

But (and this is a big but), paying down debt is HARD. It takes balance, frugal living and some sacrifice. Immediate gratification is not always the best option. So when you’re offered a PLOC or a credit card, be smart and think carefully about who truly profits from this. Banks make money from interest, fees, etc. If you think you can pay things down without incurring much interest, then go for it. If you’re unsure, maybe hold off until you’ve got a clearer financial goal.

7. Make a plan for your finances

Having a plan or a goal for your finances is a fantastic way to keep you on track. If it’s totally overwhelming and you have no idea where to start, go to your bank and ask for help! Book an appointment with someone and ask questions about saving for retirement, saving for a down-payment for a house, or maybe even paying down debt faster.

If you’re looking for help building a budget, check out this post: Building a budget in 8 steps

Or, if you’re totally lost with budgets and money, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to help. Contact

8. Conglomerate debt

If you have a lot of debt sources (multiple credit cards, lines of credits, student loans, etc.) see if conglomerating debt is an option for you. This means that you take out a bigger loan at one place and use that loan to pay off some of the other debt, like multiple credit cards. This comes in handy because you can often get loans with a smaller interest rate than credit cards have, saving you money in the long run. It’s also easier to pay off one stream of debt than it is to pay of 3 or 4.

Example: if you’re offered a personal line of credit for $10,000 and you have $7,000 in credit card debt, this could be a really great option. More of your monthly payment goes to paying of the principal interest with a PLOC, whereas a huge majority of the payment goes directly to interest with credit cards. (Ie: credit cards are often 19.99-21.99% and loans can be anywhere from 5%-15% depending on the bank and your credit).

9. Know your mortgage options

Certain mortgages allow you to add an extra payment each year, or allow you to increase your mortgage each year by a certain percentage. Whether you’re buying a new home, buying your first home, or renewing your mortgage, try to see what bank is offering the best option for you. I like having the option of increasing my mortgage payment by 10% each year, as well as being able to put 10% cash down each year. This takes YEARS off your mortgage, saving you plenty of interest!

That said, you might not be able to put any extra down at first, you might not be able to increase your mortgage at all. But having the option is great. You might not be able to use it now, but in two years you might be wishing your mortgage had this option.

And, if you’re renewing your mortgage, make sure you check out bank offers at different banks. Sometimes you can snag a great deal by switching to a new bank (even up to $1000 cash!). So if you have to renew, check out your options. Don’t stick with the same bank just because you feel loyalty or feel like you have to. Do what is best for you!

10. Explore new options

Did you know that there are banks that operate solely online now!? I didn’t even know until recently. Often they have better interest rates and lower fees. If you’re tired of your bank fees or you’re looking for a way to stretch your dollar as far as you can, this might be an option for you.

Or, consider switching banks to take advantage of the perks you can get from being a new client with a different bank! Often banks will run promotions to try to get new clients, even offering cash back!

If you take anything from this post, let it be this: Don’t be afraid to think creatively about banking options. The finance world is ever-changing: embrace the change and try something new, whether it’s a solely online bank, a new bank entirely, a banking app or website, or simply asking your own bank better questions about planning for your future.

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