After almost three years of travel and doing all our banking remotely, we have come to realize that not all banks are created equal.
Before leaving home, we vetted a few different banks to find the one that best suited our requirements (click here for a quick review). The decision to go with TD Canada Trust was a wise one; we have been able to do all our day-to-day banking with ease. Having a real person within the bank that you can go to directly has been extremely helpful and we strongly recommend that you develop your own contact before you leave.
Note: As Canadians we cannot address the best banks to use in the US, however TD Bank has 1300 branches in the US mostly on the eastern seaboard and of course online.
Our day-to-day banking is running like clockwork. However, we do have a couple of investment properties and these have mortgages with other banks. These recently came up for renewal and we wanted to share our own personal experience of what should be a simple process, even for full time travelers.
The first mortgage for renewal is with Scotiabank. The reason we did not choose Scotiabank for our day-to-day banking soon became painfully obvious. Typically, the bank will send the mortgage holder a rate offer in the mail one or two months before the mortgage renewal date. As we would not be in Canada at that time, we decided to move the process forward by a few weeks.
After two frustrating phone calls with Scotiabank representatives, who after quoting Scotiabank’s published interest rates, told us that we would have to wait till we got the paperwork and then sign it and send it back. Paperwork? Signatures on hard copies really, in these days of email and online fillable documents, why?
We decided to take matters in hand and visit a nearby branch. The outcome was that we would have to go to the branch where the mortgage was originally issued and talk to a broker there. As we no longer have a vehicle, this was not as simple as it sounds, especially as we were nowhere near the original branch. After lengthy explanations we were given the phone number of the broker that had taken over our file (original broker had left the bank) and the branch managers number.
We soon learnt that the broker was away for the next two weeks, his back up was also out of the office and we eventually left a message with the manager. Three days later, we got a call from the branch asking us to come in and see the broker………… Again we explained no transport etc. and asked why we could not discuss it with a broker at a branch near to us? No this was not possible, it had to be done at the original branch! Again why? We were able to discuss what rate they would offer and we were pleasantly surprised. But, again were told they couldn’t mail, email or fax the paperwork to us, it had to be signed in the branch.
It took almost three weeks of frustration and multiple phone calls and discussions with two different branch managers to get the paperwork faxed to a nearby branch (it arrived so late in the day, on our last day in the area, that they had to let us in after business hours to sign the new mortgage documents).
Scotiabank’s tag line “You’re richer than you think” in our case became “We’re more frustrating than you think”. This experience highlighted just how antiquated and rigid this bank is (Note this is our personal opinion based on our mortgage dealings with the bank). In our opinion, these are not desirable characteristics for a traveler’s needs.
Our second mortgage for renewal is held by Tangerine formerly ING Direct. This is an online bank only, they have no branches and everything is done online or by phone. The first phone call got us directly to a broker who offered us a very attractive 5-year fixed rate at 1% less than their posted rates–if we opened a savings account with them. This was a ‘no brainer’ as Michael would say and we duly set up a link and deposited $100 into a savings account. The transfer of funds took two days to complete and we called back to set up the renewal. Five minutes later we were done. The mortgage is renewed at an excellent rate, with a lower monthly payment and our savings account is already making interest.
The verdict: Tangerine was by far the easiest to deal with and may be a viable alternative for Canadian travelers. Ironically, Tangerine is a subsidiary of Scotiabank. The dinosaur owns the greyhound.
Wherever your home base is, before you set up a mobile banking system, take some time to consider what is important to you. Do you need to transfer money between accounts and financial institutions, need to reduce ATM fees and transaction charges, can you set up auto payment for all your bills including your credit card payments? Once you know exactly what you need, go shopping and find a bank that fits your needs. Yes this can be a hassle but a hassle now not one that happens when you are the other side of the world.