Don't sweat the small stuff, always pay down your credit card balance and be prepared to escalate — these are among the banking tips personal finance expert and author Bruce Sellery offers to consumers aiming to protect their savings.
Sellery, author of Moolala: Why smart people do dumb things with their money (and what you can do about it), took questions from CBC viewers on Facebook.
Many of the questions focused on bank fees and services in the wake of a CBC News Go Public investigation that revealed that employees from Canada's five big banks — RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD and Scotiabank — felt pressured to upsell and trick customers in order to meet demanding sales targets.
Here are some of Sellery's top tips.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Small banking fees such as ATM charges might add up over time, but should consumers get upset about them? Maybe not, Sellery says they may add up to a few hundred dollars annually.
People would do better to focus on other priorities where there's more at stake financially. For example, did you do your research when renewing your mortgage? Or did you just sign the papers?
"The fees that really make an enormous difference to your financial well-being over time, we're oblivious to those ones, too. Don't worry about your ATM fee if you're taking money out once a month. Be nuts at mortgage renewal," he says.
Start your mortgage renewal from scratch
Sellery suggests consumers ask their mortgage brokers about all the features banks and secondary lenders offer. For example, a person who is taking a maternity leave might want a mortgage plan that allows for a temporary payment vacation. Another person might prefer one that allows lump-sum pre-payments.
But most importantly, Sellery says, is to research and ask the questions each time your agreement comes due.
"Every time you renew, you start from scratch, " he says.
Keep your investments together
Some investors believe it's best to spread their money around in different financial institutions. Sellery advises against this kind of diversification.
"The simplicity of having it all in one place is better," he says. He also notes that in some cases, you may also have some negotiating power when you have all of your assets bundled at one bank.
Consider your options
Some banks will charge as much as $25 to perform a wire transfer. While some customers balk at the cost, Sellery says people should look at other options. Consider an e-transfer or sending the money through a gift card, both options with lower fees, he says.
Bring on the charm but be ready to escalate
There is room to negotiate lines of credit and investment fees, Sellery says, advising that customers should strive to be friendly.
"Be the warmest, most charming customer that they've received all day," he advises, saying the bank will be more likely to try to help you. He also encourages consumers to do their research beforehand.
He notes, when you're told "no," be prepared to escalate and ask to speak with the manager.
"Commit the time and be patient," he says. "Clearly illustrate where there's a competitive offer."
Get out of the game
Consumers who carry debt on their credit cards need to tame their habits, Sellery suggests.
But, he says, while there may be extraordinary circumstances in which a person has to occasionally dip into the red, for the most part, there is a way for many consumers to work their way out of debt.
"It's in your circle of control," he says. "Take in boarders, sell your car."
And once you work your way back, get out of the credit card game if you can't control your spending. For online purchases or instances where you need a cash alternative, use a pre-paid credit card or a debit card with a credit card option, he advises.
Watch the full Facebook Live interview: