Get a break on bank fees

You will probably get a discount on your daily banking once you hit a certain age. But banks have different definitions of how old you must be to qualify for a seniors’ account. Here’s what you need to know about banking for older customers.

Q: How can I find out if I’m eligible for a discount?

A: Speak to the financial institutions you normally deal with and ask each of them these questions: Do you offer a senior’s account? What age do I have to be to qualify? What is included and what is excluded?

Suppose you want to compare the discounts offered at a variety of financial institutions. You can get the information at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website (

The Cost of Banking Guide (on the Financial Consumer Agency’s home page under consumer tools) shows you the discounts available in your province.

As for the age of eligibilty, you can get a discount at Citizens Bank when you’re 55. You can get a discount at age 59 at National Bank, Scotiabank or Desjardins Financial Services. But at most oter institutions, you must be 60 or older to qualify.

Here are other questions to ask: Do you offer free money orders, certified cheques, travellers’ cheques or personalized cheques? Do you provide a discount on the annual rental of a safety deposit box? Is this plan available for spouses below the qualifying age?

Q: Will I get these discounts automatically? Or do I have to ask?

A: Don’t assume you’ll get a price break once you hit a certain age. Unless you ask, you may not get a discount – even if your birth date is on file. Some banks take the initiative to adjust your fees, while others wait for you to inquire.

Start asking when you’re in your early 50s. That way, you won’t miss out on any deals. Remember, the onus is on you to say that you’re eligible. Most banks won’t give you a retroactive price break if you wait too long.

Q: Can I get a better deal on my savings? Do I qualify for higher interest rates with a senior’s account?

A: Unfortunately, higher rates aren’t part of the package. To get a decent rate of interest on your savings account, you may have to switch to a different financial institution.

As of June 1, TD Canada Trust and Laurentian Bank were paying only 0.05 per cent, which works out to 50 cents a year on a $1,000 monthly balance in a savings account. Royal Bank and CIBC paid 0.10 per cent, while National Bank paid 0.25 per cent.

However, you can get a better deal elsewhere. Scotiabank’s high-interest savings account was paying three per cent (as of June 1), while BMO’s high-interest savings account was paying 2.6 per cent. These accounts may have a few restrictions, but they’re worth investigating.

Online banks can give you even higher rates, since they don’t have a branch network to support. You could be getting 3.75 per cent at Manulife Bank, 3.5 per cent at ICICI Bank Canada, 3.2 per cent at Citizens Bank, 3.15 per cent at ING Direct, 3.1 per cent at HSBC Canada and 3.05 per cent at President’s Choice Financial.

Alternative financial institutions may also provide higher savings rates. Check out the credit unions in your community. Another option is to park your money with an investment dealer. Altamira Financial Services, for example, was paying 3.5 per cent on its high-interest account (as of June 1).

Here are a few more questions to ask a financial institution: Are my deposits protected if you go out of business? Do you belong to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. (CDIC) or another corporation that will reimburse me if there’s an insolvency? What are the limits on my coverage? You’ll sleep better at night knowing your deposits are protected.

Ellen Roseman is a business columnist for the Toronto Star and financial author. She hosts It’s Your Money on the iChannel network. Reach her at [email protected].