Buying bitcoin, battling the big banks, and a billion-dollar “dumpster fire.” Here are some personal finance headlines you might have missed last month.
TD Bank stops allowing customers to use credit cards to buy cryptocurrency
Following similar moves by banks in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, Toronto-Dominion Bank is the first of Canada’s Big Five to bar customers from buying cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin) using credit cards. The bank said Feb. 23 it’s assessing the “evolving market” and regularly reviews “policies and security measures” to protect both customers and the bank. In statements to The Canadian Press, Royal Bank and Bank of Nova Scotia said they’re also reviewing their policies around cryptocurrency. Royal told CP it allows cryptocurrency transactions using debit and credit cards in limited circumstances, but warns customers a sudden drop in value “could expose them to substantially higher debt levels than they are able to repay.” As of this writing, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce haven’t commented publicly.
When saving into an RRSP instead of a TFSA could cost you dearly
Canadians have two basic ways to save for retirement: the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), and the tax-free savings account (TFSA). But do you actually know the differences between the two? Both provide tax shelter benefits, but which one is better for you basically comes down to whether your income will be higher in retirement than during your working life. This helpful explainer from Global News lays out the basics of RRSPs vs. TFSAs, how money going in and out is taxed, and scenarios illustrating the better fit for your profile.
Gap between housing supply and demand largest in Toronto and Vancouver: CMHC
In a surprise to no one who’s braved the hellishly competitive rental process in Toronto or Vancouver, a report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says the two cities have a “significantly weaker” supply of new housing compared to other metropolitan areas in response to growing demand and sky-high prices. The problem is, the agency doesn’t know why — CMHC doesn’t have a full picture due to data gaps. Between 2010-16, house prices jumped 40% in Toronto and 48% in Vancouver. Just how low is the vacancy rate? One eager/desperate Toronto renter created a movie poster and a song to market himself to potential landlords.
ICBC’s $1.3-billion loss a ‘dumpster fire’
A financial dumpster fire, to be exact. British Columbia attorney general David Eby didn’t mince words when describing the $1.3-billion shortfall faced by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC), which provides universal auto insurance for motorists in the province. Eby blamed the previous Liberal government for transferring more than $1 billion from the Crown corporation and for scrubbing recommendations from a report on impending financial doom by independent consultants before it was released to the public. As reported by the Vancouver Sun, B.C. residents pay the highest auto insurance premiums in Canada, “but are only slightly more likely than the average Canadian driver to be injured or killed in accidents.” Postmedia obtained the 2014 ICBC report and, following Eby’s comments that he had not seen it himself, released it to the public.
Against the odds: Why customers often lose in battles with banks
Following a story on what happens when banks lose your money (spoiler: until you go to the media, nothing), CBC’s Go Public reveals the Sisyphean complaint process for customers fighting with big banks over lost deposits. Customers first have to exhaust the bank’s internal complaint process, before going through the bank’s own ombudsman — enough to wear most people down, according to one consumer advocate. Even if the complaint makes it to the national not-for-profit Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), the agency can only recommend compensation, not enforce it. According to 2017 numbers from OBSI, only 23% of banking complaints ended with a recommendation for compensating the consumer. Banks complaints are investigated either by OBSI or the for-profit ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office, which is funded in part by fees charged to the banks it oversees.
Co-founder and CEO Alyssa Furtado shares insurance tips with BNN on finding the right auto, life, and home coverage. Furtado also spoke at the annual Ivey Venture Forum, joining a panel of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to discuss the importance of building talent and capital pools in Canada to scale the startup ecosystem.
Ratehub.ca sponsored QHacks 2018, a three-day student hackathon hosted by Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Members of Ratehub.ca’s Kingston-based development team spent the weekend mentoring students taking part in unique hacker workshops, challenges, and speaking events.
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