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Ratehub logo Roundup: July 2016

Personal finance is a funny thing. Each one of us has our own financial needs, challenges, and strengths. And yet we depend on huge institutions to help us manage our day-to-day finances. Governments, banks, and insurance companies are all big organizations that have a lot of influence on you as a person.

In this month’s roundup we have four stories for you, all about how the big guys are affecting your bottom line. In this small cross-section of personal finance news, a few of the big guys are fighting for you, a few of them are against you and a couple are just fighting with each other. Read on to find out who’s on your side:

Finance minister going for a dive

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised a “deep dive” into the causes of the hot housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with the situation, house prices in Toronto and Vancouver have been increasing rapidly for a number of years, but nobody’s really sure why. There are theories ranging from low mortgage rates to foreign investments to land use restrictions, but so far there hasn’t been any research that’s been able to prove definitively what’s going on. The government hasn’t released any details about what will comprise the investigation, and it’s probably a safe bet that whatever information does come to light, it’ll be a long time before anything is done about it. Until then, we’ll keep seeing stories in the media about how a housing market crash is inevitable, and wondering what it’ll take for things to change.

Heavyweight fight card: Walmart in the blue and gold vs. Visa in the blue and gold

The two brands that share giantness and colours will not be sharing anything else in the near future, as the massive retailer has publicly announced it will no longer accept the massive credit card in its stores. Walmart says Visa is charging it too much money to process payments. And small business owners are cheering the move, saying lower interchange fees will help big and small businesses alike. Outsiders also think there might be a link to a battle in the U.S., where Walmart is suing Visa over that country’s transition to chip-and-pin technology. But there’s another pony in this race that’s being overlooked by just about everybody: The Walmart MasterCard. Walmart wouldn’t be the first big retailer to incent customers to use a branded card. Loblaw (the grocery titan behind President’s Choice Financial) and Costco are two other Canadian sellers of things that promote branded MasterCard cards. Hmm.

Why online banking is being blamed for higher banking fees

No need for expensive branches, electrical bills, staff, paper, vaults, the list goes on. That’s the reason we all expected banking to get cheaper when online banking came around not that long ago. But it turns out the opposite may be true. Massive investments in online infrastructure, apps, and security mean the big banks are spending lots of money to offer you a seamless and safe experience online. Unfortunately, the money’s gotta come from somewhere and that somewhere is your wallet. TD and CIBC have recently raised transaction fees on their bank accounts, Scotiabank and BMO have upped some credit card fees, and RBC, in a bid to avoid hiking banking fees in Canada, has announced major fee hikes in the Caribbean. If you don’t like it, complain! It’s worked before.

Life insurance is about to get cheaper for honest stoners

If you fall into the category of people who smoke marijuana, don’t smoke tobacco, have life insurance, and didn’t lie about smoking weed on your life insurance application: good news! Two of Canada’s major insurers will now offer cheaper rates to pot smokers, treating them as non-smokers. Sun Life and BMO announced the move late in May, to the approval of marijuana activists. With legalization of the drug coming soon, other insurers are expected to revise their policies to match. If you’ve been putting off getting life insurance because of this issue (what other reason could there be?), you just ran out of excuses. Updates

Did you know you could be mortgage-free four years faster and save almost $7,000 in interest just by making an extra $1,000 payment on your mortgage each year? We can help you get started with our $1,000 Mortgage Vacation Contest! Enter to win and you could be a thousand dollars richer this summer.

If you spend a lot of money on things like concerts and dinners out because you don’t want to miss out, you’re not alone. Read our post, The Cost of #FOMO (fear of missing out) and find out why 70% of Canadians believe a quarter of their debt or more is caused by this phenomenon.

Love travelling for free and getting stuff for free while you’re at it? Read our Points Guru post about how the Aeroplan program works, and enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

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