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Even in the age of accessible online banking, some people still opt for a paper record of their chequing account activity, and that’s ok! How you keep track of your account is a matter of personal preference, but be aware that sticking to old-school paper methods will cost you extra.
Anyone with a bank account or credit card is familiar with the paper statement mailed to you by your bank each month, breaking down your opening and closing balance and all the money that flowed in and out of your account through various transactions. But since 2012-13, in an effort to steer Canadians toward online banking, nearly all major banks have instituted a monthly fee. The typical fee is $2 for customers to receive a paper copy of their monthly account statement in the mail. Among Canada’s Big Five banks, RBC is the only one that has kept paper statements free.
Although this falls on the cheaper end of the banking fees spectrum, it’s a sore spot for customers who already feel nickel and dimed by the big banks. It was a top contender for CBC’s Canada’s Dumbest Charge, and in their 2013 throne speech the Conservatives pledged to put an end to paper billing fees. Canada’s big telecom companies have since agreed to exempt some customers from paper bill fees, but as of this writing, banks’ fees for paper statements remain intact.
Paperless record keeping, also known as online banking, allows you to monitor account activity online and complete transactions such as transferring funds between accounts, bill payments, e-transfers, depositing cheques, and storing e-receipts—all for free. Instead of getting your monthly paper statement in the mail, you’ll receive an email with a PDF copy or link to your monthly statement—it may even look exactly the same as the paper version.
Online banking has surged in popularity since the 1990s, so before banks started charging the $2 monthly paper statement fee, you might have even done a hybrid of online banking and casually ripping open and scanning your paper statement each month. If you have reliable mobile or internet access, online banking is the cheaper, more convenient way to go. Besides logging in to your account via your desktop or laptop, all major banks (and many credit unions) offer mobile banking apps so you can complete all the same transactions on your phone, also at no cost.
If you’re on the fence about going paperless, take a look around your home or office: how many paper bill statements are strewn on your coffee table, jammed into desk drawers, or stacked in the recycling bin? How many are unopened, or opened but only casually scanned?
A passbook is a small paper notebook used to record transactions on a chequing or savings account. Tellers used to write by hand the date, type of transaction and the updated account balance, but printers are now used to update passbooks automatically, either at the ATM or in-branch. Because passbooks are small, they contain fewer details than a full monthly statement.
Today, passbooks are mainly used by people who don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, or people who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with telephone and online banking and prefer the paper alternative for getting account updates between monthly statements. Banks charge around $2-$2.50/month for passbook recordkeeping fees. However, some banks no longer offer the passbook as a recordkeeping option to new customers in an effort to phase it out.
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Also read: Chequing Account Fees