Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Farewell Coast Capital

When I moved to BC it was after the 1990 housing crash. In fact the economy of Toronto by 1994 was so bad that I was unemployed for a year - on my resume I was a self employed consultant but the contracts I got were few and far between. I considered myself lucky to get a job with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in Victoria. I also expected to be able to bring my so called portable mortgage with me: the Bank of Montreal declined. My lawyer, as I have so often heard, told me I had a Good Case but not the resources to take on one of Canada's biggest banks. So when we settled in Saanich I opened an account with Pacific Coast Savings, the local credit union. They really were a breath of fresh air after BMO. I was sad that they did not have any branches on the mainland when I had to move again but was content to switch to Richmond Savings, also a local credit union. And very well run indeed. Fast forward twenty years or so, and by now Richmond Savings and  Pacific Coast have merged into Coast Capital and are looking at the opportunity to become national.

The nearest branch to where I live is not especially convenient, but most of my banking gets done on line and there are "ding free" ATMs all over. Without me asking, the chequing account has a pre-approved overdraft limit of $2,000 which makes the "available balance" look very healthy whenever I use an ATM. But I have no need of an overdraft.

On our recent trip to the UK my partner and I used the same British bank ATMs to get pounds, but hers cost a lot less than mine. So when I got back I opened up a VanCity account. It then took a while for the various pension deposits to get shifted over. I do not understand how that takes months in a system that is largely automated and virtual. It is not like the goblins have to shift around piles of gold coins.  I also was annoyed that a payment through PayPal did not get charged to my credit card as I expected but deducted from the Coast Capital checking account. A small sum, but one that incurred a large (compared to the amount) fee. There was a significant balance on the savings account, but it did not occur to Coast Capital that on the whole I really wasn't actually in debt to them at all. And the fee was distinctly unexpected given their sales pitch.

So today I went to the branch on Broadway at Cambie. There were two tellers working - and a steadily growing line of customers. In VanCity it is not unusual for the staff at other desks around the branch to come forward to see if they can help the people in line. I have never, ever seen that happen at Coast Capital. When I get a teller, I tell him to close my accounts, and that I want the balances in cash. This apparently requires multiple transactions - each one requiring him to go and get a separate sum of money after I have signed a paper slip he has printed. And an agreement about "Overdraft Protection": I don't know how that protects me - I am that one that got dinged. He cannot manage to actually close the account. He has to call over another member of staff. The line behind me is now getting restive. Each transaction is, of course, rounded down. NO attempt is made to explain why they have to be separate payments, and not added together. It cannot be done purposely to save the pennies - can it? The process is lengthy and conducted in silence - except for the two tellers whispering to each other and pointing at the screen between us.

At no time did anyone evince any interest at all as to why I had chosen to close my accounts, and get back my $5 membership share.

But I am glad I did.


Post Postscript

This evening I got a telephone call from the Assistant Manager at the branch in question. She was very apologetic and listened to what I had to say - even though it largely repeated what is written above and which she said she had read. She even offered to meet with me, buy me a coffee, and hear my questions and concerns. I explained that I have been a member of the Coast Capital "Tell us what you think" panel since it was set up. Not once did I get any feedback from that. She said that what I have written and said will be of great concern to Coast Capital.

It has taken me about four months to wrap up the "relationship" I had with this credit union. It is a shame that only after it is all over that they think to ask why. Too late for me, I hope not too late them.  


I learn from Integrity BC that in 2016 Coast Capital donated $11,700 to the BC Liberal Party.

January 20

A letter arrives by Canada Post from Coast capital suggesting I should switch to electronic statements - for the accounts I closed ten days ago.

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