Without naming names, let’s say I keep all my accounts at a certain Whistler bank branch. I used to bank at different financial institutions in Ontario and Nova Scotia, then opened a new account at another bank when I arrived in Whistler in 1999. Last year I moved banks once again when my wife and I pooled our resources.
Now all of our accounts — mortgage, chequing, savings, RRSPs, line of credit — exist at a single bank. All of our apples are in one basket, so to speak.
I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing — it’s one of the biggest banks in Canada and would be one of the last to go under in a financial catastrophe. Besides, we owe them ten times more than we have in all our accounts.
What is bad is that this particular apple basket completely sucks when it comes to online banking, which is really the only kind of banking that I do.
For one thing, there’s no way to use the information presented online to figure out how much money you had at the start of the month or the end of the month — unless you always look at your account on the first and last of the month and write that information down somewhere else. Unlike the two previous banks I’ve banked with online, this particular financial institution does not show your balance after every single transaction you make — which means there’s no looking backwards to find out what your balance was after any given transaction, which means I have no frame of reference to track our finances online.
Cheques come in, money goes out, and we never have the slightest idea what any of it really means. In order to track our accounts and keep to any kind of a budget it looks like we will actually have to start keeping an entirely separate set of books.
I’ve complained about the lack of a balance column a number of times, and in reply I’ve been fed a line of B.S. about how electronic balances and actual balances can differ sometimes and was advised to refer to our paper statement to get accurate balance information — which also doesn’t tell us the exact information we need to know, when we need to know it. Besides, we’d much prefer to go paperless and stop getting mail altogether.
What the bank couldn’t explain is why other banks can in fact give you an accurate, instant electronic balance after every single transaction you make. It’s just a simple matter for banks to get their website servers to talk to their central computer servers which do track your transactions in real-time.