CIBC and President's Choice Financial are amicably breaking up a 20-year banking marriage and divvying up the assets — news one financial expert says isn't necessarily a good or bad thing for consumers.
In a nutshell, President's Choice Financial will keep the PC Financial MasterCard credit card service and the PC Plus loyalty program, while the two million PC Financial banking customers will move to CIBC's new service called Simplii Financial.
CIBC says these customers can continue to use their chequing, savings and other accounts without interruption and expect the same no-fee daily banking when the Simplii Financial service begins Nov. 1.
"They will still have this option through CIBC. It'll just no longer be called PC Financial," said Bruce Sellery, author of The Moolala Guide to Rockin' Your RRSP.
Sellery doesn't think the change is necessarily a good or bad thing for consumers.
"A lot of Canadians are simply happy to just bank where they always bank, do what they always do, and while they rant and rave about their annoyance with service fees they don't do much about it."
But Marvin Ryder, an assistant professor at McMaster University, said some of the incentives to bank with PC Financial, such as earning PC Points with the bank accounts, will go away after Oct. 31.
"I think that's what the question's going to be for consumers," Ryder said.
CIBC will hear a lot of, "What incentives are you going to offer me in this world out there? I have many choices out there as a consumer," he said.
"We're going to have to see how they [CIBC] react."
Only time will tell if PC Financial customers will stay or new customers will sign up with Simplii Financial, but Wednesday's announcement generated much interest on a Reddit thread.
"Seems like the only significant change is the removal of the ATMs and the kiosks at the Loblaw stores. Other than that it is just a name change. As long as the free chequing is still there, I'm fine with this move," Reddit user umbrato wrote.
"It's hard to get to too wound up about this. There are so many alternatives to PC/simply that have free access to atms (credit union/exchange) and offer better interest rates," username10983 wrote.
Jaymesned posted, "Changes like this are never for the benefit of the consumer. It's just a matter of time before fees go up and services go down. Or Simpii becomes 'financially unviable' and everyone is converted to a regular CIBC customer. It might be time to look into my local credit union."
Other no-fee banking options
For consumers, there aren't many virtual financial institutions with the kind of reach that President's Choice Financial has. There's Tangerine Bank's No Fee Daily Chequing.
There are more options from credit unions but they tend to be more regional. They include No Fee eChequing Account from Alterna Bank, Simply Free Account from Envision Financial, No Fee Account from TCU Financial Group, Simply Free Account from Island Savings and No Fee Account from Conexus Credit Union.
"There are credit unions across the country and a lot of them have offerings that are quite competitive if not more competitive than the banks," Sellery said. "But people don't necessarily consider them. So if you're willing to do the legwork there is a way for you to find deals."
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's account selector tool has one of the most comprehensive lists available to the public, he said.