The National Student Loan Services Centre’s fax number contains “666”


So, yeah, I’m still paying off those damn student loans.  But student loans aren’t what I’m bitching about today.  Today I’m bitching about the Royal Bank.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I keep a separate bank account where a portion of my paycheque goes every month, which is used to make my student loan payments.  I have it separate from my main account, which I have at Vancity Credit Union, because I just can’t bear to see $1,000 disappear each and every month – keeping it separate allows me to pretend that I never made that money in the first place!  Anyway, since I started paying off my student loans three years ago, I’ve had this account at the Royal Bank (which holds two of my three student loans – the third is held by the government).  And every month for the past three years I’ve had the same three debits come out of my account with no fees.  But on my last bank statement, I saw there was a $1.50 charge for an “extra” debit, though I didn’t make any more debits than usual. After a bit of back and forth via email with the Royal Bank peeps, I found out that they had changed the rules on the account type I had.  Up until now, my account had no monthly fee and I was entitled to one free debit per month, plus one free debit for every payroll deposit.  I get paid every two weeks, so that gives me two extra free debits – so a total of the three debits I need per month (one for each student loan payment).  Apparently, though their website didn’t say this when I looked at it when the $1.50 charge went through, they’ve removed the free debits for payroll credits, meaning I’m only entitled to one free debit per month, period.  Which, of course, isn’t sufficient.  “But you can get an account that will give you 15 free debits for only $4 per month,” they told me, after I told them I only ever do 3 debits per month.  Since the account I have gives me one free debit and the extra debits cost $1.50, that would only be $3.  And the last time I checked, $4 is more than $3, so, thanks for offering me a worse deal, asshats! Regardless, I’m not willing to pay $3 per month for the “privilege” of paying off my student loans – I still have about five years left to go, so that would be almost $200 in the end. For nothing.  No thanks!  Anyway, I wrote back and restated my needs for this account, asking, “Do you have any accounts that will meet these requirements that won’t have any fees?” (which, of course, is what I have had up until now).  They replied with a form letter that basically told me to look at their website to see what accounts they have.  You know it’s bad when you find yourself replying:

“Hi Sandra,

Thanks for sending me a generic form letter in reply to my question. I’ve already looked at your website and don’t see any options that meet my needs. I’ll just close my account and take my business elsewhere.


Did I mention they were asshats?

My next stop was to visit Vancity and see if they had any accounts that would work for me. The person I spoke to there was new and tried really hard to figure out what I was wanting, but she ended up giving me a savings account from which you can’t write cheques or set up preauthorized payments, so that didn’t really work.  A follow up phone call to Vancity (once I discovered that I couldn’t do preauthorized payments) revealed that my only option there that would allow me not to have to pay fees would be  to open a second chequing account and keep a minimum balance of $1,000 in it, in addition to  my main chequing account where I already keep a minimum balance of $1,000.  Not keen to have $2,000 tied up doing nothing, I decided to look elsewhere.  And it seems that my best option is to open a President’s Choice Financial account – they have chequing accounts that will allow me to set up preauthorized payments with no fees and no minimum balance needed.  So that’s my plan.

But it will take a little while, apparently, to get my PC account set up, so in the meantime I faxed the National Student Loans Services Centre and the Royal Bank Student Loans Centre (which, by the way, appears to have nothing to do whatsoever with the Royal Bank… don’t even get me started on THAT rant!) to set up preauthorized payments from my current Vancity chequing account. I figure I can handle one month of my student loan payments coming out of my main account without being too emotionally scarred. I want to make sure I can pay my July 31/Aug 1 student loan payments without using the Royal Bank account – because they don’t deserve even $3 of my money!  And then I’ll use my *one* free debit – to withdraw ALL of my money from that account and close it down!

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  • I don’t know how much money you have remaining in your RBC account but there is often a limit on debit transactions… like $500 or $1000. Just don’t want you to get caught by surprise. You might be better off going into the bank to withdraw it–although it wouldn’t surprise me if “teller-assisted” transactions cost you.

    I don’t do any pre-authorized debits because, unlike credit card “debits,” the legislation “protecting” customers if they’ve pre-authorized debits is basically non-existent so if the Royal Bank Student Loans Centre were to start taking the wrong amount out of your account, I believe you’re screwed–or at least way more screwed than if you were contesting a credit card transaction. I would just manually do the payment each month from your alternate account. A bit of a hassle but free (I don’t know of anyone who charges you to make bill payments manually).

    Still, good to be ditching RBC. They is the evil.


  • Wow, you Canadian guys need some competition in your banking sector! I would go crazy if I had all those ridiculous restrictions on what I could do with my money. Just about every bank here has had a free checking option for the last couple decades. I could find 3 places to get a no fee, no minimum balance checking or savings account regardless of monthly payroll deposits or not within a 5 minute WALK from my current location! This may be me being biased, but I’d say get bank account online or in the US unless there is some legal/tax/currency reason that would make it more trouble. has a Bill payment account that will actually pay you interest on your daily balance as if it were a savings account, no minimum. It’s not much, but I probably make a few pennies a month. Making $5 over the next 5 years sounds better than paying $200. I’m not affiliated with them at all and they’re not even MY primary savings account, but my primary account is with my primary credit card company, talk about messed up, and I don’t think they have bill payment options.


  • Yes, the US capitalistic answer to everything: more competition will make everything better! We should totally emulate the banking system in the US! That way we too could share in the financial ruin your country and your economy is in.

    There are many, many things wrong with our banks here, granted, but copying the US system would make things far worse, not better. The strong banking regulation here is what let our economy escape the worst ravages of the recession. Increasing competition would require a loosening of those regulations. I would rather deal with some service fees–and those could be dealt with if the fucking government here would regulate them properly; it doesn’t require more competition.

    And yeah: you generally can’t sign up for online services like that unless you’re a citizen of the country offering them.


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  • Apparently my comment came off as antagonistic gloating, and that was far from the tone I was going for. Think more along the lines of a friend trying to help. I may have stepped on a toe or two as a friend, but nobodies perfect and I hope I could be forgiven for that.

    Now, in this situation we were talking about the fees and restrictions on checking and to a lesser degree savings accounts. I failed to mention the scope of my argument in my original comment. On a micro level, in this case an individual, decisions are strictly based off the best value and that is what Beth’s doing by taking her business elsewhere. It just sounded to me like she was still frustrated with her options elsewhere. If restrictions are higher than you want and fees are more than zero, then there is still room for improvement from the customers perspective and that COULD be provided by additional competition entering the market. Kalev, you are correct that those improvements could come from some other source and I hastily pointed out the first thing I thought of. Tell me, would you have reacted the same way if I’d have said “Wow, the government should regulate those things!”? I do come from the land of if you don’t like how it’s done, do it better yourself and despite other things I am proud of that one fact.

    You can read my other comments on here to see that I don’t always agree with the way things are. There are definitely some major things wrong with our banking sector at the macro level and the decisions our government has made regarding it and I’m not denying that, so I’m definitely not suggesting a full on emulation of our “system”, but highlighting one small part that I think is actually done right. I’m not a financial expert, but my understanding was that the majority of the problems leading up to the recession were related to the mortgage lenders irresponsibly saddling misinformed consumers with more debt than they could reasonably afford, not anything to do with the checking and savings portions of the market. In fact, if everyone were focusing on the money they actually had instead of on what they could borrow, then we likely could have avoided most or all of the recession, but we also wouldn’t have had our meteoric rise in economic growth, for better or worse. I did my part in this by buying only half the house the bank told us we could afford on MY salary, that’s 1/4 of the house our family could supposedly afford, but we are just one family with relatively few financial votes in the economy. A couple years later, we didn’t miss a single payment while we were both out of work though we did stop making extra payments.

    As far as the foreign accounts thing, we did have a savings account at HSBC which is based out of London. We didn’t have any problems with that, but I think that was a product offered by a US branch, so no citizen issues.


  • Wow, I leave my blog unattended for one day… j/k!

    I’m not going to jump into this, other than to say that (a) I would imagine that currency/tax things would screw with things… even just me having to know what the current exchange rate was to make the right payment would be more of a hassle than its worth and (b) Kalev, you aren’t going to believe this, but unless you have a Royal Bank account, you *can’t* make manual payments to the Royal Bank Student Loan Centre – the only way you can give them money, without having a Royal Bank account, is preauthorized payments. Yet another way that the Royal Bank is evil.


  • What? We were just having a friendly discussion about something that only vaguely related to your original blog post.

    I know it would be a whole other hassle that probably wouldn’t be worth it, but could you move your loans to another lender? I’m just pointing out all possible solutions. I know a lot of times the answer is simply no or yes, but that’d be stupid. I completely believe in the value of student loans but it seems like there’s almost no way to not get screwed while repaying them.


  • Unfortunately, you can’t move student loans to another lender. There are certain benefits of having them designated as student loans – the interest payments are tax-deductible and if you lose your job you can get interest-relief and even debt reductions – and moving the loans would make them not “student loans.” You are so right when you say there’s almost no way to not get screwed while repaying these mofos.


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