During the very early stages of my mission to get a strong handle on my out-of-control personal finances, I combed through my existing bank statements looking for expenses to cut or reduce. One such expense was $13.95, paid monthly, for my chequing account. At the time, the majority of my bank accounts were held with Royal Bank of Canada (also known as RBC).
A number of years ago, I scheduled an appointment with an RBC representative to examine the likelihood of consolidating my existing debts (which, by the way, ended badly). I asked the customer service representative to detail the inclusions of my monthly banking fee. In other words, what features and services were offered to me as a result paying $13.95 each month.
While I'm unable to remember everything she itemized, the feature that jumped out at me was the ability to use one free bank draft per month. In my lifetime, I believe I've had the need for a bank draft roughly three times - EVER. It was then that I realized how much and how long I'd been overpaying for the simple use of a chequing account.
I'll go ahead and assume that the individual who set-up my bank account in the first place, would've known by simply asking me, that this account was well beyond my needs. I'll assume I was never asked intentionally and that they preyed on my ignorance. For more years than I like to admit, I paid little attention to this expense, paying monthly for years, and, in my opinion, receiving little value in return.
For this, and numerous other reasons, I went on a quest to locate a no-fee chequing account, as, at this point in my financial journey, $13.95 mattered a great deal to me.
It was then that I learned of ING Direct - currently known as Tangerine Bank. For me, their primary selling features were an unlimited no-fee checking account, interest paid monthly, transparency regarding fees in general, and great customer service.
I started with their checking account and slowly, over time, added a general savings account, RSP Investment Account, RSP Savings account, and most recently, the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card.
Of course, my initial hesitation was that the bank was virtual in nature - nowhere physically to meet with a customer service rep. But, the fact that it was virtual only (no brick and mortar) made it possible for the corporate savings to trickle down to me in the form of a free unlimited chequing account including monthly interest.
Tangerine certainly isn't perfect, but it's very close, in my opinion.
Below is an unbiased review of my experience with Tangerine Bank. Included throughout the article is an 'Orange Key' for you to use if you wish. Upon depositing $100 or more, you will receive a Bonus from Tangerine and I receive the same for referring you. Simply enter 33977811S1 when prompted for your Orange Key. In a sense using my Orange Key is similar to an affiliate link. That being said I am uninterested in posting affiliate links for products I'm either unfamiliar with or unhappy with. As such, this review is written because I'm very happy with my Tangerine Banking experience.
Also, I wanted to mention that switching automatic payments from one institution to another can be enough to cause you to 'forget it' altogether. Tangerine offers an amazing 'Switch Assistant' which essentially makes this process entirely painless. So, if you're already thinking about how brutal it can be to make a banking switch, check out the switch assistant to see how simple it can be.
This review will cover the following topics:
- The Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account
- The Tangerine Savings Account
- Simple to Use Interface
- The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
- Investing Accounts
- The Tangerine App
- Customer Service
- Pain Points
1. The Tangerine No-Fee Daily Chequing Account
Included with the no-fee checking account are unlimited: debit transactions, bill payments, pre-authorized payments, and Tangerine Email Transfers (different from an instant Interac e-Transfer) when using the No Fee Checking Account.
While Tangerine Email transfers are free as listed above, Interac e-transfers cost $1.00 each. The difference is the convenience and speed. Where Interac e-transfers are instant and simple to both send and receive, Tangerine Email Transfers are different. Yes, the email transfer is simple to send and free too, but the funds won't deposit into the recipients account for a few days. In addition, the recipient has to enter their banking details upon receipt, including their account number, bank number, and transit number. I have had people say they found this cumbersome - so I feel it's best to use only with people I send money to regularly. I opt for the Interac option for those I send money to less frequently.
In addition to being no-fee, the Tangerine Chequing account pays 0.15% interest for accounts holding between $0 and $49,999.99. 0.55% interest for accounts holding between $50,000 and $99,999.00. And, 0.65% paid for those holding accounts with funds of $100,000 or more. Interest is calculated daily and paid monthly.
Upon signing up, your first 50 cheques are free. Subsequent cheque books are $20 and available to order online. As a side-note, I signed up for Tangerine in 2009 and still have available checks from my initial free cheque books.
You might wonder how you'll deposit both cheques, cash, and withdraw money as the bank is virtual in nature. Tangerine is actually a subsidiary of Scotiabank - this means you're able to use Scotia ABMs anywhere with no fee, in addition to Scotiabank's Global ABM Alliance. Note: Apart from Scotiabank ABMs, Scotiabank's Network includes cash machines at 7-Eleven, Quickie convenience stores, Cineplex Theaters and Couche-Tard.
Finding an ABM is incredibly simple using the ABM locator available through any browser in addition to the Tangerine App (to be discussed below).
Cheques can be deposited from anywhere using the Tangerine App - simply take a photo of the front and back of any cheque and the funds are added to your bank account. You do have to hold on to the physical cheque for roughly one week to ensure it's cleared, but Tangerine will send an email confirmation when it's time to destroy the original cheque.
Quick Payment: Rather than using your pin when purchasing items, take advantage of Interac Flash (better known as Tap) for purchases less than $100. Apple Pay is also possible - although this is not a feature I use.
Orange Alerts were an unexpected favorite feature when I signed up for my first Tangerine account. While not specific to the chequing account alone, Orange Alerts are very customizable email alerts set by you in conjunction with specific activity in your Tangerine accounts. You can have an email alert sent when deposits or withdrawals over or under certain amounts move through your account. In addition, alerts can be sent if your account dips below, or soars above, specific levels. Receiving these notifications is a time-saver - having information sent in real time rather than logging in repeatedly looking for a payment to clear or deposit to be received.
You can find Orange Alerts under Profile and Settings:
As of today's date, the following Orange Alerts can be made:
One of the reasons I am a Tangerine advocate is that banking with them feels upfront, transparent and simple. I don't feel like I’m reading between fine print to see what something will cost or whether certain features are included. Information regarding fees is incredibly easy to find and beyond simple to understand.
Below is a screenshot of the fees associated with the no-fee chequing account, which, by the way, was found under the heading 'What Are the Fees?':
2. Tangerine Savings Account
Tangerine's standard savings account offers 0.8% interest, calculated daily and paid monthly. A few times during the year though, Tangerine will offer bonus interest months for new deposits. The bonus interest can vary - but can certainly add up in the event you have new money to save.
Here is an example of an email I've received about bonus interest.
As you can see in this case, the bonus was 3.07% for three months on any new deposits to my Tangerine Savings Account. Upon reading additional details, Tangerine specifies that this offer is essentially the regular interest of 0.8% plus an additional 2.27% - for a total of 3.07%.
Of concern to me when I began to save was what would happen to my money in the event the bank collapsed. It was reassuring to know that Tangerine Bank deposits are protected by Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation up to $100,000. This means if Tangerine crumbled, your money is insured. Below is a simple explanation of the purpose of CDIC:
To aid you in saving, Tangerine has two features that will be beneficial to you. The first is a goal setting feature. The second, and one I leverage is the Automatic Savings Program (or ASP). This makes tucking money away brainless. You can set the amount and frequency you want to contribute. For example, I could set up a transfer of $100 from my chequing to my savings each month. This would happen automatically making the likelihood of building savings even more realistic.
3. Simple to Use Interface
The interface on both the web and the app are really easy to navigate. It's hard to detail the how/why of it's simplicity in this post. I just find when I need to do something or understand something, the link is in a place that makes sense to me. The navigation feels intuitive and simple.
Something I found useful, but seems insignificant (until you need it) is the ability to print a void cheque - which I've needed numerous times for EFT (electronic fund transfers) payments.
In addition, when making payments on my Money-Back Credit Card, the payment options include: the amount I choose, the last statement balance (with included due date), the minimum payment (with included due date), and the current balance. This means I don't have to try and remember how much to pay, or inadvertently pay the wrong amount. Rather than navigating back and forth through the website, my choices with the correct related amounts are laid out for me.
4. Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
Prior to the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, I had a travel rewards Visa with RBC. My travel visa cost $120 per year, and offered points with each purchase. Essentially I needed to redeem at minimum $120 per year just to break even, so I wondered if I'd make more headway with a card that had no annual fee and cash rewards that I could use for anything, travel included. This way any dollar I earned was in my favor - no minimum expenditure to make the card make sense for me.
Another huge advantage of the Tangerine Mastercard - at the time - was a low foreign transaction fee of 1.5%. Unfortunately though, shortly after the initial release of their Mastercard, Tangerine quickly amended associated fees leaving them more in line with other lenders. As of today's date the foreign exchange is calculated at 2.5% interest, so when you spend abroad, you pay the exchange rate in addition to 2.5%.
The cash back rewards are calculated at 2% for two select categories, and 0.5% for all other purchases. However, if you have your money back rewards deposited into your Tangerine Savings Account, you receive a third 2% money back spending category. Why not deposit your earnings into a Tangerine Savings Account?? You can withdraw the money anytime anyhow.
Categories include things like:
Here are the detailed fees and interest, which again, are super easy to locate:
Of course, the amount charged through your card will ultimately determine the monetary rewards, but so far, I'm really happy with my decision to switch from my travel visa to Tangerine's Money-Back Card.
Also similar to other cards, purchase assurance is possible which includes coverage for loss, theft or damage. And, extended warranty is included which extends the manufacturers warranty on your purchases for an additional year.
There is usually a sign-up incentive like higher cash back interest for 3 months - this can add up quickly in your favor especially if you have the need for a big purchase in the near future.
5. Investing Accounts
There are a number of reasons I leverage Tangerine's investment accounts. The first is the fact that all five of their investment accounts are index funds - meaning that a active fund manager isn't attempting to beat the market which over and over again has been disproven as an investment strategy. Instead, the Tangerine's investment accounts track an index. Second, the low MER (or management expense ratio) of 1.07% leaves more of the fund's returns in my pocket. And third, Tangerine rebalances my portfolio each quarter which is intended to encourage 'buy low/sell high'.
Tangerine Investment Funds can be used for your general savings, your RSP (Retirement Savings Plan), TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account), and RIF (Retirement Income Fund).
There are five Tangerine funds to date offering different levels of risk and therefore varied levels of return. They are:
In addition, there is no minimum for these funds, and no service charges for withdrawing funds.
Finally, the reporting and fund fact sheets are incredibly simple to understand. I've included the fund fact sheet for the Tangerine Balanced Income Portfolio so you can see if you agree that all information is clearly stated and easy to understand:
6. The Tangerine App
The Tangerine app gives you the ability to monitor balances and transactions within any of your Tangerine accounts.
The feature I use most on the Tangerine Banking App is the cheque depositing feature, email money transfer, and ABM locator.
My favorite feature of the Tangerine App is the ability to deposit cheques on the fly. Essentially, you're able to choose manual or automatic photo capture where you'll take a picture of the front, then back of the cheque you're depositing. You'll enter the amount you're depositing, choose the account you want it deposited to, and voila - the cash is in your account. There is absolutely no need to physically go to the bank.
Also awesome on the app is the super quick process of e-transferring money to another person.
While there are plenty of other features available through the app, I don't use most of them with any frequency. Cheque deposit, email money transfer, and ABM locator are the three primary features I use.
7. Customer Service
I believe corporate customer service is a pain point with consumers in general. Long wait times on hold. The inability to reach a human being. An endless cycle of 'press 1 for this and 2 for that', and being transferred from one department to the next, having to re-explain each time what it was you're calling about. This has not been my experience with Tangerine.
On very rare occasions I've had to call Tangerine, and all but once, I had to spend a while on hold. For the most part, I feel their wait times are less than my other banking experiences. In addition, their customer service people seem legitimately pleasant. And, finally, I feel that their staff are more willing to offer help that exceeds their corporate manual. What I mean by this is at other institutions, I feel they punch numbers into their computers where they receive a 'yes' or 'no' answer. There is little room left for interpretation or taking someone's case-by-case scenario into consideration. This, in itself, leaves me feeling more like a customer and less like an account number.
8. Pain Points
As you might sense, I have loads of Love for Tangerine Bank, but just like relationships of any type, there are a few points of frustration.
- No Physical Bank
- Although this is rarely important, there are occasions when things like bank drafts are necessary. These can be ordered online, but the occasions that I've actually needed them, I need them imminently and can't wait to receive one by mail.
- Inability to Pay GST
- For my business, I remit my GST online and am unable to add Canada Revenue for the purposes of GST to my payee list. While I can make income tax installments and past tax payments if needed, GST is not an option at this time.
- No Available Unsecured Line of Credit
- Tangerine does offer a secured Line of Credit - meaning that which is secured by real estate, but unsecured lines of credit are not available at this time. For this reason, I do have an unsecured line of credit with another institution.
- Less Than Preferred by Solicitor for recent Real Estate Closing
- When settling a two relatively recent real estate transactions, on both occasions my solicitor asked if I had another institution to deposit funds to, as the wire transfer to Tangerine was cumbersome and less than smooth. I'm not sure the reason for this difference.
- Super Security
- I'm not totally sure this should be a pain point as I respect any attempt to protect my security, but I have had three occasions when travelling when Tangerine has put a block on my credit card. As mentioned above, Tangerine does have a great feature for logging travel plans without the need to call in, but I found it challenging when cruising specifically as I'm tend to be in a pile of different countries in a short amount of time, making logging details cumbersome. In addition, a block placed on one's card when travelling abroad can create challenges including calling Tangerine (simply due to phone availability and time zone differences). In another instance, I was in Arizona and my card was blocked. Tangerine customer service said they blocked my card for 'card not present' transactions as I'd purchased something they deemed suspicious online - but I learned my card still would've worked anywhere my pin was required.
As I mentioned above, I do maintain another checking account through RBC because certain features, like GST payment, is not currently possible through Tangerine. The checking account at RBC is also no-fee in the form of a multi-product rebate, but the criteria required to maintain the no-fee status is obscure at best.
For example, upon selling a recent property, I began being billed for this account. When I called to inquire, I was told it was because I no longer had the required products to qualify. Of course, this wasn't something communicated when I discharged my mortgage, I was able to find this out only when the unexpected charge rolled through my account. While RBC might feel I need to do a better job at reading the fine print, I wish I was informed first. Nothing at RBC feels up front - I am constantly reacting to inadvertent changes in their qualification rules, and in some cases, being verbally told I won't be charged for something, then being charged, and having no painless method to rectify the charge - meaning, I hate having to call and wait on hold over and over and over again. After all, time is money.
To get a sense of what I needed to do to qualify for this no-fee (by way of rebate) RBC checking account, it was something like needing to have a regular contribution to my TFSA, a transaction on my credit card at least every 60 days, and something else like a line of credit. To me, this felt like if it's Tuesday, and the raven flies east, and the moon is at the highest point, then you qualify, but if those stars don't align, we'll start charging you without notice. To find out the reason for any inadvertent charge you can start to guess the reason, or spend 35 - 45 minutes on hold with our customer service team to inquire and ultimately solve the riddle.
That being said, I hope Tangerine is able to maintain their boutique style banking. Although, growth for them will be good, I hope it doesn't result in future corporate bureaucracy which inevitably loses sight of the best banking objective - up front, low-cost banking with happy satisfied customers.