VanCity, Why Do You Spite Me So?

A few months ago, we moved our business accounts over from the Royal Bank to VanCity. We had lousy customer service from the Royal, and had received several recommendations for VanCity. Also, they’ve got all kinds of feel-good projects on the go, and made me sign something that said I wouldn’t use their business banking services to sell plutonium. What more could you ask for?

In our initial meeting with VanCity, we clearly articulated a particular requirement we had regarding international wire transfers. We receive three to five of these each month. We wanted to be notified with email or snail mail describing the particular details of each transaction. This had been one of many pain points at the Royal Bank, but the Royal eventually agreed to send us a notification in the mail each time a transfer came in.

We were very specific about this requirement, and our ‘Financial Services Officer’ at VanCity confirmed that they would be able to replicate this process.

The VanCity representative made an error. As it turns out, VanCity can only offer this service at a rate of $25 per transaction. That works out to about $1000 a year in fees. Nice.

They only notified us of this error after we had:

  • Opened an account with them
  • Advised our clients of our new banking details
  • Banked with them for a few months
  • Received several wire transfers

Everybody makes mistakes. This mistake, unfortunately, will force us to change banks yet again and to suffer all the pain that entails. This mistake comes in the first three months of banking with an institution that prides itself on customer service. This mistake is the reason I pay service fees. So that mistakes like this don’t happen.

In short, VanCity screwed up once, but they screwed up big time. To their credit, they did apologize profusely and reverse all the service fees we incurred during our brief time with them.

Meanwhile, we’re off on an increasingly futile search for a bank that actually wants our business.

I was tempted to post this to as ‘I Want to Change Banks’, but that’d be a little too snarky and bitter for such a goodhearted enterprise.


  1. Darren, did you talk to someone above their customer service reps? We were able to get some of our service fees waived at the TD Bank that we go to by talking directly to the head person at that branch and discussing our needs and how we have been with the bank for X years and we do Y business per year, etc.

    On a related note, I signed up with the TD about ten years ago after doing a bank-by-bank comparison. I drafted a series of things that I thought I wanted my bank to provide me after many years of bad service at BMO. I went to all of the major banks and a couple of the credit unions. At one of the banks they laughed at me and asked me if I was doing some sort of school project — I got the last laugh when I marched over to their head branch on Hastings and was able to meet with the top person in the region (we had tea and discussed my banking needs — and she asked for the name of the person who foiled me). At the end of my investigation I went with the TD because the woman at the branch took the time to answer all of my questions, got me all of the forms and never once pressured me to do anything. When I finally signed up the person I dealt with was thrilled that I had done such extensive research. I’m still happy with the TD, though YMMV, but I would suggest that you take your post with you and talk to someone above your ‘Financial Services Officer’ and see if they can keep your business.

    – Chris

  2. ChrisK: I did, indeed, talk to the branch manager at our VanCity branch (which also happens to be the bank’s headquarters).

    The experience you describe, in terms of an excellent ‘entry interview’, was more or less what we found at VanCity. And then they let us down.

  3. Weird. You’d think after that they’d just set it up so that the fee didn’t apply to you, rather than lose your business. Having a long-term customer is worth a lot more than $1000 a year. I’ll keep banking with them, but they’ve lost a bit of lustre.

  4. I feel like I have to pipe up here and defend VanCity, because I love them. I’ve been with them for 4 years or so and have never been anything but happy. I’m not going to argue that the situation you describe isn’t annoying and clearly bad service… but for the most part, they’re great, and I think most of their customers would agree. So I hope your readers don’t start a Digg mob against them or anything. 🙂 They do good things for the community.

  5. Years ago, the aunt of a friend had an account with CIBC. She went into the branch and complained that, for years, she had been charged something like $10 every month for the benefit of $1000 being transferred to a couple of accounts every month. She asked if she could have the fee waived, since she had been a long time customer and she felt they had more than enough ways to cover the $10 from her.

    The rep (teller, manager, I don’t know) refused to waive the fee. She asked why they weren’t willing to waive it. “Frankly, madam, the bank doesn’t care about people like you with little accounts.”

    The aunt was flabbergasted. She asked to see the rep’s manager. Then she said, “I have more than $1 million at this branch alone. I also have corporate accounts at various CIBC accounts. I would like a cashier’s cheque and I would like to close all my accounts.”

    It was a pretty stupid mistake for CIBC to make. Her husband was also the VP of a very, very prominent company, in addition to co-owning a construction company with his wife.

  6. I’ve been a Vancity customer for a very long time, and it seems to me that they’ve changed a lot in the last five years or so. Vancity used to be a no-hassle place to bank, where it seemed that the people I dealt with were just trying to help.

    Now I have the sense that staff are on commission; I’m forever having somebody tell me about some special service I should sign up for today, blah blah blah.

    Last year Vancity started to phone me every month or so, “just to ask how things were going” and so forth. The rep would ask if there was anything else Vancity could do for me, and did I know about this service and that service? And wouldn’t I like to apply for a Vancity Visa? Every. month.

    After a few of these calls I explained that I don’t want to get these kind of nonsense calls from Vancity, and they put a “do not disturb” note on my account. Maybe that helped, or maybe it was moving almost all of my money out of Vancity that did it.

    I have several other complaints about problems with Vancity, but it would take too much room to fuss about them here. Let’s just say that although I used to recommend Vancity to friends, I no longer do so. And now I deal mostly with another credit union.

  7. Hmmm. Darren where have you ended up? Believe it or not I was googling about Vancity banking, cuz I want to leave RBC in a BAD way…get this they recently decided to return a cheque made out to Nitobi…because that’s a trade name and they didn’t recognize it. Even though we’ve been receiving cheques in that name for 3 months and they even said our statement with nitobi on them! WTF!!! I’m going to try to record their call back to me “to ensure quality of service” and podcast it!

    BTW. I don’t care what NPO VanCity supports, charging you fees like that is a dirty trick!

  8. Like the previous poster I too Googled looking for a better business bank or credit union. If there is anyone who can recommend a competent, reliable, flexible, institution that can assist me with a new business venture.
    Thanks for any input.

  9. perhaps its time someone started a union of banking customers. may be 200 small companies or retail people would be treated more like jimmy parterson. perhaps the bank would think twice before changing the rules of the game. just saying!

  10. I closed my accounts with Vancity about a year ago because of the attitude of their loans officers. The tellers I always found to be cheerful and helpful, but each year when I went to take out my RRSP loan, I would have to endure interrogation from sullen and suspicious ladies who invariably went to consult with a superior. RRSP loans are a slam dunk for the banks, so it puzzled me no end. When my mortgage was up for renewal at TD I paid a visit to my Vancity branch to see if they wanted that business, but no thanks, they wouldn’t even match the TD rate. So last year at RRSP time I finally told them to get stuffed. I moved all my Vancity money to a smaller credit union.

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