‘It’s sneaky’: GTA woman cautioning others after getting hit with bank fee

A GTA woman is cautioning others after an online bank hit her with a fee that she was not aware of when signing up. Erica Natividad with the common fee that consumers may overlook.

A GTA woman is warning others to be careful when opening online bank accounts after getting hit with a fee she had no idea she signed up for.

Sarah is a PC Financial customer. Just over a week ago, she checked her accounts online and noticed that her PC Money account balance had gone down to zero.

“I only had $17-and-something cents, but I knew it was there because I saw it almost every day I would check on my card,” she explained.

The entire amount was taken under an “inactivity fee,” but Sarah claims she was unaware of that fee when she opened the account and received no warning that she would be charged.

While only a tiny amount, for Sarah, any amount that suddenly disappears is significant as more Canadians struggle with rising inflation.

“If I had the option, I could have transferred it out and paid for a bunch of things, even my son’s lunches all week or towards our dinner,” she said.

Inactivity fees are separate, expert says

On the PC Money website, there are plenty of welcome bonuses and the promise of ‘no monthly fee’ when opening an account.

Sarah says these perks are what drew her in. However, dig a little deeper into the fine print, and the bank lists an “inactivity fee,” which amounts to $20 if the account is dormant for one year.

“When banks advertise ‘no fees,’ usually it refers to no transaction fees or no monthly fees,” said personal finance expert Barry Choi.

“Inactivity fees are separate and clearly outlined when you sign up for your account. Yes, most people won’t read those long documentation, but it’s something that everyone has to look out for.”

Choi added that consumers should also pay extra attention to any correspondence from their financial institutions.

“In almost every circumstance, the bank will inform you whether it’s two months, three months, [or] six months in advance, but you need to sign up for those alerts and be physically checking your emails,” he explained.

“Inactivity fees are clearly stated on our website”

Sarah argues that even if it was something that she overlooked, the bank should be more transparent about the fee and automatically notify customers if they’re in danger of getting dinged with it.

“It’s sneaky kind of, the way they seem to be taking it out, up to $20 per person that may not be paying attention,” she said.

CityNews reached out to PC Financial. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “Inactivity fees are clearly stated on our website and throughout the application process when signing up for a PC Money Account.”

“If a customer’s account is inactive — meaning no debits, credits, or fees — for 12 consecutive months, an email notification about an impending fee charge is sent to the customer two months in advance. To prevent the fee, customers can complete a single financial transaction (including deposit, withdrawal or payment) to reactivate their inactive account,” the spokesperson said.

The company claimed it sent a notice to Sarah about the upcoming fee in February of this year but added that the inactivity fee had been reversed as a gesture of good faith.

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