I’ve had my very first chequing account at CIBC for probably close to two decades now. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been charged $2.50 a month under the line item “service charge”. No matter how many transactions I made, I was always charged the $2.50.

Now back when I used my debit card frequently, this seemed like a good deal because I saw that other bank accounts charged up to $1.50 per transaction, which is criminal. I just assumed that the $2.50 was like a flat fee of sorts for whatever I wanted to do with that account on a monthly basis.

About a month ago, I noticed the bank announce new savings and chequing accounts. These accounts had new fee structures, including provisions for no monthly fees given certain requirements were met. I met all these requirements and I began to wonder why I was still paying $2.50 a month. My chequing account remains an old type that is still grandfathered into the system.

Last weekend, I marched into the CIBC branch downstairs to inquire about switching my old chequing account to one of the new ones so that I wouldn’t have to pay the $2.50 a month. It’s not a big savings but every dollar counts these days.

One of the CIBC representatives met me in their office and I explained to them what I wanted to do. They looked up my info and almost immediately said, “Oh, that $2.50 is from the paper statements that we still mail you.” They went onto say that if I signed up for electronic statements, I would no longer be charged the $2.50 a month.

I was pretty choked to hear this because the line item has always been described as simply a “service charge”. If I knew that the $2.50 I was being charged every month was for the privilege of having a paper statement mailed to me I would have cancelled that damn things years ago.

I told the CIBC rep that the charge should have been more descriptive and that because they weren’t clear, I’d been wasting $2.50 a month for who knows how long. I got them to immediately switch me over to electronic bank statements and now the $2.50 monthly charge will go away.

The lesson here is to always be sure what you’re being charged money for. Never assume and always get clarification. I don’t even want to know much money I’ve wasted over the years because of some paper statements.

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