RBC Royal Bank’s myFinanceTracker Review

For some time now the RBC Royal Bank of Canada has offered an on-line, web-based personal finance application called myFinanceTracker. This is actually Yodlee presented through the RBC’s Online Banking web-site, with a bit of branding and curating. I’ve taken it for a test drive on a few occasions and have a bit of experience with it, Yodlee and Mint as well. Here’s what I think of myFinanceTracker so far…

Understanding your personal spending, income, and expenses is essential today. With so many ways to make and spend money it’s no longer as simple as cashing your paycheque and making sure you don’t run-out before your next pay-day.

Budgeting

On-line and off-line software help us see where the money is coming from, where it has to go, and where it ends up. Most of these applications do a basic job identifying your sources of income and then provide a simple aggregation of your historical spending. Predicting (i.e.: budgeting) is usually just done by copy & pasting your past spending into future periods.

MyFinanceTracker allows you set spending limits or goals in various categories but doesn’t help you save for specific bills or expenses. This is sometimes referred to as envelope budgeting – the principal of setting aside a portion of the required amount from each pay cheque so when the amount is due you have it; or setting aside a set amount and not spending in that category until you have enough money in the envelope to cover the full amount.

None of the software I’ve tried has this feature.

Yodlee’s Features

As I said, myFinanceTracker is based on Yodlee. Yodlee is a direct competitor to Mint except their focus is selling the service to financial institutions who then provide (or re-sell) it to their customers. There is a consumer version offered directly by Yodlee as well though. RBC has based their offering on Yodlee Production version but with the Classic dashboard – not the newer, more app-styled, dashboard.

They’ve also included the FinApps store, but they don’t offer any apps other than built-in ones that come from Yodlee.

Terms of Service Violations

This one of the things that bugs me the most. If you read your Electronic Access Agreement or Terms of Service or essentially your contract from your financial institution it includes a clause that says “don’t share your password with anyone! EVER!” At the RBC that’s in Part B, Paragraph 15, it says:

You must always keep your Passwords and Personal Verification Questions strictly confidential. You must not disclose your Passwords or Personal Verification Questions to anyone.

Admittedly in the same section they say you can share your credentials with an aggregator (like Yodlee or Mint) but they make it clear they consider that on par with handing your credit card to street junkie!

Now hypocritically in Part C, Paragraph 5 of the same agreement they turn-around and expect you to hand over they keys to all your other financial accounts like we walk around with our PIN’s tatooed on our foreheads!

So basically they’re saying trust us, but don’t trust anyone else.

Data Sovereignty

This one’s so simple it really scares me! Yodlee is based in the USA. That’s where everything happens, and that’s where the RBC is sending all your financial data so it can be displayed as a nice animated pie-chart in myFinanceTracker.

Except our neighbours to the south have enacted a number of laws (or at least tried to) that make me uneasy. Not the least of which is the Patriot Act. But in general, the notion of shipping my financial information to another country where, by definition, I’m a foreigner who doesn’t have the same right as a national seems like a bad idea.

In Canada our banks are subject to Canadian privacy laws and the oversight of our provincial and federal regulators, and industry groups. Yodlee (or Mint) are under no obligation to observe any of these rules. And in-fact as a foreigner you have little to no recourse against them or the American government.

RBC must keep Canadian’s data in Canada where it is subject to Canadian jurisdiction.

Conclusion

So in the end, I’m very disappointed with RBC’s myFinanceTracker. The core features are rudimentary; the advanced features of Yodlee are not yet implemented and there’s no evidence they will be; they expect you to violate your contracts with your other financial providers; and they’re shipping all your financial data to the United States!

And it’s Flash-based! Adobe themselves have (essentially) killed Flash so I’m really not that interested in investing my time in something that’s not going to evolve – and certainly won’t ever make it to any mobile devices!

If there was some way for me to opt-out of myFinanceTracker I would. Until then though I refuse to use and would discourage anyone else from using it!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

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What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 4 of 5

I’ve previously looked at what other sites like the big portals and popular news outlets have to offer investors who want to track their portfolios. But there’s two other important players: the financial services web sites who are typically at the root of the financial data, and the brokerages where we hold our portfolios. In this part I’ll see what they have to offer.

Financial Services

These are companies that are actually in the money business, they provide a portfolio manager as a courtesy or add-on to their primary business.

Barchart

Like the name implies this company specializes in charting the underlying financial information; and there’s a lot of impressive stuff you can do with their charts! And there’s even more technical information for those who invest by the numbers. There’s not much fundamental information though, like dividends and yields are missing. The site also has a very 1990’s feel to it – except for the charts, although beautiful they don’t quite fit into the surrounding site.

Morningstar

This is another name everyone who’s ever looked for the slightest financial information has run across, they are everywhere. And they’ve very generously made a lot of their information available on their web site with very nice quotes, charts, and other detailed financial and historical information. For the amateur the amount of information can be overwhelming, but you get a sense of what the professionals deal with.

And since Morningstar makes their money selling subscriptions to the pros the advertising on the site is minimal and most of the space is given to data and charts.

TMX Money

Let me get this off my chest: Why does the Toronto Stock Exchange – the primary source – ship us off to another company when we want to lookup TSE stock quotes?! Admittedly they’ve outsourced to Quotemedia, who turn numbers in works of art, but it still bothers me. The actual functionality is basic but the data is all there, amidst a fair bit of advertising though.

 

Brokerages

This is where the transactions really happen, so they’re listed here as a point of comparison since we’ve already established that you wouldn’t leave your banking homepage open on your computer all day long. A big difference with these portfolios is that you’re a paying customer, so there’s no advertising (apart from the occasional self-promotion) and you often get some premium features you’d have to pay for elsewhere.

Bank of Montreal Investorline

The BMO Investorline site provides clear but basic asset tracking information and has recently added some nice graphing features to track trends and mark dividend payments. The site is easy to use and the recent GUI upgrades provide a brighter look and feel . That said, some of the tabs still have almost a beta look to them and one can only hope they are not quite finished with their current overhaul.

In the gallery, if you look closely at the chart screen shots of BMO Investorline and the Financial Times we can see the look almost identical, so either they’re using the same provider or same underlying tools to generate the charts. Either way, Investorline has not make their portfolios as nice as the Financial Times has.

Qtrade

They’ve received numerous, well-deserved, accolades for customer service and innovation. The web site works very well and the portfolio has a comprehensive set of views. The quotes and charts are standard fare but since you’re a paying customer you do get more information than aforementioned free portfolios.

RBC Royal Bank Direct Investing

RBC’s on-line portfolio is probably one of the oldest in existence – or at least it feels that way. The on-line banking web site is making great strides towards the 21st century but the brokerage still seems stuck in the 90’s. Once you’re there though, and you’ve forgiven them for not looking like an Apple or Google web site, you’ll find plenty of information from Thomson Reuters that is well laid-out and accessible.

So what we’ve seen here is the portfolio managers from the brokers and from the companies supplying the financial data are not much better (or worse for that matter) than any one else’s. There’s no real advantage to using your broker’s portfolio and there’s the big disadvantage of leaving the site open and exposed for an extended period of time.

In the final installment I’ll summarize all my reviews in a categorized table and leave you with my final conclusions.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material in this article does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make any decision or take any action.

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 3 of 5

Last week I introduced on-line portfolio managers for your investments, and how to calculate the returns on your portfolio. I also looked at what the big portals offered their users. This week I’ll start by looking at what other sites have to offer.

News Outlets

News papers and syndicates that deliver the news; in particular the outlets that have a business focus we expect to have a robust portfolio. We all typically have a news outlet we go to first for our news, and we might even log-in so we can leave comments. Most likely the newspaper offers an on-line portfolio.

Some of these news outlets offer premium features to paying subscribes, or even have entirely separate offerings for professionals. This review however is focused only on what’s available to the general public as a free service. For the average individual, who just wants to keep tabs more frequently than monthly or quarterly statements, the fees to access the premium services are not justified.

Bloomberg

Bloomberg is an American news outlet with a business focus. Their portfolio, quotes and charts are clean and efficient. I especially like the use of charts directly in the portfolio. Overall though the portfolio is fairly basic and not very innovative.

It should be noted that Bloomberg is one of the primary providers of news and data for professional advisors and portfolio managers. But what I’m looking at here is what is available to the general public, without a subscription.

Canadian Business

This is more of a business magazine than a daily newspaper outlet and the appearance of the web sites reflects it. They’ve outsourced their portfolio, quotes, and charts to Barchart and unfortunately it shows – everything related to stocks seems to happen in its own little box. There’s some nice little fly-overs in their portfolio but you don’t get as much information as other sites.

Financial Post

They have a very impressive Watchlist feature that scrolls a ticker across top of the web site, and you can click on a symbol to get more information or go to a full blown quote & chart page. Although in the actual portfolio manager, the quotes, and charts are bare-bones and visually un-appealing. This a web site that makes me think of the early days of the web when Flash ads were all over the page!

Financial Times

This site has everything – including a pink background. And does it really well. My initial impression of the web site was not very good; but in terms of data and functionality this gets an A+. With the added bonus that it really is international – not just North American. There’s a lot of information provided on the first page for each stock, and charts open over the page (very web 2.0 – even though they preserve the Netscape-look of the site while doing it).

Globe and Mail Investor

The quintessential Canadian business news web site. Their stock and fund filters are the foundation used by many other organizations. They recently revamped their on-line portfolio and it looks much slicker, but it no longer has all the detailed functionality of the old one. You can’t track your exact position but, for stocks at least, you can track how many shares you own. The quotes and charts pages are split up along traditional lines, and their functionality is limited but at least all the Canadian data is there.

There are premium features available to Globe Plus and Globe Investor GOLD subscribers but these were not reviewed here.

Market Watch (Dow Jones)

Here is a very innovative portfolio manager, from the way it is laid-out to the way it works (it’s the only one that allows you to tag a stock and filter your stocks by tag). You can’t track all your transactions, but you can track your positions. The quotes for Canadian stocks are complete, and the charts are from Big Charts (another Dow Jones company so it’s not really out-sourced) so they’re very well done.

Note that Dow Jones is another important service relied upon by many professional investors and portfolio managers.

Of all the news outlets the best of the bunch are definitely the Financial Times and Market Watch. Unfortunately the Canadian ones in the bunch aren’t stepping up.

In the next installment I’ll look at what financial services companies offer the public and what customers of brokerages get.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material in this article does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make any decision or take any action.

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 2 of 5

In this installment I’m going to take a look at what the big web portals have to offer. But first I want to review how returns are calculated and what you should be looking for from those numbers.

Calculating Your Returns

There’s a lot of ways to calculate your returns, but unfortunately all these web sites use the simplest of methods: Total Return. Basically, they compare the ratio of your gains (or losses) to your costs without taking time into account. This is fine if you bought all your investments in one shot (at least on the same day) and now you’re going to sit back and watch them.

Pass the popcorn!

In reality you want to know your annualized return. Which is a fancy way to say you want to your average annual return. Except it’s not as easy as dividing the Total Return by the number of years you’re invested (that would be the simple or arithmetic average – and it’s the wrong way to annualize your returns). A better way would be to calculate your geometric average or compound return.

But there are even better ways: Money-Weighted or Internal Rate of Return, Time-Weighted or Linked Internal Rate of Return, Modified Dietz Rate of Return, or the Daily Valuation Method. The best would be the Daily Valuation Method, but unless you have a super-computer you won’t be calculating this one.

Of all these probably the best compromise between efficiency and accuracy is the Modified Dietz Method (also known as Approximate Time-Weighted Rate of Return). Once you’ve calculated that for each period (monthly, quarterly, or annually) you can link it together geometrically to see your annualized return over the years.

Once you know your annualized rate of return you can properly compare your investments and see which ones really are doing well, and which ones just sound good.

For more details on the calculations, PWL Capital has a great white paper on on How to Calculate your Portfolio’s Rate of Return.

Now hopefully one of these web sites, at least the ones that track dividends, take all that information to calculate a proper annualized rate of return.

The Portals

These are the big internet sites where a lot of us start our day. They bring a lot together, like news and weather, functionality like web searches, e-mail and calendars, and more. Adding a portfolio to that isn’t a stretch but since it’s not their focus we might not expect anything exciting from them, but we hope that with everything else going there’s going to be some interesting integration – like easy searches, e-mail alerts, and social sharing.

Google

They nailed the user experience with a clean and simple design that puts more data onto one page than any other site, and there’s even a gadget for my iGoogle home page and functions for my Google DocsDrive Spreadsheets. The charts are perfection: I could configure my own default settings and with one click I could expand the chart to the full width of my screen. But they blew it on data since dividend information for Canadian stocks (ETF’s in particular) is sometimes missing, in-complete, or just plain wrong!

MSN

They have one of the nicest portfolios – it’s actually a Silverlight app so it better be slick! But the rest is held together with duct tape and bubble gum. And basic information for Canadian stocks – even blue chip stocks – is frequently missing. The initially beautiful web site falls apart just below surface.

Yahoo

This is what you’d expect from a web-base portfolio. It looks nice, but the functionality is pretty basic and regrettably dividend information is often missing for Canadian stocks and the news is U.S. focused. Since Yahoo has fallen on hard times they’re probably not putting a lot of effort into something you can get everywhere else, so unfortunately I have to recommend you go somewhere else!

In the next installment I’ll take a look at what the news outlets have to offer. While some are astounding there are a few stinkers in the bunch!

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material on this website does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this website to make any decision or take any action.

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, Part 1 of 5

Whether it’s just the curiousity for your favourite companies or fantasizing about what you’d do if you were Warren Buffet, or monitoring your RRSP, TFSA, and children’s RESP having an on-line portfolio manager for your investments is fun and convenient.

Introduction

Probably one of the best reasons to have your investments in a web-based portfolio manager is to avoid having to login – and stay logged in – to your brokerage whenever you want to see how things are going. And if your brokerage is also your bank and credit card issuer then it’s really not something you want to leave open on your computer all day!

Besides, most of us automatically log in in to a portal (Google, MSN, or Yahoo) or news site (Globe & Mail, National Post, etc.) anyways so we may as well take advantage of their portfolio managers at the same time.

One thing is certain, there’s a lot of differences amongst all the portfolio managers out there on the web! Not only do they look different, but they offer different functionality – some focus on quotes, some on charts, and some on analysis – and varying amounts of information (and completeness of the information).

The Players

I’ve compared portfolio managers from the portal sites: Google, MSN, and Yahoo; the news sites: Bloomberg, Canadian Business, Financial Post, Financial Times, Globe and Mail Investor, and MarketWatch; financial services: Barchart, Morningstar, and TMX Money; brokerages: Bank of Montreal Investorline, Qtrade, and Royal Bank of Canada Direct Investing.

You can see screen shots of a sample portfolio, quote, and chart from each one in the gallery.

My Methodology

I’ve tabulated a lot of the characteristics of each web site. But of course there’s more to it then you can get from reading down a column and across a few rows. There were three things I really focused on

  1. the user experience: if I felt like I was back in 1995 and using Netscape Navigator rather than a modern browser on a modern web site then the portfolio manager got a thumbs down!
  2. completeness of the data, especially dividends: investing for dividends is one of my primary methods and the more a web site tells me about the dividends the happier I am!
  3. charts: I like my charts to cover 3 to 5 years, show Bollinger Bands, and dividend payments – AND I want all that in as few clicks as possible!

Everyone looks for something different, of course news, analyst opinions, financials tables, and more are all available to varying degrees.

I would also like to see a portfolio manager that goes beyond the generic performance calculations and puts something together not only for my portfolio but that also takes the dividends my investments generate into account. It’s easy to calculate total return and other metrics based on your cost and the current market value. It’s harder to take cash flows and time into account but I’d really like to see a web site that did that.

One thing I don’t like to see is a lot of advertising. I realise it’s inevitable these days but some web sites do a better job of integrating the ads and on others it is far to distracting to make the web site usable.

There’s a few I specifically didn’t compare:

  • Vuru.co since they couldn’t provide analysis for bank stocks (good for dividends) or stocks younger than five years (conversions from Income Trusts);
  • Quotestreamer since it’s a paid subscription and way beyond a simple portfolio manager;
  • Globe Investor GOLD since it’s another expensive subscription service;
  • Mint because they only work with linked accounts (I thought I could create a manual account but apparently no longer); or
  • Yodlee since their portfolio manager is barely ready for alpha let a lone general use!

And I’m sure there others out there too that I missed, and I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments.

In the next installment I’ll look at the what the portals have to offer.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material in this article does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make any decision or take any action.

The RESP Book, by Mike Holman @MoneySmartsBlog

Back in November the Young And Thrifty blog had a review of The RESP Book, by Mike Holman and a contest to win a copy. And I WON!!!

And now, thanks to the reality that my car is dead (well almost, sometimes it’s feeling a bit better, but really it’s quite ill) I’m commuting by train so I have lots of time to read and I finished the book within a few days. I’ve also come away with a page full of to-do’s to make sure my kid’s RESP is done right!

The RESP Book is subtitled The Complete Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans for Canadians and I think this book will remain the RESP bible for quite some time to come, probably until there are major changes in the RESP rules since it is such a complete and thorough review of RESP’s.

There’s two things I love about this book: it contains all the information you need to set up and maintain an RESP; and it was self-published (i.e.: when you order the book they print you a copy, that’s got major geek appeal).

The book goes through the process of opening an RESP, buying investments, maintaining the investments, withdrawing from the RESP to fund your childern’s education, and collapsing the RESP.  It also covers all the possible federal and provincial grants that can help you maximise your RESP’s return; and reinforces some basic principals of investing (like keeping your costs down and diversifying) but gives concrete examples in an RESP.

In particular I recommend everyone make a copy of page 110 and keep it on the front of their RESP folder/binder.

I also really appreciated the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter, so if I’m looking for something I don’t have re-read the whole chapter only to realise it’s not there – I can just check the summary to find the right chapter.

I do think that giving each of the provincial programs (Alberta’s and Quebec’s) their own chapters was a bit overkill – they probably could have been merged into one chapter since they’re only a couple pages long.

In an interview with Kevin Rose for Sun Life Financial, Mike explains a bit about how the self-publishing works:

There’s a company called Lightning Source that I used; they’re the main printing press for most self-publishers. They’re connected to Amazon. Once you get a book set up there, they automatically send the information to Amazon and people can order it…The way print-on-demand works is that they will literally print one book. Once somebody buys a book from Amazon the order goes to Lightning Source. Because they work with Amazon, they’ve got their packaging technology. The package is mailed off, and away it goes.

I think it’s really cool that not only as a writer you can concentrate on the writing and then just upload your manuscript (well, set-up your account, etc. but only the first time) and for a small fee they take care of the rest.  But also as a buyer it’s pretty cool to know that the book I’m holding in my hands was printed specifically for me!

The only downside is that the book is only available from Amazon.ca – you won’t find it in your local corner book store or even a Chapters store.  There’s also no Kindle version (sorry Steve) or audio version (sorry Johnny) available, yet!

You can read the first chapter of The RESP Book over at the Globe and Mail.

You can read more about RESP’s on Mike’s Money Smarts blog and follow him on Twitter.

When you do read this book, and if you have an RESP you must read this book, make sure to keep a pen & paper handy (or your iPad) because you’re going to want to take notes and follow-up on what you’ve learned.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at The RESP Book, by Mike Holman @MoneySmartsBlog

Mint comes to Canada, will Canada come to Mint?

Mint has been a favourite destination for people trying to manage their finances; and it’s now available to Canadians!  Well, if you didn’t mind getting American ads you could always use the original Mint site as a lot of Canadian institutions were available.  If you haven’t tried Mint already then it’s definitely worth investing the time to try it out and see how much it can do for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a Canuck who’s already tried Mint then try to pretend that Canada Mint doesn’t exist!  It will save you a lot of pain and frustration (and time spent on Mint’s Get Satisfaction forum).

There’s two major issues: you can’t migrate your Mint account to a Canada Mint account; and you can’t delete your Mint account and re-use the same e-mail address to create a Canada Mint account.

The first problem means you can’t transfer all the history and categorization you’ve done in your original Mint account to a Canada Mint account.  So if you have years of data and trends built-up then it’s stuck in the original Mint  database!  From Intuit’s point of view this makes very little sense, since Mint makes their money by suggesting ways for you to save money from partners and get’s a cut of the referral.  Since Canadians can’t (in most cases) benefit from American offers there’s no value in keeping those customer’s stuck in Mint USA.  If they could transfer to Canada Mint then there would be a lot of built-up data from which to offer these people deals that could interest them.
The other problem affects all those people who’ve signed for the original Mint out of curiousity but now want to actually use it since there’s an official Canadian version.  They can’t!  They can delete their Mint account but when they try to create a new Canada Mint account they’ll be told their e-mail address is still in use.  And it gets worse, they can’t post the issue to the Get Satisfaction forum since they deleted their account!
The other problem I have with Mint Canada, but I don’t know the answer to is where your data is stored. The question has been asked, but there’s no answer. Of course if your data is stored in the USA then it’s subject to, among other things, the Patriot Act, that could allow US authorities access to all your financial information!
So far now I’m not sure I’m going to use Canada Mint.  I deleted my original Mint account and I don’t feel like creating an e-mail address just so I can open a Canada Mint account.  And since since RBC Royal Bank has recently added a budgeting feature that lets me categorize transactions, and they can display transactions from the other financial institutions I deal with I’m not sure I really need Canada Mint as much as their advertising would have me believe.

UPDATE December 6th, 2010: If you use Gmail there’s a couple tricks you can take advantage of if Mint says your e-mail address is already in use after you delete your original Mint account.  First off, Gmail doesn’t consider periods so first.last@gmail.com and firstlast@gmail.com and f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail.com are all the same!  Second, you can put a plus symbol (+) into your address and Gmail will strip it and everything afterwards so firstlast@gmail.com and firstlast+mintca@gmail.com are the same Gmail address!  Happy Minting!!!



Coming Soon… RBC® Mobile Banking Apps for iPhone® and BlackBerry® Smartphones – RBC Royal Bank

I heard about this over at Mobile Syrup: Coming Soon… RBC® Mobile Banking Apps for iPhone® and BlackBerry® Smartphones – RBC Royal Bank

I’m an RBC customer with multiple products but I have neither an iPhone nor a Blackberry (nor an Android or any other smartphone). I do have a simple phone with a good web browser that can access RBC’s mobile banking web site. Just like any iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc. phone can!!! I’d rather see RBC improving the functionality of the mobile banking web site rather than wasting my fees to build and maintain smartphone applications I’ll never use!

Seriously, just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s a good idea!

Even if I did get a smartphone it wouldn’t be an iPhone or Blackberry. So how many apps is RBC going to build and maintain? How many customers is RBC going to frustrate by not providing them an app or not updating their app as frequently as the other platform’s app!?

Please, they should stick with the mobile banking web site, work on it, and everyone will benefit.

Thanks,

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at Coming Soon… RBC® Mobile Banking Apps for iPhone® and BlackBerry® Smartphones – RBC Royal Bank

Money for Nothing and Your Cheques for Free

My most sincere apologies to Dire Straits and their fans, please join me in seeing the humour in the title rather than suing us.  Thanks!

And sincere apologies to my readers as well: unfortunately I don’t know any legal way to get money for nothing – even someone has to buy your lotter ticket.

Getting your cheques for free though is a different story.  As they say, you can always negotiate with your bank and try to get free stuff.  You can even get an account that provides free cheques (as in “the price is included in your monthly fee”).

A post over at  Canadian Personal Finance Blog was published just as I was running out of cheques in one of my accounts, and the comments contained a link to something very interesting: an alternative to buying cheques from your bank!  Yes it is possible!  For some time now cheques have a standard, that is published and publicly available, so technically anyone could print their own standardized cheques.  And if you’re a company that issues a lot of cheques this isn’t a bad idea.  But if you’re an individual who just needs personal cheques then the investment in magnetic ink and special paper would be excessive.

Most, if not all, Canadian banks use Davis+Henderson to print their cheques.  The alternative is ASAP Cheques, for both business and personal cheques.  They’re Canadian, based in Gananoque, Ontario, but serve all of North America.  Their deal on personal cheques is 100 cheques (4 books) for $20 and $2.75 shipping & handling plus GST (and HST if necessary).  This is considerably better your typical bank’s offer of about $30 for 100 cheques and $5 for shipping & handling plus GST & PST.

They have an even better offer if you’re okay with the basic cheque design: 200 cheques for $25.50!!!  These are single cheques, not duplicates although those are available too if carbon-copies are still your thing.

Before you order from ASAP Cheques you need to be aware of two things:

  1. Make sure you order before you run out of cheques since you need to send them a VOID cheque as a sample.  If you’ve already run-out, or don’t have any cheques to begin with, you can get a Cheque Sample Specification from your bank.  This is basically a VOID cheque printed on a full-sheet of paper with all the information necessary to identify you and your bank and you’ll need to e-mail them a scanned copy or mail or fax it to them; and
  2. If this is the first time you order from them there is additional verification process they go through so it can take a bit longer to get your cheques (although I have to admit I got my cheques within a week of starting the whole process).

When you order from ASAP Cheques though you don’t get a register or a nice little box to keep your other cheque books in.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at Money for Nothing and Your Cheques for Free.

Federal Liberals still begging for hand-outs without doing anything to deserve them

I got another letter from the Federal Liberal Party of Canada today, extolling the virtues for their glorious leader and how much better they would be at running the country than the current crop of scoundrels (my words). The bottom of the letter includes a little form where you can contribute to their Victory fund. Here’s what I sent back…

Response to Liberals Victory Fund solicitation

I started getting these solicitations last election when I contributed to the campaign of blogger and anti-income-trust-tax champion Brent Fullard. But I figured if I was contributing to his campaign I should contribute to my local candidate as well. I guess the Liberals figured I was sucker because no matter how many times I send back these F-U responses they still beg me for more!

Now I have no love for the Conservative party either. I admit I voted for them a couple elections ago but not only was that a waste (my riding always votes Liberal) but a disappointment too! Most disappointing was the Cons Tax un-Fairness Plan, but they’ve been pretty consistently disappointed with all their decisions.

Remember: no one, not one single politician, has any influence over the economy and what direction it’s going in. All they can do is react. Any of them that claim they are responsible for swinging the economy in one direction or another is full of it! At most the governor of the Bank of Canada has some influence since he controls interest rates, but as we saw during the latest downturn even that can be meaningless if the banks don’t play along. And besides, he’s working within the constraints of his mandate and has to cooperate with other national banks around the world.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at Federal Liberals still begging for hand-outs without doing anything to deserve them