Canadian banks are rapidly moving towards image-based cheque clearing. That means that cheques will no longer be physically shipped around the country during the clearing process; instead, a digital image of the front and back of the cheque will be sent instead. This has many advantages, as the Canadian Payments Association points out in their report Cheque Imaging in Canada: An Idea Whose Time has Come. What they are careful not to say is that most of those advantages translate into reduced costs.
RBC Royal Bank is Canada's largest bank, and has been agressively moving toward cheque imaging. This saves them money. But they're making their customers pay to save them that money!
An RBC chequing account that has, until now, included a monthly paper statement and a copy of all cancelled cheques will no longer include the cancelled cheques. Therefore, the value of that statement has gone down. RBC customers can still get printouts of cancelled cheques, either by (a) paying $1.50 per cheque and printing them from the RBC website, or (b) paying $24 per year per chequing account and having an image of the cheques included with the monthly mailed statements.
Just so it's clear: RBC customers are paying the same as before but receiving less for their money -- despite the fact that imaging technology will save the bank a considerable sum of money.
Now RBC offers another option: if you opt out of receiving paper statements -- which should save the bank at least $24 per customer per year -- they'll let you print your own cheques from the RBC website without charging you any extra money. But only if you do so within 90 days. And only if you print out each cheque, one by one, with a click-click-click-click-click-click of your mouse.
Why would you need cheque images? To prove that you made a payment in the case of a dispute. And very often such disputes arise more than 90 days after the cheque is cleared. (According to RBC Royal Bank, they will print a certified copy of a cheque for $10 after the 90 day period).
I once had a landlord who (as an honest mistake) insisted that he'd waived the customary first-and-last month's payment and therefore I owed him the last month's rent; having a full history -- several years' worth -- of cancelled monthly rent cheques in my file cabinet made it easy to prove that I had already paid the last month's rent. On the other hand, requesting dozens of cheques from RBC at $10 each would have added up to nearly one month's rent, so under the RBC's new and helpful scheme I would have been no worse off to simply pay the landlord.
So here are my questions to the RBC Royal Bank:
- Why don't you allow a full years' worth of online transaction history? Why not five years' or a decade worth of transaction history, with cheque images? Digital storage is incredibly cheap these days (and you're already saving money from switching to imaging!). We (your customers) would find the "no paper statement" much more palatable in that case.
- Failing that, why don't you provide an online page that lets us print all of our cancelled cheques for a month all at once in a compact format, instead of making us click through each individual cheque image, printing them on separate pieces of paper?
- Why does it cost an extra $24 per year per account for cheque images to be included with paper statements? It costs you less than physically returning the cheques, which you do now without extra charge.
- How can you possibly think that your new "Statement Options" are competitive?