Just this week, I received a call from the bank where I have my mortgage with. Yet, another sales pitch to get me to move all my accounts over with them. I usually ignore those calls, if it was really that important they would leave a message, but they keep ringing. So this time, I decided to pick up and listen to their spiel.

They were offering $250 and iPad Mini to get me to switch over my wonderful online checking account to theirs. Not that I need an iPad Mini, but it could make for a pretty good gift. I asked all the questions I thought I should ask. Why should I switch? Is there a minimum balance? Does it include unlimited transactions? What are the extra fees involved? Are there any rewards/incentives (obviously other than the money and iPad). When is this offer valid until? If they ever say it’s only valuable today, it’s time to hang up.

I have a few other accounts with this bank and making payments is incredibly difficult if you’re paying from another bank. But for all the other products I have with them, the rates are very good. So while it’s a pain, it’s only once or twice a year that I make adjustments to some payments. Everything else is automatic. But it has been painful enough to guilt me into considering it.

Right now my checking account already offers free unlimited transactions, free unlimited check books, free grocery rewards and often bonus interest on whatever I have in my account, all for one low monthly fee of zero dollars.

For a limited time only? Baloney!

And then he said, while they couldn’t offer rewards above what they were offering, they do offer an account that has unlimited transactions and if I signed up for one of their credit cards, my multi-product rebate would make it free. He ended with ‘Would you like me to go ahead and set up an appointment?’ So I told him I’d think about it and that’s when he said if I would ‘like a representative to call you to follow up’. ‘No thank you,’ I said ‘I’ll call YOU, if or when I decide.’

I got a postcard in the mail a week later from them with a similar offer. So I thought about it for a couple of days and then I thought, let me just look this up and see if they’re offering this to everyone and not just ‘special customers’. And there it was! I believe the $250 was credited to your account, regardless of what account you open. But the salesperson failed to mention that to qualify for the free iPad Mini, you had to sign up for one of two accounts, one of which pays no interest, has no free checking, no rewards and even after the multi-product rebate, still had a monthly fee of $22.50! So before the years up, so is that $250 bonus! I can’t even remember the last time I paid a monthly fee.

Bottom line: Never sign up for anything on the phone. And always always research before signing up for anything.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

While we’re still on the subject of banking, in the past month, I’ve received three balance transfer offers in the mail from two of my credit card companies. Some of them come in the form of convenience cheques ready to send out and others as opt-in fill in forms. But they’re becoming increasingly sneaky. One of the offers had in large print ‘Start saving today with a low 1.99% interest rate’. Until you read the fine print where it said something along the lines of ‘a fee of 2% of the balance transfer amount will be charged to your credit card account when a balance transfer is posted.’ Wait a minute! So their 1.99 offer actually is 3.9%!?!

Still a pretty good rate, but that’s pretty low for them to do that. That’s common in the payday loan business where the actual annual percentage rates can hit 600% (no that’s not a typo), when you factor in all the fees. So always always read the fine print before signing any offer.

Whether getting a sales pitch from someone on the phone or at the door or advice from anyone on any financial matters, always do your own due diligence and/or get a second opinion. Remember, the only one that will truly look out for your best interests, is yourself.

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