VanCity, I’m so tired of you

I’ve been a loyal VanCity customer since I moved to Vancouver in the mid-90’s. I wanted a local bank whose values seemed to match my own politics. I was swayed by their enviro-visa give-back program. I loved the annual $1,000,000 community-project fund. I loved that they were very progressive in their LGBT (or however you want to organize that acronym) support. So I switched. And for the first few years, I felt smug knowing that I banked with them. But then I tried to get a loan to buy  a new computer. And sure, I didn’t make much money, but more than enough to cover the monthly payments. But I was self-employed, so they said no. Eventually, after having my parents co-sign it, I got a loan. I should note I payed it off early. When Leah & I first bought a car, VanCity refused to loan me money. We ended up leasing through Ford Finance, which was a horrible experience. At the time, I figured it was ok that they refused us, because I didn’t make much money, but I felt I made enough & was definitely disappointed. Because I was self-employed, I wanted a Line of Credit to help deal with months where maybe cheques didn’t come in on time. That was flat-out refused – despite having good credit, a long history with them & my having a decent ‘salary’. At work, we re-arranged our company from a Partnership to a Corporation in part so it I could list myself as an employee of a company rather than an owner. Work did well, I started making more money. After Liam was born, we wanted to buy another car. Toyota jumped at option to give us a loan to buy a car, at a great rate. I called Vancity, who not only would not match the rate offered by Toyota, but wouldn’t even approve me for a loan without a co-signature. So we used Toyota financial (which was a great experience, for the record). When we bought a house, we used a mortgage broker who got us a great rate. Again, because I was loyal to Vancity, I checked with them to see if they could match the rate. Again, no, they couldn’t. It’s just endless frustration when dealing with them.

My experience with them for business banking has been if anything, even worse. Every time we asked for things like a Line of Credit, we were refused – in part, as far as I understood it, because they needed  Jeff and I as co-owners to co-sign for it, and so it was based on our credit rating. But our credit rating was suspect because we were business owners of a company that was looking for credit. What??? And it seemed like every time we needed them to help us, by quickly clearing a cheque, or whatnot, they couldn’t.  And despite being heavy bankers, we could not get a personal banker assigned to our account. We eventually switched to HSBC, in part because we were immediately assigned us a banker to look out for us – who has, simply by helping us get a better US exchange, likely saved us thousands of dollars. But is also a single person we can call and ask business-banking questions to. And who gave us a line of credit, without issue, quickly. And as anyone else who runs a small business knows, having a line of credit is one of those essentials for doing business. I have friends who run a local small business, who also bank at VanCity. According to them, they weren’t able to get a line of credit with VanCity until they met, and became friendly with the CEO of VanCity at a conference, and all of sudden doors opened for them. That shouldn’t have to happen.

Leah and I opened a BMO account also to have a joint account, and also because my parents banked there, and I’m lucky enough to have parents who were able to help me with a down-payment on my house – and because it was going to be so tricky with VanCity for my parents in Toronto to transfer me money, it was simply easier to open an account at BMO. But dealing with BMO has been so much less painful than dealing with VanCity, the chances of me talking to BMO next time I want something are pretty high. When I next buy RRSPs, I doubt it’ll be VanCity. Or when I next buy a car & want a car loan. Or line of credit. Or want investment advice. So why do I stick with VanCity? Particularly when I look at their community involvement, it seems to have dropped to the same level of tokenism as the big banks, so why should I stay?

Here’s what I want in my bank. I want to have a person with a name & phone number & email to whom I can ask questions. Who’ll review my info at least once a quarter and suggest things – new investments, or more optimal account packages, or suggest an RRSP loan, or whatever. Ideally, I’d like a bank that I could also do my business banking with that seems to actually understand how my small business works and is willing to work with us to find solutions. Maybe I am asking for the sky, but I don’t feel like I am. I feel like I’m asking for something quite reasonable, but maybe not.  But I do think that I might be done with VanCity. I’d love to be wrong. I want to love VanCity again, but at the moment, I just don’t see that happening.

10 Replies to “VanCity, I’m so tired of you”

  1. I left VanCity after years of loyalty because Royal Bank would give me a line of credit and VanCity wouldn't. I never bothered to understood the reasons, but I figure it must have something to do with Van City being a credit union instead of a bank.

  2. I'm shopping right now for a business bank account for my new business and Vancity was on the list to check out. Think I'll skip that now. You lasted longer with them than I ever would have.

  3. Stephen, I've been a member of Vancity for, mmmmm, about 15 years. I've also banked with the RBC, BMO, Canada Trust, so I have some experience with the competition. My experiences with Vancity have always been extremely positive, and I highly recommend this org to anybody & everybody. I have a very good credit rating, as does my husband, have never been late with a payment, even pay my Van Public Library fines on time. I wonder if you've been declined because of poor credit??? missed payments??? The only people I know who have these experiences with financial institutions, are poor managers of their personal finances. Sorry dude, but you're only telling one side of the story, and I find your tale hard to believe.

  4. Well, I would point out that yes, I am only telling one side of the story – my side. I don't know VanCity's side, because, well, they're hard to interact with in my experience.

    Do I have bad credit? No, I have excellent credit. I certainly used to have not-so-hot-credit when I was in university. It certainly played a factor in having to get a loan cosigned to get a computer when I was still so young – which is why I was ok with that request. But since then? great credit. The only explanation I can think of is that I'm too risky for them because I own my own business – which just puts lie to their claim that they support small business.

  5. Well, I would point out that yes, I am only telling one side of the story – my side. I don't know VanCity's side, because, well, they're hard to interact with in my experience.

    Do I have bad credit? No, I have excellent credit. I certainly used to have not-so-hot-credit when I was in university. It certainly played a factor in having to get a loan cosigned to get a computer when I was still so young – which is why I was ok with that request. But since then? great credit. The only explanation I can think of is that I'm too risky for them because I own my own business – which just puts lie to their claim that they support small business.

  6. Its funny how someone out there shares the same experience as me , am happy you had the chance to put it on the internet . Vancity bank has been the worst experience for me and i wouldnt reccomend it for any one out there who is looking to start banking .
    I have good credit i make 3,500 a month and i get to save not less than 1000 every two weeks . I requested for a 10 000 line of credit to add for a work truck and all they could aprove me for i have been in the country for 2 only years.
    I went to RBC and i got approved in two weeks .
    I left Vancity with their surrey teller girls who make you repeat words ; trying to make fun of your accent .

  7. It would be interesting to hear what you think now. It seems that banks will have to answer to a lot more wants from customers with a conscience.


    My name is Johnny. I
    had become a VanCity member in 1997.
    Throughout the years, I have experienced sporadic instances of
    unsatisfactory service but managed to move forward one way or the other.

    For example, there was that one time early on when a teller
    there snapped at me because of my messy signature. I opted to not make a big deal about this;
    instead, I changed my signature from one that I penned with my right hand to
    one that I, to this day, pen with my left (you see, I do not appear as though I
    do, but I have a few disabilities, which include problems with my hands–my
    right hand is quite shaky, and my left hand is not shaky but quite slow).

    Then there was that time that, when I was starting a
    personal business, I made an appointment to open a business account. I showed up, on time, for my meeting;
    however, the consultant with whom I had the appointment was not there. I did not complain; instead, I just went
    about my business.

    There was an incident that made me threaten to close my
    account. It was when I sent a VanCity
    money order to an Asian country for a rare vinyl album. For whatever reason, the money order could
    not be cashed there, so I went to VanCity to get a refund. The total was something dollars and
    ninety-nine cents. I got a refund for
    all of my money, except the coinage. I
    was told that the reason for this was that they do not hand out coinage. I took my beef straight to head office, and
    somebody did something nice for me—I cannot remember what it was, but it was
    enough for me to not close my account.

    There have been more things throughout the years, but I
    believe that these are the highlights. I
    accept the fact that things do not always happen the way that I think they
    should, and I appreciate the fact that VanCity focusses on the community, so I
    remained tolerant—until today.

    On Monday, September 28, 2015, I went to VanCity because I
    needed a photocopy of a cheque that I received from Cheam Taxi, a place where I
    was accepted to work until somebody determined that I “write too slow.” You see, after over 25 years of trying to
    make it through life with disabilities, this was the last straw, and I was
    finally convinced that I should look for assistance—something that counsellors,
    psychologists, doctors, friends, and family members have been telling me for
    years. I needed a photocopy of this
    cheque, as a stipulation for receiving assistance (I did not realise this at
    the time, when I deposited this cheque through VanCity’s ATM machine).

    I spoke with Jasmin, who submitted my request and told me
    that it would hopefully be about two days.
    I was happy to hear this, for I wanted it by Friday, October 2, 2015, in
    order to hand it in at least one business day before the Monday, October 5,
    2015 deadline. I thought, “It could take
    100% longer than the estimated time of arrival, and I would still be
    alright.” I was told that I would
    receive a phone call.

    I received no phone call on Tuesday or Wednesday; on
    Thursday, I decided to be ready at home (I had nothing else to do, anyway), in
    case I got the call so that I could immediately go and grab this
    photocopy. I heard nothing.

    On Friday, October 2, I went straight to the Abbotsford
    VanCity, stood in line, and asked a friendly teller if he could find out if anything
    is happening with my request. He saw
    Jasmin in the back, walked up to her, and spoke to her. She looked at me and announced that it would
    be in on Monday. I was fine with
    this. I went to the office that wanted a
    copy of my cheque and let them know that I would have it by Monday. I then went home.

    About an hour after I got home, I received a phone call from
    Jasmin, who told me that there is a big back log of requests like mine, and
    this is why it will take until Monday, plus there is a $15 fee for this. I told her to hold off, then, so I could find
    out if I absolutely do need a photocopy of a cheque, or if I can save $15. I went to the office that wanted me to have
    proof of my cheque, waited in queue, and then found out that I indeed needed
    this. Then I went to back to VanCity.

    Jasmin saw me as I walked in, told me that she was off, and
    that I should wait in line to talk to a teller; as I was waiting, she
    approached me and told me that she would log back in just to help me. Throughout the process, she reminded me that
    things are taking long because she had been logged off, and things are taking a
    while to reload. She reminded me that
    she had been off but was logging back on to help me at least three times. Finally, the request was submitted, and I was
    on my way.

    Today is Wednesday, October 7, 2015. I went to the Abbotsford VanCity to find out
    what was happening, since I had heard nothing on Monday or Tuesday. I saw Jasmin on my way in, and I am pretty
    sure that she saw me on her way out. I did
    not want feel like talking to her anyway, so I opted to speak with somebody
    else. Thankfully, my favourite teller
    was there, and I told her what had been happening. She could not find any information for
    me. The “boss” at the branch then came
    around and told me to have a seat while they figured things out. I sat for about ten minutes before I was
    called into the office.

    The “boss” (I did not get her name, but that is the word
    that my favourite teller used to describe her) told me that they had two copies
    for me in the office since Monday, October 5, and that Jasmin called me on that
    Monday and left a message; somehow, I did not get this message.

    I took my copies (one for me and one for the assistance
    office) and went back in line to see a teller about finally withdrawing my
    money and closing my account; in the meantime, Jasmin returned from her break,
    approached me, and told me that she had told me about the $15 charge right at
    the beginning, on Monday, September 28.
    She also emphasised she said that it would “HOPEFULLY” take two days. She then scurried off.

    I was overall treated like garbage. On my way out, I saw Jasmin and told her that
    I was going to write and post this story everywhere I possibly can. She said, “OK. Bye bye.”

    I am taking my money to Toronto Dominion, which has a branch
    just down the road from VanCity, and where I already have a no longer used
    business account—which I opened the same day during which I had that scheduled
    appointment at VanCity to which nobody else showed.

    By the way, the teller, back in the 90s, that snapped at me
    about my signature was Jasmin.

  9. I realize some time has passed, but I don’t see that Vancity has changed since then. Whenever my mortgage come up for renewal, I get a phone call from someone offering to “renew over the phone” at a much higher rate that I’m currently paying. Then, when I make an appointment and go to the branch, I get a much lower rate. Why? Recently I needed some advice on an RRSP issue, and I had to make a fuss just to get an appointment with a “wealth manager”. So much for their slogan. The lineups for a teller (sorry, service rep or whatever the title is this week) are as long or longer than any bank, and it really annoys me to see no-one even seems to notice and assign additional staff. As far as the “shared success” is concerned, I get WAY more in dividends from the small amount of RBC shares I own. I certainly don’t feel like I “own” part of Vancity.

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