A Money Coach in Canada

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It’s not often you get the chance to directly compare service from 3 different banks on the exact same customer-service issue. But I did yesterday.

You may recall I was nearly stranded without money during my UK holiday, since my cards were not set up with chip technology.

Sure enough, upon my return, there were three, count ’em, 3, very discreet envelopes in my mail containing new cards from Vancity, ING and Royal Bank of Canada respectively. Each one had a different process for activating them. Here are the (drum roll) results:

I heart that bank.
As always, they were slick. I called the phone number which was a direct line for card activations, followed about three quick prompts and…. DONE. Just like that.  5 minutes tops.  Except trying to memorize the new pin will be a pain in the neck.

SECOND UP: Vancity Credit Union, (aka seller-offer-of-formerly-best-bank-in-Canada)
I got the card, read the letter and … nothing. I had to do nothing. Did you read that? Nothing. Zip. It was all taken care of for me and I could keep the same pin. “That was easy”.

LAST UP: Royal Bank of Canada

  1. Call Toll-Free number.
  2. Got “this number is temporarily unavailable” kind of message
  3. Called Toll-Free number again
  4. Entered Card number.
  5. Got put through to agent
  6. Had to verbally give my number again to agent.  It took her three (3!) tries.
  7. Agent then asked “how old are you” as a security question.  I said, “Uh… can you ask me something else?”  She then asked my date of birth which I gave, albeit aware it was essentially the same question.  Somehow at least it *sounds* more respectful though.
  8. Agent then said some kind of activation was taking place and meantime she started to pitch me on insurance I don’t want.
  9. “I don’t want that insurance”, I said, loudly and clearly
  10. “Uh, Well, Anyway….” the agent said then continued exactly where she’d left off on the pitch
  12. I put the phone on speaker and carried on with some paperwork while she continued
  13. “Are you still there?”  agent asked
  14. “Is my card activated?”  I replied
  15. “Yes” she said.
  16. “Great, thanks a lot,” I said, and we politely said goodbye.

I totally understand she was just doing her job.

Guess, just guess, who won the customer service showdown, and who lost.

psst — want to know why I have 3 bank accounts?  Because I know how to rock them to reach my goals.  So do my clients. You can too.

Photo Credit:  24oranges

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. I don’t know if I like the VanCity method of needing to do absolutely nothing. Mail theft is on the rise, and someone could use your card illegally even without knowing your PIN. I’ll add a fourth bank into this, as I just got my chip card recently from MBNA, and I think there method is the perfect blend. Just like my previous cards from them, I had to call their toll free number from my home phone and then put in the 3 digit CSV on the back; this proved that I had actually received the card and not a thief. Took 60 seconds, except at the end of the call I then had the option to change my PIN! Another 2 minutes on the phone to change both mine and my wife’s card, with a notice that I would have to enter the number twice the next time I used it to confirm the new number. No memorizing their number, no having to go to their location. Perfect blend of security and convenience.


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    Good point re: security issue. Now that I think about it, had ING given the option of changing the PIN that would have been fabulous. As it is, today I opted not to use their card (ie. my funds in their bank!) as I couldn’t quite recall the new PIN.


    Brentals Reply:

    Just to clarify something your post Gregg, I believe Nancy was speaking about Debit cards and not credit cards. The Vancity Chip debit (ATM) cards come as the new chip card with nothing extra to do, with the huge exception that you absolutely NEED the PIN to use the card. If said mail thief absconded with this, they would get nowhere unless they new your PIN.


    Gregg Gordon Reply:

    I was pretty sure she was talking about credit cards; not only did she use a picture of a credit card, but I’ve never heard of being pitched for insurance for a debit card.


    Molly Reply:

    Debit cards would be my guess, ‘Maestro’ is debit/ATM, and I know Vancity Visa you need to call in to activate (easy adn secure).
    I see what your saying about insurance, but possibly she has an RBC Visa as well? or?

    Jul 19, 2011
  2. Absolutely stone-cold typical.


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    yep. But I’m still incredulous.


    Jul 19, 2011
  3. Jay

    I am deeply confused as to why “I need to phone a hotline, run through prompts, and then attempt to memorize a new pin” somehow outranks “Everything was already done. Zero effort on my part, and I keep my same pin”

    Completely unsurprised by RBC though. Wait, I lie. I’m surprised it was that short and simple, relatively speaking


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    no Jay – they don’t outrank at all. I listed them in same order I worked through them. Vancity rocked this one. Guess I should have made that a bit more clear.


    Jay Reply:

    “Showdown” implies winners and losers. It’s obvious who the losers are, though 🙂

    ING is on the Exchange, right?
    I know with Vancity, you can now self-repin your chip cards at any Vancity, or Coast Capital ATM, and a lot of other Exchange machines (as they get upgraded to support that). I’m sure there are tons of compatible machines out there, I just know those two for sure have 100% of their ATMs upgraded already.

    If you can, that should help with your new-PIN woes


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    Oh, I didn’t know that we could repin them at ATMs. Even better! Tx for the tip Jay.

    Jay Reply:

    Yep. Repinning at ATMs is new and specific to chip cards. You just pop it in, and you’ll see “Change Pin” as an option on the main menu.

    Jul 21, 2011


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