Valley First

Canadians need no ATM fees, not capped ones

While politicians wrangle over whether ATM fees are too high, Valley First takes a broader view of banking fees
February 7, 2014

Penticton, B.C.—The second week of the House of Common’s 2014 session opened with spirited debate on whether Canadians are paying too much to withdraw money from ATMs across the country.

NDP consumer affairs critic Glenn Thibeault introduced a motion to the House that would have seen ATM withdrawal fees limited to 50 cents per transaction. While the motion was defeated, Susan Ewanick of Penticton-based Valley First believes the debate itself shows that banks and credit unions can do more to help Canadians with their tight household budgets.

“Times are changing and the days of sidling up to the service-fee trough are numbered,” says Ewanick, a 20-plus financial service industry veteran. “There are few things Canadians find more irritating than paying to access their own money. Paying $4, $10 or even $20 a month for a chequing account or paying fees for too many debit or ATM transactions a month just doesn’t work for Canadians today.”

According to recent figures, Canadians pay close to $185 in ATM fees every year. That number, Ewanick says, is unnecessarily high especially when credit union members have access to more than 2,400 fee-free ATMs across the country.

“It surprises me that so many Canadians continue to put up with paying fees,” says Ewanick. “Over the past four to five years there’s been more mainstream banking choices for consumers who feel those dollars could be better spent.”

Ewanick points to large credit unions like Valley First, Envision Financial, Coast Capital Savings and First Calgary Financial—all of which offer no-monthly fee chequing accounts—as ones leading the charge to reign in service fees.

“When we introduced our no-fee Simply Free Account 18 months years ago, we knew we were going to take a hit to our revenues,” admits Ewanick. “But we also knew it was the right thing to do for the hard working people in our communities.”

And, doing the right thing has its rewards. Valley First has seen one of the highest member rates in the credit union industry – growing more than five per cent in the last 12 months. These new members brought with them their mortgages, business accounts, investment portfolios and insurance needs that have given the credit union some of the highest financial performance numbers among other credit unions in the province.

“When you have thousands of new members joining you each year, you know you’re doing something right,” says Ewanick. “We’re proof that a bank or credit union can be very successful by focusing on the needs of its members.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 40 branches and 28 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has $7.1 billion in assets under administration, more than 171,000 members and close to 1,300 employees. For more information on Valley First, visit

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