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Banking as a Couple – BMO PlanShare Review

Banking as a Couple – BMO PlanShare ReviewBanking as a Couple – BMO PlanShare Review

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of BMO.

I was a little hesitant at first when BMO contacted me to review one of their product features.  The reason is that most retail bank account usually involves high fees.  However, after reading more about BMO PlanShare, I started to see the possibilities for couples to save money.  Particularly for money conscious couples that take tax planning seriously (yes you!).

What is BMO PlanShare?

With cell phone providers now offering family data sharing, BMO has come up with a similar concept for couples but with their fee-based bank account plans.  Instead of both individuals paying separate monthly fees on their bank accounts, BMO PlanShare allows couples to have multiple accounts under one Plan, all for one monthly fee…the same fee an individual would also pay for their own BMO bank plan.

If you are a regular reader here, you will know that I’m not a fan of bank account fees.  To get around this, I typically keep a minimum balance in the chequing account. What I like about PlanShare is that if one account member maintains the minimum balance in the account, the monthly fees can be waived.

Some info from their website about PlanShare:

  • Allows couples to save on banking fees by sharing one bank plan including joint and individual bank accounts
  • This gives the freedom for couples to bank together while also allowing them to maintain financial independence
  • Allows couples to have up to 20 accounts under one Plan for one monthly Plan fee
  • Ease of set up for new or existing BMO customers
  • Personalize your Plan by conveniently organizing your accounts in the way that best suits you and your partner’s needs, including nicknaming your accounts (like “trip” for that vacation to Florida you’re planning)
  • Easily transfer funds between your joint and individual accounts
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They offer PlanShare on four of their bank plans: the Premium, Performance, AIR MILES and Plus Plans.

  • Premium Plan ($30/month, min balance of $5,000 to waive fee) – Unlimited everyday banking transactions, 5 Interac e-Transfers per month,  personalized cheques, money orders and drafts at no extra charge, and an annual rebate of up to $150 on a BMO premium credit card (like the BMO World Elite MasterCard) .
  • Performance Plan ($14.95/month, min balance of $3,500 to waive fee) – Unlimited everyday banking transactions.
  • AIR MILES Plan ($14.95/month, Get 50 Bonus AIR MILES each month if you keep at least $3,000 in your chequing account ) – Unlimited everyday banking transactions, and get AIR MILES Reward Miles when you use your BMO debit card.
  • Plus Plan ($10.95/month, min balance of $2,500 to waive fee) – 30 everyday banking transactions per month. That’s about one transaction per day.

Benefits

For married couples where one spouse makes significantly more than the other, having separate bank accounts makes a lot of sense.  In this case, the ideal situation is to have the lower income spouse to invest and pay investment taxes at a lower tax rate.  In a perfect world, the higher income spouse would simply transfer money to the lower income spouse to invest.  Alas, CRA disagrees, and since the money came from the higher income spouse, it will be taxed as such.

The strategy?  To make sure that this couple maximizes tax efficiency, finances should be arranged so that the higher income spouse pays for all the household expenses, while the lower income spouse invests.  In order to do this properly, separate bank accounts should be used to clearly show the flow of funds (in case CRA asks).

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For our family, I use a big bank chequing account with a min balance to avoid fees, but my wife uses a free chequing account from a separate institution.  I can see the value of having our accounts together under one umbrella, and avoiding fees by keeping a minimum balance on one account.

Downside

  • PlanShare is limited to high fee accounts, so if you don’t carry a fairly high cash balance, you may be better off going with a free bank account.

Final Thoughts

Although this product may not be for everyone, I can see it as great tool for couples where separate bank accounts are beneficial – especially for families where one spouse makes significantly more than the other.  I already have a BMO account for my Smith Manoeuvre implementation with a minimum balance.  I may entertain the idea of maintaining a higher balance to take advantage of the Premium Plan, while at the same time, waiving the annual fee on one of their premium cards.  Holding a $5,000 balance with a return of $150/year (annual fee of their BMO World Elite Card), results in a 3% return, which is better than most high-interest savings accounts available today.

What are your thoughts?  Do you see value in this product?

 

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