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Banking 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

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).

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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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Ryan April 19, 2016, 11:04 am

    FrugalTrader, can you explain how the strategy you described above (higher income spouse pays for household bills, lower income spouse invests) would allow couples to save on taxes?

    I can’t seem to figure how it works.

    • FT FrugalTrader April 19, 2016, 11:24 am

      Hi Ryan,

      The strategy works well if there is a disparity in incomes between spouses. The tax savings described is with non-registered (taxable) investment accounts. The higher the tax bracket, the higher the investor will pay in taxes with regards to dividends, interest and capital gains within the taxable investment account. The strategy is to ensure that the lower income spouse (thus lower tax bracket) owns the non-registered account, thus taxable at a lower tax bracket. So to do this, the higher income spouse would pay all the household bills, while the lower income spouse would use his/her income to open and fund a taxable investment account.

      Does this make sense?

  • Doc April 19, 2016, 4:45 pm

    With the proliferation of no fee banks I still can’t see the benefit. To me it looks akin to inventing a smoother riding horse drawn wagon… in 2016. Sure, nice improvement, but we’ve already got a much better product, thank you very much.

  • LifeInsuranceCanada.com April 19, 2016, 5:52 pm

    We treat our income as ‘combined’ anyway, there is no individual income or expenses. Everything goes into one joint bank account.

    Actually, that’s not even quite true. We moved to Tangerine based on the advice of our financial planner. So we have one master account, then a boatload of sub-accounts for the various line items in our budget. The Tangerine account let us set up all the sub-accounts, and I’m pretty sure there’s no fees involved (though the setup was painful).

  • nobleea April 19, 2016, 7:04 pm

    BMO is our main account with everything flowing in there. We have a smaller account at TD for my wife’s spending money. Once we closed out our last mortgage (with BMO), they started charging us $15/mo service fees. We had negotiated free banking fees as part of the mortgage. So now there’s a push to reduce that $15/mo service fee as it pains me to pay it every month. There’s definitely convenience in having all our mortgages, investments, credit cards, and bank accounts through one bank and being able to access it all from one website. But not sure if it’s $15/mo worth of convenience. Looks like it gets waived with a balance over $3500 so that should happen going forward.

  • Greg April 20, 2016, 1:18 pm

    Don’t forget that leaving thousands of dollars sitting around in a checking account earning no interest is effectively the same as a fee. Invest that $3500 in BMO stock and the dividends alone are $12/month. Sure the 4% BMO dividend isn’t certain, but leaving $5000 tied up to get a $150 premium credit card fee waived isn’t the same as getting a 3% cash return either and also there is no compounding if you are going to leave that $5000 sitting for many years.
    No fee Internet banks have been around for 20 years now. Like most of the financial industry, big banks compete by making things complicated, but you can’t really beat no fees!

    • Remi May 1, 2016, 12:55 pm

      Keep in mind that money saved is more powerful than money earned since it is tax free. So for some, 3% saved could be considered the equivalent of 5% interest on a non-registered account.

  • Pamela April 21, 2016, 1:43 pm

    Its about time banks came up with something like this. I have to ask though, what are the advantages of having the PlanShare option as oppose to having a joint online bank account that is free anyway? I am just asking because my husband and I make about the same amount of money and we have a Joint Tangerine account to eliminate fees. Are we missing out on something?

    • FT FrugalTrader April 21, 2016, 2:05 pm

      I think this type of plan works well for people who do a lot of business with a brick and mortar bank, in this case, BMO. Some families have multiple accounts with a bank, but remain under the threshold to waive fees. This way, if the main account meets the threshold, then the rest of the accounts are free. I like the idea of their premium account where it waives the annual fee on their premium credit cards, but $5k is quite a bit to have just sitting there.

  • Greg Doherty April 23, 2016, 6:12 am

    Any account with fees is a waste of money if there is a free option somewhere else. I see no benefit in banking with the ripoff banksters. Having all your accounts in one place is no longer a necessity in the Internet age. No fee bank accounts and credit cards are the only option that makes sense unless there is a specific tangible benefit and I haven’t been able to find one.

  • Isaac June 1, 2016, 10:16 pm

    Let’s say I have $5000 to spare and sign up with PlanShare Premium. Will my partner and I both eligible for the BMO World Elite Credit card fee waiver?

    (I know the CC offer free secondary card, but with separate CC, we get twice the number of lounge access and sign up bonus)

    • Simon June 7, 2016, 10:24 pm

      No, you only get one credit card, the second one will cost you, but you can have a second card issued for your account for free.

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