CIBC branch on Broadway in Vancouver at night

CIBC Scraps Charges on Gift Cards

Back in January, I wrote a blog post about how I, and many other CIBC customers, were getting dinged by the bank for using a Visa credit card to buy gift cards.

In my case, I was charged $5 plus interest for $10 worth of minutes with EVO car share. You can read about it here.

Well, the CIBC has decided to relent in the face of the growing ire of its customers, and some bad PR from CBC television, by scrapping the charge and refunding customers who paid it. Anyone charged the fee from 29 September to 29 February 2024 will apparently be automatically refunded.

The catalyst for the decision appears to be a story on CBC’s consumer affairs program Go Public about an Oakville, Ontario customer, Catharine Murphy, who had been dinged on several gift cards and her journey in trying to get the charges refunded.

The piece makes the obvious point that the bank has breached the trust of its customers: the charge was quietly applied without any warning at the time of purchase.

The CBC segment goes even further, with UBC business professor Murali Chandrashekaran suggesting that “adding an unexpected fee to a purchase may be a violation of the Competition Act”.

CIBC’s Client Care Office got back to me to confirm that the charge has been scrapped.

However, the bank was not able to provide much clarity as to why gift card payments incurred this bank charge in the first place.

CIBC has maintained that the charge was incurred because merchants were using the wrong payment code at the point of purchase. But then, as Evo pointed out, why did this issue appear to be specific to CIBC customers? (Note: a regular Evo payment for a trip on the same day was not impacted, just the gifted, unused minutes.)

It’s good to know that the bank has changed its policy, but the handling of the issue and lack of transparency doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence and trust.