indicatorAdvice for Albertans during the COVID-19 pandemic

Is my money safe during uncertain times?

By ATB Financial 31 March 2020 5 min read

It’s an unsettling, unprecedented time. You’re concerned for the physical well-being of yourself and your family members, but as COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, you may also be wondering about the security of your finances during this period of uncertainty. Is your money safe?

The short answer is: Yes.

A quick search through the news brings up stories about people stockpiling food and household supplies, leading others to believe that they should also be stockpiling cash. It is good practice to have some cash available for emergencies, but some people are currently depleting their savings in fear that banks will shut down or they won’t be able to access funds during an emergency. Facing an unknown future may cause you to question the security of your deposits.

Your deposits are safe

If feelings of fear or uncertainty have you questioning whether you should withdraw your savings in cash, please know that your deposits are safe.The total balances of all ATB chequing and savings accounts (both business and personal), as well as all ATB fixed-term investments (such as GICs), are guaranteed under the ATB Financial Act. This means that no matter how daunting some of the news might be, the money you have deposited with ATB Financial is 100% guaranteed by the government1. It’s not going anywhere, and you will be able to access it at any time, just as you have been able to before this pandemic.

While the provincial government is recommending including a small amount of cash in your emergency supplies, there is no benefit to withdrawing thousands of dollars from your accounts or investments. Even if you don’t hold any investments, keeping your money in the bank offers you more protection from theft or loss than keeping it in your house.

Each household and situation is different, but if you’ll feel more comfortable having cash on hand, consider withdrawing a modest amount between $500 and $1,000.

What about the possibility of a bank run?

In times of crisis, people sometimes worry about their financial institution’s liquidity—that is, its ability to honour full withdrawal of its clients’ funds. When too many clients withdraw their funds and a bank becomes unable to honour other clients’ right to withdrawal, it’s called a run on that bank.

We are not concerned about a run on ATB. In addition to the guarantee of the ATB Financial Act, ATB protects its clients’ deposits by managing its assets conservatively, and by conducting ongoing forecasting to determine liquidity needs in both ordinary and crisis situations. (See a more detailed explanation of how ATB manages liquidity)

While volatility or turbulence in the markets may have you concerned, it is important to note that a financial institution's stability is not directly related to the stock market. This is especially true at ATB; we are not a publicly traded company and therefore not exposed to the same risks as a publicly traded company.

In other words, we’re prepared for this pandemic, and we’re ready to stand by Albertans as they weather the storm.

Access to MasterCard

Credit cards will remain a secure and viable way of transacting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have not seen disruption of MasterCard service, even in countries where illness is widespread. In fact, using contactless payment (such as credit cards and digital wallets) can be a safer way to make purchases without the higher risk of spreading germs through the exchange of cash.

Banking during social distancing

But what if social distancing and mandatory quarantining force some ATB branches to close?

This is a legitimate and realistic concern. However, if your local branch does have to discontinue physical access to customers for a period of time, you still have several ways to access and manage your money. Service through online and mobile banking along with ABMs will remain uninterrupted. For more information on managing your money digitally, check out this helpful guide.

If you’re not sure how to use online banking or if you just need to talk to a real human being about your finances, you can always email us or call us at 1-800-332-8383.

Check the status and hours of your local branch.

If you can’t cover your expenses

If you’re one of the many Albertans who have become unemployed or underemployed because of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, know that you have options and that you’re not alone.

Withdrawing from your emergency fund, chequing account or savings account is probably your best first line of defense.

You can also consider withdrawing from your TFSA. The money you take out won’t be subject to income tax, and you’ll be granted additional contribution room to replace it in the following year.

Talk to your financial advisor before withdrawing from your RRSP. Withdrawals from registered retirement savings plans are subject to income tax, and using your retirement savings may not be the best choice.

Of course, you don’t want to deplete your savings when there are other options available to you. Some financial institutions, including ATB, have introduced temporary relief that allow you to defer payments on mortgages and other loans for up to six months.

Beware of scammers

Unfortunately, fraud scams tend to become more common during times of widespread anxiety and unrest. If you're feeling financially vulnerable, talk to your financial advisor rather than trying to take advantage of offers that seem too good to be true. This article has more information on common fraud scams and how to avoid them.

Together, we have a great track record

Over the past 82 years, we’ve stood firm with our customers through many ups and downs. We’ve never shut down during a crisis and we’ve never been unable to grant our clients rightful access to their funds.

Regardless of your individual situation, we want you to know that we’re here for you. ATB is still more than 5000 Albertans ready to help Albertans. Together, we’ll get through this.

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