The Motley Fool

How to Pay Your Bank Fees With Dividends

Canadians complain about their high bank fees. Most of my bank fees come from buying and selling stocks, since some are for short-term trades.

I pay my bank $22 a month on general fees, and $10 per trade. Assuming I trade 10 times per month, that results in $122 of fees per month, totaling to $366 per quarter, or $1,464 per year. Yikes! It sure add up fast.

Here are some real-life examples of how to use your ownership in banks to pay for your bank fees.

The largest banks in Canada are Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY)(NYSE:RY), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD)(NYSE:TD), Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS)(NYSE:BNS), Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO)(NYSE:BMO), and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSX:CM)(NYSE:CM).

Ticker * Price * Market Cap * Yield S&P Credit Rating Debt to Equity
RY $79 114B 3.9% AA- 0.2
TD $55.3 102.2B 3.7% AA- 0.1
BNS $65.4 79.1B 4.2% A+ 0.1
BMO $78 50.2B 4.1% A+ 0.1
CM $95 37.7B 4.5% A+ 0.3

Method 1: Buy the same dollar amounts

It may be overkill to own all five banks, but let’s see what happens when we consider this scenario. Investing the same dollar amounts in each bank gives an average yield of 4.08%, indicating that I must invest $7,177 in each bank to get enough dividends to pay the bank fees. This is a total investment of $35,883. That’s a lot of money up front.

Method 2: Buy high-yielding banks

When I eliminate the two banks with the lowest yields, I’m left with Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

They pay an average yield of 4.27%. Investing the same dollar amounts in each still requires roughly $34,313, or about $11,438 per position. The total investment is about 4.4% less than the previous method. That’s one year’s worth of dividends!

It’s not the best method to eliminate the companies with the lowest yields if you are going for the highest quality. Both Royal Bank and Toronto-Dominion Bank have higher credit ratings than the others.

Method 3: Average in to your positions

Another strategy is to dollar-cost average in to your holdings instead of buying huge lump sums.

We can’t determine if the market will go up or down, so buying set amounts in high-quality banks periodically works as a passive strategy. For example, you can buy $1,000 in your chosen banks every year.

Method 4: Account for valuation to make the best use of every invested dollar

To make the best use of every dollar, don’t overpay for any company. Let’s look at those five banks again, starting with Royal Bank.

Royal Bank’s historical normal price-to-earnings ratio [P/E] in the past 10 years is roughly 12.5. Today it trades at a multiple of 12.1, costing about $79 per share, while it dipped to a P/E of 7.3 during the financial crisis in 2009.

In the last decade Toronto-Dominion Bank’s normal P/E is 12.2 and it trades at a multiple of 12.6 today at about $55.3 per share. During the financial crisis period in particular, it traded around the P/E of 7.4.

Bank of Nova Scotia’s 10-year normal P/E is 12.3, and it trades at a multiple of 11.5 today at $65.4. In 2009 it went down to a P/E of 7.5. That’s when the bank was on sale.

Bank of Montreal’s 10-year normal P/E is 11.6, while it trades at a multiple of 11.8 today at $78. In 2009 it traded at the cheap valuation with a multiple of 6.4!

Finally, there’s Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, whose normal 10-year P/E is 10.9, and it trades at a multiple of 10.5 today at $95. In 2009 it traded at the cheap valuation with a multiple of 6.7!

In conclusion

The banks offer a reliable income to pay your bank fees. In my opinion, they’re all priced fairly. There’s no discount today, but they offer an attractive, growing income.

At the same time, we don’t know when big market drops will occur. But when they do, businesses will be on sale, and we can pick the highest quality ones to add. So, it’s a good practice to decide which ones you want to buy before a market or sector dip happens.

Instead of letting macro factors decide our investing behavior, it may make more sense to look at each individual company and shop for quality with price in mind.

If I must pick from the list above, the highest quality ones would be Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank, followed by Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is using a higher proportion of leverage than the others, as indicated by the debt-to-equity ratio in the table above, which would benefit the bank in good economic times, but drag the business in bad times.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Kay Ng owns shares of Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, and Bank of Nova Scotia.

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