Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Questions about finances for other U.S. to Canada folks

OK, we're at that details stage and I have questions. If you don't feel comfortable answering in the comments, please e-mail me.

I know that some of you kept U.S. credit cards. Do you use a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada? If you use an address in the U.S., how do you deal with the phone number issue (because Capital One, for example, calls periodically from their fraud department to check to see that charges are legitimate)? I've heard (I think it was from Nick) that Amex will give you a Canadian account if you have a U.S. account in good standing; do I just call them up and ask for it? Are there other cards that will do this?

Did you keep bank accounts open in the U.S.? How do you transfer money back and forth?

We're thinking we'll just leave our retirement (401k) accounts alone, giving them the new contact info, of course.

What good/bad experiences have you had in transferring and coordinating finances between the U.S. and Canada?

Any suggestions, comments, words of experience and wisdom (with details) are welcome.



Blogger L-girl said...

We kept our no-fee checking account in NYC, because I thought it might be easier for paying certain things I need to pay in US funds. And I also thought it might be good to have a bank account in NYC - and since I already have it, and it cost me nothing, why not.

We don't transfer money back and forth. Every once in a while I deposit some money in the US account.

Now I've also opened a US Dollar account with our local (Canadian) bank, so I might eventually close the NYC account. But I'm in no rush to do that.

We kept a US credit card because we started here with zero credit. I have a huge credit line with Capital One in the US and I didn't want to lose that.

We liquidated all our 401Ks and IRAs based in the US. I didn't feel safe keeping any type of savings there when I don't have a US address and will one day be a Canadian citizen. Right now the laws protect that money, but they could easily be changed.

As far as addresses go, we changed our address with everyone, because we had to. We have no US address, so that's that. Our address is our address, our phone number is our phone number.

It hasn't always been convenient to have a Canadian address with US financial institutions. Canada Post is *terrible* - the mail is incredibly slow - so relying on paper mail can be very annoying. And you can only pay your US credit card online with a US bank account (another reason to keep our acct in NYC).

So it's not always simple, but it's also not a really big deal. Just something you get used to and get in new habits with.

That's all I can think of. If you want more info on any of this, let me know.

5:58 PM, June 04, 2008  
Blogger gito said...

Pretty much the same with us guys. You could keep a PO BOX in the States, for mail or eBay:-)

6:45 PM, June 04, 2008  
Blogger gito said...

oh and the fastest, cheapest way; The ATM.

6:46 PM, June 04, 2008  
Blogger Toma said...

We opened an account with RBC in the US last year. This past March I went to RBC branch in Toronto and opened a savings account. The two are connected and we were able to move our "settlement funds" to the Canadian bank. When you bank on-line, you can see both accounts on one screen and choose which one you want to see. With the Canadian bank, we may opt for a credit card so that we can build credit history before we move. It didn't matter to Canadian bank that I had a US address, but I did have to give them a reason for opening the account. We have not had a problem getting money from either account and we can use one debit card for both accounts. No idea what to do with my state employment retirement fund yet, but my Marriott one will follow me to Canada! Hope this information helps.

7:47 PM, June 05, 2008  
Blogger Canada Calling said...

We pretty much agree with everything l-girl did as far as banking and credit. One exception we found. My partner cancelled her American Express before coming to Canada, I did not. I opened a Costco American Express once we got here using my American Costco card (which was transferred)and my existing US American Express as credit reference. It has made all the differnce in the world as far as establishing new credit. My partner struggles with credit applications being accepted and I get anything I apply for. Somehow, all my good credit history has been transfered.

8:33 AM, June 06, 2008  
Blogger M. Yass said...

I kept my U.S. bank account because I had to. My U.S. based employer pays in U.S. funds and cannot do a direct deposit to a Canadian bank account. I use my U.S. Visa debit card to transfer money from my U.S. account to my Canadian account with Coast Capital Savings. I get nicked with a currency conversion fee on the U.S. side, but I can take that as a business expense. It's a pain to have to physically go to the bank every two weeks, but oh well.

I highly recommend Coast Capital Savings for unlimited Interac transactions for no monthly fee. They're the only free checking in Canada AFAIK. Vancity charges the same as Scotiabank - $9/month and you have to put up a $50 membership share. No thanks. Plus, as moving-to-Canada newbies, you guys can get in no problem as you'll automatically pass their credit check.

Keep in mind that in Canada, Visa and debit are separate. Debits are PIN-based Interac transactions that come directly out of your account. Visa is only for credit cards.

I keep a U.S. address via a mail place just across the border for my U.S. bank account and cross-border shopping. I keep a U.S. voice mail phone number - for free - via K7. I also have a U.S. phone number via VOIP Your Life as an alternative to crappy Vonage. You can give your U.S. address and K7 number to Crapital One. Personally, I'd recommend doing a balance transfer, but that's just me.

I have a cell phone and an AirCard through Telus.

My Costco membership transferred right over.

I have a secured credit card with Scotiabank. In a year it'll revert to unsecured anyway, so that's fine. Personally, I look at the untarnished Canadian credit as a new lease on life rather than a setback.

Word of advice: DO NOT attempt to deposit a U.S. check into a Canadian bank account. You will be looking at a 21 day hold minimum.

Other matters: You might want to look at private health insurance as your BCMSP (you know, national health insurance they don't have in what I've always been told is The Greatest Nation On The Face Of The Earth) doesn't kick in for 90 days.

Hope this helps guys. Welcome to the civilized world!

9:54 PM, June 06, 2008  
Blogger L-girl said...

Just to add a few further thoughts based on the above.

I deposit US checks in my Cdn account all the time. They do take a while to clear (15 biz days) but depending on your needs that may not be so bad.

I also kept my NYC phone number through Vonage. I had some problems switching from US Vonage to Vonage Canada, but other than that I've everything has been great.

Different provinces have different rules re health care eligibility. Ontario had a waiting period, but we did not get private insurance during this time. If you get sick, you can go to a walk-in clinic and pay cash. The fees are pre-set by Ontario (or whichever province) and are very low. It's not like you'd be turned away for lack of insurance!

I just made sure we had enough meds, and we just waited until we were eligible for coverage. Private insurance seemed like an unnecessary expense.

Keep asking questions, you're sure to get lots of good info!

12:01 PM, June 07, 2008  
Blogger Tom said...

We use my parent's address in the US for our old bank account and credit card.

We were able to get a LGBT MBNA Rainbow Canadian credit card after only a few months. They were easier to work with being a "family" credit card company and took our US credit reports into account.

After 6 months we are just about ready to rid ourselves of all financial ties to the US. So we will close the accounts soon.

4:40 AM, June 08, 2008  
Blogger Vancouver Isle Doug said...

It looks like you have most things covered. It can be a complicated process with many account, just keep really good records.

We left our retirement funds where they are in the US, for now, with changes of address.

We have funds in the US and are on really good terms with our banker there so access is not a problem.

The bankers we have met here have, for the most part, been superb. Watch the banks for service fees - they can nickel and dime you to death. The regional credit union is MUCH better in that respect plus we got our drivers licenses, auto plates, home and car insurance at the credit union too - kind of like one stop shopping!

Just ask LOTS of questions - they don't mind.

10:01 AM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger cara said...

the membership fee at vancity is something that accrues interest and dividends and is returned to you when you leave. (this is evident from the monthly statement you get)it also allows you to vote for the directorship of the credit union which has been progressive for quite a few decades. credit unions in bc are rather powerful because of the legislation they operate under and at time can rival the banks. Vancity in the 1980s tried to buy the Bank of BC but was hampered by the Vanderzalm government that (it was argued at the time) wanted to curry favour with Hong Kong money. Hence, that's why we have HSBC (forerunner of the Bank of Hong Kong) rather than Vancity writ large.

12:32 AM, June 10, 2008  
Blogger MSEH said...

The only thing I can add is that if you do have to transfer funds from the US to Canada, I've been very happy with xetrade.com. Better rates than wiring bank to bank and no fees. My understanding is that their "fee" is that they get to use your money for the few days they hold it in transit. That's fine with me. You can also watch the rates (xe.com) and put in a bid for the rate you want. It's made it very convenient for us as we've had to transfer funds in chunks and will continue to do so as I will still be paid in the US.

3:15 AM, June 23, 2008  

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